A sermon based on Mark 1:21-28
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Very soon two great adversaries are going to collide in an epic battle. The rivalry has been growing for a while. And lots of people are watching on the edge of their seats to see who will emerge victorious. Whoever wins will be the unmistakable champion. Who are you rooting for?
Let me clear though: I'm not talking about the Falcons and the Patriots who are going to duke it out next Sunday in Super Bowl 51. Both the Seahawks and the Packers are out, so who really cares? J This morning, I'm talking about a showdown between Jesus and his enemies, the demons. That rivalry had been growing ever since Eden. Lots of people were in the synagogue (their church) to see who would win. And of course, it's no surprise to you, who emerged victorious. Jesus was the clear champion that day.
Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by driving a demon out of a man it had been possessing. And Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by his teaching. Our text for this morning, which tells of that showdown, is found in Mark 1:21-28…
21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just 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!" 26The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27The 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." 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
I. His Authority Over Demons
This week I finished reading a book that I highly recommend. It's a new release from Northwestern Publishing House (www.NPH.net) and it's called 2000 Demons and is written by E. Allen Sorum. It tells the story of Jesus driving demons from a man who called himself Legion (which was a troop of 2,000 Roman soldiers). In the book Professor Sorum calls for a sober recognition that demons are very real, that they are out to get you, to devour your soul, and leave you lonely, hurting, and ashamed, and ultimately on a despairing end in hell. He does this not just to scare his readers, but to make them aware of the very real enemy out to eternally devour us all.
If you saw an army of 2,000 vicious enemies marching toward your house with the clear intent of torturing then killing you, you wouldn't bury your head in your hands and pretend they didn't exist, hoping they'd just go away, would you? Of course not! You'd take the threat seriously. That's really what we've been studying in our Bible Class on the Screwtape Letters too: how clever and crafty our enemy really is!
And while Professor Sorum points out the very real and powerful enemy that threatens us all, he also highlights the comforting truth that while we take demons seriously, we need not fear them because we know one far more powerful than they, who came to protect us, and keep us safe from the devil and his minions. While demons are more powerful than you, they're not even close to as powerful as Jesus… (And that's really what we've been studying in our Bible Class on the book of Revelation.)
One day as Jesus went to church… (and by the way, if Jesus, who is the very God who authored the Bible, went to church, how much more don't we need to?) …Well, one day when he was at church teaching the Word of God, "a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, '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!'"
Does it surprise you that demons go to church too? Of course, the demons are going to work hardest on those listening to the Word of God! He already has the unbelievers in his grasp. And while he speaks the truth—that Jesus is the Holy One of God, come to destroy the devil and his demons—I think the demon hoped that the people would view Jesus in the same light: As one who had come to destroy, not to save.
But Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by commanding the demon, "Be quiet! … Come out of him!" And while the evil spirit resisted, nevertheless it was forced to obey. Jesus had that kind of authority over it. It had to do what it was told. "The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek." Jesus clearly demonstrated his amazing authority over even demons.
How does that make you feel? It ought to make us feel glad right? But, in reality, all too often you and I have sided with demons! We take their side every time we say as they did, "You're not the boss of me, God! I'm my own boss. I'll do what I want instead of what you want." In other words, we side with the demons every time we sin.
We side with the demons every time we twist or distort God's Word to make us feel comfortable in our sin, echoing satan himself in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say…?" "Did God really say drunkenness is a sin? I'm just having fun! Did God really say pornography is the same as adultery?! Come on! Who does it hurt?! Did God really say that an unloving thought about a co-worker is as bad as murder? I'd never kill anyone!" But do you hear who's behind that thinking? We have sided with satan and his demons so often that we might rightly be afraid to hear that Jesus came to destroy the devil and all who side with him.
We too might wonder, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? [We] know who you are—the Holy One of God!" He is the Holy One who cannot stand the sight of sin.
Nevertheless, as John wrote in his first epistle (1 John 3:8), "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." And that's exactly what he did. Though he was tempted by satan himself, he perfectly resisted every temptation that he might give us credit for his sinless score. And then, as satan crushed his heel by having the Son of God tortured to death on a cross, Jesus crushed satan's head by paying for all of the sins of all of mankind of all time—totally destroying the devil's work he brought about in the Garden of Eden. And on Easter Day, Jesus emerged victorious at the dominant victor once and for all.
That's the authority that Jesus still has over demons. So how do you overcome the enemy? You side with Jesus. Or, really, Jesus brings you onto his side as he brings to you faith in his perfect life lived for you, his perfect death died in your place, his triumphant resurrection that guarantees your own. And he keeps you on his side by keeping you in that faith. And you know how he does that: by the amazing authority of his Word.
Did you notice what really amazed the people? It wasn't that Jesus drove out a demon…
II. His Authority in His Word
"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." And even before Jesus drove out the demon, "The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law." It was the Word of God clearly taught by Jesus that amazed the people most.
What if I could speak a word right now that by my speaking it and by your hearing it your debt would instantly be removed right now and for the rest of your life? Wouldn't you want to hear it? What if I could speak a word that would instantly make you perfectly healthy, with no cancer, no sickness at all, no back pain, no stiff joints, no excess pounds, immediately right now and for the rest of your life? Wouldn't you want to hear it?
Now I obviously don't have that authority to my words or I would have already spoken myself richer and thinner. J But Jesus does have a Word that keeps the devil at bay. His Word gives you the riches of heaven itself when you hear it and believe it. His Word makes you spiritually healthy—perfect and flawless before the Father. And one day that Word will make you physically healthy too--in every way—when he gives us each a new glorified body that cannot be corrupted nor decay. That's the amazing power of God's Word! Don't you want to hear it?
So read that Word—every day! Set aside just five minutes each day to read that Word of Life! Set a timer if you want. Just five minutes! Start with the Gospel of Mark. Then jump back to Genesis. Or read a Proverb a day for a month, then start over again. Or read through the Psalms twice in a year by reading one per day. Or download a "Through the Bible in One Year" reading plan. Just move it all back a month. Start February 1st and finish at the end of January 2018. (Who says resolutions can only take place with a new year?)
And as you do, read and study and learn that amazing Word, Jesus authority will impact you. Jesus will more than just amaze you, he will actually change you. He will make you less selfish and less lazy. He'll make you more generous and eager to serve others. He'll make you more kind and patient, loving and compassionate. Because as you listen to his Word, you'll be amazed again and again that he forgives you of every sin and promises you heaven itself! You'll be amazed at the his authority that can even raise the dead—including you, when he takes you to be with him in heaven! What amazing authority Jesus has!
As I listened to the audiobook of 2000 Demons this past week, the snow was falling hard all around me. The temperature was in the 20's and the wind was blowing hard. Nevertheless, I was dry, comfortable, and warm. You know why? I was in my van. The cold couldn't affect me.
In a similar way, one of the expressions the Apostle Paul loved to use again and again in his epistles was "in Christ" or "in Him." That's what you and I are: Safe in Christ, where the devil and his minions—as powerful as they are—can't affect us. As David declared in Psalm 3:3, "You are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head."
So stay in the Word, dear friends, and stay safe in Jesus by his amazing authority! Then, go do as those in Capernaum did that day: When you leave church, go spread the news about him quickly throughout the whole region. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen!