Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
29 January 2012 Mark 1:26.
“And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
Today’s Gospel deals with a subject that is often met with skepticism or outright unbelief in our modern world: the reality of evil, unclean spirits. Those who have been baptized and taught to pray, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, however, know differently. We know all too well what it means to be harassed and tempted by evil and unclean spirits. They whisper lies and half-truths and try to confuse us. They try to influence us to do things we know are wrong – even things we don’t want to do. We have all felt their influence at different times. We know how they have tried to sow division, to make us fearful, to get us down on ourselves, to lie, to manipulate people, or to doubt God’s love. Today’s Gospel story concerns us directly. In it we see both an urgent warning and a powerful promise of safety in the presence of the Savior, Christ Jesus.
1. Give Satan a foothold and he will build a stronghold.
a. The poor man in the synagogue didn’t get there overnight – neither do we. Perversity, promiscuity, pornography, drug use invite the unclean spirits.
b. Consider those who have given evil and inch and seen it take a mile:
Cain -- 6The LORD said to Cain: What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it! Samson -- 4Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, …..
5The Philistine rulers went to Delilah and said, "Trick Samson into telling you what makes him so strong and what can make him weak. Then we can tie him up so he can't get away. If you find out his secret, we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."
2. The gates of brass before Him burst, the iron fetters yield.
• A. He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him! "The presence of the Savior is the torment of the devils." Bede the Venerable
b. The same power and authority can be found in the Word of God today, as well as in the sacraments and in the body of Christ.
"When sin is forgiven it is certain that the devil is driven out from the sinner's heart, and for this reason Christ embraced all sinners in His statement: 'Now sentence is being passed on this world, now the prince of this world is overthrown.' God removes the sin of the one who makes humble confession, and thereby the devil loses the sovereignty he had gained over the human heart." -- Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 6.4, The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux (vol. 2); The Song of Songs I, pg. 34.