What Amazing Power!

Most of us are familiar with Albert Einstein.  We know him as this brilliant professor, head covered with white hair, writing E=MC2 on the blackboard.  We regard Albert Einstein as a great genius.

But there is another side to Einstein that you may not be as familiar with.  Before he achieved a place of honor and distinction, Einstein was an unknown man living in Switzerland.  There was nothing about him to indicate the great genius he possessed.  He didn’t learn to speak until he was 3 years old.  His parents were afraid that he was retarded.  He was a poor student in school – so much so that when his father asked his teacher what profession Einstein should pursue, the teacher said, “It doesn’t matter; he’ll never make a success of anything.”

Albert Einstein was expelled from school at the age of fourteen.  He failed his entrance exam to a university.  Throughout his life, he was terribly absent-minded — forgetting his keys, neglecting to put on his socks, unable to figure out the correct change.  And that was the Einstein everyone knew, until 1905, the year he published four papers that revolutionized physics.

Who would have imagined that a person with that kind of background could possibly possess the greatest intellect of the 20th century?  But it was Einstein’s accomplishments that finally forced people to sit up and take notice.  He didn’t have any credentials or background.  All he had was the sheer power of his genius.  But that was enough to make the world sit up and take notice and ask the question, “Who is that amazing man?”

            Jesus’ story is much the same.  For thirty years, he was a virtual “nobody”, especially when you read the gospel of Mark, because Mark gives us no background at all concerning Jesus.  The first time Jesus appears, he comes as an adult to be baptized by John the Baptist, and that’s where his story begins. 

            Mark doesn’t give us any indication that there was anything special about Jesus’ ancestry.  He doesn’t tell us about all the special circumstances that surrounded the birth of Jesus.  Mark doesn’t tell us that, at the age of 12, Jesus showed an aptitude for religious matters. 

            In Mark’s gospel, for all practical purposes, Jesus was a “nobody.”  He had no background, no credentials, no formal training, no position.  Like Einstein, all he had was the sheer power of his ability, and what great power that was.  There was power in his message.  But there was also power in what he accomplished, and that’s exactly what Mark is going to focus on next.

Jesus performed a series of miracles that forced the people of his day to pay attention to who he was.  Because these miracles demonstrated Jesus’ great power.

Jesus’ Power Over Nature

            In Mark chapter 4, beginning with verse 35, “On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 

            “But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.   And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 

            “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:35-41)

I don’t know how many of you have ever been on a boat out on the water when a storm comes up, but it’s a frightening experience.  To have waves tossing the boat back and forth, wave after wave crashing over the side of the boat, knowing that all it takes it is one big wave, and the boat is capsized. 

Several of you may remember a tragedy that occurred in 2018 on a lake near Branson, Missouri.   There was a duck boat that was carrying 31 people when a storm suddenly came up, capsizing the boat, killing 17 of the people on board.  There’s actually a video online that shows that boat in the storm fighting to stay afloat but ultimately sinking and I will tell you that that video is one of the most heart-wrenching things you will ever see in your life.

And I would imagine that the emotions on that boat just before it sank were very similar to the emotions of the disciples in this passage.  Except that there were no life preservers on their boat.  And there was no chance that the Coast Guard might come and rescue them.  Capsizing meant certain death.

And while they were in a panic and their life was flashing before their eyes, they found Jesus sleeping!  They shook him awake, yelling so they could be heard over the roar of the wind, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to die?”   So, Jesus calmly got up and spoke to the wind and the waves, the same way a parent might speak to rowdy children playing too loudly in the house, “Quiet!  Be still!”  And immediately the storm was over.

We’ve heard this story so many times I think we take it for granted.  We fail to be amazed.  Think about it.  Jesus spoke and a storm stopped.  Imagine if you were in Florida in September when Hurricane Ian hit land and you were with someone who stood up and said, “Quiet!  Be still!” and immediately the storm was over.  Think about how amazed you would be if you actually witnessed that.

To this point, the disciples have seen Jesus give strength to lame legs and sight to blind eyes, but they have never seen him do anything like this!  This is the greatest demonstration of power that they have ever seen.

But here’s where I think we all need to be reminded of the present power of Jesus Christ.  You see, I think we’re quick to acknowledge his past power.  Yes, I know he was able to calm the storms.  But do we really believe that he still has the same power today?

Chances are, you know all too well how quickly peaceful situations can turn into catastrophe.  You’ve seen the storms of financial difficulty, storms of marriages that are going through rough times, storms involving problems at work.  When the storms of life come crashing over you, there may be times when you’re tempted to say what the disciples said. – “Jesus, don’t you care?  Don’t you care what I’m going through?”

When we’re in the midst of the storm, we need to remember that we worship and serve the one who commands the wind and the waves with a word.  We need to remember that no matter how devastating the storm may be that is sweeping over us, Jesus does care.  And even in the midst of the storm, he is able to bring calm to our souls.

Jesus’ Power Over Satan

Chapter 5, verse 1, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.  And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  He lived among the tombs.  And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 

            “And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’  For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’  And Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’  He replied, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’  And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 

            “Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.’  So he gave them permission.  And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

            “The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country.  And people came to see what it was that had happened.” (Mark 5:1-14)

Here is a creature you would find only in your worst nightmare.  He is a man possessed with demons.  They drove him to violence.  They drove him into the hills, among the tombs.  Luke tells us it’s been a long time since he’s worn clothes or lived in a house.

There were no houses in Palestine for men like him.  No hospitals.  Like wild animals, they were left to roam the hills.  His hair is a matted tangle of filth.  His body is scarred around the wrists and ankles where chains once held him.  His body is marked with the self-inflicted gashes of stones.

You’ve got to wonder how a man who was created in the image of God got to where he was.  At some point in time, he was likely a child who played “make believe” and made mud pies and skipped through the streets.  But somewhere, somehow, in some time past, the forces of Satan gained a foothold in his life.  We’re not told how.  Or where.  Or when.  But it happened, and he had been a prisoner ever since.

Then Jesus arrived with his disciples.  They were still scratching their heads.  They had just witnessed the most remarkable demonstration of sheer, unbridled power they had ever seen – Jesus calming the storm.  His disciples learned that Jesus was Lord over the natural realm.  Now they will learn that he is Lord over the supernatural realm as well.

As they land on shore, this wild man storms out of one of the tombs, ranting and raving as he rushes toward them in a fury.  But Jesus stood his ground and said, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”  And suddenly the wild man threw himself at Jesus’ feet.  The demons were afraid and trembled.  They knew who Jesus was.  The religious leaders might have debated it.  The crowds might have been confused.  But these demons knew exactly who Jesus was.

And, in a brief battle, Jesus overpowered Satan.  Here was a man who had completely lost control of his life to Satan.  He was led to act in ways that if he had had a rational choice, he never have would chosen.  His actions ruined his life and cut him off from people.  By the time that Jesus met this man, he was hated and avoided by everyone.  He was a broken shell of a human being that had been utterly destroyed by Satan.

But Jesus responded to him with compassion.  Rather than being repulsed by his appearance or his actions, Jesus looked to what it was that was causing those actions.   And Jesus confronted the demonic forces that controlled this man, and overpowered those forces

            Again, we need to remember that Jesus didn’t just have the power then; he has it today as well.  Now I realize that none of you here this morning have been demon-possessed, but maybe you’ve experienced what it’s like to have Satan take control of your life – maybe to be caught up in an addiction, maybe to have sin in your life that you keep going back to over and over again, leading you to do things you wish you didn’t do, ruining your life and cutting you off from people around you who don’t like what they see.  I’ve got some good news for you this morning – Jesus has power over Satan and his power can break Satan’s hold on us and set us free 

Jesus’ Power Over Disease

Jesus just calmed a storm no sailor could control.  He cast out a demon no person could contain.  Now he’s going to heal a woman that no doctor could cure.  This entire section is answering the question the disciples asked after Jesus calmed the storm — “Who then is this?”

Chapter 5, verse 24, “And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ 

And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ And he looked around to see who had done it. 

But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.  And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’” (Mark 5:24-34)

            This was no ordinary illness.  This woman had lived with a bleeding uterus for twelve years.  There was no break, no relief, she had very little strength length, and absolutely no hope.  And it wasn’t just the physical disease.  It was the social stigma.  Because of her constant bleeding, she was always unclean.  Which meant that, according to the law of Moses, she was unable to touch other people or to be touched.  She was ostracized, isolated and almost leprous.

            She couldn’t worship in the synagogue.  At this point, this woman probably lived on the outskirts of town.  If she was married, her husband would have already divorced her.  Even her own children would be considered unclean if they touched their own mama.  She was a community outcast.  Not only was she personally defiled, but she would also defile anyone else she came in contact with, and anything she touched. 

She wasn’t just diseased.  She was in despair.  God had ignored her, or so she thought.  She had prayed.  She had pleaded.  But for twelve agonizing years, God had been silent.  For twelve years, she bore the shame of the constant bleeding.  Trudging from doctor to doctor, she tried to find someone, anyone, who could help. 

Maybe the doctors initially promised her some hope but, in the end, the only thing they relieved her of was her money.  She was destitute.  And once she was out of money, the doctors finally admitted there was nothing they could do for her.  She was no doubt getting weaker.  The steady loss of blood over the years would have taken its toll.  She was anemic and tired.  So very, very tired.  Tired of the shame.  Tired of the stigma.  Tired of the charlatans. 

But the stories of another physician got her hopes up once again.  A physician who didn’t charge a fee.  A physician who asked for nothing in return.  Who had no hidden agenda beyond healing the sick.

She had heard about this physician, this Jesus, who came not to the healthy but to the sick.  Who came to not the strong but to the downtrodden.  And she had heard about Jesus’ success with other incurables, including the healing of a leper.  Another untouchable.  I mean, if Jesus could heal a leper, then surely if she could find Jesus, she could be healed.  And so, with that little bit of faith, she worked her way through the crowd.  She grabbed hold of the corner of his garment, and immediately felt the results.  Her disease was cured.

But Jesus’ power is not just in the past.  It’s a present power.  And even today, it is seldom the healthy who reach out to Jesus.  It is those who have suffered greatly – because of disease, or heartache, or depression.  And Jesus still has the power to allow us to lay our troubles at his feet and go our way in peace.

Jesus’ Power Over Death

Lastly, Mark shows us that Jesus’ power was greater than death itself.   In chapter 5, beginning with verse 21,

“And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.’  And he went with him.” (Mark 5:21-24)

            In verse 35, “While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?’  But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 

            And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.  And when he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why are you making a commotion and weeping?  The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him.

            “But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.  And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:35-43)

I don’t have time to expound on this story, but again, I think we’ve heard it so many times that we cease to be amazed.  Here’s a girl who was dead, and Jesus utters a few words and brings her back to life!  What tremendous power!  And what a comfort to those of us who experience the death of a loved one or who fear our own approaching death.  There will be life again.  Jesus has proved his power.

Like everything else, Mark records these miracle stories for a purpose.  And that purpose is shown to us in the very first of these stories.  In Mark 4:41, the apostles respond to Jesus calming the storm by asking themselves, “Who is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey Him.”  Their question is not, “How did he do that?”  Their question is, “Who is this?”

Jesus led his disciples to faith by showing his power.  They were present during all of these displays of Christ’s power.  It’s as if every time Jesus did something amazing, he turned to them and asked them, “What kind of man could do something like that? What kind of man calms the storm, casts out demons, heals a sick woman, and raises a dead girl?  What do you think about me now?  Who am I?”

And that’s the question that Mark wants us to answer as well.  Who do think this is?  Well, it’s someone who can calm storms, defeat demons, heal diseases and raise the dead.  No, Mark doesn’t spend time giving us the pedigree and resume and background of Jesus.  He simply shows us Jesus.  And when we come to see Jesus, then we’re forced to come up with an answer to Mark’s question, “Who is this?”  

Is this just a great teacher who taught some nice lessons?  Or is this truly the Son of God whose power is demonstrated through his miracles?  And the conclusion that Mark leads us to is the same one that Mark records from the lips of the Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus in Mark 15:39, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

You may find it easy to say those words.  But faith is not just the acknowledgment of something special about Jesus.  Faith is the willingness to trust ourselves to Jesus, to put our lives in his hands, to submit ourselves to his lordship, because we know exactly who it is that has that kind of power.

            Faith will also lead us to share Jesus with others.  Because once we truly come to know the power of Christ in our lives – when he has calmed the storms that rage in our souls, when he has helped us to overcome the hold that Satan has on our lives, when he heals us and gives us comfort in the face of death – it’s only natural that we want to respond like Jesus told the demon-possessed man to respond —  “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19). 

            This morning, do you truly believe that Jesus has such amazing power?  Do you truly believe that he is who he claimed to be – the Son of God?  And if so, what kind of difference is it making in your life?


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