Text: Mark 1:21-28

Focus Statement: Jesus works God’s power even on those who can’t ask

Function Statement: That my hearers would seek to expel the unclean spirit


We all have our sacred spaces. These are the places that take on a glow in our mental image. They are clean – and we do everything in our power to keep them clean. Sometimes that holy space is sacred only to the individual – the room of a departed loved one. Sometimes that sacred space is shared – the National Mall. Sometimes that space is hallowed by the events – Gettysburg. Sometimes that space is made holy by its purpose – say a church building or a house on the underground railroad. I can still today re-conjure that feeling of scared space around Harbison Chapel at my alma mater. The Harbison’s spent the last of their fortune erecting that structure. Decades of Grovers, that is they call grads of Grove City, have been married there. Some of the best preachersin the States, even if they are Presbyterian, have held its pulpit and the rest, a great big list of names have stopped by for a daily chapel sermon or a baccalaureate. We all have our sacred spaces.

We think those sacred spaces are clean. That something holy is innate in their existence. That something we or many others have done or said or bled or died have made those spaces clean. Usually, we would be wrong. If they are not specifically dedicated to Jesus Christ they have not yet been completely hollowed. Even those so dedicated are still claimed by that most unclean being, Satan. Every second of every day we are in this world we are suspended between two claims. Satan claims every square centimeter of this world as his. The demon says to Jesus of Nazareth literally – what are you and us? An idiom, a common turn of phrase for What are you doing here? This is my turf! And God thunders back his claim – Be silent! This is not yours. You don’t even have the right to utter it. Come out and go! Every second of every day we are in this world we are suspended between two claims. Only what has been dedicated to Jesus Christ is clean. Only what has been dedicated to Jesus Christ will last at the end.


Our text today is the first miracle or act of power of Jesus in Mark’s narrative. Jesus has proclaimed, he has preached, that the time has come, the time is full, the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news.

And Jesus is taking the message of this good news to those in Satan’s chains. “And they came to Capernaum, and immediately when the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue.” Jesus immediately took his message of good news to the sacred space. To the synagogue. And that teaching was not what they were used to hearing. What they were used to hearing was the law. The Scribes thought they were pondering the torah and reading the torah and preaching the torah. But what they really pondered and read and preached was what other scribes said about the torah. The torah, the good news revelation of God, had again been lost. This time not literally like when King Josiah refurbishes the temple and finds the book of the law…no this time that good news of God had been buried under a blizzard of footnotes from one scribe to the next. “And the people were amazed at his teaching, because he was teaching them as one who held authority – not as the scribes.” Jesus preached the Good News, the Gospel. God has chosen you. You are a chosen people, a holy nation. The kingdom of God has drawn near to this people. God has claimed you and will not give up his claim.

“And immediately a man was in their synagogue with an unclean spirit.” In the middle of their sacred place the unclean was present. Immediately after Jesus reasserts the Good News, God has not abandoned you, this unclean Spirit shows up. “Hey what are you doing, Jesus of Nazareth? Get lost.”

But then this unclean spirit in the midst of the clean sacred space realizes who he is speaking to. He uttered the name, Jesus of Nazareth – I know you, I control you. But that knowledge does not bring him power. It brings him fear. “Did you come to destroy us?” “I know who you are – the holy one of God!”

And God reclaims that sacred space. He decisively casts out that unclean spirit. “Be silent.” You have no claim on this people. “Come out from Him.” “And the spirit left him after convulsing him and crying out with a great voice.” The march of the Kingdom of God has begun. Satan and his unclean Spirits can do nothing but retreat in the face of the Holy One of God. It is not an easy exit. The spirit leaves its mark. It convulses the man and leaves with much crying and moaning, but it leaves. God’s claim is the true claim. You are his peculiar treasure, his prized possession.

But what is the reaction? Is it acclamation? Praise for making clean their sacred space? Is seeing this victory grounds for immediate faith that this Jesus is the Holy One of God? No…”they were all amazed. And they gossiped with each other. Who is this one? New teaching with authority. The unclean spirits obey him.” But no conclusion. Just the report. The fame of Jesus grew, but the faith in him is lacking. But that lack of faith does not change the truth…The Holy One of God has asserted his claim and come to take back his good creation.


Every second of every day we are in this world we are suspended between two claims. We can stay with the familiar and the understandable. We can stay with the footnoted and well discussed paths. We can logically trace the arguments of the scribes and sit in our comfortable synagogue and sacred spaces. We can stay bound in the chains of the law.

We can hear the reports of Jesus. We can see the impacts of the kingdom. But not really believe. We can gossip among ourselves. Who is this? I wonder how Hope over there did that, or how that church at the end of the road was able to expand. We can sit in amazement at how God changes lives and drives out the demons. We can look back in wonder at the movements of God in the past and trace out the well worn paths. And when we do that, we are giving in to uncleaness. We pollute our sacred space. We let the unclean spirits come into our sacred space and lie to Jesus “What do you think you are doing?” This one is mine. Because when we sit in wonder, when we settle for reports, we are still in that unclean one’s kingdom.

The God we serve is the God of the living. The God of action. He doesn’t want you sitting around discussing the law. He doesn’t want you chasing footnotes and looking for loopholes. Jesus Christ wants you as his peculiar treasure. That is the good news. You are His. God has acted. God has claimed you. Jesus has dies for you and will raise you up on that last day. Satan can be sent out screaming with one little word. That is true. And faith grasps at that true salvation.

And freedom from the law – from sin and death and all those scribal footnotes – freedom comes with a purpose. Jesus is the God of action. That purpose is Go and free others. This is God’s good creation. God claims every square centimeter of it. He wants us to pick a side. He wants you to pick up His standard and share the faith. Go free your brother or sister from Satan’s chains. When we do share the Gospel with the lost sitting under the law, we can expect to be convulsed and hear great cries. Satan is not going to give up his claims without a fight. Satan is going to blind and bind as many as he can.

But the confrontation is over. Jesus is victorious. Our sacred spaces have been made clean by him. We don’t have to settle for wonder. We already have victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.

May you choose the side of Jesus and pick up the struggle for the lost sitting in Satan’s darkness. Amen.