Jesus reveals and makes available the gift of God’s kingdom both by his words and by his works. Mark, therefore, presents Jesus as teaching with authority and acting with power. These two aspects of Jesus’ ministry are closely inter-related and is made clear from Mark 1: 21-27. Towards the end of the narrative of the cure of the demoniac, the crowds acclaim the exorcism itself as a “new teaching” (Mk 1: 27).
People of those days considered various sicknesses and especially mental disorder as spirit-possessions. The ‘unclean spirit’ and demons are powers opposed to God. We can legitimately say that even today, sickness and all disorders which prevent the well-being of people are not the manifestation of the reign of God. God wills wholeness for humanity. The absence of it is somehow also the absence of His kingdom. Jesus’ exorcisms and healings, therefore, manifest the coming of the kingdom. Significantly, the first miracle of Jesus that Mark reports is an exorcism. By casting out the evil spirit Jesus “destroys” the power of Satan over humanity. Truly, Jesus has come to destroy the evil spirits (Mk 1: 24).
The demons are considered to be capable of knowing the identity of the one who comes with God’s power. They know who Jesus is. The naming of Jesus by the evil spirit (Mk 1: 24) was an attempt to overpower Jesus as it was understood in those days. But Jesus has absolute power over the evil spirit. His words are totally effective and he expels the evil spirit by his commanding word (Mk 1: 25-26). The evangelist describes the impact of Jesus’ teaching and his exorcism by recording the reactions of the people. They were astonished at his authoritative teaching (Mk 1: 22) and similarly they were amazed at the effectiveness of Jesus’ command to the evil spirit (Mk 1: 27).
Their astonishment prompts them to question among themselves what they have heard and seen. They answer their own question by stating that Jesus’ exorcism itself is a “new teaching with authority” (Mk 1: 27). Jesus’ teaching was authoritative unlike that of the Scribes (Mk 1: 22). The authority of Jesus, in contrast with that of the Scribes, was personal, direct and immediate. Although Mark does not specify here what Jesus taught, we can legitimately say that Jesus’ teaching made an absolute claim on the lives of his audience because Jesus has come with the authority of God himself.