Scripture: Mark 1:21-39
Title: Mighty God
- Jesus preaches with authority
- Jesus heals with power
- Jesus prays with perspective
Lieutenant General, Lord, Freyberg served in the Dardanelles & Europe with the British Army during the first world war
– Then he served in Italy & Africa with the New Zealand army during the second world war
– As all the letters before and after his name suggest, Bernard Freyberg was awarded many titles and decorations for his bravery in combat, including the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order (with three bars) and the French Croix de Guerre
– Winston Churchill called Freyberg the ‘Salamander’ due to his disregard for danger and always being in the thick of the action
– Despite being wounded many times Freyberg survived and kept coming back for more
Today we continue our sermon series on the titles ascribed to Jesus
– Like Bernard Freyberg, Jesus has earned many titles too
– So far we have looked at Jesus the Wonderful Counsellor, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father and what it means to call Jesus, ‘Lord’
– This morning we consider the title of ‘Mighty God’ for Jesus
– ‘Mighty God’ comes from Isaiah 9 verse 6 and in the context was a reference to the Messiah as a courageous warrior king, a general, empowered by God to defeat evil and deliver the people
Freyberg and Jesus were similar in that they were both courageous leaders who weren’t afraid to get in the thick of the action
– But they were very different in the way they went about their combat and who they fought against
– Jesus did not come to wage war against flesh & blood (as Freyberg did)
– Jesus fought against principalities and powers in the spiritual realm
– Jesus waged war against Satan, without guns or swords
To help us see Jesus in action against evil we will read a passage from Mark 1
– This describes a day in the life of Jesus’ early ministry
– From Mark 1, verses 21 to 39, in the NIV, we read…
21 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 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!” 26 The impure 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 impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this Scripture for us
In a war, one country invades another and takes their land by force
– As a consequence the people of the country that is invaded lose their freedom
– It’s similar when someone gets sick – it’s like the illness or the infection invades the person’s body so they lose their health & freedom
God created the world good but the world has been invaded by evil
– As a consequence we (humanity) have lost our health & freedom
Jesus came to establish God’s Kingdom (God’s reign) on earth
– In doing this Jesus was taking back what Satan had invaded & stolen
– But, unlike other military commanders, Jesus didn’t come to take back God’s world by force, with tanks and guns or chariots and swords
– Jesus simply offered himself
– Jesus is a General like no other – he uses a quite different approach
In our reading from Mark 1 we note three strategies Jesus employs in the war against evil…
– Jesus preaches with authority
– He heals with power
– And he prays with perspective
Jesus preaches with authority:
First let us consider Jesus’ preaching with authority
Last year the Nobel Prize for physiology & medicine was awarded to Dr James Allison, from The University of Texas, and Professor Tasuku Honjo, from Kyoto University
– They were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discoveries in cancer treatment
– Traditional cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, involve a bit of collateral damage, with the good cells getting killed along with the bad
– But Allison & Tasuku have made advances in immunotherapy, using the body’s immune system to target cancer cells
– So instead of nuking everything, they have worked out a way for the body to identify the real enemy (the cancer) and attack those cells only
– I’m not sure I properly the understand the science of it all but it works on a molecular level – really clever stuff
The Israel of Jesus’ day had been invaded by the Romans and was occupied by them, so the Jews weren’t free
– They naturally thought of the Romans as the enemy
– But Jesus didn’t see it that way – Jesus could see that the real enemy was Satan and the forces of evil
– Jesus knew the battle for people’s souls needed to be fought in people’s hearts & minds, at a molecular level (spiritually speaking)
– So Jesus’ main strategy in bringing God’s Kingdom to earth was to preach & teach the ways of God
But he didn’t preach like anyone else. Verse 22 tells us…
– The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
The teachers of the law were the guardians of oral tradition
– They passed on to others the man made rules and regulations that explained how to apply God’s law as contained in the first five books of what we call the Old Testament
– Their teaching was essentially a list of rules – dos and don’ts for everyday life
– For example, the Law of Moses says you can’t work on the Sabbath and so here’s what that means – you can’t heal someone on the Sabbath, if it can wait till tomorrow but you can pull your donkey out of a well if it falls in on the Sabbath
– I imagine their teaching was quite focused on answering the questions of how and what?
– How are we supposed to apply God’s law? What constitutes work? Etc.
Jesus’ preaching was different to this though – Jesus didn’t base his message on the authority of the scribes’ oral tradition or their man made regulations
– For Jesus the more important questions were why and who?
– Why do we keep the Sabbath? Who is God to us? That sort of thing
– It’s not that the how & what questions are unimportant
– It’s just that when we understand who God is (his character, his love) and why he has given various commandments, then we don’t need all the other man-made legislation, because we can discern the spirit of the law
The title ‘Mighty God’ applies to Jesus because his message was based on God given authority – on his personal knowledge & relationship with God the Father
– He could talk about the Kingdom of Heaven from personal experience because he came from heaven – the scribes couldn’t do that
– He had authority to break the scribes’ rules about healing on the Sabbath because he came to fulfil the purpose of the Sabbath – to restore people
I think Jesus’ approach in preaching & teaching was a bit like immunotherapy
– His words worked at a spiritually molecular level, inside a person’s heart & mind
– Jesus was sowing the seed of a thought to activate our spiritual immune system (our conscience) so that we could identify the true enemy inside and attack that
– You see, the enemy wasn’t really the Romans or any other political / cultural people group that we might not like
– Jesus preached forgiveness of people because people are not the enemy
– The real enemy is things like fear and pride and greed and loneliness and cynicism, and the many lies we tell ourselves are true
– They are the sorts of things that eat away at us and rob our peace
The other thing that helped to reinforce the authority of Jesus’ preaching was his deeds of power – his healings & exorcisms
Jesus heals with power:
Like Freyberg, Jesus wasn’t afraid to get in the thick of it
– In fact we know Jesus’ preaching was on target and effective because of the reaction it got from the powers of darkness
– When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Capernaum a man with an evil spirit reacted by saying…
– “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 impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
There was no contest really – Jesus set the man free from the forces of evil with just a few simple words. He didn’t even raise a sweat
– This shows us who the real enemy is and at the same time it reveals that Jesus embodies the mighty power of God
– But notice that the power of God is different from human power
– God’s power (as embodied in Jesus) is not the power of violence but rather the power of holiness
– Now when we talk about holiness we don’t mean being ‘holier than thou’
– We mean holiness in the sense of wholeness or integrity
– Holiness is really about being one thing – being true to who we really are as creatures made in the image of God
– Jesus knew who he was and why he was – he was clear about his identity & purpose and that gave him strength and courage to stand against evil
U2 have a song called ‘There is a Light’. One of the verses reads…
I know the world is done, but you don’t have to be
I’ve got a question for the child in you before it leaves
Are you tough enough to be kind?
Do you know your heart has its own mind?
Darkness gathers around the light
Hold on, Hold on
I don’t know what Bono meant by those words but to me he is saying something like…
– Yes, there is evil and darkness in the world but it’s not too late for you
– Don’t give in to cynicism, don’t give in to the darkness
– It takes more courage, more strength, more toughness to be kind
– And when your kindness (your light) is met with hostility and rejection, then remember that ‘darkness gathers around the light’
The toughness to be kind is the toughness that comes from holiness, from being one thing, from knowing who we are in Christ and why we are (our purpose)
– Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the light of the world’
– That tells us who we are why we are – we are the light and our purpose is to shine in the darkness
– Jesus also said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake’
– Goodness (light) is powerful in its own way and it usually gets a reaction from evil – the darkness gathers around the light
Following the exorcism in the synagogue Jesus goes to Simon & Andrew’s home where Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever
– While sickness is not exactly the same as being possessed by an evil spirit, neither is it God’s will for us
– Interestingly Jesus demonstrates his power & authority without saying a word – he simply takes Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand – he heals her with his touch and Simon’s mother-in-law serves them
– As usual it is a woman who shows us the right response to Jesus
Once the sun goes down the Sabbath ends and people come to Jesus at Simon’s home for healing. Nothing is too difficult for him
– Jesus isn’t a one trick pony – he can heal any sort of disease and cast out any demon
– These powerful healings coupled with Jesus’ authorative preaching show that Jesus is worthy of the title, ‘Mighty God’
There is an irony here – despite all the miracles the people of Capernaum aren’t able to join the dots to work out who Jesus is – that he is the Messiah spoken of by the prophet Isaiah
– They are amazed but uncomprehending
– Miracles don’t necessarily produce faith or understanding
– The demons know who Jesus is, but Jesus silences them – it is not for the forces of evil to set the agenda or reveal God’s plan
Jesus prays with perspective:
We’ve talked about how the title ‘Mighty God’ finds resonance with courageous and powerful leadership
– One of the attributes of a good military leader is their ability to see the bigger picture and not become distracted from the main objective
– Maintaining a healthy perspective is crucial for any leader
There is a scene in the second Hobbit movie, where Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves get lost in the Mirkwood forest
– Mirkwood is a dark and disorienting place – evil lurks in the shadows
Bilbo senses they are going around in circles so he climbs to the top of the trees and looks out over the branches to get some perspective and find some direction
– Above the trees it is sunny and bright and Bilbo can see for miles
Spiritually speaking, Capernaum was perhaps a bit like Mirkwood forest
– Given the large number of demon possessed & sick, and given the obtuseness of the people, it appears the powers of darkness were at home there
Verse 35 of Mark 1 tells us that, very early in the morning, Jesus left the house and went off to a solitary place to pray
– Jesus had just had a very busy and successful day
– Both busy-ness and success have a way of causing us to lose perspective
– Jesus and his disciples could have lost their way in Capernaum
– They could have been tempted to stay and clean the place up
– I’m sure the evil one would have been more than happy keeping them busy fighting fires, going round & round in circles performing miracles without achieving the greater purpose God had for them
– By going to a solitary place to pray Jesus was climbing to the top of the trees and looking out over the branches of Capernaum to restore his perspective and find some direction from God
We don’t know exactly what Jesus said in his prayer on this occasion but it is apparent that his purpose was to listen to God and find out his next move – for when Peter found him and said, ‘Everyone is looking for you’
– Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
– Jesus didn’t operate independently of God or in his own strength
– Through prayer Jesus maintained his perspective and remembered why he had come (God’s larger purpose)
– He did not allow himself to be distracted – there were others who needed the opportunity to hear his message and discover who & why they are
This morning we’ve heard how Jesus fulfils the title of ‘Mighty God’
– Jesus is our General in the battle against evil; courageous and powerful to defeat the forces of darkness
– Jesus’ weapons in battle include preaching with authority, healing with power and praying with perspective
– Jesus’ power is not the power of violence but the power of holiness, the power of being one with God, of knowing who and why he is
In a few moments we will share communion
– Communion is a time when we remember Jesus’ victory over the forces of darkness
– It’s a time when we lift our heads above the trees and regain our perspective by remembering who we are in Christ and why we are here; to love & enjoy God
Questions for discussion or reflection:
1.) What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?
– Why do you think this stood out to you?
2.) What does the title ‘Mighty God’ tell us about Jesus?
3.) Who is the real enemy?
4.) Why is Jesus’ approach to the war against evil different to that of a military leader?
– Why does Jesus place so much importance on preaching & teaching?
5.) What do we mean by the power of holiness?
6.) Are you tough enough to be kind?
7.) Why did Jesus make time to be alone in prayer?
– Why do you pray?
8.) Take some time this week to contemplate who you are in Christ and why you are here (i.e. God’s purpose for you).