Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“What do You have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” says the man who is in the unclean spirit. And that’s what Mark says: that he is in an unclean spirit. Not simply that he has an unclean spirit, or that he’s possessed by an unclean spirit, but that he is in an unclean spirit. That is, he is in the realm of the unclean spirit, under the reign and rule of the unclean spirit, under that authority. Have You come to destroy us? Well, yes, in fact He has come to do exactly that, destroy the reign and rule of the unclean spirit, overcome the authority of the unclean spirit with His own authority. He has come to bind the strong man and plunder his house. He has come to destroy the works of the devil.
And He does it by His Word. His Word is authority. And the people are amazed, because He speaks with authority unlike their scribes. The scribes cite other teachers, argue with their conclusions or affirm them. But Jesus never refers to other teachers to support His words. He even says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” His Word is its own authority. He isn’t like John the Baptist, who announces someone who is coming after him. He is the Coming One. He doesn’t say that the reign and rule of God are coming; He says they have come near—in Him. His Word and His Word alone has this authority.
So when He tells the unclean spirit to shut up and come out of the man, there is nothing that the spirit can do. It can’t argue or assert its own authority. When it encounters the authority of Jesus, its own authority has come to an end. Jesus isn’t waiting until the end of this age or the last day to put the devil to flight. He does it now. Wherever He comes with the reign of God, the devil, sin, sickness, and death find the end of their reign. The unclean spirit must come out. It has no choice in the matter.
Now we are not unclean spirits. And if we are baptized and believe the promises of God, then we are not under the authority, reign, and rule of unclean spirits either. But sometimes our sinful flesh, which still clings to us—sometimes it speaks in a demonic voice. Sometimes it challenges the coming of Jesus with the words of an unclean spirit: What do You have to do with us? Why are You messing around in our affairs, Jesus? We think we can hold on to something of ours, our life, our thoughts and words and actions, at least until the last day. Jesus, You go ahead and do Your thing. You give us some help when we need it and say some nice things that will prop us up in the midst of all the bad stuff in the world. I mean, what are You doing? Have You come to destroy us?
Well, yes, in fact that’s exactly what I’ve come to do. Because as long as there’s anything left of your sinful flesh, as long as there’s any doubt, any unbelief, any sin, any death, there will be resistance against Me. He hasn’t come to prop us up or help us limp along. What our flesh calls “living,” He calls death. What our flesh calls “ours,” He calls not His. And as long as there’s anything that’s not His, He isn’t finished and neither are we. He will not leave a single thought, a single word, a single action that is outside His rule and authority. He has come to destroy it all, put an end to everything that is not His. And sin and death are certainly not His.
This is why sinners get a little nervous in the Presence of Jesus. This is why when He brings the reign of God on the earth, immediately there is a man in an unclean spirit in the synagogue. This is why immediately the sick and afflicted are where He is. Because wherever His Word of authority comes, wherever He brings His reign and rule, the reign and rule of everything unclean is threatened. Where the light of God comes into the world, the darkness of death and the devil must give way.
This isn’t about you working harder to make Jesus the Lord of your life. This isn’t about you really repenting, or really giving up your life. This is about the work of the Lord. You can’t make Jesus Lord of your life. He already is Lord, whether you want Him to be or not. Paul does not say that every bowed knee and every speaking tongue will make Jesus Lord. He says Jesus is Lord, and everyone will finally acknowledge that fact.
Jesus is Lord, and He became your Lord when He spoke His authoritative Word over you at your baptism. He took you out from under the reign of the unclean spirits, and put you under His own gracious rule and reign. And He means to finish what He started. He wants every last inch, every last thought, every last word, every last action. But it will not be so until you and I have been brought to the very end of “our life,” and we have died. That will be the end of sin and death in us. That will be the complete and utter end of everything in us that resists the Lord and His authority. That will be the end of every last treason and rebellion and mutiny against the Kingdom of God.
And then there will be only love and life and holy joy. That’s what He’s after, and He’s going to have His way with you. He’s going to keep speaking His Word of authority. He’s going to keep pushing out everything of the flesh by the war that the Spirit wages within you. He’s going to keep feeding you with His life until death is choked out for good. This is His good and gracious will, and sin and death and the devil have no choice in the matter. One day, they must give way for good, and that day is coming soon. May it be for your sake and mine, in Christ Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 1/26/18