Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Reflections on “Christ’s Power Over Unclean Spirits” (Mark 1:21-28), the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, January 29th, 2012

People are fascinated by the occult. Hollywood is obsessed with it. Movies on demon-possession have become a popular movie genre. Unfortunately, there is nothing entertaining about the demonic. According to Scripture, demons are fallen angels that were cast out of heaven by God, cast into gloomy dungeons, but also cast down to earth (2nd Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, and Revelation 12:9). Demons are real. Let’s face it, not only is the topic not pleasant, but frightening.

But if we are frightened then perhaps we are on the right track for also taking seriously what God’s comforting word says on the subject: in Christ we are saved from all unclean spirits also known as demons. We can say goodbye to our fear.

The context of Mark 1 is proceeded by at least two key events: 1) the baptism of Christ; and 2) his temptation in the wilderness. These are crucial for fully appreciating Mark 1. By being baptized, He joined our lives. He was baptized into His people, into His church. As our representative and champion He went to work. He entered the wilderness and quite simply defeated the devil’s temptations. He showed His power over the ruler of demons. Christ’s authority was already established, an authority confirmed after His resurrection when He proclaimed before His ascension that all authority in heaven and on earth is His (Matt. 28).

With divine authority, Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and the man once possessed was made clean. The scene of course often raises many questions. Questions about possession abound. At the end of the day, we are to treat the spiritual realm seriously. St. Paul reminds us that this is where our real struggle lies (Eph. 6). Apart from possession, the Christian can at the very least be attacked (Eph. 6 describes flaming arrows flying our way). Temptation confronts our thoughts, our desires, and our decisions which reflect our alliance and commitment. We trust in the Lord, but we are pulled to go against Him. That pull comes from our sinful flesh for sure, but it comes also from all that is unclean in the world.

The Mark 1 context, however, shows where our Savior abides: He goes to the temple, He goes to the place where His Father’s Word is proclaimed. We know we can always find the Lord in His church. This is why Christians are eager to meet Him there! In His temple, in His church He heals His people. He heals you. He is still preaching and His Word comes with healing uniting you to Himself and His blood which cleanses you from all sin. Is this really true? Yes, because you were baptized, you were washed, you were cleansed. Christ performed His exorcism on you on the day your sin was buried with Him in Holy Baptism, on the day you were joined to His resurrection victory over the grave.

“He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him (St. Mark’s Gospel, chapter 1, verse 27b).”

In Your Service and To Christ’s Glory,

Dr. Espinosa

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