What Can Jesus Really Do?

Epiphany 4 - January 31, 2021
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 
Psalm 11
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Year B
Mark 1:21-28

What Can Jesus Really Do?

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

To understand Mark’s gospel, one must first understand Mark’s way of thinking.  Mark likes to write in circles.  He says something and then proves how that something is true.  In this particular instance, Mark lays out Jesus’s mission statement: “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’” 

First stop on this circular way of thinking is Jesus finding some “employees” who are willing to commit themselves to preaching the Tim is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has near, repentance and believe in the good news.  So, he calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him.  Jesus has the start of his organization of evangelizers.  

But now that he has his mission and some people who are willing to commit to this mission, what is he going to do in order to fulfill that mission?  This first public act by Jesus in Mark’s gospel is significant and noteworthy.  In John’s gospel, his first public act is the Wedding at Cana and turning the water into wine.  In Matthew’s Gospel, his first public act is the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.   In Luke, Jesus’ first act is reading from the Isaiah scroll in his hometown and where he gives the shortest sermon of his life, “today, this prophecy has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Mark fist public, missional act, is the healing of the demonic. 

Think about the implications this has on Mark’s view of Jesus. Jesus is willing to take this message into the depths of hell and look evil square in the eye.  An innocent man has had his body taken over by a demon.  The man needs help and Jesus helps him by telling the demon to get lost.  How far is God willing to go and save a life of a human being?  The answer: to the depths of hell itself. 

I want you to put yourself into this scene with Jesus.  Imagine someone coming up to you and acting like they are possessed by a demon.  We probably write them off as crazy.  We would push them out of the way.  When they would ask, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Our response would probably involve us saying, “Not talking to you, crazy person.” Imagine how many people wrote this man off?  Imagine how much of this man’s life was destroyed because this demon decided to take over this innocent man’s body.  Jesus could have ignored the demon.  He could have pushed him away.  But the great savior of the world, the holy-word-incarnate, the one who was and who is to come does not walk away.  He says, “‘Be silent, and come out of him!’”

In this very simple act of exocerism, Mark proclaims God’s kingdom is pushing out the kingdom currently occupying the same place.  And in God’s kingdom, there is no room for demons that take over innocent beings.  In many ways, Jesus is also possessed but he is possessed by a different spirit; the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has a different view of life.  The Holy Spirit sees the value of life.  The Holy Spirit views every life as a precious gift from God and that each life is worth saving.  This means Jesus will have to enter a very unclean and terrifying, demon-possessed world.  Today is just the start.

The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near.  In order for this to fully happen, Satan’s free reign of the world has to be put to a stop.  Evil knows this fact.  The demon even says that:  “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus is not afraid to put evil into its rightful place.  This is not the last exorcism that Jesus will do in this gospel. And certainly, evil has not been rid from our world.  Demons still try to force their way into innocent people, but we have the good news our on side.  The kingdom of God is near and that means, with each passing day, God’s kingdom become more known in our world and the world of the demons is pushed more and more away.  Jesus has already revealed that there is no place for demons and evil in God’s kingdom.  Evil will not win.  The innocent will be set free and Satan will be powerless to stop it.  

Yet, it is hard to acknowledge that evil is not winning today.  Especially when you look at the latest covid numbers, politics, racism, church attendance and participation.  It certainly feels like Jesus is losing some ground, right?  As I sat down to do the parochial report for St. John’s, I realized that this is the first time in nearly 5 years that we have seen a decrease in our membership due to so many deaths in 2020.  And on the question of worship attendance, how does one even figure that one out this year?  Looking at the trend, worship attendance has been slowly going down for the last 8 years.  On paper, it certainly feels like evil is winning.  It certainly feels like God’s kingdom is drifting farther and farther away from us.  It certainly feels like we are all alone with a demon trapped inside of us, wreaking havoc on all facets of our life; those things we hold most dear.  

Yet, what does our gospel say?  “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”  Do you believe that to be true?  Take a moment right now and think about that statement.  Do you believe what Mark wrote here to be true?  Do you believe that Jesus proclaimed the good news?  If we say that this is true, that this message is really good news, why, my friends, why do we continue to allow evil to gain the upper hand.  Why do we continue to allow the devil and his little band of demons to control the narrative.  

Believing the good news of Jesus means believing that God’s kingdom is near.  Our work is the same as our Lord.  We follow our Lord into those places where evil has taken over and demand that the evil speaks no more.  We take away the devil’s power and we usher in God’s kingdom one person at a time.  That is what we are called to do, my brothers and sister.  And there will be days when it appear that evil might have the upper hand.  When it looks like evil has won the day.  The cross is a prime example to evil appearing as if it triumps, , but we all know the truth.  God is not messing around any more, my brothers and sisters.  There is nothing our God cannot do, will not do to rescue you, to save you, to bring you into God’s Kingdom.  In a world where Bad news fills the airways, bring the good news to people who need rescuing.  They are out there, my brothers and sisters.  Take them Jesus and show them the amazing, awe-inspiring kingdom that can await them.  Never doubt the good news.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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