Kingdom of the Left Sunday
Mark 1: 21-28
January 31, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
I’m a fairly easy-going guy but one of the things that really drives me nuts is when someone interrupts me when I’m talking. I don’t mind in Bible class when someone pipes up with a question, that’s different. I’m referring to the times when you’re in a conversation and someone butts in with a completely unrelated issue or when you’re talking to someone and they cut you off in the middle of your sentence. For me, hell would be eternally getting four words into a sentence before Satan interrupted me. That’s one good thing about the sermon, no one interrupts me!
That wasn’t the case with Jesus in our Gospel. While, I think Jesus was probably frequently interrupted by His opponents, today’s interruption comes from another opponent, a demon. Jesus is preaching and teaching in the synagogue before He’s rudely interrupted: “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.” By Christ’s response, it’s clear He isn’t happy, demons will not be allowed to announce who He is. But for Jesus it was a also chance to show why He came, to deal with the interruptions of evil. He came to deal with the evil that interrupted God’s holy creation in the beginning and has been interrupting our world and our lives ever since.
Just think about how evil interrupts us every day. It interrupts our health with sickness and suffering. The evil of the Corona virus interrupted the whole world and our own personal worlds as well. And that’s certainly not the only evil that interrupts our health. The evil of cancer and dementia and mental illness and a host of others still interrupt people’s lives. Maybe yours.
Evil interrupts our peace with disorder and discord. We see evil interrupt peace in our streets with rioting and looting. We see it interrupt peace in here in our hearts with our own multiple sins that seem way too often to take control.
Evil interrupts our joy with anxiety and apprehension. We’ve seen a lot of that this past year and much of it still continues for a variety of reasons. Living in fear robs us of our joy.
Evil interrupts our families with divorce, unemployment, financial worries, problems at school, death of a loved one, separation from loved ones—all raise the level of stress significantly and strains relationships.
Evil interrupts good government with power and partisanship. This is not a comment on the recent presidential election! It doesn’t matter who is in power. Satan doesn’t like good government any more than he likes good families. He prefers lawlessness and chaos. He loves rulers seeking personal power and legislative bodies bickering over every little thing until nothing at all gets done.
And evil’s very favorite interruption, interrupting life with death. This was Satan’s goal from the beginning. He succeeded. He interrupted a perfect place and perfect people with sin. He convinced those first two humans, created in the image and likeness of God, that things could be better! Sin! This became the source for all subsequent interruptions. The perfect life interrupted with toil and pain and broken relationships and dying. Life, holy and eternal, interrupted with death.
The demon interrupted, but Jesus won’t stand for it so He interrupts the interrupter! “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’” With the authority of God, Jesus sends the demon back to Hell! His authority “astonished” and “amazed” everyone. This rabbi was different. Jewish rabbis established their authority by quoting the authority of other rabbis who quoted the authority of yet other rabbis who quoted another rabbi, on and on. Jesus spoke on His own authority. Jesus spoke, as the demon correctly pointed out, as the “Holy One of God.” The word of Jesus, the Word of God prevails. Jesus shows why He came. His death and resurrection interrupts evil’s interruptions once and for all.
Evil interrupts our health, but Jesus brings healing. As we know, Jesus did not heal everyone. But Jesus does bring the healing of forgiveness; and because God did not spare His own Son for us, as Paul says in Romans 8, we can be assured that He will never abandon us and that He works even in our suffering to bring good according to His will. We know He brings good from our suffering not because we always see it or feel it but because the ultimate good of forgiveness and eternal life came from the ultimate suffering of the cross. If you want to be assured that God works in suffering, do not look at your circumstances, look at the cross.
Evil interrupts our peace, but Jesus brings peace, but not always in our world or country or even in our hearts. He brings peace with God. This is the peace you hear about often at the end of sermons. The peace that surpasses understanding. Jesus took upon Himself the anger and hostility of God over our sin. We have the assurance that God loves us with an unconditional love and that nothing now can separate us from that love. Understand it or not, God gives you this peace. It is this peace that becomes the beginning point of finding peace in our lives.
Evil interrupts our joy. Jesus brings joy that no one can take away. This is what He told His disciple as He was preparing them for His death and giving them the hope of His resurrection. Unlike happiness, joy does not depend upon circumstances. It’s a fruit of God’s Spirit, a gift from Him. It flows from what He does for us and not from anything we do. That is why no one can take it away!
Evil wants to interrupt families, but Jesus brings membership into His family. When we were baptized, we became His children and heirs of His eternal Kingdom. This does not make family problems go away but it does give to Christian families a source of love and forgiveness and unity from which to deal with those problems.
Evil wants to interrupt the rule of good government but Jesus rules over us in His Kingdom with His grace. Luther called this God’s “Right Hand Kingdom.” God administers this rule through His Church and His means of grace. Through His Church we receive His gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. In the Right Hand Kingdom we receive the proper motivation for holy living and loving our neighbor. As members of the Right Hand Kingdom, Jesus gives us responsibilities as we live in the Left Hand Kingdom. In this Kingdom God rules over us through those in authority over us, including the government. Jesus desires His people to be “salt” and “light” in our culture and government, to bring our Christian influence to bear and help interrupt evil and keep the government good.
Evil would interrupt life with dying and death. But Jesus gives the death-defying hope of resurrection, no more death, back to living forever with God and in the image of God. Satan interrupted God’s perfect world with sin. But God sent Jesus to interrupt this world of sin and to win victory over sin and death and that old evil foe. That victory has been won! He gives that victory to us. That means no matter what evil may interrupt our lives or how it may interrupt them, we live in the certain hope it cannot prevail because the great Interrupter of Evil, Jesus, has prevailed.
That Jesus interrupts evil is important for us to share with all those who also experience evil’s interruptions of their lives. Emmanuel doesn’t have sufficient staff to deal with all the interruptions in people’s lives: mental health issues, crisis pregnancies, adoptions, ministry to the elderly, and staff who are prepared teach extensively on issues of marriage, life issues, and religious freedom.
The Kingdom of the Left Sunday is the brainchild of Lutheran Family Service which exists to extend the ministry of this congregation in all of these areas. You can see a listing on the other side of the bulletin insert today. The work of Lutheran Family Service is very important right now, and one task they’ve taken on is “Affirming Life and Influencing Policy in the Public Square.” Satan works hard in capitols across the country to legislate his evil. Christians need to work hard too. Plenty can be done to interrupt evil through policies and laws that curb the devil’s evil intents. Lutheran Family Service advocates for laws that protect the unborn and the elderly, defends religious freedom, upholds the sanctity of marriage, and seeks to be faithful to God in their adoption practices.
We can help them and help further their effort by writing our legislators in regard to pending legislation and their vote, speaking out loudly on life issues, educating ourselves on the issues so we can educate others as we faithfully act according to God’s Word. Most importantly though, we’re not just furthering their efforts, we’re furthering God’s as He uses us to interrupt the evil that we see all around us.
Evil interrupted Jesus in our text today and it interrupts our lives as well. But He interrupted the interruption in our text, and He continues to do it every day. Through His cross and resurrection, He destroyed death and the evil one himself. As the author of the book of Hebrews wrote, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). In a nutshell, Jesus wins because He is the great interrupter!
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen