We are over the hill in this sermon series.
We’ve been watching Jesus showcase his authority over demons, over sickness, over disease, and last week on the top of the mountain he unveiled it in all its face shining, resplendent clothing, ascended prophet appearing, cloud encircling glory!
We now know Jesus has LIMITLESS authority.
But we’ve gotta come down the mountain.
And as we come down…
…We see Jesus humbling himself.
…We see Jesus hiding his authority.
…We see Jesus succumbing to earthly authorities.
This is the Lenten portion of our AUTHORITY sermon series. Today, we watch as Jesus submits himself to the temptations of the devil himself.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
The battle starts in Matthew 4 verse 1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
The wilderness was in Ancient Israel was a desert. It was (and is) very hot, very dry, very dusty, and very wild. It’s the kind of place that Bear Grylls might attempt to go (with a camera crew and emergency supplies close by).
Jesus goes into this desert alone.
It’s where wild animals are.
Or something worse.
And something worse did meet Jesus there.
Or someone worse.
The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about the devil. We know that he is an angel who became conceited (1 Tim. 3:6), he was kicked out of heaven (Luke 10:18), he used temptation to bring our world into ruin (Genesis 3), and that the world is under his evil influence (1 John 5:19).
He’s really good at doing evil.
And he’s really good at getting others to do evil.
Maybe you know.
In fact, his initial temptation, the one that led the first two human beings – Adam and Eve – into sin brought destruction on this earth. The truth is that in a certain sense…
It’s because of the devil that sin is in the world.
It’s because of the devil that death is in the world.
It’s because of the devil that COVID 19, racism, winter storms, and joblessness are in the world all results of his very first temptation.
This dry, barren, pathetic wasteland.
Filled with death and bones and vicious animals.
That’s his kind of place.
It’s his home turf.
II. The Temptations
After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.
I think this is probably one of the greatest understatements in Scripture.
Mostly because I fast for two hours and I’m hungry.
Jesus fasts for 40 days and 40 nights.
He’s hungry, sure…
Maybe even tired.
His body is weak.
His hands are shaking.
It’s not a great time for Jesus.
Isn’t this the time when the devil likes to strike?
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (v.3)
Or make it rain drown bread from heaven.
Or get some ravens to bring you crumbs.
Or hit that rock with a stick and make water come flowing out.
Since you are the Son of God, this can’t be hard for you.
Obviously, your “Heavenly Father” doesn’t care about what happens to you on this earth.
It’s been forty days.
He doesn’t care about you.
You’ve got to take matters into your own hands.
But Jesus didn’t even blink, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (v.4)
My dad’s Word brings life.
Like back at the beginning when his Word brought life to this world.
Your words, on the other hand, bring death.
Like shortly after the beginning when your words brought death to this world.
My Father will sustain me.
He already has been sustaining me.
His plan is for me to die on a cross.
Since I don’t see any crosses around this place…I’m not dying here.
I know my Father will provide.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. (v.5)
The holy city is a reference to Jerusalem. It’s a beautiful city. The heart of Ancient Israel situated on a hill.
Within Jerusalem was the temple. It was the second version, having been rebuilt after the first was destroyed, but still quite magnificent.
The highest point of the temple would have been near the Kidron Valley. It was about 100 feet from the top of the wall to the ground. It is also important to note that the word pinnacle comes from a Greek word meaning wing and was commonly used to refer to a turret-like structures on the top of the wall.
But the devil didn’t bring Jesus up there to marvel at its architectural features…
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.
It is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
That’s from the Psalms.
Your Father’s promise!
He’ll protect you so that not even your foot gets hurt on a stone.
Like the ones down there.
But your Father said he’d keep you safe. So…What are you waiting for?
You’ll be a beacon of faith.
You’ll be world-renowned.
They’ll write books about you.
If you just force your Father’s hand and…
And so, Jesus jumped…
At the chance to rebuke Satan again.
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (v.7)
Sure, my Father could protect me from dying on those jagged stones.
Just as easily as he could raise up those stones and run them through you right now.
But God didn’t tell me to jump.
I take orders from him.
He doesn’t take orders from me.
Just like I don’t take orders from you.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (v.8)
The highest mountain near Jerusalem was Mount Hebron. It’s currently 4,652 feet. One can certainly see for a great distance from there.
But this is something more. There appears to be otherworldly forces at work. Because from this mountain peak, the devil was able to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.
The glories of Jerusalem.
The busy streets of the Greek agora.
The powerful structures of Rome.
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Cause I know the Father promised it to you. He said it would all be yours…
…after you suffer.
…after you are betrayed.
…after you are abandoned.
…after you are falsely accused.
…after your own people turn against you!
…after you nails pierce your flesh.
…after you slowly lose oxygen.
…after you struggle to breathe.
Then…sure, it could be yours.
Why go through that painful plan?
I’ve got an easier plan.
Just bow down.
And it’s yours.
I’ll get it for you.
Only worship me.
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (v.10)
God is God; you aren’t. I follow his plan; Not yours.
Your plan means momentary ease for an eternity of suffering.
His plan means momentary struggle for an eternity of glory.
I’m not abandoning his plan.
I’m abandoning you.
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
III. Authority over Temptations
This is quite the showdown.
The authority of heaven versus the authority of the earth.
The ultimate good versus the ultimate evil.
But it’s more than just a good story.
It teaches us some applicable truths.
(1) Satan’s Authority Is False
Satan felt like he had Jesus where he wanted him.
It was the desert.
Jesus was tired.
Jesus was hungry.
Jesus was malnourished.
Did you notice something about verse one?
It said that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.
This showdown wasn’t the devil catching Jesus off guard.
It was God’s plan the whole time.
God’s plan to showcase the devil’s failures.
God’s plan to expose his weakness.
God’s plan to make a public spectacle of Satan.
Because he has no REAL power.
If you’re struggling to defeat a sin.
If you’re struggling to say NO to temptation.
If you find yourself continually losing your temper…
Or repeatedly going back to your addiction.
If you think saying NO to your boyfriend pressuring you for sex is too hard.
Or saying NO to your friends pressuring you to drink too much is too difficult.
You’re believing a lie.
Actually, you are believing a liar.
Did you know devil means “liar?” That’s appropriate, because that’s all he does.
That sin will not make you feel better.
That sin will not improve your life.
That sin will not be ‘no big deal.’
Sin is not something that you have to do!
Sin is never something that you have to do!
The devil’s authority is a lie.
Call him on it.
(2) Jesus’ Authority is Trustworthy
Because Jesus crushed the devil under his feet before breakfast.
This wasn’t even hard.
Though he was hungry, tired, and alone.
Jesus defeated the devil simply by speaking a few words.
In fact, it’s almost as if he’s playing with the devil. Because what happens after the third temptation that’s different from the others?
Jesus adds the command, “Away from me.”
And with that, the devil is gone.
To be fair this isn’t Jesus’ last interaction with the devil.
Because later on Jesus would face the devil’s handiwork head on.
He’d face every sin that Satan ever got you to commit.
He’d carry the guilt that came as a result of your listening to the devil’s lies.
He took on the death that the devil himself brought into the world.
And Jesus crushed it all.
Just like some kind of a desert snake.
Jesus fearlessly walked over to that snake.
And stomped on its head.
And Jesus always wins.
And with Jesus, you will win too.
(3) Jesus Has Given Us His Battle Weapons
Because did you notice the each of Jesus’ rebukes contain a similar phrase?
“It is written.”
As in, “God’s Word says.”
As in, “the divine Scripture states,”
As in, “The Bible tells us this.”
You have that same Bible.
You have God’s Word.
So… Use it. Here are a few ways that will help you fight off the devil’s temptations:
(1) Read It
Because it is wise to dress the part for your day.
If you are going on a job interview, it’s a good idea to wear a suit.
If you are going jogging, you might want to wear your workout clothes.
If you are going clogging, you will need to bring along your pair of wooden clogging shoes.
The truth is that each day is a battle. You need to wear what you need for battle.
And God’s Word is what arms you for battle!
It gives us a sword that we use to slay the devil’s lies.
It gives us a helmet of salvation we put on to stand in God’s saving power.
It gives us the breastplate of righteousness that identifies us as God’s forgiven children.
It gives us the belt of truth that secures us in the reality of our Saving God.
It gives us shoes of readiness that makes us swift to avoid any attacks the devil throws our way.
It gives us a shield of faith ready to extinguish the deceptions that the world aims at you.
(2) Know It
Because sometimes you don’t have a Bible on you. You do have a phone, but sometimes that might be out of battery life.
So why not have key passages ready to go to fight against the devil’s schemes?
If you struggle with lust, learn passages the rebuke lust.
If you struggle with lying, learn passages that rebuke deception.
If you struggle with greed, learn passages that rebuke greed.
If you struggle with pride, learn passages that rebuke pride.
You know yourself.
God knows your too.
He has provided you with the exact weapon you need.
(3) Speak It
Have you tried this? Have you tried actually, verbally speaking God’s Word when you are tempted?
Because it’s God’s Word.
Spoken against the devil.
I don’t know that the devil can hear our thoughts.
He’s not all knowing like God.
Tell him what you’re thinking.
It is written, “Don’t sin.”
It is written, “Worship God.”
It is written, “You already lost devil.”
It’s kinda like trash talk.
Can you trash talk the devil?
Absolutely. Please do.
The truth is demoralizing to the devil.
The truth is that the devil has no authority over Jesus.
Jesus crushed him.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
He knows that.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
He already lost – repeatedly.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
Since Jesus has authority over your heart…
The devil has no authority over YOU.
One summer I vacationed on the beach. On this particular day, we were walking along a boardwalk right off the beach in hot, one hundred degree weather and came upon a beach side restaurant.
Before we could get in, I noticed a young surfer. He had long hair, sunglasses, bronze body. He was still wet from catching the latest wave and walked into the store.
I said, “Hello” to him.
He responded by saying hello the way all surfers say hello.
The surfer entered the restaurant.
“What are you doing?” said the owner.
“Duuuuude,” the surfer replied, “Be chill, man. I’m just looking for some grub.”
“Can’t you read?”
The manager pointed at a sign, “No shirt. No Shoes. No service.”
The surfer sat down outside.
He reached into his bag.
He pulled out a shirt and some sandal.
He put on the shirt and the sandals.
The owner let him inside.
But when the surfer was received his order, immediately he went outside.
He sat down.
He took off his shoes.
He took off his shirt.
The manager saw.
And simply shook his head.
He was outside.
The manager had no authority outside.
His authority had limits.
Most authorities have limits.
The limits may be geographical.
They may be political.
They may be financial.
Should we expect limits to Jesus’ authority?
Today, we’ll dig deeper into the limits of Jesus’ authority. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
Today’s lesson skips ahead in the book of Mark to chapter 9. First, some background…
Mark chapter nine occurs about two years after Jesus first calls his disciples to follow him, drives out the synagogue demons, and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. That means the disciples have seen Jesus display a wide range of authority in that time period.
In chapter 2, he shows his authority over the body and causes a paralyzed man to walk.
In chapter 3, he shows his authority over flesh-eating illness and heals a man with a shriveled hand.
In chapter 4, he shows his authority over the weather and commands a storm to stop storming.
In chapter 5, he shows his authority over death by raising a little girl to life.
In chapter 6, he shows his authority over matter and feeds 5000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
In chapter 7, he shows his doubly shows his authority commanding both deafness and muteness to leave the same man at the same time.
This leads to chapter 8. In it, Jesus asks his disciples a question. He wants to know what the people have been saying about his authority. Most think he is a powerful prophet. Some even think he’s prophet come back to life.
But it isn’t until Peter answers, that Jesus nods in agreement:
Peter said, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29)
Messiah is a Hebrew word that means “the Anointed One.”
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the Anointed One.
Peter is saying that Jesus is that Anointed One who has all authority.
Jesus also thinks it’s time for his disciples to know the truth about why he is on earth. He tells them about how he would eventually go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, be falsely accused, be convicted, be crucified, and be killed on the cross for their sins.
Peter had just told Jesus that he was the Messiah.
The one with all authority.
Peter’s response to this one with all the authority?
Yell at him.
Jesus, this is a stupid plan!
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
I’ve got a better plan. My plan involves us making a bunch of money, buying mansions on neighboring lots and playing Xbox against each other till our kids grow old and beat us.
Also in my plan Jesus…
You don’t die.
Look at Jesus’ response to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33)
You just said I was the ultimate authority. Why are you acting like YOU are?
II. The Mountain
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone.… (9:2)
I wonder how those six days went for Peter.
Maybe he kept a low profile.
Always tried to keep his distance from Jesus.
When he was looking at Jesus and Jesus turned to look at him, Jesus would turn his head quickly.
“Don’t make eye contact.”
Now Peter was part of a select group of three disciples that were heading up a mountain alone with Jesus.
Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me about the incident.
Maybe if I speak first, I can set the subject of discussion and we’ll never circle back to the rebuke.
“This sure is a nice mountain.
I really love it.
Eventually they get to the top.
They unload some gear.
James wipes his brow.
John gets out a granola bar.
Peter takes a deep breath.
Maybe he should just broach the subject head on.
Get on Jesus’ good side.
But as Peter turned to speak with Jesus.
For starters, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. (v.3) To Peter, this was strange. They lived in a desert environment. Most people’s robes started out white, but at the end of a few days they became a permanent light brown. Stained by the desert storms.
When Jesus got to the top of the mountain, his clothing became instantly spotless.
But this wasn’t the only thing strange.
His face shone like sun (Mt. 17:2)
Peter couldn’t even look directly at Jesus.
It was so bright.
Something Peter had experienced.
Looking up too high into the sky while navigating his boat.
Or the reflection of the sun on the lake.
But this wasn’t coming from the lake.
Or the sky.
It wasn’t even coming from the sun.
But the Son.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (v.4)
Which doesn’t sound that strange.
Until you realize that these guys were prophets.
Both of them had left the earth hundreds of years before this moment.
Whatever they talked about,
Peter was in awe.
What kind of authority was this?
Instant removal of all dirt molecules?
Human skin that illuminates like the sun?
The ability to summon dead prophets back to life?
Jesus’ authority is LIMITLESS.
He isn’t limited by size.
He isn’t limited by space.
He isn’t limited by life.
He isn’t limited by death.
His power is above and beyond and far and wife and high and below.
It’s like the breadsticks at Olive Garden. They bring out a basket of breadsticks. You eat them up. Then, they bring out another basket of breadsticks. You eat them up again. They bring another basket and another and another and another. It’s an unlimited amount of breadsticks you can eat without increasing your total bill!
Although, I kinda think it is limited.
Cause eventually they run out.
Or they close.
But not Jesus.
He doesn’t run out.
He doesn’t close.
His authority is unlimited.
III. The Source
Peter was pumped.
Seeing all these miracles occur…
Before his face…
He felt confident.
He felt excited.
He felt good.
And a little scared.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (v.5)
Just then a cloud descended on the mountain.
Totally normal. Clouds do that.
The cloud began to encircle Peter.
Not unheard of. It was the top of a mountain.
But what the cloud did next?
Was something Peter had never experienced before…
A voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (v.7)
This seemed familiar.
Peter had a quick flashback to synagogue as a child.
Listening to Rabbi Hezekiah tell the story of the people of Israel in the wilderness.
God appeared to them at night and led them by a pillar of fire.
And during the day…
What was it?
God appeared to them in a…
God appeared in a cloud!
Peter dropped to the ground.
This was God.
The All-Powerful God.
Jesus was given UNLIMITED authority by HIS UNLIMITED Father God.
Consider how unlimited Jesus’ Dad’s authority is!
This is the authority that spoke matter into existence.
The authority that told mountains to jut out of the ground.
The authority that told stars, millions of light years apart, to appear in the sky.
This is the authority that created life.
This is the authority that created authority.
This is the authority with the authority to give eternal life.
This is God the Father.
And with his words he is giving authority to Jesus.
Your Savior Jesus.
IV. What Now?
This gives us a few very important What Now points.
(1) Don’t Put Limits on Jesus’ Authority
This is exactly what Peter did prior to the Transfiguration.
He identified Jesus as all powerful Messiah.
Then, immediately questioned his authority.
Essentially, Peter told Jesus, “You don’t have authority to make me feel sad. So…no, you can’t die.”
Thank Jesus, that Jesus didn’t listen.
But I think this happens way to often with Christians.
“It’s my body. God doesn’t have authority over it.”
“God, get out of my finances…and for that matter get out of my bedroom. You have no authority there!”
“God, it’s my life. Thanks for the ideas.... But I’m the authority over my life.”
I guess what I’m saying is that Jesus have authority over all things!
Yet so often, we, believers, refuse to recognize that authority.
In our hearts.
That’s a problem. Because if you are the authority over your life?
You have to face the all-powerful, sin hating, speak to you from a cloud, God…
Don’t put limits on Jesus’ authority.
(2) Listen to Him
If you have to, picture yourself surrounded by a cloud and a booming voice from within speaking that truth!
Listen to Jesus!
He is the limitless authority.
He is the one without boundaries.
He is the one who can do anything.
By the way…
That’s exactly what he did.
His authority is not limited to the physical.
His authority crosses into the spiritual.
He has authority over sin…and lived perfectly.
He has authority over shame…and died in your place.
He has authority over death…and rose triumphantly for you.
He has authority to bring you into eternal life.
Listen to him.
Because if you remember last week, the one who has all that LIMITLESS authority is the One who cares so deeply for you.
And he wants to bring you into the limitless joys of heaven.
Listen to him.
Ever had a problem with your internet and called customer service to get it fixed?
You call them up.
Press 1 for English.
Press 5 for technical support.
Wait some more.
Listen to some mellow jazz music.
Try not to tap your foot to the beat.
Finally, a prerecorded voice interrupts the music:
“You are our valued customer. We care about your call and we care about you. Please stay on the line.’
You think, “That’s nice.”
Then, you wait.
Wait some more.
Hear some more mellow jazz music, before…
Waiting some more.
Then, the prerecorded voice repeated itself.
“You are our valued customer. We care about your call and we care about you. Please stay on the line.”
It’s not so convincing the second time.
And definitely not the seventeenth.
Sometimes that happens.
Business, politicians, doctors assure us that they care about us.
But they get busy.
They do not respond.
They have way more people to serve than just you.
But God is different.
Today we will see that the authority that cares the most for is the one with the most authority.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. In-Law Illness
Today’s lesson is from Mark 1:29. It picks up right where we left off last week:
Jesus had been to the synagogue.
He impressed everyone with his teaching.
Then, he impressed them more when he drove out a demon from a man that had tried to overrun the gathering.
Verse 29 tells us where Jesus and his disciples went next: They left the synagogue and went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.
Yes. Peter and Andrew are brothers.
And yes, Peter and Andrew are grown men.
And yes, they still live together with their parents.
In fact, a common part of Israelite culture was something called the four-room house. It consisted of a main living space that was shared. From there, you could access separate bedrooms that each family unit could occupy.
Peter and Andrew did not share a bunkbed.
In Peter’s family room maybe there was some fishing gear, posters of his favorite fishermen, a few mounted fish, and…
Mostly likely taken in as a widow to the space that Peter and his wife occupied.
When Jesus came over, Peter’s mother-in-law was in the bedroom.
She did not even come out to say, “Hello.”
Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed, sick with a fever. Without delay they told Jesus about her. (v.30)
So…about my mother-in-law. She’s sick.
I know you’ve had a long day and all, but…
You know how you drove out that demon thing? Do you think you could use your…
Peter, don’t ask. He doesn’t owe us anything.
…It doesn’t hurt to try. Jesus, do you think you could drive out the fever too?
Jesus nodded. Peter led Jesus into his family’s space. There on the bed was his mother-in-law.
His wife was seated next to the bed, holding a wet rag to her mom’s head.
Tears running down her cheeks. (It’s hard to see your loved one stuck on a bed.)
It was hard for Jesus to watch too.
Because he cared for this woman.
He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her. (v.31)
Just like that.
He didn’t give her any medicine.
He didn’t apply a wet washcloth.
He didn’t put Vick’s VapoRub on her feet.
He simply took her hand.
And she was healed.
Jesus cares enough to ACT.
It isn’t like at work. You might reach out to a coworker for help and they might respond with an email that says, “Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, that is beyond my scope of responsibility. You might try emailing this other person.”
Then, you email that person. And they respond, “I’m sorry. I don’t think that’s my area. You might try this person.”
…the person you sent the first email to.
Jesus got up.
Jesus walked to the woman in need.
Jesus healed her.
And Jesus still acts today!
Some of you might be thinking:
“What are you talking about? I asked Jesus for help a while ago and I still haven’t received it! I still have doubt. I still have financial issues. I still have COVID. He hasn’t acted!’
But he did.
Before you even requested his help.
Two thousand some years ago, he heard your cry for help.
He heard your cries over that shameful thing you did.
He heard your shame over that awful thing someone did to you.
He heard your stress over this mess that you were in.
And he acted.
He came out of heaven, came to earth, came to this earth, went to the cross, died, and rose triumphantly for YOU.
He acted to win your forgiveness.
He acted to give you peace.
He acted to win you a place of eternal action in heaven!
Yes. Jesus cares enough to act on your behalf.
Thousands of years before you knew you needed him to act, he acted.
II. The Whole Town
Peter’s mother-in-law is feeling much better. In fact, Scripture says that she immediately got up and started, ‘waiting on them.” (v.31)
Goodness, I thought I’d never be healed.
Glad to be feeling like my old self.
Jesus, I’m embarrassed. Let me fix my hair quick.
Did they show you wear to hang your coat?
I see Peter didn’t take off his shoes.
Let me fix you up a nice plate of my famous Tuna Casserole Surprise!
Did you see this precious photo of Peter when he was four? His bowl cut is so cute.
For a bit, everyone is relaxing.
They’re telling jokes.
Jesus just sits down to put his feet up on the ottoman, when…
That evening, when the sun had set, the people kept bringing to him all who were sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door. (v.32-33)
Jesus, can you help my uncle? He’s blind in his left eye.
We’re looking for Jesus? There’s a mysterious cough that my husband can’t shake.
Hey Jesus. I hear you drove out a demon! Could you drive out this spliter from my left pinky?
Jesus doesn’t send them away.
He doesn’t tell them his office hours are 9-5.
He doesn’t tell them to take a number.
He healed many people who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. (v.34)
It’s an action-packed day, right?
Yet this follow up to the story teaches us two more things about Jesus’ authority:
Jesus is never TOO ANYTHING to help.
He is never too tired.
He is never too worn out.
He is never too sleepy.
Jesus is never too out of Red Bull.
He is never too busy.
He is never too “with another client.”
Never too booked.
Never too swamped with emails.
Jesus is too tired or too busy or too anything to help you, because Jesus is too GOD for anything to be TOO much.
God is unlike human beings.
He’s eternal, so he never tires.
He’s all knowing, so he never fails.
He’s all present, so he’s always there.
He’s all powerful, so it’s never a problem.
Because Jesus is God, he is able to offer divinely complex and personally individualized help to each individual.
Jesus is an EXPERT in WHATEVER ails you.
In verse 34 it mentions that Jesus “heals various sicknesses and drives out various demons.”
None of the diseases stumped him.
He’s an expert in leprosy.
He’s an expert in cold.
He’s an expert in flu.
He’s an expert in Bronchitis and Babesiosis and Bacterial meningitis.
He’s an expert in breast Cancer.
He’s an expert in Lymphoma.
He’s an expert in COVID-19 and all its variants.
And he’s an expert in taking out various demons.
And I don’t necessarily know what kinds of demons there are.
I just know they are all bad.
The point is this:
Jesus is an expert in whatever ails you.
Whether it’s a sickness.
Or a demon.
Jesus knows exactly how best to care for you.
III. A Strange Way to Care
Still, Jesus was true human, so he needed rest.
Jesus got up early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went out. He withdrew to a solitary place and was praying there. (v.35)
That sounds nice doesn’t it.
The sunlight is just peaking over the horizon.
The air is cool and crisp.
The birds are just beginning to chirp.
Here comes Simon Peter running up the hill:
Simon and his companions…said to him, “Everyone is looking for you!” (v.36-37)
People from town.
People from the countryside.
People from the next county.
3rd cousins twice removed.
They’re all here looking for you!
He told them, “Let’s go somewhere else, to the neighboring villages, so that I can preach there too.” (v.38)
At first glance, Jesus’ response is a bit “un-Jesus” like. In fact, it seems to be in direct opposition to what we talked about so far:
Didn’t Jesus care enough to act?
Wasn’t Jesus NEVER too busy?
Wasn’t Jesus an expert in anything that might ail anyone?
Why didn’t act then?
He cared TOO Much.
He cared TOO MUCH to let these people think of him as an “earthly ailment Savior,” and forget him as spiritual Savior.
He cared TOO MUCH about these others that he couldn’t not share that spiritual saving message with others.
TRUTH: Sometimes Jesus cares by NOT ANSWERING our requests
I know you want me to end this pandemic, but it’s drawn you closer to me and I care about you too much to let your draw farther away.
I know you want me to give you back your old job, but it was leading you away from me. I care about you too much to let your stray too far.
I know you want me to fix your relationship, but that person was poison to your soul. I care about you too much to watch your spirit die.
Sometimes Jesus cares by NOT ANSWERING our requests.
In fact, sometimes that’s the only way.
It’s like Daniela.
You all know.
We asked for God to send us children for years.
Thinking – Why would you answer?
Because God had our daughter reserved for us.
We just had to wait.
He cared about her.
He cared about us.
Friends, God cares about you too much.
In fact, note this about Jesus’ preaching the Gospel:
“In fact, that is why I have come.” (v.38)
It means Jesus’ purpose was to save people from their sins.
Jesus’ purpose was to save people to heaven.
The reason he came to earth.
The real reason…
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, because those God foreknew, he also predestined…And those he predestined, he also called. Those he called, he also justified. And those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
He cared deeply for you.
He cared deeply for you before you were you.
He cared deeply for you when you were a 1 celled little baby in your mother’s womb.
He cared deeply when you were a little baby in your mother’s arm.
he cared deeply for you when you were in preschool sobbing because some kid stole your show and tell.
He cared deeply for you when you were in 5th grade nervous because of that bully.
He cared deeply for you in 9th grade when you were crying on the end of your bed after your first breakup.
He cared deeply for you when you were in college drinking too much alcohol after your first real breakup.
He cared deeply for you when you were caring deeply for the little baby you just had in your arms.
He cared deeply for you when you sent that child off to college.
He cared deeply for you when you heard that bad doctor’s report.
And he still cares deeply for you.
Until he gets to tell you face to face, how much he cares for you.
That’s the kind of authority he is.
The authority that cares the most for you is the one with the most authority.
When I was younger, my friend and I decided to open a lemonade stand. We pooled our allowance, bought some Lemonade mix, borrowed our mother’s pitchers, and started mixing up some fresh lemonade directly from the garden hose.
At the end of the day, we had made a pretty good haul. Something like a solid $12.45.
I divided it up:
Here’s $6.20 for you.
And $6.25 for me.
My friend smelled a rat:
“Why did you get more money?”
“Because I can’t break up this quarter, besides…I’m the one in charge.”
“Why is that?”
“I invested more of my allowance.”
“But we used my mom’s pitchers.”
“But it was my idea.”
“But I ran up and down the road with a sign trying to get people to stop.”
We never determined who was in charge.
I think the extra nickel ended up with my mom.
She called it a “rental” fee on the pitcher.
But that’s always a tough question to answer in this world.
Who is in really charge?
Who has really authority?
Who’s has real authority when the boss is away?
Who’s the real driving force behind a project?
Who’s the real influence behind a government decision?
But what about the church?
Who’s in charge of God’s house?
Really in charge?
The longest tenured members?
Whoever has the most money?
Today we discover who has authority in God’s house and what that means for the way we treat God’s space. But before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Assuming Authority
Today’s lesson is from Mark 1:21. It picks up right where we left off:
Jesus had visited the Sea of Galilee.
He had called some fishermen to follow him.
Four of them left their nets, their work, and their coworkers to immediately follow him.
Verse 21 tells us where they went next: Then Jesus and his disciples went into Capernaum. On the next Sabbath day, Jesus went into the synagogue... (v.21)
Capernaum is a local fishing town. This gives us an idea of where Peter, Andrew, James, and John lived before following Jesus. They were probably familiar with this small town and they were probably familiar with its synagogue.
A synagogue was the ancient Jewish version of church:
People gathered there to grow in faith.
They listened to the reading of Scripture.
They said prayers.
They sang songs.
A teacher prepared a speech and taught them about Scripture.
The synagogue at Jesus’ time was like church, only a little different:
Instead of opening the doors and inviting anyone to come on in;
The synagogue closed its doors and only allowed those who looked the part to come in.
It makes me wonder if any of these disciples had been inside before:
Jesus, this is beyond our jurisdiction.
Jesus, this isn’t a place for dirty old fishermen. I know. They told me so.
Jesus, Peter got thrown out of there once.
Jesus, the fish aren’t going to bite there. We’d have much better luck on the riverside like your cousin John!
Jesus, these Pharisees – they run this place.
Jesus, I see you aren’t listening to us. We’re going in anyways.
Are you sure?
Based on what Jesus did when he went inside…
I think he was…
Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. (v.21b)
Did you catch that?
Jesus didn’t just slip in the back.
He didn’t just grab the closest seat available.
He didn’t just listen to the others talk and make a bee-line for the fellowship cookies.
He walked to front.
He began to teach.
Jesus assumed authority.
TRUTH: Jesus ASSUMES authority in God’s House
This is still true today.
Today, we call God’s house – church.
It’s the building in which we gather together around God’s Word.
If you’re watching online, it’s the immediately vicinity of your laptop as you listen to this sermon.
And Jesus assumes authority in such a place.
Church isn’t run by the biggest donors.
Church isn’t run by the longest tenured members.
Church isn’t run by some council.
Church isn’t run by all those with seminary degrees.
Church isn’t run by some pastor.
Church isn’t run by a political group.
Church isn’t run by whoever did really well on the last Bible Trivia quiz.
Church is run by Jesus.
Jesus has authority in God’s house.
A brief aside…
How clear are we making that?
One of the saddest experiences in my ministry was leading a friend through Starting Point, getting them to attend worship, and finally asking them if they’d like to become a permanent member of our church family.
They said, “No.”
I said, “Why?”
They said, “That church isn’t for me. It looks like it belongs to the people who are already there. They give me the impression that I’m not welcome. They talk to themselves. They want nothing to do with my ideas for ministry. There are people there who act like they’ve got the authority, this is their church, and they are doing me a kindness just by letting me attend it.”
We need to do better.
We need to do everything we can to make this clear:
Jesus runs this place.
Jesus runs this place with mercy and grace.
Jesus runs this place and it’s by grace any of us are here.
Jesus runs this place, and we’d love you to be a part of this.
II. Speaking with Authority
Look at the response to Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue: The people were amazed at his teaching, because he was teaching them as one who has authority and not as the experts in the law. (v.22)
I love this subtle dig from Mark:
“Not as the experts in the law.”
It makes me wonder how those guys taught.
“I’m not sure. But this is what I think God is saying here….”
“Here are my thoughts, just my thoughts, on when a Savior might show up…”
“Remember what it says in Isaiah, wait…, Jeremiah…,no, That’s not right. Umm….Ezekiel?”
But Jesus speaks with authority:
God’s Word says this.
God’s Word is fact.
This. Is. Truth.
Because God speaks truth.
TRUTH: Jesus SPEAKS with authority in God’s House.
Again, this is a key part of our worship.
We gather together to hear God’s Word.
Not my latest musings.
Not the latest political commentary.
Not the ideas of Budda nor Mohammed nor even…the Pope!
We come here to listen to Jesus.
We listen to him in our songs.
We listen to him in our hymns.
We listen to him in our texts.
We listen to him in our confessions.
We listen to him as we summarized Biblical truth in our creeds.
We listen to him as we read his words from Scripture.
We listen to him as we meditate on sermons based on, pointing back to, and revolving around the Holy Scriptures.
As a pastor, I’ve got to remember this:
These are the words of the authoritative Savior that I am handling. Take caution.
As a congregation, you’ve got to remember this.
These are the words of the authoritative Savior that you are listening to. Take caution.
‘Cause it’s easy to just think of worship as a “mark” in the box.
As a check off a list.
As a: “there’s a pandemic going on so, it’s not that important that I spend time in God’s house.”
Or, “I’ll turn on worship…I guess…But I’ll also turn on snap chat and pay more attention to that then whatever Gethsemane’s YouTube channel has to offer.”
This is Jesus speaking.
He really wants you to listen.
If you don’t, you’ll miss his guidance.
You’ll miss his comfort.
You’ll miss be reminded of how much he loves you.
III. Someone Who Has No Authority
Back to the text.
Jesus is making point after point after point.
People who are taking notes; are writing so fast their hand is starting to cramp.
Peter is working up the courage to shout his very first, “Amen!”
But before he can get to the “n” sound, someone else begins shouting.
Just then there was a man with an unclean spirit in their synagogue.
He’s wild eyed.
He’s wild haired.
He’s possessed by a demon.
The mothers in the congregation are covering their children’s eyes.
The fathers in the congregation are trying to figure out if they could take him.
The Pharisees in the congregation are diving behind their chairs, closing their eyes, and hoping someone else will take care of this.
Someone else does.
Jesus steps forward…
This demon cries out: “What do we have to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (v.24)
Notice how absolutely correct this demon is.
Jesus is “holy.” Perfect; sinless; righteous.
He is “of God.” Divine. Powerful. Authoritative.
He is THE…One.” Unique. Exclusive.
The only authority in God’ House.
Jesus rebuked the spirit, saying, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions, and after crying out with a loud voice, it came out of him.
TRUTH: Demons have ZERO authority in God’s house.
Look at how little authority they have.
Jesus doesn’t have to punch the demon in the face.
He doesn’t have to get into an epic wrestling match.
He doesn’t hit him with an TKO out of nowhere.
He doesn’t have to sweat.
He simply speaks.
And the demon is terrified.
Demons have no authority in God’s house.
On the one hand, this is a warning.
Because sometimes we act like they do.
We use church as a place to complain.
“I can’t believe that we still have the same problems with our live broadcast.”
We use church as a place to badmouth others
“Did you see what so and so was wearing today?”
We use church as a place to lust:
“I did see what so and so was wearing today.”
We use church as a place to steal Jesus’ glory:
“I sure hope everyone notices how awesome of a Christian I have been lately. Let me sing a little louder in case they can’t hear me.”
Sin is the thing of demons.
And demons have no authority here.
And, on the other hand, that is comforting:
Because lost in this story is the fact that there was a helpless human being trapped by this demon.
He had lost control.
He was overwhelmed.
I’m sure he was terrified by the power of this demon.
Maybe you’ve felt that way too.
Your temptation is too much.
Your depression is so high.
Your fear is looming.
Demons have no power here.
Jesus words were so authoritative they drove out the demon.
Jesus words are still so authoritative they drive out fear, temptation, depression, and whatever else you are battling.
Demons have no authority here.
And he loves you.
IV. The Authority’s House
One more point:
Because you might wonder why Jesus has such authority in God’s house…
Look at verse 27:
Everyone was so amazed that they began to discuss this with each other. They said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him!”
How could he teach with such authority?
How could he drive out demons?
How could he assume such authority in God’s house?
It was HIS house.
Jesus has authority in God’s house, because Jesus is God.
That means this is HIS house.
His keys on the key hanger.
His slippers at the door.
His artwork on the wall.
His Netflix account.
He runs his house how he wants to…
Friends, we are approaching a year on this pandemic becoming a public emergency.
It’s been 10 and half months since we gathered full strength in this building.
That’s a long time to not gather in God’s house.
God’s house is MORE than a physical building.
But one of the things about gathering in a public place at a set time with people.
It ensures that you remain a part of his spiritual house.
That your physical departure from this house.
Hasn’t turned in a spiritual departure from his house.
If you’re concerned it has…
Maybe rethink whether or not it’s really health concern preventing you from being here.
Maybe rethink how you set up your time to worship online (be present).
Maybe rethink how you are staying connected with others who are a part of God’s house.
And understand when I’m saying this.
It isn’t me saying this.
It’s Jesus saying this.
Jesus doesn’t want you to be away from HIS house
BECAUSE he cherishes you.