08-10-23 - I HAVE IT ON GOOD AUTHORITY - Mark 1:22-34
Updated: Oct 10
MESSAGE FROM PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
We live in a world of a thousand different opinions – each person considers their ‘insightful’ opinion as fact. Yet with so many opinions demanding attention, whose opinion counts? Mine? Yours? Based on what?
I mean how do we determine whose authoritative voice should be listened to? Should Alexa or Siri be our ‘go-to’ sacred source? How about Wikipedia? If we use statistics to determine the gold standard, these three have to be near the top. Take, anyone, for example, Wikipedia whose readership is accessed in 306 languages, and 25 billion pages viewed this past August. Numbers like that would seem to suggest airtight reliability, as long as you ignore that this internet encyclopedia can be edited by any one, at any time which puts credibility at some risk.
If these sources don’t work for you, you could always look to ‘reliables’ like CNN or FOX whose ‘no agenda’, unbiased pundits, surely are there to give you the straight goods. But if politically skewed propaganda and conspiracy theorists aren’t your thing, there are always the ‘straight shooters’ in more personal areas, like the relational gurus, the financial wizards, the spiritual guides, who for a price, will happily put you on their path for you to find your best life.
So with all this noise, who IS worthy of our trust? Who speaks with authority that’s not pushing a view or motivated by self-promotion, self-justification or self-gain?
In many ways that is where our text Mk 1:22-39 takes us today. In it, we are presented with a people, far distant in time from us but not distant in the answers and meaning they want from life. They, going about life, doing the right things and central to having lives that matter, going to the synagogue for the reading of God’s Word and then listening to the teachers and scribes give directions on what that was to mean to them in the day-to-day.
Before we look more closely at what they and we will be shown, I think it’s important to consider how Mark brings us to this place. As Mark opens his gospel, it’s as if he’s writing on hyper-speed the first part of what he writes, skimming over some pretty significant events, doing in 20 verses what Matthew takes 4 chapters to unpack. In those 20 verses, he tells us about John the Baptist, the baptism and testing of Jesus, the teaching about the coming of God’s Kingdom and then Jesus’ calling of the disciples. I mean, some rather critical events that he touches on and then quickly moves past.
And then, as if a man finally discovered the object of his quest, Mark suddenly hit the brakes. Now everything slowing down for a far closer look as in the next 18 verses, Mark will focus on the events of just one single day.
Which begs the question, Why? What is it about this day that merits such a change in the look Mark has given us? So let’s pick up, beginning with the earliest event of this day.
The scene – Sabbath, which takes us into the synagogue where, as faithful and observant Jews, you’d expect people to be, hearing Scripture and then listening to the teacher of the day give his view on the portion just read. They needed to be here because it was in the synagogue where people gathered to hear God’s Word. And then they waited for the scribes and teachers of the law to take them further into what they’d just heard. And instead, what do they get? Opinions. In this place teaching heard from one rabbi who heard it from another rabbi, who’d heard it from another .… You get the picture.
It would be like Daniel stating what he’d learned from Rob, who heard it from Tony Evans who heard it from AW Tozer. Interesting? Perhaps, but life-changing? Nope, not unless what’s heard, takes us into what God has written in His Word. Not as a Scripture to jump off from as we present our own views but as the place to jump into so you and I meet God. But far more commonly, the scribes and rabbis were choosing one another as their reference point, not God.
I remember in one of my high school History classes, submitting an essay, where as part of my bibliography, I cheekily included as one of the references, a ‘book’ entitled, My Own Vast Knowledge by Rob Inrig. I didn’t think the teacher would take her red pen past my essay’s content to the bibliography but she did and her response to My Own Vast Knowledge was both insightful and classic - Check your faulty reference sources. Her observation - right on point. Simply put, our authority, our opinions, and our viewpoints are suspect at best and hugely unreliably dangerous at worst.
Yet this day in the synagogue something different in the teaching that followed the Scriptures. Unlike the norm, there was no reference to some rabbi long dead. No quoted opinion of some teacher who’d presented some creative and imaginative view. This day, it was only Jesus with the result, The people were AMAZED at his teaching for HE TAUGHT WITH REAL AUTHORITY – quite unlike the teachers of religious law. :22
Notice how Mark frames it, not just that Jesus speaks with authority but that He does so, unlike the teachers of the religious law. His authority is, qualitatively different from the scribes and teachers of the law. Their authority borrowed, His authority resident. With that distinction, Mark begins to lay out the seeds of conflict that will grow as the ministry of Jesus spreads and the influence of the scribes and rabbis decreases. Jesus’s teaching leaving the people amazed or as the Greek word also suggests, struck with astonishment.
Teaching that hit them between the eyes. His teaching unlike anything they have heard. His teaching was not better than what they had known, not more eloquent, not more bombastic. Not even better, chock-full of ‘drop the mike’ illustrations. But everything stands still, struck with astonishment better. Because little did they know, that morning they had stepped into the very presence of God.
That morning the teaching they heard weren’t some words about God. That morning they heard Jesus speaking AS God. And in that, all questions about authority are over.
I wonder, is that really how we understand the power of God’s Word that moves us past stories, events and some friendly acquaintance with Jesus? That instead of these, what Jesus says is absolutely authoritative. God’s Word is not subject to what I think, what I like or what I understand. God’s Word is not subject to things I might like to believe. This brings us back to our understanding of who we understand God to be and the authority we will allow Him to have.
Because here is the point and it is why Mark has us reside in this one day until we get this part right because until we do, our lives as believers in Jesus will never be right. Until we truly face up to whether we are allowing God to have full authority in our lives - in everything, then our lives will never be right. Here’s the thing, when we accepted Jesus as Saviour, we stepped into the RESCUE of God. By His shed blood on the Cross, we have our sins forgiven and are given everlasting life with Him. BUT JESUS DIDN’T COME INTO OUR WORLD JUST TO BRING RESCUE, HE CAME TO ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM. A Kingdom means a King and a Kingdom means people subject to that King who reigns supreme. There is no following Jesus without our understanding that we have been brought into a relationship with THE KING - the LORD Jesus Christ. And as King, JESUS’ AUTHORITY IS THE AUTHORITY OF TRUTH.
Make no mistake, when we accepted Jesus as Saviour, we were called into a RELATIONSHIP with Him but a close intimate relationship with Him is only understood when we bow before Him as Lord. At first glance bowing and intimacy seem to be polar opposites but in Jesus, Lordship IS intimacy that only begins as we bow. Without bowing, intimacy with God is impossible.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence then, that in this event when Jesus makes His authority known, is when the enemy makes its presence known. First, consider how things unfold beginning with the appearance of this man. I doubt it’s the first time he’s been in the synagogue, yet I am quite certain, it’s the first time this demon has made its presence known. Had this not been the case, the rabbis would have barred this man from the synagogue. What we do know is that the things taught following the reading of Scripture were the first time this demon felt sufficient threat for it to reveal itself and speak out. It’s also undeniably true that in the presence of Jesus, the demon had nowhere to hide.
In its appearance, the demonic created enough noise, enough confusion, enough distraction so those in attendance would be drawn away from the authority of the One who had just spoken. Because the last thing the enemy wants is for us to truly listen to Jesus’ voice of authority and then obey. For the briefest of moments, the focus shifts to this man’s demonic rather than on Jesus. Don’t miss the demon’s appearance is not in some seedy back alley or on some mountaintop pagan altar but in the place where seekers gather. The demonic present but strategically silent and unseen as some songs are sung, life principles are heard, and compassionate ‘feel goods’ are engaged silently disengaged just so long as the Cross and saving faith in Jesus isn’t heard. Silent, just so long as Jesus isn’t declared to be Saviour and Lord. Silent, until people step out to respond to what they have heard.
But when God’s authoritative truth is spoken, the demon speaks out wanting to take you to a place where you ignore or dismiss. I want to convince you that there will be a better time or a better choice than what you have sensed. All in an attempt to draw you away from Jesus’ authority by distraction. If he can’t do that by distraction, he does what he did here and shift it by distortion – I know who you are – the Holy One of God. Have you come to destroy us? Mk 1:24
Most of these words are true, but they’re not completely true having just enough truth to seed the lie.
Is Jesus the Holy One of God? Absolutely but is His mission to destroy the demonic as was said? Not really though a day is coming when that will be true. And it is true that time and again Jesus does defeat and dispel the demonic but the time when He will destroy all evil, where He will put an end to every destruction sin has made is still to come. The point is that for now, His mission isn’t to destroy, it’s to save. It’s to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom that Jesus has come to bring rescue. That in Jesus there is forgiveness. There is salvation. Luke tells us that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. Lk 19:10.
But that rescue of His love and grace will only come through a Cross. It won’t come through the destruction of a demon or 1000 demons. It won’t come through a healing or a 1000 healings. It won’t come through a peaceful life or a better life. It will only come through the rescue of blood that despite the horrific way that it presented itself, the shedding of blood was God’s means of coronating His King.
And it is the power of Jesus’ blood that overcomes the demonic. JESUS’ AUTHORITY IS THE AUTHORITY OF POWER over the demonic that dictates how people live; that overwhelms with paralyzing fear; that lies with words of no future, no hope.
And yet in the presence of Jesus – their power was done. When commanded to be silent, they were. When commanded to leave, they did. In His presence and with one word, the demons are defeated, and their power is denied. Before Him no demon can stand, no demon can stay.
It’s important to understand, this is not a battle of strengths. Because when Jesus is present, there is only One with strength.
Jesus speaks and it is. Which we would do well to remember but far more importantly, we would do well to actively believe. Stepping into belief, understanding how powerful His authority is. When Mark writes, “Amazement gripped the audience” :27 this use of amazed is different than what is stated in :22. Here, when describing the revelation and defeat of the demon, the word amazed carries about it the idea of fear, not unlike what the disciples would say when Jesus spoke and immediately the wind was silent and the waters were calm, Who IS this man that even the winds and seas obey Him? Mtth 8:27 understanding in ways they hadn’t, they were in the presence of Someone far exceeding anything they’d ever known.
Those in the synagogue that day had never heard or seen anything like this. Not even close. And this is the authority that God would have us understand, that His power is stronger than our lust, stronger than our addictions, stronger than our helplessness, stronger than our sin. Authority that can do exceedingly more than we can ask or think. Listen, this story has almost nothing to do with the demonic. It has everything to do with Christ’s authority over everything! As Mark 1:27 reminds us, He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.
But His authority does not impose, it invites, calling us to yield to Him.
Our response to authority is actually determined by where we stand in relation to that authority. Those who hear authority simply as Truth can easily fall into a lifestyle of doing the right things and being the right person. But a life like that is quickly stripped of joy. Those who hear authority simply as Power are never far from bondage and fear, trying to live within the lines, living so as to avoid doing anything wrong. Many in Jesus’ day lived like that, doing the ‘right’ things so they didn’t come under the judgment and condemnation of the Pharisees.
This is why it is important that we don’t overlook the next place Mark takes us through this one day, moving on from what’s been a dramatic power confrontation to a quiet bedside intervention. In this encounter, we are witnesses that JESUS’ AUTHORITY IS THE AUTHORITY OF LOVE. In this place there are no crowds, the scene almost going unnoticed alongside the spectacular just seen. After all, what’s the severity of a fever compared to a demon-possessed man? but don’t miss the urgency in what we’re given. We’re told that as soon as Jesus comes near Peter’s mother-in-law’s house He is immediately told about her situation. Her illness is the first thing out of the disciples’ mouths when they see Jesus. Her need is greater than reaching out to anything they can address. But here, behind closed doors, just a touch and a debilitating fever is gone. No command to leave. Just a touch and a life that moments before is in great jeopardy is quietly put together as it was meant to be. A tender touch. A quiet act of grace. A reached out hand of love that lifted Peter’s mother-in-law into wholeness. Jesus’ love brings wholeness over disease.
I think had we been present on this one-day stopover, we would have seen this same display of loving authority in the synagogue had our eyes have been able to go to a place different than where Mark focused us. Admittedly, we aren’t told but I don’t think it is hard to guess. We see a demon-possessed man who for the first time in who knows how many years had been set free. And while Mark’s lens rightly centers on the authority of Christ’s power, I am certain that one man was centred on the power of Christ’s love. While everyone celebrated an evil power gone, he celebrated at the feet of the Power who had come. Jesus doing what no one had ever been able to do – setting him free. Freeing him, and us, from everything that binds.
And my point? That Christ’s desire for full authority in our lives can never be separated from His love. That what He says to us, what He asks of us, the places He calls us to go and the decisions He calls us to make are never separated from His love. His authority is not limited to truth and power. His authority was not imposed but offered. His authority is not to oppress but to draw us close. His authority so we can truly live.
But don’t mistake His love for acceptance of our sins and giving us a ‘pass’ on His authority. When it comes to sin, God’s authority has not changed. His views haven’t been ‘modernized’ because, thanks to our world’s ‘culture of educated enlightenment ’, God is so much better informed, allowing us to live free - morally, sexually, psychologically, and scientifically. If God had only known then what we know now. Yet interestingly, our modernized perspectives are not so modern, a is little different than what was described centuries ago, As in the days of Noah … everyone doing what was right in their own eyes Gen 6, Judg 17:6. The point simply this, despite the lifestyle you may wish to live and the views others are convincing you to believe, God loves us too much to allow us to remain in our sin. Because it’s that sin that separates us from God. It’s that sin that ruins and destroys. It’s that sin that put His Son on the cross. So His love – absolutely but that love inseparable from His truth.
God’s authority SO beyond what we lay hold of - not so our every wish is fulfilled, or our every situation is made right but so His purposes are fulfilled - His purposes that are never removed from His love. Can a woman forget her nursing child or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands Is 49:15,16.
There is one last picture of the day that Mark gives us and it’s a great one. Not great in the ‘spectacular’ but great in the wonder we see at the close of day – At sundown they brought to Him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door:32,33. What a great picture, the people faithfully observant as they keep Sabbath but so many of those people anxiously waiting for the Sabbath day to end so they can get to Jesus. Getting to Him because they have heard that JESUS’ AUTHORITY IS THE AUTHORITY OF GRACE THAT IS AVAILABLE FOR ALL – for the needy, the broken, the sick, the unworthy, the forgotten – all who come to where he is. His Grace was available to all who came.
His grace was doing what He alone knows what’s best to do. His authority is released in your life so that you may know His Grace, His Love, His Power and His Truth over every power, every circumstance, every event that comes into your life and mine. All discovered in Him as we bow to Him.
His authority to speak hope into the things you have long resigned yourself into believing that there is no hope. So, My dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor 15:58
In so many ways, this day is foundational for everything Jesus will demonstrate on this day and for every day forward - that He is: Jesus, Messiah, Lord above all gods. But this morning, that really isn’t the question, is it?
Because if you see this as some event to look back on, you fail to understand what Jesus is asking of you today. The real question and the only one that matters, is He the Lord over your life, in everything? Despite the things seen, despite things currently faced.
Today - His authority - is demonstrated in the truth He’s made known to you, in the power He has shown, in the love He poured out, and by the grace by which He’s invited you to come.
So again the question is simply this, His authority or the distraction and distortion that are keeping you from Him?