Preaching: The Importance of Preaching
The first three chapters of Mark’s gospel are a literary tsunami. The kingdom of God embodied in Christ came like a wave. The Spirit descended upon Christ at His baptism and drove Him into the wilderness where he overcame the temptation of Satan. And from that point on the Spirit empowered Christ to engage a ministry that would roust the kingdom of darkness. All of that is in the first three chapters. But then, in chapter 4, the great conquering warrior King stopped His campaign in order to put his weapon of choice on display. It is as if he said, “Let me now show you the weapon by which I am conquering. Let me explain how it works.” And we marvel because the weapon is His word.
But by the next chapter Jesus is once again in battle on the Gadarene shore. Jesus was barely out of the boat when confronted by the demoniac. To describe the demoniac as a troubled man would be an understatement. The text says that he would go about crying out in a loud voice and he was continually cutting himself. This man was on multiple levels unclean with regard to the law of God and therefore, outside the kingdom of God. Now, that seems to be enough to alert us to the fact that Jesus is heading into another brawl with the kingdom of darkness.
If that weren’t enough, verse 4 tells us something even more significant about this man and therefore about the conflict that is about to ensue. It says, “No one had the strength to subdue him.” At this point, the Spirit is helping us to see something more than a story about the cleansing of a demoniac. He is helping us to see that Jesus is the only one who can bind the strong man (cf. Mark 3:27).
That’s the background. Now, let’s take a closer look at the conflict itself. The demoniac tried to meet Jesus on His own ground. Do you see what I mean? The demoniac ran to Jesus and we expect him – because of his superhuman strength – to pick up the Lord and try and do Him bodily harm. But instead, the demoniac ran to Jesus and fell down before Him and cried out saying, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” This demoniac knew who he is battling. He knew that if Jesus was to be defeated He must be defeated with His own weapon and so the demoniac spoke.
Now, think about what he did. The demoniac attempted to bind Jesus with his words. Look at what he said, “I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” Notice the word “adjure.” He commanded Jesus as though he had placed the Son of God under oath. It’s as if he had said, “I command you as one under oath do not torment me.” He was attempting to bind the Son of God by his own authority.
Now, look at verse 8. Often translations will render these words, “For he (that is Jesus) said to him…” But the verb is in a tense that suggests that Jesus had been saying to the man, “Come out of the man you unclean spirit.” Do you understand what is happening here? As the man approached, Jesus immediately assessed the situation and He said to the demon, “Come out of the man…” But the demon in the possessed man is strong. So, while Jesus was speaking, the demoniac was also saying, “I command you as one under oath, do not torment me!” We are witnessing a terrific and terrifying battle here! And it is a battle of words.
Now, at this point we shouldn’t be confused. This battle is not like one that may take place in some homes. The winner is not decided by who can talk the loudest. Have you ever been in that situation? You’re talking and the person you’re talking to thinks that he can win the argument if he has enough volume to drown you out? Volume will not win this battle. This battle will be won on the basis of authority. Whose word is authoritative? And despite the fact that this man has untold numbers of demons in him and his cries had a legion of demons behind them. The one voice of Jesus authoritatively rose above them all.
And notice what happens, the conflict ends with an acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority. They can’t do anything but submit to the word of the Lord. Notice what they do. Whereas they once attempted to command him now they beg him. “Please, send us to the pigs, let us enter them.” Jesus gave them permission.
This story not only illustrates the redemptive events of history. This story also illustrates the great weight of the ministry of the preached word. How so? When the minister of the gospel proclaims the word of God faithfully he speaks the word of Christ to the people of Christ. The minister is fully aware that the people of his congregation are hearing many other competing voices – not all of them good. And this story reminds the preacher that the battle of words is not a battle of volume but one of authority. Consequently, if the battle is one of authority the minister must understand that pulpit pounding and volume is not enough. He must open the Scriptures to the people so that they hear the Word of Christ. He must be a faithful expositor of God’s word that Christ’s authority might be heard among the volume of other voices. Indeed, this story illustrates the great weight and importance of the preaching ministry.
Jeffrey A. Stivason has been serving the Lord as a minister of the gospel since 1995. He was church planter and now pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.