IN NOMINE JESU
Everyone was looking for the Lord. He had been healing many people of various diseases and of demon possession. The time had come for Him to be about prayer, speaking with His Father in heaven. He was in a solitary place, no doubt thanking His Father for sending Him down from heaven to be born of a virgin mother, to appear in human flesh, and to preach to His people, to preach to them a message of repentance, that His hearers would repent so that they would receive the full forgiveness of sins He would ultimately win for them. What He sought to give them and what they wanted, though, were rarely the same. He wanted to bring them the message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins—He wanted to preach the Gospel, which would be fulfilled in Him. They, however, wanted little more than healing, for the people saw Him as little more than a miracle worker. They saw Him as one who could heal their bodies but not as One who could heal their souls. They saw Him for what they wanted to see, not for what He really came to do.
This did not deter the Lord from His appointed rounds. Yet He still took the time to tend to those who came to Him, seeking His healing of their various illnesses and His casting out demons, who possessed many an individual. And, just as we heard last Sunday, He commanded the demons to not speak, lest they speak His Name, for the demons knew Him. Otherwise, they would speak the Name of Jesus—and not in a form of praise. The Lord forbids the speaking of His Name that does not give God all praise and glory; He commands that we "call upon [His Name] in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks." This was the point of His preaching, that all who heard Him would believe in Him and praise His holy Name, receiving eternal life in this same Name. Yet He had time to tend to those who needed His healing touch, whether it would be Peter's mother-in-law or the whole city of Capernaum. What we have in our text is not an example of the faith of the people, for they saw His as little more than a faith healer. What we do have before us this Lord's Day is the God of grace and love. He has come to His people with good news, the message He came to preach, going on to the synagogues of Galilee with the gospel. He preached to people of the whole region that salvation was of the Jews, for He has come, born of Mary, to be the Savior of the world and the Fulfillment of the Scriptures.
Yet He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. They were amazed by the miracles He performed. They saw what they wanted, they got what they wanted, but they cared not about what they needed. We have seen this time and time again. He fed the five thousand from a mere five loaves of bread and two fish, and they asked Him for a sign. He who told His hearers to at least believe in the signs He performed in their midst was rejected as the Messiah on account of the signs. They wanted more signs. They wanted Him to be their earthly King, seeking to take Him by force. They even rejected His teaching and preaching, seeking to stone Him and to cast Him out of the city. They took what they wanted and rejected what they needed. They never lost sight of the one thing needful, for they never had it in their sights; it was out of sight and, consequently, out of mind. Nowhere in our text, and rarely in the Gospels, do we find the people thanking and praising the Lord for all His goodness. They sought Him to satisfy the desires of their flesh and not the salvation of their souls. They sought the signs and passed on the preaching.
Before we pass judgment upon them, we must also remember that our Lord is speaking to us this day. To us He says, "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel." Why is the kingdom of God at hand? It is at hand for it is near—nay—it is here! The kingdom of God has come down to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son. The kingdom of God is among us, for where Christ is, there the kingdom is also. He comes in Word and Sacraments, so that He would give us a foretaste of His coming in His full glory on the Last Day, when He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. It is for our sake that He calls us to repentance, for we are stained with all our sins and iniquities with which we have ever offended God and justly deserve His temporal and eternal punishment. We have sinned greatly against the Lord, for we have not needed His Word as He has commanded us to do. We seek from Him what He has not promised to give us. We look for the glitz and glamour but do not listen for the Gospel, the Good News. We place a higher premium on the bells and whistles than we do on the bread and wine. We want wonders and signs, not the Word and Sacraments. We look for extraordinary things, and we choose to forget that the Lord comes to His people through ordinary means to do His extraordinary things. Why do we do this to ourselves? The answer is simple: we are poor, miserable sinners, and as sinners we lack a proper First-Commandment relationship with God; that is to say, we do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. As such poor, miserable sinners, we do not hallow God's Name or let His kingdom come to us as He desires it, for He desires to come in grace, not in wrath. We despise preaching and God's Word and do not hold it sacred; neither do we gladly hear and learn it. So when we teach and live otherwise than God's Word teaches, we profane the Name of God among us. As Martin Luther says, "From this preserve us, Heavenly Father!"
There was an ancient Church Father named Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, a translation called the Vulgate, for it was translated into the language of the people of the day in the Roman Empire. Jerome commented on our text in his Tractate on Mark's Gospel, saying, "Our repentance is the perfume of the Savior. Our sins give off a terrible odor; they are rottenness. Nevertheless, if we repent of our sins, they will be transformed into perfume by the Lord. Therefore, let us ask the Lord to grasp our hand. 'And at once,' [St. Mark] says, 'the fever left her.' Immediately as her hand is grasped, the fever flees." This is most certainly true for us who come to our heavenly Father in repentance and faith. The preaching of the Law is to drive us to repent of our sins and to prepare our hearts for the Gospel, which is nothing other than that God the Father has forgiven our sins for the sake of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we come before the Father's throne and confess our sins, He forgives us and forgets our sins. When we come to Him, stained with the disease of sin, He heals us. This is the goal of preaching: to bring the hearer to repentance, so that forgiveness would be his in Christ. This is the purpose of Christ's preaching, so that those who placed their trust in Him who would die for their sins would have eternal life in His Name, eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This is the purpose of the Church's preachment, from the Apostles through today and through the end of all time, that we who place our trust in Christ—who has died for our sins, has risen again, and who lives and reigns to all eternity—will be saved. Why did Christ preach the Gospel? He preached the Gospel because Christ is the Gospel! He is the Good News in human flesh. The Gospel gives us Christ, and He has given us Himself. Christ our Lord has given us Himself from the cross, His body battered and His blood poured out for the forgiveness of our sins, for our healing.
The Word of God gives us the healing Christ won for us on Calvary's holy mountain. His Word gives the Sacraments the power to give us His healing, a Word greater than any prescription, signed with the blood of Christ, more potent than any doctor's signature on this side of heaven, for this healing is for our souls. Yes, we have a gracious and loving God, and the Lord places great importance on His Word being preached in our midst so that our hearts would be right with Him, that we may receive His gifts of healing—that is, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation—that He gives through His Means of Grace. He has given us the Sermon in the Divine Service so that our hearts would be prepared for and our faces turned toward the altar to receive His medicine, which is His body and blood. We have received His healing aurally through the Holy Absolution. Now He bids us to receive His healing orally through the Holy Communion. He gives us His Word: "Take, eat; this is My body. Take, drink; this is My blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Yes, there is healing in the Sacrament, for there is healing in the preaching, healing from the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.