Text Mark 1:21-28
21 They went to
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil 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 evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of
When was the last time you were really shocked or surprised in church? When has something happened, or someone has done something, which has completely thrown you back on your haunches?
In the Gospel reading Jesus shocks all who watch and hear, as he continues to be revealed as God the Son.
Imagine you are one of the fishermen; one of the four from
As you go with him the Sabbath arrives and you immediately find yourself in the local synagogue. So you sit down to rest and be taught by the local teacher; a scribe – a teacher of the Law. However, the man who called you to follow gets up and speaks, not with quotes and passages referenced to the Scriptures, but perhaps; a call to repent and believe the good news because the
The stir that follows makes you wonder why you left your fishing nets, you sink low as the ruckus brews, and everyone is shocked this teacher teaches this way. But this is just the beginning of the commotion. Suddenly the place of worship completely erupts as a lunatic gets up and starts ranting and crying out at the one who has called you. This man who promised to make you a fisher of men seems more like a stirrer of trouble. But hang on! What’s this mad man saying about him? He speaks with an evil tone but he seems to know him, I wonder how? Who are we following, who is this man you and I are following?
What do you want with us, Jesus of
Be quiet, come out of him!
What’s happening to the lunatic? It seems Jesus is speaking to someone within and now the lunatic is shaking and screaming! Oh, now he’s stopped, he seems like a different person. This is amazing, this Jesus, this Holy One of God seems to have taken the evil being from this man; he’s taken away his negativity –his torment and trouble. Oh no, I wonder what he sees in me!
Imagine you were there. Picture yourself as one of the disciples.
In recent weeks during Epiphany we have heard Jesus of Nazareth being revealed as God the Son. From beneath his flesh we have been shown his divinity. Today we hear that Jesus is powerful; that he has the authority to destroy; that he is the Holy One of God. But just as Jesus is revealed as God, shocking those in the synagogue with his teaching, something else is revealed too.
In the presence of God, in the synagogue—a sanctuary of holiness, we might assume—the harsh reality of evil is also shown clearly. The synagogue set aside on the Sabbath for rest in God, is turned on its head as the reality of this so-called holy place is defiled with the presence of evil. In fact right through the Gospel of Mark the synagogue is painted as a place of unsavoury happenings; unclean spirits and evil (1:21, 23, 39), physical deformity (3:1), rejection and unbelief (6:1-6), self-righteous piety (12:39), and a haven where all other types of premeditated evil are born (13: 9).
Many in the church today think the church is a sanctuary away from, the devil, the world, and sin. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Whatever happens in the world happens in the church. Unfortunately sometimes it’s even worse in the church than the world. A vicar father was once overheard informing his new vicar, ‘never be surprised over what you hear and witness in the church. Every family is dysfunctional; there are skeletons in everyone’s closet, because every person is consumed with the evil of their sinful natures’.
Sometimes this comes as a bit of a shock to us. Especially when we have looked up to someone, perhaps the pastor or someone we might respect. When we see the sinful reality of what might have been hidden for years, brought out through accusation by the Law, we struggle with their very human reality next to the sinless reality of Jesus Christ. We like to live in a world of superficial appearances, thinking that Christians are good people, and if someone is seen to fail then they mustn’t really be a Christian. When this happens we might thank God that we’re not like that, or we’re just glad our phoney exterior wasn’t exposed too. Nevertheless, it comes to us as a bit of a shock.
But the shocking reality is that all people are sinful. We mightn’t have to go through the public humiliation of being exposed and exorcised of a demon. But held up in the mirror of God’s Word, all of us suffer from an inexpressible, unknowable, and bottomless addiction to sin. When we are brought into the presence of God sin is seen by God plainly and clearly. Jesus may have confronted and cast a demon from one man in the synagogue that Sabbath in Capernaum, but in the cross of Good Friday all in the synagogue had their sins revealed, and we too are revealed for who we are.
It must have come as a bit of shock to the four newly chosen disciples to see such an event that day. However, God struggled with them too as he sought to push back the hold of sin in their lives, which he only completed in his Son’s death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb.
Sin is shockingly revealed in us all, so it can be pleasantly forgiven in us all.
God calls us to follow him, we are brought into his presence every Sunday. Our purpose is not to come together as a people with high moral ideals, nor do we gather to hide our true reality. No! The Holy Spirit leads us into God’s presence as sinners, so we might not hold onto our pride, our arrogance, our worries – our sins. Jesus calls us to be quiet; he calls us to be still and know that he is Lord – that he is God with us. He calls us to stop our idol chatter in justifying ourselves, to rest in him, to confess our sins, and hear him say, ‘Come out of him, come out of her’. Jesus forgives and cleanses his church as he says through pastors, ‘I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Peace be with you. Amen.’
We don’t know what the fellow did after Jesus cast out his demon. But with those who hear God’s Word and begin to have an understanding of the depth of their sin, I suspect that for Christ to take away their sins for free, it comes as a very pleasant surprise. Maybe the man from whom Jesus ordered the demon was relieved and pleasantly surprised too?
When was the last time you were shocked by what you heard or saw in God’s Word about who you really are? The depths of our sinfulness are truly shocking!
But even more so; when was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by what Jesus did for your sins? And, by what he promises to continue to do for you? Jesus went to immeasurable depths and extremes to rescue us from sin’s power, and despite our sinfulness, leads us into eternal joy. This is a pleasant surprise; it’s wonderful news. In fact it is the Good News. The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe this Good News.