Fourth Sunday After Epiphany: Mark 1:21-28
Imagine it, a man walks in on the Sabbath, the day of worship, in the midst of hearing and receiving God’s Word and a demon possessed man walks in. Not only does he walk in but addresses Jesus, the one who is front and center as it is His Word and teaching going on. Assuming no other interaction previously, he asks a question that seems kinda strange. It’s an intriguing question. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Followed by a most unexpected statement, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”
It’s one thing to not know God’s Word and have questions about who God is, who Jesus is, about the Trinity. Most of us at some point have asked who Jesus and a similar question of what He has to do with us. We ask such questions in faith, that Jesus as the Holy One of God can and indeed is here to do something for us, namely to redeem us from sin and death.
But this is not the question really being asked. As much as we piously like to say that we seek God’s will in our lives, we often are just like this man with an unclean spirit. As we come here and even think of coming here, how often have you asked or hoped that whatever is read in the Scriptures, what is discussed in the sermon or Bible study, does not speak on a particular topic or issue in your life. Sure, you want it to be about something in your life, but probably not certain taboo topics or issues.
Even amongst Christians the old Adam lurks around and asks, “what have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?” When it comes to certain aspects of our lives we’d much rather Jesus just butt out. Marriage problems, problems with children or parents, financial problems, emotional distresses, and many other so-called personal matters abound and for the most part we’d rather Jesus, God in His Word, butt out. And most likely because it is not in line with what we think or want or desire.
When God’s Word does not fit or conform to our way of living, our way of handling certain situations, or our personal (or even political) preferences we’d just assume leave God out and perhaps attack those proclaiming God’s Word and to God Himself, “what are you doing here? What have you do with us?”
Then comes the question which is so devilish. “Have you come to destroy us?” Things really are no different from the Garden of Eden, to this day in the synagogue, to this day at Bethlehem Lutheran. Taking God’s Word, or in this case, the Word made flesh and applying a little twist. When Satan asks, “did God really say?” he twists and deceives with telling Eve that they will not surely die (Genesis 3). He takes God’s Word and paints it as something incomplete, something slightly dishonest, and as many are tempted to take it as something evil from God. Same with this question and statement. Taking the Word made flesh as something capable and for the purpose of evil and making sure everyone within ear shot knows and questions the intentions of the Holy one of God.
“Have you come to destroy us?” Deep down we know the answer to the question but don’t recognize it as good. Yes, indeed He has. He has come to destroy the old Adam, that sinful flesh that clings so closely to us, He has come destroy sin, death, and the devil himself. But that’s not what we want to hear about. Truthfully, we’d rather have a Jesus who speaks of what we want in life as we would have it as we see fit.
We don’t want a Jesus or a preaching that confronts our idolatry where we do have more love and trust not in God but in our bank accounts, jobs, and social community. We don’t want a Jesus that enters into our personal family lives, how treat parents and other authorities even beyond the age of 18 and governs even amongst those laws with which we disagree, or a Jesus that enters into our relationships in our thoughts with our eyes, on our screens of mind and device, and our desires. And we certainly don’t want influence on our money, our stewardship of time, talent, and treasure. And even more so with our emotional thoughts and desires. Because deep down, there is a little fear. Fear that asks the same question, “what are you doing in this part of my life Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” When it comes to issues of sin, anything in our life that takes us away from receiving the gifts of God in Christ, yes, He has come to destroy it.
But only the devil would leave it at such a question. Only the devil would leave it in destruction and death. For Jesus of Nazareth who comes to destroy sin and death came to do much more. He doesn’t come merely to destroy it. He comes to take it on Himself and defeat it for you. He comes not to destroy lives but to restore them to Himself and your Father in heaven. He comes to redeem you from sin, to forgive your sin, and give you life.
He comes with all the authority of heaven and earth, authority even over the devil and unclean spirits. It is an authority not seen before, an authority that only is God’s. Jesus the Christ, the Holy one of God, speaks with an authority not quoting from other teachers nor with an authority given by another but that which is entirely new. A new teaching because it is not an obedience to the Law, not a be the best you can be and will be fine. Look at the man who disrupted the service. Mocking Jesus, disrupting the teaching of God’s Word, and yet delivered from the unclean spirits and saved by Jesus.
For this is what Jesus has come to do. To deliver from these attacks. This is grace, deliverance from Satan. It is no accident that the last petition Jesus teaches us to pray is, “deliver us from evil,” or more literally, “deliver us from the evil one.” What does this mean? We pray in the petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
It’s the authority of God’s Word. When our Lord speaks, things happen. When He commands the demons to be silent, they are silenced. When He speak to come out of the man, they are removed. This is the Word made flesh. When He speaks from the cross of the sin, death, and the devil that “it is finished” indeed it is so. It is from that cross that entire earth convulsed, the earth shook and the curtain tore. Sin and death taken on by Jesus, the Holy one of God.
This is what our Lord has to do with us, this is why He has come.When you say leave me alone Jesus in my economic difficulties, when you tell Jesus to leave you alone in your concerns and problems, when you want Jesus to leave you alone in sickness and heartache, Satan may whisper that He cannot help you, that forgiveness of sins and life and peace with God is unattainable. Christ says to you, I am with you, your sins are forgiven, peace I give to you. Jesus comes not to destroy but to save and redeem you and give you new life in His death and resurrection.
With all the authority in heaven and earth the risen Lord has baptized you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And immediately in those waters – Satan was muzzled and driven out of you. Thus when Satan comes and accuses you, you can boldly proclaim, “Satan, hear this proclamation, I am baptized into Christ.” (LSB 594, God’s Own Child) For you are God’s child. Jesus bursts into human history and into your life to proclaim to Satan and sin’s accusations against you, “be silent, muzzle it, and come out of him.” The Holy One of God comes to you with all authority and speaks a new teaching, that you are made new in Him, forgiven of sin, buried with Him and raised with Him, invited to partake of His body and blood, and receive Him who bursts into your life to give you His life.
On that Sabbath Day, the Holy One God, the Word made flesh, spoke with all authority of heaven and earth. On this day, we come to Him who is the Lord of the Sabbath and receive the Word made flesh who forgives our sin, destroys the Old Adam and raises us to new life in Him. Jesus, the Holy One of God, the Word of God incarnate, has declared you His, forgiven and justified. That’s the Word of God that comes with authority, to save and redeem you. That’s the Word of God you can die with, for by it you live. Amen.