First Lesson: Genesis3: 8-15
Responsive Reading: Psalm 130: 1-8
Second Lesson.2 Corinthians 4 :13- 5
Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
After spending several weeks in the book of John we are now back in the book of Mark. Remember that Mark’s gospel moves right along, Jesus is baptized, then is tempted by Satan in the wilderness and then off He goes – casting out demons, healing many – curing them of diseases, forgiving sins and even doing these things on the sacred Sabbath day of rest. Never once is Jesus accused of being a fraud or a fake – his power was evident for all to see. But where was his power from? I mean after all what kind of holy man hangs out with sinners and tax collectors. What kind of holy man breaks the sabbath to heal people
Jesus is on a mission – to set captives free. Way back in Genesis ch 3 Satan enticed Adam and Eve and lured humanity into a prison filled with sin, disease and death. Now Jesus is on the scene. Mark demonstrates throughout His gospel the power of Jesus. He was more powerful than demons, more powerful than thousands of demons (in Mark chapter 5 he cast a legion of demons out of a man), and he is more powerful than Satan himself. Ever since the fall in Genesis, Satan had plagued God’s children – in a way he kidnapped them and put them in prison. Some, in particular, those with demons or disease were almost in solitary confinement. Because of their affliction – their uncleanness - they were cut off from the temple and from others in the community. And now God himself, in Jesus, had come to set them free. And by healing them and setting them free – they were once again able to participate in worship and be a part of the community.
Have any of you heard of the radio program – unshackled? It is the radio ministry of Pacific Garden Mission – a rescue mission in downtown Chicago. The Old lighthouse as they call it has been a beacon of hope for Chicago’s street people for over 70 years. And by way of it’s radio program - Unshackled - the Lord has reached millions of people around the globe. The program broadcasts modern stories of people set free by Jesus. They are people very much like the people that Jesus ministered to when he was on earth in the flesh. They are the outcasts – so lost to drugs, alcohol, violence and prostitution that they lost any sense of worth or any connection with society long ago. They are shackled and imprisoned by sin and evil and they know it. I’d like to share the testimony of young lady named Kimberly Golphin. She describes being unshackled. It may not be as dramatic as other testimonies that you have heard but let’s listen her story. Kim writes her testimony and then shares some thoughts about faith. She begins
Before I experienced [real] Life, I was the cool type; hanging out, getting high and in trouble.
One day in April I was sitting in the back of my school with a friend when another friend asked me if I wanted to go across the street with her to get high. I said sure, why not. So I went. I noticed that all the while I was there I did not feel at all comfortable, I felt very dumb and out of place. I could not understand what was wrong with me. It seemed like the more dope I smoked the more out of place I felt. I tried lighting up a cigarette to see if it would help but I could not smoke away the deep conviction I [felt]. After returning to school I felt very sick. I told my friends that I would be back and that I was going to the nurses office to lie down. As I reached the nurses office, I ran into the bathroom and closed the door. It was pitch black in there, and I ran my hand up and down the wall trying to find the light switch; but it was of no use, the light switch was simply not there. Then I began vomiting all over the floor and all over myself, and I also began to shake uncontrollably. [I felt that] I was in the very presence of God. I heard a voice say where are all your friends now? Who can help you now? I said, You [can] God! She continues with some thoughts about her faith…She writes…There is more to Christianity than going to church every Sunday, singing in the Choir, and being on the usher board. Salvation Produces LIFE. this life [comes] Through Christ, for he said in John 14:6 I am the Way the Truth and the Life, No one comes to the Father but by me. I am now nineteen years old, and living my life for God. Oh Friend, I have peace that no party, joint, beer, sex or anything else could give [me]. For Christ said in St. John 14:27 Peace I leave you, My Peace I give unto you. The Scripture says in (2 Corinthians) 7:10 For Godly sorrow brings Repentance. [Once we are] tired of sin, tired of being mean and evil, tired of telling lies, tired of stealing, drinking, .. tired of being jealous and hating. Once we have reached this point [we recognize that] God is willing and able to help us and give us a brand new life. … The Scripture says in Romans 10:13 Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And In 1 John 1:9 it says If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, Romans 10:9-10 reads If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ..That is the end of Kimberly’s testimony and her comments
Those that have reached the bottom of the barrel or the end of their rope know very well that they are shackled and imprisoned. Every 12 step group for every addiction includes recognizing that a person is unable to free themselves. They know they need God to free them. Jesus is powerful and he has come to plunder – that is to thoroughly rob - Satan’s prison – Satan has trapped humanity and Jesus is setting them free. Maybe you are one of those folks that have been shackled. Oh shackles can look deceptively fun and harmless to begin with - but for many it leads to destruction, despair, and death. Jesus having the power and authority to set people free from Satan and evil is the main point of this passage but there is more. In addition to Jesus and Satan there are four groups that are mentioned – the disciples, the crowd, Jesus’ family and the scribes. The crowd was captivated by this powerful miracle working Jesus. As news about Jesus spread the crowds grew – so much so that he could hardly enter a village without being mobbed. Jesus’ family hears about his claims, his miracles and the crowds and they think he has lost his mind.
The scribes from Jerusalem are powerful religious leaders and since Jesus does not fit their idea of a holy man so they assume his power is from the devil. So Jesus goes about his work of freeing those that know they are captives – those shackled by sin or by living in a sinful world -the sinners, tax collectors, demon possessed and the sick. But how does the story unfold? If we jump to the end of the gospel, we know it is these scribes and other religious leaders in Jerusalem that lead the crowds to cry out crucify him. In the end we see that all suffer from sin – all are Satan’s prisoners. Whose sin nailed Jesus to the cross – the sin of all of them – the sin of all of us. Whose sin did He forgive – all of their sin – all of our sin. Most Americans think there is a hell but only ½ of 1% are concerned about going there. Almost 90% of people believe there is a heaven and 85% of those believe they are going there. Why do so many think they are going to heaven and why do they have little concern about hell? Many believe that they are going to heaven because they are basically good and surely a good God will let good people into heaven. The notion that people are basically good is a human idea. And it’s partially true – each of us is made in the image of God – but it overlooks the fact that that image was forever hopelessly distorted by sin. The Bible says in Romans ch 3 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In our passage and throughout the gospels the crowd looks on curiously and sees all the sinners being freed but I doubt that they thought they were imprisoned and in need of a savior. Maybe it’s kind of like people today listening to a radio program like unshackled or hearing a testimony about someone set free from drugs, alcohol, violence, or sexual addiction. We can look, like the crowds did in Jesus day, and think wow they really needed Jesus and this Jesus is really something look how he transformed their lives. But we can miss the fact that we are plagued by sin. I know what it’s like to be shackled. I know what it’s like to know that I need a savior. I know the joy and new life that there is in returning to God and it has been a joy to discover that I need Jesus every day to live free. There is a contemporary Christian song titled Mighty to Save – I’d like to read some of it’s lyrics to you
EVERYONE needs compassion ,Love that never failing ,Let mercy fall on me
EVERYONE needs forgiveness ,The kindness of a Savior The hope of nations,Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is Mighty to save,He is Mighty to save
Forever, Author of salvation,He rose and conquered the grave,Jesus conquered the grave
I don’t know where you find yourself in our gospel this morning - maybe in the crowd - maybe one of those that has been unshackled - set free - but wherever we find ourselves - we need a savior not just to be set free but so that we might live free. And we can take comfort knowing that our God is mighty – He is mighty to save. amen