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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

The Gospel of the day is our focus, and our devotional text comes from The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers.

Scripture Readings

Deuteronomy 18:15–20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1–13
Mark 1:21–28

Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.


In the reading from Mark today, we see Jesus cast demons out of a man, and the people are amazed at His authority to do this. Our devotional text below answers a few questions readers may have about this occurrence and about unclean spirits.

Devotional Reading

1:24 Why would people in the synagogue ask Jesus if He came there to destroy them?

The preceding verse directs our attention to a particular man who had a demon. It is this demon that cried out, “Have You come to destroy us?” The plural “us” refers to the demon but also reveals that there are a multitude of demons in this man. A different encounter of Jesus with a demon named “Legion” confirms that numbers of demons do gather to possess one person (Mk 5:9). The destruction that the demon is worried about reveals three things. First, demons do not know God’s plan in Christ nor His timing, only that their destruction is certain (Mt 8:29; Mk 5:10). Second, the destruction of the devil and his demons is already accomplished in Christ and will be final at Judgment Day (Rv 12:9, 17; 20:10). Third, Jesus always binds and constrains the devil because He is the Word and truth of God. Notice the single means by which Jesus defeats the devil’s temptations: “It is written” (Lk 4:1–13). The Word and truth of God is what binds the dragon (Rv 20:2).

1:26 Where do evil spirits go after they have been cast out? Are there evil spirits today?

Jesus said that demons pass through “waterless places” where they have no rest (Mt 12:43–45). Consider the significance of that language in contrast to Jesus Himself, who gives living water and perfect rest (Ps 23; Jn 4). Demons on another occasion begged Jesus not to send them “out of the country” (Mk 5:10), which may suggest their fear of the unknown and impending conclusion of God’s judgment against them (see also Rv 12:17; 20:10). . . .

Some might argue that there are no demons in our time because we don’t see demon possession today as in biblical times. However, it is possible that demons have learned that subtle, gradual undermining of truth and faith is more effective than the terrifying forms of possession from which Jesus relieved people.

1:27 What are “unclean spirits”?

The term unclean spirit occurs twenty times in the New Testament, all of them in the Gospels—with the exception of two in Acts and two in Revelation. Mk 5:13–15 demonstrates that an “unclean spirit” and a “demon” are the same thing. Mk 5:5 and 13 show that the intent of unclean spirits/demons is to destroy a person’s life. Rv 16:3 and Mk 9:25 together indicate that the devil is the one who sends out unclean spirits and that their chief purpose is to deceive with words, in contradiction with the truth provided in the Word of God. This is why Jesus forbids the unclean spirits/demons to speak (Mk 16:3).

Devotional reading is from The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers, pages 120–21 © 2015 Michael Eschelbach. Published by Concordia Publishing House.


Hymn is “Hope of the World,” hymn 690 from Lutheran Service Book. Video © 2018 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.


Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.


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