In our text today, we see Jesus preaching in the temple with authority. He doesn’t have authority because he outranks the people like in the military, nor does he have authority because he’s the boss of people. Jesus was a carpenter. He had no positional authority in the community. His authority came from his wisdom and knowledge and his competence at interpreting God’s Word. Even as a boy Jesus wowed people with his wisdom and his grasp of scripture. The people in Capernaum could not possibly have known that his authority came from God. All they knew is that they had never heard an individual teach like Jesus taught.
I’ve always imagined Jesus as one of those people whom you might not see enter the room. He doesn’t seem like one who would ever make a grand entrance. But before long you would feel His presence. You might not even be aware of it at first because it was something subtle. But pretty soon you’d find yourself drawn to Him, like everyone else. Why? Because His words rang true. His words sprang from the heart and they resonated with power and authenticity. It was as if He had a direct line to God. And that’s what amazed His listeners. There were no gimmicky tricks or false promises to get folks to open up their wallets to support His ministry. There was no phony manipulation. Jesus was truly concerned about everyone who came to hear Him. Jesus wanted them to understand, to know, to learn about God’s love and forgiveness and this is why this passage is so important. Jesus has authority over everything and if we give Jesus authority over our lives then he will make us clean.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
We’ve all faced the challenges of 2020 and its dragging into 2021. How are we to respond in the face of so much mess? So much in this world we can’t control. From the tensions of our politics to loneliness and isolation. We turn to Jesus. He has the Authority to cast away the evil and bitterness that creeps in. He has the Authority to cast out the complacency and apathy that we so easily fall into. And most of all Jesus can cast away the doubt and fear that seems to plague us like a lion that’s stalking its prey. The demons ask, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” And we confidently and boldly answer EVERYTHING.
We give authority to Jesus, the Lord of our lives.
First, Jesus has the Authority to cast away the evil and bitterness that creeps in. I don’t know about you but I’m generally a positive, glass half full person. I seek joy. It’s been hard, y’all. It’s like we’re horses that used to be free to roam all over the hills and the meadows, and now we’re in downtown Charleston carrying tourists on our backs with the eye guards that block our vision. I’ve started recording the Today Show. I watch the little bit of news at the beginning of the broadcast and fast forward to Hoda’s Morning Boost.
We are called to bring joy. We are called to shine our light. We are called to fix our eyes on Jesus in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” The sin that so easily entangles us. I appreciate the word entangle as it gives us this image.
Our sin ensnares us but if we fix our eyes of Jesus and rest in His authority and love we’re standing on solid ground, we won’t slip or fall.
We don’t want to be arrogant, and think of ourselves better than what we are, because that also is not of God. The elder brother was just as sinful in the prodigal son passage. He may not have cashed in his inheritance, but he was resentful to the point of bitterness. Hebrews 12 goes on to say in verse 15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We can’t let the negativity of the world, the gloomy days, the circumstances creep in and make us see with shrouded eyes. Jesus is the mighty One, our Savior, and He lives within us who claim Him as Lord. Don’t ever forget: “Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world.”
Second, Jesus has the Authority to cast out the complacency and apathy that we so easy to fall into.
I’ve always loved Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s based in the South and one of the main characters is a lawyer, Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch is defending a black man in a system in which he doesn’t have a chance of winning. But he defends him anyway, because he knows that the system is unfair and evil and he feels as if he has a moral obligation to take the case. In the end he lost the case, the innocent man is convicted, and the innocent man is later shot and killed.
The lawyer’s daughter, Scout, is in the courtroom at the conclusion of the trial. She is sitting in the balcony that is segregated for blacks. There is no room on the main floor. The courtroom is packed. The verdict is given. The judge leaves. The white people downstairs all leave the courtroom. The people in the balcony remain.
He was defeated. But he was on the side of truth and righteousness and peace. So he won. He didn’t let complacency with the status quo, nor did he let the excuse of apathy of the racial situation in the South get him down. He stood up in truth and empathy and stepped into another person’s shoes. We have to act with humility and live out God’s grace especially during these times of challenge.
Jesus didn’t ignore the unclean Spirit or act like he wasn’t aware of it. He called it to the front and rebuked it. He wasn’t apathetic or complacent, he did something about it. We have a responsibility to not be lulled into bobbing along on the log. We have to STAND UP.
Mark doesn’t tell us word for word what Jesus taught, but he emphasizes the result of that teaching. He does that throughout his Gospel. He shows us the results that Jesus’ teaching had on others. It should be evident in our lives that we are under the authority of Jesus Christ.
Third, Jesus can cast away the doubt and fear that seems to plague us like a lion that’s stalking its prey.
Matthew West has a song out now called “Truth be told” that says:
Lie number one you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”
Lie number 2 everybody’s life is perfect except yours
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors
Truth be told
The truth is rarely told, now
I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine but I’m not
And when it’s out of control I say it’s under control but it’s not
And you know it
I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit it
When being honest is the only way to fix it
There’s no failure, no fall
There’s no sin you don’t already know
So let the truth be told
There’s a sign on the door, says, “Come as you are” but I doubt it
‘Cause if we lived like it was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded
But didn’t you say the church should look more like a hospital
A safe place for the sick, the sinner and the scarred and the prodigals
Like us. We’re so afraid to let our doubts and fears show. We’re so afraid to set aside our masks and be honest. Under the authority of Jesus Christ, under the Lordship of Jesus, he wants us to bring our true, honest and authentic selves to the table. He wants our mess, not our curated lives on Instagram. He wants the church to be the hospital the Great Physician is working through.
Singer and songwriter Gloria Gaither put it this way: “Jesus. The mere mention of His name can calm the storm, heal the broken, raise the dead . . . I’ve heard a mother softly breathe His name at the bedside of a child delirious with fever, and I’ve watched that little body grow quiet and the fevered brow cool. I’ve sat beside a dying saint, her body racked with pain, who in those final fleeting seconds summoned her last ounce of ebbing strength to whisper earth’s sweetest name Jesus, Jesus . . . Emperors have tried to destroy it; philosophers have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the earth with the very blood of those who claim it. Yet still it stands . . . Jesus . . .” Friends, that’s authority. And we have access to that authority.
Every Sunday morning during the first block of songs, I pray that the Holy Spirit reign in this place and us gathered here and at home. I pray that we would be renewed and refreshed in the service. I pray that hearts will be awakened and moved. I pray that whatever needs to be extinguished in our lives, be extinguished. I pray that whatever needs to be lifted up, awakened, and urged forward will be. I pray to Jesus cast anything not of You from this place and this people and bind it at the foot of your cross, covered in your precious blood in Jesus’ name. I pray this prayer each week knowing and trusting in the authority of Jesus that he can make a way even through all of the distractions in our hearts and our heads. All the technical difficulties. The Holy Spirit can intercede even with my stumbling speech. The Holy Spirit can even reach through those screens and grab you in the name of Jesus.
Jesus has an intimate interest in our lives and if we invite him, if we abide, or make a home with him as he has made with us then our lives are going to be more. Jesus won’t take away the problems or the challenges, but Jesus will be with us to help carry the load. As it says in Matthew 6:25-26, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Trust that if you’re seeking him first, you are seeking his authority over your life, then he will be faithful and good.
Back before this pandemic when I would travel for meetings or even going on vacation, I rarely used cruise control. I’m too much of a control freak. It’s hard for me to sit on autopilot. Releasing that control to the One who holds the future, the One who knows each step that is part of the Master plan, is scary for me, but freeing. I’m not talking about an autopilot that relinquishes our free will, I’m talking about one that frees us from the bitterness, complacency, and the fear. Jesus setting our course. The Enemy wants to twist us up inside and Jesus offers the vaccine to that jumbled mess of our lives, that sweet, precious relief that only He can give. As John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” So when the demons ask, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” We with a bold confidence can answer EVERYTHING.