Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/13/14 Sermon - Who's in Charge

 

“Who’s in Charge”

 Mark 1: 21-30
 

Today’s Scripture has Jesus and the four disciples he picked up last week, Simon and his brother Andrew, along with James and his brother John. If you remember last week, they had been fishing in the Sea of Galilee and Jesus walked by, asked them to join him, and they dropped everything and did just that. They followed Jesus into the city of Capernaum.

 

Capernaum was a small fishing village, of about 1,500 inhabitants, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

It was the home city of the four fishermen who had decided to follow Jesus. It was also the hometown for the Apostle Peter and the tax collector Matthew. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is reported that Jesus selected this town as the center of his public ministry in Galilee after he left his home in Nazareth. Matthew also records that Jesus cursed the city, saying, “You shall be brought down to Hades,” because of their lack of response to his teaching. Only ruins exist today of what of the city known as Capernaum.

Mark wastes no time in relaying to us Jesus’ activity as Messiah. In fact, we will notice the entire Gospel of Mark centers on the first statement recorded by Jesus, in verse 15, which was…..

 

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

 

Jesus and his disciples reach Capernaum and like any good Jewish men, when they realize it is the Sabbath, go directly to the synagogue. As soon as they get to the synagogue, Jesus begins to teach. Now the response of the people who are listening is unique, Mark records that instead of reacting in the usual manner, with teachers, which would have been for the men to debate or give a theoretical reflection on what Jesus said, Mark records that those who listened, were “amazed” or “astonished”. You see, Jesus taught with authority.

Now this word “authority” has a different type of nuance to the definition which may immediately come to mind. The word “authority” in this context means, with a prophetic view, compelling the listener to make a decision, not merely give the listener an option for decision.

Let me try to explain this a little bit. The rabbis taught in the synagogue and did so with an authority which informed the people that they had done their homework and researched and studied the scriptures and because they were learned men, the listeners should decide to follow what they said. Jesus, however, spoke in such a way that there was no need to question whether he had “studied or researched”,

 
his words were truth,
 

and required the listener to skip the step of whether what he said was worth deciding, but immediately compelled them to decide. This was a new way of being taught and in the Greek the word
“amazed” has the connotation of “being disturbed”.

This man from Nazareth, was not an ordained teacher, he was a carpenter. And yet, the words he spoke and the manner in which he delivered them left the listeners disturbed. And it was this disturbance that Jesus came to produce.

Mark then records that a man, who was possessed by an evil spirit cries out to Jesus. The evil spirit takes over and shouts,

“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!”

As we continue to read in Mark we will notice Jesus comes in contact with quite a few people who are either possessed by an evil spirit or have an ordinary sickness that makes them act like they are possessed by an evil spirit. We will be able to discern which is which by the manner in which the questions are asked.

Notice in this section the man or demon calls Jesus, “the Holy One of God”.

You see, the demons will identify Jesus by his heavenly name, such as “Son of God,”

“Son of the Most High,”

whereas, the those who have an illness, will address Jesus with names that are earthly, such as “Lord,”

“Teacher,”
“Son of David” or
“Master.”

In this instance, the demon has called Jesus by his divine name, not as a confession of who he is, but as a defensive attempt to gain control of Jesus. The idea of demon possession was common place where Jesus lived and the people and demons had tactics they used during exorcism or battle.

One of the tactics of the demons was to use the precise name of the individual or spirit in which they were in battle with, and that would secure mastery over him. These demons are striking out with their first weapon, in hopes to win the battle with Jesus.

Note how Jesus responds.
 
Jesus sternly says, “Be quiet!”
“Come out of him!”
 

And behold, before the spectators eyes, the evil spirit shook the man violently, and came out of him with a shriek.

Again we are told, the men present, were amazed. They start asking each other,

“What is this?”
“A new teaching – and with authority!”

“He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

Okay, Jesus’ response to the evil spirit was immediately effective, but the amazing part of it was it was not done in the typical manner. These men had seen an exorcism before, there may have been men present who had performed exorcisms, but not like Jesus. Exorcisms done in the time of Jesus required a special technique, either a spell or incantation and some symbolic act.

Not just the spoken word!
 
This was phenomenal!
 
No wonder the next thing we read is:
 

“News about Jesus spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”

 

It didn’t take long for Jesus to begin his ministry. And you can bet, the first four disciples were probably just as amazed and thinking they had joined the right guy.

 

I suspect there are only a few of us, in this room, who have personally viewed an exorcism, first hand. 

In mainstream America we are too sophisticated to believe in “demons”. We quickly label any and all bizarre behavior with a scientific diagnosis. We use names like schizophrenia and bi-polar which make us look and feel like we are in control.

I am sure most of the time we are correct. But having lived in South America, where evil spirits are a part of life, I have come to realize, it is not always the case that a person has a diagnosable disease.

When I was teaching in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, I attended a small village church, in the campo. It consisted of four stucco walls, a dirt floor and simple benches, with no backs lined up on either side of the building and altar in front.

People came to church with their children and their chickens following them. And whenever the majority of the people were in attendance, church began.

 

One day a woman arrived and she was hysterical. She rushed in and went directly to the pastor in tears and grabbed his arm and began pleading him to save her husband. He was possessed and not only he was possessed by her entire house was full of demons.

The pastor stopped his preaching, reached down and began praying over the woman. A few minutes later, he went over to talk with the elders. They began praying. He then told us that he and the elders needed to go to this woman’s house and they would be back when they were finished. He asked the congregation to either join him or stay at the church and commence prayer and not to stop until they had returned.

I chose to join him because I was eager to see what was going on. The elders went to the woman’s house, and called her husband outside. He looked drunk to me. They grabbed him and formed a circle around him. They started praying out loud, very loudly. The man tried to escape and screamed and thrashed. He was doing so in Spanish so I can’t tell you exactly what was said, because for me it was just hysteria.

Within a few minutes, everybody stopped. The man fell to the ground and his wife rushed over to him sobbing. The pastor and the elders entered the house and I could hear them praying loudly. When they had walked through the entire house the men came out and sat down on the road outside the house breathing heavily. We returned to the church and continued the service.

After that experience I can assure you, there is no doubt in my mind, that demons can possess people and buildings. Events like that may still exist in places where demons don’t have to be sophisticated. But for us who reside in Damariscotta it doesn’t seem to be a familiar story.

 
Or perhaps it is.
 

We have just started reading the book of Mark, and it is worth taking notice that the very first miracle Mark records is the casting out of an evil spirit.

 
I began thinking,

“What is it about this miracle that would make it first on the list of miracles for Mark to record?”

 

And as I was reading different commentaries I was reminded that it is important to read the narrative as a whole. Sure, I have to take the book in chunks each week, due to the nature of our church schedule, but when one is truly studying a particular book in the Bible, it is important to remember the entire story. The complete story layed out by Mark, the other gospels and then the New Testament.

Finally we need to remember and include the Old Testament. And as we study each week the main theme Mark weaves throughout his narrative goes back to the first words of Christ he records.

 

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

 

Earlier in Mark we read how Jesus was blessed and baptized with the Holy Spirit as he heard the promise proclaimed to him,

 

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

 

Now we have Mark contrasting this with the man possessed by an “unclean” spirit, a spirit that is certainly NOT going to tell him such things. This spirit is diametrically opposed to God’s will –

This unclean spirit curses rather than blesses,

Rather than build up, this spirit tears down,

This spirit would rather discourage than encourage,

Hate is promoted by this spirit, not love,

Rather than bring us together, this spirit chooses to tear us apart.

I think we can look at the first chapter of Mark demonstrating that immediately after Jesus is baptized and tempted, he begins to proclaim the kingdom of God is now on earth. The manner in which he proclaims this message, is by opposing the forces of evil which occupy the earth and rob the children of God of all that God hopes and intends for them.

Now before you start thinking, well this evil spirit thing may be in South America, but I can’t imagine them being here.

Think again.

If we examine Mark’s description of this story, we note, the man who was possessed was already sitting in the synagogue. Just like everyone else.

Now, before you start looking around, I am going to recommend we look at ourselves. The idea of this type of possession may be as close as our own attitudes.

Personally, I can remember being possessed with so much anger towards a family member that I have said things I have later regretted.

There have been times when I have been possessed by jealousy and envy, so that I have used my resources in ways I may now regret.

If we are all honest, I suspect we can each come up with times in our lives when we have felt possessed by something that was clearly not the Spirit of God blessing us and leading us to be a blessing to others.

Based on statistics I am sure there are some people here who experience even greater possessions that are even more damaging. I am sure there are some here who know the possession of addictions to things such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography. Or maybe there are some who are possessed by more society-approved unclean spirits, like workaholism, affluenza or greed.

Satan has a legion of angels who masquerade, looking like angels of light, and this is his world and he is not going to let go lightly.

So now what do we do?

I believe Jesus is still actively at work cleansing us from the unclean spirits that entrap us. I am pleased to say I know how.

Sometimes grace and mercy appears just as dramatically as it did in today’s story.

I am sure you have at least read, if not know, someone who has encountered Christ and has radically changed from being unclean to clean by the washing of the Holy Spirit. More often the transformation is not so immediate. Often the road to healing and restoration comes from a steady support of others who assist us along the way. The prayer of people who care, the AA group or grief support group that listens, understands and lends a helping hand. God has an infinite number of ways to exorcise the demons that possess us, if we allow Him to.

The first requirement from us is “humility”.

Psalm 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them the way.”

Proverbs 3:34 “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

He will lift you up from the things that possess you that are not of God and fill you with the things that are from Him.

So, what if we take some time right now and humble ourselves before the Lord. When we do, let’s ask God to reveal to us the very thing or things that possess us, which are not from Him.

First, let us confess to God, and name it and then mentally bring that possession to the foot of the cross and leave it there. That is what is meant by “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Then let us not pick it up, but mentally, return to our seats without it.

(GO THROUGH THIS IS PRAYER)
 
In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.
 

I believe the power of the name of Jesus Christ is as powerful today, as the word of Jesus Christ was in the story we read today where Jesus relieved the man in the synagogue of the evil spirit by just telling him to be quiet and leave.

I also believe that we are not called to walk this faith alone.

We are called to reach out to each other,
lift each other up,
and let Christ inside us,
help another brother and sister in Christ
walk.
This can be risky, I know.

I am not suggesting you confide in just anyone. I want you to leave today and pray that God reveals to you the person you need to open up to and ask for their support. Then I want you to pray that you can have open, honest and faithful conversation. Healing can happen.

I have no doubt that Jesus is still in the business of freeing us from powers which seek to rob us

from all that God hopes and intends for us.

 

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

 
Let’s pray.