Blog / Book of the Month / “Authority over All Things” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Sermon January 28th 2024 – Mark 1:21-28

“Authority over All Things” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Sermon January 28th 2024 – Mark 1:21-28

“Authority over All Things” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Sermon January 28th 2024 – Mark 1:21-28

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 28th 2024: Season of Epiphany / Mark 1:21-28 “Authority over All Things”

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 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? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 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. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And at once His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Saint John in the Book of Revelation briefly describes how and why the demonic are inflicted upon the peoples of the world. “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”[1] Also in the Book of Revelation the phrase “unclean spirit” is connected to the demonic and to the devil and Satan when John says “I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.”[2] Like birds and animals and coins and geography and descriptions of physical anatomy demons and unclean spirits, these fallen angels, crop up all over the place in the Bible and are part of our world although generally odorless, silent and unseen like radon gas yet here we have one again in our Gospel Reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark who speaks. 

When Epiphany started I mentioned that this is a season full of epiphanies and revelations, eureka moments where Jesus is revealed to be the Son of God and not some average man from Galilee which is what people might think if they saw Him before He opened His mouth and began to speak. On the one hand He looked average as the Prophet Isaiah had earlier foretold saying, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him,” yet on the other hand we have moments like we find in our Gospel Reading where Jesus is shown to be anything but average. This reading shows Jesus to be way above average in two ways. First in His teaching and then also in His command of the supernatural, both of which hinge on an authority which no one had witnessed before. The people that day in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee recognize that Jesus both teaches with “authority, and not as the scribes,” and also “commands even the unclean spirits,” with authority, “and they obey Him.”  

The first Sunday after the Epiphany I mentioned that apart from God the Father at His Baptism the first time in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus is identified as more than a run of the mill backwater Rabbi with a couple students following Him was when a demon recognizes Jesus; today is the reading where we see this happen. Jesus is teaching in  the synagogue, a kind of Jewish church of that day, when “a man with an unclean spirit … 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.” This certainly would have been surprising to everyone gathered there that day. But our Lord is not fazed in the least. He also knows that it’s way too early for this to be out in the open so He instantly cast the demon out of the man 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. Everyone was amazed. You would be too. It’s not the sort of thing that happens every day when you gather together to hear God’s Word and listen to a sermon or teaching.  

Before Jesus commands the unclean spirit, who by nature would be notoriously untrustworthy, to “be silent,” it confesses Jesus to be “the Holy One of God” this is true yet its ploy, its scheme, its trick may have been to try and make something true sound like a lie. The devil often plays at this game. Jesus will not have any of it and the unclean spirit is cast out. Interestingly quoting the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah[3] Saint Paul later teaches in his letter to the Christians Romans “as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”[4] This unclean spirit is obedient to the Lord: while it convulses the man that it’s possessing and cries out with a loud voice it doesn’t say anything it only howls, and then again it is obedient to the lord as it does what He commands coming out of possessed man. At this point Jesus had already faced the temptations of the devil in the wilderness[5] and word within the ranks of the fallen angels would have spread that the Christ now walked among the men of the World and yet as fallen and rebellious as they are they cannot deny who this Jesus is or fail to follow a direct command from their creator. As Saint John says about this Jesus, “all things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”[6] That would include all angles which would mean that they knew the only begotten Son of the Father, the Word of God, before they fell from their place of honour among their brothers in heaven. While they don’t like it they recognize Jesus for who He is and they know what authority belongs to Him.

Later Jesus would send out ahead of Him, two by two, His twelve disciples among seventy two of His closest followers. They were appointed to prepare His way in every town and place that He was about to go. As Jesus sends them He gives them this warning, “behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”[7] Among those wolves were unclean spirits demons fallen angles. When the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name!” [Jesus] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”[8]

What are we to make of all of this for today? First authority is only truly given by given by one who has authority to give. In His public ministry both before His cross and passion and following His death and resurrection Jesus establishes His church and her pastors, through His disciples, as we heard with the sending of the seventy two and as He did on that first Easter when the Risen Lord Jesus says to His remaining disciples “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you,”[9] and then forty days later when just before He ascends into heaven Jesus says to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[10] Jesus was with them in the synagogue in our Gospel Reading today as He cast out this unclean spirit, He was with the Seventy Two as they cast out demons in His name, He is with His Church now as she casts out the demonic. He is with us always to the end of the age: which means He is with you. 

This brings us to when things go bump in the night; when you are afflicted by the demonic have courage you belong to the Lord. Remember that as frightening and powerful as they may present themselves to be, and as slippery and deceptive as they may prove themselves to be, they are a defeated enemy. They are not greater than their creator: whatever authority they claim to posses is counterfeit; when they dwell in the un-baptised it is a mockery of the Holy Spirit; when they offer wealth and riches and powers these are the kind that moth and rust destroy and thieves can break in a steal.[11] What they promise is unlike the promised unfading crown of glory promised to you by the LORD when Jesus returns on The Last Day.[12] Saint Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”[13] Therefore they are destined for an eternity in the Hell that was prepared for them after their fall from grace.[14] On that day the unclean spirits with all their temptations and mockery, their threats and their violence will be parted from the faithful and will never afflict the children of God ever again. Jesus teaches that the devil was a murderer and liar from the beginning, here He is pointing back to Adam and Eve in the Garden and their fall into sin of the tempter Jesus says … “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”[15]

Now you may say, ‘well I’ve never seen a devil, I’ve never heard anything demonic go bump in the night, I’ve never smelt even a wife of noxious sulfur, I’ve never had the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end in the dark, … the worst I’ve ever experienced was watching some movie or TV show that scared the dickens out of me,” that’s all well and good and is a blessing. But just because you can’t see or smell or feel a thing doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and doesn’t mean its safe. So in case you need to hear it, stay away from everything to do with the demonic: witchcraft, and spells, tarot cards, and palm reading, mediums and anyone who claims to be able to talk with the dead, it may on the one hand be harmless nonsense like meat offered to idols or on the other hand it may be authentic and if not dangerous to you dangerous to those around you. A thousand kids might foolishly dive off a cliff into a lake without harming themselves even though it is super dangerous and then one kid dives in and strikes his head against a rock and dies instantly. For the Christian the occult and the demonic are like a vicious and mean spirited dog chained up in a back yard behind a fence, made that way by the abusive master they follow, the Devil. You could walk down the alley for years and know that the dog is there, you might even hear him back and see him through the slates of the fence from time to time, but then one day when you are deep in thought walking home in the dark, the dog barks and you jump out of your skin … but you are safe the dog is behind the fence, on the chain. Dear ones remember you are baptised and that you belong to the LORD, you are a child of your heavenly Father and Christ is your Brother and Lord. Turn to Him, trust in Him. Now be careful, if you climb over that fence and get to where the chain reaches and then you are in trouble, then the dog can bite. Don’t climb over the fence.  

Notice that I have not tried to explain away the demonic as superstitious nonsense, “the word of the Lord remains forever,”[16] As Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”[17] This is the same Jesus who cast out the unclean spirit in our Gospel Reading today, the same Jesus who amazed those gathered in the synagogue in Capernaum that day, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Our reading concludes saying how “at once His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” And we can say it did not end there but has spread through the world right down to you today. If the demonic is a concern of yours or someone you know and you need help or someone to talk to about these things please come and see me, we pastors along with the Seventy Two and the Twelve disciples are men who have been given authority to address these things and when we do remember they bow not to us but to He who sends us. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Revelation 12:7–9
[2] Revelation 16:13–14
[3] Isaiah 45:23, “By Myself I have sworn; from My mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
[4] Romans 14:11
[5] Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:2
[6] John 1:3
[7] Luke 10:1,3
[8] Luke 10:17–20
[9] John 20:21
[10] Matthew 28:18–20
[11] Matthew 6:19
[12] 1 Peter 5:4
[13] Galatians 6:7
[14] 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:7–10
[15] John 8:44
[16] 1 Peter 1:25
[17] Matthew 24:35

Photo Credit: Main photo grey tinted montage of James J. Tissot's, 'The Possessed Man in the Synagogue' (1886-94), gouache on gray wove paperfrom