This is the second of three articles which focus on the power of our Lord’s word. In the first article we considered a few instances of the power of His word over: (i) disease; and (ii) distance. We turn now to the power of His word over:
This time, I draw your attention to four cases recorded by Mark where the Lord Jesus ‘cast out the spirits with his word’.1
a) Ask the man with the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum, Mark 1. 23-27
Listen to the first recorded miracle in the Gospel of Mark:
‘And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee,2 thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace3 and come out of him!’ The unclean spirit, having convulsed the man, ‘came out of him’. Mark records, ‘And they were all amazed … saying … with authority … commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him”’.
b) Ask ‘Legion’, Mark 5. 1-20
The pitiable demoniac named ‘Legion’ is mentioned along with a fellow sufferer in Matthew’s account.4 But, for our present purpose, we will concentrate on Mark’s account. We note that the event took place in the country of the Gadarenes.5
Mark records, ‘When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran … and he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” for He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”’ vv. 6-8 NKJV.
As the men of the city came out to see what it was that had happened, they saw the one who had been demonpossessed, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. Their reaction was that they began to plead with Him to depart6 from their region.7
Jesus had only to speak His liberating word to set Legion free, not from his chains and shackles (the man had proved himself adept at doing that without any outside help), but from the demonic powers which ‘for a long time’ had held him in bondage.8
c) Ask the father at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, Mark 9. 14-299
Even the exceptionally strong demon at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration was altogether unable to withstand the might of Jesus’ word. I say, ‘exceptionally strong demon’, because the Lord’s statement, ‘this kind does not come out except by prayer’,10 singled out this spirit as no ordinary, run-of the-mill demon. This was a particularly nasty, strong and malicious spirit, who had successfully defied the combined attempts of nine helpless and embarrassed apostles to expel it.
But when the Lord came and issued the order, ‘mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again’, v. 25 ESV, the demon ‘came out’ and it did so ‘instantly’!11
d) Ask Mary Magdalene, Mark 16. 9
But Mary was distinguished from the other women, not only (a) in that she was the first person to whom the Lord appeared ‘when He rose early on the first day of the week’, but also (b) in that, from her, He had previously cast out no less than ‘seven demons’.15 But, if disease, distance and demons were no match for His word, neither was the devil himself.
Each of the three recorded temptations was staged at a higher elevation than the one before:
First, our Lord was ‘led up’ from the Jordan into the wilderness.18
Second, He was taken up to Jerusalem and there set on the pinnacle of the temple, several hundred feet above the valley below.19
Let me attempt a paraphrase of the tempter’s gambit, ‘There, do you see them? And “all this authority will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomever I will I give it. If you therefore will worship before me, all shall be yours”.22 To state it simply, if God says, “I will give you the heathen for your inheritance”23 … someday, I say, “all these things I will give you” and I will give them to you now! Yes, I can offer you a short-cut. I can offer you the kingdom on the cheap. Just think of it, to gain the kingdom without facing the cross - to enjoy the glory without enduring the suffering.
So, what about it? Go on, worship me!’24
And it is at this point that our Lord drew Satan’s temptations to an abrupt end with His firm rebuff and sharp rebuke. ‘Get … hence [“begone”, “go”], Satan’.25 To which Matthew adds, ‘then [no surprises here!] the devil left Him’.26
But, if disease, distance, demons and the devil proved no match for the power of Jesus’ word, neither did ‘the king of terrors’,29 death.
Let us consider three cases where our Lord’s word proved more powerful than death.
a) Ask Jairus and his wife, Mark 5. 21-24, 36-43
Jairus and his wife would never forget the Saviour’s all-powerful word addressed to their twelve-year-old daughter - their only daughter30 - addressed to one who had died just a short time before, ‘Young woman, I say to you, arise’,31 and who immediately ‘rose up and walked’.
b) Ask the widow of Nain, Luke 7. 11-16
The widow of Nain would never forget the Saviour’s all-powerful word addressed to her only son - to one who had died some time before and who was being carried out for burial.32‘Young man, I say to you, arise’, and who sat up and began to speak.33
c) Ask the family of Bethany, John 11. 38-44
Neither Mary, Martha nor Lazarus would ever forget the Saviour’s powerful word (His ‘loud voice’) addressed to one who had been dead (not for just a few hours or for some little time but) for four days.34‘Lazarus, come out’.35
For His commanding word had then battered down the stronghold of death and the grave, and (as John reported), ‘the man who had died came out’.36 Truly, Lazarus had heard the voice of the Son of God and had come out of his tomb, just as one day all men will hear that same voice and come out of theirs!37
Noticeably, the Lord Jesus restored
Make no mistake, all (whether (i) disease, (ii) distance, (iii) demons, (iv) devil or (v) death) were unable to resist the power of the Saviour’s word.
But neither could the natural elements withstand the power of His word.
vi. The natural elements
On one occasion, faced with ‘a great tempest’38 and twelve fearful disciples,39 the Lord Jesus ‘arose,40and rebuked the winds and the sea’41 with the words, ‘Peace [“hush”, “be quiet”], be still [“be muzzled”]42‘.43 As a result, the ‘great tempest’44 became a ‘great calm’.45
All three synoptic Gospels record this incident, and each writer makes his own distinctive contribution:
a) Matthew, Matt. 8. 23-27
Matthew reports that the ‘tempest/ earthquake’ was ‘in the sea’48 (not ‘on the sea’), thereby indicating that there was a ‘shaking’, a ‘movement to and fro’.49 Seemingly, there was a disturbance below the surface of the lake, a violent movement in the seabed, causing great turbulence above. The trouble, that is, is traced to that which came up.
b) Luke, Luke 8. 22-25
c) Mark, Mark 4. 35-41
For his part, Mark describes graphically how ‘the waves were beating into the boat, so that it was now filling’.52
That is, Mark is saying, the waves, churned up by the strong wind, were cascading over the side of the boat and the water level was rising frightfully fast.
Combining the three accounts
Putting the three accounts together, the evidence is that, on account of (i) that which, according to Matthew, came up from below, (ii) that which, according to Luke, came down from above, and (iii) that which, according to Mark, came in from outside, the disciples were, to use Luke’s language, ‘in danger’.53
But the disciples were ‘in danger’ only until our Lord’s commanding word sounded, to lull the fierce storm to sleep.
Confronted with such a demonstration of Jesus’ authority over the natural elements, it is hardly surprising that the disciples posed the question, ‘Who then is this?’54 ‘Who’, indeed!
In response to the disciples’ question, you and I may well recall the words of Ethan’s psalm, ‘O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like you? You rule the raging of the sea … when its waves rise, you still them’.55
In concluding this ‘Natural Elements’ section, let me remind you that both Moses and Elijah (who later stood with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration),56 had long before controlled mighty waters.
But Moses had needed his rod57 and Elijah had needed his robe,58 and that simply, in each case, to divide the waters.59 Our Lord needed neither rod nor robe; His powerful word was sufficient, and it was sufficient, not to divide, but to master and control the unruly sea.
Matt. 8. 16.
‘Today we might express the same thought by saying, “Why are you meddling with us?”’ Thomas Constable, Expository Notes, on Mark 1. 24. In effect, ‘Mind your own business!’
‘Be silent’. This is the word used for muzzling an ox.
Matt. 8. 28-34.
‘The locale seems to have been in the district controlled by the town of Gadara, near the village of Gerasa’, D. A. Carson, Matthew (Expositor’s Bible Commentary), Zondervan.
‘They preferred pigs to persons, swine to the Saviour’, D. A. Carson, op. cit.
Mark 5. 17.
Luke 8. 27 NKJV.
Cp. Matt. 17. 14-18; Luke 9. 37-42.
‘From that hour’, Matt. 17. 18 (literal translation).
Luke 8. 2.
Matt. 27. 55.
Luke 8. 3.
Mark 16. 9 NKJV; Luke 8. 2 NKJV.
Mark 1. 13.
Matt. 4. 8, 9. My expression ‘his final temptation’ follows the order of Matt. 4. 3-9, rather than that of Luke 4. 3-12. ‘Luke reverses the order of the last two temptations for topographical reasons. Matthew’s order is almost certainly original’, D. A. Carson, op. cit., introductory comments on Matt. 4. 1-11.
Matt. 4. 1.
Matt. 4. 5; Luke 4. 9.
Matt. 4. 8.
Luke 4. 5.
Luke 4. 6.
Ps. 2. 8.
Matt. 4. 8, 9; Luke 4. 5, 6.
Matt. 4. 10.
Matt. 4. 11 NKJV.
Yet the devil left only ‘for a season’ (‘for a time’), Luke 4. 13; cp. Luke 22. 53; John 13. 27; 14. 30.
Job 18. 14; ‘rex tremendus‘.
Luke 8. 42.
Mark 5. 41 (literal translation).
Luke 7. 12.
Luke 7. 14, 15 NKJV.
John 11. 39.
John 11. 43 ESV.
John 11. 44 ESV.
John 5. 28, 29.
Matt. 8. 24.
‘Why are you afraid’, Matt. 8. 26; Mark 4. 40.
Jesus ‘arose’ from sleep, Matt. 8. 24; Mark 4. 38; Luke 8. 23. When the disciples cried out in the face of the storm, Jesus slept; when Jesus cried out in the face of the cross, the disciples slept, Matt. 26. 40-45; Mark 14. 37-41; Luke 22. 45, 46.
Matt. 8. 26.
The word of 1 Cor. 9. 9 and 1 Tim. 5. 18: ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain’ NKJV.
Mark 4. 39.
Matt. 8. 24.
Matt. 8. 26.
The Greek word, seismos, means ‘shaking’; from it we derive the English words, ‘seismic’, ‘seismatic’ and ‘seismology’.
The word is rendered ‘earthquake’ on every one of its thirteen other occurrences in the New Testament.
Greek, en to thalassa, Matt. 8. 24.
See W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Oliphants, the article ‘Earthquake’.
See F. W. Danker (based on W. Bauer, W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, article), pg. 515.
Luke 8. 23.
Mark 4. 37 (literal translation).
Luke 8. 23 ESV.
Mark 4. 41 ESV.
Ps. 89. 8, 9 (literal translation).
Matt. 17. 3; Mark 9. 4; Luke 9. 30.
Exod. 14. 16, 21.
2 Kgs. 2. 8.
Of the Red Sea, Exod. 15. 4, 8; Ps. 136. 13, and the River Jordan, 2 Kgs. 2. 7, respectively.