4th Sunday after the Epiphany | Mark 1:21-28 | Jesus teaches with authority
Like so many of the events that occur in Mark’s Gospel,
Jesus’ encounter with the demons this morning is both direct and brief.
No drawn-out exorcism.
No spinning heads or pea-soup.
Really, after some shaking and a yell, there were no theatrics at all.
The demons just came out of him, because Jesus told them to.
As the Sabbath crowd observed,
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.
That shouldn’t surprise you so much.
After all, Jesus doesn’t just teach with authority.
Jesus has authority.
Specifically, Jesus has divine authority.
But you already knew that.
Really, it’s as simple as the demons say it is.
I know who you are – the Holy One of God.
Someone might observe that the demons were merely telling the truth.
And that person would be right.
But the reason we place this text in the season of Epiphany, the season of revelation,
Isn’t because we appreciate the honest insight of dishonest spirits.
We don’t need their witness.
It’s because we see and hear Jesus revealing who He is on His own authority.
Jesus is the one of whom God spoke through His servant, Moses in today’s OT text.
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen… And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
The demons know who Jesus is.
And that knowledge does them no good whatsoever.
You’ll remember they are angels.
And knowing who God is, they rebelled anyways.
You know who Jesus is, too, I think.
You sang it last week in the Te Deum during Matins:
“You are the King of glory, O Christ; You are the everlasting Son of the Father.”
You know who Jesus is.
But what have you done with your knowledge?
With full knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done,
You have rebelled every bit as much as the demons Jesus cast out.
Like them, you have gone your own way.
You have followed your own passions.
You have satisfied your own needs.
You have told your own stories;
Doing and saying things that mock the God you praise and acknowledge,
The God you know.
And it hasn’t just hurt you.
Like the Church in Corinth,
Where the knowledgeable led the ignorant into sin.
The less mature in the faith look and see and hurt.
And if such damage can be done by that which is not sin,
How much more do your closest neighbors suffer by observing your sins –
Neighbors next to you in the pew and at your dinner table?
You’ve been lied to, because Satan is a liar from the beginning.
Once the snake took it upon himself to speak words not given to him –
Presuming to speak in God’s name a word that was not commanded him.
As with the demons today, to Adam and Eve he said some things that were true,
Like the fact that eating of the tree would make them to know good and evil,
That they would have knowledge.
But he left out that such knowledge would not serve them,
Because knowledge is not wisdom.
Neither is it authority.
Knowledge isn’t even power.
Power is power.
Jesus, the Holy One of God, comes this morning with all these things:
With all knowledge, all wisdom, all authority, and all power.
He’ll even take a time-out from teaching to answer the demons’ question:
“Have you come to destroy us?”
In a word:
Yes, He has come here to destroy you.
He has come to destroy sin, death, and the devil;
To un-tell every lie that has ever been told;
To undo every death and every disease;
To free every person who is bound in this world’s pathetic prison.
On the cross Jesus will not look knowledgeable or wise.
He will not use His authority or power the way we would.
As He said,
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10.17-18)
With power and authority Jesus has taken His life up again.
With power and authority Jesus has given that life to you.
With power and authority Jesus has made plain water saving water.
With power and authority Jesus makes bread and wine to be His Body and Blood.
With power and authority Jesus has made my words of forgiveness to you
His words of forgiveness to you.
For all that you share with the demons in your rebellion, you’re not like them.
They demons obey Jesus because they must.
They have no option.
Their judgment has been spoken;
They’ve been cast down.
They only await their sentencing.
As Christians who have been Gospeled and epiphanied,
As folks who have been baptized and freed in the font,
As mature Christians who’ve been Bodied and Blooded at the altar,
You don’t merely know who Jesus is.
It’s more than knowledge for you.
You obey because you belong to Christ.
You obey because Jesus has made you a new kind of people.
You obey because He is not just the One True God, but because He is your God.
And He’s not here to destroy you.
“We therefore pray You to help Your servants, whom You have redeemed with Your precious blood. Make them to be numbered with Your saints in glory everlasting.”