Listen to the Authority

January 28, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

The United States’ federal government shut down last Saturday at midnight. I won’t get into the reasons why or who was to blame, I simply want us all to think about it. One week ago, the highest form of our government shut down. Now, the shut down only lasted a few days and most agencies were able to remain open, but if the shutdown had lasted weeks or months, then we all would have felt the effects.

When the federal government shuts down, it means more than not being able to enjoy a favorite national park. A federal government shut down threatens veteran’s services, the National Institute of Health’s research, EPA’s ability to inspect chemical facilities and drinking water systems, to force hundreds of thousands of federal employees to work without pay until the shutdown ends, to put hundreds of thousands more employees on furlough without pay and to stop other programs and agencies that we rely on as citizens.

Regardless of our political affiliation, we all rely on the federal government. Many of us don’t realize how much the government does for us until there is a shutdown or we need something from the government. During those moments where the government shuts down or doesn’t seem to be there for us when we need it, we may question the government’s authority. When our needs are not being met by those in authority over us, we get worried and that can lead people to do all kinds of things. What we all need is someone in authority over us who we can trust, who would always have our best interests in mind and would do things for us that we need. If we had someone like that in authority over us, then we would Listen to the Authority.

At the time of Jesus, the people were in need of spiritual leadership. The spiritual leaders or teachers of the law, as they are called in our gospel lesson from Mark 1, were failing in their role. When the people went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, to hear the Word of God, the teachers of the law spent more time telling the people what to do, rather than telling them what God had done for them. Instead, of telling the people about God, these teachers of the law were pretending to be God and had developed a series of laws for the people to keep. They told the people that by keeping these laws, they would be considered good or holy in God’s eyes.

One of the leading spiritual groups called the Pharisees, went so far as to create a list of 613 laws to make sure they would not come close to breaking God’s law, summarized in the Ten Commandments God gave Moses. A teacher of the law on a typical Sabbath would make sure to remind the people what these man-made laws were and tell them to keep them, unless they wanted to face God’s punishment. These laws included rules about religious festivals, business practices, how to treat employees, vows, oaths, swearing, courtroom procedures, property rights, criminal law, punishments, prophecy, idolatry, agriculture, clothing, taxes, offerings, war and so on. You can imagine that taking the seventh day off as a day of rest had become another work day as the people had to sit through lectures on what they had to do or what they needed to be doing better.

The people who went to the synagogue the day Jesus came to teach in Capernaum did not have to sit through another lecture on laws. When Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.

22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Jesus did not spend his time listing off rules for what to eat or how much money to give to the church, instead he talked about the things God was doing for people. Jesus told the people about God’s love. He explained that God wanted to free people from their hardships and give them hope.

Jesus was a breath of fresh air for the people until someone in the crow spoke up. Jesus was like the good feeling you get when listening to your favorite songs on the radio. All the people were at peace listening to his wonderful message until one man yelled out ruining the moment like a tone-deaf singer on karaoke night. The man was possessed by a demon, an impure spirit, and cried out,

24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

The demon possessed man yelled out in fear at the sight of Jesus. The impure spirit, just like all evil knew that Jesus, the Holy One of God, was their enemy. Jesus was telling the people in the synagogue that God was on their side and was going to give them good things. Jesus was undoing all of the lies of the devil. The devil’s lie, whether to believer or unbeliever is that God is our enemy and we don’t need God in our lives. The devil doesn’t want us listening to God. Instead, the devil wants us listening to ourselves. In other words, he wants us to believe that we have the authority.

When the devil tricks us into believing we have the authority, he is working to get God out of the picture. The devil wants us to believe that we have the authority to choose what is right or wrong for us to do with our lives. If he can lead us to believe that, then each of us will each live according to our own rules or in anarchy. Living in anarchy is dangerous because we stop caring how our words and actions effect other people.

In a world where people do not care how their actions impact the lives of others there will always be pain and suffering. Pain and suffering follow selfishness because people stop helping one another and start to take advantage of one another. Then, as people begin to suffer, they turn to things that will distract them from the pain in their lives. People turn to work or specific diet hoping that will make their lives better with more money or a better body. Others turn to pills or people who promise the cure to all their pain, but in the end, nothing satisfies.

The devil has us trapped in a loveless world. We are willing to give anything authority over our lives because we can’t seem to get it right when we are the ones in charge. Listening to what we want seems like a good plan at first, but when our selfishness plays itself out, we see that we are lost. The people in the synagogue were lost as they followed the rules of men. We are lost when we look for someone or something in this world to give us the answers and solutions we desperately need to make our lives worth living.

In the end, there is only one Authority worth listening to because he has real authority over everything in this world. When Jesus came to the synagogue that day and began teaching the people, they knew immediately that he was different. He didn’t preach a list of rules and regulations to keep, instead he preached about being saved from the hardships of this world and about a better life in heaven by the grace of a loving God. Jesus further proved his authority by driving out a demon who tried to scare the people and make them fear Jesus.

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Jesus shut the mouth of the lying spirit and sent him away from the people. Jesus’ power that day amazed the people, but it was nothing compared to the true power he wielded as the Holy One of God. We will all continue to face demons in this world, but Jesus made sure they knew they were no match for him and later he made sure that we were saved from their power forever.

Thousands of years before Jesus walked this earth, he made a promise that he would crush the power of the devil. Jesus destroyed the power of the devil by using his greatest weapon against him, death. Jesus came to this world to die. Unlike any authority ever seen before, Jesus gave his life to save his people. Yes, other kings, princes and men in authority have given their lives to save others, but all those who were saved one day, lived to die another. Jesus, the ultimate authority, the Almighty God, died so that you and I would live forever.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

The people were amazed that day they heard Jesus teach, but they were only seeing the beginning. A few years later, Jesus would go to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of all people. Jesus, the ultimate Authority who was guilty of no crime, sacrificed himself to save all of us who are so willing to listen to anyone, but our loving God.

By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has opened your ears to hear the good news of Jesus. Like those in the synagogue that day, you sit in amazement at the teachings of Jesus. You wonder how God loved the world so much to send his Son to save us. You marvel at his power to create this world and to have an even greater heaven waiting where we will live forever. As you wait to go to heaven, rest your hope on Jesus as the ultimate authority in your life, even when the people and things you trust in let you down, because Jesus will never let you down. And also like the people who heard Jesus teach in Capernaum spread the news about him, go and share the good news of Jesus.

News about the United States’ federal government shut down filled the screens and ears of millions of people last week. It wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last time it happens. When we look back at history it is the nature of governments to rise and fall. As governments rise and fall the ones who really suffer are the people. When governments rise to power they have to dismantle the previous authorities and when governments fall, there is often a fight for the authority to rule in the new regime. When Jesus overcame this world, he was the only one who suffered and died to free us.

As we watch the authorities of this world rise and fall, we have peace knowing there is only one Authority who will never fail. Our God rules all things for his people. He created us, he promised to rescue us when our world fell into sin and he saved us through his Son, Jesus. Regardless of our political affiliation, past sins, present struggles or future needs, we have someone in authority over us who we can trust, who always has our best interests in mind and who did what needed to be done to save us. Whatever special interests may try to steal your heart away from God, Listen to the Authority. Amen.

Recent Sermons

Kingdom Kids

Kingdom Kids

Bible Study Group

Weekly Bible Study

Rockwall_Interior_2

Worship