In the Synagogue of Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-08-12 08:36.

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On the Sabbath day, Jesus, accompanied by the four disciples, went to the synagogue and began to teach those assembled. His teaching “astonished” (ekplésso) the people, for he taught as one having authority and not as did the scribes. Whereas the scribes quoted prominent rabbis from the past, Jesus did not base his teaching on tradition but made direct application of the Scriptures (as evident from later accounts about his teaching). (Mark 1:21, 22; Luke 4:31, 32)

Suddenly, a man, under the influence of an “unclean spirit” or the “spirit of an unclean demon” began to scream, “What [is there between] us and you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God.” Jesus did not allow any further expressions, saying: “Be silent and come out from him.” At that, the man was seized by a convulsion and a loud scream followed. Unharmed by the convulsion, the man was freed from his affliction. Amazed, those who witnessed this exclaimed, “What is this? A new teaching? With authority [“and power,” Luke 4:36], he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Thereafter word about this incident spread to other parts of Galilee. (Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37)

The way those in the synagogue expressed themselves shows that they did not recognize that the powerful work they had witnessed revealed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. Their amazement appears to have been limited to attributing the development to a new teaching.


The Greek word ekplésso (“to be astonished,” “astounded,” or “amazed”) may also signify “to be shocked.” At least a number of those in the synagogue may have been disturbed or shocked about the manner of Jesus’ teaching. It is not uncommon for people to become uncomfortable when experiencing something unfamiliar or new to them.

Possibly persons whose affliction was attributed to an “unclean demon” would repeatedly scream filthy and abusive terms. The many instances of demon possession may not, in every case, have been such. In the first century, serious mental illness and other ailments were often regarded as being caused by malign spirits. While there are definite instances (based on the details provided) that point to actual demon possession, often those who brought the afflicted ones to Jesus believed this to be the reason for the suffering. The Son of God would have dealt with the situation according to then-existing beliefs, as the people would not have understood any explanation about the real cause of serious mental illness and other ailments. Just as Jesus “rebuked” the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39), he would have “rebuked” the agent people believed to be responsible for the suffering of the afflicted individuals.

See for pictures of and comments about Capernaum.