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This Is the Word of the Lord. Thanks Be to God!

St. Luke 4:31-44

Pastor Mark Schlamann

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Our Savior/Redeemer  
Pettibone/Woodworth, ND

Sun, Feb 1, 2004
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
 

IN NOMINE JESU

Words have meanings. When used in the right context, words carry weight with them. In two days we get to determine whose words carry the most weight with us as many of us will caucus and decide who we want to be President of the United States. We listen for certain words from the candidates. They may all say the same words, but it is up to each of us to decide whose speaking these buzzwords carry the most weight. Right now these buzzwords are but promises. If elected, they may deliver on these promises. But they may not. These candidates have no power in and of themselves. They are hopeful that the voters will give them that power. Once an individual is elected to the highest office in the land, those words can carry great authority and power, for he has the authority and the power, as our nation's Constitution allows, to make good on his promises and to make new promises because he is already in the office and can deliver on those promises as well. The person who occupies the office of President has this power and authority because we the people grant it every four years.

Words have power only when the one uttering the words has power himself. Such is the case in our text. No words have greater power than those spoken by the Lord Himself. No words have greater power than those that come from the One who created the world by simply speaking words. The One who said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3a) is the same One who commanded the demonic spirit, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" (v. 35a) and is the same One who tells us, "You are forgiven." The Word of the Lord is absolute. Light came to be, the demonic spirit departed, and we are forgiven. We join the crowds in our text who "were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, 'What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out'" (v. 36). The Lord came with authority and power, not with the authority that the scribes carried, for all the authority they had was in their reading and interpretation of the Law. They did not have the authority of the One who wrote and would later fulfill the Law from which they read, Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God. The One who with a word commanded the waves to be still commands us to be still and know that He is God.

By a single word the Lord rebuked the demon that was in the man in the synagogue. By a single word the Lord rebuked the fever that infected Peter's mother-in-law. By a single word the Lord rebukes the sin that infects us. Our sins are in need of the Lord's rebuke so that they would depart from us. We are also in need of the Lord's rebuke, for we are by nature sinful and unclean. Our heavenly Father looks at us in the light of His Law, and with a single word He calls us sinners. He declares us guilty. By a single word He pronounces us condemned and worthy of eternal death and punishment. When Peter rebuked the Lord for predicting the crucifixion, the Lord rebuked Peter with a single word: "Get behind Me, Satan!" (Mk. 8:33b), the word He has for those who also "are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Mk. 8:33c).

We pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This means that "the good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer…. God's will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's Name or let His kingdom come…" (Third Petition). Yes, our sinful nature does not want us to keep God's Name holy, nor does our sinful nature does not want to let God's kingdom come. Our sinful nature does not want God's will to be done. It does not want to listen to the Word and will of God. Our sinful nature is content to listen to itself, to make itself our god. We utter many words, but none of them have the power to free us from the bondage of sin. We cannot free ourselves from the bondage and curse of sin, no matter how many words we utter in denial of our dreadful condition. By a single word of ours we can only condemn ourselves. By a single word of ours we can only drive ourselves further into despair. By a single word of ours we cannot join the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, but we can only join the demonic spirits and fevers that the Lord rebuked and cast out. They were forbidden to speak, for they knew that the Lord is the Holy One of God. The Lord would not have the forces of evil confess His Name, for they would only make a mockery of it. The great Church Father, Athanasius, said, "Even when the demons spoke the truth, for they spoke the truth when they said, 'Thou are the Son of God,' the Lord Himself silenced them and forbade them to speak. He did this to keep them from sowing their own wickedness in the midst of the truth. He also wished us to get used to never listening to them even though they seem to speak the truth." The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son and Holy One of God, will not allow those who do not believe in Him as Savior and Lord to confess His Name. This includes the devil and his band of demons, the world, and our own sinful flesh. You see, our words have no power because we are not the Creator but the creatures who have fallen into sin. Another Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria, said, "He would not permit the unclean demons to confess Him. It was not right for them to usurp the glory of the apostolic office or to talk of the mystery of Christ with polluted tongues."

But by a single word the Lord can declare the unclean to be clean. The prophet Isaiah saw the face of God in a vision and believed he was going to die for he saw the fullness of the glory of God. Isaiah said, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Is. 6:5). An angel of the Lord touched Isaiah's lips with a burning coal from the altar and said to him, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged" (Is. 6:7b). In our Old Testament reading, the young Jeremiah, called by the Lord, claimed to not know how to speak, for he was a youth. The Lord by His Word set Jeremiah aside as His called and ordained prophet: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. … Behold, I have put My words in your mouth" (Jer. 1:5, 9b). The ascended Lord spoke to Peter in a vision and said, "What God has cleansed you must not call common" (Acts 10:15b).

By the Word of the Lord we are no longer called common but cleansed, no longer called imperfect but perfect, no longer called unholy but holy, no longer called sinners but saints. What is this Word of the Lord that has such power? It was the words the crucified Lord spoke from the cross, from whence He made full payment for our sins. He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (23:34a), and again, "It is finished!" (Jn. 19:30b). By this word the Lord announced to the world that He has won forgiveness for the sins and healing for the souls of the whole world. Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away the sin of the world, has mercy upon us, and grants us His peace.

These words from the Lord's lips and His act of salvation recorded in history are the central message of the Gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God. God has loved us so much that He sent His only-begotten Son, so that we who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. This is the Word that the Lord came to proclaim. Before the Word became flesh, He sent His prophets to proclaim the coming Messiah, that the people of God would place their trust in the Messiah who was to come. He came into the flesh and proclaimed that now is the day of salvation, that the people would place their trust in the Son of Man. Following His death, resurrection, and ascension, the Lord sent His apostles to proclaim the Good News, that the people, Jews and Gentiles alike, would place their trust in Him who was, who is, and who is to come. For this reason He has sent me, His called and ordained servant in this place, to preach the Word of the Lord, His Law and His Gospel. He has sent me here to proclaim to you the day of the Lord's favor, to announce to you that you are forgiven by a simple word. You have heard these words before. You heard these words again this morning, and these words are just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself. The Lord has given me a simple word to speak to you, packed with the power of His promise: "Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and 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 Son and of the Holy Ghost" (TLH, p. 16).

Soon you will hear His word of comfort again as He invites you to His Table: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. … Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins." Faith clings to these words and craves the body and blood of the Lord with these words. His words bring you healing for the sins that plague you and terrorize your consciences. We need not fear. Though Satan may assail us, the evil one has been defeated. In the words of Cyril of Alexandria, "The bystanders, witnesses of such great deeds, were astonished at the power of His word. He performed His miracles, without offering up a prayer, asking no one else at all for the power to accomplish them. Since He is the living and active Word of God the Father, by whom all things exist, and in whom all things are, in His own person He crushed Satan and closed the profane mouth of impure demons." We too are astonished at the power of God's Word—astonished, but not ashamed, as St. Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…" (Rom. 1:16). The Gospel has the power, for the Lord has given it its power by His death and resurrection. Through this means of God's grace we are forgiven, restored, and declared clean.

In a few moments, as we prepare to depart in peace from our Lord's house, He will again restore us with His Word, placing His Name upon us, even as He commanded His called and ordained servants, Moses and Aaron, to do with His people, as we hear in the Book of Numbers, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, "This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.'" So they shall put My Name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them'" (Num. 6:22-27). This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God! Amen.

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).

SOLI DEO GLORIA





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