February 1, 2015: Only Jesus Sets People Free!

Dear Savior, just as You showed Your almighty power over demons during Your earthly ministry, show such power today! Drive the demons of despair out of our hearts. Expel the demons of doubt and shame from our lives. Protect us from their temptations and in the process show both us and everyone around us the bounteous love You have for sinners who bow to You in repentance and faith. Amen


TEXT: Mark 1: 21-28

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

The first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet are: alf, beth, and gimel. Or: ABG. Let’s just suppose that about 30 A.D. the land of Israel had an ABG news network. I can well imagine them broadcasting this story from their sister station in Capernaum:

“The ‘Capernaum Courier’ reports strange happenings yesterday in the local synagogue. It seems a new prophet has arisen from Nazareth. His name is: Jesus, and he appeared there yesterday with his disciples to worship on the Sabbath day. He taught directly from the Old Testament scrolls, and not from the Talmud, or rabbinic writings. He explained what Moses’ words meant in an exciting way that was totally understandable to all. Then a demon-possessed man from the congregation went into an agitated state and called this new prophet: “The Holy One of God.” At this mention of the promised Messiah, Jesus told the demon to “Be quiet” and then the evil spirit shook the man and departed. The parishioners were amazed by it all and left wondering what it all meant. We’ll continue to stay on top of this story and report any future happenings.”

Now, I know that news organizations don’t cover churches much, unless something sensational happens. So, if a fellow appeared in the Boston area today with a group of disciples and cast out a demon in a local church, do you think it would make the news? And if it did, how would they report it? I can hear it now: “This is Steve Smith. I’m outside a church in Burlington where earlier today a disruption took place during the morning worship service. It seems the popular preacher called Jesus of Nazareth came to visit accompanied by some of his followers. He was well received and taught in an interesting fashion. Then a man in the crowd who appeared to be demon possessed made a big commotion. Jesus ordered the man to be quiet. The fellow shrieked and the supposed demon came out of him. Everyone was left with amazed emotions. Now, we can’t comment on the report that this man was a plant, or not. But, some church officials want to warn other area churches to be on the lookout for these type of disruptions.”


When you heard this lesson read, what was your first thought? Was your focus on the demon, the exorcism, the reaction of the crowd, or was in on Christ? The point of any miracle text is to show us that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. The point is to reveal that He has power over all aspects of creation—including demons. The point is to drive home to us that by believing and trusting in Him nothing can truly harm us. All miracles are supernatural in character. All are sensational, some perhaps a bit more than others to us humans. But the chief point behind them is to prove that Christ is our Savior, the Holy One of God.

Early in His ministry, Jesus adopted Capernaum as His base of operations. It was a modern city built on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter and his brother Andrew lived there. No doubt, they belonged to the local synagogue, there was only one, where this event took place.—A synagogue which was built by the famous Roman centurion whose servant Jesus later healed. This miracle is the first of many that Jesus did in that city including healing Peter’s mother and a paralytic man. Just outside the city He fed the 5000 and later in the synagogue spoke of Himself as the Bread of eternal life. In other words, the people there knew Him intimately and had reaped rewards from His gracious presence among them.

And yet, later on, they reject Him as the Holy One of God, the promised Messiah. And so, in Matthew 11: 23ff Jesus pronounced this “woe” upon that city: “And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”


Why is it so hard for humans, surrounded by God’s power and confronted with His word of truth, to believe and accept that truth? Of course, the answer is: sin. Human pride always misses miracles. Human arrogance never wants to accept the fact that we’re deformed spiritually and cannot fix ourselves. We need God’s power and love, His grace, in order to be transformed. We need His grace, which is outside of us, to come into our lives and remake our souls. But if that’s going to occur, we cannot take any credit for it. We simply have to accept and believe. And that, my friends, is an affront to our natural pride.

St. Mark was Peter’s secretary. Peter told him what to write. Peter was there that day in his home synagogue and saw the demoniac. He heard the demon pronounce exactly who Jesus was. He also heard Christ chastise that demon and saw the poor man exorcised. The people there were Peter’s friends and perhaps his relatives, too. He heard their wonderment. He later listened to their stories. And he experienced, first-hand the hard nature of their hearts and their inability to change, to repent, to accept Christ as their Messiah. Later, he would have heard Christ pronouncing His judgment against Peter’s hometown, too.

And yet, amid all this emotional persecution, Peter clung to Christ. Yes, he wavered at times. He even denounced Jesus in the palace of the high priest, didn’t he? But, by God’s grace, Peter humbled himself before his Lord and was restored. Later he went on to spread the news of God’s grace to countless souls throughout the world.

We can only guess at how all these events surrounding Capernaum played on Peter’s mind throughout his life. But, it’s obvious that he always remembered this event, this casting out of the demon in Capernaum. That’s why he wrote it down. And he did so because he wanted each of us to know that Jesus truly is the Son of God. That Jesus truly has power over all humans and all demons. That Jesus showed His power, not only is casting demons out, but destroying their power: death, forever, by dying in our place and then rising again! Yes, Peter wanted each of us to know the truth that St. Paul later expressed so succinctly: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift from God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” Yes, ONLY JESUS SETS PEOPLE FREE! Amen