Jesus Expels Demons from Man in Synagogue

Here begins a multipart series on every instance of healing and deliverance in the four Gospel and Acts, posted each Wednesday, for the rest of 2023.

In this post, Scriptures: Mark 1:21-28 and Luke 4:31-37. Let’s see how Jesus expelled the demons.

Then we can learn to do the same in his name and by the power of the Spirit. He did not have to pray by speaking his own name, but we have to do this. He grants us his authority when we expel demons.

The translations are mine, but if you would like to see many other translations, please go to I include the Greek text to bring out the nuances, but readers may scroll past it, if they wish.

Let’s begin.

Jesus Expels Demons from Man in Synagogue

Mark 1:21-28

Luke 4:31-37

21 They went into Capernaum and then on the Sabbath entered in the synagogue, and he was teaching. 22 They were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority and not as the teachers of the law. 23 Suddenly a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue and cried out, 24 saying, “Go away and leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Shut up and come out of him!”  26 Then the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. 27 Everyone was amazed, so that they asked each other, “What is this?” A new teaching with authority! He commands even unclean spirits, and they obey him!” 28 The report about him immediately went out everywhere in the whole region of Galilee. 31 Then he went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee. He was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32 And they were astonished at his teaching because his message was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man having an unclean demonic spirit, and he cried out with a loud voice: 34 “Yah! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus the Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! The Holy One of God!” 35 And Jesus rebuked it, saying, “Silence! Come out of him!” And throwing him right in the middle of them, it came out of him without harming him in the slightest. 36 A fear came upon everyone, and they spoke amongst themselves, saying, “What is this message? With authority and power he commands unclean spirits and they leave!” 37 And the news about him went out throughout every part in the region.
21 Καὶ εἰσπορεύονται εἰς Καφαρναούμ· καὶ εὐθὺς τοῖς σάββασιν εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ἐδίδασκεν. 22 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ· ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς. 23 Καὶ εὐθὺς ἦν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ αὐτῶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ καὶ ἀνέκραξεν 24 λέγων· τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ. 25 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ. 26 καὶ σπαράξαν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον καὶ φωνῆσαν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξῆλθεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ. 27 καὶ ἐθαμβήθησαν ἅπαντες ὥστε συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντας· τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴ κατ’ ἐξουσίαν· καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασιν τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις ἐπιτάσσει, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ. 28 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εὐθὺς πανταχοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν περίχωρον τῆς Γαλιλαίας. 31 Καὶ κατῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας. καὶ ἦν διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν· 32 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ ἦν ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ. 33 Καὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου καὶ ἀνέκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ· 34 ἔα, τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ. 35 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. καὶ ῥῖψαν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον εἰς τὸ μέσον ἐξῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μηδὲν βλάψαν αὐτόν. 36 καὶ ἐγένετο θάμβος ἐπὶ πάντας καὶ συνελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες· τίς ὁ λόγος οὗτος ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ἐπιτάσσει τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις πνεύμασιν καὶ ἐξέρχονται; 37 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο ἦχος περὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς πάντα τόπον τῆς περιχώρου.


This is a power encounter at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, and it happens in a synagogue, for everyone to see. “Us” means there were multiple demons. But then the narration shifts to a single demon. One demon may speak for others. Get ready for the same in our own ministry.

William Lane has clear insight into the demonized man:

[The man’s] personality had been damaged to the point that the demonic power had usurped the center of his self and spoke through him. The disturbance which Jesus brings was expressed in the excited response of the man, who sensed in Jesus a threat to his very existence. His cry of terror, expressed in v. 24, is laden with the language of defense and resistance. The demoniac does not confess the dignity of Jesus, but uses the accepted terms of opposition in the attempt to disarm him.

The fact that the demon used the place name of hometown may indicate that the demon intended to cut Jesus down to size. “You come from an insignificant town no one’s ever heard of! You’re a nobody! What business do you have with me?” But then the demon circles back around to Jesus’s true identity. Sooner or later, people, even your opponents will understand who you really are: a son or daughter of God!

One of the striking features is that Jesus does not provide a “technique” to do exorcisms, so we either don’t build a system but learn as we go, or we use the absence of a technique to build one. In other words, when the text is silent, do we push in and fill in the blanks, or do we move on and let the silence remain without our novelties? I’m prone, however, to let the silence stand without pushing in. I let you decide what you do in your own situation.

Bible Basics about Deliverance

“Go away and leave us alone!” It may point to an expression in the Septuagint, which could be rendered as I have it here: “Go away and leave us alone!” Or, “Why are you interfering with us?” (Josh. 22:24; Judg. 13:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13). The Septuagint should be authoritative and decisive in this verse. Alternatively, however, the phrase may emphasize the distance between Jesus and the demon. Therefore, it can also be translated, “What do we have to do with you?” Or “What do we have in common?” Or “What is it to us and to you?” Or “leave us alone!” (Decker, p. 27). Or I could add this expanded alternative: “Are you going to cross over into our jurisdiction, from you to us?” You can decide which translation is best.

“Have you come to destroy us?” It could be translated not as a question, but words of defeat: “You have come to destroy us!” This accords with 1 John 3:8 that says, “And the Son of God has appeared in order to loosen the works of the devil” (my translation). The verb “loosen” could also be translated as “destroy,” but they are different Greek verbs: v. 24: apollumi (pronounced ah-pol-loo-mee); 1 John 3:8: luō (loo-oh). One major purpose why Jesus came was to destroy the influence, power, and authority of the devil in people’s lives. This is the first passage where a demonic deliverance is mentioned in this Gospel, so it serves as a foreshadowing of the rest of Jesus’s ministry of the kingdom. Take it as paradigmatic.

Wessel and Strauss on the demon’s question about destroying it or them (“us”): “Not only one demon but the whole demonic realm quakes in fear at the recognition that Jesus has come to conquer their realm and to rescue those enslaved by Satan. The inbreaking power of the kingdom of God will overwhelm the ramparts of Satan.”

The demons shouted out Jesus’ true identity because they lived in the spirit world and understood, somehow, that Jesus the Nazarene, the Holy One of God, had come to earth and was appointed to bring the kingdom of God, demanding that Satan loosen his grip on humanity, and to doom his dark kingdom, destining his ultimate defeat. That’s why the demon shouted, “You have come to destroy us (in particular)!” Or, as noted, “Have you come to destroy us (in particular)?” In any case, they sized him up and saw their defeat and destruction. He was (and is) Lord; they were (or are) not, even over that one person they possessed.

Commentator Strauss (summarized): the fact that the demon knows Jesus’s identity serves two purposes. First, it confirms and testifies to his identity. Demons knew the supernatural world and events, and they knew who he was. This will stand in contrast to Jesus’s human opponents, particularly the religious leaders, who don’t recognize him. Second, Jesus mission is a cosmic battle against spiritual forces of good and evil and the dominion of Satan against the kingdom of God.

“having an unclean spirit”: the Greek really does read “having.” “Demonized” is not the only verb to express a demonic attack (see Mark 3:22, 30; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 4:33; 7:33; 8:27; Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13). But I see no substantive difference between the two verbs and are used interchangeably in Luke 8:27, 36. What is more relevant is the soul of the person being attacked and how deep the attack goes because the person gives the demon access.

In Mark’s Gospel: “rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō (pronounced eh-pea-tee-mah-oh), and it means “rebuke, censure, warn,” and even “punish” (see Jude 9). In exorcisms it may have developed a specialized meaning, so one should use it, as Jesus did. Be authoritative. In any case, he has given us authority to tread on the devil (Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1 and 10:19).

“shut up!”: the verb is phimoō (pronounced fee-moh-oh), and it can mean to “muzzle,” as in a muzzled ox (1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9); or figuratively “(put to) silence” (Matt. 22:34; 1 Pet. 2:15); passive voice: “be silenced, be silent” (Matt. 22:12; Mark 1:25; 4:39; Luke 4:35). And those verses are the only ones where this verb appears. Here it is in the command form. Command the demon. “Silence!” In this case, Jesus did not want the demon to reveal too soon who Jesus was. So you can tell a demon to shut up, if necessary, but the context here is not revealing too much about Jesus (see v. 34). But there’s another matter about not revealing too much of himself. Huge crowds gathered, which prevented local ministry (v. 45).

In Luke’s Gospel: “commands”: it is the verb epitassō (pronounced eh-pea-tahs-soh), and tassō means, depending on the context, to “place” or “station,” “appoint” or “establish” or “put someone in charge of” or “order, fix, determine, appoint.” Add the prefix epi– to it, Jesus commands with authority on top of or from above or from a position over the thing being commanded. In other words, Jesus had total control and power and authority over the cluster of demons.

The demons shouted out Jesus’ true identity because they lived in the spirit world and understood, somehow, that Jesus the Nazarene, the Holy One of God, had come to earth and was appointed to bring the kingdom of God, demanding that Satan loosen his grip on humanity, and to doom his dark kingdom, destining his ultimate defeat. That’s why the demon shouted, “You have come to destroy us (in particular)!” Or, as noted, “Have you come to destroy us (in particular)?” In any case, they sized him up and saw their defeat and destruction. He was (and is) Lord; they were (or are) not, even over that one person they possessed.

Jesus didn’t use props, incantations, rituals of any kind. He commanded the demon. That settles the matter (France). He was authoritative.

Application for Ministry Today

The goal of these posts about healing and deliverance is to learn how to minister to people how Jesus did. In this section I number the points for clarity and order.

Let’s first discuss Jesus’s teaching ministry, then the power encounter.

1.. “teaching”: here it is the more formal didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay or dih-dah-khay), so Jesus spent some time teaching formally in the synagogues. It makes me wonder whether the church in the U.S. and the world get adequate teaching. As noted, in America many preachers do a lot of yelling and shouting and displays of personality and shrieking and freaking and dancing and prancing. I wonder whether Jesus did any of that. I don’t think so. Yet he amazed the people with his teaching.

2.. Let’s explore this Greek noun more thoroughly.

It is the noun didachē. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) “The activity of teaching, teaching, instruction”; (2) “the content of teaching, teaching.” Yes, the word is also used of Jesus’s teaching: Matt. 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22, 27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16, 17; 18:19. And it is used of the apostolic teaching: Acts 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; 17:19; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 2 John 9 (twice), 10; Rev. 2:14, 15, 24.

3.. Renewalists need much more instruction and doctrine than they are getting. Inspirational preaching about God fulfilling their hopes and dreams is insufficient. We need to discern the signs of the times or seasons (Matt. 16:3). We live in the time or season of the worldwide web. The people are getting bombarded with strange doctrines, on youtube (and other such platforms). These youtube “teachers” know how to edit things and put in clever colors and special effects, but they have not been appointed by God. They do not know how to do even basic research. They run roughshod over basic hermeneutical (interpretational) principles. These “teachers” do not seem to realize that they will be judged more severely (Jas. 3:1) and will have to render an account of their (self-appointed) “leadership” (Heb. 13:17). If they destroy God’s temple, God will (eventually) destroy them (1 Cor. 3:17).

4.. Further, my impression is that the main platform speakers on TV whose budgets are big enough to put them on TV every day don’t even know the basics about doctrine. They couldn’t explain some aspects if they were asked (I admit I’m still learning basic doctrine). Why not? They are too busy being corporate managers and even Chief Executive Officers over large churches. They are not turning over the practical side of church leadership to their elders and deacons. They do not spend hours a day—all day, every day—studying nothing but Scriptures, with good ol’ commentaries. (Maybe this lite one can help.) They do not spend much time reading up on theology and doctrine. (Maybe my website can help, a little.)

5.. An alternative and probably better translation of Eph. 4:11 reads: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors” or “pastoral teachers,” not “pastors and teachers,” as if they are two different categories. Do we have teaching pastors or management or corporate pastors who specialize in organizational leadership? Or do we have psychology pastors? These areas should be turned over to a team. The teaching pastors should do nothing but study Scripture and should have the bulk of the teaching time on Sunday morning and in other services.

6.. We need to change our ways and follow Scripture, or else much of the church will spiritually diminish and be swept away by strange teachings. Yes, good ol’ fashioned theology and even a little apologetics about difficult passages is what the global Church needs. They need the basics—even on Sunday morning, delivered by teaching pastors, not corporate, inspirational pastors.

7.. Bottom line about Jesus’s ministry: he was a teacher. We need more of them in churches.

Now let’s get to the power encounter.

8.. Some teachers say they can converse with demons, in order to find out why they refuse to go, why they have a root in the human, since Jesus asked the demon or demons for his or their name (Mark 5:9). I would never say no to this part of deliverance. I believe the mature believer must not follow a formula or ritual. However, do we have to take it so far and have a detailed conversation? No. But if it is necessary to ask an authoritative question, then do it. But a conversation? No.

9.. So the demon threw (Luke 4:31-37) or convulsed (here in Mark’s Gospel) the poor man, soon to be a “rich” man because of his deliverance, right in the middle of the synagogue attenders. Even though the man was convulsed by the power of the demon possessing him, the man was not physically harmed in the slightest or “at all” is another translation of Luke’s version. The verb is sparassō (pronounced spah-rah-ssoh), and it basically means “tearing.” The demon had to tear himself away from the human. Deep roots may have been sunk in the man’s soul.

10.. It is good to know that when a person is delivered from demonic spirits, he suffers no bodily harm if the demon were to toss him on the floor. (I have heard of deliverances that do not harm the man or woman when they stiffened up and fell hard on the floor.) With such details, therefore, I conclude that Mark got this (true) story from a reliable transmitter of these early stories about Jesus’ ministry, from Peter (Mark 1:21-28).

11. We have power in Jesus’s name to expel demons. We can command them to go, in his name. We also have the gifts of the Spirit distributed to us as the Spirit determines. One of these gifts is the discernings of spirits. However one defines the phrase, it has to include demonic spirits.

7. Gifts of the Spirit: Discernings of Spirits

For fuller commentary, click on these chapter links:

Mark 1

Luke 4

Scroll down to the right verses.

See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

The next two links may be beneficial:

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling

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