Today is the first sunday of the season of Lent. 40 lengthening days leading up to Good Friday and Easter. We’re used to the idea of preparing for significant events - a special birthday or a wedding or a birth. There are things to get ready. Lent gives us an opportunity to address our lives; our hearts.. to re-calibrate things, to re-order things in the light of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Some people seek to give up something - to fast through lent in order to be able to pursue God hungrily. Other’s might take up again the discipline of reading the Bible - our lifeblood, the words of God. Lent is a time supremely of penitence: Jesus died for you and rose again… now - as the words in the ash wednesday service go: turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
In our ash wednesday service 4 days ago Andrew Jones used this vivid illustration:
Maybe over the last year we have befriended our sin, welcomed it into the home of our life and sat down to eat with it. But the sin that you befriended and welcomed in has become a troublesome, eviction-resisting squatter. You’re exhausted and weary.
I don’t know what you think about sin? Perhaps you think it’s an unhelpful category altogether? The scriptures do not shy away from it. Sometimes we want to clarify that sin isn’t so much ‘bad things we do’ but an attitude towards God of unbelief and rejection that says ‘I’m going to live my life my way. Push off God, you’re not God, I’m God it’s my life.’ We’re all guilty of that attitude are we not? But the Bible seems to want to take our understanding of sin further. Like Andrew does in his illustration of sin being an eviction-resisting squatter in our lives. The Bible speaks of sin not just as an attitude but as a power in our lives and in our world. A dominating dark power. Thereare dark powers in our world that can influence our lives. Jesus taught it. It’s logical if we’re going to believe in the existence of God to believe in the existence of the Devil and demons. And furthermore the existence of dark powers makes sense of our experience of life - not only some of the awful and unexplainable things that happen in our world but also of our own deep struggles with ourselves - things we struggle to shift, habits and addictions…
How do we change? How do we prepare for Good Friday and Easter? How do we turn away from sin to be faithful to Christ?
Our passage in Luke today tells us we need Jesus. And our passage gives us great hope because the very reason Jesus came Luke is to destroy the Kingdom of darkness, to destroy the works of the evil one. As he said of himself in the synagogue in Nazareth quoting Isaiah 61’ The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.. to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to release the oppressed,.
Jesus overcomes the Tempter in the wilderness and having made a bridge head into this fallen world he now proceeds to show that he is the Saviour who is able to undo all that sin and satan and evil have brought into our daily existence.
And so he does 3 things
- He preaches that the Kingdom of God has now been established. The battle has been fought and i am God’s King and i have won the battle. Others have tried and lost but i have won the battle over the powers of darkness and now
- i begin to establish the power of my kingdom by undoing here and there what the powers of darkness have wrought in the lives of men and women. And so He shows the power of that Kingdom - in exorcisms and healings
- he calls into existence a new community of his disciples where the powers of the kingdom of God have begun to be released. The church is the new community in which it becomes obvious that Jesus as the King is beginning to reverse in our lives all the effects of sin and beginning to restore that true humanity and fellowship and joy and power to live for the glory of God that sin has robbed our lives of. That’s why the church is such a different place when it is living up to its calling because we understand that in this family we together are actually citizens of a different nation, we’re members of a different kind of community. [places in the UK that do not belong to the UK. Embassies of foreign countries. Julian Assange the wikileaks is grateful for this. The land upon which foreign embassies are built belongs to that forerign country and they’re sacrosanct.] That’s what the church is. We live in a world that’s dominated by dark and sinister powers but the church is the place where those dark powers have lost their authority. In the church the powers of the age to come are experienced. Of course the church is not perfect - not yet! But things have begun to be different. People notice that. The atmosphere of the church is different to the atmosphere of the world because the King is here. [how would the atmosphere change in here if HM the Queen walked into the room? The atmosphere is different where Jesus is present. People become different where Jesus is present]
So that’s What jesus is doing (big picture): Making inroads into the kingdom of darkness; liberating people who’ve been held in bondage; creating this new community that he calls the church that is his embassy in the world.
And this is the meaning of Jesus’ miracles.
They are not only works of power although they are certainly that
They are not just deeds of compassion although they are certinly that.
They are little indications (teaching aids) of how Jesus has begun to put things back together; to change things.
[room = turn light switch - lights come on then immediately the bulb fuses and goes out. There’s just enough light that has been made for you to manoeuvre yourself because you’ve seen what’s in the room.]
That’s what Jesus’ miracles are - little flashes of light that help us to see where things are going; what he is bringing. He is transforming lives so that in his final coming the world will be set free; gloriously transformed.
Before we focus in on this 24 hours in the life of Jesus. Let me just say one thing about the prevalence of demons here. Here’s a suggestion of why we see so many demons here. It could be that what we now understand to be mental illness or physical conditions like epilepsy were ascribed then to the presence of demons. It could be something like that. But it’s interesting the bible is not full of demons. Some people say ‘Oh the Bible’s full of demons” The Bible hardly ever mentions demons. The place where it does mention demons again and again are within these 3 years of Jesus’ ministry. In the ministry - that ’s the place demons .. nowhere else. Why? Isn’t it because when your kingdom is under attack you move all possible resources to defend that kingdom. And that’s what was happening here. Jesus’ Kingdom was destroying the influence and power of the kingdom of darkness and so all the battallions of hell were mustering in this small land at this time in history inorder to resist Jesus. So in a sense of course we are seeing something utterly unique here. The Lord Jesus Christ establishing his kingdom in a dark world. I don’t think we should be identifying demons everywhere in one another and seeking to exorcise them just bcause we see that here. And yet nevertheless.. this passage will gives us such assurance of Jesus’ lordship over darkness that i pray we will want to come to him and ourselves be increasingly restored wherever darknesss touches us.
24 hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth
a hectic busy mad 24 hours which spans the Sabbath day - the day of rest! Points to what the day of rest was really all about - restoration, healing, the renewal of all things. Jesus Christ says ‘If you really want rest, come to me and i will work for your rest.’
Each episode in turn
When Jesus preaches in the synagogue in Capernaum he is accepted unlike in Nazareth. In Nazareth they wanted to throw him off the brow of the hill on which the town is built and he left them. In Capernaum they beg him not to leave.
There is acceptance and yet during the morning service there is an outburst of ‘church-rage’
we’re familiar with ‘road rage’ - the uncontained irritation and anger at another drivers driving.
well there is such a thing as church rage. as Jesus’ word begins to make inroads into a person’s life. I often wonder about this man. Was he there every sabbath day? presumably he was. was he a deeply troubled and troubling man or was he demon possessed but nobody really knew it ? or recently demon posessed as this confrontation approached? Did he usually just sit there quietly until the day Jesus comes to church.
When Jesus comes to church is there sometimes church rage? Because jesus enters the church to be Lord of the church and sometimes the true state of our hearts is painfully exposed to us and the result is ..anger.. it begins to boil..
Most of us are more competent to hold this in. But here was a man who as the word of God penetrated deeply .. the kingdom of darkness determining to keep this man brought him to an uncontrollable rage against Jesus.
there are many striking things to notice here but here’s one:
any individual who is oppressed by satan at whatever level.. As Jesus begins to set that person free … As Jesus begins to claim this man do you see what the demon does? The demon ‘throws him down to theground.’ What does that tell us?: That satan and sin have no love for us. Even, although we may have a love for what they offer.. they have no real interest in us and once our usefulness to them is complete they will just throw us away. That’s what happened to this man.
But jesus by his power released the man from the bondage in which he’d been living. from a cruel master and there is this horrific outburst. i’m no fan of conflict or confrontation but we should be grateful for outbursts and church rage - if Jesus is working on hearts to set us free. Listen to Jesus’ words - let them go deep into you painful and resisted as that might be.. His words will set you free.
Jesus rebukes the demon and the man is set free.
It’s interesting that when we come to the afternoon scene, Jesus is rebuking again.. this time with reference to Peter’s mother-in-law. She is in bed with a great fever. This isn’t just a cold. This a serious serious illness. Now note that Jesus does not rebuke Peter’s mother-in-law. He rebukes the fever. Interesting isn’t it? This personalisation again But jesus understands that sickness in our world has the same source in sin and the powers of darkness.
Jesus does what no doctor can do. Jesus speaks his authoritative word and raises the woman up. And it’s made very clear that Jesus is not just some very clever and gifted physician who’s been able to deliver some cure to this woman. No, When Jesus heals this woman she doesn’t feel how we all feel when we’ve had a week on anti-biotics. the infection’s gone but you’re still all of a wobble - recovering from the week in bed! No..Look at Peter’s mother in law. She is instantly renewed. She’s better.. and she’s not just sitting up in bed and now able to have some lunch. She’s up and making the lunch! She is totally restored. Another indication that when jesus touches you he makes a person TOTALLY well.
Sometimes today Jesus does do this - he makes a person not just spiritually but also physically well.
There’s that Instruction in the book of James for the sick to call the elders of the church to anoint with oil and pray for physical healing. Sometimes today Jesus does heal like that. Sometimes. It doesn’t mean Luke is saying forget about your doctor because he was a doctor. Luke travelled the ancient world with Paul on his missionary journeys - i should think Paul was very grateful many times to have a doctor present. When Paul writes to Timothy and speaks about Timothy’s stomach problems and frequent illnesses Paul doesn’t say just have faith he says treat it with a little wine. Go to the GP get a prescription. The natural healing of our bodies that sometimes needs to be assisted by the wonderful gift of medical science is the normal way that God heals us.
But sometimes Jesus intervenes. And he intervenes here because he is showing us his kingdom.
3rd scene as the sun is setting and the sick and demon possessed are brought to Jesus.
this is interesting. J deserves a rest don’t you think at the end of such a busy day. i know how i feel at the end of a sunday. i can’t imagine what J must have felt like at the end of this day. Remember what he says later when a sick woman touches his cloak and is healed? - who touched me ? strength, power went out of me…
But you know here there is bedlam in the closing hours of the day in Capernaum. jesus is healing the sick and demon possessed. Did he stay up all night as they came to him?
Notice a couple of things. The first is deeply touching I believe. Receive it’s truth. end of v40 laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Jesus attends to each of the sick individually, an act that shows his concern and compassion - for you and for me. He also lays hands on them - not because he has to, he can heal with a word - he might have been able to just heal the whole crowd with a word. But Jesus’ care has a personal touch to it. Jesus is not just compassionate. he has compassion for you. He is not just loving - he loves you.
When Jesus touches lives - the demons shriek. Outing Jesus, perhaps trying to discredit him. Something similar always happens when Jesus reaches deeper into our lives .. all the battalions of hell will rally round to stop us being set free from our addiction to dark influences, all the powers of men and demons to keep you in the grip of the evil one.
and the thing you and I need most to hear is the voice of Jesus rebuking those voices and saying now child, come to me and i will make you well and i will give you rest
turn away from sin and be faithful to christ.