“Casting Out Demons.”
February 7th, 2021, Mark 1: 29-36
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Today’s reading is from the gospel according to Mark, chapter one, verses twenty-nine thru thirty-nine. Let us now open ears and our minds to hear what is written.”
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
34 And he cured 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.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”
39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
“Having heard that which the gospel account has told us, let us now open our hearts to allow the meaning of this writing to transcend into our modern, current day lives.”
“Casting Out Demons.”
What Demons do you need to have cast out? Anger, fear, loneliness, and addictions, these are all the modern demons which you, me and your neighbors suffer from. Don’t identify with any of these? How about discontent, loss of faith, and distrust in God and in others. Financial insecurity is a big one for a great many and it leads to worry, stress, and hypertension. The message here is if by chance you are struggling with this healing story, these miraculous healings which our gospel account from Mark has documented, at least you must recognize the needs which all humankind still desires, even now in the Twenty-First Century. Many preachers shrink away from these healings, these miracle accounts of Jesus’ ministry, for fear you won’t believe in them because they are so hard to accept. Well, let’s be clear here, the first step toward accepting the merit within this biblical accounting is acceptance that we, you and me, and your friends, family and all your neighbors have things in their lives, in our lives that need healing. That’s the first step!
We Christians, we say we believe in God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s power to forgive our sinful ways, and we honor the many teachings he passed onto his disciples and followers. Much of which has been recorded in the gospels for our hearing and study. Things like his ‘sermon on the mount’ in the gospel according to Matthew. Meaningful writings like the Beatitudes and the importance of sharing with each other as illuded to in the story of the lad, you remember the story in the gospel of Luke, the young lad who shared his five barley loaves, and two dried fish, which Jesus blessed and fed the multitude with. Most good church goers like you and me, we know the stories, or we are willing to learn them, because we know it is what we are expected to learn. Of course, thanks to television and movies, even non-believers know the stories. The question we need to ask ourselves is: do we actual believe these events happened? Most of us have the knowledge of what the Bible accounts are saying to us; yet many have not accepted that these writings truly pertain to ‘we ourselves’. That begins with our willingness to accept that we are like the people, way back in biblical times as these events, which are recorded, were being lived out!
What we need to embrace is the words which are written in the Gospel according to John. The author, the writer of that account of the life, death. and teachings of Jesus, tells us in chapter twenty, verses thirty and thirty-one, that “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” One of the surest ways to become a doubter is to critic the impossibility of many of these miracle writings, without taking the time, the time to learn how the scriptures came to be written and factor these ‘literary realities’ into your understandings of what is written. Once you do so, you will become less critical of the ‘exactness’ of the writing and more in awe that they were written at all! Why would people work so hard to remember the stories and keep retelling them, over, and over again to their families, friends and to their communities for thirty to forty years before they were able to write them down in any form. It is a well-accepted fact that the gospel of Mark was probably first written in and around the years sixty-five to seventy-five years after Jesus was crucified. So sure, there are details in the writing that may not be ‘literally exact.’
I remember being in a Bible study class a few years before I entered seminary where this was discussed. The young pastor leading the class, during the season of Lent, had us break up into four groups and told us to read the resurrection stories of Jesus, on that first Easter morning, and answer a few questions which she wrote on the ‘flip chart’ which she had. The catch was she assigned each group a different gospel account to come up with the answers. The first question was regarding the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb. Was it removed before or after the women arrived there? Then she wanted to know if there was one angel or two at the tomb of Jesus? She then asked was the risen Jesus seen that morning. After each group reported we realized that there were many discrepancies in the accounts, the writings were different! After the class settled down, there were several who were really distressed that there were differences. Our leader helped us to focus in on the central fact of the miracle account – the stone was moved, and the tomb was empty. We need to keep this in mind as we study and glean what we can from scripture. Ask ourselves simple questions, questions like what was so special, so significant that the accounting was written exactly this way?
Now, as we look carefully at today’s lesson, today’s miracle story let us keep several things in mind. First and foremost, this writing was written to help us with our own faith journey. That is why it was written down for us.
The first verses tell us that one of the disciple’s Mother-In-Law was ill and when Jesus saw this, he healed her. When anyone in my home had a fever, my mother or my grandmother would make chicken soup and give it to the one who had a fever. The soup was believed to heal. No question about it and here it is forty or fifty plus years later, and I am testifying to you that this is the way it was. Homemade chicken soup can make someone with a cold and a fever feel better! Jesus held her by the hand and lifted her up and the fever left, and she served the men as they gathered. /Mark 1:31/ There were a great many stories of Jesus healing the sick. Jesus was often quoted as saying it was their faith which made them well. Those that followed Jesus firmly believed that by his very presence the power of healing was conveyed upon those who truly believed that Jesus could heal them. The writing goes on to tell us that Jesus healed many who came or were brought to him. He cast out demons and made them well. We have named a few demons that we can easily identify with in our current time and place. Surely, we need, and we want relief from all that ails us, for the troubles, the distresses, and most assuredly the worries we all have, they can and do pile up upon us. There is a tremendous amount of hope in this passage.
Once we get to this point, then we can accept that we need some help with what troubles us. Only then there is hope, hope that we will seek help and allow the physician, the healer of many names to begin the process of the healing which is so needed. There are many possible choices for us when we do seek help. The miraculous things that modern medicine can do is astonishing if you really embrace the contrast between the time of Jesus and today’s technologies. We all agree this pandemic, this Covid-19 is horrific in what it is doing to people’s lives. Yet here it is less than a year since we became fully aware of it and already there are three manufacturers of affective vaccines available to fight its spread. This, in of itself, is miraculous even in our time. Granted we are far from the end of this difficult time in history, but there is a light shining in the darkness! Jesus was the shining light for people back in Jerusalem and the surrounding territory back when he walked the Earth. This is the right attitude we ought to take as we study the gospel accounts. Jesus was clearly charismatic, and he had a presence about him that drew people to follow him and listen to what he had to say. His ministry only lasted three years. I have been ministering and preaching my heart out for going on thirty years, when you count my time in training. It has taken this long for me to grow into my abilities as a pastor. Jesus’ training was much shorter than mine and his ministry was dramatic from the start! He was special. Personally, I have come to believe he was the messiah, my savior and yours. This scripture was written to help us with our unbelief.
One year ago, very few believed a vaccine could be created that would be effective in fighting off this Covid-19 virus, certainly not in one year! I have come to believe that much is possible if we take the right attitude and go forth with a belief that we can get it done! Not everyone is willing to believe. There are a great many, I shudder to say this, that still do not accept that this pandemic is truly serious. However, more and more are being forced to accept that this is real, but it is bewildering how long it has taken. Not everyone believes in the vaccines. Astonishing to learn that many, including frontline workers, have declined to accept it, even as more millions scramble to get an appointment to receive it. The same is sadly true about the scriptures. Many do not believe. There are many reasons as even they, who do not believe, know that we all need what these writings offer. Thankfully, our faith gives us hope. Hope gives us courage to face the difficulties which life offers. Faith gives us relief from so many of the ills that this world offers. Jesus didn’t focus on those that closed their hearts to his message, his teachings. Rather, when the disciples asked Jesus where he was going, he said many things. In today’s scripture lesson he answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” /Mark 1:38/ When all else fails we teach our children to continue to go forth! “Pick yourself up after your last fall, dust yourself off and keep on doing the next right thing.” This is what has been said to me and millions of others. Jesus was telling his disciples we shall go from place to place sharing the good news for those who are willing to hear and receive it!
We as a church, as a community, and as a people, we need to be healed of our distrust and loss of faith. Let us accept we need what our faith offers – hope! Let us continue to pick ourselves up and do the impossible! No one whom I know, believed folks like me and you would get this far! Surely, many did not believe this church would continue forward after all the setbacks of yesteryears! No matter our future – God will continue to be God – and unexplainable things will continue to happen. Let us allow our God to continue ‘casting out demons’ even as we shake our heads in disbelief!