Reading for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Peace be with you!
The world’s negative emotions and messages cause us to do some weird stuff sometimes. Satan plays on these emotions and messages to attempt to divide us from God the Father. Anger, jealousy, bitterness, addiction, rebellion, and spite all cause negative emotions inside us and cause us to act differently than what we would do otherwise. The toll on those you love is often great. For example, my brother did drugs growing up and lost trust among many family members and friends. He would steal things and sell them at pawn shops so that he could buy drugs. When my brother hit rock bottom, he decided to go into rehab where he was forced to examine what he did to others and make amends for his past actions. Over the past four years, my brother has worked hard to repair his relationships with family members and friends and has maintained stable employment as well. My brother changed his lifestyle and became a positive message to others.
In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when a man with an unclean spirit comes in. The man with the unclean spirit yells, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24 NRSV). We are not told the man’s story or what kind of unclean spirit possesses him. The man could be the local drunk, prostitute, or [whatever “it” is] that caused his outburst. However, his questions and statement alert us that Jesus is a threat to the unclean spirit–and Satan’s—power in the world. Before Jesus comes into the world, Satan rules the roost and has the authority in the world; because God is a distant figure in heaven, whom no one on earth has seen. But now God is in the flesh and exhibits his full authority through Jesus who. God is invading Satan’s territory and reclaiming what is his to begin with.
Jesus commands the unclean spirit, “Be silent, and come out of him!” (Mark 1:25 NRSV). The unclean spirit obeyed and came out, yelling and convulsing the man (Mark 1:26). The man was given a new life through the work of Jesus who comes into the world as God’s Spirit. My brother’s addiction was an unclean spirit that caused him to hurt his family and friends. Finally, when he hit rock bottom and entered rehab, the unclean spirit got scared and was evicted. Rehab yelled at my brother’s addiction, “Be silent, and come out of him!” Rehab helped my brother to heal old wounds and repair relationships with family and friends. Rehab caused my brother to examine his life and to see what is important.
The crowd from the synagogue is amazed by Jesus’s new teaching and by the way unclean spirits seem to obey him (Mark 1:27). The world is changing. Unclean spirits are no longer safe in the world because God’s Spirit is here. God gives Jesus and the Holy Spirit the authority to release us from unclean spirits. We are no longer Satan’s captives and are freed by God’s Spirit.
In a world full of rebellion, revenge, hatred, and addictions, God’s Spirit comes to stop these threats and replaces them with love, forgiveness, and grace. God cries out to the unclean spirits in the world, “Be silent, and come out of him!”—and we are made whole. Jesus coming into the world changes everything.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for releasing us from unclean spirits. Help us to fight against our addictions. Lead us through your Spirit to overcome the unclean spirits in our lives. Hold us close and never let us go. We commend all of these things to you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- What kinds of unclean spirits try to claim you?
- How does God release you from the unclean spirits?