A New Teaching With Authority
Mark 1:21-28 & Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Vicar Brian Henderson
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!
Introduction: This morning we will be using the Old Testament and the Gospel readings in our message, but we’ll pay specific attention to these words from our Gospel reading: “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" (Mark 1:25)
Prior to Jesus encounter with the demon possessed man, He had just left His hometown of Nazareth where he was rejected by his own neighbors for refusing to perform a miracle. You see he had preached a powerful sermon within their Synagogue. He proclaimed that He had come to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free, which was a passage taken from the Book of Isaiah, reserved only for the Messiah. Now the people noticed that He spoke with power; they sensed it, but they demanded a miracle to back up this clear messianic claim. After all, this was Jesus; they knew Him, His father, mother, brothers and sisters. So to validate His messianic message, they insisted that He perform a great miracle like the one they heard that He had done in Capernaum. But Jesus refused to give them an additional miracle. I say additional miracle, because they had just unmistakably experienced the power and authority of the living Word of God that He spoke. No, there would be no more miracles; instead, He rebuked their demand for proof, and He returned to Capernaum. Dear people, God has warned, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deut. 6:16)
Now in Capernaum, Jesus once again began to preach in the Synagogue with great power and authority. The people were awe-struck and speechless after His sermon. Unlike the people of Nazareth who demanded a miracle, the people of Capernaum were silenced by the awesome power of the Holy Spirit, which was alive in the Words of Jesus. I imagine that the Synagogue was very quiet, as the people were trying to come to terms with what they had just heard (when suddenly the silence was broken by a man who was possessed by a demon). "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God." (Said the man possessed by a demon!)
This is the way that it always is when darkness is overcome with light; when evil is confronted with God’s goodness. The devil can’t bear to hear God’s Word proclaimed. It must challenge the Word by way of interruption. It fights to remain in control, but God’s Word still does not loose its power or authority; and then when that Word is spoken, the devil is left with only one option; IT MUST FLEE!
I am afraid that many of us misread Jesus’ rebuke of the demon, because the English language does a poor job at communicating passion and emotion in the words we read. We tend to read Jesus rebuke as a mild mannered response like this, “Be quiet, and come out of him.” But in the Greek, Jesus Words come alive; they are more like these, “SHUT UP! COME OUT OF HIM NOW!!” You see the Words of Jesus were filled with so much power and authority that the poor possessed man began to convulse and scream as the demon immediately left him. The demon discovered what Martin Luther knew to be true, "one little word can fell him." In the blink of an eye, those powerful Words of Jesus changed that man forever. He was set free from the evil that had engulfed Him. Why? Because what God declares done can not be undone!
This morning we will be talking about change; the type of change that takes place once God’s Word has been spoken and believed. Like the demon possessed man, we too have been freed from the grasp of the devil and the filthy sin that once completely controlled us. In the blink of an eye, we have been changed, freed from the grasp of the devil, by what God declared done at our Baptism, but in another sense, it is also correct to say that we must continue to change every day as we fight the sin that is all around us and even within us.
Change is a difficult thing to embrace, especially when we’ve grown use to the “old way” of doing things. “Old habits die hard” the saying goes, and so does our old sinful “me centered” way of thinking and living. But Jesus says to us, “Be quiet, and come out.” This morning we will answer these two questions: What is He calling out of us? (and) How can it come out?
I. What is He calling out of us? He is calling to our fear.
A. Our fear of sin. In our Old Testament lesson, we encounter Moses and the Israelites collectively remembering the day they were at the foot of Mount Horeb receiving God’s Law. They were terrified by God’s Word and presence. What was it that terrified them so? It was the perfect Law of God that revealed the complete sinfulness of their hearts. You see that is the very purpose of the Law! The Law demands that we must do this and that to live yet it does not offer us a way to do this and that. The Law threatens that we must never do that or this, yet it knows full well that we can’t help but to do that or this. Because of our fear of God’s Law, we wish that God would not speak to us, but like a parent who must do what is best for the child, He speaks, because – our – hearts – must – hear – the - truth. People then and people today can’t bear to hear God speak the truth, and that is why they say, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God!” We can not bear it!
Certainly this is the cry of all sinful men, women and children. Deep within ourselves we know that we are sinful and no good, because God’s Law ensures that we know this. Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God! But Moses calms our fears this morning, with the sweet Words of Grace! “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—Him you shall heed. Just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb.”
Is that what the Israelites asked for? Yes, it is the true cry of all God’s people. Now they may not admit it, in fact they may not even know that is what they are asking for, but deep down all people are hungering to hear God’s Word of mercy, peace, and grace. And now God has answered this secret prayer of His children.
Now, God is doing something new that He alone has the power to do, free us from our fear of sin. God’s direct action is the only way that the prayer of His people can be answered. God Himself has created a new kingdom, a new worship, and a new Word. Through His action God has created a new way back to Him; one which removes the threats of the Law. God the Son Himself calls out to His children and says, “Come unto me all you who are exhausted from sin and I will give you rest!” Jesus is the new Prophet that Moses was speaking of when he said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me—You will listen to Him.” Through this new ministry, Moses clearly saw the end of his own ministry, and he knew that he must be replaced by the Prophet who was to come, Jesus who is God Himself in human flesh.
And now, your Jesus, our Jesus announces, “I have come to heal your broken heart, and set you free from your prison of sin.” This is a ministry that Moses could never serve in, because he was a minister of the Law, sin, and death. His ministry demands, but it does not give what it demands. But now Jesus calls out to us, announcing that He alone has removed the penalty of sin. Now please understand, I am not minimizing the Law of God. Certainly, both of these teachings must be heard, but the reality is this, the sin and wrath that Moses stirred within our hearts through the proclamation of God’s Law has been canceled through the work Jesus alone. And He demands nothing; but He grants what Moses could not, a return to a right relationship of love and peace, with God our Father. Do you believe this is true? If so, then Jesus is calling, “Come out!
B. He is calling out our Fear of God. Again, in our Old Testament reading we hear these words in the 16th verse: "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."” (Deut. 18:16) The Jews knew that they were surrounded by Jehovah God, and they were keenly aware, perhaps for the first time just what it meant to be a creature standing in the presence of their creator. His righteousness had completely engulfed them. Their natural instinct told them to run, but the power of God held them in place. He had other plans for them! He wanted them to hear more that just the threats of the Law, He wanted them to understand just how much they needed Him.
Dear Saints, are you afraid to hear God speak to your heart? Does your fear prevent you from doing that good service that He has put within your heart? You know what service I mean don’t you? It is the act of ministry that you feel drawn to fulfill, but because of your doubts and fear you say, “But I can’t!” Yet, Jesus is still calling, “Come out.”
C. He is calling out our fear of change. In our Gospel lesson, starting in verse 23 we read, “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” (Mark 1:23,24a, 25)
Now that is change and that change was immediate! Within those simple Words of Jesus, “Be silent, and come out of him,” were all the promises of God concerning salvation. Evil was vanquished and the man was freed from his sin and his demons. Dear Saints, Jesus has done the very same thing for us at our Baptism. In that simple act of Baptism, the water like the voice of Jesus contained all of God’s promises concerning mercy and grace; nothing less than our total salvation was accomplished! So, I submit that now we have the same choice that the demon possessed man had, we can fight God’s gift of complete deliverance from our sin or we can begin to live a life freed from our own demons, and allow His love to change and lead us. Now wouldn’t it have been foolish if the demon possessed man had said, “No thank you Son of God. I think I’ve grown accustomed to being possessed by that demon. In fact, to tell you the truth Jesus, I am afraid of what this change will mean. Can you please bring him back until I am ready to change?” No, he did not say that and we wouldn’t say that either, would we? If not, then why do we so often resist God’s work in our lives? Why are we afraid to change? Well, perhaps the answer is in the 25th verse of the Gospel lesson: “the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” Friends, this is the universal truth about change; it – is - uncomfortable! And because it is uncomfortable, our old sinful nature fights God’s work of change within our lives. But what will become of us if God is leading us and not our old nature?
ILLUS: The story is told of a certain downtown businessman who developed a friendship with a little boy who shined his shoes every day. He did such a good job that one day the businessman asked him, “Son, how come you’re so dedicated to your work?” The boy looked at the man, and said, “Mister, I’m a Christian and I try to shine every pair of shoes as if Jesus Christ were wearing them.”
Now the businessman saw something genuine in that shoeshine boy. Soon after that he began reading his Bible. After he became a Christian himself, he credited his introduction to Jesus to the little boy who shined every pair of shoes “as if Jesus Christ were wearing them.” That’s a picture of two lives that embraced change and learned to trust Jesus. What Jesus does inside of us can not help but come out of us as we live our lives.
II. But how does this change happen?
A. It happens with Authority. Again in our Gospel lesson we read, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God." (Mark 1:24b) From this encounter we learn that whenever the authority of Jesus is invoked in preaching or teaching, there is a violent confrontation with the evil spirits who possess men's souls and rule their lives. This is what you, God’s saints will experience as you minister with His Word within your communities and neighborhoods, and it is what you will continue to experience as long as you boldly live out your faith and give your witness. The foul demons that love darkness and live under stones do not like to be disturbed. But the same is true, in a sense, with us who have been saved. The old sinful nature that we still carry with us does not want to be disturbed either. It does not want to hear or read the Word of God. That is why so many have lost the habit of coming to church. That is why so many of us find it difficult to find time to read God’s Word on our own. You see friends, there is power in the Word, and our old sinful nature knows that the presence of the Holy Spirit’s power through the Word means that we must decrease as God’s presence within us increases, as He give us faith, which enables us to follow Jesus Christ into eternal life.
B. So you see, change happens also through the power of God, and that power is realized through His Word. In verse 27 of our Gospel lesson the people said after hearing Jesus and seeing the demon flee,“ What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." (Mark 1: 27)
Many times we just don’t not realize how powerful God’s Word is, because it comes to us in the frailty of our own everyday language. Perhaps we under-value it because God speaks to us in such a common way? Please allow me to illustrate what I mean:
ILLUS: I asked my wife one day what her favorite piece of classical music was and she said that she couldn’t think of one. I told her that mine was Beethoven’s 5th symphony. "How does it go?" she asked. I started to whistle the main theme of it for her. Then I realized how ridiculous it was that I should be trying to communicate that great musical composition with my weak whistle. But by the wonder of the human brain, my weak whistle was changed in my wife’s mind into the strings and percussion and brass of the full symphony orchestra as she began to recall the tune.
And so it is every time I stand up here to preach, I'm overcome with how ridiculous it is that I should be trying to communicate God's Word to you dear saints. It would be hopeless, except for one thing: the Holy Spirit is in His Word, teaching through me; and His same Spirit comes to you who are listening. So He turns my weak little whistle into the full symphony of God's revelation into your minds and lives. The same is true when you are sharing a simple verse with a friend or neighbor. God takes that verse along with your story and begins to work a symphony within the heart of the person listening and within your own heart as well.
Friends, if we are sincere in our witness to God’s love, then God's authority and power must be part of our life. It is not so much that we must possess His Word, but rather His Word must be allowed to possess us. If we want people to see that our relationship with God is real, then we need to be passionate and personal about it. Then there will be power, authority, and life in the communication between son and daughter, between parent and child, between teacher and student, between employer and employee and neighbor to neighbor.
Conclusion: What we have learned this morning is that Christ’s gospel of love and power is for everyone, even the least and the worst of us. Jesus rejoices to change your life with a word. He is leading you now; will you follow? We are the Church, the Body of Christ, which by definition has to do with those who have been indwelt by the Spirit of God. Our lives are to speak God's Word authoritatively. Not only that, but as the Church of Christ, each one of us are called to be involved in His mission, which is the deliverance from sin. Christ is calling us to minister in his authority.
Among our Lord's final words were these: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus is with us! His authority rests with his Church! Let us possess and use it with humility and energy, casting all of our fears upon Him and embracing the changes that He would make both within our own hearts and His church. In Jesus name we ask that this, AMEN!