daily biblical sermons


WE ARE CLOTHED, SET FREE, AND IN OUR RIGHT MIND
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, Fourth Week of the Year, February 01, 2016
2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30, 16:5-13, Psalm 3, Mark 5:1-20


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had the legion; and they were afraid" (Mark 5:15).


This is the account of Jesus' cure of the demoniac who lived among the tombs and went about naked (Luke 8:27) shouting and crying out.


The demons in him recognize who Jesus is, for the man fell down before him in worship, saying, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me" (Mark 5:7). Then the demons in the man begged Jesus "not to send them out of the country" (Mark 5:10). They did not want to be sent back to hell before the final judgment day. Their time to be sent back had not yet come, as we see in Matthew's account, where he reports two demoniacs as saying, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? (Matthew 8:29).


So in order to stay out of hell for now, they ask Jesus to send them into a large herd of swine, which then stampeded down the hill into the lake and drowned. When the exorcism was over, the possessed man was fully clothed and in his right mind and begged Jesus to allow him to stay with him, but Jesus sent him back as a missionary to proclaim to his own people, who knew nothing of Jesus, how the Lord had cured him.


We note that Jesus does not order him to be silent about his cure, as he usually does with bodily healings, perhaps because an exorcism is more closely related to Jesus' true mission, namely to destroy the kingdom of Satan and to inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth.


In fact, Jesus explicitly told the Pharisees, "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). And Jesus openly preached the arrival of the kingdom in himself. "From that time on Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 4:17). He also sent out his twelve apostles to openly preach the same message, saying, "Preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 10:7).


This was Jesus' purpose in the world. He came to bring the kingdom of God and to push back and ultimately destroy the opposing kingdom of Satan. His exorcisms were a sign of the power of the kingdom at work in him to destroy the kingdom of Satan. When his disciples returned from their mission, they reported to Jesus, "‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.' And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the powers of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you'" (Luke 10:17-19). Jesus is the stronger man who strips the strong man Satan of his armor and plunders his kingdom, setting his captives free (Luke 11:22). The kingdom was then present in Jesus in their very midst. "Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Lo here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you'" (Luke 17:20-21).


The kingdom is in our midst now, and we are living in it by faith. It has arrived with Jesus' coming into the world, and its powers are especially seen in his exorcisms. It is an everlasting kingdom and it extends over all the earth. It is still in the process of growing. Jesus is its king, as the angel announced to Mary his mother, "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33). It is a kingdom of peace on earth, peace with God, and peace with ourselves. The Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Sun of Righteousness, is its king. "Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore" (Isaiah 9:7).


It is a kingdom where God's righteousness reigns, and where he makes us righteous by his own justifying righteousness that is communicated to us through our faith and baptism. We are born anew through faith and baptism (John 3:3, 5) as a "new man" and a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are declared righteous by God, on the basis of Christ's merits on the cross, where he made reparation for our sins. Although we were sinners when we repented of our sins (that is, when we changed our mind and direction), we are now proclaimed by God to be in the right, to be not guilty and acquitted of all the charges against us for our sins, Christ's merits taking the place of our lack of merits as sinners. This is the good news, the gospel! Christ's merits make us righteous, not ours!


Since Christ bore our sins and suffered and died on the cross for their just forgiveness (1 Corinthians 15:3), we are set free and set right with God without any merits or work on our part. Christ has done all that for us on the cross. He has actually constituted us as righteous by his death in full and just reparation for our sins. "For as by one man's [Adam's] disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's [Christ's] obedience many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).


This is the power and the beauty of the kingdom of God. This is the reason for its peace that has no end. This is the peace of God that passes all understanding that rules in our hearts, when we believe and trust in Christ. "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).


This is the kingdom of God within us (Luke 17:21). This is the kingdom of peace that Christ wants us to live in, based on our faith in him, which he wants us ever to renew, especially when we lose this peace by falling into sin, for he is the one who propitiates God, at God's initiative, for our sins by his sacrifice of himself on the cross as a sin offering for us, vicariously suffering in our place what we in all justice should have suffered for our sins (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25).


This is ultimately the reason why this demoniac is now seated, fully clothed, and in his right mind. The demons have been cast out of him, his sins are forgiven, and his guilt is removed. His sins and guilt and the debt for his sins have been transferred to Christ, and Christ has paid his penalty, his debt, and so he is at peace, his price paid, his burden of sins gone, and his debt canceled, because it has already been paid. It does not have to be paid twice.


We too can be like this demoniac at times, so overwhelmed with a sense of the debt that we owe for our sins that we lose our peace and, for all practical purposes, are half mad within ourselves. Jesus restores us to our sanity and right mind. He saves us from our sins by himself making full reparation for them, and he sets us repentant sinners free, forgiven with no further debt to pay. "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). "For as by one man's [Adam's] disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's [Adam's] obedience many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19). This puts us into Jesus' magnificent kingdom of heavenly peace and divine love. And now we are to live no longer for ourselves but for him, for "he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15).

 

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