Mark 1:21-28 (CEB)  Jesus throws a demon out

21 Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22 The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23 Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”

25 “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out.

27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.

This is the word of God for us the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

 Hello God? We’ve Got Questions.  Can God help my brother?

 

The last question of our series – our focus today is the question the little girl asks in the video: she wants to know if God can help her brother.  We don’t have the specifics about her question.  Perhaps it’s something relatively minor – maybe her brother has gotten in trouble at school or he’s sad because his dog ran away.  Maybe her brother has a cold or a broken arm.  But whatever the little girl is talking about, I get the sense that something more serious is going on with her brother.  And doesn’t it seem that for some reason he needs the divine touch of a healer?

Most of us have probably watched our loved ones suffer and go through troubles, and we may have cried out to God to help our brother, or our spouse or our mother!  And most of us have personally experienced painful times, too.  Most of us have experienced the deep need for the touch of the divine healer to mend our broken hearts, souls, minds and bodies.  Sometimes we feel like we are living the song we sang– we feel like we are shackled by a heavy burden; it’s like we are chained down with struggle – whether it be illness or addiction or greed or grief.  We may feel our lives are hopeless and joyless.

Jesus spent a huge part of his life bringing hope to the hopeless and joy to the joyless.  In the book of Mark, where today’s text is located, you can read about Jesus healing many diseases and casting out many demons.  Some of the specifics that Mark writes about include stories of how Jesus healed Simon’s mother in law, a person with a skin disease, and a person who was paralyzed.  Jesus ate with sinners.  He fed thousands of people and restored sight to the blind.  Wherever there was need, Jesus saw the need and brought God’s power into the hopeless situation.

In today’s scripture, Jesus was faced with the screaming embodiment of an evil spirit.  Jesus’s ministry was at its beginning.  He was in the synagogue teaching his followers, and they were amazed because they recognized just by his teaching that Jesus had authority.  That is, they realized that Jesus was speaking as God’s representative – that God’s authority was in Jesus.  When suddenly in the middle of the teaching session, a person with an evil spirit screams out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one of God.”  Jesus responds by saying, “Silence!  Come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit shook the man and screamed and came out of him!  And the result was that the people recognized Jesus’s authority in their lives and in the world even more.

A lot of scholars would argue today that many of the people in the Bible who were believed to be demon-possessed would be diagnosed with mental illnesses or even bodily illnesses.  And that might certainly be the case; God truly does work through modern medicine and God does gift men and women for healing through modern medicine.  But I think there’s another message for us in this scripture.  I think there is something more we can learn.  Because I think we are shackled and burdened by our own demons today.  And I think our hearts break for our family members, friends and even strangers when we recognize their suffering.  There are things in this world that just seem to grab ahold of us and our brothers and parents and kids – there are things that consume us, and these things can often be destructive.  These things can draw our attention away from all that is good in our lives and take God’s place in our lives.  So today I’m going to name these dangerous things that take over our lives “demons.”

And I want to give you a few examples.  I want to share with you something we had to do in my spiritual formation class last year because it really helped me to identify some things that I think are demons that lurk in my family history.  We did what is called a genogram.  We had to draw a family tree of 2-3 generations back.  So, I made a drawing and listed my parents and my grandparents.  And I went ahead and listed my siblings, too.  And we had to think about and list any traumatic events or destructive behaviors that happened in each generation.  Things like addictions, suicide, divorce, and untimely deaths were listed, and they called these “earthquake events.” And we were asked to list these things beside each family member’s name.  And as I worked on mine, I was stunned by the patterns that repeated in each generation of my family.  It was very emotional to look at it on paper, and to realize that some of these demons had been carried down generation after generation.  I saw a clear pattern of alcoholism and infidelity followed by divorce in my genogram.  These are some of the demons in my DNA.  I realized this is a part of who I am.  I can see how these demons could easily supplant the authority of God in our lives.  In fact, I have seen how this happened in my family.  And I realize the danger that I face and that my kids face from carrying on these same demons.

There are many, many things that might be considered “demons,” and I’m sure you are thinking about things that could be added to the list.  We all are possessed by demons from time to time, aren’t we?  They come and take us over.  They lurk around us.  They infect our families.  They come around our communities.  We may look ok from the outside, but the inside looks a lot different.  And we try to hide the burdens, the pain, the hurt and our demons from others; we even try to hide them from God.

If you are reading the Bible in a year with us, we have just finished Genesis.  And we are seeing a clear pattern – from the beginning we can see certain behaviors and particular kinds of sin being carried down generation after generation – beginning with Adam and Eve, to Noah’s generation, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – we read about destructive pride, self-centeredness, the desire for revenge, murderous jealousy, the list goes on and on.  The same demons continue to be repeated in each generation.

But even in the Old Testament God reacts to all this chaos in an amazing way.  God reacts with amazing grace.  God continues to renew God’s covenant with his people.  God continues to keep his promises regardless of the failures of the people.  God shows this never-ending, overwhelming love for his children who continue to struggle against demons, mostly of their own making!

And there is extremely good news in this scripture today.  The good news is that God gave Jesus authority to heal our bodies, souls, hearts and minds.  God gave Jesus authority to drive out evil and restore peace and joy in our lives.  And that good news became even better news on the day of Pentecost when God’s Spirit came down because you know what that means?  That means that God also gives each of us authority to heal and to cast out demons and to restore the peace and joy of God to the lives of others.  The power of Jesus to relieve our burdens and break our chains is real today!  Did you know?  Did you know that all believers have this same authority and power to cast out demons in his name?  It sounds kind of strange doesn’t it?  It sounds kind of like a tv preacher doesn’t it?

I’m going to argue that we can use God’s power of healing and casting out demons in a simpler way – through crying out to God and then showing God’s love to those who are burdened.

Here’s how I see this authority and power to heal playing out in our lives.  First, we have to submit to God’s authority.  We have to admit that we are not God and accept God’s authority in our lives.  We may not know yet that the ultimate power in our lives is God.  And then the second thing is that we can tap into that power.  We can use God’s power for healing and for the release of burdens.  When we seek the power of God, miracles happen in our lives.  When we ask God for help, God answers!  And then our response to God, is to be used up for others — to walk beside those who are battling their own demons.

So, there are three things I want you to know today.  First, if you are burdened, if you feel hopeless and joyless, if you are desperate for healing in your heart, soul, mind or body – you have come to the right place.  Seek the face of Christ.  Seek God over and over again.  God may not provide healing in a way that you had ever expected, but God will work in your life.

Second, if your heart breaks for someone close to you who is in desperate need, cry out to God on their behalf.  And some of you may be at the point that you are about ready to give up on someone in your life who is struggling with demons.  You may feel like your prayers go unanswered, and you feel like your helping is really hurting, and you’ve had to walk away.  Well, know today, that God never gives up.  God never gives up on those of us who struggle and seem unable to survive the demons in our lives.  So continue to pray – don’t give up on prayer.  God is working in ways we can’t even see.  God never gives up!

And third, would you look at our community?  Would you ask God to open our eyes to the demons that invade our community, and would you pray about how we as a church might bring the light of Christ into people’s lives?

May God open our eyes to those who are battling demons around us this day, and then may we be bold to extend the love of Christ to them.  May we love in tangible ways so that those who are shackled by a heavy burden can feel that burden lifted in some small measure. And then let us persevere and not give up – I pray that God would show us exactly how to walk beside the one who is addicted, or living with shame, or burdened by illness until those chains are broken.

In the name of Jesus Christ, let us claim our power and authority! Let us use our power to help others see themselves as who they are – God’s beloved children, even as they battle their demons.  Let us use our power to bring comfort to the afflicted, to heal the broken, and to bring hope to the hurting.  Let us proclaim the Good news: that by the grace of Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rules, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:37-39).

Can God help the little girl’s brother?  Of course—– with God nothing is impossible.  God hears our prayers whether they are about a missing puppy or a desperate addiction.  And God walks beside us through it all.

Let us pray.

O, God I cry out to you for each person here, and for all those in need of your touch this very day.  Touch us.  Heal our hearts, souls, minds and bodies.  Free us to live in joyful obedience to your authority.  And then grant that we might go from here using that same power to heal others in your name.  Amen.