Prepare Our Hearts – August 14

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Friday, August 14, 2020
Mark 1:21-28

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

In the dark days of the year known as the 8 months in between football seasons—of which we are hopefully, mercifully, drawing near the end—I often find myself, through the miracle that is internet highlight clips, reliving one of the the most emotional and enjoyable nights of my life as a Pittsburgh sports fan: Super Bowl XLIII. The big game between the Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals contained all the suspense and drama a fan could ever hope for. In fact, there were so many amazing moments in the game that a perfectly executed 64-yard touchdown throw-and-catch between two future hall-of-famers to give the Cardinals the lead with less than 3 minutes to play is all but forgotten thanks to the how-did-he-do-that toe-tapping snag in the back corner of the end-zone to win the game for Pittsburgh with just seconds remaining.

In a similar way, the miraculous catch of fish preceding the calling of the first disciples does not even merit a parenthetical mention in Mark’s gospel. Perhaps just as astonishing as the size of the haul was the willingness of the lifelong fishermen to just walk away from their livelihood and their families and begin following Jesus. The same simultaneous feelings of amazement and terror that fell on Simon and the others resulting from Jesus’ command to let down their nets would become a universal reaction to His presence and power.

Jesus and the disciples then began to travel throughout the region of Galilee and, as was the custom for any visiting rabbi, He was invited to share a word from the Lord with the local congregation. Luke 4:18-19 gives us an example of the preaching of Jesus, quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus’ words sparked curiosity and wonder from the synagogue audience. Could He actually be saying what they thought they were hearing? Could the kingdom of God be near at last? Everyone knew that wealth and prosperity was God’s reward for righteous living, was it even be possible that this good news applied to the poor and the captive, the blind and the oppressed? No one, not even the highly educated scribes with their advanced skill in understanding and interpreting the Mosaic law, sounded like Jesus. He spoke with an authority, a power, unlike any teacher they had ever heard.

The people were not the only ones to take notice of the message of Jesus. An unclean spirit possessing a man in the crowd recognized at once what these words meant for it: certain destruction. As would become common throughout His ministry, the demon demonstrated a superior knowledge of the identity of Jesus. While the people respectfully referred to Him as teacher, master, or lord and were amazed at His teaching, the demons shrieked and cowered at His overwhelming holiness and devastating deity. Like Simon Peter, they knew that they could not stand in the presence of perfect righteousness of the Son of God. Unlike Simon Peter, there was no hope for their repentance.

Perhaps as remarkable as Jesus’ ability to exorcise evil spirits was the manner in which He did so. There is no secret incantation, special technique, or slight-of-hand tricks. There are no magic words, only a word. Jesus speaks and the demons flee. Their power, which was dangerously real and debilitating for their human hosts, was no match for the Holy One of God.

The message of the gospel is no less astonishing and startling today than it was those many years ago in Capernaum. To encounter Jesus through His word is to come face-to-face with the God of the universe. As finite fallen creatures we can not stand before the spotless Lamb of God, but the good news of the gospel is that there is freedom from the oppressive power of sin for all who would confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord. We can not remain as we are when we see Him for who He is. We must either depart from His presence or submit to His Lordship.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, Your power knows no limits and Your grace knows no bounds. Only because of what You have done for us can we enter into Your presence in awe and holy reverence. We ask today that You would remind us once again of Your grace as we confess our reluctance to submit to Your authority over every aspect of our lives. Help us to trust, believe, and hold fast to Your Word. We humbly ask in Your Holy name, Amen.