Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we ask that You continue to protect us from the onslaughts of the devil and his helpers. Continue to spread Your umbrella of loving power over each of us and keep evil from harming both our bodies and our souls. Yes, comfort us with the truth that You alone are all-powerful and that You alone possess all authority over both heaven and earth. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR POWERFUL, LOVING SAVIOR!
TEXT: Mark 1: 21-28
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I never use the expression: the devil made me do it. I don’t like that expression, either. Why, you might ask? Because I think it is a cop out. It’s a ducking of personal responsibility for your own sins and misdeeds. We’re told in the Bible that we have an unholy trinity arrayed against us. That unholy trinity being: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Let’s face it, most of our moral lapses and the problems we have with questioning God’s goodness and getting angry with Him when things don’t go just as we think they should; most of those situations are our own fault. Our flesh is to blame. Our sinful nature is the culprit. But, it’s easier to pass-the-buck and blame either the “world” or “society” for our failings, or to utter that usually trite expression: “the devil made me do it.”
That being said, there is such a thing as demon possession. It’s real. The movie, “The Exorcist” popularized some of the aspects of demon possession—with the usual Hollywood license toward sensationalism. And over the past 75 years there have been documented cases of demon possession. In today’s text we see another such example which can clearly be summed up by those words:
THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT
Last week we heard how Jesus called those two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to be His disciples. Bible scholars peg that event as taking place on a Friday. The next day, Saturday, was the Sabbath. It is there that our lesson picks up. “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
Over the past year we’ve all been inundated by press conferences outlining clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church. What is amazing to me has been the response of Rome. In all their statements not once (as far as I’ve heard) have the leaders of that church body used Scripture as their answer. Instead of hearing them say: “This is a violation of the 6th commandment.” Or, from Luke 17: 2 “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”—In other words, instead of announcing: “Thus says the Lord,” we’ve heard things like: “The church says,” or “the bishops say” this or that. Those words limp at best. They are inadequate and useless because they have no real authority. They are based on human expediency and human ideas and traditions instead of Godly truth. This was what so amazed the people that day in that synagogue in Capernaum. Christ used the Bible to back up everything He said. He used it that way because He wrote it. He was the Author of it. He was the “Word made flesh” as John tells us.
“Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘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!’”
Why do we seem to have such a plethora of demonic possession cases in the New Testament? First, we do also see them in the Old Testament. Saul, being possessed by an evil spirit, is one such example. However, the reason demonic possession cases seem to crop up in the New Testament is simple. Satan knew exactly who Christ was—as is evidenced by this demon’s “confession”—“You are the Holy One of God”, the Messiah. Satan knew that Christ had come to save His people. And so Satan and his fellow demons marshaled all their efforts to try to defeat Christ and sow seeds of despair and fear in their wake via such cases of possession.
I find it fascinating that a possessed man was at the synagogue. You’d think he’d be off in the gutter somewhere or inhabiting some place of ill repute. But no. We find him at the synagogue. Apparently this demon wants to confront Jesus and has lead him there. (Is this another example of “pride going before the fall?” And that brings up another point: when a person is under the control of Satan or one of his fellow demons they have no will power. Their lives are not their own. The evil ones totally control every action. As Christians we’re protected by Christ from such mind and soul control. As believers we have the power to literally tell any demon to “Go back to hell where you belong.” But, those not covered by the umbrella of our Savior’s love have no such power. This poor man’s situation is proof of that fact. In his case, literally, the devil made him do it!
But, what does Jesus do about it? Does He back off? Does He ignore this unpleasant situation? No! He confronts the demon and saves the man! “Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” We’re told in Luke’s parallel account of this: “Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.” Yes, the evil ones don’t give up their prey without a struggle. But, God’s power protects—even in these instances.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we utter those words: “And deliver us from evil.” In the original Greek language, that actually says: “and deliver us from the Evil one.” In other words, Satan is real. His fellow demons are real. Evil isn’t just some generic “thing.” It has a definite personality. Mark’s Gospel is really Peter’s Gospel. Peter told Mark what to write. In Peter’s epistle he says this of Satan: “Be self controlled and alert because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Do we need to fear demon possession? No. Why not? Because Christ has destroyed Satan’s power over us by giving His life for ours on the cross. The power of the devil is death. And Christ has triumphed over death for us! He physically arose from the grave and now lives in heaven waiting to take us there. This battle in our text is but a foretaste of what would later occur on the cross. And in every instance, Christ came out the winner.
“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.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”
I respect the devil enough not to play footsie with him. I respect his power enough not to tritely say: “The devil made me do it” when I engage in some stupid sin. But, in the end, I don’t dwell on Satan. I don’t let fear of him paralyze me. For Christ is my Savior! He exorcised Satan from my soul when I was baptized! And in his place Jesus put the Holy Ghost within my heart. Another name for the Spirit is the “Comforter.” So, reap His blessing and live in the comfort of knowing that every day He is delivering you from the Evil One. Amen