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Healing of the Man with the Unclean Spirit

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 14, 2024 12:01 am

Healing of the Man with the Unclean Spirit

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 14, 2024 12:01 am

When Jesus opened His mouth to speak, everyone stopped to listen--even the demons. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his sermon series in Mark, displaying the holy authority exercised by the Son of God.

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Here was the Lord Himself now, the Word of God incarnate, rising to speak in the synagogue. And when He opened His holy mouth, everyone present was stopped in their tracks, filled with amazement, and pierced by a sense of dread to hear the truth proclaimed with this transcendent finality. It can be easy to get distracted when reading the Bible, perhaps even to struggle to keep your eyes open during a sermon. But if there's ever a time to be attentive, it's when we're hearing the words of God Himself to His people. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Sunday, when we feature sermons from the preaching ministry of R.C.

Sproul. In Jesus' public ministry, when He taught, as you just heard Dr. Sproul say, it was the Word of God incarnate speaking. It was evident that He spoke as one with authority. Before we get to this portion of Mark's Gospel and Jesus' subsequent encounter with a man with an unclean spirit, I do want to remind you that if you'd like to study the entirety of the Gospel of Mark line by line, you can request R.C. Sproul's hardcover expositional commentary with a donation of any amount at Well, for today's sermon, here's Dr. Sproul in Mark chapter 1. This morning we're going to continue with our study of the Gospel according to Saint Mark, and we are still in the first chapter of that Gospel, and this morning I will be reading beginning at verse 21 and through verse 34.

So I'll ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Word of God. Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit, and he cried out saying, Let us alone. What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?

Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. But Jesus rebuked him saying, Be quiet and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. And then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this?

What new doctrine is this? For with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. And immediately his fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.

But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told him about her at once. So he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her, and she served them. He who has ears to hear the Word of God, let them hear. Please be seated. Let us pray. And now, O Lord, as we once again direct our attention to Your sacred Word, we pray that this morning the things that are revealed therein may come crashing into our hearts, compelling us to respond with faith and adoration to the One whose marvelous works are recorded herein. For we ask these things in His name.

Amen. After Jesus called His first four disciples, He began His Galilean ministry in Capernaum. As we read in verse 21 that they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. Let me just take a moment to mention a little background about this town of Capernaum, which was one of many towns along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was on the northwest side of the lake, and it was really probably the most upscale town in that region at this time. And there's quite a bit of evidence that indicates that after Jesus moved away from His childhood home of Nazareth that He made Capernaum His home.

There's even further evidence that later at least He possibly lived in the home of Peter that is mentioned here in the text that we read today. Capernaum had a seawall of eight feet that extended for half a mile in the front of the village, and there were several piers that extended a hundred feet out into the water. And so there was a tremendous fishing industry located here in Capernaum, as well as a gathering of merchants and artisans and scribes and other people. There was also a Roman colony that was friendly to the Jews here in Capernaum.

The name of the town, Capernaum, comes from the Hebrew kefer nahum, meaning the village of Nahum, which may date back to the days of the Old Testament prophet by that name. That there was a synagogue in Capernaum is without any doubt in antiquity. All that was required for a synagogue to be established in the village was that there had to be at least ten Jewish men who were older than thirteen years of age to be the required quorum to begin a synagogue. Now remember the synagogue was not the temple where people came in Jerusalem for worship, but the synagogue, the name means a place of assembly, a gathering place.

We have one right up the street here from our church, a church by that name, the gathering place. I don't think that they think of themselves as a synagogue, but that's what a synagogue was in ancient days. It was a place of assembly where the Scriptures were taught, not by the leader of the synagogue who was basically an administrator, but the Scriptures, the Torah, and the rest of the Scriptures of the Old Testament were read and then commented on by various teachers and also by visiting rabbis, which Jesus was obviously here. So in the fourth century AD, we see that the town of Capernaum was still in existence and was still very prosperous. Something unusual happened in the fourth century, and that is that the synagogue was remodeled.

Almost all of the synagogues in the ancient Palestinian world were constructed of black basalt, and they were pretty basic in their building. But as you architects who are visiting us this morning will be interested to know, in the fourth century, the new synagogue that replaced the old one right on its foundation, the one that Jesus spoke in, was built from white limestone that had to be imported, and so it was a place of grandeur at that time, and it testifies to the long time in which Capernaum enjoyed a place of prominence there in Galilee. But in any case, it was into Capernaum that Jesus came to begin His ministry there in Galilee, and we are told that on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue, and He taught. Now the significance of this event that Mark wants us to understand very early in his gospel is the character of the teaching ministry of Jesus. Jesus' ministry was marked by teaching and by healing and by the casting out of demons.

Those were the three elements that distinguished Him in the first century ministry. And so Mark begins with calling attention to Jesus' teaching, and most importantly to the response of the people to His teaching. We read that Mark says this, that they, that is the people of Capernaum there in the synagogue, were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

And a couple of things here. First of all, the reaction of the people to Jesus' teaching was one of sheer amazement, but even the word amazement or the word astonishment, neither of those terms do full justice to the import of the term that is appearing here in the text. The idea is that not only were they surprised, but they were terrified. There was an element of fear that was part of this amazement or astonishment because they had never, ever heard anybody talk like this, that Jesus exhibited an authority that was on a whole new plane, a whole different level from any kind of authoritative utterance that they had ever been exposed to. He said, He spoke as one having authority not like the scribes. Now, beloved, the scribes were not without their own human authority. The scribes were the most learned expositors of the Old Testament law. The scribes were the PhDs in theology who came and rendered their opinions, and so their opinions were accorded great weight by those who heard them. But now when Jesus speaks, there's a whole new dimension way beyond anything they'd ever experienced with the scribes. The scribes with their PhDs would give their opinions, and they would cite other scholars. They would cite the rabbinic tradition.

They would try to marshal arguments to support the weight of what it was that they were teaching, just as we try to do that today in the academic world. But Jesus didn't do that. No footnotes, no citations, no marshaling of other worldly authorities, but He would be the one that they would put bumper stickers on the chariots after Jesus spoke. We're saying Jesus said it. That settles it. No, I believe in between. We know that's bad theology.

When God says something, the argument's over. Now, I just want to play for a second on the word that is used here. The word translated by authority comes from the Greek. It is a word made up of a root and a prefix, exousia. Ex, we all know what that means. That means out of or away from.

The exit sign points the way out. And what we're most concerned about is the root of that word, which is the word ousia. And if you know anything about Greek, you know that ousia is the present participial form of the verb to be. So its literal translation would be being. Now, the ancient Greek philosophers were very much concerned with that word ousia, because ousia represented the ultimate reality for which the philosophers were seeking.

The ultimate transcendent supreme being of all reality. We know that the great controversy that the church went through in the fourth century at Nicaea with respect to their understanding of the person of Christ came to the formulation that Christ was homo ousios, of the same being essence or substance as the Father. And so this word ousia, not just simply a participial form of the verb to be, but is a term loaded with content in the history of Greek thought and in the history of Christian thought. And so we could translate being as substance.

So as I said, I was going to play with this word a little bit. When Jesus spoke, He spoke ex ousia, out of substance. His teaching was supremely substantive. Nothing superficial.

Nothing light. This was the utterance of the One who was of the same essence as the Father so that Jesus' authority, beloved, was that authority rooted and grounded in God Himself. And that's what terrified the people. They said, never have we heard anybody speak like this. It was reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who would preface their statements and their oracles not by saying, in my studied opinion.

So and so and so and so. But the Old Testament prophets would preface their announcements by what? By saying, thus saith the Lord. And here was the Lord Himself now, the Word of God incarnate, rising to speak in the synagogue, rising to speak on matters theological.

And when He opened His holy mouth, everyone present was stopped in their tracks, filled with amazement, and pierced by a sense of dread to hear the truth proclaimed with this transcendent finality. Let me just pause for a second and say, beloved, that's how we should respond every time we hear the Word of God. That we're not listening to scribes. We're not listening to preachers. We're not listening to theologians. And our hearts should be filled with a holy dread and awe before the Word of God.

Immediately, the transition takes place to the event that followed His teaching. It still was in the context of the synagogue where Mark tells us that there was a man there in the synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out saying, let us alone. What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us?

I know who you are, the Holy One of God. So this day in the life of Jesus, witnesses in the first place His manifestation of His transcendent authority in teaching, and now a further evidence of that power, because exousia is sometimes translated power as well as authority, and we can combine the words. Exousia means authoritative power or powerful authority. Now we see the manifestation of that exousia, not simply in His verbal address, but in His confrontation with the forces of hell itself. You notice that in the Old Testament, the idea of demonic possession is extremely rare. You have very few references to the demonic world in all of the Old Testament. And in later church history, there's also very limited reference to it. But while Jesus was on the earth, all hell broke loose.

And the involvement and engagement of the demonic representatives and ambassadors of Satan himself were everywhere oppressing people. And later we will see that Jesus announces the significance of His work of demon exorcism by saying to His hearers, if you see me casting out demons by the finger of God, which is a metaphor for the Holy Ghost, if you see me casting out demons by the finger of God, then what? Then you know the kingdom of God has come upon you.

So you see the line here. He begins His ministry by announcing the coming of the kingdom of God. Then He manifests the power of that kingdom in His teaching, and now by His confrontation with the world of evil forces and power. It's also interesting to me to note that if you look not only in Mark's gospel but in other gospels, it seems like the first people or the first ones to fully recognize the identity of Christ in the hiddenness of His incarnation are the demons.

Before the people recognize Him in His fullness, these ambassadors of hell instantly recognize Him. And so this man who's possessed is there in the synagogue, and when Jesus turns His attention to him, this man with the unclean spirit begins to scream, saying, let us alone! Get away from us! Why the plural? Is it because the man is filled with many demons, or is this singular demon saying in behalf of himself and the man he's possessed, is that the reason for the plural?

I suspect that what he's talking about is he's representing that whole kingdom under the dominance of the prince of the power of the air, the prince of this world, Satan himself, and in behalf of Satan and his legions of demons, this man screams, this demon screams against Jesus, saying, get out of here! Go away! Let us alone! Have you come here to destroy us? What do you have to do with us? What do we have to do with you?

Well, the answer to that question is, in one sense, absolutely nothing. The demons had nothing in common with Christ. Two different realms, the godly realm, the ungodly realm, the realm that is satanic and demonic, the realm of God, never the twain shall meet. The only relationship these demons have with Christ is one of conflict.

What do we have to do with you? Nothing, except now you're confronting your judgment. And that's what the demons recognized. The demons knew that they were under the sentence of God. They knew that when the Son of God would appear on the earth that their doom would be certain, that Christ was coming to bind the strong man, to bind Satan with all of his hellish powers. And so these satanic junior grade demons telling Jesus to leave. And then this strange expression, I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

What's going on here? Remember in the Old Testament the power struggles that would go on between men and men, men and angels? The idea was that if we could get our adversary to reveal His name, that that was like an act of submission. It's like saying uncle when you're in a battle. Remember when Jacob wrestled with the angels?

Tell me your name. He was asking Him to submit. And so the demons try one last foil here to get rid of Christ. They reveal His identity, thinking that if they name Him properly they can defeat Him. Oh, we know who you are. You're the Holy One of God.

There's irony in here. Only once in the Old Testament is anybody called the Holy One of God. And it was a man, not an angel, but a man who was endowed charismatically by the Holy Ghost with incredible strength and power.

He was the judge, Samson, who was called the Holy One of God, the strong man. And the irony here is that this one who's the Holy One of God has come to bind the strong man, the prince of the demons, Satan himself. But they realize in the presence of Jesus, they were in the presence of the holy. Nothing strikes more terror into the heart of creatures than to be in the presence of the holy. We will see this motif throughout the Gospel of Mark that when the holiness of Christ is made manifest, the immediate, straight response is fear and dread. We fear the holy, the ultimate xenophobia, because we are not holy. And when we are brought into the presence of the unveiled holiness of God, like Peter, we say, depart from me, for we are sinful people. And so the demons scream when the Holy One of God comes into their presence.

Jesus puts up with just so much of the screaming and yelling and protesting when He finally rebukes him saying, be quiet. Now we're not supposed to say this in polite company. We're not supposed to say it in school. We're not supposed to say it to our children. We're not supposed to say it to each other. But a more accurate rendition here would be Jesus said to these demons, shut up. Shut your mouths.

I don't want to hear any more from you people. And come out of you. When the unclean spirit had convulsed him, his last shudder of strength, he cried out with a loud voice one more time, but he came out. And everyone was amazed. So they questioned themselves saying, what is this? What have we just seen? What new doctrine is this?

What kind of power has just been made manifest? What kind of authority does He use to command even the unclean spirits and they obey Him? Jesus didn't act like a magician or a shaman and shake and rattle a bunch of beads and so on and play games of healing saying, can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? None of those tricks that we see with the charlatans, Jesus just spoke and the demons obeyed because they know He had authority even over them.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Thanks for joining us. Today's sermon was preached at St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida. And although we'll only be hearing selections from this series, the entire sermon series formed the basis of Dr. Sproul's expositional commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Until midnight, you can request the hardcover edition of that commentary for your donation of any amount at This commentary can help you if you're leading a study in Mark or if you're simply wishing to study this Gospel deeper in your devotional reading. Request yours today at Only hours remain for this offer. Jesus not only taught with authority and cast out demons, He also healed the sick. And that's where Dr. Sproul will pick up next Sunday, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-14 02:36:57 / 2024-01-14 02:45:26 / 8

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