He Speaks with Authority!

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Deacon Rex Watt

Jer 1:4-10 (17-19) / Psa 71:1-6 (7-11) / 1 Cor 12:31b-13:13 / Luke 4:31-44

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  Once again we find Jesus in the synagogue.  This time he is up in Capernaum, a little NE of Nazareth his hometown and right on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum was a fishing village and an important Roman garrison, a military outpost.  It was also Simon Peter’s hometown, and the town in which Matthew collected taxes.  It had become Jesus’ base of operations since his baptism by John the Baptist.  If you remember last week, Jesus had been teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee when he returned to his hometown only to be rejected by them.  So, he heads back to Capernaum and these folk “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority” (vs 32).

This Sabbath we don’t get to hear what it is that Jesus is teaching, but we do get to see the power of his words.  For while he was teaching there was a man in the synagogue who was possessed with “the spirit of an unclean demon” and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha!  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” (vss 33-34).  This demon identifies Jesus with a messianic title: the Holy One of God.  There was a belief among the pagans of the ancient world that if one knew a god’s real name, then one could exercise some control over that deity.  By calling Jesus by this name, the demon was probably attempting to exercise control over Jesus.[1]  But look what happened!  “Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’” (vs 35).  The demon had no option but to obey the voice of the Holy One of God.  Jesus is the Stronger One who enters the house of the strong man and drives out demons with the finger of God.[2]

Just as Jesus’ words have power and authority over the unclean spirits, his word has power and authority in your life as well.  His word of Law points out your sins, and my sins even as we sit, here, in church.  While an evil spirit may not possess us, we are as unclean as they come because of our natural sinful condition.  Today, our Epistle reading points this out to us all too readily.  We don’t love as Scripture demands.  We are not always patient, or kind.  We envy others.  We boast, either about ourselves, or about the deal we got on some purchase.  We can be arrogant or rude at times, if not in actual practice, certainly in our thoughts.  If we don’t get our way we get irritable or resentful.  No, you and I don’t love as Scripture demands; but there is One who does.  There is One who has loved you from the foundation of the world and has demonstrated that love for you by sending His only Son to live the life you cannot live, to love as you cannot love, and to die so that you can live.

Jesus comes with his powerful Word pointing out who he is (last week’s lesson) and demonstrating to you this week, that he has authority over the spiritual realm; and as we will see, the physical realm.  With a word of rebuke, he casts out the spirit of the unclean demon, and the people were amazed saying to one another, “What is this word?” (vs 36).  This “word” is the Word of God in the flesh!  This word is the Word which, when spoken into your ears, creates faith in your heart.  This word is the Word that is attached to the waters of your baptism that brings you out of the kingdom of darkness and transfers you into the kingdom of light.

Jesus left the synagogue and entered Simon Peter’s house.  Peter’s mother-in-law lay ill with a high fever.  A high fever could be a prelude to something far worse given the state of medical care back in those days.  Notice again what Jesus does.  He rebukes the fever.  To rebuke is to speak against.  We don’t know what those words were, but Jesus spoke against the fever and the woman became well, well enough to get up and serve the guests in her house.  Word of that healing must have gotten out for when evening came, people from all over town brought to him “any who were sick with various diseases…and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (vs 40).

Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus is revealing himself to us today as the One who has authority over all things.  His authority over the demons, as demonstrated today, shows us that he rules over the spiritual kingdom.  His authority over sickness and disease, as demonstrated today, shows us that he rules over the physical kingdom.  Just as he said in the last chapter of Matthew, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18), so it has.  Jesus is in control!  That should bring you comfort in whatever trials and tribulations you may be going through.

“And when it was day” our text says, “he departed and went into a desolate place” (vs42).  Jesus must have been up all night ministering to those who were sick and demon possessed.  He had hoped to get away for some time alone, but the people sought him out.  They didn’t want him to leave.  Why would they?  They’ve never seen anything like this before.  Having Jesus around was better than Obamacare!  Everyone was getting cured.  They must have approached him with an offer they thought was too good to refuse…but he did!  He told them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (vs 43).

Jesus didn’t come to just cast out demons and heal people’s diseases and infirmities.  Being healed of disease or being freed from demon possession was only a temporary fix.  People would still die.  Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, would one day die again.  Jesus came to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel.  He came to be the Gospel!  For only the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.  All these miracles of healing and demon exorcisms were done to simply validate the authority of Christ’s preaching of the Good News.  Don’t get them confused!  The people of Nazareth, upon hearing the Good News only wanted to see miracles performed like they had heard were done in other towns.  The people of Capernaum, who heard the Good News, were focused on the miracles and wanted to work a deal to keep this miracle worker to themselves.  People in Jesus’ day, like ours, get focused on the wrong aspect of Jesus’ ministry.  He came to “proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vs 18), as well as give sight to the blind and set at liberty those who are oppressed.

The Gospel, dear saints, is the message.  It is what “this” is all about.  What good is it if one gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  You can have perfect health, the perfect “10” body, the perfect job, great kids, great house, 10x the money Bill Gates has; but if you do not have the forgiveness of sins given to you in the Gospel, you have nothing!

Jesus came to proclaim the Good News, the euaggelion.  Jesus is the euaggelion, the Good News.  Paul said in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [euagelion], for it [the euagelion] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Concerning this Gospel he also wrote to the Corinthians, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-4).

By God’s grace, dear saints, this gospel is the word I will preach to you.  It is my prayer, paraphrasing the words of the Apostle Paul, when I proclaim the testimony of God to you that I do not do it with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I want to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

It is Jesus who has all authority.  It is Jesus who speaks with authority.  His prophets, his apostles, his preachers down through the ages have simply proclaimed his Word.  You and I are beneficiaries of their proclamation.  We have heard the power of God; we have believed the Gospel; let us not be distracted by the trials and tribulations of life, or seek after temporal signs.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfector of our faith.  Amen.  So let it be.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

[1] Robert A. Sorensen, “Luke”, Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2014, page 83.

[2] Gerhard Kittle, Editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol 2, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1964, page 626.

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