Confronting the Unclean & Religious Spirits In the Houses of Worship

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the third chapter of this New Testament book. THE OPPOSITION OF RELIGION CONTINUES! THE OPPRESSION OF RELIGION CONTINUES! THE PERSECUTION OF RELIGION CONTINUES! “And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal Him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. And HE saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man. Stretch forth thine hand. And He stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:1-6). STAND FORTH! STRETCH FORTH! JESUS’ ANGER AND GRIEF FOR THE HARDNESS OF THEIR HEARTS! JESUS’ ANGER WITH RELIGION! JESUS’ GRIEF WITH RELIGION! JESUS ASKED THOSE IN THE SYNAGOGUE IF IT WAS LAWFUL TO DO GOOD ON THE SABBATH DAYS, OR TO DO EVIL! JESUS ASKED IF IT WAS LAWFUL ON THE SABBATH DAYS TO SAVE LIFE, OR TO KILL! JESUS ENTERED INTO THE SYNAGOGUE AGAIN! JESUS RETURNS TO SYNAGOGUE!

            “But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as man as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: and Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him” (Mark 3:7-19).

            “And they went into an house. And the. Multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, he hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils caste that he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, he hath an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:19-30).

            “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitudes sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:31-35).

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the gospel narrative shifting once more to continue describing the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the third chapter of this gospel begins and opens it does so with Jesus once more entering into the synagogue—something Jesus would routinely and regularly do. The more you read the gospel narratives written by the gospel authors the more you will find that while it was true you can find Jesus on the shores of the lakes and seas, and while it is true you will find Jesus on mountainsides, it is also true that Jesus would spend a considerable amount of time teaching and preaching within the synagogues of the towns and villages which were present during those days. In fact, when you read the words which are found in the opening verses of the second chapter you will find that after Jesus rose up a great while before the day and departed into a solitary place to pray before His Father which was in heaven the disciples would eventually seek for and find Him. Upon finding Him the disciples would speak directly to Him and emphatically declare that all men sought for Him. In response to their words and their seeking of Him Jesus would invite them to journey into the next towns and villages that He might preach the gospel concerning the kingdom, for it was for that reason He was sent into the earth. What we find immediately after this is Jesus teaching and preaching in their synagogues, as well as casting out devils. It is important to recognize and understand the narrative of Jesus within the synagogues, for there would be certain and specific times when Jesus would enter into the synagogues of His day—those buildings and locations which would and could be classified as the churches and houses of worship during our day—and it would be there in the houses of worship where Jesus would face sharp opposition and persecution.

            The more you read the gospel narratives the more you will encounter those instances and occurrences when Jesus would enter into the synagogues, and it would be there in those synagogues Jesus would not only teach and preach in the midst of them, but would also end up confronting religion in the midst of them. The text which is before us today is one of those examples when Jesus would enter into one of the synagogues, and upon entering into the synagogue there would be a man who had a withered hand. Before we delve any further into that which is found within this particular portion of Scripture it is absolutely necessary that we recognize how throughout the public life and ministry of Jesus the Christ—when He entered into the synagogues present within the towns and villages of that time—there would essentially be two distinct realities which would be manifested. On the one hand you will find Jesus entering into the synagogues and houses of worship during those days and finding and encountering a need which was present in the midst of it. Much like the beginning and opening passage before us today presents us with one who was in physical need there in the synagogue we find other instances and occurrences where Jesus would enter into these houses of worship during His day and would face and experience a tremendous amount of need. What’s more, is that on the other hand—not only do you find Jesus encountering and experiencing need within the houses of worship, but you will you will also find Jesus encountering vehement opposition from the religious system and the religious elite.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering this incredibly awesome and powerful truth concerning and surrounding Jesus in these houses of worship and I cannot help but be brought face to face with the tremendous reality that within these houses of worship Jesus would be presented with certain needs among those which were present—and in direct response to the need(s) which were present in the midst of the house of worship Jesus would find Himself standing in stark contrast and opposition to the religious system that was present during those days. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we cannot escape when reading the four gospel narratives is that it would be in the synagogues where Jesus would not only find Himself encountering vehement opposition from the religious elite during those days—the scribes, the teachers of the Law, the chief priests, the elders of the people, the Pharisees, and the like—but we also find Jesus experiencing and encountering equal opposition from the Jews. In fact, there would be an account of Jesus within the synagogue within His hometown of Nazareth where He would merely read the words of the prophet Isaiah found in the sixty first chapter, would provide a brief commentary on the words which the prophet had spoken, and would ultimately find Himself—not only being opposed by those within His own hometown, but also those within His own hometown would seek to kill Him. With this being said we must also remember the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. It is here within this particular passage of Scripture we find it written how Jesus would offend many of those disciples and followers who walked with and followed Him because of His words. What’s more, is that not only would the words which Jesus spoke offend many of the disciples who walked with and followed Him, but many of them would turn back and walk no more with Him. In order to truly understand the narrative and presence of Jesus in these houses of worship it is absolutely necessary to consider these two distinct passages before moving on to others found within the gospel narratives:

            “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician , heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power” (Luke 4:14-37).

            “Then said they unto him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up gain at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. NO man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen of the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life? And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:28-71).

            I fully realize that there was a lot of Scripture that was just presented to you concerning Jesus in the synagogues of Nazareth and Capernaum, however, it was absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in these two passages, for it would be within these synagogues we find Jesus teaching the people—and not merely teaching them, but also the words which He spoke unto them offending them. It would be in the synagogue of Nazareth—Jesus’ hometown—that the words which He spoke would not merely offend those present on that day, but would actually fill them with tremendous rage and wrath. So severe was the rage and wrath of those within Nazareth that they would actually thrust Jesus out of the synagogue and out of the city itself, and would bring Him to the brow of the hill that they might cast Him headlong off the cliff. When we come to the narrative that is found in the sixth chapter of the gospel account written by the apostle John we find the words which Jesus spoke unto them not only offending the Jews which were present there, but also offending even those who walked with and followed Him. It is as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth that Jesus’ words offended the Jews—and so much so that they actually strove against Jesus and murmured at the sayings which He spoke. What makes the narrative found in the sixth chapter of the gospel written by John so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the fact that not only do we find the Jews striving against Jesus and murmuring at His words, but we also find many of His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him being offended at His sayings. So severe and so sharp was their offense with the words He spoke that many of them would actually turn back and walk no more with Jesus. The apostle John makes it perfectly clear when presenting us with this particular account that while it is true that the Jews strove and murmured against Jesus because of His words, there would be many of His disciples who would turn back and walk no more with Him.

            As we continue along with this narrative and account of Jesus in the synagogues and houses of worship it is absolutely necessary that we recognize that it was His custom to enter into the synagogues on the Sabbath days and to teach. The Gentile physician Luke makes that point very clear in the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative which he wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus. In the fourth chapter of the gospel which was written by this beloved physician we find him emphatically writing and describing how Jesus would indeed and would in fact make it His custom and His practice to enter into the synagogues on the Sabbath days and teach the people. Even the words which we find in the second chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark points to and alludes to this fact when he writes how Jesus taught in their synagogues and cast out devils. What makes the narratives and accounts of Jesus in the synagogues so incredibly unique and powerful is when you think about and consider the fact that it would be there in the synagogues Jesus would teach and preach the gospel concerning the kingdom, but would also encounter certain needs which were present in the midst of it. Upon reading the gospel narratives you will find that there were certain and specific examples when you will read of Jesus entering into a certain synagogue and there would be present there in the synagogue a certain individual with a specific need. We know for a fact that Jesus would enter into the synagogues on the sabbath days and that He would teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom within them, however, what the four gospel narratives point to and reveal is that more often than not there would be more which would take place in the synagogues than simply Jesus teaching and preaching. The reason I presented you with the words found in the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the Gentile physician Luke, as well as the words found in the sixth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John is to bring you face to face with the opposition Jesus would face and experience when entering into the synagogues.

            The more you read the words which are found within this particular writing the more you would like to think and believe that Jesus would and could enter into the synagogues and would be able to freely teach and preacher, however, the gospel narratives bring us face to face with the tremendous and undeniable fact that there would be times when the words which Jesus would teach and preach which would offend, anger and enrage those which were present within the synagogue. What makes this all the more intriguing and captivating is when you think about and consider that not only would Jesus be present within the synagogues of those days—those buildings which would and could be classified as the churches and houses of worship during our day—but Jesus would also do so on the sabbath days. Jesus would spend the entire week teaching and preaching from ships, from mountainsides, within the Temple, on the shores of the seas, and in various other places. On the sabbath days, however, we find Jesus present in the synagogues as He would teach and preach the gospel concerning the kingdom. We dare not miss and lose sight of this incredibly awesome and powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with the opposition Jesus would face and experience within the houses of worship which were present during His days. WHEN JESUS IS REJECTED IN THE HOUSE! WHEN JESUS OFFENDS IN THE HOUSE! WHEN JESUS ANGERS IN THE HOUSE! It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these narratives how Jesus would and could enter into the synagogues and houses of worship in the towns and villages of those days and could find Himself not only being faced with a tremendous need which was before Him, but also a choice and a decision to minister to and meet the need knowing that His doing so would anger, upset, offend and enrage the religious system and leaders of that day. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the gospel narratives how Jesus would and could enter into one of the synagogues of His day, would and could see a need which was present before Him, and would choose to minister unto that need—this despite and regardless of the fact that it would anger, upset and offend the religious establishment and system of that day. With this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found within the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark concerning Jesus’ time in the synagogues:

            “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 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, 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 peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee” (Mark 1:21-28).

            “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils” (Mark 1:35-39).

            “And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy), I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:1-12).

            “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:1-6).

            DEVILS IN THE HOUSE! NEEDS IN THE HOUSE! I sit here today thinking about and considering this narrative of Jesus in the synagogues and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that while it was indeed true that it was His custom to enter into the synagogues on the sabbath days, there were certain times when Jesus would enter into the synagogues and there would be a need which was present in the midst of it. In the first and opening chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark you will find Jesus entering into the synagogue in Capernaum which was a city of Galilee, and there was a man present in the midst of the synagogue who had a devil and unclean spirit. It would be there in the synagogue the unclean spirit would cry out in the company and presence of all those which were present there unto Jesus and asking Him to let them alone, for what had they to do with Him who was Jesus of Nazareth. What’s more, is that this unclean spirit would also ask Jesus whether or not He had come to destroy them, and would then proceed to declare that they knew who He was—namely, the Holy One of God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredible reality, for it actually calls to mind something that is actually quite intriguing and astonishing when you take the time to think about it—namely, that it was possible that there would be one among them who would have an unclean spirit. Scripture is unclear as to whether or not this man had entered into the synagogue before, and whether or not he was perhaps a regular there in the midst of the synagogue. The words which are found in the text seem to indicate that this man was a regular among them, for John Mark writes and records how “there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” It would have been one thing for John Mark to write and say that there was a man in the synagogue who had an unclean spirit, however, the words which John Mark used in this passage seem to indicate that this man might very well have been a regular in the synagogue. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder if this man was not a regular within and among the synagogue and perhaps even thought that he could find some semblance of deliverance and relief in the midst of that synagogue there in Capernaum.

            WHEN A DEVIL IS IN THE HOUSE! WHEN DEVILS ARE IN THE HOUSE! I have to admit the more I think about and the more I consider the narrative surrounding Jesus in the synagogues  the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that when He entered into these synagogues He was faced with very real needs among those who were present. In the first and opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark we find Jesus entering into the synagogue there in Capernaum, and upon entering into that synagogue there was one present among them who had a devil and unclean spirit. What’s more, is that not only does John Mark write and record this man with an unclean spirit being present within their synagogue, but he also writes and records the unclean spirit actually speaking unto Jesus there in the midst of the synagogue. Pause for a moment and think about what it would have been like on this particular day to enter into this synagogue in Capernaum—to enter into what would have been a house of worship during those days—and present there in the midst of the synagogue would be a man who would have an unclean spirit. On this particular day and occasion Jesus would enter into the synagogue and would teach among them as was His custom, and would even do so on the sabbath day. What makes this particular account so incredibly interesting is when you think about the fact that there was actually one with an unclean spirit present within the house. On this particular occasion there would be one who would have a devil present among them—and not only was there one among them who would have an unclean spirit, but the unclean spirit would actually speak to and address Jesus personally. This unclean spirit would cry out with a loud voice asking Jesus to leave and let them alone, for what have they to do with Him. The man with the unclean spirit would cry out asking “What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us?” Moreover, this man with the unclean spirit would also go on to declare how he knew who Jesus was—the Holy One of God. Immediately upon hearing this Jesus would rebuke the unclean spirit, command it to hold its peace, and come out of the man. Upon hearing the command of Jesus the unclean spirit came out of the man after tearing him and crying out with a loud voice.

            It is actually quite telling to read and consider the words which are found within the opening chapters of the New Testament gospel written by John Mark, for in the opening chapter we find Jesus in the synagogue there at Capernaum, and it would be there in the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus would encounter one among them who had an unclean spirit. In the second chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus again entering into the synagogue there in Capernaum, and how it was noised that He was in the house. So great was the news and report that Jesus was in the house that they would press round about Jesus—and so much so that there wasn’t even room round about the door. On this particular occasion which would take place on the sabbath once more, there would be one who was sick the palsy who would be brought unto Jesus and would be let down right in front of Him there in the midst of the house. After uncovering the roof and breaking up the ceiling of the house these four individuals would take this man with the palsy and would place him directly in front of Jesus. There in the midst of the house—and not only in the midst of the house, but in front of Jesus and before all those who were present in the house—Jesus would see and behold the faith of those who brought this man before and unto Him, and would initially and first declare and proclaim that this man’s sins were forgiven. In all reality, that which was recorded in this passage was that Jesus would see the faith of those men who had brought this man unto and before Him, and in response to their faith He would declare unto this man sick with the palsy, saying, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

            When you read the words found in the first and opening chapter of this gospel narrative you will find how when Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of this man in their synagogue in Capernaum all those present were amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? Moreover, those who were present there in the midst of the synagogue also asked and questioned the new doctrine that was being taught by Jesus, for with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they depart. Initially it would seem and appear that Jesus’s presence within the synagogues would be met with strong acceptance from those which were present in the midst of it. In the first and opening chapter of this gospel we find the people being amazed at the teaching and doctrine of Jesus—not necessarily because He taught them as one who had authority, but also because He commanded even the unclean spirits to come out of men and they listened and obeyed. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading this first chapter found in the gospel narrative written by John Mark we must needs realize that it wasn’t merely about Jesus entering into the synagogue and teaching among them, but it would also be about the authority He exercised in commanding the unclean spirit which had tormented and oppressed this man to come out of Him. It would have been one thing for Jesus to enter into this synagogue and simply teach and preach concerning the gospel of the kingdom, however, that which we find present in this passage of Scripture is Jesus teaching unto and among them, as well as driving and casting out this unclean spirit who had not only tormented and oppressed this man, but had also disrupted and interrupted what was taking place there in the synagogue. Oh there is something incredibly powerful about teaching and preaching being present among us within our houses of worship, but also something powerful about the authority to drive out that which oppresses and torments men and women. There is something incredibly powerful about this particular reality, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous need—not only for sound teaching, but also for authority in the midst of the house of God and houses of worship over that which binds, torments and oppresses those who worship among us.

            ARE YOU AWARE OF THE NEEDS PRESENT IN THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO WORSHIP AMONG US? What I find to be so incredibly telling about that which is found in Jesus’ encounters in the synagogues is His ability to expose—not only the religious system, the religious elite, and the religious spirit within the synagogue, but also His ability to attract needs around Him, as well as minister to the needs which are present there in the houses of worship. In the first and opening chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus addressing the need which was present there in the midst of the synagogue and house of worship—namely, this man who was possessed and oppressed by and with and unclean spirit. In the second chapter we find Jesus attracting the needs of others, as there would be four who would bring unto Jesus one who was sick with the palsy. In the third chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus acknowledging the need which was present there in the midst of the synagogue—the need which was represented by one among them who had a withered hand. ADDRESSING THE NEED IN THE SYNAGOGUE! ATTRACTING THE NEED IN THE SYNAGOGUE! ACKNOWLEDGING THE NEED IN THE SYNAGOGUE! Oh I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the awesome and powerful truth that surrounds the narratives found in these three chapters, for within these chapters we find Jesus entering into the synagogue as was His custom, and there in those synagogues teaching and preaching unto and among them. It would be there in the synagogues where in addition to Jesus teaching and preaching He would also encounter certain and specific needs. In the first and third chapters of this gospel narrative we find the needs actually being present in the midst of the synagogues and houses of worship, while in the second chapter we find the need actually being brought to Jesus.

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found within the first three chapters of the gospel narrative written by John Mark the more I can’t help but acknowledge the fact that when Jesus entered into the synagogues He did more than simply teach and preach unto and among them. There would be those instances where a need would be present there in the midst of the synagogue, and Jesus would acknowledge and address the need before all those which were present. In the first chapter we find Jesus speaking to and commanding the unclean spirit which tormented and oppressed this man to be silent and come out of him, while in the second chapter we find something a little different. It is in the second chapter of this New Testament gospel we find Jesus initially speaking unto this man who was sick the palsy that his sins were forgiven him. It would be this statement that this man’s sins were forgiven that would cause and create a stir among the scribes which were present there in the midst of the synagogue. Jesus would see the faith of the four who brought this man before and unto Jesus, and in response to their faith He would proclaim unto this man that His sins were forgiven him. It would be Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness of sins that would cause the scribes to murmur and complain among themselves, which would in turn cause Jesus to speak to and address them. It’s interesting and worth noting that Jesus would see the faith of those who brought this man unto Him, and in response to their faith He would declare unto this man that his sins were forgiven him. It would be in response to the murmuring and complaining within the hearts of the scribes there in the house that Jesus would not only speak directly unto them concerning forgiveness of sins and healing, but would also speak unto the man once more. In order that Jesus might demonstrate His authority—not only to forgive sins, but also to bring healing—Jesus would declare and proclaim unto this man to rise up from the bed and mat upon which he was lying and return to his home. What we find is that immediately after Jesus speaks these words the man rises up from the mat in which he was lying on, took up the bed upon which he was lying, and went forth before them all.

            What makes the narrative which is found in the second chapter of the gospel account written by John Mark so incredibly attractive and intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that the house was so full of people that there was no room to enter into it. There was such a great press before and round about Jesus—even before the door of the house—that there would be no way for anyone to enter into the house. The interesting thing about this passage is that there was enough room in the house for this man sick with the palsy to be let down laying on his mat—and not only let down laying on his mat, but also set down right in front of Jesus and before all the people. Not only this, but within this passage we find this man hearing Jesus call him “son” and declare unto him that his sins were forgiven him. What’s more, is that not only did Jesus call this man son and declare unto him that his sins were forgiven, but Jesus would also command this man to “Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” John Mark goes on to write how immediately this man arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all. Pause for a moment and think about what this would and could have looked like in the midst of a house that was basically filled to capacity and was standing room only. Consider the fact that although this house was standing room only and there was no room for any to enter in because of the press around the door there was enough room for this man to be let down before Jesus lying on his mat. Furthermore, there was enough room in the house for this man to rise up from the mat upon which he was lying, pick up and take that mat upon which was lying, and go forth in the sight and presence of all of them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how incredibly awesome and powerful this truly is, for this need would be brought before and unto Jesus there in the house, and would end up departing of his own ability and accord in the midst. This in addition to the fact that this man would be healed of the palsy, and would also hear Jesus declare and proclaim unto him that his sins were forgiven him.

            I am absolutely and incredibly captivated with and by the fact that within this passage of Scripture we find Jesus essentially surrounded and pressed by all those which were present in the house, and yet how there were four men who had enough faith in Jesus and were willing to put that faith to work. Scripture records how it was when Jesus saw the faith of these men that He spoke unto this man lying on the mat sick the palsy declaring unto him that his sins were forgiven, and I can’t help but think about the fact that it was more than simply their faith as that which was present within their hearts and spirits. The more I read and consider this particular passage the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the faith which Jesus saw from these man was faith which was willing to act, and faith which was willing to work. The faith which was present within the hearts and spirits of these men propelled and compelled them to bring this man to the roof of this house, to uncover the roof, and once they had broken through the roof they would let down this man upon his mat before Jesus in the company and presence of them all. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to something that is truly vital and critical when we enter into the house of worship and when we are gathered together among those before and all around us. There is something to be said about a faith that is more than simply an internal reality within our hearts and spirits, but is also a faith which is willing to act and a faith that is willing to work. What I so love and appreciate about these four men is that they were not only willing to carry this man upon his mat to the house, but they were also willing to bring this man still lying on the mat to the roof of the house. What’s more, is these men would uncover the roof and after breaking it up would lower this man still lying upon the mat in front of Jesus before all those who were present there in the midst of the house. It would be the faith of these four that would not only cause them to take up this man lying upon his mat and bring him to the house, but also to bring this man lying on the mat to the roof of the house, and to lower this man still lying on his mat before the Lord Jesus Christ there in the house. It would be the faith of these men—faith in action and which was willing to work—that caused Jesus to proclaim unto this man in the hearing of all those present on this day that his sins were forgiven him.

            The words which we find within these chapters found within the gospel narrative written by John Mark are absolutely incredible and astounding, for while it was indeed true that Jesus would enter into the synagogues and the houses of worship to teach and preach, it was also true that Jesus would acknowledge and minister the needs which were present in the midst of the synagogues and houses of worship. It would be in the first and opening chapter of this gospel we find a man with an unclean spirit being present among those in the house of worship, and Jesus speaking directly to this unclean spirit and commanding it to depart and come out of this man. Scripture is entirely unclear how long this man might have been present within this synagogue or how many sabbaths he had entered into it, however, one thing we can absolutely be certain of is that on this particular day this man would enter into the synagogue and the unclean spirit would recognize Jesus of Nazareth. It was the unclean spirit that would speak to and address Jesus, and in response to the words this unclean spirit spoke unto Jesus in the company and presence of all those present Jesus would command it to come out of this man. Immediately after the unclean spirit had torn this man and cried out with a loud voice he left and departed from this man in the sight and presence of all those which were present in the synagogue. There in the midst of the synagogue deliverance and freedom from oppression, possession and torment were found and manifested in the sight of all those which had gathered together in the sight and company of all those who were present in the midst of the synagogue. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when we think about and consider Jesus teaching and preaching in the synagogues we also find Him willing to bring and manifest deliverance and freedom before and unto those who would suffer from oppression, torment and oppression.

            In the first and opening chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus addressing the unclean spirit which was present there in the midst of the synagogue, for the unclean spirit had tormented, oppressed and possessed this man long enough. Scripture is unclear what would or what could have happened in this passage had the unclean spirit not spoke unto and before Jesus, however, we do know that the unclean spirit spoke unto Jesus, and it was in response to the unclean spirit speaking unto Jesus that would prompt Jesus to speak directly to it and command it to come out and depart from this man. In the first chapter of this New Testament gospel we find the unclean spirit being cast and driven out by Jesus in the sight and presence of all those who were present there in the midst of the synagogue, and in the second chapter of this gospel we find one with a need being brought unto Jesus. It was in the first and opening chapter the need would actually be present within the house, while in the second chapter the need would be brought unto and before Jesus. There in the midst of the house in the sight of all the people which were present before and around Jesus one who was sick with the palsy would be let down before Jesus. What so amazes and astonishes me about this particular passage is that not only would Jesus bring forgiveness and healing to this man, but Jesus would also directly confront and expose the religious spirit which was present in the house. In the first chapter Jesus would expose the unclean spirit that was present in the midst of it, while in the second chapter Jesus would expose the religious spirit that was just as dangerous and deadly as an unclean spirit. If there is one thing we must needs realize, recognize and understand it’s that when we are speaking about the houses of worship in which we gather together and worship—a religious spirit is just as dangerous and deadly as an unclean spirit. I find it absolutely astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider the fact that in the first and opening chapter of this gospel it is an unclean spirit which was present in the midst of the synagogue, while in the second and third chapters it was not an unclean spirit present in the synagogue, but a religious spirit.

            CONFRONTING UNCLEAN AND RELIGIOUS SPIRITS IN THE SYNAGOGUES! CONFRONTING UNCLEAN AND RELIGIOUS SPIRITS IN HOUSES OF WORSHIP! CONFRONTING UNCLEAN AND RELIGIOUS SPIRITS IN OUR CHURCHES! If there is one thing these chapters and portions of scripture reveal it’s that it is possible that just as surely as there is a need to confront an unclean spirit which might be present among us within our churches and houses of worship it is also possible that there is a need to confront the religious spirits which are present within and throughout our churches and houses of worship. What I find so captivating and intriguing when reading these passages is that it would be Jesus’ statement concerning forgiveness of sin that would provoke and expose the religious spirit present within the house in the second chapter, and it would be the physical need present in the life of a man who had a withered hand that would cause Jesus to provoke the religious spirit which was present in the midst of the synagogue. One of the greatest truths expressed within Scripture is that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against rulers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places. It would be very easy to think that what Jesus encountered and experienced in the synagogue was simply the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the Pharisees and the religious elite during those days, however, what we must needs realize and understand is that what Jesus was exposing, what Jesus was confronting, and what Jesus was provoking was the religious spirit in which they operated. In fact, I can’t help but think about the events which took place in the first chapter as a means of revealing those spirits which can be present among us within our churches and houses of worship.

            In the first and opening chapter we find an unclean spirit present in the midst of the synagogue and in the house of worship, and I can’t help but get the strong sense that this might have been a precursor and preparation for a deeper and greater reality that would be present and manifested within the synagogues. It was indeed true that it was possible for an unclean spirit to be present within and in the midst of the synagogue, however, it was equally as possible—if not more possible—for a religious spirit to be present in the midst of one of the synagogues. In the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the Gentile physician Luke we find a spirit of offense and a spirit of anger present within the synagogue. The words which Jesus would speak unto those present in the synagogue would be such that would not only anger and provoke them, but also offend them. What’s more, is that we must needs realize and understand that what we find in this passage of Scripture is quite possibly also a familiar spirit as those who were present in the synagogue in Nazareth would have been familiar with Him from those thirty years He grew up among them. That which we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John is most certainly a spirit of offense—and not only a spirit of offense, but also a spirit of murmuring. Within this particular passage we find the Jews striving with Jesus and murmuring with Him because they could not handle, nor could they truly understand the words which He was speaking. Within and from that place of not understanding the words Jesus spoke unto them they would vehemently strive against him and would murmur within themselves—something that men and women are good at doing until this very day. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to this truly awesome and powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that in the first and opening chapter we find an unclean spirit present within the synagogue, and that unclean spirit would be a prelude and a precursor for those spirits which Jesus would face and confront in the midst of them.

            If I am being honest with you who are reading these words I would dare say that there are those spirits which are more visible and more tangible to the natural senses—such as unclean spirits and devils—however, there are other spirits that are far more subtle and far more discreet. There are those spirits which might very well be manifested out in the open, and Jesus’ confrontation of those spirits might draw the awe, the wonder, and the veneration of many, while there are other spirits which when Jesus confronts them draws the ire, the offense, the anger and the wrath of many. In the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark we find all those present in the synagogue in awe and wonder at the doctrine and teaching Jesus brought forth, for that teaching and doctrine was with authority as He could speak to and command unclean spirits to depart and they would obey. What we find in the second chapter is essentially a two fold scenario and two-sided coin, for on the one hand we find the religious leaders and the religious elite present in the house murmuring, grumbling, and reasoning within themselves at Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness of sins, as well as continued awe, amazement and glorifying of God because of what Jesus did. It would be Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness of sins that would cause the religious spirit to be provoked there in the midst of the synagogue, for the religious spirit would and could not handle Jesus speaking of forgiveness of sins. Scripture is entirely unclear as to whether or not the religious spirit would have been content to let this man continue to lie on his mat and be bound with the palsy, however, we do know that the religious spirit took great offense to Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness of sins. Within this passage we do indeed and do in fact find the religious spirit provoked by Jesus’ words concerning forgiveness of sins, and we do find the religious elite striving and reasoning within themselves, yet we find them taking no action toward and against Jesus.

            When we come to the third chapter of this same New Testament gospel we find more than simply the religious spirit being provoked by Jesus—we find Jesus provoking the religious spirit, we find Jesus provoking the religious spirit on the sabbath day in the synagogue, and we find the religious spirit seeking to destroy Jesus as a result. If and as you read the words which are found in the third chapter you will find that Jesus would again enter into the synagogue there in Capernaum as was His custom, and there would be a man present among them who would have a withered hand. What is incredibly important and worth noting about this particular passage of Scripture is that this man with the withered hand did not speak to Jesus and ask that He heal and make him whole. This man with the withered hand perhaps sat there quiet and attentive as Jesus taught, and yet he knew that his hand was withered. Here was this man who had a withered hand—something in his life had withered up—and yet we find him in the synagogue listening to words which Jesus would teach and preach. That which presents a unique challenge in this passage of Scripture is when you think about and consider the fact that even though this man would not approach Jesus and request his hand be healed and restored –Jesus would take note of this man and would call for him to do two things. As you read the words which are found within this passage you will find Jesus taking notice of this man and calling him to stand forth in the midst of all those which were present there in the synagogue. With this man who had the withered hand standing forth in the midst of them Jesus would then turn to the religious leaders and the religious elite there in the synagogue and as if it was lawful to do good on the sabbath. Jesus would ask those present in the synagogue whether it was lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save a life or to kill. What Jesus would find is complete silence from those present within the synagogue—perhaps one of the only times when the religious spirit can and will be silent. Here we have Jesus calling this man with a part of his physical body being withered to stand forth, and upon his standing forth Jesus would seek to directly confront the religious spirit which was present there in the midst of the synagogue.

            If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading the words found in this passage is that Jesus was fully aware of the fact that it was the sabbath day, and Jesus was fully aware of what the Law of Moses said concerning the Sabbath. What’s more, is Jesus was also fully aware of the traditions of the elders and those rules and regulations that were placed upon men and women when it came to the sabbath. In direct response to this Jesus would flip the script concerning the sabbath on its head and would ask those present if it was lawful to do good or evil on the sabbath, and/or to save a life or kill on the sabbath. In response to Jesus’ question He would not only be met with complete and utter silence as those in the synagogue held their peace, but Jesus would also be met with the hardness of their hearts. As you read the words which are found in this passage you will find that in response to Jesus’ question those in the synagogue would hold their peace choosing not to respond or even acknowledge the question that was just asked. Jesus would look round about on those present there in thy synagogue with anger being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. It is truly something unique and worth pointing out when reading this particular passage that not only would Jesus deliberately and intentionally provoke the religious spirit that was present on this day, but when He was met with silence He would be grieved and angered because of the hardness of the hearts of those in the midst. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for two of the tell tale signs and byproducts of the religious spirit is the hardness of heart, as well as keeping silent and holding one’s peace in matters which are important to the living and eternal Father. In the second chapter we find the religious leaders reasoning among themselves concerning Jesus’ statement concerning forgiveness of sins, however in this particular passage we find the religious leaders completely and utterly silent.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to the awesome and incredible truth surrounding Jesus’ movement within and interactions found in the synagogues. In the first and opening chapter of this gospel narrative we find Jesus encountering an unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum—and not only encountering this unclean spirit, but also commanding this unclean spirit to come out of this man. What makes this truly captivating when you take the time to think about it is that Jesus could speak to and command unclean spirits and devils to come out of those whom they would torment, oppress and possess, and yet when it came to the religious spirit Jesus could not speak to it and command it to come out. When we speak about the religious spirit we must needs recognize and understand that it is more often than not far more sinister, far more deadly, and far more dangerous than any unclean spirit. The religious spirit was not necessarily something that was overt and visible in the eyes and hearing of men, and was at times silent. What makes the religious spirit so incredibly dangerous is that there are times when it will be completely silent, while there are other times when it will actually reason together among others. In the second chapter of this New Testament gospel we find the scribes reasoning among themselves when Jesus declared that this man’s sins were forgiven him, while in the third chapter of this book we find the religious spirit altogether silent and speaking not a word. In the first and opening chapter we find the unclean spirit crying out with a loud voice—not only after it had torn this man upon coming out of him, but also when it was speaking to and addressing Jesus. The unclean spirit’s voice could and would be heard—not only when speaking unto Jesus, but also when and after Jesus had commanded it to come out of the man. This particular reality was not so when we think and speak about the religious spirit, for the religious spirit would and could in fact be silent and move unaware and undetected within the synagogues.

If there is one thing we must needs realize and recognize when we think about and consider the religious spirit is that it is usually only ever detected through the hardness of the hearts of those within our houses of worship and churches. Not only this, but the religious spirit is usually detected within the murmuring, the reasoning, the grumbling and the complaining that is found among those who might very well worship among us within our houses of worship and church buildings. What’s more, is that the religious spirit can indeed be detected by, with and through its silence present in the midst of our houses of worship and churches, for there are times when it can and will seek to remain undetected. The more the religious spirit goes undetected within our churches and houses of worship the more it can go without being exposed and addressed. What we find within these chapters is the religious spirit being provoked by Jesus—and not only provoked, but deliberately and intentionally provoked. The religious spirit would be intentionally poked and provoked by Jesus that He might not only bring healing and deliverance, but might also expose and confront that religious spirit in the midst of the synagogues and houses of worship. What we must needs realize and recognize is that this same Jesus seeks to not only provoke, but also expose the religious spirit that is present within our houses of worship. This is not only done through the language of forgiveness of sins and bringing healing and deliverance, but also through addressing and speaking to it directly. With this being said it is also necessary for us to understand and recognize that the religious spirit can be readily identified in its stark and vehement opposition to the work and words of Christ in the midst of the church building, in the midst of the church service, and in the midst of the house of worship. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how incredible important and powerful this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome truth surrounding the exposing and confrontation of the religious spirit which is indeed present and manifested within our church buildings and houses of worship.

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