January 31, 2021: Epiphany 4

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as the Son of God You are overlord of all things—seen and unseen.  All the chaos that surrounds us in this world is subject to Your holy will.  So today we ask You to continue to exercise Your good and gracious will toward us and protect us and to defend  Your Church, each of us, from any inroads of it in our lives.  Amen


TEXT:  Mark 1: 21-28

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          To see the relevance of our lesson to today, let’s set the stage.  Tiberius was the Roman emperor and strains were beginning to show in his kingdom.  In Palestine the populace hated the Roman rule and their taxes.  The country’s religious/social leadership was divided between 2 groups that hated each other.  The Sadducees were predominate.  They were liberals who went along with Rome to line their pockets.  The Pharisees were the ultra conservatives who acted high, mighty, and were full of self-righteousness.  But they were rotten inside.  There were some fringe groups, too. The Zealots were “zealous” for God’s rule and even adopted political assassination to achieve a return to strict Mosaic ritual.   All in all, it was much like America today.

          I’ve had members who have asked about the open Satanic possession that seems pretty prevalent during Christ’s time.  Why was it so prevalent?  The answer is obvious: Satan didn’t want Christ on this earth.  He didn’t want Him to fulfill God’s promises of saving His people.  So, he sent various minions to oppose the Lord and sought to hinder His plans.  I know people who sense the same thing happening today in our country.  To quote one: “Evil seems to be swirling around in America more than in past years.”  I agree.  I’ve seen it played out and have had to deal directly with it.


          Jesus has called the disciples and now His base of operations is in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.  One Sabbath Day “Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.”  What did He teach?  We know the answer; the same things He preached all throughout His ministry.—He taught sin and grace.  He addressed their need for the Messiah and how God was fulfilling those needs in and through Him.  He had already done some miracles, so they all knew that He was sent from God.  He spoke Godly truth which set their fearful hearts free.  “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority (from God), not as the (other) teachers  of the law.”  In other words, He was having an impact on their souls and leading them into Godly truth.

          Then comes the confrontation.  Satan and his fellow demons knew Christ was dangerous to their status quo hold over these weak sinners.  They didn’t like it.  Why not disrupt Him?  Why not challenge Him?  Why not spread more fear leading (hopefully) to chaos among any followers?  And what better place to do it than the local synagogue?  So, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—The Holy One of God!’” 

          All demons know exactly who Christ is—God’s Son, the Holy One, the Messiah.  And they all hate Him because they are evil and filled with evil—or opposition to God Almighty.  This challenge speaks to their haughty pride and also their stupidity.  Christ had thrown them out of heaven once and hurled them into hell, but pride corrupted their senses.  Demons never change and evil never goes away.  Note the demon’s use of the plural when referring to himself.  “What do you want of us…have you come to destroy us?”  They didn’t know fully God’s plan for saving us.  But they found out at the resurrection, didn’t they?  For by dying for us and rising from our graves to  life, well, Christ defanged them.  He trampled the fears of life, the fears of death, under His risen feet!


          Jesus didn’t initiate this confrontation, but He did end it!  “Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”  Right here Jesus performs a miracle, in this case an exorcism.  “All power in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus.”  Demons cannot disrupt His work of saving souls.  So, He hurls him back to hell. No wonder the demon shrieked!  To put it another way: the Lamb of God showed His teeth and bit the wolf! 

          We’re told the people were amazed at all this and asked each other “What is this?  A new teaching—and with (obvious) authority?  He even gives orders to evil spirit and they obey him.”  And news about this confrontation spread quickly. 

          You and I are lambs, sheep of Christ’s flock.  He has given us His care and compassion and always will.  He binds up our wounded souls and heals us from the festering puss of sin.  He has put His Holy Spirit within us and made us lambs through faith.  We know all that so we don’t have to just wonder about what it all means, we have confidence over such eternal truth and power.  Likewise, armed with His word of truth we all possess the ability to bite back when demonic forces encroach our lives and try to attack us.  The Gospel is God’s “Sword of the Spirit” which is a flaming sword, a light saber, that destroys such evil and banishes it from our lives.  So use it in prayer and confession.

          This saber battle takes place all around us all the time.  It occurs at church whenever the Gospel is preached.  It occurs within society whenever Christians speak up and stand up for Jesus.  It occurred at your baptism when by the Spirit’s power you ‘renounced the devil in all his works and ways.’  And it even is directly wielded by you when you thrust temptation from your heart.  The cosmic battle between Good and evil  is swirling all around us.  As citizens of America none of us are immune.  The question is: Do you want to be a winner or a loser?  “Believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!”  Amen

THE peace of God which…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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