We’re going to continue our theme of spiritual warfare the next few weeks and today I want to ask a similar question to last week: “What has Jesus come to do?”
When we look at Mark’s gospel, which was the first one written, and certainly the most “to the point” gospel account, we learn that the one who will come after John will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). Let’s pause for a moment on that one.
What does this mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? While there are a plethora of beliefs and ideas, I’ll keep it short. To be baptized into the Holy Spirit is to be plunged into the waters of death to “my will” and rise into the power of God because the Kingdom is at hand.
We could keep going and say that being baptized in the Holy Spirit means receiving the Holy Spirit. It means living into a certain way of life. It means being given the same One who anointed Jesus.
In Mark’s gospel we see Jesus is baptized, anointed, tempted, begins his ministry, calls some disciples, teaches in the synagogue and casts out a demon. Wait, what?!?
So far in Mark’s Gospel this Jesus, who was filled with the Holy Spirit and is to baptize folks with the Holy Spirit is dealing with the devil and casting out demons. Seriously, look for yourself at Mark 1:12-13 and Mark 1:21-28.
If we were to allow ourselves to read Jesus afresh and anew in Mark’s gospel, we would encounter the Anointed One who has come to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus knows who he is and the demons even seem to know who Jesus is and why he has come (Mark 1:24).
But think about it, why in the world is Jesus, the Spirit-filled one who will baptize us in the Holy Spirit, dealing with demons so quickly in Mark’s Gospel? I have a sneaky suspicion – perhaps it’s because the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15) and if the Kingdom of God is at hand, darkness, demons, and the devil must be dealt with.
If we jumped over to Matthew’s gospel we would see that it is in the casting out of demons that means the Kingdom of God has come upon people (Matthew 12:28). We experience the Kingdom of God by the plundering of the Kingdom of Darkness.
One of my greatest concerns for the Church in the United States is that we seem to have forgotten that there is a cosmic darkness that must be dealt with. We’ve become enamored with social justice, growth, popularity, conforming to culture, individualism and the list goes on. We have forfeited our gift of power from on high, we’ve neglected our authority to live in the way of Jesus, and ignored the fact that demons still possess and oppress people, while Satan continues to be a deceiver with designs to destroy.
The Kingdom of God is still at hand! This is why Jesus cast out demons and had authority over them – to demonstrate the Kingdom of God is at hand. Darkness is present, but light has come! So it was then, so it is now.
That’s all the space for this week. Next week we’ll go deeper.
Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.