Authority, Demons & Healing (Mark 1:21-34)
Authority, who has it and how they use it is a massive topical issue right now.
In the USA, we have sadly witnessed the murder of George Floyd by a man supposedly in authority. In shocking moments like this, countries look to people in all the various realms of authority (politics, community, business, churches…) to say something or do something. In addition, we have witnessed that if a country or community believe those in authority have misused their authority – they are prone to rebel against all authority.
In our own South Africa, late yesterday, we heard that the judicial authority in our country had declared our Government’s authority in promulgating Level 3-4 regulations unconstitutional as the Bill of Human Rights has been compromised. Here we have Government trying to use its authority for the good of our nation, but citizens appealing to the judicial authority to resist or reform the Governing authority.
Authority! It’s a big issue and always has been. In Mark 1:21-34, we see real authority on display, good authority being exercised, the authority that blesses individuals and a community.
Jesus walks into ‘church’ (a meeting in the Synagogue actually) and stands up to teach the congregation who are present. Those who teach from the Scriptures have some authority as they help people to understand and apply the authority of God’s word for their lives.
But when Jesus starts preaching, which is something very normative in this context, all those present that day are astonished. There is something very different about this teacher; Jesus is unlike those they are used to hearing. Their position or role, their activity is the same as Jesus’, but He is preaching ‘with authority.’ (vs22)
I’m so glad this wasn’t my church. The contrast drawn by the congregation that day was between Jesus and their normal teachers – gulp. And, the contrast was notable as Mark’s Gospel records; ‘And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes’ (vs22)
Good authority used well isn’t repulsive to human beings, quite the contrary. These people were drawn to Jesus’ authority even though the things He was saying weren’t all affirming and cushy! Remember what Jesus was preaching; “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” (Mark 1:14-15)
Jesus wasn’t a people-pleaser saying what people wanted to be said, that’s not what drew people to Him. Real authority often has to make decisions or lead in ways which are for the good of those they are leading but won’t always be liked.
When we encounter good authority, I believe that we are drawn to it, and it brings us peace and security. These people willingly gave themselves to Jesus’ authentic authority and therefore listened to His teaching.
In a church context, church leaders (elders) have authority;
- If they have been called & gifted by God to lead.
- And if that local congregation have recognised that calling and gifting as God’s gift to that local church and their personal lives
- If they teach and always lead from the fountain of authority that is everlasting – Scripture
- And if those elders use the authority that God’s entrusted to them for the benefit and blessing of God’s people and not for any personal gain
Pray for your church, pray that God would bless your church with leaders who are truly called not just placed in their position by some organisation, but hand-picked by God and called by God to lead and to teach and to love and care for your church. Pray that they would not say what itching ears want to hear, but that they would stand on the authority of God’s Word, always faithful to the Scriptures and in so doing will protect and bless that church for generations to come.
Lastly, a short exhortation from Scripture to anyone who is in a church; “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
The demonic realm and demonic influence
Those present on that day didn’t just hear a great sermon which came with authority because it was rooted in Scripture; they witnessed power over the demonic realm.
I have always been fascinated by this guy sitting in ‘church’ with a demon influencing his life. He was sitting there not entirely free but in some form of demonic influence or bondage. How did this demonic influence manifest itself in his life? Was it a perpetual fear or a constant struggle with depression… What we know is that it doesn’t seem to have been too obvious otherwise he probably wouldn’t have been welcome in the meeting.
But on this day when Jesus, the King of kings, walks into the room immediately that under-the-radar-demonic-influence in his life suddenly surfaces! The guy who’s probably never said a word in ‘church’ (Synagogue actually) suddenly shouts 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.”
Yikes! I have had a few moments like this in church when someone blurts something out that is socially not cool in what suddenly becomes a very public and awkward moment. I wonder whether this guy was the most surprised of everyone!
Authority. The demon or demons influencing this guys life know who Jesus is, and they know that Jesus has real authority. The people listening to Jesus’ teaching have just encountered His authority in His bold proclamation, but the demon(s) knew Jesus and knew his power.
We know this because of what they say to Jesus. They know who Jesus is, they know where He came from, they; know Jesus has the power to destroy them; they know that this man standing teaching these people is GOD! They know that He is the King of kings with absolute and total authority over them.
And so Jesus uses His authority to bless this man under the influence of the demonic realm and sets him free with just these words; “Be silent, and come out of him!” (vs25) Real authority doesn’t have to shout.
I love the fact that there is no show-down here, no titanic battle. Jesus’ authority so far outstrips any power of the demonic realm that they have to obey and leave the man alone – free at last.
There is so much we could say about the demonic realm and Jesus’ authority which He has now invested in us His followers to relieve people from demonic influence but time & space doesn’t permit.
However, in summary, may we see how much authority we have in Jesus’ name to set people free from all forms of demonic bondage and influence (John 14:12-14). May we not be blind to the demonic realm, and may we not be fixated on it either. May we simply be in awe of Jesus and ready to proclaim Jesus’ authority in lives and situations that need it for people to be free indeed.
Lastly, in Mark 1:29-34, we see Jesus’ authority over sickness as He heals Peter’s mother in law and then many in the town of Capernaum.
News of Jesus’ teaching with authority and Jesus’ act of supernaturally and simply setting the man free from all demonic influence spread like wildfire so that by the time evening came ‘the whole city was gathered together at the door’ (vs33)!
What drew them? Fascination no doubt, but I believe that for the sick and struggling and those suffering under the various physical and psychological maladies resulting from demonic influence what really drew them to Jesus was hope. Hope that was awakened because Godly authority was present. They had hope that they could be freed from their sickness and bondages.
Mark’s Gospel records what must have been amazing scenes. Just imagine the whole city outside a house, a gathering of onlookers and those suffering greatly. Picture Jesus, coming out the house, and speaking to people one by one simply with no histrionics but with his real authority as King of kings being displayed for all to see. Picture the tears and exclamations of joy as MANY are set free from their pain and sorrow and oppression.
What a joyful time it must have been! This is a moment when we see the coming Kingdom breaking into the present. This is what we ought to pray for an expect every day, people being released from pain and suffering in the authority of Jesus name. Amen
What do you know? (1 John 5:13)
What do you know? Not just what do you know about, but what can you be utterly sure about?
In South Africa, we are at the start of the academic year. We have thousands of people clamouring to get enrolled in schools and tertiary education facilities so that they can know more, get educated.
Some people know a whole lot about things that are pretty trivial to most. Like how to make perfectly square watermelons! Or what the weather will be in 6-7 days time in Outer Mongolia…
The apostle John wants those he is writing to, and by extension wants you and I to know something of significance. John wants us to know, to be assured that we have eternal life in Jesus Christ if we have believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.
And so he has written this whole letter of 1 John with this express purpose in mind;
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13)
‘These things’ refers to the whole letter, not just the sentences preceding it. John is saying in effect that the entire letter has for this purpose, that these believers might know not some obscure trivial thing, but that they might know that they have eternal life.
This is knowledge worth knowing! To be assured that you have been forgiven and released from your moral debt before God forever is a pretty big deal.
When a child or a person in my care is feeling the gripping hold of fear in some situation or another, my desire as a Father is to alleviate the fear, to neutralise it and to bring peace.
However, it is not always loving to assure someone. After all, to assure the drunken person that they can drive if they are careful is unloving in the extreme. And to falsely assure someone of their eternal destiny in heaven who does not have eternal life because they haven’t as yet trusted in Jesus – is the epitome of an absence of love.
On the other hand, to see someone wilting under the weight of anxiety because they are not assured that they have been forgiven of their sin is equally bad.
The apostle John is passionate about believers knowing that they have been forgiven, accepted and loved by King Jesus. Knowing that they have believed in Jesus and put their trust in Jesus, and knowing that Jesus is entirely trustworthy – he doesn’t want them to doubt for another minute or ever doubt again. He wants them to know that they have eternal life because of their faith in Jesus.
Have you believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of all of your sins? Because if you know that you have believed, Scripture wants you to know that you have eternal life. It’s secure, unchangeable, impossible to overturn – it’s yours, you can rest assured!
Why does this matter?
- God, your Father, wants you to live in the good of what Jesus bought for you with His precious life, death & resurrection.
- God, your Father, wants your life to be characterised by hope, joy and peace not robbed by anxious worry!
- Knowing that you already have eternal life frees you from striving – you are a recipient of God’s grace, and so rest and worship and thanks are the only appropriate response.
- God, your Father, wants you to look ahead to death and life after death with utter confidence knowing whom you have believed and knowing that He will never disappoint you just like God never let down our fathers in the faith (Psalm 22:4-5)
The apostle John was the last surviving eye-witness of Jesus. He knew the ONE whom he had believed in; he had first-hand experience; he was certain.
And John wants the same for you and I. What do you know? Know this, that He who has trusted their lives to Jesus will be saved and will live with God forever and ever.
Go back through the letter for all the indicators John has mentioned (1 John 2:3, 3:10, 3:19, 3:24, 4:7, 4:13, 4:15, 5:13) that help us to know we are truly saved, truly God’s children. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to know your eternal state before God!
See, Love, Act (Acts 3:1-10)
After the rousing sermon that followed the remarkable prayer meeting and the incredibly deep fellowship of the early church all recorded in Acts 2, Acts 3 has an air of normality about it as it starts.
Peter and John are about to enter the Temple complex at around 3pm in the afternoon which was the time of prayer. The earliest believers had been raised all their lives up to the present of Jews, and the earliest church assimilated it’s new revelations about Jesus with their habitual rhythms (like daily prayer here in the Temple complex).
At an the entrance was a man who was lame, who had been unable to walk since birth. He was seated at the gate asking people for money considering his state.
What do Christ Followers do when faced with human needs like; this man’s physical, emotional, financial & spiritual need?
They SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith.
Like Jesus with Bartimaeus (see Mark 10:46-52) who stopped for Bartimaeus, Peter and John stop for this crippled man. They SEE him, they LOVE him enough to acknowledge his presence and this action of SEEING and STOPPING must have communicated value to him.
They didn’t just toss some coins in the dust although he would probably have been happy with that. Rather they stopped and looked at him saying; “Look at us… Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
They loved him enough to stop and to see him, to recognise him as a person but then they met a deeper need than even the need he would have identified as his need. He was asking for money, they saw past that need and saw how being crippled would never allow him to do anything except beg for money and so they reached out and acted with faith speaking life, healing & health into his body all in the name of Jesus!
Having spoken with faith, Peter then reached out in faith with his hands to lift the man up and as he did Dr Luke records that the man’s feet and ankles were immediately made strong. Peter and John, SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith when confronted with this man’s need.
The way Dr Luke records this miracle and the sequence of events, I can’t help be wonder whether the man would not have been healed unless Peter had had the faith to pray believing God would heal, and then also having the faith to stretch out his hand to lift him up so as to take his first steps ever as a person born cripple.
What life transforming things are passing us by every day?
What would God have you do, small or large that can transform someone else’s life?
Are your ears and eyes open to the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Dr Luke knows this condition was congenital, knows it had lasted 40yrs (Acts 4:22), and so he records the medical evidence of this wonderful instant healing in response to Peter and John’s faith and their stepping out in faith. Dr Luke tells us three times that this man was now walking, in fact more than that he was walking and leaping!
Thomas Walker comments, ‘the power was Christ’s, but the hand was Peter’s’. Peter and John saw, loved and acted on their faith in Jesus and this man’s life was transformed!
What does God want to do through you in the life of others?
May we be those who SEE, LOVE & ACT in faith. Amen.
Signs (John 2:1-25)
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)
John records 7 signs in his gospel that all point to Jesus’ being the Messiah. This one is the first of those. It happens in a quite unique context, the context of a party, no mourning, no suffering mentioned, no demonic influence needed to be overcome.
Jesus and His disciples have only been together as a band of brothers for about 3 days by now. They must have still been getting to know one another, working out relationships, who’s who, and probably thinking; ‘what are we going to be doing together and what does this all mean’?
Jesus gets invited to a wedding, along with some of His other family members and the disciples get invited to join in. They get there and at some point in the wedding the wine runs out. Jesus’ mother who knows that the angel’s promised about Jesus, maybe sensing that its time for Jesus to get into the limelight hints to Jesus; ‘They have no wine’.
Was she just a busy-body, after all it wasn’t her responsibility, was she just compassionate for the host, or was she wanting a stage for her son? Jesus’ response to her seems to hint towards Him feeling like it was the latter! ‘Mom; it’s not my time yet!’ back-off please…
And yet on the quiet, in full view of the servants and His freshly chosen disciples Jesus reveals His power over physics and chemistry turning water into choice vintage wine by the gallons.
Jesus doesn’t take centre stage, isn’t looking for fame or notoriety but what He has just done doesn’t go unnoticed by his new followers. In this moment John records that Jesus, ‘manifested His glory’ and the result was that ‘his disciples believed in Him’ (vs11).
The miracle was a sign, one that pointed to Jesus’ true nature and His purpose. When those men saw what Jesus did – they believed.
After the wedding John records that Jesus and after a few days off at Capenaum go into Jerusalem and Jesus goes into the temple and in what must have been a surprising act to the disciples and those there in the temple – rebukes those who are selling and trading in the outer courts of the temple; “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” (vs16)…
Who did Jesus think He was?
By what authority was He doing these things?
Why was He calling Almighty God His Father?
Some Jews in the temple challenge Jesus effectively saying; ‘On what authority are you doing these things – show us a sign that you have authority to say and do this here?’
The disciples saw the sign in Cana at the wedding, they had believed and yet they must have felt awkward in this moment, is what Jesus is doing appropriate? Now those who didn’t know who Jesus was and didn’t believe they want a sign…
Jesus answers them with what is essentially a riddle that the disciples only got after Jesus’ death and resurrection; “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” (vs19)
The sign these Jews should have seen was that Jesus was doing what He was doing in the tempe because of who He was – the Messiah. But it was a veiled sign at this point not even abudantly clear yet to His own followers.
From our vantage point in redemption history we can see that even Jesus’ actions in the temple were actually a sign of His authority of His passion for His Father’s house.
We have the advantage of the New Testament, we know the whole story now of Jesus’ life death and resurrection, we have the greatest sign of Jesus’ nature, identity and purpose (the cross). The question is do you believe like Jesus’ disciples did?