Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine
This is the first story of Jesus acting on his authority as the anointed Son of God, as the one whom John the Baptist announced as the Messiah. If you think about the stories of the messiahs, Saul and David, the first thing that they did after their inauguration is to rally the men of Israel for battle and to defeat the enemies of Israel. Jesus is also anointed at his baptism and her allies the men of Israel. But in Jesus’ story he calls four fisherman and he goes into battle, not against the Philistines, but against the unclean spirits. He goes into battle against the spirits of the powers of evil. He defeats them not by warfare, but by his calm authority and his power over the spirits of evil. This story immediately reframes the nature of Jesus’ authority and power and what it means that he is the Messiah.
The exorcism raises the question as to whether this man was mentally ill or whether he was possessed by a demon. Clearly in the story Jesus’ action is presented as an exorcism, as the casting out of a demon. But to be possessed by an unclean spirit describes someone whose spirit was deformed. Today we might call such a person mentally ill but we also recognize that spiritual deformation is a much more widespread condition that affects everyone. In this case the evil spirit is malevolent, disruptive and rejoiced in doing wrong. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the powers of evil, in this case in the unclean spirit, by addressing this spirit directly and commanding it to leave the man.
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