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Jesus' Authority

Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one of God." "Silence!" JEsus said, speaking harshly to the demon. "Come out of him!" The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, "What's this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!" Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28 (CEB) Read the whole chapter.

So I imagine all of you have settled into your new routines for what a Sunday morning is, putting a coffee on, having breakfast, reading the paper first, whatever worship from home for many of you entails. For the few that are coming to the church in these times, it’s just different. But imagine Sunday mornings prior to COVID and Sunday mornings that we hope to return to at some point. You arrive at the church, probably get there at a regular or usual time for you, make your rounds of greeting your friends and the people that you talk to. And most weeks, maybe swing by and get a cup of coffee and eventually make your way in and sit in the same or close to the same spot that you usually sit. The service would begin and there'd be all of those things that happened: an anthem, a hymn, a prelude, a call to worship, and a reading of Scripture. And then imagine that just as the pastor is getting ready to stand and come forward to deliver a sermon, a stranger stands up for me in the pews, walks to the front of the church, and proceeds to preach the most amazing sermon you've ever heard, blows your socks off. Everybody's just standing there on the edge of their seats, no one's falling asleep this Sunday, everyone looks around and says, ‘Who is this person? Where’d they come from? Those words, what they said, there was power, there was authority in what they were seeing.’

It was probably much of what happened that day in the synagogue and Capernaum when Jesus showed up. A little known Rabbi happens to be in their synagogue that day. Scripture’s have been read and instead of the usual scribes getting up and droning on in a way that probably wasn't very captivating, very motivating, probably more inclining to taking a nap. And yet here this guy comes and preaches a message that has everybody saying, ‘Wow.’ Now I spent part of the week thinking it would be nice to know what Jesus got up and said. What were his words? What did he say that impressed people so much? But then it occurred to me that we already know what in general, the outline or the summary of the sermon was because he told us last week in our text. If we go back in Mark to chapter 1 verses 14 and 15 it says, “After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent. And believe in the good news.’ Now, I'm sure that there were probably more words that they shared in Capernaum in the synagogue that day. But that was the essence of it. The time is now. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.

Jesus apparently didn't have a homiletics class like I did in seminary, because I often hear that is three points the sermon should have. I'm not sure how well I stick to that either, but he had four, but nonetheless, he got the message across. So much so that we're told that there was a man present that had an unclean spirit. And the unclean spirit cried out and said, ‘Jesus, what do you have to do with us? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God.’ The unclean spirit basically was saying, ‘Jesus, who you think you are? What do you do in here?’ Now, we could spend a lot of time debating and talking about what does this mean. Was this a literal unclean spirit? Was this a primitive understanding of a man that had a mental illness? But for the sake of this story, I think we take the gospels at face value, that says the man had an unclean spirit and make what you will with that.

But in the gospel of Mark, there are 13 healing stories. Four of them are exorcisms, including this one. Now, evil spirits or unclean spirits did not have a corner on the market for standing in the way of God's plans of attempting to divert the work of God's kingdom. Unclean spirits were a way. And this day in this particular text that we're looking at, this unclean spirit that says Jesus, ‘Mind your own business. But Jesus wouldn’t have any of it. Jesus responds and says, ‘Be silent. Come out of him.’ Basically, Jesus staked his claim and said, ‘Oh, I know who I am, and I know what authority I have, so hush and go away.’ And the unclean spirit did. For those who were present, if they weren't already amazed and floored by the sermon that he preached, witnessing him, demonstrating his authority over this unclean spirit, had their attention at a whole new level.

So what do we make of this story? What do we do with these words? Now, I want to suggest that in the world we live in today, we may not encounter unclean spirits on a regular basis. But friends, there are certainly plenty of things that are tempting to divert, distract or otherwise keep us from the Kingdom of God. To keep God's will from being done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Maybe it's an unclean spirit, maybe it's pride, maybe it's arrogance, maybe it's laziness, greed, lust, hatred. Unfortunately, we've seen our share of that in the world lately. There are a lot of things that are attempting to thwart the work that God is doing in this world. And each of them, they're probably saying to Jesus, ‘Jesus, just mind your own business, what do you have to do with us?’ And yet with that same authority to evil and justice, hatred, oppression, Jesus says, ‘Hush now go away.’

We're talking about the authority that Jesus has in this world over all things, as a son of God, all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Jesus. That's the authority of the One who has called us as well. Friends like that person afflicted by that unclean spirit, we all have things that stand in the way of us being fully receptive and responsive to what God is doing in this world. And yet the one who came to the Galilee saying, ‘Now is the time. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent, turn from your ways. And believe in the good news.’ The good news that he proclaimed was, we don't need to be content. We don't need to just get by in this life and in this world we live in. He didn't come so that we might have a little bit of salve to make things feel better in this moment. He came to transform. He came to change. He came to redeem and offer salvation to you, to me, and to all people. And it simply comes through believing.

Now in this story, while the crowds that heard him speak were amazed, his goal wasn't to amaze them. In fact, in that last verse where it says, “At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region,” I don't think Jesus was looking for fame. He was looking for people who would not only hear but receive his message of good news. In this story, the people heard it. I hope that their lives were changed. But there was certainly one change that took place: this unclean spirit, when Jesus spoke, believed. Believed that this indeed was the son of God, the Holy One. Believed in the authority and the power that Jesus had and obeyed. We don't have any sense of any response on the part of the other people in the verses that we've looked at this morning. The unclean spirit believed and obeyed when Jesus spoke.

What about us? Are we going to be as willing to believe as the evil spirit? Are we going to be as quick to obey when Jesus tells us what we need to do? In our text, Jesus demonstrates the authority that He has. The authority that is rooted in God. The authority that He speaks into our lives and into this world. That message of good news.

This morning, we would have been ending our service, had we had our live stream, with the hymn Trust and Obey. Trust and Obey, where there's no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. Friends, that's exactly what the unclean spirit did, believing that Jesus was who He said. Believing that he had the authority, and obeying when Jesus exercised it. We have been called to be disciples of Jesus, to learn from him from his teachings from his example. May we trust and believe in his words. Trust in His authority, so that when he speaks, we will be the ones to obey.


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