“Destroying The Devil’s Work”      Mark 1:21-34               October 1, 2006

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

Gospel of Mark is about Jesus Christ, Son of God, invading this world,

   challenging our perceptions about what God is really like. 

This passage is Jesus’ first public encounter with forces of evil,

   as he casts out the unclean spirit from a demon-possessed man.

  

INTRO:  We lived on a canal in Florida that opened to the Gulf.

Every once in a while I would jump in and swim.

   There were several drownings in canals while we lived there—

   mostly children or elderly people falling in and unable to get out.

But hearing about those drownings never worried me about swimming myself.

 

Then there was a story in the paper about a man in Naples or Ft. Myers

   who jumped in his canal and was immediately attacked and killed by a shark.

After I read that I couldn’t bring myself to jump into the canal.

   Ordinary evil of drowning didn’t bother me,

   but the thought of lurking evil beasts gave me the creeps.

An evil intelligence that want to have you and destroy you is unnerving.

 

You know that the Bible tells us that there really is that sort of evil.

   There is the ordinary evil of life in a fallen world—accidents, cancer.

   There is the moral evil of the human heart—which can be quite terrible.

And there is, underneath this lurking, an evil intelligence—evil beasts,

   the Devil and his host of unclean spirits.

 

Bible tells us very little about how they operate. 

   But it does make clear that they are real,

   they are opposed to God an all that is good,

   and they desire to have and destroy people.

 

There are time when Christians get a sense that this demonic evil is at work.

The Christians that Mark wrote this letter to—Christians in Rome

   were in the jaws of demonic evil. 

Nero, in his perversion and cruelty and paganism

   was doing all he could to destroy them.

It must have seemed to those Christians that hell itself had been let loose.

   This was not just ordinary human evil, something was behind it.

You can imagine them asking questions like:

   Are the forces of evil going to overwhelm church?

   Is the Devil going to be victorious in Rome?

Maybe even more personal questions:

   How will I stand if I am taken into the arena to face the lions?

 

None of us are facing extreme trials like they did.

   But perhaps there are times when you wonder if demonic activity

   is behind the evil you face.

May be hard to put your finger on it but there seems to be a

   maliciousness or a confusion that goes beyond the ordinary evils of life.

You may feel crushed under a load of accusation that seems to come from pit.

 

You could be right. 

   Your spiritual antenna could have accurately picked up on the fact

   that there is a demonic element to the conflict or trial that you are facing.

This passage certainly shows us that there is a Devil, and unclean spirits,

   and that they want to bring harm and confusion.

 

But here’s the good news from this passage—it doesn’t matter.

   Because Jesus Christ has come to destroy the devil’s work.

   His authority over the devil and his demon is absolute.

And so, as a Christian, your trust is in the strong Son of God.

 

Look at this passage under three headings:

1.  Jesus has won.

2.  The Devil is still fighting.

3.  You must be fearless.

 


MP#1  Jesus has won.

First, this story shows us that Jesus has won. 

   To really understand the significance of this exorcism story—

   you have to put it in the bigger story of Jesus’ conflict with Satan.

Might say that this is the opening public salvo of this battle.

   Jesus has already faced Satan in the wilderness temptation—but that was alone.

   This is the first public confrontation that Mark records.

 

Notice how it ends—in total victory.

   “Be quiet.  Come out of him.”  And out the demon came out with a shriek.

   It was unable to prolong the conflict for even one minute.

You see in verse 34 a summary of Jesus ministry in Capernaum

   which shows that casting out demons was a regular part of his ministry.

   He did it hundreds, perhaps thousands of times over those three years.

The results never varied—he restrained their speech and then cast them out.

 

Everywhere the Bible speaks of Jesus’ conflict with forces of evil—

   always speaks in absolute, finished terms—he has won.  He as conquered.

The final victory came in his death and resurrection.

   Colossians 2:15  And having disarmed the powers and authorities,

   he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

 

What exactly does this mean, that Jesus has triumphed over Devil and demons?

   We still see plenty of evidences of the Devil at work.

   So how can the Bible say that Jesus has won?

Jesus’ triumph is defined very specifically in the Bible.  One more verse.

   John 12:31-32  Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will

   be driven out.  But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

His triumph over Satan will be that he is no longer able to bind the nations

   in spiritual darkness.  And that all people everywhere will be drawn to the cross.

 

Let’s trace this theme:

The Bible tells us that before Jesus, the nations were held captive in darkness.

    Satan was the prince of this world, blinded the eyes of world to truth.

   But out of all the nations, there was one little nation that had light of true God.

Israel’s calling was to be a door for the whole world to come to God.

   Israel was to say to it’s neighbors—we know the true God,

   he is gracious, he is forgiving.  Leave your idols and serve the living God.

But Israel failed in its calling.  Followed other nations in darkness.

Think for a minute about where this demon possessed man was when

   he encountered Jesus.  He was in church.

That’s what the synagogues were—local congregations of the Jewish church.

   Demon-possessed church members.  That’s how far Israel had failed.

But Jesus, as the Messiah of Israel, fulfilled the mission that Israel failed.

   Jesus came to open the door of salvation to all the nations.

   That’s Jesus’ total victory.  He has opened the door, Satan can never shut again.

 

Revelation 20 speaks of the Devil being bound during this Gospel age—

   his binding keeps him from deceiving the nations.

Jesus uses this language later in Mark, chapter 3 he speak of how he

   has come to bind the strong man and plunder his possessions.

 

Look at the past 2,000 years and this is exactly what you see—

   the strong man has been bound by Jesus and is being plundered.

Nations and peoples and tribes that Satan once had bound in spiritual darkness,

   he is now powerless to prevent from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

Proof that Jesus has triumphed over the powers and authorities,

   and driven out the prince of this world, bound the strong man, plundered him.

 

There are so many examples of the unstoppable spread of the Gospel.

   But let me tell you one that is happening in our own time, before very eyes.

That’s what’s happening in China.  Satan has been bound Jesus is plundering China.

   The Gospel door has been opened and the Devil can’t shut it.

 

Missionaries came to China in the mid 1800s and worked for 100 years

   faced great opposition and limited success. 

Then, they were all kicked out by the Communists in 1950.

   Mao and the Red Army determined to eliminate Christianity in China.

   But the purges of the Cultural Revolution failed.  Persecution continues.

But today the Chinese church has grown to over 70 million.

 

And there is, among Chinese Christians, a deep conviction that cuts across

   denominational lines that one day, God is going to use the Chinese church

   to bring the Gospel back to the land of it’s birth, back to the Middle East.

Lord only knows what will come of this. 

   But when you think about the spiritual darkness of the Middle East,

   and the violence with which they respond to any message that contradicts Islam.

   And that any missionary who went there would know that he would die.

And you then realize that Jesus has raised up in 50 years a mighty church

   of 70 million Chinese Christians who know what it means

   to suffer and die for the faith—well, these are interesting times.

May not see this play out in our lifetime. 

   But great stories like this have been happening for the past 2,000 years.

   Jesus has won, Devil has been defeated.  Prince of this world driven out.

Application simply is take heart.  Open your eyes.  See the triumph of Christ.

 


MP#2  The Devil is still fighting.

Second, this story shows us that the Devil is still fighting.

Now, you might say, if Jesus has won—which was last point. 

   How can it be that the Devil is still fighting? 

If He has triumphed over his demonic enemies on the cross (as the Bible says).

   And if he has cast out the prince of this world (as the Bible says).

   And if he has bound Satan and plundered his kingdom (as the Bible says).

Then why is there any more conflict? 

 

Answer is simply that the Gospel Age in which we live is a peculiar time.

   We live with certain spiritual realities that have definitively happened.

   And yet, these spiritual realities are coming to their final consummation. 

 

Theologians have a phrase for this: “The now and the not yet.”

The now is that we live with spiritual realities that have happened.

   I have been crucified with Christ.  Old man, old self is dead to sin.

   I have eternal life.

   Jesus has defeated Satan and all his demons on the cross.

 

The not yet is that all those spiritual realities are being realized.

   They have not yet come to consummation.

So I am also crucifying old man, fighting sin, losing some, winning some.

   I will still suffer the death of my body.

   Satan is still fighting.  In individual battles there may be losses.

 

So we live in the now of Jesus total victory on the cross,

   and the not yet of continued conflict with the Devil,

   as we await the final consummation of Jesus’ victory on the last day.

 

Allison has been reading a book called “Is Paris Burning”

   about the liberation of Paris by the Allies in WWII.

There was a peculiar time during the liberation of Paris

   when the Allies had swept into the city, surrounded and cut off Germans.

   And there was this outpouring of joy because the Parisians knew they were free.

French Resistance had been able to take over the main radio station,

   This is what happened. 

 

“Parisians, rejoice!” shouted Pierre Shaeffer on French Radio.  “We have come on the air to give you the news of our deliverance.  The Leclerc Division has entered Paris.”  With all the power of Paris’s electric plants behind it, the radio pushed one pulsating “Marseillaise” over the air.  As it did, a remarkable thing happened.  In hundreds of thousands of homes, Parisians spontaneously spun up their radios full volume and threw open their windows.  From balconies, doorways, windows; from sidewalks, streets and barricades, the whole darkened city, proud and alive again, sang with the radio.  For a few moments Paris wrapped herself in the sound of that anthem rolling and reverberating through all her black-out streets.  Barely had the sounds of the “Marseillaise” faded when Shaeffer grabbed his microphone again.  “Tell all the parish priests who can hear me to ring their church bells to announce the arrival of the Allies in Paris.  For four years the bells of Paris had hung lifeless and silent.  Not once during the occupation had their rich notes rung out to call Parisians to Mass, to proclaim the news that ‘a king is born,’ or ‘Christ is risen’ or even to toll the passing of a departed parishioner.  Now, on Schaeffer’s call, they threw off that cloak and shook out the dust gathered in four years of silence and sorrow.  Already, from the south tower of Notre-Dame, the great 14-ton bell of the cathedral of Paris had launched the glorious peal.  From the crest of Mont-martre, the 19-ton bell of Sacre-Cour threw back its notes.  One by one, from one end of the city to the other, the churches of Paris joined them.  Within minutes the whole skyline of Paris shook with the thunder of their majestic chorus.  Parisians hanging from their windows wept in the darkness at the sound. 

 

But what happened the next day?  Fighting, bitter fighting.

   Soldiers and civilians died as they struggled side by side against German troops,

   some determined to fight to the last man. 

The decisive event had happened, the Allies had arrived. 

   There was the announcement of certain victory, but then there was a determined

   enemy that was determined to do as much damage as possible.

In fact, Hitler’s had ordered demolition crews to Paris earlier in order to reduce

   the city to rubble—those plans were thwarted by the Allies.

 

Here is my point.  The church bells have rung.  Rang on first Easter morning.

   Announcing the defeat of Satan and all his forces.

But the enemy is still fighting, and will until the very end.

   What does this fighting look like?  Probably not casting out demons like Jesus.

 

This is a subject that devout and learned Christians have disagreed on—

   does demon possession still occur?  Very different answers.

But even if demon possession does still happen, those aren’t the ordinary battles.

   The battles we mostly fight against the Devil and his forces are moral battles.

   Truth vs. lies.  Faith vs. despair.  Assurance of salvation vs. accusation.

When you do feel overwhelmed as a Christian,

   that there is some evil that you can’t quite explain. 

Perhaps it is in fact the forces of evil, defeated but still fighting,

   trying to do all the damage that they can.

MP#3  You must be fearless.

Brings us to third point.  In face of demonic evil, you must be fearless.

   The demons tried their best to oppose Jesus.

They called out his divine title:  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

   That was an attempt to control Jesus,

   or at least sow doubts in minds of people listening.

But even with their strongest efforts, they were unable to even prolong conflict.

   Jesus stopped them with a word. 

 

If there is one practical purpose this story serves,

   it is to say to believers—do no be afraid. 

Forces of evil cannot hurt you.

   Because you serve Jesus Christ who has all authority.

 

It would be hard to find a great Christian with spiritual antenna more attuned

   to the attacks of demonic forces than Martin Luther.  Read his commentaries,

   read about his life and he was often convinced that the devil and demons

   were behind the attacks and trials that he faced and church faced in his day.

 

And no doubt they were. 

   Nothing would have alarmed the Devil more than to see the message of

   God’s free grace restored to the church that had covered it up for centuries

   under works theology. 

 

Luther detected the Devil’s attacks in all sorts of things—

   enemies on the outside who tried to kill him to stop work of reformation

   as well as the depression and accusations that came against him internally.

 

But remember Luther’s evaluation these evil forces in his hymn A Mighty Fortress.

    And though this world with devils filled/Should threaten to undo us;

    We will not fear, for God has willed/His truth to triumph through us.

    The Prince of Darkness grim,/We tremble not for him,

    His rage we can endure/For, lo, his doom is sure:

    One little Word shall fell him.

 

Luther put his finger on something important in this verse.

   Fear may be the greatest weapon that the Devil brings against believers.

We fear that things are going to fall apart.

   Fear that we are disasters as Christians, ruining our children and families.

Fear that we are not going to have the things we need for comfort and happiness.

   Fear that if we obey God, going to lose out.

Fear ultimately that God is not in control, that some other forces are.

 

But what does Luther bring to bear against that fear?  The truth.

   The truth of what Jesus has done for us and what he promises to do.

It is taking the truth and pressing it into your life, using it in fight against

   your doubts, against accusations and confusion that makes you unafraid.

 

And it is by living your life in the conscious presence of Jesus,

   seeking his protecting presence,

   praying, lead me not into temptation and deliver from evil,

   that you can say in truth, I have nothing to fear.

 

Flip side to this, if you are not afraid simply because

   you don’t pay any attention to spiritual things. 

Don’t really think you have an enemy who is against you, family, church.

   Don’t really think a shark is luring in the canal—then you should be afraid.

   Bible says that the enemy is a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour.

 

Or if your fearlessness does not rest on Jesus Christ himself,

   his work on the cross and his continued protection—

   then you are foolish and open to the attacks of the devil.

So be fearless—but make sure your fearlessness rests on Christ alone.

   If you are fearful this morning for any reason—

   come back again and again to your strong Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look at Him.  Look at the way he deals with these demons with a word.

   Know that he is for you.

 


CONC:

The Harlem Globetrotters traveled around the world

   and delighted audiences with their basketball skills and comedy. 

But for the Globetrotters to do their thing

   they had to have somebody to play against.

 

So there was this other team called the Washington Generals.

   The Generals would often go with Globetrotters to play against them.

And the Generals would lose.  They were supposed to lose,

   because they were just the backdrop for the Globetrotters

   to display their basketball prowess.

 

The Devil and his demons are the Washington Generals.

   All their resistance, all the bad things they bring against Christians,

   are simply an opportunity for Jesus to display his greatness.

He has demonstrated his greatness through his victory on the cross.

   He continues to show it throughout this Gospel age,

   as he helps his people resist all kinds of attacks that the Devil brings.

 

That’s the message of this first public battle between Jesus the demons.

   Jesus has won, there is still fighting to be done—

   but do not fear, fight the good fight as you look to your strong Savior.