Friday, September 22, 2017

Mark, Week 4 - Jesus has Authority

Before you read on, please get a blank piece of paper, a stone about the size of your palm, and a rubber band. Once you have done this, read on.

Over the course of the first three weeks in our Mark series, we’ve really just been having a prolonged introduction to the meat of Mark. See, Mark is very similar to John’s Gospel in their beginnings, because both are more interested in the who of Jesus, rather than where Jesus comes from. Mark gives us a small introduction of Jesus starting with John, but then dives head first into Jesus’ ministry. So why does he do this? My thought is that, because Make is writing down Peter’s sermons, Peter must focus more on the teachings of Jesus, than the background of Jesus. Peter is trying to give us a picture of the three years he was with Jesus, because that is the time Peter is most familiar with.

Because of this, we do not spend anytime learning about where Jesus came from, we just head straight into his ministry to people. Up to this point in our series, we have talked about three major points: First we talked about how Jesus does things to set an example for us. Second, we are to live our lives empowered by the Holy Spirit. And third, we need to respond to his message of the Kingdom. 

These are the three major points that we have covered in the first three weeks of our study into the book of Mark.

But this week we’re going to switch gears just a bit. We’re moving on to verse 21 of chapter 1 in the book of Mark, and as we get into this bit of Scripture, we’re going to see something that I hope will make us ask the question why, but will also set us up for where the book of Mark intends for us to go. And as we get into this, understand we’re going to be taking two sections and combining them, because the thought of Scripture encompasses both sections. So let’s take a look at Mark 1:21.

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “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!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure 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 impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Now let’s get into some background for this passage. All this is taking place in an area called Capernaum. Capernaum is very important to the Jewish people at this time, because the synagogue that was started here, started as a direct response to the exile of the Jewish people about 600 years before Jesus enters it. It was a place where Jewish religious studies were taking place, and theological ideas were developed. Since the Jewish people could no longer worship in Jerusalem and in the temple, synagogues became the places of worship, and this one in particular held a place of high esteem for the people.
So Jesus comes, and enters into an historic place of worship for the Jews and is invited to speak. Which, at the time, was a common practice for traveling teachers to be offered a time of sharing. But this time the people hear something that astounds them. Jesus actually speaks with authority. Meaning, he doesn’t say, this great rabbi says this and I agree with him. That was common for teachers to do. No, instead Jesus spoke from his own authority, which astounded the people.

And we can see this authority that Jesus had, went far beyond just speaking. Healing of every kind happened. In verse 31 he heals Peter’s mother-in-law. In verse 34 it said that he healed various diseases.

And this is one of the points of the passage, that Jesus has authority over all kinds of human ailments. Let that sink in. Jesus’ authority is not just in his teaching, but also extends to humanity’s physical conditions. But there is one aspect of the passage that we’ve glossed over at this point, and that’s the demons.

If one of the points of this passage is Jesus’ authority over the human condition, the other point is that Jesus also has authority over the casting out of demons. And this point  serves a twofold purpose. First, in verse 27, the people are amazed that Jesus has the authority to cast out a demon. Okay, I think at this point we understand that Jesus has authority, which is point one of this passage. The casting out of demons serves to help solidify the case that Jesus has great authority. This authority, then, is both over the human realm with all it’s ailments, and the spiritual realm and the demonic forces. So in other words, Jesus’ authority is over all aspects of creation. Whether it be the physical realm of humanity, or the spiritual realm of demons. 

This points back to the fact that throughout Mark’s writings, Jesus is constantly revealed to be God the Son in human flesh on earth.

So point one of the passage is: Jesus has authority over all aspects of creation, both physical and spiritual. 

But the demon also gives us insight into why Jesus has authority over all of creation. And that’s in it’s use of the title, “the Holy One of Israel.” This title isn’t used to talk about Jesus being the Messiah, or the Savior, but rather points to him being God, and thereby revealing the reason he has authority over all aspects of creation. In the Old Testament, this title is used of God about 45 times. Here we see a demon, not a human, not Jesus himself, use this title of God, because the demon is the only one who fully understands who Jesus is. Jesus isn’t a mere human, but is God the Son descend into human flesh. And this is why his authority is so real to the people, because his is the ultimate authority. 

This leads us into the other purpose of the demon portions of this passage. This secondary purpose is to help us begin the journey to the turning point of the Gospel of Mark. A literary term for this is called foreshadowing. Except in this case, the foreshadowing happens because of Jesus’ real world interactions with the demon. See Mark’s Gospel is set up in a way that is leading us to a pivotal question. A question that each of us has to come to the answer on our own. We cannot be made to believe this, or else it will not be true faith.

Whereas the demon reveals who Jesus is, Jesus stops him and tells him to be quiet. Another way of translating this is literally to be muzzled. Do you know what being muzzled means? It’s to not be able to open your mouth. In other words, Jesus is telling the demon to shut up. The demon’s disclosure of who Jesus is, prompts Jesus to aggressively silence the demon. And the question we should be asking ourselves is why?

Why is Jesus silencing the demon, who is reveling who Jesus truly is? Why is Jesus silencing the demon, when all the demon is telling people that Jesus is in fact God on earth? The answer has two parts: First, you don’t give a demon room to say anything, even if it’s true. I mean look what happen to Eve in Genesis 3 when she gave Satan room to speak to her. Second, the realization that Jesus is God, has to come from a personal revelation, not from an outside source.

We see that later on in the passage where it says, “He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

We can hear that Jesus is God. We can hear that Jesus is Savior. We can hear about his miracles, and how he can transform our lives, but, until we come to that revelation in our own lives, it is just talk. 

There’s a song called What Do I Know of Holy, and the second verse says this: 

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees 

Until we have the encounter with Jesus, where we come to realize that he is truly God and Lord, no urging from people will make it real. Jesus silenced the demons by the authority he had as God, but he did it because the people needed to realize that Jesus was God, and they needed to realize it on their own.

And that’s what we need to do also. See we also need to realize the authority that God has, because in our lives there are countless things that happen, and we need Jesus to heal them. From relationships, to money issues. From our health, to our retirements and jobs. We have a tendency to not trust Jesus because we don’t really think he can do it, that he doesn’t have the authority to. And here’s the reason why we might not think he has the authority to do the things that need to be done: It comes down to this, we cannot trust his authority, and thereby trust that he can do things in our lives, because he is not fully God to us.

In fact, we tend to treat him more of a demigod, a god with some power but not all-powerful. With some abilities, but not having full authority over every aspect of creation. Sure he might be able to help out now and then, but to us, he is limited in his abilities. Limited in his authority. See, we need to come to the revelation that Jesus did not let the demon’s disclose who he was, because we need to come to that realization through our walk with him.

He is the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of all things, the Healer of the sick, and Mender of the broken. So today, I want to challenge you to seek God in one area that you are not giving over to his authority. Just one thing. It might be finances, job, future, family, friends, image,  or a host of other things. Whatever it is, I want you to then take the blank piece of paper and write down that one thing that you have not given over to the authority of God. Then wrap it around the stone, taking the rubber band and holding the paper and stone together. Set it down next to you and leave it. From here on out, every time you see it, pray a simple prayer of giving it over to God. Something like this, “Lord that _________ (insert the thing you are giving over) is yours, do not let me keep it in my own authority, but help me give it to you.”

Lay it at the authority of God, and seek to encounter Jesus as he truly is, Lord and God, the authority over all Creation both seen and unseen. Will you do that?

Father in heaven, you sent your Son in fully authority to shows us that we need to rely on you for everything. Let us be a people that live in your authority and not our own. May you be our God, and we your people, knowing you intimately and respectively. Give us the strength to bow at your authority, and the strength to leave everything at your feet. Thank you. Amen.

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