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Revealed Authority and Various Responses

Luke 4:31-44

Pastor Jason Zirbel

Epiphany 4, series C
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

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Sun, Jan 30, 2022 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

Last week’s appointed Gospel lesson, if you recall, concluded with Jesus leaving the angry and unrepentant hometown folk in Nazareth and going away from them.  They didn’t respond well to His preaching/teaching, did they?  However, He didn’t strike them down in righteous judgment, even as they were actively trying to murder Him by tossing Him over a cliff simply because He dared to call them out in their sin.  Nope.  Instead, in divine patience and mercy and love, He simply passed through their midst and went away from them. 

As we turn our attention to the Gospel lesson appointed for this morning, we hear that when Jesus left Nazareth, He went down to Capernaum in Galilee.  Just like up on Nazareth, Jesus goes to the synagogue and is teaching.  How do these folks respond?  At first glance, it seems like more of the same, doesn’t it?  The hometown folks in Nazareth had “marveled at His gracious words.” These folks in Capernaum are amazed and marvel at His words too, especially after they witness Him exorcise a demon-possessed man by simply commanding the demon to be silent and come out of the poor guy.  “What is this Word?  With power and authority He commands demons… and they obey Him; they come out!”

Well… let’s just get this out of the way right up front.  Even though the two groups both marvel at the words of Jesus, they’re not marveling in the same way or at the same thing.  The hometown crowd was simply marveling over the fact that the son of the local carpenter, whom they had known since he was a little boy, was able to speak so eloquently.  “Listen to how smart He sounds!  Who would’ve thought?” The Capernaum congregation, on the other hand, was marveling over the authority of His Word.  You see, Jesus wasn’t like the rabbis.  The rabbis basically talked about the Word of God, but they didn’t let God do the talking.  Their words had no authority.  They spoke with no authority.  They gave their opinions on the Word.  They shared what others had said about the Word, quoting various other rabbis and teachers and their respective opinions, but they never simply spoke the authoritative Word of God and let Him do the talking.  This is why the Capernaum congregation marvels when Jesus teaches.  Jesus isn’t like all the others.  His Word possessed authority.  He spoke with authority (which makes sense, considering that He’s the Author of the Word).

It’s also a safe bet to say that the rabbis probably never really had to deal with demon possession, especially within the confines of the synagogue during a worship service.  This only makes sense, because if you’re not preaching the Word of God, then why would the devil care?  Why would the devil devote any attention to you if you pose no threat to him?  But when Jesus arrives and begins to teach, the devil immediately goes on the defensive.  “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!  Have you come to destroy us?” That demon is worried that the End is now here.  That demon is terrified that the time has now come to be cast into the eternal lake of unquenchable fire.  It’s sad when you think about it.  The demons know and confess the Truth about Jesus.  They confess the Truth about His holiness; His divine power and authority.  They confess the Truth of what He’s all about—destroying the powers of sin, death, and the devil.  The demons understand Jesus better than we do!  And how does Jesus respond to such a terrifying outburst of evil?  He doesn’t even blink.  “Be silent and come out of him.” And they do.  They may throw the man down in a bit of a parting tantrum, but they immediately respond to the command of God.  They leave.  What else can they do?  Almighty God speaks, and His creation obeys.  The Author speaks, and His authority makes it happen.  “Let there be light,” and there is.  “Be silent and come out of him,” and the demon immediately obeys.  It’s that simple.

And that’s where we want to focus in on—the authoritative Word of God; specifically the response to that authoritative Word of God.  Consider all the rest that St. Luke relates to us in this text.  Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was on her deathbed with a fever.  This is how it was back then (and really, not even that long ago).  Before antibiotics, people died from common colds and pneumonia.  A high fever was basically the final nail in the coffin.  It’s also interesting to note here that the original Greek cues us in on the fact that the sickness/death is recognized as not a “normal and natural” part of life.  God didn’t originally create man to be sick and suffer and die.  The fever is a symptom, not just of sickness, but of sin.  The original Greek word for fever is simply translated as “fire.” Theologically, the correlation with sin and God’s judgment against sin is both unmistakable and undeniable.  *Understand: This doesn’t mean that Peter’s mother-in-law was some kind of evil, sinful reprobrate, way worse than anyone else.  Nope.  In fact, she was no different than any of us.  The fever is just one symptom of the death sentence of sin that infects each and every person borne of Adam.  By nature, we’re all sinful and unclean.  By nature, we’re all dead in our sin, and very much deserving of God’s righteous and fiery wrath against that sin.  This woman was just exhibiting one of the many symptoms of this universal death sentence.

And how does Jesus cure this fiery death sentence?  Simple: He speaks His authoritative Word, and she’s immediately made well again.  In fact, the original Greek is far more powerful in its description.  Jesus rebukes the fever.  Hmm… that’s a word used for the demonic, isn’t it?  Jesus rebukes this fiery death, and the fiery death obeys.  What else can it do?  The Author of Life has spoken!  And let us not overlook the result of such authoritative healing.  Jesus rebukes fiery death, and the immediate result is that the woman is “anastasia’d,” that is, she’s resurrected.  Her immediate response to her “resurrection to new life”?  She diakonia’s.  She serves Jesus.  That’s just what faithful people, who’ve been resurrected to new life in Christ, do.  They serve Him.  They want nothing more than to serve Him.  This is why I always say: Living a faithful life in repentant joy and humble thanksgiving; living a life that truly desires to serve God by humbling the self and serving the neighbor, never has to be commanded or forced or coerced.  It’s just the reflex-response of repentant faith in Christ.  That’s just what saving faith does.  There’s no prescription that can be given; only description of what is already taking place in response to what has already been done in Christ.

Back to the text.  Look at all the other responses taking place to this authoritative Word of Christ.  Jesus is healing all manners of sickness and disease.  Demons are being driven out of people, left and right.  He rebukes them, commanding them to be silent, and so they are.  What else can they do?  Jesus speaks, and creation obeys.  That’s just how it works.  And as you well-know, this obedience to Christ’s divine authority is witnessed throughout His earthly ministry.  Just one other example: He rebukes the wind and the waves, commanding them to be still, and so they are—immediately.  And even His disciples marvel.  “Who is this guy that even the wind and the waves obey Him?”

So… what about you?  How do you respond?  I know what we spoke on last week—at length—regarding our response to His Word.  It’s not always good, is it?  In fact, there are many times that it’s downright sinful and rebellious and evil; ref. 10 Commandments.  But… just because we so often refuse to listen to what God so clearly says doesn’t make His Word any less authoritative.  God is not a bully.  We can reject His grace.  It’s not wise.  It doesn’t end well, but God doesn’t make anyone love Him or believe in Him.  We’re not like the rest of creation.  In fact, we’re the only creation created in His image and likeness.  We’re the only creation He formed with His own hands and breathed His own life-giving breath into.  Everything else was simply spoken into existence.  “Let there be,” and there was.  Not us though.  If God made/forced us to believe in Him, then He wouldn’t be a gracious God.  He’d be a tyrant.  Man can reject God’s grace.  But like I said, just because we refuse to listen to what God so clearly says doesn’t make His Word any less authoritative.  His Word accomplishes exactly what He purposes, each and every time.  It never returns to Him void or empty.  When we reject and rebel against that Word, we are revealing the fact that we are on the wrong side of God.  We reveal the fact that we prefer to mutiny against God rather than cry out to Him for mercy.  We reveal that we’d rather try to usurp God—unseat and dethrone God—and take our place as god rather than humble ourselves to Him in repentance.  It is what it is.  Lord, have mercy!  Deliver us from such evil!

You know what though?  Rather than harp on all this, let’s instead focus on what the Author of Life has already done for us in His life-giving, life-saving death and resurrection.  Look to that cross.  With just one single word—tetelestai (which we translate as “it is finished”)—the Author of Life put to death the powers of sin, death, and the devil.  It is finished.  When Christ was resurrected on the third day, He proved to all of creation that death has no dominion over Him.  It doesn’t get any more authoritative than that!  He is the Author and Giver of Life.  “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This charge I have received from my Father.” His resurrection is the proof!

Look to the font.  You have been baptized into His death and resurrection.  Consider the authoritative Word that He Himself poured over you as He drowned all your sins in the waters of Holy Baptism.  That water that flowed from His side on the cross when He declared victory flowed to you in the waters of Baptism.  It is finished.  Baptism now saves you; this Baptism for the forgiveness of all your sin.  This isn’t the opinion of certain men or church bodies.  This is the Word of God; the Author of Life!  How do you respond?  By virtue of your baptism, you have been resurrected to new life in Him.  “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Do you believe this, O baptized child of God?  Would the fruits you bear match the response you speak? 

Consider the authoritative Word of forgiveness and life that your Lord speaks to you as He gives you His very Body and Blood to eat and drink.  “As often as you do this, remember what I have said.  This is My body/blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.” When you rise and return from this rail, do you go forth as one who has been raised and made alive in Christ?  Do you rise to serve Him in humble thanks and praise?  Remember: God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.  You serve God by serving the neighbor, even and especially the lowest of the low; those whom you might be tempted to deem “unworthy” or “undeserving.” Don’t go there!  Look to this cross.  This is what you deserve.  This is all that you deserve, and He suffered it all for you in your place.  That’s love.  We deserve only present and eternal punishment.  We deserve only fiery wrath and condemnation.  But that’s not how God works.  Instead, He pours out His fiery wrath on the holy and innocent One—the truly undeserving One—all so that He can pour out His gifts of grace, mercy, and eternal life upon us.  What’s fair about any of this?!  Who here deserves the grace of God?  So I’ll ask again: You’ve been resurrected from death to life in Christ.  With the Body and Blood of Christ on your breath, do you rise to serve Him?  Would the fruits you bear match the response you speak? 

I’ll leave it there for the day.  May all that you say, think, and do in your daily life redound to His glory.  May all your words, thoughts, and deeds be one huge and unmistakable profession of repentant thanks and praise for all that He has done and continues to do for you in Christ and because of Christ.

To Him be all the glory, all the praise, and all the honor… AMEN.

Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.

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