Sunday, January 31, 2010

Luke.4.31-44; The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany; January 31, 2010

And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to 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.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:31-44, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today will be a good day to review the 2nd article of the Apostles’ creed. P. 301 in the front of your hymnal. Let’s read it together.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His-only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Now the part I want you to pay close attention to today is the part that says: [Jesus] purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…

This Gospel reading today from St. Luke reflects what Luther is talking about right here. When we talk about the work of Jesus, which is what he did for us through his life, death and resurrection, we are talking about those three things: rescue from sin death and the power of the devil. And that’s what we see in this reading today. It starts with the power of Satan.

Jesus casts out a demon from a man in the synagogue. First we must remember that Satan has real power. These demons that possessed people were and are real. In those days they were well recognized. We don’t know what kind of trouble this one caused but we are reminded by St. Peter to be on the watch for Satan.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

And it true and we’ve all seen Satan’s handiwork. We don’t have to go far either. All we have to do is look around us, we can see it right here. You’ve seen the destructive power of Satan at work in our church. He divides. He distracts. He sets friends against friends. He urges us to concentrate on things that are unimportant making us think they are most important. He whispers lies in our ears that we gladly believe because it’s the easy way. His goal is for you and me to go to hell. He works especially hard among Christians to get them to take their eyes of the Cross of Christ. And we listen to him all too often. In fact, if it weren’t for God’s Word and the Sacraments, if it weren’t for Jesus we’d be slaves to Satan and all his works and all his ways.

It’s no different in the Gospel. This possessed man was in the Synagogue. Trinity is no different than any other church where God’s Word is proclaimed. But Jesus shows he is more powerful than any demon, and even Satan. When he commands the demon out, the evil spirit throws a tantrum by throwing the man on the ground, but he can’t hurt the man anymore. Jesus has commanded him to come out and he must do so immediately. This evil angel, this unclean spirit asks Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)

Jesus performs this miracle for us. That’s what Luke wants us to see. Jesus rescues us from the power of the Devil.

Next we see Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. She has a very high fever. She is dangerously sick. This is Jesus rescuing us from death. After all illness is just death lying in wait for us. Every time you and I get sick we are pushed closer to the grave. When I had the flu I said what a lot of you have said. “I just wanted to die and get it over with.” Illness and disease take away our abilities. We can’t take care of ourselves. We can’t take care of other people. When we are sick we are slaves to it. And no matter how hygienic we are we just can’t always avoid it either. We don’t have to look very far to see that this is true either. Right here, just look at our prayer list of late. It’s been long. It seems to grow every day. While it’s good that we pray for all these folks, each name on the list is illness taking its toll; complications to child birth, cancer, influenza, pneumonia, blood clots, heart attacks and death and more. Each illness is a sign that we will all die. And there isn’t anything we can do about it. Death has us in its grasp. We are slaves to illness and death. Well at least that is without Jesus.

Jesus show us his rescue again. I think it is very interesting that St. Luke uses the very same word about what Jesus does. He rebuked the demon. He rebuked the fever and it comes right out of her. Now we should see right away that this isn’t healing in the way that we’ve seen it. When someone is released from the hospital we pray for their recovery. Peter’s Mother-in-Law had no recovery. She got up and goes right to work without any effects. Jesus healing shows more than just the removal of the illness. It shows a return to life the way that God has designed it. She was free to do what she was called to do, serve the guests that had come to her house.

Jesus performs this miracle for us. That’s what Luke wants us to see. Jesus rescues us from the power of the death.

But Luke also wants us to know that Jesus does even more yet. The news spreads and people bring all kinds of sick and demon possessed to Jesus. He laid his hands on every one of them and healed them, the text says. He heals them all, every one of them. St. Luke wants us to see Jesus rescuing us, too.

Now there’s one of the three yet to go, and admittedly it’s not mentioned directly in the text. But it is here. Jesus rescues us from sin. You see, Satan has power among us because there is sin among us. Death has power among us because sin is among us. What we see Jesus doing here, is restoring things to the way they should be, because without sin there would be no illness and death. Without sin Satan would have no power over us. It is important to see that Jesus healing miracles are always accompanied by Jesus preaching. That’s who the text starts out. Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath. And that’s how the text ends Jesus says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…” What is the good news of the kingdom of God? Back to Luther’s words: I believe that Jesus Christ… has purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [God/Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV)

That’s it exactly. Through death Jesus rescues us from lifelong slavery to sin, death and the power of the devil. How does Luther say it: not with gold or sliver, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. You see those miracles we see here, commanding demons and fevers to leave, are just the little ones that point to the really big one, the really important one, the miracle of God-come-in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ. I like how Luke, whose always interested in Jesus direct connection to people, says that Jesus laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. That very hand that he stretched out to heal and cast out demons is the very same hand that he stretched out on the cross. It’s there that he paid the price for sin, not with gold or silver, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Being alive to God in Christ Jesus, means that we don’t have to tolerate Satan’s temptations, we don’t have to live in sin. Satan wants us to think that money is more important than people. Satan wants us to think that the budget is of a higher priority than the telling people of this community that Jesus lived and died and rose again for them. But that’s not being alive to God in Christ Jesus. We don’t have to live that way anymore. Instead we can get our priorities right. Our income is a gift from God, not to be used to purchase the latest and greatest toys for ourselves, but to use in service to our families, our church and our community.

Being alive to God in Christ Jesus, means that illness, death and Satan are nothing to fear. We may not be able to avoid them, but Jesus tells us that they are done in. Our death isn’t the end but only the beginning of life forever with him. So illness is an opportunity to serve; first, in prayer, then in presence. I would urge you to pay particular attention to those among us who are ill, or suffering, and make an extra effort to touch them, as Jesus did. Some of you have never thought of taking supper to the house of one of our members who is just out of the hospital. And what about all those on our prayer list? We care for them by praying, and that’s important, but is there more you can do. Especially, I would urge you to be the loving hand of Jesus to the members of the congregation you don’t even get along with or like. Nothing will break down those cliquish walls we’ve been so eager to build up at Satan’s prompting faster than the loving touch of Jesus Christ.

All of that is possible, not just possible but actually happens, through Jesus. Picture this one last thing. There’s a practice in our church that we don’t use much here, but you can see it in print if you turn to p. 291 in the front of your hymnal. There in red letters toward the bottom of the page you’ll see these words.

The pastor absolves the penitents individually at the altar, laying his hand on the head of each and pronouncing the following absolution…

In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit.

That’s the touch of Jesus, forgiving you all your sins. As your called and ordained servant of the Word, Jesus speaks his words through my lips and he touches you through my hands. Understand that it’s not my forgiveness that I give to you, it’s his. He purchased and won you from all sins, death and the power of the devil, not with gold or sliver but with his holy and precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Amen.

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

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