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The Authority to Forgive

December 29, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Mark 3:22-30) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Mark
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Mark 马可福音

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Title: The Authority to Forgive
Date: 29th Dec 2019
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

In today’s passage, teachers of the law from Jerusalem were confronting Jesus and casting doubts upon his ministry. Their accusations were specifically regarding his authority to do exorcisms. They claimed that he was using the authority of the Prince of Demons. Jesus’ rebuttal was simple. The accusation was nonsensical because that would mean that Satan was self-destructing intentionally. Why would Satan want to do that? A house divided cannot stand. Therefore, Jesus’ authority must have come from God. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. It was Jesus with the divine authority from God to bind up Satan, so that the people of God could be freed. How do we know that Jesus’ authority came from God? Because Jesus was doing the work of God. He was fulfilling what God had promised to do.

When Jesus was talking about plundering from the strong man, he was actually referencing Isaiah 49.
Isaiah 49: 24 Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce? 25 But this is what the Lord says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce;I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.

Plundering the strong may sound morally wrong, like daylight robbery. But in the context, it was not robbery, but the retrieval and rescue of kidnapped children. No matter how fierce and strong the opponents, God had promised to fight them to rescue his children. Let us look deeper into their relationship.

Isaiah 49: 8 This is what the Lord says:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) The people of God living in exile first spoke these words. “The Lord has forsaken me.” If you were far removed from your homeland, forced to live as a slave in a foreign land, that forsakenness was heartfelt and real. The prophets had declared that their downfall was the judgment of God upon their sins. It was natural to assume that all was gone, and their fate was irreversible. Yet in Isaiah 49 we find the prophetic promise of God. God said to his people, “I will not forget you.”

God promised, “Come out, be free!” Instead of fighting against them, God would be fighting for them. The people of God just needed to wait for that day to come. “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you. Isaiah 49 was God’s words that their relationship was far from over. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8) There will come a day that God will forgive them.

Their wait was not in vain. When Jesus came into this world, he declared that the time of salvation had come. The salvation plan was more than just liberation and freedom. It was about reconciliation with God. It was about forgiveness. To do that, you need the authority from God. Right at the beginning of Mark, Jesus declared forgiveness on a paralyzed man. The teachers of the Law were shocked. It was blasphemy. They were right in claiming that Jesus was doing what God alone could do: the forgiveness of sin. That was precisely the point. Jesus was doing God’s work. It wasn’t blasphemy because Jesus came with the authority of God. Mark 2: 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” With the background of Isaiah 49, we can see that Jesus was truly the fulfilment of God’s promise. The kingdom of God had come and Jesus was the divinely authorized king anointed with the Holy Spirit. The battlelines had been drawn against Satan, the strong one. And God was fighting for his people through Jesus Christ, freeing them one by one.

To do God’s work, Jesus had to have the authority from God. Right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we were told that Jesus exorcized an evil spirit in Mark 1: 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” That was just the beginning. First starting with one person in the synagogue of Capernaum, then later involving the entire town (1:33). 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Then in Mark 3: 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. By the time we reach chapter 3, even though Jesus was still based in Galilee, people were coming from everywhere to seek his help. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” The evil spirits were losing the fight because they recognized the authority of Jesus.

Then, right before our passage today, 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. When Jesus appointed his 12 apostles, the same authority was given, so that they might do the same things he had been doing, preaching and exorcising. The ministry was expanding so fast that they barely even had time to eat (3:20). In short, in this rescue mission through Jesus Christ, God was winning.

If you are watching these events unfold like watching a movie, there can be only one conclusion: this was the work of God. This meant that Jesus’ authority came from God. The kingdom of Satan was crumbling. His house was plundered left, right, center. The evil spirits were powerless before the authority of the Son of God. No matter how fierce or strong he was, Satan had been tied up. Those who were held captive by his minions were now freed from their bondages. More importantly, it meant they were forgiven by God. They now belonged to God. (Isaiah 49:8)

Therefore, there should be no doubt that Jesus’ authority came from God, simply because he was doing the work of God. Yet the teachers of the law from Jerusalem denied his divine authority, claiming that it came from the Prince of Demons. But why would anyone deny this? Judging from the context of our passage today, I believe there is just one reason to deny the work of God, and it is also related to the issue of authority. Anyone who believes that Jesus is the savior sent by God would have to give up their own perceived authority and submit to the authority of Christ. If you accept that Jesus is the promised king, then he is your Lord and master. For these teachers of the law from Jerusalem, that was an authority that they refused to concede. They wanted to hold on to their perceived authority. They were used to being the pinnacle of Judaism, interpreting the law for others. How could this renegade from backward Galilee claim authority over them? But if his authority was not from God, then where else could it come from? Hence, they claimed it was by the authority of the Prince of Demons. They did this to discredit the authority of Jesus, and in doing so, they hoped to preserve their own authority.

Sadly, in denying Jesus’ authority, they also denied his salvation. Only the authority of Jesus can free them from the bondage of sin. Only the authority of Jesus can defeat Satan and his minions. Only the authority of Jesus can bring forgiveness and reconciliation with God. When you deny the authority of Jesus, you are condemning yourself to eternal unforgiveable sin. It is as if Jesus had bound up the strong man and kicked down the front door, but you just refuse to follow him out of captivity. In order to be saved, you need to submit to the authority of Jesus, because his authority comes from God.

I am reminded of the words of Paul in Romans 6: 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What Jesus demonstrated with his exorcisms was his victory over Satan. God’s people were now freed and reconciled to Him. Jesus had the authority to take back from the strong what originally belonged to him. In the same way, when we confess Jesus as our Lord and savior, we are freed from the captivity of sin and united with the living God. We are freed from the fate of death to receive eternal life by grace. The only thing that can reject this gift of eternal life is to deny the work of God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Let’s go into a time of self-reflection. We may not have the audacity to blasphemy against Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But we may not fully submit to the authority of Jesus either. It could be our pride in the way, in order to preserve the authority over ourselves. Why don’t I have the right to do whatever I want? Why must I repent? Why must I turn the other cheek? Like the teachers of the law from Jerusalem, we have become accustomed to our ways. We may hold back from submitting fully to Jesus, but in doing so, we limit his work of restoration and forgiveness in our lives.

Brothers and sisters, the authority of Jesus cannot be challenged. Let us be reminded of what happened when “Peter took (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” When we merely have human concerns, we want to hold on to our authority instead of submitting to God. We remain in the bondage of Satan. Indeed, we should put aside our human concerns, whether it is pride or self-preservation. Instead, the concerns of God should be our hope. God’s authority was meant for our full restoration. God is concerned about the state of his people. God is concerned about our relationship with him. God is concerned about his world, that it might have abundant life for all. Let these be our concerns.

Brothers and sisters, today we’ve heard the good news of God’s salvation. He had not forgotten his people in captivity, and he sent his Son with divine authority, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit. In the battle, Satan was defeated. People from Galilee and beyond experienced this salvation. It is not just liberty but also forgiveness. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins. No matter how unredeemable you can be, nothing is impossible with God. Do you see and understand? Do you hear and the words bear fruit in your hearts? The only legitimate response is to submit to Jesus as our Lord and king. That means following Jesus and obeying his will. Take it one step at a time, walking day by day with God. Let Jesus free us from all bondages and live for God alone.

Mark 3:22–30 (Listen)

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But 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.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

(ESV)