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The Battle between Two Kingdoms July 15, 2012

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Mark 6:14-29

Proper 10

July 14-15, 2012

Focus: God has restored His kingdom among us.

Function: That the hearers live out their lives as a part of the Kingdom of God.

Structure: This is the historical situation in the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

The Battle between Two Kingdoms

            Growing up, my first job was working at a Subway restaurant back in high school.  And my official job title: Sandwich Artist.  This was before Quizno’s and their toasted subs caught on or Jimmy John’s freaky fast delivery.  Subway was the go-to sandwich place, and we were hoppin’.  The line was always out the door for lunch and dinner.  Sandwiches are quick, simple meals, with plenty of variety.  You’ve got the standard ham and cheese to something stranger like peanut butter and banana.

You may not have realized it, but the Apostle Mark liked his sandwiches, too.  Alright, so it’s a different kind of sandwich.  We saw an example two weekends ago, when he sandwiched the bleeding woman in between the account of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter.  And we see it again today.  Our gospel lesson is the meat, cheese, and veggies in between.  Or better it’s the liverwurst, because it grosses everyone out.

Last week, we read through Mark’s account of Jesus sending out the twelve.  And next week, we’ll see them return.  So that’s our sandwich.  It’s a literary technique that Mark employs multiple times in his gospel, one that critics seem to miss when they argue that Mark wasn’t a good writer.

So what’s he doing?  Where’s he going with this sandwich?  It’s all tied in to one of his key themes throughout his gospel.  It’s about spiritual warfare.  It’s the battle between two kingdoms.  It pits the kingdom of God up against the kingdom of Satan.

When I preached on Mark’s gospel last week, I tried to pick up on the kingdom concept.  You could summarize that sermon’s central focus into this:  Jesus Christ came into this world to bring the kingdom of God, or to restore the kingdom of God.  But I took the kingdom for granted, and didn’t really explain what that meant or looks like.  Thankfully, someone asked me about it after church, and thankfully Mark gives me another chance.

Six-thousand years ago, God chose to create.  He decided to design a universe and to fill it with planets and stars and all kinds of wonders.  And on one of those planets, He decided to create life.  We see not just water and trees around us, but animals and people.  God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden.  Creation was wonderful, awesome, perfect.  It was very good.  God created it, He cared for it, and it was His kingdom.  He was God, He was king.  Everyone and everything looked to Him.  Adam and Eve could talk to Him, ask Him anything they wanted.  It was indeed very good.

But it didn’t last.  Some six-thousand years ago, a fallen angel, who tried to fight God in the heavens, tried to become god, decided to bring that battle to us.  We were on God’s side after all, we were enemies of Satan.  So he came, he attacked.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve to not believe what God had told them, to not respect God’s authority.  And when they took that first bite, everything changed.  God’s kingdom was corrupted, damaged goods.

Satan may well have thought that he had won, that he had beaten God, or at least dealt a strong blow.  He became known as the prince of this world.  Together with his fellow fallen angels, we know as demons, Satan torments this world.  He’s been up to no good for the last six-thousand years.

God had choices of how to respond.  Choices that included wiping out creation and starting over.  But He chose instead to fight.  He chose to continue to care for this creation.  He chose instead to reclaim it.

That’s Jesus’ mission.  He came to restore the rule of God over His creation.  To restore things to the way they once were.  To crush Satan and give back all authority to the one true God.  And we are part of this plan.  Humans, from the very beginning, are the crown of God’s creative work.  And God has continued to care for us.  He has continued to call us His people.  And He has done it through His Son.

So what does the kingdom of God look like?  What did Jesus sacrifice to give?  The kingdom includes any and everywhere the gospel is preached, the good news of God’s love and salvation is shared.  It includes any place that comes together in Word and sacrament, trusting in God’s promises.  It includes as we see in the book of Acts, the early church, and even now, the building of a community, the building of a church.  God’s holy people, whom He loves.

This is what Mark writes about.  This is what our sandwich is about.  We see Jesus give His authority to His disciples, the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick.  Things normal people can’t do.  And then He sends them out.  He sends them out and they preach the gospel.  They preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  And they cast out demons and heal the sick.  And then they return from their journey, report the success to Jesus, and He leads them to a quiet place so they can rest and recover.

It’s the in-breaking, the breaking in, of the kingdom of God.  The Word being preached; people hearing and believing; and Satan getting scared.  His demons are being cast out.  His temptations and crippling diseases are being thwarted.  He’s scared that he’s starting to lose his touch; afraid that he’s losing ground in this war.  And so he lashes back.  He digs in his heels and keeps fighting.

King Herod, not a believer in Jesus, hears of these disciples and the things they were doing.  Herod’s scared, that’s the message of this text.  He doesn’t understand the things of God, he doesn’t understand who Jesus is.  He thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist.  And this scares him all the more, because he killed John.  So we get the account of a weak and pathetic king who couldn’t even stand up for himself, but bowed to the wishes of a child.

Herod feared John the Baptist.  He feared that he really was a prophet of God.  For an unknown amount of time, Herod defended John, kept him alive. In prison, but alive.  For Herod’s wife, Herodias, wanted John dead.  You heard the account.  A little girl gets King Herod to make a stupid promise.  A promise peer pressure forces him to keep.  And so he does what she asks, he kills the man he fears.  And now his nightmares are coming true, he thinks John’s back!

As a king, as part of the kingdom of Satan, Herod wanted power, just like so many today.  Power motivated his life.  John threatened that power.  And this Jesus, also a threat.  There will be attempts on Christ’s life.  Satan and Herod aren’t going down without a fight.

This is the message we see in Mark’s gospel.  The message that there is a war being fought.  The question from our worldly point of view, and the view of people in Mark’s day, is this: is God still at work?  Is He still fighting, or has He been defeated?  And that’s what Mark ultimately is answering in his gospel writing.  God is not defeated, instead the fight goes on.  Even though John the Baptist was imprisoned for speaking against Herod and Herodias’ corrupt marriage, he kept preaching.  He kept fighting.  And oddly enough, Herod was listening, which is why Herodias had John killed.  She feared Herod might truly listen and believe.  That he’d repent, divorce her, and she’d lose all her power as queen.  John kept fighting until he died.

The same goes for Christ.  Satan constantly attacked Him, constantly tried to undermine His ministry and put an end to it all.  But Christ kept pushing forward.  He kept preaching and teaching.  He continued to form disciples who would carry on the preaching of the gospel, who would carry on the fight.  Christ’s ministry still reached its goal.  His death served as the ultimate in victory.  Because in His death, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are offered to all mankind.  Satan loses everything.  It’s a strange victory cry, to celebrate a death.  But without death, Christ would not have conquered death.  Without dying, He couldn’t have been raised.  But He has conquered death; He has been raised from the grave.  And because Christ lives, we live.  Christ is risen!  (He is risen indeed, alleluia!) That is our battle cry.  We are part of God’s kingdom.

This all applies to us still today.  This life is tough.  We suffer, we bleed, we hurt, and unless Christ returns first, we die.  Things don’t go well all the time; the ball doesn’t always bounce our way.  We spend time in the hospital, get sick, disasters happen, unforeseen events empty our bank accounts.  People ask how a good God can let bad things happen to good people, how can a good God let suffering and evil exist.  But the question is flawed.  We’re not inherently good people.  We’re sinners.  God doesn’t simply let everything happen as though He doesn’t care.  We chose to live this way.  We chose sin as far back as six thousand years ago.  And mankind still chooses sin today.  Bad things happen; but it’s not God’s fault.  It’s all a result of sin; it’s all a result of Satan fighting against us.

In all of this, Mark offers great comfort.  We see it with John, that he keeps going until the end.  But we see it all the more in Christ.  Jesus kept fighting, God keeps fighting.  No matter what obstacles were in Jesus’ way, he pushed forward.  He achieved the goal of His mission.  He brought the kingdom of God.  And He brought it to you and me.  Through baptism, we are children of God.  We go from being His enemies, to being His beloved children.  We switch sides, from Satan’s kingdom, to God’s.  And we can rest assured through all the hardships in our lives that everything is still moving toward God’s goal, His outcome.  Through Jesus Christ, we will be saved.  We will live in Him.

In a sense, Mark’s gospel leaves the spiritual war going on.  The battle still raging.  And that’s fitting, because the battle between two kingdoms is still being fought.  We are part of that fight each and every day.  But I also know there are a few of you out there who like to spoil a good book by flipping to the end and reading the last page or chapter.  If you flip to the end of God’s true and holy Word, it doesn’t spoil it.  Revelation provides all the comfort we need.  Because it tells us how everything ends.  And God wins.

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