Sunday, April 30th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. 32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
Father, we thank you for giving Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth, and we ask that as we behold His doctrine and His power in Your Word, that You would give us understanding and love for You. We ask for your Holy Spirit, in Jesus name, Amen.
Well last week we saw that Jesus has just begun his public ministry. As a boy he was learned in the things of God (he knew the Holy Scriptures), as a young man thru his twenties he worked with his hands as a carpenter, and now at age 30, Jesus is baptized and ordained to ministry.
Thirty is the age at which a priest began service in the tabernacle (Num. 4:3), thirty is the age at which David began to reign as king (2 Sam. 5:4), and thirty is the age at which Ezekiel, the original “Son of Man” was called to prophesy (Ezek. 1:1).
And so Jesus, this new priest, king, and prophet, enters the third decade of his life, and He begins to do battle against the forces of darkness. This warfare began in the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan and was amongst the wild beasts. And then having overcome that trial, he enters the lake towns of Galilee and there he announces, “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
We saw also last week that Jesus calls to himself the first four disciples.
Two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John, all of them fishermen. And these four fishermen are going to become the equivalent of David’s mighty men.
Jesus is amassing an army of disciples. He has reconstituted God’s heavenly hosts and is preparing to take the promised land.
But as we will see in the chapters ahead, this conquest is going to come in a surprising way. The kingdom will not arrive with horse and chariot and the weapons of this world. But rather the kingdom comes by the proclamation of the gospel, by the sharp and two-edged sword of God’s Word.
So that is the context for our passage this morning, and if we look at our text we will see that it neatly divides in two: there are two different houses that Jesus visits, one a public house and then a private house. These are the first two places Jesus “invades.”
In verses 21-28 Jesus enters a house of worship, a synagogue.
In verses 29-34 Jesus enters the house of his disciple, Simon-Peter’s house.
And in both of these instances, Jesus is going to enter that house and cleanse it. He is going to bring life and healing where there is death and darkness, that is what the conquest of the gospel looks like.
As we saw last week, Jesus is the continuation of those cleansing waters that flowed from Ezekiel’s temple. He is the very presence and holiness of God who brings newness of life wherever He goes.
And so with that, let us turn to our text and see Jesus the true exorcist at work.
21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
Capernaum (literally “village of Nahum”) is a little lake town on the Northwest coast of Galilee; so, this is right on the waterfront. And after the wilderness, this is the first public place Jesus ministers to (in Mark’s gospel at least).
We are told it is the sabbath day, the day of worship, and Jesus enters the synagogue to teach.
You can think of this is as roughly equivalent to us going to church on Sunday. The Jews from ancient times (Acts 15:21) would gather in these synagogues and there would be readings from the Law and Prophets, there would be a time of preaching and explanation of the Scriptures, and also a time of prayer and probably psalm singing. So this was not all that different from what we do today.
So Jesus has already been preaching outside in the open air, and he comes as a guest speaker to the church at Capernaum.
22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
In the Old Testament, when a man came preaching, he would usually say something like, “Thus saith the Lord,” or ‘The word of the Lord came to me saying thus and such…” In doing so, He would be distinguishing what God says, which is authoritative and inspired, from what man says which is of a lesser authority.
But when Jesus comes and preaches, he doesn’t say “thus saith the Lord.” What does Jesus say? “Truly, truly, I say to you.” No one else ever spoke like this man. This is teaching with absolute authority, and it rightfully astonishes them.
Jesus of course is the very Word of the Lord. He is what proceeds from the mind and mouth of the Father, and what Jesus says God says. He is that authority to which all of the prophets appealed to. And here He is, God in the flesh, sitting in a synagogue, teaching the common people of Capernaum.
There is something strange and beautiful about the ways of God, who veils infinite and eternal glory in fragile jars of clay. Who places precious jewels into the hands of fishermen and makes them stewards of the mysteries of the kingdom.
This is what Jesus begins to do and teach, and Mark says, “they were astonished as his doctrine.”
23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
We have already seen Jesus battle Satan in the wilderness, and you might think, now that we’re in a church/synagogue, we are in a safe place, this is a sanctuary right?
Well we should have learned from Genesis 3 that when you are in a garden sanctuary, expect a serpent. Yes, these synagogues are supposed to be places of holiness (places of worship) that are safe from the devil, but as we will see in this gospel and the rest of the New Testament, many of these synagogues have gone apostate. They might claim to be worship YHWH but they actually worship idols. And by worshipping idols, they have become what Revelation 2 calls, “synagogues of Satan.”
So yes, the church is a place of holiness, it is where the saints gather. Which is what makes it a target for demonic activity. And when there is false teaching and immorality amongst God’s people, you can be sure that impurity and unclean spirits are nigh. Immorality opens people up to demonic influence, and in this case demonic possession.
In the Old Testament, there is a direct link between unclean spirits and false prophets.
We see in 1 Kings 22, that a spiritual being offers to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets.
In Zechariah 13:2 speaking of the days of the Messiah, it says, “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, That I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, And they shall no more be remembered: And also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.”
So Jesus comes into this synagogue, and he teaches true doctrine, pure gospel. And the response is for a man with an unclean spirit to feel threatened. The truth provokes falsehood to reveal itself.
Notice what the unclean spirit says to Jesus, “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us?”
This one unclean spirit is part of a larger network of demons. A network that has congregated in this region and has infiltrated the synagogues.
And this really is Spiritual Warfare 101. Satan attacks the places of power and influence in a culture. He targets kings and governments, churches and schools. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11, there are “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
Where are you going to find unclean spirits and demons in this world?
In the halls of government. In state capital buildings. In Washington D.C.
In major network studios, in board rooms and c-suites of large businesses. Wherever power and influence congregate, the forces of darkness try to infiltrate.
And if you are an unbeliever, if you are unbaptized, you are especially vulnerable to demonic influence. There is no guardian angel watching over you.
But where there are true Christians, where there are sons and children of light, Jesus says in Matthew 18:10, “for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Meaning, every elect saint has at least one angel assigned to them.
Psalm 91:11 says, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all thy ways.”
It says in Hebrews 1:14 that angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
So it is a big deal when a child is baptized. When a saint renounces the devil and all his works. Because in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. And we come under the protection of Jesus, who makes unclean spirits to tremble at His Word.
The unclean spirit says, “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”
25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
We might wonder why Jesus tells the demon to be silent. Why does he try to hide his identity?
Well for one, because it is unfitting for the truth to be proclaimed by demons. For as soon as demons are believed, they mingle falsehood with truth. This was Satan in the garden, “hath God really said?”
Moreover, Jesus did not want or need the witness of demons to confirm his identity. That is an honor and role he reserves for himself and his disciples.
So Jesus rebukes this unclean spirit, and commands him to come out of the man.
26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
Now up until this point in history, there was only a handful of people known to cast out demons. There were Jewish myths about Solomon and his supernatural powers to bind and cast out demons. But in the Old Testament Scriptures, there is really only one exorcist, and that is David.
David is the lone exorcist of the Old Testament. He would play the harp and the evil spirit would depart from King Saul.
And so for Jesus to come and cast out demons with a word is a sign of at least two things:
1. Jesus is the promised Son of David. He is the Messianic king. If David could cast out demons, then of course the Messiah will be able to as well.
2. If Jesus is David the more powerful exorcist, then who is King Saul in this scenario? Who is afflicted by demonic powers?The synagogues. The temple. The religious establishment.
Who is going to try kill to Jesus with great frequency? The synagogues.
What will Jesus warn his disciples about when they go preaching the gospel? The synagogues.
Jesus says in Mark 13:9, “But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten.”
So by portraying Jesus as David the exorcist, Mark shows us the demonic influence that has a stronghold in the promised land. The synagogues have become King Saul, and like Saul they will persecute and try to kill God’s anointed one.
Now we need to remember here what exactly a synagogue is. A synagogue is a miniature temple, a house of worship, and who is supposed live in that house? God.
So when Jesus enters a synagogue or the Temple, He is going into a house that has his name on the doorpost. This is his earthly address, this is God’s house.
And yet when God himself walks into the door of his earthly home, what does he find? Who is sitting on the couch with their feet up on the coffee table acting like they own place? Demons. Jesus finds unclean spirits. He finds dead hearts and unbelief. As we will see in future weeks, they are going to kick him out of his own house and crucify him.
That is the homecoming the human race offers God. When the Creator visits His creation, when God visits the House built for His Name, we do not recognize Him when he comes.
But notice here the patience and restraint and mercy of God. Although He is angered by unbelief and the wickedness he finds, He cleans his own house. He exorcises the unclean spirits and sends them packing.
As Jesus says in Luke 9:56, “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” This is what Jesus the exorcist comes to do.
After this exorcism, his fame spreads abroad. And we see in verses 29-34, he enters a different house.
29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.
From this we gather that the Apostle Peter was a married man. And whatever the size of their house, their living situation was such that Simon could live there with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother Andrew. This is a close-knit family.
And yet there is a sign of death here. Peter’s mother-in-law is laying sick with a fever. We are not told her exact condition, only that she is sick and burning.
31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
So Jesus comes to this middle-aged woman, lying in the heat of fever, and he doesn’t even say anything, he just takes her by the hand and lifts her up.
The language Mark uses here to describe Jesus’ healing, is the language of resurrection, “he raised her up.” This is the power of God to bring life and vitality to houses with infirmity.
When you read the covenant blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28 or Leviticus 26, it is very clear that if the nation keeps covenant with God, then they will be healthy, they won’t be sick. But when a nation disobeys God, it says in Deut. 28:22, “The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning…”
In other words, the fact that this woman is burning with a fever is another sign that the nation has broken covenant with God and is under the curse.
And at the very least this should cause us to look around at the state of our own nation, that has been visited with all kinds of viruses and cancers and disease, and plagues of our own.
And while we might be individually faithful, as citizens of an apostate nation, we all suffer the consequences of national idolatry.
We all suffer the consequences of living in a land where our neighbor can legally murder their baby in the womb. Where children can be mutilated and have their private parts surgically removed.
Every time we get sick, it should remind us that our land is under judgment. God is displeased, and if we do not repent, the suffering will only increase.
Covid was a mercy compared to what we deserve. And yet still, many have not learned the lesson. Instead, we have hardened our hearts against the Lord.
So the fact that Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, should both sober us and give us hope.
Yes, we are under judgment, but God still has the power to heal and does so all the time. He delights to mitigate and remove the curse from those who call out to Him. That is why we pray when we get sick, because Jesus is our healer.
Finally, our text ends with the sun setting on the Sabbath.
32 And at evening, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
So Jesus casts out devils in the synagogue, He heals the woman from her fever, And now Jesus heals the whole city. It turns out there are many devils that need to be cast out, and many that were sick with divers diseases.
And here in Capernaum we see a visible manifestation of Romans 5:20 which says, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There are still many wicked and unclean spirits in our world. There’s a false prophet on every TV screen. There are still demonic forces that oppress the vulnerable and persecute the righteous. But where sin and evil abound, the grace of God can abound much more. And how does that happen?
By the preaching of the gospel. By the announcement of the kingdom of God and by us calling the world to repentance and faith in Jesus.
America may be demon possessed but Jesus is an able exorcist.
Our nation may be lying sick with burning fever, but Jesus can raise her to life, and make her serve Him again.
There is nothing that God cannot resurrect, and if we will turn to Him, if we will seek Him earnestly, He promises that He will be found. So if you are in need of deliverance, of healing, of cleansing from whatever, come to Jesus. Cast yourself upon His mercy, and He will by no means cast you out.
He delights to make His home with you.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.