Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

February 1, 2015
Text: Mark 1:21-28

            The battle is closer to you than you think.  There is a battle being waged between God and the devil, the angels and the demons, and you are the contested territory.  It is a battle for your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul.  The devil knows his condemnation is final.  His defeat has already been accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But he is not going down without a fight.  If God loves these precious humans so much that He gives His only Son to become one of them and suffer the shame and torture of the cross to save them, then devil is intent to drag as many people down to hell with him as he can.  It is the only vengeance he can take.  And if he can deceive Christians, if he can deceive you, and bring you down with him to the fire and sulfur of the bottomless pit of damnation, then that is the ultimate trophy.  So the battle rages.  It is all around you.  It is within you.  You are torn between two factions.  Your sinful nature is pulled toward the forces of hell, with whom the sympathies of your flesh lie.  But you are baptized into Christ, and the new creation that daily emerges from the baptismal waters and arises to live in Christ, is pulled toward Christ.  The devil hates this.  So he whispers his seductive temptations into your ear.  He shoots his deadly arrows directly at your heart and your mind.  This liar, and the father of lies, wields even truth as a weapon, so that he speaks enough truth that you think he is being rather reasonable, so that when he speaks a bent truth, you hardly notice.  You buy the lie.  You give yourself to it. You sin.  You don’t even realize the source is the evil one.  Because, for the most part, you live your life blissfully ignorant of the battle that is raging all around you and within you.  You go about your daily routine, unaware of the spiritual reality to which your eyes have been blinded, angels and demons, this world’s prince scowling fierce as he will, and Christ, the Valiant One, who fights for us, whom God Himself elected, who holds the field forever.  Beloved, you will not win this battle with any might of yours.  Only Christ can win.  He is your mighty fortress, your help and protection, who shields you under the pierced wings of His outstretched arms.  You are only safe when you dwell in His Word, in His Baptism, in His Supper.  Luther says that the devil “is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it, so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ.  He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour.  If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you [Ephesians 6:16], you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible,”[1] to take refuge in Christ, the Savior.
            The people in the Synagogue, who otherwise were much more in tune with the spiritual realities of the world than you are, were nonetheless blissfully unaware that there was a man in their very midst possessed by an unclean spirit.  The guy is a Church member.  But somewhere along the line he has fallen into secret unbelief, the oppression, and eventually the possession of the demonic.  Outwardly, his life may very well have been quite respectable.  But inwardly he had given himself over to the darkness.  Now Jesus came on that particular Sabbath, teaching in the Capernaum synagogue.  (By the way, much of that Synagogue still stands.  You can Google “Capernaum Synagogue” and see images of this very building from our text, as well as a Church built over what is believed to be Peter’s house, where our Lord healed Peter’s mother-in-law. That is our Holy Gospel for next week [Mark 1:29-39].)  Now, the people in the Synagogue, just like you, are gathered for the Divine Service, mostly unaware of the battle that is raging.  But they are about to catch a glimpse.  Jesus is teaching them with authority, and not as their scribes (Mark 1:22).  And now He is about to give a demonstration of that authority.  The man with the unclean spirit bristles at the preaching of the Gospel.  It is sheer torture to him.  And the unclean spirit himself is tortured with the knowledge of who this is who is preaching.  This is the Christ.  This is Messiah.  This is the Savior of the world, and the Judge of the demons.  So the spirit, through the man, cries 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” (v. 24; ESV).  Now Jesus rebukes the demon, tells him to be silent.  Why?  It’s true, isn’t it?  Yes, but remember, demons are always liars.  They only wield the truth to further the lie.  This unclean spirit pegs the Lord Jesus, not as a Savior, but as a destroyer.  And if the witnesses believe that, the Gospel has been muted. 
            “Be silent, and come out of him!” Jesus commands (v. 25).  And the unclean spirit, making a great show of the whole thing, as unclean spirits are wont to do, convulses the man and cries out with a loud voice (v. 26).  You can almost hear the demonic shriek.  But he comes out.  He has to.  For that authority with which Jesus teaches the people, is a real authority.  It is the authority of God.  Jesus is God clothed in human flesh.  He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all that is, visible and invisible.  He is the eternal Ruler of the universe.  And He is even the God of the devil.  When Jesus commands, the devil must obey.  The demons must depart.  The unclean spirits must flee.  The Lord has not come to destroy His people, but to save them, to save you, to deliver you from the powers of darkness, from the prince of this world, and the present evil age.
            Once again, the people are amazed.  A new thing has happened in their midst.  They question among themselves, “What is this?  A new teaching with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (v. 27).  Indeed, He teaches with authority.  He has authority over unclean spirits.  That is what it means that Jesus is Lord.  The Lord is the One with the authority.  There is a new Lord in town.  This is the Lord who received the Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.  Where the Holy Spirit is, there is no room for unclean spirits.  Where the Lord speaks His Holy Words, deploying His Holy Spirit, every evil spirit must depart.  And that authority He has over the unclean spirits extends to every affliction that may plague you, beloved.  He has authority over your sin, both your sinful condition, and every sin you’ve ever committed.  He takes away your sin, and nails it in His flesh to the cross.  He speaks you forgiven, bespeaks you righteous, speaks His Spirit and life into you.  Death?  He has authority over it, including every symptom of death, every illness and injury, every ache and pain and disability.  Remember, He is risen.  And He will raise you on the Last Day with a body made whole and undefiled, fit for eternity.  Sorrow, heartache, depression?  He has authority over these, too.  When He brings you to your eternal consolation in heaven, God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  Mental illness?  He renews your mind by His holy Word.  Persecution, war, violence?  He is your peace.  And though it may appear as though the enemies of the Church are triumphing in this world, in the end, the saints of God will reign with Christ in a new heavens and a new earth.
            So Jesus says to the unclean spirits that afflict you: “Be silent, and come out!”  We live in the midst of so much spiritual yuckiness, the filth of sexual immorality, selfishness, greed, murder, profanity, godlessness.  And we buy into some of that.  Repent.  But Jesus commands it all to go away.  He does not give us into the possession of the evil spirits.  They cannot win us.  Because Jesus already won in His cross and resurrection.  Jesus is the Lord God of Sabaoth, the Lord of the heavenly armies, and the devil is powerless against Him.  The serpent is outmatched.  The Lord is the Stronger One who binds the strong man (Mark 3:27).  The victory has been accomplished, and it is yours.  In the meantime, as the battle rages around you, you are safe in the shelter of your Savior.  He protects you.  He provides for you.  He comforts you.  He brings you here, to His mighty fortress, the holy Church, where you dwell with Him in safety.  Here, your Great Physician gives you the medicine of immortality, His holy Word and the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.  Here you have an up close and personal encounter with the Holy One of God.  He speaks.  The unclean spirits are cast out.  The Holy Spirit enters in.  And you belong to God.  Jesus has the authority to make it so.  And He has done it.  Praise be to Christ.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.     

[1] LC V:81-82 (Luther’s Large Catechism with Study Questions [St. Louis: Concordia, 2010) p. 153.


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