Summary: Through the power of the authoritative word of Christ, people and churches can be freed from the demons that posses.
What’s This? – Mark 1: 21 - 28
Intro: My first year in seminary I had a professor I will never forget. Dr. Arnold B. Rhodes was the Chair of the Department of Old Testament Studies and I his student in Old Testament history at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in the early 70s. He taught unlike any other I had ever experienced. He spoke with such authority and knowledge that I found myself not taking notes and just listening. His stories and facts were so enthralling I had to go out and buy a tape-recorder so I would pass the class. --- Have you ever been so mesmerized by a speaker? (PRESENT COMPANY EXCEPTED! – I just know every member of this congregation hangs on my every word, right?)
I. Read verse 22 – “And they were AMAZED at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”
A. I’ve also had professors who amazed me for other reasons. I was amazed that anyone ever took their classes because they were so boring and difficult. - Dr. Bruce who believed the lecture to be “that process whereby information passed from the professor’s notes to the student’s notebooks without going through the minds or either.”
B. The Greek word translated as AMAZED here is translated by others as ASTOUNDED, ASTONISHED - is a hybrid or compound word formed from 2 Greek words. One carries the idea of flatness or being made flat from the Greek word for “sea” and the other has the idea of pounding something flat like a blacksmith. Literally, the people were “POUNDED FLAT” at his teaching.
C. Jesus’ words had power / the power to FLATTEN / a power to bring healing, strength, forgiveness and wholeness into life. / like God’s CREATIVE WORD in the Genesis creation stories – He spoke and it was so!
II. Read verse 23 – 24 “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!’”
A. Years ago when I was pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in South Bend, Indiana, a young man entered the church during the worship service, wondered down the side aisle and took a seat during the 11am service. It was unusual because the service had already begun. About midway through my sermon I looked back, saw the young man take a cigarette from his shirt pocket, light it and puff away. A lady sitting on the opposite end of the same pew slid across the pew and whispered something to the man who promptly dropped the cigarette to the tile floor and crushed it out. – Later the same lady asked me, “whatever possessed him to do such a thing?” My answer was, “I guess he was possessed by the urge to have a cigarette.”
B. Are there those in our midst whom we would consider possessed, some who demonstrate unusual behavior, --- weird --- (Probably 95% of the congregation is thinking that about everybody else and the other 5% are sleeping.) We all know people possessed by evil spirits: GREED, IMMORALITY, SELF-SERVING AMBITION, REVENGE, RACISM, MATERIALISM, HATRED, JEALOUSY, PRIDE, BEING INCONSIDERATE OF OTHERS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, ANGER, CONTEMPT FOR OTHERS, BAD TEMPER, and the list goes on and on.
C. What Christ Jesus did for the man possessed by an evil spirit he can and does do for us. He can name and cast out the unclean spirits that separate us from each other and from him. He uses his authority to cleanse, heal, and set people like us free. Being free in Christ is better than being “nice” in bondage.
III. Read verse 27 “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What’s this? A new teaching---and with authority?’”
A. Even in today’s society where traditional forms of authority are weak, absent or greatly compromised, people still recognize authority based on things like professional status, talent, personal charisma, success, beauty, and perhaps even moral and religious integrity. – Doctors, lawyers, police (especially when you pass them while going 20 miles over the speed limit.) and yes, sometimes even pastors.
B. The people in this scripture were so amazed at the authoritative teaching of Jesus because they didn’t know from whence his authority came. --- “What’s this?” He wasn’t like the “other teachers of the law!” --- His authority is SENSED by the people in the synagogue who heard Him read scripture; his authority is DEMONSTRATED by His command over the evil spirits, a power which was attributed only to God; and his authority is WITNESSED by the words of the unclean spirit, who calls Him “the Holy One of God.”