The Invasion Begins
Let’s start this morning with a bit of Bible trivia… I rarely lose at Bible Trivia.
Name the first miracle performed by Jesus is in each of the Gospels? What was the first miracle Jesus did in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
Let’s begin with the easiest one… John.
The water to Wine from John 2…
John 2:7-11 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Next, what was the first miracle Jesus did in Matthew? No looking it up. The rest are hard.
Matthew 4:22-23 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Luke is even harder…
Luke 4:28-30 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
Jesus did the old Lord of the Rings disappearing trick.
Now let’s look at Mark… We are studying Mark this year…Who do you say I am? This one is the point of our Trivia Game… If you were paying attention last week, you might have a clue as to which is the first Jesus miracle in Mark... Unclean spirit…
Mark 1:21-28 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
We played our game of Trivia to be able to ask this question… Why? Why is the first miracle done by Jesus in Mark the casting out of this unclean spirit? Matthew, Luke and John are making different theological points; what is Mark’s point. What are we supposed to get from Jesus engaging an unclean spirit right off the bat?
Let me take a shot at answering this question.
First, let’s note the sequence of pericopes leading up to the synagogue exorcism. Remember Mark does his theology in the arrangement of his stories.
1) John the Baptizer came preparing the way for the kingdom. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John is getting things ready for the kingdom.
2) Jesus goes to John to be baptized. We saw the dove and heard the heavenly voice… “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Jesus pleased the Father by stepping onto the path of his vocation. Jesus is getting ready for the kingdom.
3) Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness to test his vocation. Jesus passes the test and his vocation is firmly established. Jesus is then ready for the kingdom.
4) When John the Baptizer was arrested, then Jesus came in Galilee preaching the Gospel of God… "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The kingdom is at hand… things are ready. The anticipation is killing me.
5) When the kingdom is at hand… repent and believe. This is not so much two things as one… Your change of vocation to the gospel. We change the center of who we are and make it the gospel. That is repentance/believe. Jesus stepped up to Simon and Andrew, James and John and said… "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
6) James, John, Simon and Andrew repented/believed. They left their occupation as fishers of fish. They became fishers of men. That is repenting and believing the Gospel… Repent/believe because the kingdom is here! With the disciples signed up to be fishers of men the kingdom invasion begins.
7) The first miracle of the invasion is with the unclean spirit. The Kingdom of heaven invades the kingdom of earth. The first miracle is the casting out of the unclean spirit because Jesus has begun the battle for earth.
In the spirit world naming your enemy is a way to control them. The unclean spirit engages in battle with Jesus… “I know who you are… the Holy One. I can control you because I know who you are. Let’s rumble!” The battle with evil is engaged. The unclean spirit attacks first, in an attempt to control Jesus.
But the battle doesn’t last very long…
Mark 1:25-26 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.
This is a bit anticlimactic. There is no epic struggle. There is no cosmic beat down. Even though the unclean spirit knows who Jesus is…it underestimates Jesus’s power. The first battle results in a victory for the kingdom of heaven!
The invasion begins with a victory over evil in the world. Mark wants us to see this is a battle for the earth!
Notice then the second battle…
Mark 1:29-34 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
The second battle is against brokenness. This world was never intended to be sick. We were originally designed to live in the glow of God’s glory.
Listen to some of my favorite Old Testament verses…
Genesis 1:25-31 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them… And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…
This earth was once a place where humans bore the image of God. The kingdom of heaven was one with the kingdom on earth. God walked with humans. The earth was blessed by God. The earth was a place that was very good!
The second battle in the invasion of the kingdom of heaven on earth was an attack on sickness; on that brokenness that is unnatural. The kingdom of heaven is coming to the kingdom of earth to restore what once was. Jesus invaded this earth to bring back what was intended from the beginning. The invasion is to restore the earth again with heaven.
Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases. Jesus engaged in battle with the brokenness of the world.
Just to make sure we get this point listen to the next pericope.
Mark 1:35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Jesus goes to walk in the cool of the morning with the Father alone. Fellowship with the Father is what Jesus is fighting for. The invasion has begun… the restoration invasion.
Mark 1:36-39 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark’s point goes beyond the healing of the leprosy… I think his point is the restoration of the oppressed. Lepers were rejected. Lepers were ostracized. Lepers were unclean. They were not permitted into society. Yet, to Jesus there are no unclean people.
Jesus is the one who is contagious. The leper was not going to make the Holy One of God unclean any more than the unclean demon or Peter’s Mother-in-law was going to defeat Jesus. Jesus contaminated the leper with cleanness! With wholeness! With acceptance! With restoration.
The restoration invasion brings the oppressed back into harmony.
In this first chapter of Mark the restoration invasion began.
--Jesus strikes a blow against evil… all the demons tremble. There is the beginning of the restoration of rightness!
--Jesus brings healing to a broken world…There is the restoration of health.
--Jesus hugs a leper beginning the restoration of the oppressed to community!
On that day in the synagogue of Capernaum when Jesus went mono-e-mono with the unclean spirit the invasion began. It has been spreading to the ends of the earth for 1,984 years. The restoration invasion will achieve total victory the day Jesus returns.
2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
On that day, there will be complete restoration of creation… Wow! looking forward to then!
Mark is making a big point… Jesus came to invade the earth… to begin restoration!
That is why the Gospel is the Good News… Jesus began the restoration invasion!
February 19, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ