Authority for You
Rev. Kurt Lantz 4 Epiphany B Mark 1:21-28
January 31, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people gathered to hear the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two men walked into a synagogue on the Sabbath. Both had something to say. Both taught the people about God. Both were possessed of a spirit, one holy and one unclean. Today’s Gospel Reading is from the first chapter of Mark (1:21-28), who loves to use the word “immediately.” “Immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching... And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit... and immediately His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region”.
Mark has this account in the synagogue in Capernaum immediately in the first chapter of his gospel. He has it take place almost immediately after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove (1:10). After which, “the Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (1:12-13). Almost immediately after Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism and tempted by the unholy spirit in the wilderness, we have another throw down in the synagogue of Capernaum. Jesus, possessing the Holy Spirit, was confronted by a man possessed by an unclean spirit. They both were trying to teach the people.
It has always been Satan’s design to teach God’s people. He had a private tutoring session with Eve in the Garden. And he based his lesson on God’s Word. God had said, “you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 3:3), the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:17). Satan taught Eve: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). And when Eve and Adam ate of it, they did know good and evil. They knew God was good and what they had done was evil. They had followed the teaching of the evil one and so had become evil themselves. They hid themselves from God.
Likewise, when God came to His people at Horeb, they knew that He was good and they were evil. They said, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die” (Deuteronomy 18:16). And they were right. So God promised Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (v. 18). And so from the time of Moses, God has taught His people through the prophets, and Satan has tried to teach God’s people through false prophets. When Jesus came, He came to teach immediately. And when Jesus began to teach, immediately Satan jumped up to insert his own teaching.
In the synagogue in Capernaum, the people were “astonished at [Jesus’] teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Jesus had the authority of God the Father and He possessed the Holy Spirit to create and renew the hearts of men to faith in His Word. Of course, this is not what Satan wants to happen, so another teacher spoke up on that Sabbath day in the synagogue in Capernaum. “He cried out, 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” (1:24). The unclean spirit sought to teach the people something about Jesus that day. He knew that Jesus of Nazareth was the Holy One of God and he wanted all the people to know it too. Why?
Jesus did not stop the unclean spirit from speaking simply because He didn’t want the good confession to come from a demon. He didn’t stop him from speaking just because neither the man nor the unclean spirit had been given authority to teach God’s people. He stopped him because the satanic teaching was seeking to do what the serpent had done in the Garden so long ago.
The demon confessed that Jesus of Nazareth, the man teaching in the synagogue that day, was the Holy One of God. That is absolutely true. Satan does not have any problem confessing that God is holy, or that Jesus is God. The Epistle of James reminds us that “even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). They don’t mind you believing, but they want your belief to make you shudder before God as they do. And that is what we have in the teaching of the unclean spirit in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. He was teaching the people that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, in their midst was the Holy One of God; and the demon also wanted to teach them to fear this Jesus of Nazareth. “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” (Mark 1:24).
“Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are.” In many of the encounters Jesus has with demon-possessed people recorded in the gospels, there is more than one evil spirit within a person, but that is not always the case. And here the unclean spirit is always referred to in the singular. He is introduced as “a man with an unclean spirit”, and when Jesus had rebuked him, we are told that “the unclean spirit (sg) came out of him” (v. 26). But the unclean spirit had cried out, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are...” (v. 24). The “I” is the singular unclean spirit that had possessed the man. Who are the “us” that he was claiming Jesus had come to destroy?
Certainly Jesus had come to destroy all evil and unclean spirits. He cast them out here, there, and everywhere He went. He has come to undo the damage Satan started in the Garden and has cultivated ever since within the hearts of men. Ultimately, in the end, Satan and all the demons will be cast into the lake of fire, which was made for their eternal punishment (Revelation 20:10).
But there was a solitary unclean spirit in the man who was trying to take over the teaching in the synagogue. So who are the “us” that he taught Jesus was coming to destroy? By crying out “us” in the synagogue, the unclean spirit was teaching that Jesus had come to destroy those who had gathered in the synagogue on that Sabbath day.
He wanted the people to understand clearly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Holy One of God with authority, and he wanted to teach the people that the Holy One of God had come with authority to destroy them: all those people in the synagogue, the descendants of Adam and Eve who first welcomed evil and uncleanness into themselves when first taught by the old evil foe; all those people who had listened to the teaching whispers of Satan over and over again falling into sin; all of those people who had accepted the false teaching that they would know good and evil for themselves and be like God over their own lives; all those people who knew that God is good and their deeds were evil; all those people like us who have bought into the false teaching of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which would have us covering up with fig leaves before God and hiding from Him in the bushes.
“Have you come to destroy us?” That is what Satan wants you to think. He wants you to fear God, not so that you will stop sinning, but so that you will run away from Him and hide in your sins. He wants you to think that God has nothing in store for you but destruction. The teaching of Satan is that God is out to destroy your life. That is where he began his teaching with Eve in the Garden and that is where he continues it to this day. “God is ruining your life, not allowing you to do the things you want to do, not allowing you to be who you think you want to be, setting restrictions just to hold you back, setting expectations that are way too high, and then visiting judgment and condemnation on us all when we don’t live according to His Law. When He comes, He’s going to destroy us. So run from Him. Hide from Him. Don’t listen to Him. Avoid contact with Jesus of Nazareth. Stay away from Church and His body and blood. Don’t listen to His word. Don’t admit your sins. Don’t look to Him for forgiveness and grace and mercy. Make your spiritual life about anything but contact with Jesus.” That is the demonic curriculum.
“Be silent” Jesus says. We will have none of that teaching here. Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of God. He teaches His Word with authority and has authority over all teaching in His Church. He has authority to destroy Satan, all his unclean spirits, and all who follow their teaching. But that is not why Jesus of Nazareth came. He did not come to destroy us. He came to preach a different message in the towns of Galilee (Mark 1:38). He came not to destroy us but to cast the unclean spirits out of us. He came to cleanse us. He came to forgive our sins. He came “not to call the righteous, but sinners” (2:17). And that is what He demonstrated in His teaching and in His freeing of the man from the unclean spirit.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God, has come, not to destroy you, but to save you. He has come with authority to teach you the truth from God: that He comes to cast out of you every sin, every evil, every uncleanness, to free you from every oppression, so that He can be with you for eternity. Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of God. And He came to give His life to ransom you from the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature. Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God, died and rose again to set you free from the evil and the sins and the wickedness that have you fearing God.
Jesus of Nazareth came to silence the lies of Satan’s teaching. The Holy One of God has come not to destroy you, but to be your Saviour. Look at Him on the cross. That is Jesus of Nazareth come for you. He came not to destroy you, but to have Himself destroyed through suffering and death for you. The crucified on the cross tells no lies. That is what He came to do. You need have no fear of Him. You do not have to cover and hide. You can confess your sins confident of His grace and mercy for you.
This is why Jesus still comes where His people gather on the Lord’s day. He comes not to ruin our lives, but to give us everlasting life. He comes, not to destroy us but to renew a right spirit within us. He comes in His Word and in His body and blood where two or three are gathered together in His name, and He comes with all authority in heaven and on earth. He uses that authority to cast out the evil, to forgive your sins, and to grant you His salvation.
Jesus of Nazareth came and was baptized and “immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove... The Spirit immediately drove Him out in to the wilderness... He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother... and immediately He called them... And immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching...” How soon do you think He will forgive you and show you His mercy and grace? How soon do you think He will free you from the oppression of the evil one? Don’t listen to the teaching of Satan. Look at Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Holy One of God with authority. He comes to sinners and He saves them immediately.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.