Mark 1:21-28 You Can’t Muzzle The Holy One of God!

Do you like dogs or cats?  It’s pretty safe to say our household is more inclined to dogs than cats.  Though I’ve had both in my lifetime so personally I have no bias against either so long as they are well behaved that is.

Slide2Well maybe I have a little bias.  It seems that there is a growing debate in our household about dogs.  Specifically if the one in the middle of this picture is even a dog?  Zach says that’s not a dog! It’s a mop that can’t stop yapping. 

Personally, I like the little ones but don’t mind big ones like Gauge either.   I just think that in the city it is unfair to coop up a great big dog in a tiny yard.  I also think that those who do may cause them to become vicious and lash out over time if they are not very careful. 

So practically speaking a little dog is obviously the way to go.  Although Lynda sides more with Zach preferring bigger dogs, even Great Danes!  You know…those that eat you out of house and home and that can even take off the whole hand in one bite of those that feed them.  Since we are so far apart on which dog is preferable we will never likely have one.

Any of you here have cynophobia? No not the fear of sinning!  Anybody here terrified of dogs?  I sure was even through my high school years, and sometimes I still flash back to those days.  Looking back I didn’t have too much reason for it either.  In fact it seems kind of irrational now.  Like most kids I had been nipped by a dog or two growing up but my fear of dogs went way beyond that healthy respect that grows from being bitten.   If I knew that a dog was in a yard on my way to school I would choose a different route, even if it made me late, seems I let fear control my route. 

Slide3This fear has occasionally affected me as an adult.  We had been warned by a Christian friend that their dog, named King, if memory serves me right, was known to bite people he did not now and even bit some that he did know. 

In fact one of the elders in my church told me of his encounter with that dog and he said he wouldn’t visit there so long as King isn’t muzzled or tided up. So on our first visit to that farm I drove the car up inches away from the door and used my snow brush to ring the bell and we waited for the owners to come out and put King away. 

The truth is that German Shepherd had a nasty temper and even bit our minivan as we drove up.  King brought back my fear of dogs and took it to a whole new height.  I’m not so sure that’s irrational as the definition for cynophobia calls for.

Since then I’ve often wondered what would possess anyone to keep such a demonic animal for a pet.  Especially every time I hear of some poor child mauled or badly bitten by a family pet. Like what were they thinking?

One day, in talking with that couple about their dog, they told me, “King didn’t start out that way”.  And when their kids were around King watched over them keeping them safe…  I thought to myself “ya he was likely just waiting until the master was out of sight so he could have them for a snack.  Licking his chops”.  But regardless of how he was back then, something had gotten into King, and the result was he became a vicious vehicle biting brute not to be trusted. 

On another visit I spoke with them after King ran out and bit my tire and left tooth marks!  I asked them why would they leave him in this terrible state and take the chance that he bites someone or maims one of their cows?   Why not at minimum muzzle him or perhaps have the brute put down?  They might just avoid a lawsuit and may even get more visitors coming their way. 

“Nothing doing, he’s family”, they said.  And besides they had a sign that said beware of the dog.  That was sufficient in these parts.  What can you say…see ya.

Why is it that people choose to live with the devil they know rather than evicting him from their midst?   And how is it that people could say they follow Christ and even throw a party to welcome Him and yet within days be found shouting crucify him?  It’s Holy Week and our daily luncheons this week will focus on many aspects of the week that changed the world. But this morning we ware looking at a time three years earlier that changed one man’s life and caused the whole city to stir with excitement about this new teaching with authority.    

And perhaps today’s Bible lesson from HIStory can help us to understand that the devil is sometimes, more often then not in the details.  Let’s look at Mark 1:21-28.

 “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil 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!”  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:21-28 (NIV)).

 Slide5Capernaum would become a central point for a lot of Jesus ministry and many miracles.  Today’s story actually happens three years prior to the Triumphal Entry following on the heels of calling Andrew, Peter, James and John, fisherman from that region of Galilee who became Jesus disciples. 

Since this was Jesus home turf he already had a reputation that actually spawned from the miracle that He performed at a wedding turning water into grape flavoured water (that’s the Baptist version) for the rest of us it was water into Dom Perignon!   Then, according to John’s gospel, Jesus had performed another miracle when he healed the son of a Royal Official who lived in Capernaum and so His fame spread throughout the land (cf. Jn. 4:43ff).

But on that day in Mark 1:21 Jesus showed that he had authority even over Satan and the demonic realm.  It was to be a special day indeed.  One that started where any lawful Jew would expect to find Jesus on the Sabbath.  Jesus was found teaching in a synagogue where he had come to worship God. 

Slide6 A synagogue in those days could be formed anywhere that 10 or more Jewish males over the age of twelve existed, and there was, as far as I can tell, no maximum membership except what was practical for meeting.  So once 10 males formed the synagogue, people met regularly, especially on the Sabbath, to read the Scriptures, and to hear from some Rabbis and worship God. 

As the communities grew in numbers eventually more leadership was necessary.  And in time an eldership headed by a chief elder would be appointed to direct the affairs of the synagogue and determined who should speak, read and lead worship.  But no sacrifices were done at the synagogues as that was expressly the purpose for the Temple visits throughout the year.   And when visiting Rabbis came through they were vetted by the eldership and would often be given opportunity to read or teach from the Scriptures.

We are not told what Jesus lesson plan entailed that day but it was apparently amazing stuff!  Unlike the usual Rabbinical jargon that often started with “Rabbi so and so said”, Jesus spoke with, what appeared, at least to this crowd, what appeared to be authority from God.  

In verse 22 where Mark mentions “teachers of the Law”(22) the one word most often used for that group was “Scribes”.  We often hear it in conjunction with Pharisees.  The Scribes and the Pharisees were often the ruling elders.  Scribes were men who were paid professionals well-schooled in the Law and Prophets.  Some were traveling teachers who for a price would come and teach at your synagogue. So we shouldn’t see it as weird or extraordinary that Jesus got the opportunity to teach that day.  They treated him as an expert. 

Slide7Verse 23 says, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out…”.   He likely did look any different than the others.  He probably had come on several occasions.  May have even been a member but not necessarily so.   Synagogues weren’t for Jews alone.  In fact anyone, could back then and still can today, visit a Synagogue, even on a Sabbath, so long as they do not fully participate in the Sabbath rituals.  

Like coming to church the synagogue was a place to learn about the rituals and customs prior to conversion or formally joining that comminity.   Since a major portion of the conversion has to do with community life what better place is there than in the community to become aware of how the community interacts.

We are not told if this demon possessed man was a Jewish convert or just what he was doing there other than he was overcome by those demonic forces and began a very short conversation with “the Holy One of God” (24).  

He was clearly there to disrupt what Jesus had to say.  But God took what Satan meant for evil and turned it around as an object lesson on the authority of Jesus over everything…absolutely everything… including the demonic realm. 

Jesus never needs nor elicits Satan’s help to accomplish His ministry and in a word He puts a muzzle on the demons.  (Not on the physical man I might add!  Just on the demons inside this man.)  The demons were immediately silenced and ejected from the service but not before they would announce the mission of the Messiah. 

I say they, as it would seem from verse 24, where is says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”, that this poor soul had more than one occupant to be evicted.  The wording even in the Greek is in the plural.  Even though verse 26 seems to indicate that it is a single spirit that is shaking the man violently that verse doesn’t negate that there was more than one demon ejected.   

Over in Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus explained that an unbelieving generation had created fertile ground for such multiple demonic possession to occur. 

Jesus said, “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). 

Slide9Without further interruption Jesus took authority over the situation.  Yet once again our passage today demonstrates the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed during his ministry.  This man was being used involuntarily to help Satan disrupt what the Lord was doing.  Since Jesus already had the authority to set this man free and rather than just leave him in that helpless condition, Jesus chooses to muzzle the demons and orders them to leave.  And of course not having a choice in the matter they take it out on their host by violently and with the usual demonic showmanship exit the scene looking for some other willing host to occupy. 

Mark then notes that the crowd was amazed.  Their jaws dropped!  Astonished is not too strong a word for their response to what Jesus has just done in their presence.  They have never seen teaching like this before!  And they recognize that by saying “A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him” (27 (NIV).  

Now you would think that ought to be enough to make them his disciples wouldn’t you?  

Yet later on “…Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! …And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.”  Matthew 11:20-24 (NIV).  

Three years later and a short 85 mile journey from Capernaum, some of those who spread the word far and wide in Mark 1:28 may have been in the crowd shouting Hosanna to the King of Kings. 

 My guess and I admit that’s all it is, but my guess is that a man who was once possessed by demons, but thanks to Jesus was now living free from them,  took off his cloak for the donkey to ride over on the way into Jerusalem.  And surely you can hear him “when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” Matthew 21:10 (NIV). 

 Slide11That once demonized man may have shouted at the top of his lungs: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11 (NIV).   The Holy one of God ….the man Who set me free!

You see, having been delivered by Jesus, his house was not only swept clean but would soon be filled with the Holy Spirit and this once demonically possessed man rather than being an outcast who was consider out of his mind would be invited to partake in the wedding supper of the Lamb on the Day of Judgment.  He was set free to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! 

And now like him, you too know the authority of our Lord to set all people free.  Having tasted and seen through the power of His Word will you be like those of Capernaum who ignored the signs and rejected the miracles, or will you be delivered from the evil one and set free for that great Sabbath to come, and set free to worship “The Holy One of God”?  

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