“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

The evil spirit does not come in from outside, but emerges from inside.

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

February 1, 2015

(Mark 1:21-28)

Do you believe demons are real? If you believe they are real, do you also believe they are here with us even in this most holy house of God?

The Gospel of Mark tells us that they are indeed inside the temple among the worshipers and began to challenge the authority of Jesus. This happened after the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan and which began his ministry in the world. This event at the synagogue in capernaum was the first recorded miracle healing and teaching of Jesus. Every one is amazed of his teachings for they have not heard such wisdom and knowledge where Jesus takes them to a higher level of understanding the word of God. As a result, a man with an unclean spirit, yes, inside the holy house of God, a man with an unclean spirit cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are, you are the holy one of God”

“Be silent and come out of him!” Are the words of Jesus Christ who confronted the unclean spirit that possessed the man.

It is very interesting to note that a man possessed by evil spirit is inside the synagogue or a Church. Synagogue is a place where people receive instructions and interpretations of the law and the prophets. It is a powerful institution, extremely influential, holding sway over the lives of people. It was the seat of scribes, bishops, priests, deacons, politicians, those learned people entrusted with the Torah, the law of God.

“What is the man with evil spirit doing in the synagogue or Church? Where did he come from? How did he get there?

In the mind of Mark who wrote the Gospel, evil come from within and is provoked and exposed by the presence of Jesus. The evil spirit does not come in from outside, but emerges from inside. He is, if you like, the spirit of the synagogue, a spirit that manifests itself through this poor man the minute Jesus appears and opens his mouth and teaches. Jesus here is provoking and exposing the spirit that is at work in the Synagogue, and he is overcoming it. But Jesus came in to show these powerful people the authority God has given him. He showed his authority to expel demons.

Every time Jesus met someone demon-possessed He casts the demons out! This case is unusual because of where it took place – in the very house of God!

Why in the world would a man possessed by demons even be interested in going to the house of God? Why would the devil want to go to church? Because the devil has always been religious. The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still. We believe there is one God. Good! EVEN THE DEMONS BELIEVE THAT.

He knows there’s only one God. Problem is, he doesn’t worship God. When he shows up at church it isn’t for true worship but rather for false worship, looking for ways to destroy anyone who believes in the love of God; The devil talks nice in front but strikes you in the back with a dagger!

He loves to see folks like you and me go to church to talk about other worshippers. He loves to see us go to uplift our own goodness. He loves it when we are preoccupied with other things – like who hurt our feelings recently, and what others think about us. He loves to hear our critical comments about the Sunday worship and the priest’s preaching. The devil loves it when we don’t put our hearts into praising God. He likes seeing us just going through the motions. He can stand anything but worship of God in spirit and in truth.

The devil goes to church because he’s looking for victim. Satan’s ultimate goal is to have control. He can possess those who don’t have the Holy Spirit within. He can’t possess true Christ followers, but he does want to manipulate us and hinder our work for God and the growth of our faith. And when he is confronted and rebuked, he threatens to leave and take all his talents and pledges and calls others to do the same.

The demon cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?

When we are confronted with issues and personal differences, we become self protective and pride overcomes us. We easily forget love and compassion until we find ourselves possessed with the evil intention and say, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

What does Jesus have to do with these unclean spirits that live in each one of us? The answer we find in the Gospel is equally true today: Jesus came to drive out the unclean spirits living inside of us.

Jesus did not use his authority and divine power to rule and control people. He came to set people free. Hence, let us approach Jesus with trusting faith so that he may free us from the evil spirits that keep us from praying and prevent us from loving and sharing our blessings with others.

When we fall into the pit of depression, stress and pressure related matters, we become vulnerable to the temptation of the devil within us.

We forget our prayer life and our commitment together as a community of God. We must be able to know how to get up from that temptation and turn around and say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We have to keep our prayer lives together. Prayers keep us equipped with the tools we need as a community of God. Prayer is what keeps the faith of the Church alive.

There are people out there who are experiencing “spiritual emptiness” inside and need prayers and being reached out. Look for variations on the word, “empty,” “something is missing in my life,” “there is a hole in my heart.” All of these language patterns reveal a need for God, for Christ, for the spirituality of God living inside of a person. In a materialistic, fast paced society, it doesn’t take long before someone realizes that something basic is missing. Be ready for these conversations. It was Jesus who said, “The sick are the ones who know their need for a physician. Those who think they are well do not go to a doctor, likewise, they don’t need God. Those who are not well in the spirit and know their need of God for themselves, their family, their children, they are the ones who look for Christ and are receptive to the Great Physician.”

There are people out there who have lost their sense of direction and are being drowned with fear, fear of security, loss of job, shelter, medical needs. They needed to be reconnected with a group of people of faith to regain hope and peace and love. There are people who just arrived from another country and are looking for family to hold on and receive assurance that things will be alright. There are people who come in our midst merely searching for spiritual renewal and prayers. Let us not fail to see them even when our eye glasses are on. Open your hearts and reach out to these people new to us and offer your hospitality and care. There are people out there who have lost their trust in the leadership of those who are supposed to be spreading the message of Christ, the message of Love, compassion, respect and recognition. We cannot be sitting comfortably in our comfort zones knowing that there are people out there needing our Love and our care. We are Holy Child and St. Martin and it is in our values to uphold the love of God to everyone. We’ve got to go deeper into our relationship with our God by listening to the call of Christ to all. We don’t have to look farther. They are sitting next to you, front of you, back of you. You’re sleeping with them, eating with them. You meet them at work, at the market place, at the shopping mall, at the bus stations. They live next door, they heard your knocks but they want you to knock again. They are in the hospitals, at home and a senior center, in the streets. They are waiting for you and me, they long for a compassionate heart who would be so willing to extend their loving arms. Let us hold hands together to bring them closer to Christ. When people follow Jesus, life goes much better for them, for us. When we follow Jesus, things go better in our marriages, in our families, with our kids, at work, with the neighbors. Most of us know that things go much better in life when we follow the ways of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the forgiveness of Jesus. The primary mission of the church has always been to encourage others to follow Jesus. That is our mission and we can only reach such goal when we are willing to follow Jesus and let down our nets of Love.
Now, my challenge to you my brothers and sisters in Christ is, how can you share your talents and become an instrument of Love and compassion to everyone who may be needing your service, your listening ears, your transforming touch and most specially your whispering good counsel to the ears of everyone where you gently admonish them with their mistakes and in the most friendly manner, endeavor to bring about a reformation? If you are able to to these, I believe the evil spirit that is inside the person will come out convulsing because he can not take the love of God you have just imparted.
May we all have the courage to do this in the name of Jesus! Amen.