daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, 2nd Week of the Year, January 23, 2016
2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 17, 19, 23-27, Psalm 79, Mark 3:20-21

Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"And they went into a house. Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind'" (Mark 3:19-21 NKJV).

Although great crowds came to hear Jesus preach, to be healed by him, and to see his miracles, not all formed a positive opinion of him. His own people thought that he was out of his mind, and the scribes said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out demons" (Mark 3:22).

Before talking about Jesus' power over evil spirits, which I will do in a minute, let me first say that this incident of Jesus being considered out of his mind or being possessed by a demon, which occurs frequently in the gospels, should be an encouragement to all of us when people do not always form a favorable opinion of us, for if Jesus Christ, the one perfect and sinless man, was not always well received, how can we sinners possibly expect to always get a better reception than him. In fact, faithfulness to God and to the Christian message will at times evoke in certain people a negative response, particularly in those who are going in the wrong direction and are opposed to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ - as we see in the life of Jesus and St. Paul.

Just look at the life of St. Paul, the greatest missionary who ever lived. His life was one of constant opposition and persecution by the Jews. They thought that his central theme of justification by faith apart from works of the law was a denigration of the law of God, revealed to Moses. And so, because they themselves did not have a proper understanding of the function and purpose of God's law, they constantly attacked St. Paul.

St. Paul's opponents thought that we earn eternal life by our good works, or that our good works must somehow outweigh our sins so that God will let us into heaven. They did not understand that Christ's death on the cross made full reparation for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2) so that when we are connected to him by faith, we are reckoned to be righteous by God (Romans 4:3, 5, 23-24), because of our faith "apart from works" (Romans 4:6). The Jews persecuted St. Paul because they did not understand that God reckons us to be righteous - justifies us - because of our faith, "apart from works" (Romans 4:6). But then, once we are justified by faith "apart from works," we are born anew (John 3:5) as a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and do good works, which are the visible and verifiable evidence of our justifying faith.

This is why we will be judged according to our works (Matthew 16:27), for our works are the visible evidence that we have been justified and forgiven for our sins by faith, and that the merits of Christ's death have been applied to us, so that full reparation has been made by him for all our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). He is truly the Savior, the one who frees us from our burden and debt for all our past and present sins. So St. Paul writes, "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).

St. Paul was, therefore, constantly attacked by the Jews for his magnificent proclamation of the gospel, just as Jesus was accused of being possessed by a demon and of doing his exorcisms by the power of the prince of demons.

But this time, Jesus answers his opponents very well, pointing out how ridiculous it is to think that Satan is casting out demons. That would be civil war among the demons. The demons attack us, not each other.

Jesus then proceeds to make his main point, namely that he himself is the one who is attacking and binding Satan and plundering his kingdom, setting his captives free. He says, "No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house" (Mark 3:27). St. Luke's version is even clearer, for, according to St. Luke, Jesus adds that one stronger than Satan is overcoming him, removing his armor, and dividing the spoil: "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil" (Luke 11:21-22).

Just before this Jesus said, "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20). So Jesus is saying that he is casting out demons by the power of God, because he is a stronger man than the strong man Satan, and he is conquering him, stripping him of his armor, and dividing the spoils. The spoils are all Satan's captives, whom Jesus is now setting free. And the fact that Jesus is doing this in his exorcisms is a sign that in him the kingdom of God is finally coming into the world.

This, then, gives us a marvelous picture of who Jesus is and what exactly it is that he is doing in the world. He is actually stronger than Satan himself, and he has come to conquer him. That is the meaning of the great number of exorcisms that he is performing. He is able to do them in such great numbers and with such ease because he is empowered by the Spirit of God to do them (Matthew 12:28); and this itself is a sign that "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20), for "if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20).

So how do we put all this together? Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God (Mark 12:6), the Messiah (Matthew 16:16), who has come to bring the kingdom of God into the world. His exorcisms are the sign that the kingdom is arriving in him. He is a stronger man than Satan, the strong man, and he is now defeating him, binding him, stripping him of his armor, and plundering his kingdom, setting his captives free.

How is Jesus doing this? He is doing this by justifying all who have faith in him, so that they are finally liberated from the burden of their sins. The merits of his suffering and death on the cross pay their debt of suffering, which they in justice owed God for their sins, making full reparation and payment for them (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25), thereby setting them free.

All who call upon Jesus with faith will be saved. "For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame' ... For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved' ... If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:11, 13, 9-10 NKJV). Calling on Jesus with faith justifies us and grants us salvation. If we remain faithful to him, we can rest assured that we will be saved. Christ frees us from agonizing over our salvation. He truly is the Savior of the world. We are to trust in him for our salvation.

Satan's captives that Jesus releases are all those who are now living in sin, plus the Old Testament saints who were at that time waiting in Sheol/Hades for Christ's coming. All our punishment for our sins has been paid for us by what Christ suffered for us on the cross.

What still remains for us now to do is to more deeply assimilate Christ's gift of new birth as a "new man," through a process of progressive sanctification.


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