Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Passage: Mark 1:21–1:28
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Mark 1:21-28
Date: January 28th, 2018; Epiphany 4; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel reading for this morning we heard that a man with an unclean spirit – a man possessed by a demon – was in church.
That’s quite remarkable!
This is the last type of person we would expect to find in a church, isn’t it?
We expect that there are only the good kind of people there. You know, people like you and me.
Not people troubled by unclean spirits, demons, and sin and stuff like that.
The church is no place for such things.
No, the church is just for us upstanding, holy, and moral folk.
Isn’t that the way we think sometimes?
We think that the church is full of us good people and we point our fingers at all of those bad people outside of these walls.
And yet in the Gospel reading, there is this demon possessed man in the synagogue with Jesus – in church.
Now, how or why this demon possessed man ends up in the synagogue with Jesus we are not told.
The text gives the impression that he maybe burst in when it says “and immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.”
Just picture it: here we are, all sitting nicely in our church, listening to the sermon - and suddenly a man bursts into our sanctuary - screaming and yelling in strange voices.
That would get your attention.
That would give you something to talk about over coffee this week, wouldn’t it?
Well, this is what happened to Jesus and to the congregation that he was teaching in Capernaum.
The demon possessed man burst into the church and screamed and yelled at Jesus.
I have to admit that if this happened today, I would sure be tempted to make a run for the exit!
But Jesus, with complete authority, said: “Be silent, and come out of him!”
And that’s exactly what happened.
At the Word, the command, of Jesus - the unclean spirit left the man.
And all who were at church that day, all who witnessed what had happened, were amazed that he spoke with such authority.
You might not be like this demon possessed man screaming and yelling in strange voices at Jesus this morning.
But you do come here to church sinful and unclean.
You come here a sinner.
You come as one who is unclean by your sinful nature and your sin.
You come here with your unholy and disgraceful thoughts, with the hurtful things you have said and done, with the list of your failures to act and do the right thing by helping others because of your greed and desire for self-preservation.
We might look and act differently, but really we are all here today in the same boat as this demon possessed man in our Gospel lesson.
With him, we need God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. We need God to act in our lives to save us.
And God has acted in our lives to save us.
Just as Christ Jesus spoke with authority over the man with an unclean spirit - so this morning he speaks with authority over you.
He speaks with the authority of the Son of God.
Jesus boldly declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
He exercises his authority not to lord it over you, but to serve you and save you.
He speaks to you with authority this morning – so be silent and listen to him.
He spoke to you with authority this morning in his words of Holy Absolution – in his words of forgiveness.
There Jesus spoke directly to you. Jesus - through the Office of the Holy Ministry which he instituted - spoke his authoritative Word of pardon and forgiveness to you.
Maybe you were distracted. Maybe you didn’t hear it. Maybe you didn’t give the words much thought because you have heard them all before.
Be silent and listen to Jesus’ authoritative word speak directly to you personally:
Almighty God in his mercy has given his Son to die for you and for his sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Confession and Absolution at the beginning of the Service is not some hoop we jump through. It is not simply a warm up for the rest of the Service.
No, it is Jesus speaking to you. It is Jesus speaking to you with authority.
And with his authority as the risen and eternal Son of God - he forgives your sins and removes them from you.
Maybe you think that there is no way God could forgive you. You have sinned way too much. You just keep messing up.
Be silent! Jesus speaks with authority! He speaks and it is so. Your sins are forgiven.
Jesus speaks with authority in his church to his people.
He combined his authoritative Word to the waters of your baptism to wash you clean of your sin and to make you his own.
Through your baptism he declared victory over your unclean sinful spirit and filled you with his Holy Spirit who now dwells in you.
He speaks with authority as he comes to us in his true body and true blood in Holy Communion.
Jesus’ words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these authoritative words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
Through his Holy Word in the Bible - read, preached, meditated upon - Jesus speaks to you today.
His authoritative Word when spoken changes things. It changes you.
When we hear his Word it stirs up and fortifies our faith and it actually transforms us into who God intends us to be. God’s Word restores us.
Not perfectly. Not yet. But God’s Word works on us and bears fruit in our lives today.
Rather than being angry, jealous, vindictive, selfish, self-centered – we are filled with and radiate love, we forgive as we have been forgiven, we are generous as we help those in need, we help and serve the people in our lives.
Hear the authoritative voice of Jesus in your life. He speaks to you today. He transforms you.
Be silent. Listen. Rejoice in the life giving, authoritative, Good News that Jesus speaks to you!
You are forgiven. You are a new creation. You have victory over sin and death and eternal life is yours. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.