Sermon: Mark 1:21-28; The Coming of the King, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Providence Church (CREC)

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, February, 1st, 2009.

Mark 1:21-28

Fourth Official Sermon

Title: The Coming of the King

Sermon Audio.

Mark 1:21-28

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “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 out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Prayer: Give us Grace, O Lord to hear your Word and live by it. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

The gospel of St. Mark introduces the readers to a New King. We have in the beginning of this gospel a royal procession. It is the royal procession of the anointed One of Israel, Jesus the Messiah. Mark’s gospel is the beginning of a new era; a new world in which Christ our Lord is the exalted ruler and sovereign King. The New King is coming to make sure that His house is in order. He is coming to clean up His house with the waters of baptism and to purify it with the blood of the cross. The King is coming and God’s chosen vessel to declare to the world the coming of the King and His Kingdom is the greatest of all earthly prophets, John the Baptist.[1] He comes from the wilderness preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. He comes clothed in camel’s hair, eating locusts and wild honey, preparing the way of the Lord. John the Baptist is the greater Moses calling the people to repent and turn to their God. He is the greater Samuel who anoints/baptizes Christ as the new King of Israel. In verse 9, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and the Spirit descends upon him like a dove. What is happening at Jesus’ baptism is that He is being equipped by the Spirit for the prophetic task ahead. And in verse 11, “…a voice comes from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” God the Father confirms Jesus’ kingship.

What we have in this affirmation is the manifestation of the Trinity. As Augustine writes: “The Trinity appears very clearly; the Father in the voice, the son in the man, the Spirit in the dove.”[2]Father, Son and Spirit are together before eternity past and will continue of one mind for all eternity future.

Then after the baptism, Jesus is driven by the spirit to the wilderness. But why the wilderness? Because in the wilderness He becomes the New Israel. Just as Israel was tested in the wilderness, Jesus is tested. He is there for forty days. The number forty speaks of a time of testing and judgment. Jesus undergoes a great trial. Jesus becomes the greater Job. In Job, God affirms Job as blameless (Job 1:8) and then sends him to be tested by Satan himself. Notice that Jesus is affirmed by the father and the Spirit and immediately driven to be tested by Satan.

Jesus was driven to the wilderness not with the host of his armies, but He is driven to the wilderness alone. The same Satan, who attacked Eve in the garden alone, now attacks Jesus in the wilderness alone. Not only is he alone, but He is fasting, so he is hungry. His only comfort is the ministry of the angels. In the book of Exodus, the angel of the Lord ministered to the people of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus as the New Israel is also being ministered by the angels. But the gospel of Mark is not interested in all the details of this wilderness temptation as the gospel of Matthew. The gospel of Mark introduces us to the forces of evil incarnated in Satan himself. This is the first of the many battles Jesus will have with the evil one. It is indeed the ultimate battle. It is symbolic of the promise of a cosmic battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent as told in Genesis 3:15. Good vs. Evil; Purity vs. Impurity; Blameless vs. Demonic.

From verses 14-20, Jesus is gathering his army. He does not call soldiers or trained Jewish leaders, rather he calls fishermen. He called Simon, Andrew, James and John. These men were effectually called to serve this new leader. These first disciples abandoned everything that they had and followed after Christ. It is not that their tasks were unimportant in the kingdom, but they were called to a greater job in the kingdom. They would be fishers of men. These were unimportant men in the community, but they signal a transition in Redemptive History. The calling of these fishermen is the first of a great calling of the Gentiles. These are men of the sea. Their livelihood comes from the sea, but now they are going to preach the message of the kingdom of God in the land. They are going to echo John the Baptist. They are going to cry out: Repent and believe in the gospel!

And so we come to verse 21. They come unto Capernaum.[3] And immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.

Jesus comes to inspect His flock as a great Shepherd. What is he going to find? Is he going to find faith among the leaders? Jesus is not at the synagogue to learn, but He is there to teach. Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear the word of the Lord. When the word is taught, the people are according to Mark “astonished.” He teaches as One with authority and not as the scribes, they say. He must be teaching something radically different to receive such a response from the people. Indeed Jesus is teaching about the overthrowing of their false teachings and the coming of His Kingdom. Who were the scribes? The scribes were the grammarians of the day, the γραμματεύς (grammateus) skilled in Jewish law and interpreters of the Scriptures. And Jesus comes along and the people answer: “He speaks with more authority than our leaders.”

Jesus is establishing his authority in his teaching ministry. The teaching of Messiah leads to the eruption, the emergence of satanic manifestations. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he confronted Satan. You would think that the synagogue would be the last place Satan would visit. Even in the synagogue Satan manifests Himself through a man. This is not a man that is mentally ill, this is a man possessed by an evil spirit. The man knows exactly who Jesus is and He appears to know His agenda, because in verse 24 he cries: “Have you come to destroy us?” To destroy us? Why is he speaking in the plural? As R.T. France has written: “This particular demon speaks…on behalf of the whole threatened fraternity.”[4] This demon is speaking for the satanic hosts. They know that their time is short. Throughout the gospel of Mark you will see at least four significant encounters with demon possession.

What you find in Mark’s gospel is that demon possession is reaching its climax. The satanic forces are threatened and their greatest threat has taken a human nature in Jesus Christ. There is an interesting element to this story that reveals a lot about the religious condition of the day. The synagogue is the place of adoration and worship. There is to be purity in that house, but the unclean spirit in the narrative speaks not only on behalf of his evil tribe, but also on behalf of the synagogue. The elders/scribes of Israel had two tasks:[5] a) to lead Israel to right worship and godly living. Instead, these men were like Hophni and Phinehas.[6] They were worthless men who showed contempt for the things of God. Thus, the place of worship has become the synagogue of Satan. In reality, the response of the man with the unclean spirit is the response of the scribes. What have we to do with you, the unclean spirit asked. The scribes were asking the same question.

How does Jesus respond? Jesus rebukes him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” The idea here is one “muzzling.” In other words, cover your mouth; be quiet. An early church father wrote that: “The devil, because he had deceived Eve with his tongue, is punished by the tongue, that he might not speak.”[7]Jesus is essentially telling the demon that there is no room for two authorities in the synagogue. You can only serve one master: the Messiah or Satan. Jesus does not waste His time arguing with the demon attempting to justify his authority. He tells him to stop talking and come out of this poor man.

This is Jesus’ first exorcism. But he is not the first man trying to exorcise a demon. In fact, there are many extra biblical records of exorcisms. So this is not new to those who were watching. But what is significantly different is that in the extra biblical accounts the exorcists use incantations, rituals and magic before they attempt to deal with an evil spirit.[8]

But Jesus simply utters an authoritative word of command and that settles the issue. That is one reason the people are astonished. Jesus utters his word and the unclean spirit convulses and cries out and comes out of him. This man is completely overcome by this demon. The demon convulses, meaning that the man’s body is under his control. The demon cries out, meaning that his talking in under the demon’s control. Jesus frees this man from oppression. He frees him completely, body and soul.

How do the people respond? The people respond once again in amazement. First, they were amazed at His teaching. It was an authoritative teaching. But now they are amazed at his exorcism. The people are connecting the dots. They are realizing that the “authority” of Jesus in exorcising a demon is not separate from his authority in teaching. They are realizing that the man before them is not like anything they have seen. They say: “What is this? A New teaching with authority!” It is certainly new, because they have never heard this talk from their scribes and it is certainly authoritative, because even the demons are cast out and tremble in His presence.

In I Samuel 16, David receives an anointing from Samuel and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. And an evil Spirit came upon Saul that terrorized him.[9] And whenever the Spirit came to terrorize Saul, David would refresh Saul by playing the harp.

In the account of Mark’s gospel, Jesus is the greater David who casts the demons out and who confronts the very source of these powers, Satan himself.

In verse 28, we see that his fame spreads to the neighboring regions of Galilee. The King is coming proclaiming the kingdom of God is at hand. He is examining his house and thus far, it needs a lot of cleaning. At this point in the narrative the people seem receptive to the owner of the house, but soon enough we will find that instead of amazement, the people will say that Jesus himself is possessed by Beelzebub and they will confront him at every point, even until the point of death. The people will try to cast him out of his own house, but Christ’s mission will triumph when He defeats Satan himself. Then, He will begin this cosmic work of reconstructing, cleaning and preparing a House where His Name will be exalted forever.

How shall we then live?

The gospel of Mark teaches us an important principle. Jesus is bringing the kingdom of God calling people to repent and believe in the gospel. He could accomplish what He desired on His own, but He decides to call others to follow Him and join Him in this cosmic endeavor. He calls the least of men to follow him to be His disciples. Today, He continues to call us, the despised in this world. He calls us, the orphans and widows of this world. He calls us, the broken-hearted. He calls us to follow Him and join His purposes in redemptive history. As we read in Mark, this is not an easy battle. It is a battle that confronts wicked rulers and the scribes of our day. It calls us to confront satanic manifestations; it calls us to tell the world as Jesus told the unclean Spirit: Be silenced! We do not want to hear your non-sense; we don’t want to hear about your infanticide, we don’t want to hear about your humanistic agenda, we want to hear only one thing: Christ is King. We need this apostolic boldness today in the church. Whether they listen to us or not, one day they will all bow before our great King. Our marching order is: Onward Christian soldier!

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

[1] Matthew 11:11.

[2] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Mark. Pg. 14, Augustine’s tractate on John 6.5.1.

[3] Capernaum is in the cap of the Galilean Sea

[4] R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark. Pg. 103.

[5] See Chris Wilson’ sermon on the gospel of Mark at Reformed Covenant Church (CREC) in Oregon.

[6] I Samuel 2

[7] Bede, Homily on the Gospels 1.8.  From Ancient Christian Commentary on Mark, pg. 23.

[8] See R.T. France’s Mark commentary on chapter 1:21, pg. 104.

[9] I Samuel 16:13-23. See Mark Horne’s excellent commentary on Mark.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Mark, Sermons/Epiphany. Bookmark the permalink.

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