The Power of Jesus Over Sin
Gospel of Mark Oct. 31, 1999
I. The Ministry of Jesus' Power in Overcoming Man’s Fear
Illus.: The lady who called about fear --- (how about my own?)
Mark’s Gentile, largely Roman, audience that he intended to reach with his Gospel was one enveloped by potential fear. Perhaps we could say that theirs was a fear of abusive power. Caesar was god and power was absolute.
Given what we learned in Daniel about the statue vision depicting world empires, the last representation of the legs and feet of iron and clay stood for the Roman Empire. In a later vision of beasts it was the most fearsome, "Terrifying and frightening and very powerful – it had large iron teeth – it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left (Dan. 7:7)."
The time of severe Roman persecution of the church had just begun or was about to. Their Gentile background of superstitious worship of many gods was a hopeless hope to placate the forces of evil and circumstance that played havoc with earthly life. They may have wanted to appease these forces that they couldn’t control or understand.
Mark was privy to much better information. He knew (S. Acts 12:12) the One who had an everlasting dominion, who was the rock carved out of a mountain but not with human hands, that toppled the statue of world empires by striking it on its vulnerable feet of iron and clay (Dan. 2:34-35).
They needed to know or be reminded of the One who had all power. And he was willing to use it on their behalf.
The one true God had revealed himself on earth in the man Christ Jesus who personally exhibited power over every possible category of human fear.
How he did this is seen in Mark's key verse 10:45. Jesus did not come to be served (like Caesar) but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
He came to take action and deliver mankind from the uncertain future of his own ignorance of God’s power (what he is capable of) and person (who he is) and personality (what he is like).
He controls all things and so trusting him as protector and provider delivers from any and every fear.
The ministry of Jesus was a continuum of awesome and compassionate power displayed for the good of man that he might believe and be delivered from fear.
This is the availability of a peace with God that Mark’s Roman audience had never known before or needed to be reminded of.
Mark addresses fear nine times in his Gospel.
In 4:40 it is the disciples fear of earth’s natural forces.
In 5:15 the Gentiles saw the demon possessed man sitting with Jesus in his right mind and they were afraid of such a powerful spiritual force.
In 5:33 the woman who bled for twelve years was afraid of the power of Jesus that had just healed her.
In 5:36 the synagogue ruler was afraid of the power of sickness and death.
In 6:50 the disciples were afraid when they saw Jesus like a ghost walking on the lake.
In 9:32 the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus about what he had said regarding his Passion.
And on the way to Jerusalem and the Passion to come in 10:32, many disciples who followed were afraid of what was to happen.
In 12:12 those who questioned Jesus’ authority and wanted to arrest him and put him to death were afraid of the crowd that followed Jesus.
And in 16:8 the women were afraid as they sat at the empty tomb. But here we also see the final victory and power of Jesus over human fear. The ultimate enemy of death had been overcome.
There are six categories of human reality that Mark addresses in his Gospel over which he tells of Jesus’ power to overcome our fear. They are his power over sin, evil spirits, suffering and need, religious authority, earthly forces, and death itself.
Mark’s Gospel is one of action in which Jesus takes action over the things that cause us to fear that we might learn to trust in the power of God alone.
A. His Power over Sin
Most people understand that sin is evil in contradiction to some divine power. They experience the wrong things that people do to one another and its results in human misery.
Since they are powerless against sin and even not to sin themselves, sin is a fearful thing, especially for the conscience that knows it will be called to account at some point.
1. The Good News of God (1:14-15ff)
John’s call for sinners to come into the desert to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (1:4-5) was a precursor to the specific focus of Jesus’ ministry.
And Jesus himself took up this same message as verification (1:14-15) of his purpose.
John preached repentance but Jesus proclaimed the good news of God.
Repentance held hope of forgiveness, and it was by faith in God that this forgiveness came.
But the message of Jesus was that the kingdom of God was near to them in him.
God himself was among them and he could not only forgive sins but also bestow the power not to continue in sin. The time had come. Believing in him would cause repentance to actually bear fruit.
In John’s words (1:7-8) Jesus would have more power and he would bestow that power to overcome sin, baptizing with the Holy Spirit.
2. Authority to Forgive Sins (2:5ff)
In 2:5ff Jesus heals the paralytic by forgiving his sins.
There is certainly always a connection between our sin and our physical infirmity, indirectly because of our fallen nature, if not directly because of sin.
Jesus says that he healed in this way specifically to announce his authority to forgive sins.
He asked which is easier? Of course it is easier to say something than to do the visible thing and heal. But the healing would be proof of the saying.
Jesus wanted the people to see the liberation of one who could now walk that was paralyzed just as one is liberated who is now forgiven.
Sin is a sickness more serious than paralysis even though paralysis pictures it.
The people were amazed at this display of power.
They had exclaimed that only God could forgive sins. And now they have seen God forgive sins by making the paralytic walk.
3. Friend of Sinners (2:13ff)
Jesus not only forgave sins and healed people from them, he also mingled with sinners like Levi (2:13ff).
This offended those who were self-righteous.
Jesus’ affirmation that he had come to call sinners gives the assurance of power over sin to effect change.
He saw people as changed from the power of sin when they came to him because of his power over sin.
Those who mistakenly thought themselves righteous would not avail themselves of his power.
Time after time they react in the legalistic fear displayed here by criticizing Jesus for his compassion upon those who freely admitted their sinfulness.
There is much fear in depending upon one’s self to deliver from sin because it cannot be done outside of Jesus.
4. The Source of Power over Sin (3:22ff)
It is one thing to refuse the power of Jesus to forgive sins. It is another to attribute his power to overcome sin to the power of sin itself, namely Satan and his demons (3:22ff).
The teachers of the law are like Jesus own family (3:21) who think he is out of his mind. To this Jesus responds that they are out of their own minds.
It is not logical to think that sin would be opposed to sin. Rather, for sin to be overcome, there must be a greater power of a different kind.
It is a power strong enough to bind Satan, the ‘strong man’, while his possessions are taken.
Jesus tells them that there is no forgiveness for sin for those who deny his power.
This is an eternal sin against the witness of the Holy Spiriit because it has eternal consequences.
They will remain in fear of Satan, who for them is the source of all power. This being the essence of their belief, they remain under Satan’s power.
5. Importance of Humility (9:42ff)
Jesus exhorts his disciples about the tragedy of sin by referring once again (9:42ff) to the child that he had just introduced as an example to them about the issue of greatness (9:36-37).
There his point was that if they valued him they would value each other as his children in the manner of a child’s humility.
Each of his children matters greatly even as the least among them because Jesus cares infinitely about them, as does the Father in heaven.
Since he has welcomed them, they should welcome each other in the innocence of children.
God sent Jesus to save his children from such human sins as issues of greatness.
But then John brings out the issue of greatness further by admitting their rebuke of a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name who wasn’t part of their little group.
Jesus affirms this man’s work as helpful and deserving of reward.
We might take note of the jealousy here since this man was successfully casting out demons, whereas the disciples were recently rebuked by Jesus (9:18-19, 28-29) for not being able to in one case.
This may be the issue Jesus was trying to bring to the surface. If so, John responded admirably according to his conscience.
So now Jesus expands upon his illustration by explaining the results of sinning against each other with such a jealous attitude (being plummeted to the bottom of the ocean by a milestone necklace – here we observe the sea as the repository of sin, Micah 7:19).
There is dire personal cost (the eternal fire of hell) to one’s body and soul by jealously trying to hinder others from doing his work in delivering others from evil.
There is also dire personal cost in having such a part in allowing sin to be passed on to the next generation to be endured again.
True greatness is to stand in the gap and say that sin stops here even at the cost of personal sacrifice (of part of your body). Sin is that serious.
Since the child has a natural inclination to believe in Jesus, you mess with Jesus in sinning against such a child that Jesus loves.
There is also the sense that anyone who would believe in Jesus is a child since that is how one must come to him.
A concern for personal prestige hinders our partnership with Jesus in the ministry of overcoming sin.
Now there is a conviction about sin with which everyone is salted. But if we lose our conviction, can we be convicted again?
So Jesus tells them to have this salt of conviction about sin in themselves so that they can be at peace with each other, especially about issues like who is greatest.
This conviction about sin is possible for them because they are in the presence of the greatest of all who has power over sin.
6. Willingness to Forgive (11:25)
The forgiveness for sin that we desire is definitely related to our own willingness to forgive others (11:25).
In fact, we have nothing that we have not received (1Cor. 4:7). If we have not received forgiveness, we cannot give it.
This is true in a very real spiritual sense. We cannot give what we do not have in our hearts.
So our willingness to give it is infinitely tied to our ability to receive it.
This is because the heart prepared to truly receive the gift of forgiveness is also adequately changed to be willing to give forgiveness from that same preparation.
Jesus teaches this truth in the context of the disciples’ exclamation about the withered fig tree that Jesus cursed.
This was because it had no fruit (11:13). The fruit of forgiveness is impossible for those without the faith to receive forgiveness.
His curse upon the fig tree indicates the curse that Jerusalem would bring upon itself by rejecting the forgiveness he came to give.
Without forgiveness we wither and die like the tree and cause others to do the same.
The prospect of forgiveness for man’s sin is like moving a mountain – a barrier between man and God.
But now has come Jesus with the power to move the mountain of sin by forgiving sin and to enable us to do the same.
Here again we observe the sea (into which the mountain is cast) as the repository of sin (Micah 7:19).
So Jesus says in effect that the forgiveness we ask for in prayer we are also called to apply toward others.
7. Power to Forgive (11:23)
But, of course, the larger context of this truth is the triumphal entry Jesus has just made into Jerusalem.
At the end of this week he will be crucified for man’s sin.
This will put God’s seal of approval upon his acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus for it.
The power of Jesus over sin would now be complete for all eternity.
The mountain will truly have been thrown into the sea by the faith of Jesus in the power of God over sin.
And he makes this available to all who believe in his finished work.
Compared to the mountain of righteousness that Jesus is, the mountain of sin is an ant hill.