The Power of Jesus: Demons & Disease, Mark 1:23-39

The career of our Lord was littered with expelled demons.

Jesus kept a schedule that would have killed anyone else.  He worked late into night (v32) and was up early before sunrise (v35).  And doing the kind of work He did was not light labor. Teaching, casting out demons, healing people taxes heavily.  My sermon today will progress through two (2) sections: the power of Jesus over demons, and the power of Jesus over disease.  The end will cover some take-aways for us.


Power over Demons (23-28, 32-34, 39)

Next we must see the Power of Jesus over Demons.  Read verses 23-25….


First we saw His power in speaking to men, now, we see His power in speaking to demons.  The career of our Lord was littered with expelled demons. This is the first of many in Mark.  Verse 39, “So He travelled throughout Galilee preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”  Perhaps most riveting is the account in chapter 5 of the man who lived in the hills possessed by several thousand demons.  With one word He cleansed the man of every one of them. Our Lord’s popularity for expelling demons from people led to the famous argument with the Pharisees, where they asserted “He is possessed by Beelzebub.  By the prince of demons he is casting out demons.” We’ll study Jesus’ response in chapter 3.  


What is a demon?  A demon is a fallen angel.  Like Satan, originally created good to serve and worship the true God, demons are those angels that joined Satan in rebelling against God.  Now, rather than serving God, they serve Satan, and are highly organized. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but, against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.  This empire of evil is ordered to most efficiently carry out the Great Anti-Commission, that is, they oppose, subvert, undermine, and otherwise harrass the progress of the Great Commission the Church is conducting by Jesus Christ’s authority (Mt. 28:19-21). They may be one-third of all original angels created (Rev. 12:4).  They have a destiny, Jesus said in Matthew 25, in the lake of Fire. They do not procreate, but, they have existed since before mankind, and, listen to this, they have observed the behavior of mankind since the beginning.  


It is safe to say that not only are they of superior intelligence compared to us humans, but, they know us better than we know ourselves.  We are out of our league against them and we need to avoid foolishly acting cavalier about their power and schemes. The proper response to understanding demons is to have respect for their power, and then, even greater confidence in Jesus’ power over these spiritual forces of darkness.


Here is what we learn about this encounter:


First, that Demons are real.  The Scriptures present us with the reality of evil spiritual creatures called demons, or unclean spirits.  hile it is popular to write them off as myth and personifications of evil forces by the secular world, Christians would be foolish to adopt the word of man and ignore the Word of God on this matter.  Demons are real. They are presented to us by revelation as actual spiritual personalities, bent on evil, ambitious to corrupt and deceive mankind. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood” Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  


Second, we learn that demons can possess people.  Possession means the demon gains control over a person:  physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually. That person becomes the puppet of the demon, animated by the demon’s desires.  This is different than harassment or influence, where a person still retains control over themselves. How does a person become possessed by a demon?  What are signs of demon possession? Can a true, born-again, Christian be possessed?


Third, we learn that they are personalities.  This demon speaks to Jesus.  Therefore we know they have intelligence, one of the traits of a personal being.  They are also self-determining beings, meaning they have wills, the ability of choice.  That ability to choose and act is seen in their desire to inhabit men and control their bodies and minds.  


Fourth, we learn that they know they are destined to destruction.  “Have you come to destroy us?”  In Matthew 25:41 Jesus tells us the ultimate destination for demons is the Lake of Fire  – and that it was prepared for Satan and His angels – and that those who reject Jesus will go there too.


Fifth, we learn that demons know who Jesus is.  “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”  “You believe in God?” James asks, then he says, “Good for you, so what?  Demons believe there is one God.” They know who God is, they know who God’s Holy One is – even while their whole operation is designed to keep men from knowing it.  They desire to keep men deceived and they are the source of all false religions and doctrines in the world.  


There is one truth about God, but, demons brainstorm and fill this world with religious lies and falsehoods.  Deuteronomy 32:16-17, “They made the LORD jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols.  They sacrificed to demons, which are not God…”  


First Timothy 4:1 says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”  These teachings, the next verse says, “come through hypocritical liars…” In other words, false religions and false spiritual ideas come from demons but they are transmitted and propogated throughout the world of mankind by false human teachers.  There is a contact point somewhere between a demon and a human that gets an idea going. Often times the teaching is very moralistic in its own way, appealing to the human’s desire to be good, but, avoid the true God. Second Corinthians 11:13-15 says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” Evil masquerading as righteousness. Usually you can tell because a focus on moralism like “love” and “kindness” is emphasized but exclusive truth about God and the reality and gravity of sin and God’s judgment are scoffed at.  That’s how you know when you’re hearing a doctrine originating from a demon. Or when the Trinity is denied, or the deity of Christ is undermined such as in Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the humanity of Jesus as with the Gnostics, or the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross is twisted, or the condoning of immorality….


Sixthly, demons are terrified of Jesus.  You can tell by their response.  Later in Mark 5 the demons shout at Jesus in terror, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  Swear to me that you won’t torture me!”  The judge of every living creature was standing before these demons and they knew it.  And they were terrified. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”


Seventh, demons were not allowed to speak of Jesus.  “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly in verse 25.  Verse 34 also says, “He also drove out many demons, but He would not let th demons speak because they knew who He was.”  According to Greek scholars that rendering only begins to convey the sharpness of the command.  To be as clear with the Greek as possible it should be translated “Shutup!”   


At first this seems strange to me.  Jesus came to make Himself known, so, why wouldn’t He allow the demons to make Him known?  I asked the same question about the situation in Acts 16 where the little girl who had an evil spirit that allowed her to tell people’s fortunes followed the Apostle Paul around declaring they were servants of the Most High.  Paul got fed up with her and cast the demon out. Why? She was telling the people the truth. The demons were telling the truth about Jesus too – He is the Holy One of God Most High. He is the judge who will send them to destruction at the end of time.  


Let me offer several reasons why Jesus muzzled these demons from speaking of Him – even if it was the truth about His identity.


First, my personal thought on this is that demons, as unclean spirits, were not going to be allowed to speak because they were evil, unclean spirits.  In other words, those whom Jesus enlists in proclaiming His Name will be clean vessels for the message to go out. Jesus will not partner with evil in His cause for righteousness.  


Secondly, and I think this is more to the point of the text, Jesus was not going to allow the public to get the idea that He was in league with demons.  This is a real issue. People get confused real easy.


Jesus was not going to allow the public to think that what He was doing was simply an internal scuffle between demonic parties.  What I mean is that people said Jesus was empowered by Satan to cast out demons, which made people think that Jesus represented some split among the demonic forces.  Jesus led one group of demons against another group of demons in a power struggle. Before you balk at that idea consider chapter 3 where the Pharisees say, “He is possessed by Beelzebub!  By the prince of demons Jesus is driving out demons.” Notice how that frames the situation: what Jesus is doing is nothing more than an internal battle among demons.  


But that’s not what was going on when Jesus drove out demons.  When Jesus showed up and ejected demons it was not by the power of Satan but the power of God.  What Jesus did to demons was nothing less than the crushing collision of the kingdom of God against the kingdom of Satan.  The clear power in this collision is Jesus, demonstrating the power of God. Jesus even said to the Pharisees in Mt 12:28, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” 


Power over Disease (29-34)

Next we see Jesus’ power over disease.  Read verse 29-34a….


Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, then, the whole town shows up after dinner and many who were sick were healed.  This, we will see, is a very common scene in the Gospels – Jesus healing the sick.


Without going too far into a study of this here let me draw out several points at the beginning of this Gospel.


First, disease is a result of the Fall of man.  In other words, ultimately, disease is the symptom of sin.  When sin entered the condition of man with Adam in the beginning, it opened the door for disease as well.  Sin corrupts. It corrupts the whole person and progressively moves a person closer and closer to death. Sin ruins.  Part of sin’s ruin on the human condition, among many ways, is the ruin of our bodies. Disease is one such. God made man perfectly in the Garden, and, in every way from that original creation sin works corruption.  


This idea of sin and disease was woven into the Jewish mind as well.  In the covenant with Israel, God said health and disease would hinge on their behavior.  If they acted corruptly, persisting in sin, He would send disease on them. If they acted right and followed the Law, He would send health and prosperity on them.  Isaiah foretold the Messiah would carry away their infirmities


What we are supposed to see is that the power Jesus has over disease is the same power He has to heal us of what is ultimately the cause of all disease:  sin. Jesus can heal us spiritually of sin, and we are to be convinced of that by seeing He can heal us physically of disease (2:4-12). Notice this pattern in God’s communication with man:  He uses what is earthly and physical to teach us something heavenly and spiritual. Healing of disease is physical, but we are to see beyond that to the need of spiritual healing from sin.  


Second, Jesus power over disease was total.  “All the sick” were brought to Him (v32) and “Jesus healed many who had various diseases” verse 34 says.  It was total in that the disease was completely eradicated. His power was total also in the sense that there was no kind of disease that He couldn’t heal.  Every sort of disease was subject to His power.  


Third, Jesus healing career was exceptional.  We ought not race to the conclusion that Jesus guarantees everyone now will be healed – even in the Church.  His healing career was exceptional, and intended to demonstrate His divine power, and, therefore authenticate His divine message.  The miracles – including the healings – were signs pointing to people to faith in Him for healing from the sin problem.  



  1. Jesus has unimaginable and incontestable power.
  2. A life changed by Jesus results in serving Jesus (29-31).
  3. Power is in Private Prayer (v35)
  4. Emigrate to the Kingdom of God today.  Escape the kingdom of Darkness.

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