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.