SERMON Understatements Reveal the Truth of God
SCRIPTURE Mark 1:21-28
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus the Christ, your incarnate Word, who came to reveal your will and grace for our lives, and to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to realize that we can always turn to your living Word for guidance, direction and hope to sustain us in our walk of faith. Empower us to not only see that in Jesus you are truly present to us, but that you also call us to witness to your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Just after calling his first disciples, Mark tells us that Jesus took those disciples and went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught, or in other words, assumed the role of a rabbi and preached. It was an unusually powerful sermon, unlike any that the people gathered that day had ever heard, for Jesus preached from his own authority.
This provided the members of that congregation with an epiphany, or revelation that Jesus was unique. For unlike the scribes or other rabbis they had heard speak, or unlike any preacher since, who call upon the authority of Scripture and commentaries on the texts by various scholars, Jesus simply looked them in the eye and preached from his heart. After all, Jesus didn’t need to cite other scholars – he was the incarnate Word of God. And Mark tells us that the people were “astounded” at his teaching. But this is not the understatement to which I refer.
For right at the end of Jesus’ sermon, just as people were leaning toward one another to whisper how great it would be to have preaching like his every week, their astonishment was broken by the cries of a person possessed by an unclean spirit. Where he came from, we don’t know, for it would be unlikely that this person would have been permitted to be a member of the congregation.
Mark simply says, “Just then…” or, translated from the Revised Standard Version, “Immediately…” It is one of Mark’s favorite words. “Immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,” Mark tells us. It is his way of sweeping his hand across his story to shift our attention from what has just transpired to tell us that “if you think that was something special, look at this!”
As a result, the people couldn’t spend much time talking about what a good sermon they had just heard, because they had an “immediately” on their hands. In this particular case, the “immediately” was a raving man in the middle of the congregation shouting vague threats at this young preacher who had just delivered such a great sermon.
“I know who you are,” howled something deep with the man. “You are the holy One of God.” Now isn’t this strange? The second epiphany that we encounter in this text, the first human being in Mark’s Gospel to acknowledge that Jesus is the holy One of God, comes from a person who is possessed by a demon.
Nevertheless, Jesus responded to this demonic outburst, saying “Be silent and come out of him!” Now, I can just imagine how this “immediately” impacted upon those who were gathered in that congregation. They must have fell silent as the man to whom Jesus directed his command fell to the synagogue floor, his arms beating wildly at the air, his legs thrashing out so that the people next to him had to move back to give room, while froths of foam and strange cries came out of his mouth.
Then the man became strangely calm, and stilly laid on the floor, all eyes in the synagogue locked in an amazed stare upon him. Slowly, he picked himself up, his face now tranquil, his eyes now clear, his voice now composed. Clearly, what had possessed him to protest the way he did, was now gone. He was a changed man, “immediately.”
Now comes the understatement! The people in that congregation, having just witnessed a scene that would rival anything from the movie “The Exorcist,” looked around at each other and said, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority!”
A new teaching? If this had happened in our own congregation some may have sat for hours in a stupefied silence, some may have rushed to the altar in a state of sudden repentance, and other may have leapt out of the windows in sheer terror. But the last thing I would anticipate to be a unified comment on what Mark describes, would be to classify it as a “new teaching.” What an understatement!
Of course, what transpired in that synagogue in Capernaum was a “new teaching.” And when we consider the sacred history of God’s revelation of himself to us through the Scriptures, we should not be surprised. For from our first lesson for this morning, we are told the Moses promised that God would raise up a prophet from among us who would speak to the people with the authority of the Word of God.
What Jesus did, in this, his first preaching engagement, was to reveal to the people that he was the ultimate prophet of God. He not only preached as one who had authority, he also revealed the authority of God’s incarnate Word to command demons and evil spirits to obey him. It was a “new teaching.” In this epiphany, it was manifest that God, was surely speaking to us through Jesus.
So what are we to make of this passage from Mark’s Gospel? First, Iit tells us that in Jesus, we behold the incarnate Word of God, the very presence of God among us. And during this season of Epiphany, this is the message that Mark would have us come to realize and believe.
But there are a couple of other points from this passage that we should consider. First, in the concluding verse, there is close to what could be translated another “immediately.” Mark tells us, as a result of this first sermon of Jesus, “At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.” In other words, those people who heard Jesus preach that day, and experienced the authority of God’s Word in action, could not keep it to themselves. They went out and spread the news of what God was doing in and through Jesus.
Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, working in and through Christ’s Church, Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, continues to manifest his presence among us. Through the power of God’s Spirit, Jesus the Christ is still manifest and revealed to be present to us.
Through our Lord’s continued presence among us, that God still has the power to cast out demons – those evil spirits and demons that constantly gnaw at our lives and rob us of being the person that God not only created us to be, but also diminish the life that we would like to live.
Oh, we may not call them demons today, but we all know what I refer to. They are those inner thoughts that urge us to be obsessed with sexual desire, and addict us to a multitude of passions that we know, diminish our lives. Yet through the power of God’s Spirit,the presence of Christ, and his authoritative Word, enable people to arise from the demons that enslaved them, through counseling. This too, is an epiphany, a manifestation that God’s incarnate Word is still among us, proclaiming his Word with authority.
In one way or another, each of us have been touched by the healing authoritative Word of God, in Jesus the Christ. If we can in any way relate to this lesson from Mark, if we have come to know God’s grace in Jesus the Christ, if we have, through the power of God’s Spirit, been able to feel the healing Word of God in our lives, we are able to spread the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus Christ.
Through the power of God’s Spirit, the incarnate Word of God is still among us. God continues to work through Christ’s Church to bring his Word among us. May God’s Spirit grant us the courage to spread the news of this great event, the knowledge that we have come to know Jesus as the Christ, the holy One of God, to those around us. For it is a story that begs to be told.
This message from Pastor Ronald Harbaugh is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project. You can read more at Sermon Central