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02.18.18 Everyone’s Fishing for Something Mark 1:16-28 Sermon Summary

by on February 20, 2018

Note: This sermon was delivered in first person as the man with the unclean spirit.

Jesus arrived in Capernaum with these four local guys: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They were fishermen, except here’s the thing: They left fishing. James and John even left their dad in the boat! And these guys were following this Jesus around, listening to him, watching him, telling others about him, and inviting others to join them.

So when he came to our synagogue a lot of us were there. And when Jesus taught it blew us away! We’d been taught before about the history and the law and the prophets, about the great people of the past and the way we were to live and how God was going to deliver us someday from the Romans.

But this Jesus . . . he didn’t just teach us the scriptures and the stories and the promises. He taught us about God. And about ourselves.

I doubt anyone suspected I had an unclean spirit. Mostly I was keeping it all together. I earned money. I worked extra when I needed to. I knew things weren’t perfect with me. I mean I wasn’t as bad as some, but I knew I wasn’t as centered or balanced as others. I didn’t even know I had an unclean spirit until I heard the teaching of Jesus.

He talked about people being made in the image of God, and how that image had been distorted by the world and by our choices. Listen, the most any of us hoped for was for a wife and children, for food for the day, safety in our jobs and from the elements, and no run ins with the Romans.

But Jesus talked about God’s vision for our world, for all of us, for me even. And I felt this stirring inside me. You might call it conscience or Spirit. It started with some discomfort. I felt agitated and inexplicably irritable. Then defense mechanisms started. I thought he was some pie in the sky dreamer. I said he probably has had an easy life. Anyway, he doesn’t know what I’ve been through. I dismissed him as young, idealistic, religious guy.

But something inside me also gravitated to him. I was tied up in knots. All this dissonance in my mind and heart. And I thought this guy’s for real. He knows the truth. God himself is speaking through him.

Then it came out . . . I heard all these voices in my head and in my heart accusing me of being a bad son, a bad father, a bad employee, a bad Jew. “God doesn’t love you! No one loves you! You’ll never amount to anything! You’re a nothing!” I started to shake. And I started crying.

Meanwhile, Jesus says to these voices, “Be silent! Come out of him!”

My life changed that day because of Jesus’ teaching and because of the words he spoke directly into my life. I had come to synagogue out of habit and out of curiosity. Boy was I surprised when God spoke directly to me.

Jesus had been talking about repentance for the kingdom of God was near. And that’s what happened to me. As I listened my thinking began to change. Then my behavior changed. Then I changed. I went from having an unclean spirit to being clean.

And I thought this must be what happened to Andrew and Simon, and James and John. Andrew and Simon were famous for their hard work. They worked all day, and all night sometimes. They were obsessed with work. You might say possessed by work.

I think they hated their work. Work was their unclean spirit. Then Jesus comes along and says, “The work you do, fishing for fish, follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.” And they followed him! Eventually, you’ll find out, they returned to fishing after Jesus was raised from the dead. But I bet it wasn’t the same.

And James and John? We always wondered why they fished. We all knew they hated it. We figured it was because of Zebedee. He was a hard man. A successful businessman. He even had hired men besides his sons. He was also a hard father. Brought his business attitudes home. Kind of domineering.

So along comes Jesus to James and John, a couple of guys with a hard childhood that was still controlling their lives. That kind of childhood is like an unclean spirit. Jesus calls them and boom! They leave Zebedee in the boat. They leave the family business with the hired men and followed Jesus.

And then there was me. The Bible actually says I had an unclean spirit, and it’s true. But when I look back on Jesus’ message and his healing and the effect he’s had on countless lives ever since, I think probably everyone has some kind of unclean spirit.

There’s something we all need to hear from Jesus. Someplace where we all need some healing. Something unclean about all our spirits.

Spring is coming when apparently dead things come to life. Winter is passing. The days are getting longer. The word “Lent” is actually related to “lengthen.” Our lives—Simon, Andrew, James, John and I—our lives had reached some dead ends. But Jesus called us back to life.

My prayer for you this Lent, these next symbolic 40 days, is that you will hear God’s voice in Jesus, that you’ll hear Jesus calling you wherever you fish or attend worship. And I pray that whatever is unclean in you will speak up and argue with God. It might not be so comfortable, but then Christ can command it to leave.

I think if you can name what it is that is unclean in you, the thing you think might possess you, it will help. You can call it out, pray about it, and let Jesus speak to it and cast it out. Who knows but that by Easter or Pentecost, you also might be filled with a clean spirit? Amen.


We give you thanks, Covenant God, for the renewal of your creation through the cleansing of sin. For forty days you opened the powerful forces of water to cover the earth, bringing new life and a new start. We thank you for the forty days Moses met with you upon the mountain, and for the guidance you gave to us through the commandments he brought back down. We thank you for the forty days Elijah spent resting from his prophetic ministry, being fed by your hands under the broom tree. In all these instances, Faithful God, you proved your determination to overcome the power of sin in the world.

We thank you for Jesus, who continued your work of redemption throughout his life. He would call men and women where he found them, and they would follow him. We thank you for the forty days of prayer and fasting following his baptism that was the foundation of his ministry. These disciplines would sustain him through his welcoming of sinners and his challenging of authorities. And after his death on the cross, and your resurrection of him three days later, we thank you for the forty days he continued to appear to his disciples, teaching them, healing them, and breaking bread with them.

Now, Steadfast God, we have entered the forty days of Lent. We pray you will use these days of our own prayer and fasting, to cleanse us from sin, grant us guidance for our own lives, and sustain us by the meal you provide. Here send your Spirit, we pray, that we might receive the grace we need to maintain our Lenten disciplines, and to be conformed more and more to Christ. Unite us with him through our fellowship with him at this table, and send us forth as you did Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, that we may proclaim the good news of your faithfulness through word and deed. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

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