My Savior is Bigger! (February 4, 2018)
My Savior is Bigger!
What is it that gives a word weight? When someone makes a statement, what is it that causes others to either heed that statement or disregard? A lot of weight could come from the position that the person holds. Are they a manager, or even the CEO of a company? Are they a military officer, maybe even the top authority of a nation? Or are they a nobody? Titles can carry a lot of weight. But along with that, I think, must be the reputation or proven track record. Even if someone carries a title of great weight, their less than stellar reputation can make the title meaningless. But if they have proven themselves time and time again, then their words will move people to rally behind them, even change hearts! And yet, even at that, I think they also need the ability to back up their claims. Because even if someone has a good reputation, their word means little if they are unable to back up their statement with real support.
We’ve got a bit of a power struggle going on, during a church service of all things. On one side, we have a traveling preacher who was starting to build a reputation as a wise and authoritative speaker. And on the other side, we have a silent guest who has gone unnoticed presumably for quite some time. When Jesus was invited to speak at the synagogue, the people noticed a marked difference between Jesus and the other rabbis the people were accustomed to hearing. Why was that? Why was Jesus’ message so different than the rabbis’? I guess the obvious answer would be that he’s Jesus! Of course he’s going to be a better speaker than the rabbis because he is the author behind the whole Bible! But I think it goes beyond that. The problem with the rabbis of Jesus day is that their emphasis was on teaching the people the traditions of the elders. They were so concerned about teaching their many man-made precepts, and so busy explaining things about Scripture, that many times they missed the Scripture’s message. Jesus preached the word. He stuck with the means of grace and God worked through it!
However, there’s more to it than that. You see, there was a silent visitor in the synagogue who loved the rabbis’ misdirection. In fact, he was the one pulling strings to keep it that way. And this silent visitor happily remained unnoticed until the day Jesus walked in the door and completely ruined his plans. Jesus refocused the people’s hearts on Scripture when he preached the gospel. And it’s at this time that the silent visitor makes himself known by his outburst at orthodoxy. “Just then, a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure 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!’” (Mk 1:23-24). As soon as Jesus appears with the gospel, the devil is enraged and does all that he can to hinder the message. Here he does it by confessing what on the surface is the truth; but he does it with evil intent, to hinder the work of the glorious gospel. Who, after all, wants to be confessed by the devil? At the very least the confession of the demons would confuse people.
“’Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek” (Mk 1:25-26). In leaving, the devil demonstrated that his only power is to hurt and destroy – his only intention is for our eternal suffering. But this goes on only as long as the Lord, for reasons of his own, permits it. When God commands the devil to come out, he must obey!
It’s easy, in fact natural, for sinful human beings to question God here. Why would God allow this man, presumably a believe since we meet him in the synagogue, to be possessed by a demon? If God is indeed almighty and good, shouldn’t he prevent these kinds of things from happening in the first place? God doesn’t always reveal to us his reasons for allowing certain things. He doesn’t need to, nor would we always understand it. But here he does. It’s to demonstrate to the people that day, to demonstrate to us today and everyone in between who read this – to demonstrate that your Savior secures you with his power! He’s told us many times that he has all authority in heaven and on earth. He’s told us that everything is in his control, and that his plans are for the good of his children. But sometimes that’s hard to believe when we see what’s going on all around us. The flu, spreading and taking lives. Government officials who sometimes seem more concerned about holding more seats than why they are in those seats. Tragedies taking place all around. And here, a man completely under Satan’s power. Why God? Why?
In this case, he allowed it so that you would recognize Jesus for who he is. It’s something amazingly that all demons have in common. They all recognized Jesus for who he is. Satan realized that Jesus had come to take away his death-hold on creation. His position as the “prince of this world” was under attack. Jesus already defeated Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, and now continues to defeat Satan at every turn. There was no struggle, no fancy incantations, no begging and pleading. Just as it has been the case since the creation of the world, God simply commanded and it was so. “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And the demon had to obey.
It’s true that God doesn’t reveal his reasons for everything that he allows to happen. But he does give you strongholds of security to hold on to. He reveals his reasons and his unfailing control in some instances, so that you can remain confident in others that your Savior secures you with his power. And there isn’t any person, power, or authority that can prevent him from doing so.
The fact that the devil is in the synagogue in the first place ought to serve as a warning to us, though. There’s no doubt he’s prowling around looking for believers to take down. It’s not among unbelievers that he works his hardest – he’s already got them. No, it’s among believers that he’s working his hardest. And often in ways that we might not expect. We aren’t told what kind of previous history this demon possessed man had, so it’s purely out of speculation, but it could have been that the demon was content to be a silent source of misdirection until the day that Jesus came and ruined his plans. A word of warning that often those churches that seem most united and peaceful is where false doctrine is given the most room. But where the Word is preached in its truth and purity, there the devil is most busy stirring up strife in doctrine and in life so that people turn away from the truth.
It’s the same case in your personal life. In spite of his promises to give peace, pleasure, and security Satan always gives the exact opposite. Because his only power is to destroy and corrupt. To give pain, misery, and these ultimately in eternity. But there’s hope. Because the gospel’s power to create is still more powerful than the power of the devil to destroy. For it is God’s Word alone that created all things. It is his Word alone that revives a lost and condemned sinner – dead in their transgressions and sins. It is his Word alone that gives you new life! Your Savior strengthens you with his word! Don’t cling to the one that Jesus is driving out. Cling to Jesus and his word!
I think verse 22 captures well the power of God’s word. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mk 1:22). They were amazed at his teaching! Or, to keep the colorful working that Mark used, “They were blown away by his teaching! That’s literally what it says! And, in keeping with the main point of this event, Mark doesn’t record the message that Jesus spoke, but the reaction of the people. Because this happened so that people would see how the Savior secures them with his power and strengthens them with his word. His word carries great weight! The people were “blown away” by his teaching!
A notable difference could be expected since he knew the whole will of God from eternity. He knew how the promises of the Old Testament would be fulfilled. So Jesus “blew them away” as he revealed the intricate wisdom of God’s plan of salvation! It’s that same wisdom which he reveals to you completely in his word. You have the “authoritative” message that Christ preached spelled out for you! And with it, you are strengthened in your faith and in your witnessing.
Now it’s time for you to “blow away” others with that message! And you can do so because when you speak these words, it’s not just you speaking. It’s not just your position, or reputation, or ability to back them up that give these words weight. The weight of your witnessing with God’s Word depend solely on him. It’s his authority as King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s his reputation of directing all things for the salvation of a great multitude. And it’s his ability to back up these words with proof after proof after proof like we see here!
And that addresses a passage that I have believed, but carefully tiptoed around for a long time. It’s when Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt… you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done” (Mt 21:21). I’ve always believed it to be true. But I’ve always been scared to try. First, because I can’t fathom the effects it would have on the environment, but more importantly, because I was afraid about what it would reveal about my faith. If I have a weak faith, or doubting faith – which I know is the case at times – this little “test” would prove it to be so. But as I got to this reading, I was thinking, it doesn’t really depend at all upon my faith, but the one in whom my faith is based. He gives his word power. He is the one who would move that mountain if my command was in accord with his will. And then I began to think, you know, I’ve already seen mountains be thrown into the heart of the sea. Isn’t that essentially what’s taking place every time Satan is uprooted from someone’s heart by the word of God? What greater opponent do believers have than Satan? Who else could be leading hearts astray in a more powerful way than Satan. And yet, even this heavy hitting opponent must submit to God’s authoritative word and throw himself into the sea when God commands him to come out!
Jesus would have many more encounters with Satan, and you will too. But each time see that Jesus is always the victor. Satan’s final desperate attack would be directed at Jesus on the cross. Yet there, Satan’s power in connection with sin and death would be put to an end. Jesus would meet death head on and defeat it. Satan still thrashes about, but he holds no real power. Your Savior secures you with his power. He strengthens you with his word.