Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“Cut it off with the Authority of Christ!”
I want to start with a funny story. I heard about this group of school children. They were in the cafeteria line at the Catholic elementary school. At the beginning of the line, there was a big bowl of apples. A nun had written a note, says, “pick only one as God is watching.” At the end of the line, there was a big bowl of chocolate chip cookies. One of the children wrote a note and said, “Take all you want while God is watching the apples.”
I want to talk to you today about “cut it off with the authority of Christ.” We may not realize how we are distressed with hearing people around us, those with many sufferings, infirmities, anxieties, worries, addictions, family illness, world-disasters, violence, injustice, and even small gossips. All negative things come to our mind, and they are growing in us. Finally, we can become depressed with all the negative things. If we hear bad things every day, it is like feeding our soul and mind with bad soul food. If you say to your spouse or your family members every time, “you are so bad.” They will become the worst person. Please don’t feed them and yourself with bad soul food! Instead, cut it off with the authority of Christ.
My grandfather was a strict father to my father, who is the first son to my grandfather. In a patriarchal family, the firstborn son has a lot of benefits, and at the same time, has strict responsibilities. My father was distressed by my grandfather’s expectations. He received higher education, but he had lower self-esteem and alcohol addiction. He wasn’t be able to talk to anyone in a public place without drinking. My grandfather scolded my weak father every day. My grandfather’s expectations and strict discipline made my father alcoholic addiction. Even when my father visited my younger sister’s school, he used to drink to see her teacher. My younger sister got hurt by my father’s behavior and was ashamed in front of her friends. While drunk, my father used to go to the church also, where my mother attended, to seek my mother. All my family members struggled because of my father. Everyone in town knew that my father was an alcoholic and gossiped about my father. All situations led to my father getting worse and worse.
One day, when I was a sophomore at seminary, I saw my father crying alone. It was the first time that I saw my father cry. I felt heartbroken. I couldn’t do anything at that moment. Later on, I talked to my mother about how my father cried alone. My mother told me that my father got deeply wounded from his childhood. He lost his mother when he was 6. He couldn’t cry in front of his father because of the strict discipline that a man never cries. His father was a strong and strict head of household. My father’s soul and mind were fed with fear, incapacity, deep grief, and brokenness by his father and the situation around him.
My mother and I decided to cut all his negative things off and start blessing him. My family members intentionally said good words to my father every day, “you are a good father; you are handsome; we love you; you are beloved by God; we are proud of you because you are my father; God bless you.” He started looking at a mirror and looking at himself differently. We began having home-services whether my father was there or not and proclaimed we would stop all negative things flowing through our family members. Finally, he started attending the church without drinking, where he used to bother services by being drunk and received baptism. He stopped all Confucian worship at home.
Furthermore, after my grandfather passed away, he, as the head of household, led all family members and relatives to convert Christians and made me the religious leader of our home. He enjoyed daily prayers with my mother for the rest of his life. It is essential to cut all bad things off and be positive, supportive, sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful. And bless and encourage people around you. If they are happy, you may feel happy also. Perhaps, we can’t do it by ourselves. But if we do so with the authority of Christ, God makes things happen for us. We, Christians, have the authority to pray in Jesus’ name. Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark9:29). He also said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). We can cut all bad things off flowing through our family history with the authority of Christ. It is the power of prayer Jesus gave us.
In today’s Scripture, Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and taught people. Synagogue was a Jewish temple to worship and study the Bible. People were astounded at his teaching because he had authority. At that time, there was a man with an unclean spirit. He cried out, interrupted, and tried to draw their attention. But, no one gave him attention. He cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
There was an unclean spirit at synagogue, who knew Jesus very well but bothered him, and his ministry. This man with the unclean spirit is, perhaps, an image of what the lives of that synagogue looked like. They knew about God very well, but their souls might not be clean. In looking at him, they might see themselves, and they were not surprised by him. However, they were surprised by the contrast of the one who has a clean spirit. Finally, the man cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Jesus said, “Be silent, and come out of him.” and then the unclean spirit came out of him, crying with a loud voice. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? It is new teaching with authority!” Yes, Jesus’ teaching was the good news that the wounded, the powerless, the sick, and the poor are not sin, but they can be healed, restored, and reconciled in the love of God.
We may not realize that we have a story in our lives, which suffers spiritually and emotionally. Perhaps, the man with an unclean spirit might represent everyone who has ever experienced the brokenness of life. He is the spokesperson for all who feel disconnected from themselves, others, or God. He might represent the human condition. He might want to hear from Jesus, “I have everything to do with you.”
We are not very different. Each one of us also longs for that answer because we also know the separation and brokenness of our own lives. We have lived in isolation. We have been trapped in grief. We have carried the burden of guilt. The truth of those situations often reveals itself as if the man with unclean spirit said, “Have you come to destroy us? We may not want our life to be seen in its unmade-up condition. We may want to make up guilt, grief, fear, anger, and self-judgment not to be seen to others. However, if we feed those things to our soul, finally, our soul may destroy. Brokenness and being wounded are not guilt but need care with love. Among many people at the synagogue, only a man cried out to Jesus, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are.” Finally, he was healed by Jesus’ authority.
As Christians, we have authority in the name of Jesus Christ. We need be careful to listen to others who cry out. And we may use the authority of Jesus Christ in order to release them from their suffering. The Gospel of Mark’s witness on Christian’s authority is very clear. At the beginning of the Gospel, Mark 1:1 says, “The beginning of the good news is Jesus Christ, Son of God.” the Gospel of Mark, 16:17-18, says, “these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out the demon; They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” And the end of the Gospel of Mark, 16:20, says, the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the sign that accompanied it.” Jesus, as he promised, is with his disciples and worked with them.
Today Jesus is working among us. It is time to cut the negative things and bad spirit in our family and around us off with Jesus Christ’s authority. Do not let Jesus’ authority limit. As I shared with you a funny story at the beginning, while Jesus is watching the apples, don’t you think he can watch the chocolate chip cookies at that same time? Let us use the authority of Christ. Please pray for yourself and your family. “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark9:29).
Thanks be to God. Amen.