Jesus is the Authority
4th Sunday after Epiphany
January 28, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Jesus is the Authority
Mark 1:21–28 (NIV84)
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil 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!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 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.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Who would be on your list of the most powerful men in human history? One might include people like Julius Caesar who laid the foundations for the Roman Empire just before the time of Christ. Or maybe you would go back more than a century before Julius and think of Qin Shi Huang. He united China into an empire. Or closer to our time, there was Napoleon and then there are always the examples of powerful evil in Hitler and Stalin. If you look at lists of the most powerful people in the world today, the lists will be topped by the leaders of the United States, Russia and China. These nations have powerful armies with powerful weapons. The leader of such a nation has great power at his command.
At their command powerful leaders like these throughout history can use their authority to do good for their people or to destroy millions of lives. At the time, their power seemed to be unmatched. No one and no nation could stop them from achieving their goals. Such was their power. But all the leaders of the past have something in common. They are all dead. Not one of them could stop death from taking them. They were powerless in this area. Even their human accomplishments don’t last very long. The Roman Empire would crumble. Napoleon lost. The same is true for powerful leaders today. Their great power will fade and another will take their place. They too will submit to death.
Of course we would put Jesus Christ at the top of the list of the most powerful men ever to live on the earth. He is the Holy One of God, the true Son of God. Although his authority and power far surpasses anyone else on this earth, he has a different way of showing and using his authority. It is not through armies and physical weapons but through his words. His message has authority to both defeat his enemies and to teach us something new. Jesus is the authority.
To Defeat His Enemies
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil 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!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Here we see Jesus’ first recorded confrontation with an evil spirit. This one would set the tone for the rest of them. Every confrontation between Jesus and evil ends the same way. Jesus wins because Jesus has all authority, even over evil spirits. In this case, a man in the synagogue was possessed by an evil spirit. We don’t know how this showed in the man’s life but evidently, many people knew this about the man. This evil spirit had caused fear in the man and in others and now Jesus causes this spirit to fear.
Jesus speaks and teaches in the synagogue and this evil spirit is terrified. The devil and his evil angels know who is in charge. They know their destiny is eternal torment in hell. They know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who will condemn them all to the eternal prison of hell on the last day. Seeing Jesus, this evil spirit wonders if that time has come. Has the Holy One of God come to destroy him right now?
This is the kind of power some of those powerful leaders in world history had. They could give the word and have someone arrested and killed or just killed in front of them. They had authority over life and death. Jesus has authority over eternal life and death. He shuts up this demon and drives him out of the man. Jesus gave life back to the man and the demon would have to wait in terror for the day of judgment when Christ will drive him into hell.
Every encounter with the devil and his demons ends the same way. Jesus wins the confrontation. Even when the devil seems to be winning, Jesus is winning. When Jesus is arrested and beaten and flogged it seems like Christ has no authority, no power to stop this evil. When Christ is nailed to a cross and when he dies, it seems like the devil’s evil forces have overcome Jesus. But this was Jesus’ greatest victory over evil. As he gave life back to the man in the synagogue by driving out the evil spirit, Christ gave life to all sinners by his willing sacrifice on the cross. He died so that we might live eternally. The sacrifice of Jesus released us from the power of the devil to accuse us of sin. The resurrection of Jesus powerfully proves that the devil is defeated along with sin and death.
To Teach Us Something New
Jesus is the authority to defeat his enemies and to teach us something new. He defeated the evil spirit by speaking. Even before this, the people were impressed by his authority because he taught them something new.
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Surprisingly enough, the teachers of the law taught….the law. They knew the Old Testament and especially the five books of Moses. They could teach the laws about sacrifices the people were to offer to God. And people would feel guilty because they had not done these perfectly. They could teach the laws about tithes, about how much of your flock, crop, garden, income and so on you were to give to God at the temple. And the people could feel guilty for not doing all that God commanded. They place heavy burdens of guilt on the people that they were unwilling to lift off of them.
In addition, some taught beyond the law of God. They made up rules about how many steps you could take on the Sabbath day. And people might feel guilty for taking an extra step. They taught that if you gave an offering to God you did not have to take care of your parents. They taught outward obedience to God instead of love and mercy and forgiveness. In short, the teachers of the law taught the law and not the gospel.
Jesus comes with something new. Yes, he preached the law to people, but the true law of God. He pointed people to their thoughts and attitudes that were contrary to God’s will. He pointed out sinful pride, judgment, greed, envy, hatred and lust. The outside actions their teachers were so concerned with were only a symptom of inside attitudes. Jesus taught them that it is a heart problem.
Jesus came to fix the problem with people’s hearts. He taught that he is the answer to God’s promise to send a Savior. He is the one to bind up broken hearts and forgive sins. He is the one to release prisoners from the captivity of sin. He is the one who will lift that burden of guilt from us. He came as the manifestation of God’s love, mercy and grace. He taught them the gospel. This is new. This is exciting to people who had been beaten down with the law for so long. This is good news.
Though this gospel is the teaching of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, many people had been in the dark about it. It was new to them because they had not heard it before even though the gospel has been around in written form since Genesis 3. Why were many in the dark? They followed the human teachers of the day who did not teach the gospel. Why are many Christians today in the dark and deceived about many teachings in the Bible? They believe whatever a human leader tells them about God...says the human leader telling you what God says.
Pastors are not the ultimate authority about what God says. Jesus is the authority. You have the words of Jesus. Don’t believe it just because I say so, believe it because Jesus says so. We don’t believe that Holy Communion is Christ’s true body and blood give to us Christians to eat and drink because Martin Luther says so. We believe it because Jesus said so. Jesus’ teaches with authority. The Bible, Christ’s Word, is authoritative. What Jesus says, we believe. We believe what Jesus teaches us about creation, about his return for judgment and everything in between. We believe what Jesus tells us about sin and that our sins are forgiven in him. It is true because Jesus did it and Jesus said it and his Word is authoritative. His Word has the power to give what it promises, forgiveness and eternal salvation.
However you get your news – television, radio, social media, newspaper or others – you will see the powerful people in the world in the news often. These powerful leaders are in the news because their words have the power to make thing happen in this world. Their actions have the power to affect millions of people. Jesus Christ has authority over all of them. He even has authority over the devil and the evil spirits. Mark tells us what happened after Jesus taught and healed at the synagogue that day. “News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” Though it might seem like old news because it has been around for thousands of years, may the Bible always be new to us as we continue to be forgiven, strengthened and renewed in Christ through his powerful teaching. Jesus is the authority.
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