Last Sunday we heard about Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, and James and John to become radically reoriented to the world and begin to cast their nets to close the chasm between the world as it is and the world as it can be. What we have today is what happens when the boys follow Jesus back into their hometown of Capernaum.
Still wet from jumping out of the boat James and John join Simon and Andrew as they follow this man – really this stranger, for they had never met or been formally introduced. But even in the strangeness, they feel there was some kind of authority that he has that made them feel safe and that they were stepping out of the boats into the right direction. He had called them and now he was about 50 feet in front of them walking towards their town with purpose. They struggle to keep up.
Jesus seems to be on auto-pilot until he he the walls of Capernaum. Then instead of walking through the main gate, he walks around the walls. He seems to be looking for something, someone, but who ever it was is not there. And he makes his way into town. Now, the sun was beginning to set and shabbat was about to begin. Jesus makes his way to the synagogue, stopping only to pet the stray dogs that hung around the man near the well. This man and his dogs were the outcasts of Capernaum, all of them were covered in dried mud and feces and their hair was matted with sweat and snot. The man’s skin was covered in cuts and bruises, wounds that never seemed to be healed.
The boys, finally catching up with Jesus – Jesus who looks into the man’s eyes he strokes behind the ears of the dogs. It is like there was some sort of conversation happening even with out words between the two. The boys see the man and know that he was trouble. They immediately grabbed Jesus and directed him to the synagogue for the Shabbat service.
Jesus steps into the synagogue and there was, right then, something in the air. Some kind of electricity or charge that caused the conversations to stop as the heads turned to this stranger who was accompanied by Simon and Andrew and the Sons of Zebeddee. Without realizing it, the boys lead Jesus to the rabbi’s seat, and he begins to teach those who were gathered. He expounded on the Torah, prayed the psalms, breathed the prophets. And as he did, the men (for it was only men in the synagogue) begin to whisper to each other, “who is this that speaks with authority?” His teaching is beyond just the recitation of the words they had heard many times before. His teaching contains breath – it was as if they Torah became alive and they were they with the Israelites witnessing Moses come down from the mountain – glowing. Some remembered the words of Torah – “I will raise up for them a prophet among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.” Jesus stepped into the synagogue and with him came power. Authority. Good News.
Just then, as he was rolling up the scroll, there was a scream coming from the town center and coming their way. Those gathered know who it is, for this happens all the time as the prophet’s scroll was being put away – it was as if he could hear the words of hope and judgement and came – came for something they did not know. AS the man with the open wounds and matted hair bursts into the synagogue – immediately arms go out try to protect Jesus. They did not want this new teacher harmed by this possessed man. They try to drive the darkness out, but they can not. They try with everything they have, but they can not get him out.
He tears through them and comes face to face with the seated rabbi – the only one in the synagogue who remained seated. Trying to pull him out of his comfort zone, the words poured out of the man’s mouth like the words of the serpent in Eden, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are Holy One of God.”
And as the words spill out of the man’s mouth, Jesus steps into the man’s space. Jesus walks and stands face to face with the man possessed. In the space of the man Jesus stands and stares into the possessed eyes, eyes that speak to Jesus of the suffering that was to come as he brings the Reign of God into a world that has shut God out. Staring into the man’s eyes, Jesus said, “Be Silent! And Come out of him.”
And the unclean spirit throws the man to the ground and leaves him convulsing and crying as he tears out of the man. Jesus steps in, and the darkness jumped out.
And those gathered were terrified and amazed, “What is this teaching? With new authority? He even commands the unclean spirits out and they obey.”
Jesus steps in and darkness jumped out.
Jesus steps in with the authority of the bearer of the Good News of the Reign of God, and out went anything that was antithetical to that Reign.
What happens when Jesus comes in?
I mean it, what happens when Jesus comes in? What happens when we stop trying to protect Jesus and let him stem into the darkness and confront it face to face? What happens when Jesus is let in?
We always like to protect Jesus. We like to make sure that nothing happens to him, but is that being faithful to the message of Jesus? Are we not keeping him out, but standing in his way?
When we stop trying to protect Jesus, and let him him – let him come face to face with the unclean spirits of the world; with the hate and violence; with the distrust and deception – when we get of of his way and let him in – powerful things happen.
But it is easier to stand in his way. I know, I am always trying to protect him. I am always trying to make sure the Jesus people is the Jesus created in my image. It is easier to do than letting go and letting Jesus truly in. Because I might not like what he sees.
I might not like the person he looks at when he looks into my eyes. The narcissistic person who can be too self involved. The man with the short temper and biting words. I might not like the person I see when I let Jesus really in. Because when he comes in, all that goes out.
And I feel like I need the armor of those things. I need to be able to defend my self from the attacks of the world. I act on my own authority and you know what, it always comes back to bite me in the back side. When I don’t let the transforming power of the Reign of God in, when I don’t let Jesus in, I begin to become like the man with the unclean spirit. I look at myself as the sole authority. I have the power. It is all about me.
I am pretty sure I am not alone in this confession. We all have plates of armor that we wear to keep Jesus out. We may not be aware of them or we may hid them from everyone. But I don’t think any of us have fully let Jesus in. And, honestly, this side of the end, I don’t know if we can, but we can sure try.
And when Jesus comes in, when he comes in all that gets in the way of the Reign of God tears out, because when he comes in he comes in with the authority of the one who breathed the cosmos into existence. And when he comes in and breaths the darkness out of our lives we get a breath of that new life, and we can begin to act with the authority of the one who just tore away our armor and bathed us in the light of Good News. Who casts out our unclean spirits and breathes in the Holy Sprit.
When we let Jesus in we can change the world. It is more than saying I believe. It is more than walking down the aisle of a church, saying I have decided to follow Jesus. When we let Jesus in we become something all together new. Our lives our renewed. Our purpose is give new life. We are given the authority to change the world.
When Jesus comes in, ain’t nothing that can keep us out.
The authority of Jesus, the Good News of the Reign of God breaks into the world in a way that cast light in the dark places.
We we let Jesus in, we can not sit silent as a sister battles the demon of addiction. We cast out the darkness, we are given the authority to stand strong and know that even when it hurts we are not alone. We let Jesus in, and he gives us the strength to fight for her recovery.
When we let Jesus in and the bottle at the table is calling to us – when the grip of alcohol begins it choke hold, Jesus is with us and can help give us the strength to fight a drink – one second at a time. One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. And when we fall off the wagon – when we let Jesus in – he grabs us and picks us back up.
When we let Jesus we can say to those with the power – you do not have any power here. We can call out and cast out unjust laws. WE can fight for change in systems that reward shareholders and create paupers prisons.
When we let Jesus in, our armor fall of and we become vulnerable to the ways of the world – but we are give authority to change the world.
When we let Jesus in, our hearts are healed, our sins is forgiven, our weakness turned to strength.
When we let Jesus in, our heartache is embraced and changed into joy; our illnesses are taken and we walk the dark valley not alone, but in solidarity.
When we let Jesus in – really let him in – We will be like the man made new. It may hurt for a evening, but joy comes in the morning.
Jesus has the authority to make known the Reign of God. Jesus has the authority to come in and throw out. Jesus has the authority to make something new out of the cast out and forgotten. Jesus has the authority to come into this place – to come into Emerson Avenue Baptist Church and touch each of our lives. To renew our faltering walks. To wash us in the waters of Baptism. To feed us at the Lords Table. Jesus has the authority to open the doors of this church and welcome the single mother, the divorced man, the gay couple; the trans-gendered teen; the lonely grandmother; the alcoholic uncle; the narcissistic neighbor. Jesus has the authority to throw open the doors of the church and tear down the walls that keeps the world from his love.
When we let Jesus in we can be as surprised by his grace the the James and John, Simon and Andrew. We can be as transformed as the man with the matted hair; and as hopeful as those in the synagogue – here is the one God has sent to be with us! Here is the one who has come to be a prophet to the nations and to bring God’s Reign on earth as it is in heave. Jesus steps in and darkness jumps out.
And what happens when we let Jesus in – when we really let Jesus in – O Lordy – what will happen?
The doors of the church are open.