Sermon 21 February 2021


Mark 1:9-13,    1 Peter 3:18 to end.

Sermon Revd Tudor V Roberts February 21st, 2021.

This week when I have walked down to Church, I have noticed cars behaving in a somewhat strange manner; they have all done the same thing. They have already passed the Road Closure sign at the roundabout next to the pond, as the road from Lydiard Millicent to Greenhill is closed for road works, Nevertheless they drive on but reaching the  second road sign with the same instructions DO NOT ENTER ROAD CLOSED they turn around and go back the way they had come to find the destination they are looking for.  They are doing (sort of) what Jesus is talking about in Mark1:15 where he tells people to repent and believe in the coming Kingdom of God. Repent from the Greek Metanoia means literally to change, to turn around.

In our short Gospel reading today we read Marks account of Jesus’s baptism followed by his thrusting out by the Spirit  into the wilderness to face the testing of Satan.

Throughout Mark 1 there are, as it were, road signs not just to get us to turn around and to repent, but also to illuminate for us how it was that Jesus started  these first critical days ,weeks, and months of his earthly ministry.

Signs are important ,This week Westminster council is selling some of its road signs Abbey Road is expected to sell for thousands.

Well, In our reading today; Mark 1:9- 13 and indeed throughout Mark 1 you hear these words a lot.

Wilderness

Lonely places

Solitary places.

These were the places Jesus would go to think,  pray, + seek strength from his heavenly Father, refreshment prayer and then energy for whatever would lie ahead of him that day in life and ministry.

For the battle that he would fight in Mark 1:12 and 13 Jesus would have been strengthened by.

All eternity that he had spent as part of the Trinity with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

His 30 years of having been brought up well by Joseph and Mary and family.

Times of prayer  pent with the Father.

I am not focusing today on the baptism of Jesus ;my attention will be more on the testing that Jesus went through in the wilderness. Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, a place of relative obscurity and was baptised by John in the river Jordan. It seems, apart from  his birth, the visit of the Magi and shepherds, and his sojourn in Egypt a relatively quiet life, only punctuated by the annual trip on pilgrimage up to Jerusalem.

Now he is baptised in the river Jordan, the very river that had formed a barrier between the wilderness and the promised land ,and that Joshua had miraculously passed through as the waters piled upstream and downstream, so that the ark of God could go through led by Joshua and the Levites and all the people of God.

Now the Son of God is here HE is baptised by John and emerges from the waters of the famous River Jordan and it is a baptism of repentance, though Jesus has no need of baptism, he went through the waters of baptism so that all righteousness should be fulfilled.(and Tricia in her Lent leaflet reminds us that Christians traditionally use lent to prepare for Easter Baptisms and if baptised already remind us of our baptism.)

As He emerges from the depths of the river Jordan, he hears the voice of his Father and sees the descent of the Holy Spirit like a desert dove, and God the Father saying You are my dear Son whom I love , with you I am well pleased.

Love is the starting block of every Christian, not compulsion or blind obedience but the sure knowledge we were loved first by the darling of heaven, and in a post Covid world how we need to hear that we are deeply loved by God himself.

We are loved.

After his baptism, just as Adam and Eve had been thrust from the Garden of Eden so Jesus follows the same journey not because he has sinned but in obedience to his heavenly Father. The whole of Mark’s baptism will now be the outworking of his baptism and testing but first he must battle with Satan.

Mark 1:12-13

New International Version

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Mark is economic and brief compared to Matthew and Luke in their description of Jesus testing in the wilderness. But what he says is still vitally important.

Jesus’s  testing happens in the wilderness, it is in the wilderness where people do business with God. Its where Elijah met with God in 1 Kings 17 and 18.It’s the place where Moses met God in the burning bush in Exodus 3.It’s the place where the people of Israel were tested in their obedient following and disobedient failing to follow Yahweh in Exodus 16 to 40.And now in Mark 1 Jesus is here in the wild places, in the lonely places, in the wilderness being tested or tempted by Satan.

 

Michael Green  in a brilliant book: I believe in Satan’s downfall, says “Satan is often of course called the Tempter  see Matthew 4:3.+ 1 Thess 3:5

 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

1 Thessalonians 3:5

New International Version

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labours might have been in vain.

The meaning is obvious,  and we need not stay on it. The  Tempter seeks to embroil men in the same alienation from God just as he had willingly chosen for himself, we find him in this role throughout  the Bible.

See in Zechariah 3

 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan[a] standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So, they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

See Job 1

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

Michael Green makes the point that Satan is.

Bound  (Revelation 20:2)

He is mighty (Revelation 12)

He is Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies Lord of filth!) see Matthew 10:22 and Luke 11:15

He is the ruler of the World John 12:31 14.30 and Ephesians 6:12

But Satan is also the defeated one as 1 Peter 3:18 and following make clear when Christ preaches to the Spirits that have been imprisoned since the time of Noah.

As TF Torrance says

It is precisely because the Devil and all his minions have been utterly defeated that the earth is thrown into such turmoil and troubles because of the devil’s decisive death this becomes apparent as all the powers of the Spiritual evil dislodged by the cross fall upon earth and gathered by subtle deception the prides and passions of the lusts of men and direct the against the Kingdom of God as its being enacted in history.

The Devil is not omnipresent or omnipotent and is forced to use demons (lesser angels) to do his evil work.

In Mark 1:12-13 Jesus does not at that time defeat Satan, he does that decisively on the cross, but from Mark 1 the battle is on and we  see in Mark the clash between Jesus and the Kingdom of Gpd and Satan and the kingdom of evil but NB there is no duality. What occurs in Mark is seeing Jesus rescuing people from Satan’s Grip:

Mark 1:21-26

New International Version

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

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.

Mark 1:34- 36

Mark 1:34-36

New International Version

34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Mark 5:1-20

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name do not torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.

 

Mark 9:14-20

Mark 9:14-29

New International Version

Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]

In 1 John, John who witnessed everything that Jesus did and said wrote this:

1 John 3:8-23

New International Version

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work

So, we note then that the devil is defeated, but that work of defeat takes time and the work begins in the reading we had today in Mark 1,and in the reading, Jesus is tested by Satan and spends time with the wild animals.

In the Old Testament wild animals are associated with evil powers

Psalm 22:11-21

And Ezekiel 34:5

And in Isaiah 11 we get a hint of the New creation as the wolf lies down with the kid goat

So, the mention of Jesus  being with the wild animals is an eschatological hope; here our Lord and Saviour is tested by Satan, he is surrounded by wild animals just as the first Christian martyrs would be in the Coliseum in Rome, a fact that would have greatly encouraged the first readers of Mark. In Mark 1:13 the angels come to minister to Jesus, a sign of what God wants to do for us: bring Jesus and us a  heavenly Deliveroo. The gift made apparent in Mark is that Jesus passes the test; he never gives in to Satan, he goes on to defeat him at every juncture, at every healing and deliverance and ultimately on the Cross. We journey to that Cross through these days of Lent.

 

Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 


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