Sermon: The Power to Do

Mark 1:21-28

I am a firm believer in miracles. I have seen miracles happen first hand. Those of us who are Boston sports fans have seen many miracles, and perhaps we will see one next Sunday night. But miracles do happen. But the temptation with the miracle is to focus on the miracle itself and not on the person or the thing, and by that, I mean the illness or problem. But sometimes, I think we think miracles have to be about healings but what about the small miracles like the person who does not know where their next meal is going to come from and suddenly the find some cash. Little things, as well as large things, can be miracles.

The writer of the Gospel of Mark was all about miracles. There are eighteen recorded miracles in the Gospel of Mark, more than any other Gospel. Thirteen of those miracles have to do with healing while four of those thirteen have to do with exorcisms or casting out of things. Mark is setting the stage that miracles can happen but his emphasis not necessarily on the miracle itself but instead on the story of what happened.

Today we have one such story. We see Jesus, very early on in his ministry, in the temple in Capernaum. He is teaching, and scripture tells us “they were astounded” at his teaching. They were astounded because he was not one of the scribes, he was not one of the educated, in the classical sense of the word, and it was not necessarily his teaching that astounded them but the authority by which he taught. I always say that if you tell someone something in such a way that it looks like you know what you are talking about, they will believe you. Say it with authority and stand by it. This speaking with authority is what Jesus always did.

After he finished teaching a man “with an unclean spirit” comes up and cries out “what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Now we do not know what this “unclean spirit” is, but apparently, it knows who Jesus is, where he has come from, and what he is there to do. A man asks if he is there to destroy them and calls Jesus the “holy one of God.”

Jesus tells the man to be quiet. Now I find this interesting and I have to ask a couple of questions. Did Jesus say to the man to be quiet because he was causing a disturbance? Did Jesus tell the man to be quiet so he could think about what to do next? Or, did Jesus say to the man to be quiet because he had called him “the holy one of God?”  Perhaps it is all three, but I am leaning towards the last possibility. Keep in mind, this is early on in the ministry of Jesus and calling someone the “holy one of God” would draw unnecessary attention to Jesus and perhaps get him in trouble.

But there is also a fourth possibility, and that is he wanted the man to be silent so he could hear what his heart was telling him. We will come back to that in a minute.

Regardless of what the reason was Jesus told him to be quiet and the unclean spirit came out of him and left the man. Again, we do not know what this spirit was just that it was unclean so it could be anything. It could be a demon, or it could be something else.

For the better part of a decade, I have been doing battle with depression and PTSD. After many hours spent in therapy, I nor have it under control, well as much control as one ever has over this type of thing. I know, or at least I think I do, what triggers episodes and so I am ever vigilant when I get into those situations. I am, however, susceptible to depression and PTSD and all that comes with it, so it is important that I keep a close watch.

I am a firm believer in the fact that we are made up of body, mind, and spirit and that all three of these have to be functioning for us to be at our best. If anyone of these is out of kilter, then we are out of sorts. I know this in my own life and strive to have the balance necessary between the three, I need to work more on the body part, but I am a work in progress.  And when I am not at my best them I do not follow as best as I should.

The man with the “unclean spirit” was able to recognize that Jesus was the “holy one of God” but whatever it was he had, was holding him back and the question that we all have to ask ourselves is what is the thing, what is that item, that thought, that feeling, that desire that keeps us from genuinely giving our all to Jesus and following him and the life he wants us to lead.

I mentioned earlier about Jesus telling the “unclean spirit” to be quiet and proposed a few possible reasons for it, and I added a fourth possibility and that Jesus wanted the “spirit” to be quiet so the man could hear what was in his heart. There is so much noise in our world, and we are pulled in many different directions always and, all of that noise keeps us from hearing and from listening.

A few weeks back I spoke about the comma and that God is still speaking and I asked if we were listening. For us to listen all of our selves, body, mind, and spirit, have to be able to hear, and so we need to have balance in our lives. What is that noise that is keeping us from hearing God’s voice? What is that distraction that is keeping us from saying here I am Lord? What is it that is keeping us from truly being able to say here I am Lord I come to do your will? Maybe, just maybe we need to tell ourselves to “be quiet” and just spend some time listening to that still small voice.

Earlier in the service, we sang the great song “Just as I am.” This is an old song, but it came to fame because it was used as part of the Billy Graham Crusade as the hymn that was sung during the altar call, that time in the service when Rev. Graham would ask people to dedicate or rededicate their lives to Christ. It is a song about coming to Jesus just as we are. We bring it all with us when we come, but hopefully, we leave different.

The second verse speaks volumes to me. Just as I am though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fighting and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come I come. We all have something that keeps us from truly following God, and we have to figure out what that is. The man is the story recognized Jesus for who and what he was but he could not follow him. Jesus told him to be quiet, and when he became quiet his heart opened, and he was ready. Spend some time this week being quiet and listening to that still small voice of God.

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