"CALLING EVIL EVIL"
text – MARK 1:21--28
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR - JESUS THE CHRIST.
It's was late fall and the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like so being a practical leader, after several days, he went to the phone booth and called the National Weather Service to ask, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?” “It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect lots or firewood to be prepared.
A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?” “Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “it's going to be a very cold winter.” The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.
Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?' “Absolutely,” the man replied. “It's looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen.”
“How can you be so sure?” the chief asked. The weatherman replied, “The Indians are collecting a ton of firewood!”
On our calendar it was a Saturday in the year 29AD. It was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue.
Not much is left to remind us of that synagogue – just some of the ruins unearthed in the 1970s and a hastily drawn sketch. In its day it was quite impressive.
To this day – looking across the ruins of the midrash – you can still see the artifact of the Torah wagon - the place where those sacred texts were stored. Standing by those ruins, you can almost feel how it must have been for those fishermen in Capernaum when Jesus regularly went into the synagogue and began to teach.
The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, because He taught them as One Who had authority, not as the teachers of the Law. The Greek word translated “were amazed” originally meant to be struck with a powerful blow to the head – and, in the context of our text, means to be struck with absolute amazement. How could anyone teach with such absolute authority? He came not as a teacher of the Law – but as God Himself as The vulnerable flesh and blood Word of God Christ.
But how could there be such absolute authority in Someone they were growing to know so well?
There in those Baptismal waters God as The vulnerable flesh and blood Word of God Christ responded to humanity’s plea to God to defeat temptation, sin and death.
From those Baptismal waters Jesus remained in the wilderness for 40 days and then faced the ultimate tempter with three temptations Adam and Eve had faced in Eden and failed to resist. All of those temptations to which we yield can actually fit into those major temptations Jesus faced and conquered. Since the temptation in Eden, the forces of evil have brought sin, guilt and death. Even the secular dictionary recognizes evil as “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force.”
Could The Authority in Someone they were growing to know so well defeat something as powerful as evil? They were soon to find out.
Just then a man in the 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.”
Notice whose lips are moving – whose vocal chords are being used - a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out. And notice whose words are being spoken - “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? They are the words of the evil spirit in the man.
The power of Jesus’ message compels the evil spirit to respond “I know Who You are – The Holy One of God!” Messengers of the tempter - that they are, of course, evil spirits know Jesus is The Holy One of God.
They know why God has come as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ. Have You come to destroy us? they asked in that Capernaum synagogue. They know Jesus has come to destroy evil and its power.
The force of evil in the world is real and always seeks to create alienation between God and humanity. In each of us the struggle goes on – between God and the tempter – between good and evil.
When the forces of evil rear their ugly head in the world, the world seeks to avoid the subject. A member of ISIS or some other fanatic kills scores of people and the world screams “Take away all the guns” instead of calling evil evil and dealing with it. We speak of evil in the world in terms of injustices perpetrated against people – but the discussion is always on the basis of the people identifying themselves as victims. The identity of the group changes but the self-centeredness of the injustice never does.
And the forces of evil always seek to reproduce themselves. Remember how Eve passed the forbidden fruit to Adam. Why do sinners seek Christian endorsement for their sins by forcing a baker to design a cake celebrating a worship service he sees as idolatrous and sinful? Why do sinners always attack Jesus and His Word?
Discussing the presence of evil in the world, Chuck Colson asked, "Can man be good without God?”.
Colson knew the answer to his own question. "The answer I would submit is no. Oh, yes, maybe they can be good for a time but they can't stay good. Who is to make them good? Who is to bring virtue into our society? If I am right, that in the twentieth century we have been able to improve the condition of life in America, western civilization and around the world, but haven't been able to do anything about the sin within us which causes hatred, anger, rivalries, bitterness, moral decay and crime, then who can make us good? Can government do it? No. Scientists and laboratories? No. The media? No. Schools? No. It comes only when the power of God begins to work in our lives and brings forth righteousness. It is something which happens from the inside out and not from the outside in. It is the one thing man can't fix — the condition of the heart."
Does evil as successfully reproduce itself when people listen to God? “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly, “Come out of him!”
The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching – and with Authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him.”
Colson is right and I would carry Colson's question into an even deeper and more foundational territory - beyond that very foundation and basis of all ethics and morality - to the very foundation and basis of all human belief and lifestyle. Can a human being be righteous without God? Can a human being be what God created us to be without the Redemption of Jesus Christ?
That question answers itself. No one can be what our Creator created us in His Own Image to be without God’s conquest of evil and our redemption – purchased on the cross and proclaimed from the empty tomb.
Every day brings us news of what the world becomes when it rejects God and The Word of God for our ethics, our morality and the only valid faith to live by.
G. K. Chesterton was right when he said, "The doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by thirty-five hundred years of human history." I remember a certain wise man who was fond of saying, "Every time I point an accusing finger at someone I am reminded that three of my remaining fingers are pointing directly back at me." As God Himself proclaimed through Paul's EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS (3:23) "All people have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."
How richly blessed are we that God proves His Love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. As God declares through the apostle Paul, “For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed rarely will anyone die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves His Love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The first event that took place in Jesus’ earthly life after He entered our struggle through His Baptism was His defeat of the greater tempter Satan. The second event is our text this morning – casting out the evil spirit in the synagogue. God is the only One Who can defeat evil and death – that is why God came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – and where His battle on our behalf began. There is no more perfect and total forgiveness and reconciliation possible than that - from God Himself.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS - OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR WHO MAKES SAINTS OF ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. AMEN.
4th SUNDAY OF THE EPIPHANY SEASON
January 28, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio