Sermon:         Who Knew? Scripture:       Mark 1:21-28 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date:               January 28, 2018 This week we enter into Mark’s Gospel and we find ourselves in Chapter 1. Mark’s Gospel starts abruptly and it continues in that vein throughout. It starts out with, The beginning of the good news[a] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God   There is no birth narrative about Jesus, instead we hear immediately about John the Baptist, and by verse 13, Jesus is already baptized and has been tempted by satan in the wilderness for 40 days. John is then arrested and Jesus’ ministry begins as we hear Jesus proclaim in verse 15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”   By verse 20 Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John are already onboard with Jesus when he calls to them and they follow him. The Gospel as a whole conveys an urgency in what is going on and consequently it occurs at a fast pace. To make this point, the Greek for the word ‘immediately’ occurs some 42 times throughout Mark’s Gospel and only an additional 12 times throughout the rest of the New Testament. John appears, Jesus appears, the disciples appear and then we arrive at our text of today. So open your bibles at Mark’s Gospel Chapter 1, we’ll be reading from verse 21-28. Listen to what the Spirit is telling the church this day.   READ MARK 1:21-28   With his first disciples onboard, they go to Capernaum and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. Jesus immediately confronts those who will be opposing him throughout this gospel. Jesus goes into their territory, the synagogue and begins to teach. We are not privy to what Jesus taught on, all we have is the reaction of those within the synagogue 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. The word ‘they’ denotes not the disciples who are with Jesus, but those within the synagogue, it might have included the scribes, did include the regular synagogue worshippers who have come, just as they always have, but today ‘they’ experience something new. How had the scribes up to this point been teaching? Mark immediately separates Jesus from the scribes in the manner by which Jesus is teaching and in so doing raises Jesus above them, why, because he taught them as one having authority. You might expect that the scribes would respond to the challenge and yet they say nothing! No challenge to Jesus comes from the scribes in their own synagogue. They have no idea who this person actually is and yet they say nothing. Leave that to the main opposition that Jesus faces,   23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.   The term ‘unclean spirit’ is Jewish terminology for a demon. How did this man even get in? Such a person would ordinarily be kept well away from the synagogue, as he would be considered ceremonially unclean. Later in Chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a man in the tombs in the Gerasene region, he too was filled with unclean spirits and yet he was chained and restricted to living out life in the graveyard of the town. Not so here, so maybe those in the synagogue did not know this man had an unclean spirit, despite the fact he was amongst them. Was he a regular worshipper and so had come that day to do what he had always done? Today though was a different day. Today was the day that would reveal what was going on within this man. Today was the day that the kingdom of God had come near.   Throughout Marks gospel, we find this tension, this confrontation between Jesus and those who would oppose him. The scribes, those within the synagogue have no idea who Jesus is, those who are at the synagogue, the people, those worshipping all have no idea who Jesus is – other than the fact he is a teacher, who teaches with authority. Who knew? We the readers of the gospel, well we are only just beginning to find out who Jesus is, but the enemy, the demon within the man knows immediately who Jesus is.   The enemy takes over the man, which is a common occurrence in Mark’s gospel when Jesus confronts a demon, and a conversation takes place that establishes the two sides firmly in place. In fact, every encounter Jesus has with unclean spirits, they recognize in whose presence they find themselves in. They know. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”   At one and the same time, multiple things take place. Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed the Holy One of God. Do the others present not hear this? The enemy, embodied in the unclean spirit, knows who Jesus is, and at the same time announces what Jesus will do in the form of the questions asked. What have you to do with us - notice the plural! It is all those aligned against Jesus who are being wrapped up in the question and they answer the question themselves, because they know who Jesus is and they know what the result will be of Jesus being on the earth. Their time is up, their kingdom is coming to an end and the kingdom of God will take its place. Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.   The battle is joined – Jesus has come to defeat, to destroy the enemy in our midst and the enemy already proclaims their own end, and yet as we read through the rest of the gospel, as we live out life, we know the enemy tries with deception, with deceit, with whatever methods the enemy can muster, to get us to take our focus off the victor who is Jesus and focus instead on the things that drag us down and that seemingly give the enemy victory.   Jesus immediately shows his authority. The people who are witnessing are astonished at the authority of his teaching, now they are amazed at what is going on. 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed   Jesus is immediately established as the one who is greater than both the scribes and the unclean spirits who have no choice, but to obey Jesus’ command, for he has authority over them all.   And you can hear the chatter within the synagogue, they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”   Jesus is presented to the world, they, those in the synagogue, and the rest of the world, have not seen anything like this before, A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”   A new time has been ushered in, the kingdom of God has come near.   And the result, 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.   Yes, the unclean spirits know truly who Jesus is. The scribes, the people at this point know only a new teaching, which is given with authority. Their full understanding has yet to come and as we journey forward through Mark’s Gospel and beyond, some will side with those who oppose and some will turn to Jesus.   We could end right there today, but not so fast. You see if we did, we would miss out on another aspect of our text today, which if we move on too fast, we simply skip over. The man with the unclean spirit. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.   He is the one who benefits directly from the encounter with Jesus – he is the one whose world is immediately turned upside down by the coming near of the kingdom of God. What’s clear in the brevity of our text, is that no one knew what he was going through.  We can read the text from our 21st century, educated, rational, informed perspective and say – unclean spirits, demons, who believes in them? Some would question the spirit realm and its existence. Yet even if you did, at the same time, we could ask, what are the things that possess us today, for things most definitely do. If the man was possessed by something and released from it by Jesus, what can Jesus do for us today and what can we do as his hands and feet for others that might make a difference, that might turn someone else’s world upside down and help release them from what possesses them. The man was in the synagogue, had he in fact been going there for his whole life, did other people recognize who he was and what he was going through? The normal routine of synagogue worship, the interaction of people, the polite nods of heads and brief conversations people had, one with the other, the shaking of hands at the passing of the peace, and yet who knew what he was really going through? Do we know those around us enough to know what they are going through? Do we reach out as church to those within this body of Christ enough to know what they are going through and then reach out and walk alongside them? You see the enemy, although defeated as we heard in our text today, is alive and well in the comings and goings of life. It means that we don’t know how we can always help one another unless we get close and build relationships, because the enemy isolates and would have us think we are the only ones who are enduring a certain situation and fills our mind with shame and grief and disappointment. The enemy convinces us that others would not understand and that if other people knew what we were struggling with, they would look down upon us and think us incapable or unworthy. Brothers and sisters, lies and deceit from a defeated enemy who would seek to destroy us. The enemy cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”   Yes, Jesus came to destroy the enemy in our midst and yet we are warned by scripture, that the enemy will continue to come at us. Ephesians 4:25-27 tells us, 25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. The enemy will seek to get a foothold in our lives in any way possible. 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us Discipline yourselves, keep alert.[d] Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters[e] in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.   It is in being together and in relationship with one another that we can withstand the attacks of the enemy. [1]The woman was on her way to visit her college friend, Lucy, in the hills of North Carolina. She was travelling with her daughter and her daughter was lamenting the fact that when they arrived, they would have to go to the friend’s church as usual. “Why,” she asked with a whine in her voice. Her mum gave no answer. As they drove, her daughter gazed upon the snow covered hillsides. The snow had been particularly heavy that year and she noticed the effect it had had on the trees. Next to the highway, stood several large groves of tall, young pine trees. The branches were bowed down with the heavy wet snow - so low, that branches from one tree were often leaning against the trunk or branches of another tree and the trees seemed to merge into each other with the heaviness of the snow. It was a different picture where there were trees that stood alone. Here, the effect of the heavy snow was the same, but the results had been different. Without the other trees to lean against, the branches had simply snapped when the weight of the heavy snow had become too much for them. They lay on the ground, dark and alone in the cold snow and the trees looked bare and forlorn. The daughter commented about it to her mother. “Do you think the trees that stand alone will be able to survive,” the mums asked? “Probably not, if it snows like this again” came the reply. The mum paused, “That’s why Lucy goes to her church. She is alone up here in North Carolina and when the heavy snows of life hit hard, she needs to be standing with other Christians, so that they can lean on each other. The closer the trees are together the better they can hold up against the snow. The closer that Christians are in relationship with one another, the more we can hold up against what the world throws at us.”   Sisters and brothers, by getting to know one another, getting closer together we are stronger and are better prepared to defeat an already defeated enemy, who would have us be isolated and bear our burdens on our own. We do have to be mindful however, that just because someone is in a crowd, it doesn’t mean that they are not isolated. The man from our scripture was in the synagogue. He would not have been allowed in if others had known he had an unclean spirit within him, so it must have been that no one was aware of what was going on with him. It takes effort on our behalf as a community to make sure that does not happen. Is it possible that someone who is around you today, has something going on in their lives, that you are not aware of? That is facing something alone? If we take the time to simply be with others, we‘ll notice a difference, not just in them, but in us also. It speaks volumes about our society today that people are too afraid to share because of the negative consequences of the sharing, rather than the healing that might come as a result, if others around them knew of the plight they were going through and stood by them. Sisters and brothers, Jesus came and the people were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  He had authority over the ills of this world and he came to destroy those ills and they were all amazed, The good news is that Jesus came to turn the order of the world upside down and he did. Who knew, his enemies knew who he was. Today, is our time to turn the world upside down by destroying the ills of our society and culture by getting to know one another in such a way that we are not isolated, that we proclaim, in being in relationship with one another, that the kingdom of God is near, and we know that we are strong together in Jesus Christ. Amen   Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. Ed K. Rowell