Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Authority of Christ

Christ shares with us his authority to cast out the evil spirits entering our community in the wake of the tragic mass shooting at our high school. 

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:22

                Evil spirits have always been a menace to humanity in the midst of our tragedies and struggles.  The Bible presents the concept of evil spirits in different ways. Sometimes evil is portrayed as coming from within our thoughts and feelings, generated from our hearts and minds, things we think and say and do. Sometimes, as in this passage of scripture, personified as incorporeal spirits, spirits without bodies, who act against us to intentionally bring pain and suffering to humanity.  Either way, they enter through the gateways of our own actions and our own thoughts and our own words. Evil spirits navigate through the feelings we harbor and the attitudes we bear.
                Christ demonstrates his authority over evil in whatever form it may take. Whether the evil is something  we come up within ourselves or something that comes by and happens to us or makes us do it, whether it's personified or not, Jesus casts out that evil spirit. Things happen sometimes by accident and sometimes by intention. Sometimes they're planned out ahead of time, and sometimes they're done on the spur of the moment.  Sometimes they're within our control and sometimes beyond. Almost all the time, if we see something coming then we try to do something to avoid it. If we don't see it coming, we try to respond the best way we know how in the moment.
                Often, as is the case now for us and for our community, there are spirits in some sense of the word that follow in the wake of a tragedy. These also need to be cast out and done away with. Spirits of fear, anger, sorrow, suffering, and all kinds of painful things need to be dealt with and treated and healed. Reconciliation needs to take place. That's what the Holy Spirit is about. That's what God's love is about. That's what the authority of Christ is about. That's the authority we share as the people of God. We are authorized in the name of Jesus to minister healing in the aftermath, the healing that needs to come in the wake of hurt.

Worldly Authority

                Looking at the authority of Christ this way, we get a clearer picture of what we not only should do but can do, and the power to do it by the Spirit of God. The authorities of the world include these three common categories of economic, social and political powers.  They overlap and combine in different orders, depending on what's going on. The Bible promises us that all the authorities of the world are being brought under the authority of Christ himself. Eventually, we are told,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).
               Economic power has always had a big say in how things go in the world, as the saying goes, "Money talks." And it does, and people listen. But the Bible encourages us, especially through the teachings of Christ and the apostles, not to be partial to those who are speaking from just their economic standpoint. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3). 
               Politics has historically been a part of everything in life. It's all through the Bible and all through our culture. Politics invade the social fabric of our families and friendships and are present in every organization we're a part of. Every kind of human grouping has within it a certain amount of political authority.
                As the people of God, our part around those societal tables is to bring all the authority in every aspect of the world under the authority of Christ. Whether it's the way a business or organization works, the way the money is received or spent, the way political issues are resolved, or the way our social structure is meeting the obligations and needs of our community and the world, all is to be done in the name of Jesus. All is to be done in a way that is Christ-like, and brought under the authority of Jesus.

Spiritual Authority

                Christ gives us spiritual authority. Ecclesiastical authority is the authority of the gathered people of faith. We organize ourselves in all different kinds of ways, but however we structure ourselves, we are "the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Corinthians 12:27), and Christ "is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 3:18).  All we do, how we organize ourselves, and how we minister is under the direction and leadership authority of Christ himself.
                Paul told Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." That's theology. That is studying about God and what God wants for us. We study God's word to hear what God is saying to us. God speaks to us through his word. We are finding ways to re-express what we hear God saying to us, and to help others come into an understanding of what God is offering to them.
                In the ministry of our gifts, our charismatic ministry, the spiritual gifts and graces are administered by the Holy Spirit through us. We minister in the name of Jesus. We administer the gifts in his power and his authority. This is the same authority by which Jesus spoke to the evil spirit in this passage of scripture. We address evil in whatever forms it takes in our lives in the same way. We command it out. We use our various gifts in different ways, but it's the same ministry and by the same spirit and by the same power and by the same authority. We serve by the authority of Christ and his love.

Authority of Love

               Christ came to us under the authority of God's love to bring salvation. All that Christ did in his earthly ministry, he did through that same love. In fact the Bible says that "God is love." (1 John 4:8).  
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The apostle Paul wrote that this is how we know God loves us, because "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).   Christ was at work on the cross of Calvary, demonstrating his love and bringing his love into it's fulfillment, a reconciling of all things to himself.   In his hymn, "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown," Charles Wesley wrote,
’Tis Love! ’tis Love! [You died] for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all Thy [mercies] move;
Thy nature and Thy name is Love.
                Reconciliation means getting right with God and with each other. Through the love of Christ, we are getting our relationships right, getting ourselves right, getting each other right. We are working to get everything right.  We have been given the authority and power to see what's not right and fix it. We have that grace. God is working in our lives, not just saving us, but sanctifying us. God is bringing us into perfect love. God  is perfecting divine love in our hearts and minds, in our relationships, actions and  words. God is perfecting love in our community. That's what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our authority as disciples is the authority of love. Jesus said,
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).

                We are called, collectively and individually, to be a sanctuary for each other and for the world around us.  We serve in the name of Jesus.  We love under the same power and authority by which Jesus commanded the evil spirit out of this man's life. We work as Jesus' disciples, to minister the spiritual gifts and graces God has given to us. We labor to resolve any conflicts, and diminish any heartache. We strive to bring healing and salvation to everyone whose path we are led to cross.
             God empowers us to comfort others. This is our job and the job of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We're not just allowed to, although we are; we're not just invited to, although we certainly are.  We're empowered to, we're commissioned to, we're sent to love our family and our friends and our community under the anointing and authority of Jesus Christ.  We are his personal disciples, "ambassadors for Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:20).  We are sent to minister healing, and to minister wholeness, and to minister love, in the all powerful name of Jesus. 

Derived from the sermon on Mark 1:21-28

preached January 28, 2018 at Briensburg UMC
the Sunday following the mass shooting
at Marshall County High School.

Photo by Patrick Neufelder. “Wave.” 2016. 

Photograph.  Pixabay. Web. 27 January 2018.