ISAIAH 9:2-7 AND MARK 1:21-28
This week is the second week of advent and the second week in our series based on Isaiah 9, and the names given in the passage. These names and this passage have been seen through the years as prophetic of the coming of Christ. So, we are looking at how these names are fulfilled in the person of Christ. Verse six reads: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulder: and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace. Today we will look at how the name and attributes of, “Mighty God,” might lead us to a deeper understanding of Jesus. I have to admit that it seems a little incongruent to give a newborn babe the title of Mighty God.
It kind of reminds me a bit of a cartoon that I remember watching as a kid – Mighty Mouse. Really.What is there that is mighty about a mouse? The theme song for the program went like this: “Mr. trouble never hangs around when he hears this mighty sound -Here I come to save the day – that means that Mighty Mouse is on the way. When there is a wrong to right, Mighty Mouse will join the fight.” Mighty Mouse is a classic tale of good versus evil. It seemed to me, as a young child, very clear who the bad guy was and who the good guy was. The bad guy always wore black, had a big chin, and a twirly mustache.In Mighty Mouse the regular villain was Oil Can Harry and he fit the description. In these cartoons, the good guy would always win no matter how dire the situation seemed; the hero would save the day and evil would lose. In Mighty Mouse the heroine was Pearl Pureheart. She was so often rescued at the last minute from some pretty desperate seeming situations – often a buzz saw, or runaway train, or giant waterfall featured.
I am not so sure that bad guys and good guys are so clear cut today as they were in those old cartoons. What do you think? Life might be simpler if every villain would wear black and have a black mustache and every good guy wore a cape. But we nonetheless long for an obvious hero.
Like Mighty Mouse,who is, well, really just a powerless, little mouse, Jesus at first, seems just a powerless, little baby, right? Dependent upon adults for all of his care. How is it then that we attribute this great big name, Mighty God, to this tiny baby? How is it that Jesus fulfills this role of Mighty God?
Perhaps we can find some answers in our passage from Mark. This passage from Mark 1 takes place at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He returns from his time of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, gathers his first disciples and immediately, they go to Capernaum where they arrive on the Sabbath in time to go to synagogue. When you read the book of Mark – which by the way, is thought to be the first gospel written – you find that it is full of words like immediately, astonishment, amazement. It is an action book, so it is no surprise that it starts here in chapter one with a dramatic confrontation. So,Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath in the Synagogue and the people are astounded because he is teaching with authority. All of a sudden there is a man shouting out, screaming even, in the middle of the teaching. That would certainly get your heart pumping! While the shouting might grab our attention, it is also startling to note that this spirit recognizes Jesus’ authority and power –“Have you come to destroy us?” The spirit asks. “I know who you are, the Holy one of God.” This unclean spirit knows who Jesus is and understands the authority Christ has been given. (In the book of John, the disciples declare,“we have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jhn 6:69)only after they have had the opportunity to witness many of Jesus’s miracles including healings, feeding the 5000, walking on water, etc.) Yet, here Jesus issues an imperative and the unclean spirit immediately obeys. The spirit is helpless before this mighty command of Jesus. This is drama with a point because it helps us in our understanding of the might and power Jesus brings with him.
As Mark places this event as one of the first reported actions of the adult Jesus; I think we can view it as significant, full of meaning, a signpost even that Jesus has come to oppose those forces of chaos, and death, and “uncreation.” Jesus has come to bring power to our lives, to give wholeness, to create new lives as he does here by freeing this captive individual, and as he does throughout the gospel story. Jesus does not shy away from challenging situations, but is bold in acts of reclaiming lives. I believe that Jesus is still in the business of freeing us from those powers which seek to rob us of all that God hopes and intends for us. Jesus as Mighty God, reveals and contains and brings to submission the deathly, chaotic threats that threaten us by creating space for new life; in Jesus is the gift of life and creation and power. We do not have to live in fear.
In the Thursday night study we recently completed called, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg shared a story from a time when he was a young college student. He and some friends were walking down near the beach one night, when a fight broke out in a nearby bar and spilled out into the street right in front of them. A classic bar fight: two guys beating up one guy. Ortberg and his friends, felt compelled to try to help, even though they had no idea what to do and so they started telling them to “cut it out.” (Not very effective) All of a sudden to their amazement the two guys stopped beating up the one guy and looked their way, their eyes got really big and they immediately started running the other way. Ortberg and his friends thought they must have done something really powerful until they turned around and there was this huge, hulking bouncer standing behind them, a giant of a man. They called him Mongo. And Ortberg says, “I got to thinking afterward, if I walked around with someone like Mongo walking behind me all the time – someone with that size and that strength – I would face life a lot differently than I do, I would have a lot more courage.” And what the Bible tells us is that there is somebody of tremendous strength and authority who is always with us.
The unclean spirit, and later the disciples declare, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” My prayer is that we, too, can loudly proclaim of Jesus, “I know who you are, you are the Holy One of God!”
Friends, this same Holy One, this same Mighty God, this same one is behind you all the way, and because of this you can face life differently – with greater strength and confidence. I invite you (this week) to think of those places in your life right now that are under the forces of chaos and difficulty – places of brokenness or disappointment or fear in your life. Then remember that God is not absent during times of challenge, but rather draws nearest to us precisely in those moments. This our Mighty God that we are talking about.
And then I invite you to look outward from yourself toward your family and among your friends, or at work, or in your neighborhood.Are there some similar places of brokenness or disappointment or fear? Then,consider if God might be choosing to work through you to introduce your Mighty God, the God of life and creation into that situation.
All power, all honor, all glory to our Mighty God.
May you leave here this morning, in the strength of our mighty God, which is so different from all the power of the world and is manifest in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, May you go assured of God’s great love for you, and in the power of communion of the Holy Spirit.