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Sermon Text: Mark 1:21-28
Date: January 31 & February 1, 2015
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
Mark 1:21-28, 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus’ Authority is Our Security
- His power guards us
- His Word keeps us
Have you ever said to someone, “You know what, I wish I felt a little bit less safe?” Probably not. We may seek thrills and excitement, but we all still value safety and security. Someone might go skydiving or bungee jumping, but they will want to check their equipment to make sure it’s reliable and going to function the way they need it to when they need it.
If we are after safety and security in physical matters, it would make sense that we want security in spiritual matters too. After all, as we noted last week, the things of this life are temporary and really mostly meaningless in the long run; but eternal matters last forever. So we look for something reliable, something we can put our trust in, something that we can depend on to protect and shelter us no matter what storm comes our way. Our safety and our security, then, can only be found in Jesus.
As we continue to see Jesus reveal who he is to his disciples (and to us), we recognize that he’s different than any teacher who has come before or has come after him. He is one who teaches, speaks, and comforts with authority. And that authority is our security, because we know that his power will guard us and that his word will keep us.
In Jesus’ day, there were a lot of religious teachers, but no one who spoke with the conviction and assurance that the prophets of old had. That’s mostly because most of the teachers in Jesus’ day weren’t overly concerned with what God had said; they were more interested in keeping the rules of the elders and the traditions of the people alive and well, whether they agreed with God’s commands or not. So they weren’t really preaching God’s Word. They often were preaching about his Word, but not always clearly underscoring the message God wanted his people to hear. Likewise, as they were more and more focused on tradition and man-made rules, they showed themselves to be more interested in what men had to say than God.
That all changed when Jesus came. No longer was there a sinful human being trying to adjust what God said to meet his desires. There was not even a frail, sinful human being trying to convey to the people the words from God, as the Old Testament prophets had. No, in Jesus we find God himself proclaiming his Word to his people. There is no uncertainty, there are no questions in what he proclaims. His testimony was clear and to the point. As Mark records, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
Which makes it interesting when that demon possessed man appears on the scene. He yells at the top of his lungs, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” At first glance, we don’t really see any problems with what the demon says through this man, do we? Here he calls Jesus the Holy One of God, which is exactly what we would say one of Jesus’ titles is. But like we saw a few weeks ago with the spirit speaking through the slave girl about Paul and Silas in Philippi (cf. Acts 16), endorsement from a known untrustworthy source is generally not helpful. Jesus’ authority was such that he didn’t need that kind of testimony; he didn’t need the support, true or not, of the demons. In fact, he wants the demon to stop. And so, with just a few simple words he commands the demon to come out and be quiet… and the demon listens and obeys! That’s authority! That’s power!
That power over the demons, over Satan, is the power that Jesus exercised for us. While he was on the cross, it maybe have looked like Jesus was defeated, that his power and authority were all gone. But if we look closer, at the cross Jesus is really telling Satan to “Be quiet!” Satan means “accuser,” because that’s his desire and mission: to accuse us before God for all the sins we’ve committed. And all we can do is stand there in God’s courtroom and numbly nod along with the list of accusations. Satan doesn’t have to invent and fictitious dirt on us. We’ve done more than enough wrong for that great Judge to send us to hell. And that’s Satan’s goal: to get all of us to have to suffer in hell like he has to suffer forever.
But Jesus’ death is that great silencer. There as he suffered and died he was suffering the punishment that we deserved. So as the Judge listens to Satan’s accusations, he notes that the sentence for the sins has already been served. Like a loan paid off by a wealthy benefactor, our debt is gone! So Satan can’t accuse us of anything because Jesus has silenced him. His power over Satan, his victory over sin and death, mean that we are free to serve our God, free to rejoice in him now and forever in the unending joy of heaven! Satan is thrown out of God’s courtroom and we are saved!
Notice, though, that the people’s amazement was only partially related to seeing Jesus’ power displayed in silencing and casting out that demon. “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.’”
Do you ever wish that you could recapture the excitement you had in something that has faded over time? Maybe that car which you got a few years ago that was shiny and exciting has lost a lot of its appeal and become old hat. Maybe the toys you opened for Christmas are already broken, or lost, or just relegated to the back of the closet. Maybe your job, which you loved in the beginning, over the months and years that you’ve been at it has lost its appeal and thus your drive to do that work and do it well has gone as well.
We do that often because we can’t ever seem to be content. As sinful human beings, we seem to constantly need the new and shiny to keep us amazed and entertained. And it’s no different with our spiritual life than it is with our physical life. These people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching in large part because it was new. This portion of Mark’s gospel is from the earliest parts of Jesus’ earthly ministry. How many of those people, fascinated by Jesus’ new teaching here would still be his disciple after his death and resurrection about three years later? How many would have grown tired of hearing and seeing the same things from this Jesus of Nazareth, and gone off to search for another, newer, more exciting line of spiritual thinking?
Have you felt your interest in Jesus waning? Has it been a struggle to spend your precious time on Saturday evening or Sunday morning to come to church when you know the message will largely be the same, you know the hymns will be familiar, you know the people will be even more familiar? Has it seemed pointless to spend then extra time by coming to Bible Class on a Sunday morning or during the week? Have you felt that this message of God has become old hat, and while you may still value it, you feel like you know it all already?
Then you need just the opposite of what it feels like you need. Are things have become old hat and are you feeling like you don’t want to be in God’s Word as much anymore? That’s the very time you need it more! Our prayers should be continually, whether we’re about ready to begin worship, to start a Bible Class, or to sit and read our devotions at home, that the Lord send his Holy Spirit and open our eyes to see again how great and unsearchable the love God has for us truly is. The love of God forgives all of our sins—even our times of general apathy or distaste for his Word—and opens heaven to us. And in that Word he keeps us in that faith. The more we’re in God’s Word, the more we realize how much we don’t know! The more we explore it, the more we realize just how little we understand. And that drives us back to him again, to search out the answers, to understand the depths of his grace, to rejoice in all that he does for us.
So today, Jesus’ authority casts out your apathy and silences the voice that cries out against his Word as being boring. Here is where we learn of our safety—our eternal safety!—in his death and resurrection alone for us. Here we learn what truly matters: God’s saving love for us and for all people. Here we find that security that knows we belong to God as he belongs to us. In that security, rejoice in his power that saved you; rejoice in his Word that keeps you. Rejoice that your Savior has rescued you from all harm and has made you safe with him forever! Amen.