Printable PDF: 1-31-2021 Epiphany 4 Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson Epiphany 4 January 31, 2021 Mark 1:21-28
21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24“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!” 25“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
CHRIST BE MY LEADER
What makes for an amazing teacher? Is that a question you can answer with words, or is an amazing teacher something you know when you see it? I’ll try to put an answer into words. An amazing teacher knows her stuff. She’s an expert or at least very familiar with her subject. An amazing teacher also knows how to connect with his students. He’s able to make his history class come alive for them. Somehow he makes math fun. And, finally, an amazing teacher can change a student’s way of thinking, and with that an amazing teacher can change a person’s life so they are never the same person again. An amazing teacher knows the subject, relates to the students, and changes their lives.
- Speak to my life with your Word.
Early in his ministry Jesus had already achieved amazing teacher status. Verse 22 says, “The people were amazing at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” The teachers of the law taught the law. The teachers of the law taught people they could earn God’s favor by keeping God’s commandments. The teachers of the law taught people they could separate themselves from others by keeping man-made traditions. Jesus taught the law, too, but Jesus taught the law differently. Jesus taught that the letter of the law is the heart of the law. Jesus taught, “Anyone who hates their brother is a murderer.” “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully in his heart is an adulterer.” “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s what Jesus taught about the law. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus said. The reason Jesus taught the law this way was so that no one could think they could earn God’s favor by keeping God’s commandments.
Jesus taught his disciples, “It’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” the disciples appropriately asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” What God does for us as sinners is called the gospel. Jesus taught, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus taught, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Jesus taught the good news of the gospel so that people would stop trying to live for themselves. You can’t live for yourself and at the same time live for him who died for you. You live for Jesus when the gospel comforts you with the forgiveness of sins and when the gospel compels you to serve the Lord with gladness. Our goal as students of Jesus is to carry out God’s will on earth as the angels carry out God’s will in heaven. Do you hear Jesus teaching you this morning through his called servant? Has Jesus convicted you of your sin? Convinced you of his forgiveness? Compelled you to serve with love and good deeds. God’s Word calls us to action, to change our lives.
We live in a mean world sometimes. And some of us live in a meme world. Have you seen the meme of Senator Bernie Sanders? He’s sitting outside at President Biden’s inauguration. He looks cold and miserable and wearing beautiful mittens. I don’t know why this meme is so funny, but it’s hilarious. It’s as hilarious as former Vice President Mike Pence having a fly land on his hair. There are all kinds of memes with Senator Bernie Sanders and his mittens, but this is the one that got my attention. It has the same two pictures of Senator Bernie Sanders and his mittens, but under one picture the caption reads, “This is a Pentecostal not enjoying a Lutheran sermon.” And with the very same picture it says, “This is a Lutheran enjoying a Lutheran sermon.” I think you get the point.
The Bible is Jesus’ voice. In his Word, Jesus speaks to me and my life. In the Word Jesus teaches me the beautiful truth of God’s love – because of his redemption, I have eternal life in heaven. Will this amazing teaching of Jesus move me toward love and good deeds, or will my faith remain cold and unmoved? How about you? May Christ be my leader and speak to my life with his Word. May Christ also be your leader and speak to your life with His Word.
- Silence the evil around me with your work.
The authority of God’s Word calls for a response, and in our lesson, we see a startling response from a strange creature. Verse 23, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure 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!” Martin Luther has been quoted as saying, “Where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.” Apparently, everything was peaceful and calm when the teachers of the law taught in the synagogue, but when Jesus taught with authority, there was unrest and confrontation. That should teach us something, shouldn’t it? Just because everything is all right in your life and even in your church, doesn’t mean everything is all right in your life and in your church. The opposite is also true. Just because everything is not all right in your life and even in your church, doesn’t mean everything is not all right in your life and in your church.
The devil is actively working where Jesus is teaching with authority. We see that in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Remember Job? In the history of Job we see the devil cut a deal with the Lord to bring Job a whole slew of hardships. The devil wants to tempt Job and cause him to lose his faith. The Lord wants to test Job and make his faith stronger. In the New Testament Jesus is quoted as saying to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 11:31-32). Are we tempted to think the devil or Satan, who gave a great effort against the Lord and against his people like Job and Peter, will somehow leave us alone and not attack us?
We live in a meme world. We also live in a mean world. Did you see this sign on the freeways this week? The Arizona Department of Transportation warns to not stop our cars and pick up hitchhikers. Those hitchhikers could have been the two convicts who escaped from the prison in Florence. Did you take greater precautions this past week because of those mean men?
Satan poses a greater danger to you. The Bible describes the devil as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” but listen to how easily the Lord shut him up with his authoritative word, “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure 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 given orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’”
No, it’s wasn’t a new teaching. Near the beginning it was taught how Jesus would crush Satan’s head. This matchup of Jesus versus Satan is not like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. A better comparison would be the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against a pee-wee football team. It was never a contest. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the devil is finished. Through Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, we have new life again. Christ’s victory is our victory. Even the roaring lion, Satan himself, must obey him even though Satan does not want to obey him.
We have nothing to worry about. Satan has been silenced by Jesus. The news about him spread quickly in the whole region of Galilee. Jesus is the most amazing teacher. Let’s pray that the whole world, this meme and mean world, would listen to Jesus’ teaching and take everything Jesus says in the Bible to heart. Let’s pray that it would happen in Glendale, that it would happen at Grace, that it would happen with me, and that it would happen with you. Amen.