EPIPHANY 4, B – February 1, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Ps. 32; Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28


“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” (Deut. 18:15) So said Moses to the people of Israel as they were at the border of the land God had promised them, the land to which Moses had led them after bringing them out of their harsh bondage under Pharaoh in Egypt. They were to look forward to the coming of another great prophet and teacher, one like Moses; and yet greater, for when he came they were to listen to and follow him and not Moses.


What do we see in Jesus as He begins His ministry? He is one like Moses: a son of Israel who, untrained and unsought, suddenly comes as a teacher and leader of the people. Right at the beginning of His ministry we also see that He is greater than Moses, for the deliverance He brings is greater. By casting an unclean spirit out of a man Jesus brings deliverance from an enemy who threatened both body and soul with an eternal bondage. And, it was not only one man He helped in this way. The Gospels tell us that Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching, casting out demons and healing people of every disease and affliction. His fame spread everywhere.


Why, then, did Israel ultimately reject Him? Why do the people of Israel reject Him to this day? They were looking for the old Moses and the old deliverance – a deliverance of the body, the establishment of Israel as a great and powerful nation upon the earth. A new Moses who would bring the eternal deliverance of the soul was not desired. Jesus was not the Messiah they wanted, and so He was – and is still – rejected, to their eternal harm.


What kind of prophet is Jesus to you? We look to Him as the old Moses when we pray to Him for help and healing when we are sick or injured – as we should. It is good to pray to Him, for the fact that He healed people of every disease, injury and affliction showed that He cared for them in their physical need and could help them. He hasn’t changed. Even though things have changed greatly today – many diseases can be prevented and many injuries and afflictions repaired – we still suffer many bodily afflictions. We still need Jesus’ help! We still need to pray to Him.


We also look upon Jesus as the old Moses when we thank Him for the prosperity we enjoy – and this, too, is a good thing to do. After all, God is the creator of all things and the giver of all things. Everything that you are and have and enjoy can, and should, be traced back to Him. It is good to thank Him! This is pleasing to God, just as it is pleasing to you when someone says to you, “Thank you.”


But, Jesus came to be far more than the Savior of and provider for our bodies. He is the great and final prophet who delivers us from that which threatens our souls. He is the eternal Savior of body and soul! This is what He proclaims by casting the unclean spirit out of the man.


Notice that it is called an “unclean spirit.” This is significant. We may not be familiar with demon possession, but we all know what it means to be unclean.

  • I saw Tiger Woods on TV the other day. He seems to have it all. He is handsome; extremely fit, with well-toned muscles and a chiseled body; wealthy; he has a beautiful and talented girlfriend (an Olympic athlete!); and he is an amazingly talented golfer. But, because of his moral failings and how he hurt his wife and family, he is despised by many. He is unclean.

  • The New England Patriots are an exceptional football team, highly talented and well-coached. Even so, for many people this doesn’t matter. They see them as cheaters, and consider them unclean.

    Uncleanness is an inner defect, a corruption of the soul that stains everything else and makes the entire person unacceptable.


    You have probably never been confronted by someone with an unclean spirit. But, you know uncleanness. You are yourself by nature sinful and unclean. You know this, for you feel it in the desires you have which you know are not right; desires which, if you expressed them or followed them would be rejected by those closest to you, and certainly by God. You know the uncleanness of the sinful thoughts that enter your mind and threaten to fill it. Should God welcome this uncleanness into His presence in heaven? He will silence it and cast it out into hell!


    The uncleanness of our sinfulness threatens us with God’s eternal condemnation to hell with the unclean spirits. This is the danger which threatens us more than any other, more than any disease or injury or loss! Jesus warns, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) He came as the new and greater Moses to cast out the uncleanness of our sins and bring both soul and body to the promised land of heaven.


    Do you see Jesus above all as this Moses, your deliverer from your sins and so the Savior of your soul and body? You do if you not only believe you are a sinner but regularly admit this and confess your sins to Him. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” ” (Ps. 32) This is what a believer in Jesus as the new and greater Moses does. “And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” This is how Jesus responds, and this is why we confess. We confess, not simply to be honest and certainly not to feel bad, but because we want to receive the good. We want to be clean!


    The unclean demons confess Christ’s holiness under duress. They have to, but they do so with fear and disgust. We, too, confess, “You are the Holy One of God!” But we do so with hope, for we know that His holiness is for us. Jesus came, the Holy One of God, to sinners to be the Savior of sinners. He took our unholiness within Himself, and consumed it by His holy death upon the cross, a holy sacrifice on behalf of the unholy. In His holiness He delivers us from all that is unholy and unclean.


    Psalm 32 says, “Blessèd is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessèd is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Jesus is our Moses, who came to gain for us, and then give to us unclean sinners, the cleansing of forgiveness. There is no greater blessing. The one who is blessed with the cleansing of Lord’s forgiveness is blessed without and within, in body and soul, forever!