Sermons : 2015 : February 8, Does He Still Cast Out Demons? - Mark 1:29-39

I’ve been a pastor now for 14 and a half years now and in that time, I’ve seen a lot of things. When people ask me what I do, I sometimes tell them that I’m with people on the best and worst days of their lives. I’m there for the funerals and the hospital calls and the hospice care. I’ve gone with people to family Law court; I’ve helped to hide women from abusers and have talked to people with marriages on the rocks and lives in shambles. On the other side of things, I’ve married several people who are still doing well years later. I’ve gone to kid’s ball games and karate competitions, to graduations and to open houses and to the hospital to welcome new babies into the world. In my 14 and a half years, I’ve done and seen a lot as a pastor.

But in all that time, I’ve never seen or had any experience with a demon. Unless you count the exorcism rite in our baptismal service, I’ve never visually dealt with the demonic realm or seen anything like what we see in Mark’s Gospel. I suppose that if I did, it would really have a profound effect on me. It would underscore an even greater sense of urgency to my profession and make me more aware of the spiritual forces which surround us.

I suppose that all of us have not had an experience with the kind of demons Mark mentions today. From the sounds of it, they were just everywhere in those days. In fact, so much so that people were bringing their loved ones to Jesus’ door to have them cast out.

And one thing occurred to me while I was reading this section of Mark’s Gospel. And that is, the people of Jesus’ time get it. They get that there are spiritual forces out there seeking their destruction. They get that there is a devil and that there are demonic entities seeking to peel people of faith away from their God. While pastors today go through their entire ministries without running into possessed people, it seems like Jesus and the disciples couldn’t take five steps in any single town without running into one.

But for all the bad the demons did, they did stir up an awareness in people’s hearts that there is a spiritual urgency in this life. There is another world beyond this one, one that is not seen, but certainly can be apprehended. I imagine that in the ancient world people went about their lives, but there were always these reminders that life was more than just your daily routines. When people today look for a place to be spiritually edified or educated, they might have a certain set of criteria in their heads. Does it have kid’s programs, multiple weekend services, small groups? Somehow though from Mark’s description, I don’t think the people of Jesus’ time really cared about any of those things. They wanted to find the One who could free their loved ones from their prisons of darkness, to bring relief to the tormented; someone who could conquer the demonic and bring freedom and deliverance to the oppressed.

And you notice today that Jesus is doing that. He heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law; He casts out demons; He heals diseases. What no one else in this world could do, Jesus does. In fact, He’s so powerful that He can even revoke permission for the demons to speak altogether.

But Jesus is not just some exorcist. There’s more to Him than that. Mark tells us that early one morning he rises to go and pray. When the disciples find Him, He talks to them about going on to the next town – not to heal the sick or to cast out demons, but to preach it says in verse 38.

Previously in chapter 1, it says that Jesus taught as One who had authority, meaning that He spoke as one with understanding and with status given to Him by God. In chapter two, Jesus proclaims to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven and then He goes on to dismiss legalistic approaches to God.

Casting out demons and healing sickness certainly gets Jesus attention, but that’s not what saves people. It’s the content of His preaching. In our world, ministers and servants of God don’t contend with demons so much, but we do still have the content of our Lord’s preaching. And this is actually the more important of the two because preaching proclaims the way of salvation.

In these first three chapters of Mark, Jesus sets out to demonstrate His authority over demons and other religious teachers. And He’s not just proclaiming opinions; He’s proclaiming the truth. He’s imparting people with the knowledge that conquers both falsehood and darkness. The demons are a force to contend with, but the words of false teachers in His time present a greater threat because they distorted the meaning of God’s grace.

In a way, the demons really underscored the value of our Lord’s preaching. People who lived in those days simply understood that their world was full of spiritual problems. They flocked to One who spoke with authority; the One who could command the demons and free loved ones from their spiritual prisons.

In our world, the lack of apparent demonic activity lessens the urgency of the spiritual in people’s minds. There doesn’t appear to be a threat; there doesn’t appear to be a specific force of evil that is beyond my seeing. And so complacency sets in, life becomes a series of routines. People go about their lives believing that a lack of apparent demonic activity indicates that religious warnings are nothing more than myths. And for many believers, church becomes a place not where you go for prayer against the demonic, but for fulfillment and enrichment. And so, ministry against the forces of darkness seems as though it’s not so pressing.

And yet, while we don’t see demons, the effects of sin are everywhere. People become sick way too early in life; terrorist acts pepper our news on a monthly basis; abortion still kills more children in our world than all other causes of death combined. There is brokenness and pain; families suffer divisions; people are alone or they turn to acts of hatred against one another.

Some people might call these things inner demons and I can’t argue with that. And so in the proclamation of Christ in that sense, there is still the casting out of the demonic. Jesus did not go to the cross merely to combat evil in His time, but in ours and for all the times yet to be without Christ. The curse of Genesis 3 does not have an expiration date or a date after which the curse weakens.

There is still a demonic realm that seeks our destruction. There is still sin in our hearts and devastation in our world. But there is also hope and there is victory. Christ has conquered both sin and death through His sacrifice on the cross. Through faith, you have forgiveness and the promise of life everlasting. Through Christ, you now also have power over demons and can remain confident despite their existence.

In my nearly 15 years of pastoral ministry, I have never seen a demon, but I don’t have to. I know they’re there. I’m aware of my own sinful nature and of the nature of man those in the church and those out in the world . I can count the names of the people over the course of my ministry who have succumbed to these forces and been lured away from the church . But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and conquered sin and death for us. The demons submitted to His Name 2000 years ago and they still will today.

It is the proclamation of the Gospel which delivers this power and assures us that we have nothing to fear. The darkness in all of its forms and manifestations has been conquered, so let in fact the demons be the ones who shudder instead of us because we believe in the One who already has attained the victory and who grants us an eternal place with Him in His Kingdom, now and forever. Amen.

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