On a moonless, stormy night 200 years ago, four men stood on a grassy knoll overlooking the North Atlantic and peered seaward at a ship’s light glowing in the blackness. One man paced back and forth, leading a horse with a lighted lantern tied to its nodding chin. Soon, a short distance at sea, the ship would go aground and be wrecked by pounding water. Eventually the sands would hide the wreck, but not before every last thing of value had been taken by these men – who made their living as wreckers. This describes one of many instances that took place near what is now called Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. They say that some 2,300 ships lie buried in this graveyard of the Atlantic. Some by accident, but most of these ships found their death through treachery.
Those forces that come at us, the world and it’s many crafty lies along with the devil and his schemes, are spiritual wreckers – wreckers who come to wreck and destroy the souls of Christians. When we talk about the world, we are talking about a system of thought, the lifestyle that stands in opposition to God. We have immoral pressures, pressures on the mind, pressures on our lifestyle that come to us from all angles.
The Gospel of Mark, unlike the other three gospels, go directly to the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Mark opens with Jesus being baptized by John. Then takes Him through the temptation. From the desert we find Him in Galilee, by the Sea, calling His disciples. The central location of His ministry is not Jerusalem, nor is it Nazareth, it is Capernaum.
The odd thing about the way that Mark opens this book is that we see the human character in is raw form. There close to Capernaum, Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John to be His disciples. All Jesus does is to say, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Right there they drop everything and follow Jesus. They left their families, their boats, everything. One has to ask why these four individuals? No formal education. No public experience. Plus they smell bad. But they follow Jesus, there is something in their hearts that Jesus likes.
In reading the Scriptures I find two great forces for good in human experience: the “fear” of God and the “grace” of God. Without the fear of God I should not stop at doing evil; the fear of God restrains me from evil. Without the grace of God I should have no desire to approach positive goodness. The one is a deterrent from evil; the other an encouragement to good.
Now look at the contrast, after calling these four disciples, Jesus goes into the synagogue in Capernaum. Here is where I expected Jesus to find His disciples, not at the fishing docks. The synagogue is the church. It should be full of good and righteous people. People who want, and do, live as God called them to live.
He began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “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!” Can’t you just imagine how everyone took that? Ever been in a service where they spoke in tongues? “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Do you see the paradox of Mark’s writing? We don’t expect to find Christians down by the sea, but in fact we find the best Christians by the sea. We expect to find Christians in the church, but in fact we find the possessed. Most of the evil in this world does not come from evil people. It comes from people who consider themselves good.
A little bit of hell spilled over on the world because two people believed in a false prophet. After many years of anxious waiting for an heir to the Russian throne, Tsar Nicholas II and his German wife, Federovna, were blessed with a son. However, their hopes for the future were cruelly crushed six weeks later when doctors discovered the infant had hemophilia, an incurable blood disease that could kill at any moment. All of his short life was to be lived in the shadow of terror, with death stalking every footstep. This tragedy introduced into the royal family one of the most evil men who ever lived. In those moments they turned to Gregory Rasputin, a religious mystic of questionable credentials, later known as the mad monk of Russia. Invariably, he would pray for the boy and there would be a marked improvement. Even today doctors are at a loss to explain how these healings took place, but history testifies to them. Always, Rasputin would warn the parents the boy would only live as long as they listened to him. Rasputin’s power over the royal family became so great that he could, with a word, obtain the appointment or dismissal of any government official. He had men appointed or dismissed on the basis of their attitudes toward himself rather than their abilities. Consequently, the whole Russian government reeled under the unwise counsel of this evil man. Seeds of revolution were planted and watered with discontent. It erupted into the murder of the royal family, internal war, and the communistic takeover.
The key to any exorcism is correctly identifying the unclean spirits.
Always the evil spirits that Jesus confronted, knew who Jesus was, and that He had the power to destroy them. We expect to find evil out in the cemetery where the demonic is found. Not in the church!
We have lost our concept of sin, Capernaum had lost its concept of sin. To the majority of people the word “immorality” has come to mean one thing and one thing only….A man may be greedy and selfish; spiteful, cruel, jealous, and unjust; violent and brutal; grasping, unscrupulous, and a liar; stubborn and arrogant; stupid, morose, and dead to every noble instinct-and still we are ready to say of him that he is not an immoral man.
I am convinced that evil is still prevalent in the world. Even the Church continues to struggle with unclean spirits. Whenever a church is burned because of racism, unclean spirits need exorcised. Whenever churches refuse to consider a minister because of gender, unclean spirits need exorcised. Whenever a church is not an open, inviting congregation, unclean spirits need to be exorcised.
Sometimes we may even unconsciously encourage unclean spirits to enter our place. By neglecting to read our Bibles. By failing to take time to pray. By paying to much attention to people’s pedigree. By worrying too much. By neglecting to resolve differences. By our inability to live with diversity. By neglecting to tithe.
When Jesus called those disciples, He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Remember, Jesus calls disciples! He doesn’t say think about. He says “follow” me.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost…I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. I walk down another street.