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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:The Light Shining in the Darkness
Text:Mark 5:1-20; text 1-10 (View)
Occasion:Reformation Day
Topic:Christ's gathering work

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Psalter Hymnal #46B, 433, 244, 265 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

A Light Shining in the Darkness

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in know that my sermon title this morning -- A Light Shining in the Darkness’ sounds more like a Christmas sermon than a Reformation Day sermon. But I chose that title because of the nature of the confrontation we see in our text. Here, in the Person of God’s Son Jesus Christ, the Light of the Gospel breaks forth in the most unlikely place, to perhaps the most unlikely person. After darkness, there is light.


I also chose this title because of its connection to the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was spear headed by godly men like Martin Luther and John Calvin. It was their tireless preaching and teaching of the truths of the Gospel that sparked the fires of the Reformation that revived a church that was living in an age of darkness. Those Reformation fires still burn brightly today – and have for over 500 years. After darkness, there is light.


Finally, I chose that title because today is also called Halloween. This is a day that is celebrated by millions of people all over the world – by many Christians as well. Yet, very few really know (and very few actually agree upon) what this day is all about.


But clearly, Halloween is associated in some way with the power of evil and darkness; with the dead and even the undead; with ghosts and graveyards, with vampires and werewolves. And if anyone has watched any television over the past month, then you know that some TV channels have been televising every monster movie or horror movie that has ever been made.


And to one extent or another, all those movies are designed to do the same thing: to frighten us, to show us the face of evil; to shock us. And of course, they try to make each movie more frightening than the last. And each evil villain is made to be more evil and sinister and deadly than the last.


But what I want you to see today from Mark 5 is that this is the real face of evil. This is what evil looks like. This is not fiction. This is not some man-made horror story. Jesus is not walking in a “Halloween Haunted Grave-yard” with artificial fog and spider webs and scary sound effects; with fake tombstones and a pretend monster prowling about. No. Jesus is walking around in a real graveyard; he is surrounded by death and darkness. And in the person of this demon possessed man, Jesus is confronted by the presence of evil such that no movie producer could even imagine.


And yet, as terrifying as that scene was, Jesus walked right into that graveyard, right into this very real horror story -- and Jesus shined the light of the Gospel and he saved that demon possessed man! And so for that man too, it was true: after darkness, there is light.


On a side note: I hope that after looking at this passage today you will see that evil and darkness is nothing to celebrate; and perhaps you will rethink what Halloween is all about. But most of all, I hope that you will see the amazing power of the Gospel displayed in God’s Son, Jesus Christ! For here we see that Jesus Confronts an Evil Madman

1) The Power of Evil    

2) The Terror of Jesus  


1) The Power of Evil

If we look back at Mark 4, we learn that Jesus was teaching a large crowd that had gathered by the lake. That lake was the Sea of Galilee. The crowd was so large that Jesus got into a boat, and his boat became his pulpit. He sat in the boat out on the lake where his voice could then carry over the water, and the people sat on the shore listening. Jesus taught like that until the evening.


Then (as Mark 4: 35 says), Jesus told his disciples to head over to the other side, to the east side of the lake. As they did, a furious squall arose, a bad storm broke out on the sea and waves came crashing over the boat. The disciples were petrified as any of us would be -- but Jesus was sound asleep in the stern of the boat.


So they woke up Jesus and said Teacher don’t you care if we all drown? So Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves. The winds died down and the waters became still. That miracle had a surprising effect on the disciples. Mark 4: 41 says they were terrified and asked each other: who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!

I’m going to talk about that more in the second point when we speak about the terror of Jesus. But for now, I want you to see that the Son of God who has just tamed the untamable storm, has now reached shore and he is about to tame the untamable man.


And notice as well, Jesus travels from one side of the lake to the other for this specific reason. He has come to the region of the Garasenes (or Gadarenes – as both names are used), to seek and to save this poor tortured soul; to save this man who was possessed by a legion of demons.  


So this was not a chance meeting. This was not a case where the boat was blown off course by the storm, and they just happened to land in this eerie, remote area.  No. Jesus was right where he needed to be. Jesus knew who lived there. Jesus had come there to claim this man for himself.  


And let’s talk about this man for a few moments. We’re told that as soon as Jesus got out of the boat, he came out from the tombs to meet Jesus. To even call him a man seems generous. He was barely human. It might be more accurate to describe him as a demon in human flesh, because the demons who dwelled in this man had dispossessed him of every shred of human dignity.


Luke records the same account in Luke 8:26-39. He tells us that at one time this man was just another guy living in the nearby town. But then, however it happened, he became possessed by demons, and then he no longer lived in town. He no longer dwelled among the living (Luke 8:29). Now he dwelled among the dead, in a graveyard among the tombstones.


In addition, he no longer wore clothing, but he walked around naked – which again reinforces the idea of the dehumanizing effect of demon possession. Verse 4 tells us that this man had often been chained hand and foot. Luke 8 adds that at one time he was actually under guard. But then, he tore those chains apart and broke the irons on his feet so that he could not be bound anymore. In fact, no one was strong enough to subdue him.


So it would seem like over time, this demon possessed man grew stronger and wilder and more uncontrollable. He lived in complete isolation. People knew to avoid him. Not only that, but these demons also tortured this man’s body and soul. Verse 5 says night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.


The verb used there indicates ongoing action – so that he was constantly cutting himself with stones, so that his body would have been a horrific sight of fresh wounds and bleeding scabs and no doubt many sores with infection.


And one commentator made the point that because this graveyard was so close to the water, and so near the hills and mountains, there’s no doubt that this man’s shrieks and screams would have been heard for miles and miles – echoing over the water and through the hills. As I said before, this would have been a real life horror show; a scene more terrifying than anyone could imagine.  


So, what are we to make of this? We need to understand that this shocking and horrifying image -- this man possessed by a thousand demons – is ultimately a picture of us; this is man in his fallen state. This is what it means to be dead in sin. It is to be alive, yes, but it is to be controlled by the power of sin so that every part of our being (heart, soul, mind and will) is influenced by sin.


And we also need to see how sin dehumanizes us. Sin strips away our dignity. It deprives us of our sense of logic and reason and common sense. Every one of us who has ever felt the power of temptation knows this. Why do we lie, cheat, steal, punch, or swear? We lose control, don’t we.   


We can probably all think of an example or two of married men and women who ruined their marriages, who destroyed their families and sacrificed their careers all for the sake of indulging in a moment of lust with someone else. Sin dehumanizes, sin blinds, sin controls us, sin reduces others to objects, and sin enslaves us and yes, sin even tortures us.   


Just like this man who constantly cut himself with stones, sin always harms us. Proverbs 6 says: Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.


So too, when we give into temptation and sin, we also suffer death by a thousand cuts. Sin promises so much, but it delivers so little. Sin teases and tortures. And it hurts and harms not only us, but sadly, it also harms others around us.


So, do you see what Jesus does here? In showing us this man, Jesus has stripped away the exterior. Jesus has stripped away the thin veneer of our pride and hubris, of our decency and humanity. Jesus shows us the devil that lives inside us. He shows us the power of sin; the power of evil to subject us – to enslave us. And it should terrify us!


It should scare us straight as it were -- for Jesus shows us why we need Christ, why we need the power and light of the Gospel so desperately. Because without Christ, without the power of His grace to save us from our sins, we are condemned to this same hell that this man lived each day.


2) The Terror of Jesus

So that is the power of Sin. Now I want to shift our focus to the Terror of Jesus. Did it strike you as odd that as frightening and horrifying and powerful as this man was, that it is not Jesus who is terrified by the presence of this evil man. Rather, it is this evil, demon possessed monster who is terrified at the presence of Jesus.


Just look what he does when he sees Jesus. Look at verses 6-7!! When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of himCan you believe that?! Again, it’s easy to read this and miss the irony of this scene. We have just been told how powerful this demon possessed man is! No one could subdue him. He tore iron chains part; he broke the irons that bound his feet. He was a living monster.


And when Jesus asked him what his name was, it was not the man talking, rather, it was the demons within him. His answer was: my name is Legion -- meaning many; literally it means a thousand. If this demon is telling the truth, it means a thousand demons had taken possession of this man’s body. Mary Magdalene, if you recall, one of the women who loved and followed Jesus had seven evil spirits cast out of her (Luke 8:2). But this man had a 1000 demons – that’s unthinkable!!

So it would seem that Jesus should be the one who is terrified. This man could attack him and kill him in an instant. But Jesus is unafraid. That’s because Jesus is the very Son of the Most High God.


And so, when this demon sees Jesus, he fall on his knees before him; and how ironic it is that he who was torturing this poor man body and soul pleaded with Jesus not to torture him! Mark 5: 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God, (or in God’s name) don’t torture me!”


This is similar to what happened at the outset of Christ’s ministry. In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. A man with an evil spirit was present and he spoke up saying: What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”


And so, in something of the same way that the terror of Jesus fell upon the disciples when they were in that boat, and they suddenly realized who Jesus was, that they were in the presence of the holy Son of God who was sovereign over the wind and waves -- so too, this demon knows who Jesus is! And he falls down before Jesus in terror and fear! As James 2:19 says: Even the demons fear God! Even the demons believe in God and they shudder; they tremble in fear as they should.


And just looking at this scene should encourage us – it should remind us once more of how powerful and amazing our God is. I spoke before about Halloween and how in many ways it is a celebration of evil. I think the devil is especially delighted when everyone celebrates Halloween and in Mexico they celebrate the Day of the Dead – because the devil gets all this attention.


And in all these movies, the impression is given that the power of evil is so great. These demon possessed killers know what others are thinking, they seem to have power to appear and disappear and to do anything they want. But the truth is, while the power of evil is real, and while it is nothing for us to dabble in, the power of evil is nothing compared to the power of God.


Please do not forget this scene: while sinful man remains stubborn and defiant and blind, the demons know the real score. They fall to their knees in the presence of Jesus. There is no question in their minds who possesses all power and authority in heaven and on earth.


To wrap things up this morning, I want to take you back to Mark chapter 3, to a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. In that passage, the Pharisees cannot explain the power of Jesus and how he was able to do what he did, healing and casting out demons. So they tried to discredit him by literally demonizing him. They accused Jesus of being demon possessed himself! Of casting out demons in the name of Satan.


So in Mark 3:23ff, Jesus pointed out to them the stupidity, the sheer lunacy of what they were saying: Answer me this: How does Satan drive out Satan? A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand; a house divided against itself cannot stand.  After that, Jesus said these words: no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man.


It’s natural to read the passage we read today and ask and wonder about demon possession. We wonder, why does it seem like demon possession was so prolific or common in the days of Jesus? We also wonder if demon possession is still possible today. I for one have never met someone I would describe as demon possessed, but I have witnessed plenty of people – including myself – acting under the power of sin and temptation.  


And I have spoken to missionaries who claim that they have confronted demon possession. So am not going to tell you that it is no longer a reality in our world today. But I will tell you this. In that passage in Mark 3, Jesus was the one came into this world to tie up/bind the strong man. There is no question about that in the passage we read. He has come to bind Satan and cast out demons!   


Jesus was the Son of the Most High God, the Bright and Morning Star; He came down to earth, to the domain of darkness, to where the prince of darkness reigns, and Jesus came to bind Satan. In his earthly ministry, Jesus came casting out demons as a sign of His power and His presence. Jesus was reclaiming all those whom Satan had claimed for himself! Jesus came to set the prisoners free!


And we see this in every aspect of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ – in his resisting of Satan’s temptations, in his own victorious death, resurrection, and ascension; in His sitting at the right hand of God, we see the power and authority of the Son of God.


We see Christ’s power and authority in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, in the powerful preaching of the gospel to all nations, in the conversation of the hearts of sinners to Christ, in the fact that Christ will redeem for himself a church, a people, a multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe, people and language. This proves the fact that Christ has bound Satan; that the power of Christ’s Spirit and the power of the Gospel is more powerful that sin and Satan and evil.


So do not let Satan deceive you. Do not attribute to the devil more credit and more power than he is due. Remember how Legion fell to his knees before Jesus, and remember what Philippians 2 says, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  


Either willingly or unwillingly, every tongue shall confess that. Even Satan himself will confess that. In the meantime, we who live today are called to live and to walk in the power and in the light of the Gospel. As I said at the beginning: after darkness, there is light. Like this man from whom Christ cast the demon, we have been saved out of the darkness and brought into the light!


Ephesians 5: 8-11 says:  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.


Additionally, we must live in victory over sin; we must take hold of the power God gives us in Christ over sin and Satan. 1 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. 1 John 4:4 says He who is in you is stronger than he who is in the world! James 4: 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Ephesians 6: 10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Let us live as victors over sin and Satan. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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