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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Healing? Exorcism? Today?

this is based on Mark 1:21-34, which is "day in the life of Jesus" 
Last week we read about the authority of Jesus in the synagogue. The power of His word (to teach and exorcise demons) is stunning to the people. Today's Gospel continues later that same day. Peter's Mother-in-Law is sick in bed with fever. Jesus simply takes her hand and "raises" her up. When the Sabbath ends, the sick and possessed come out seeking Him. Mark says it is the 'whole town' (about 1500 lived there). They have heard about this powerful man so they come seeking His aid. Jesus heals and exorcises many. He does that a lot in the Gospels...

To omit exorcism and healing from Jesus' story would be like doing a biography of Babe Ruth without baseball or Paul McCartney without music. Yet, most of us ignore this aspect of Jesus' ministry. We reshape it to fit our experience and make Jesus a ticket to heaven after we die. After all, we have medicine for illness and who ever sees a possessed person? [side question, how many years had that possessed man attended the synagogue without people knowing he had a demon? Maybe if Jesus walked around our church some folks among us would exhibit similar behaviors?)

The Gospel portrait of our Lord is not about going to heaven, it is about "Heaven" (God's reign) coming here. Jesus' incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection are described as a victory over the Prince of this world. It is spiritual warfare. It is a battle for world rule.

The world is both physical and spiritual. The study of the physical universe uncovers endless mystery. The spirit realm is just one more mystery among many.  However, even if we do not understand everything, we do know something. We can not see germs or radiation, yet we believe that they exist and are dangerous. Lots of things in the physical world are invisible to us. We would all agree, however, that it is silly to pretend that unseen things are not a threat to us. It is equally foolhardy to ignore the demonic because it is hard to see.

Jesus lived in a time of war. In one dimension of time and space there was the Roman Empire and the Jewish people--these are social and geopolitical realities which historians study. However, the Bible writes of this conflict as a spiritual reality. The Apocalypse of John describes the conflict between Rome and Jerusalem from a different angle: Christ and anti-Christ, Babylon and Jerusalem: the Prince of this World and the Kingdom of God.  In every age that applies to whatever physical kingdom is in conflict with God.

This does not mean that I think that the devil is every where. The chaos of the natural world and the tendency of "the Flesh" to sin are both real. If there were no devil there would still be plenty to worry about. However, the world and the flesh are useful to Satan. He works in an environment (the world and the human heart) which is already at odds with its Creator. That is why sin and death are everywhere. This is why God comes into the World to redeem, heal, rescue or save it. 

Illness is a consequence of a fallen world. There are mental, emotional, and physical reasons for illness. There are also spiritual reasons. Satan does not cause every illness, but his kingdom of darkness is rife with disease and death. The Gospel of Mark makes it clear, however, that whether it be sickness or Satan-physical illness, mental illness or spiritual illness-it does not matter. Jesus, through Whom all things came to be, has the power to recreate, to heal, restore set free, and save. This is the power of God's Kingdom which is coming, and has already arrived in Jesus ministry.

If we understand that our battle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers; then we know that our task, as ambassadors of Jesus (with authority over the spiritual realm), is to proclaim the Good News that GOD IS KING and rid our environment of sick, sinful, evil, and demonic activity.

What happened when people stopped getting their kids vaccinated for measles? Well not much and then suddenly the Disney infection event and now there is a dramatic increase in the number of cases (644) and a concern that it will increase.

I think the demonic realm is similar. If ignored, demonic activity works unhampered among us like termites. Eating away, unseen, the core of the human person and society are destroyed. The authority and power of Jesus is also hidden with us, but it too can be ignored. The remedy sits unopened in a bottle within reach as we waste away.

What do I recommend?
Repent and Believe! God saves. Open your heart to Him and take up the spiritual disciplines in love and obedient trust. 

Regular prayer and Scripture reading, the sacraments (eucharist, reconciliation and healing) and gathering as Believers to upbuild one another are the classical Christian approach.

In your personal prayer, each day break every curse and nullify any covenant which you have made with sin, death and the devil. We are given over in so many ways to a dark anti-lord who desires our destruction. In the words of the Baptismal Liturgy: renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God.

With your God given authority and power, cleanse yourself, your loved ones and your environment from the presence of any unclean spirit. Dismiss them and send them away.

Then call down protection, what the Bible calls the armor of God, and ask to be sanctified and made holy. Announce out loud that the Kingdom of God is close, rebuke sin, suffering, sickness and Satan. Send them all away. And believe it is given to you, even if the manifestation takes a while.

Too often we, the church, have been invested in ministry to the aftermath of Satan's work. We need to do preventative care. It is time for the whole village to come here to this place seeking deliverance from satan and sickness in Jesus Name.

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