Mark Sermon # 3 January 21, 2018
Mark 1:21-28 “Who Is This Jesus, the Author of Our Story and the Exposer of Our Darkness?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
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 impure 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 impure 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 impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”
Last Sunday, in Mark 1:14-20, we saw Jesus exercising His authority as He proclaimed the Gospel (what we might call evangelism or missions); first, in a general call (14-15), and second, in a specific call to two sets of brothers. He called them, and they followed Him.
Today in vv. 21-28, we see Jesus exercising His authority, first, in his powerful teaching in the synagogue (what we might call biblical exposition in the church); and second, in His exorcism over an unclean spirit, showing His dominance over the demons.
Therefore early on in Jesus’ ministry, Mark the Gospel writer is showing us how Jesus Christ, as the incarnate Son of God, has been given all power and authority, so that we would recognize Who He is, bow before Him, leave all behind, and follow Him. Jesus is shown with power and authority, from the beginning, that we might worship, love, and serve Him.
There are two main truths that flow from this passage of God’s Word:
First: Jesus Amazes and Alarms Us, for as the Author of Our Life, He Uncovers and Illuminates Our Deepest Life Story.
Note the words that Mark uses to describe the reaction of the people to Jesus and His teaching; namely, that they were amazed or astonished (22, 27). William Lane notes that the words here have overtones of fear and alarm, and an awareness of the disturbing character of His presence. Why? Because the people are dramatically confronted by something and someone they have never experienced before! They have no categories, no theological or intellectual cubby-holes into which they can neatly place Jesus! His presence and His teaching create a supernatural “disturbance in the force,” … and something is wrong if we too, do not feel amazed and alarmed by the presence and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ!
“Jesus’ word, presented with sovereign authority, confronted this congregation with the absolute claim of God upon their whole person.” His teaching and preaching presuppose a commission and authorization from God the Father which focuses on the proclamation of the Kingdom of God now appearing.
Tim Keller notes that when Mark uses the term authority here (vv. 22, 27), the word literally means “out of the original stuff.’ It comes from the same root as the word author. Mark is telling us that Jesus taught about life with original authority, rather than with derived authority. That is, Jesus didn’t just clarify something they already knew, or simply interpret the Scriptures in the way the teachers of the law did. His listeners sensed somehow that He was explaining the story of their lives as the author of life, and it left them dumbfounded.
Allow me to illustrate this idea of Jesus speaking into our lives as the supreme Author of Life. Paul Tripp, in his masterful book Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God, writes that all of us are like archeologists, searching through the scraps and ruins of our life, picking up broken pieces, and trying to make sense of what our lives really mean. This is what people often experience when they hit “mid-life.” Now imagine as you are sifting through the memories of the last 40-50-60 years, someone appears and tells you, “I am the author who wrote the story of your life. I can explain everything about you!” Would you want him to uncover and illuminate your deepest – and possibly darkest – life story and secrets? Wouldn’t you be amazed and alarmed?
This is what Jesus is doing here as He teaches with authority; it is so radically different. You see, the people in the synagogues were used to a teachers who just quoted other rabbis: “Rabbi Hillel says… but on the other hand, Rabbi Gamaliel says…” Their preaching, therefore, was a secondhand theology. God’s Word hadn’t penetrated their minds, their wills, or their hearts, so it was largely academic; it was warmed-up leftovers from someone else’s dinner party.
Kent Hughes imagines that the teachers in that synagogue were like a train conductor who has been on the Doylestown – Lansdale line for 30 years. That is, he know the names of all the stations and he can call them out in his sleep, but he’s never gotten off the train at those stations to see what those towns are like! By contrast, Jesus is like a train conductor who not only knows each station and each town, but also knows each passenger and where they have been and where they are going – and why! Wouldn’t you be amazed and alarmed by such a train conductor?
How about you? Can you rattle off the names of the books of the Bible and even teach about every chapter in the Bible…but does the Word of God come to you with power and authority? Does it grip you? Are you experiencing it? Do you sense that the Author of Life, who has written the story of your life, is uncovering and illuminating your deepest story?
Jesus’ sermons were like lightning and thunder, because He Himself was the Word of God! He had full authority of God, and as a man, He lived out and experienced what He preached! His preaching left his audience “thunderstruck,” and that’s what you and I should ask for from God the Holy Spirit, when we open His Word and see Jesus, by faith.
Are you amazed and alarmed by seeing the authority of Jesus, and by His Word?
Second: Jesus Amazes and Alarms Us, for as the Light of the World, He Exposes and Expels All Darkness.
If you asked the person in Wal-Mart or Acme “What was Jesus’ message?” the answer might be in terms of love, peace, unity and tolerance. How shocking then, that the immediate result of Christ’s preaching was not harmony or peace, but rather that it brought confrontation and conflict into that synagogue! [This was what Jesus later warned people about in Matt.10:34 – that He had come not to bring peace on earth, but a sword.]
Picture this synagogue: From weeks or months there had been a demon possessed man in their midst, and everyone just seemed to live with that reality. The demon never made a big outcry, and no one in leadership sought to drive the evil spirit out. Strange, isn’t it? It was as if light and darkness were somehow co-existing in this congregation. This a demoniac could worship in their synagogue with no sense of incongruity, and with no desire to be delivered from his affliction.
This man’s religious affiliation had done him no good. He was absolutely hopeless and he was completely under Satan’s power.
How could this be? One reason for this bizarre situation was that Capernaum, the scene of this miracle, was an arrogant city of unbelief. Jesus said in Matthew 11:23-24 that the people of Capernaum were more resistant to the gospel than even the city of Sodom! “It will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” “Though (this miracle) led men to wonder, it did not lead them to belief. This seems to be why the Lord performed miracles so sparingly and selectively, and only for those in whom faith already existed…”
Another reason for this strange state of affairs in the synagogue is that Satan, by inhabiting and controlling this man is seeking perversely imitate God. What do I mean? Think of it this way: Christ came to earth in human flesh, and now dwells within us by His Spirit, right? Satan tries to make a counterfeit imitation of that act of God by indwelling humans with evil spirits and controlling them from the inside out. Therefore demon possession can be thought of as a distorted and wicked imitation by Satan of Jesus’s incarnation and the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in a believer. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does Satan. He will seek to fill any emptiness, any holes that only Christ can meet.
But when Jesus showed up and began preaching with divine authority, the strife and conflict that was dormant and concealed now was exposed, and the evil spirit was expelled! Even if the congregation was dull in perceiving the fullness of who Jesus is, the demon-possesses man certainly bears an unwilling witness to the person and work of Christ, though he recoils instinctively from His purity and holiness.
You know, when “Jesus comes to a church” that is, when Jesus Christ is truly preached from a pulpit, so that He becomes reality to the congregation, we should expect that there will be an upheaval and confrontations! Jesus attacks the darkness, and the darkness does not retreat without a fight.
Kent Hughes writes that the light of Jesus and His Word was too much for this evil spirit. Just as foul things scurry away from the light when you lift up a stone, evil spirits who loved darkness recoil from the light. Then he makes a penetrating statement: “It is possible to recognize Jesus for who He is… and hate Him all the more.” This is what was happening here.
The demon says to Jesus, “You have no business with us – yet.” “We know you have come to destroy us…. But we will resist you.” Note the strong sense of a cosmic conflict here, as the demonic power understands the decisive presence of Jesus, which the people do not.
By naming Jesus as “The Holy One of God” the spirit is seeking to do battle against Jesus, for to know a person’s identity was thought to have some power over him.
But Christ gives this demon possessed man two commands: “Be silent [lit. “Be muzzled!] and come out of him!” Jesus rebukes the demon with authority, and the spirit is powerless before the sovereign command of Jesus. As we sing in A Mighty Fortress is Our God: “One little word shall fell him.” What Jesus commands must be obeyed, whether it is the hearts and wills of men, or the forces of darkness.
Jesus’ confronting of Satan and stripping him of his power was the first fruits of the sustained conflict with – and victory over – the demons. Jesus’ exorcisms must be understood against a cosmic background; they affirm that God is gaining control over His estranged and hostile creation, which was subject to Satan’s invasion and rule. This is one reason why we have regular days of prayer and fasting – like the one we will have tomorrow – so that we can engage in spiritual warfare against the forces of the devil and his darkness.
My friends, whenever the authority of Christ is invoked in preaching or teaching, there will be a violent confrontation with the evil spirits who possess men’s souls and seek to rule their lives. The foul creatures under the stones do not like to be disturbed.
But if God is at work in someone’s life, then there is hope! There is hope for the worst of us… for the hardest hearts… for the most irredeemable and incorrigible person. Christ’s power can free you from the strongest evil which now has you in bondage. Are you in bondage to an addiction, to a lifestyle of sin? Jesus has the power to set you free! Jesus will expose and expel the darkness, as He is the Light of the World!
And Jesus’ four disciples would have seen all of this… and one day Jesus would say to them “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me…Therefore go and make disciples…”
Jesus in with us! His authority rests with His church! Let us go forward in faith in Him.