The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 28, 2018
“That Doing He Does”
Rev. Richard Langness
Ascension Lutheran Church
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours this day from our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
So what is that thing you do? What is it that defines you? What do you do that gives others an image of who you are? Jesus taught with authority. That was one of the things He did that caused others to see who He truly was. He taught the word of God as if He were the Word of God made flesh. And that is truly what He is. But that His teaching with authority was only one of the things that He did to reveal Himself. He did other things as well. So what is that thing that you do? Or what are those things that you do?
Now we are the body of Christ made up of a bunch of sinners whom God has made saints. So it is understood that not all the things we do are good and right. You might be known by some for doing one thing and others for doing something else. Some may know you to be a saint by what you do while others may know you to be a sinner for what you do. The things we do, the doings we do, will no doubt leave an impact on the people we meet and we cannot escape the reality that as we live out our lives we will cause offense, either for the good or for the bad.
Jesus went into Capernaum. This is early in the ministry of Jesus. After John the Baptist was arrested Jesus went to live in Capernaum and so this is one of His first interactions with the people there. Thus, Jesus goes into the synagogue and teaches. He teaches with authority. He introduces Himself to the people by revealing the truth of Scripture, which is also a lesson for you and me as we seek to bring salvation to others. It is the Word of God that truly reveals Jesus. This is why it is always the first thing Jesus does; He proclaims, He speaks, He teaches the Word of God. It is simply what He does. But in the face of God’s Word, there is trouble. There is trouble for the sinner. For the Word of God is both Law and Gospel and the Law confronts the sin within the sinner.
“And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “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.”” (Mark 1:23-24) Now it is worth noting here that no one was shocked by the presence of the man with the demon. We have to recognize that there is no isolation between the children of God and the children of the devil. God calls us to come out from the world but He doesn’t call us to live in isolation from the sinner. If that were the case we would all be living alone. But here in the midst of God’s people is this man with an unclean spirit and he asks the question that we all ask in one form or another.
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” The voice comes from the man but the question comes forth from the unclean spirit within. The us here should be understood in two ways; it is the us of the man and the spirit as well as the us of the whole of the devil and his demons. Thus, the question is asked, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The people may not know the fullness of who Jesus is but the devil and his demons know full well who He is. He is the Holy One of God. He is the promised Messiah, the Christ. Thus, the spirit knows what is within the power of Jesus. He has the power and the authority to destroy the devil and his demons. That is part of the work for which He has come.
But now it comes back to you, to me. Again, we ask the very same question as this man. “What have you to do with us, Jesus?” Now we also know who He is. And we know that He has the power to destroy us. And that is what we truly fear. We like the promise of life everlasting. But it is the life today that is the issue. We don’t like to be faced with the authority of Jesus especially in the face of that thing we do. We do not want to have Jesus come into our world and change our lives; at least if it means that we may have to give up the sin within us, the sin with which we have become comfortable.
Now you might ask, “What do you mean by that?” Here is what I mean. We are Americans and not only that, we are free Americans. We are independent and free to live our lives without the government or anyone else telling us what to do. Yes, we seek to live lawful and decent lives but at the same time, as the government grows and more and more laws go into effect, our idea that we are above the law also grows. Rather than seeking to change the laws, we set ourselves up as the ones who rule over them and obey only those laws with which we agree. How many of us see the speed limit signs as only speed suggestions?
“What have you to do with us, Jesus?” “What do you have to do with me, Jesus?” We ask this question in our day to day lives and we ask it in the Church as well. We do not like the authority of Jesus and we do not like the authority of the Church. Yes, we love to hear the authority of the Church when the pastor speaks the words of absolution. But we do not necessarily like it when the authority of the Church speaks to our way of life. Consider, then, some of these questions that we ask both outside and within the Church.
“What have you to do with the movies I watch?” Yes, we are free to like certain genres of movies but we are not free from the influence of their teachings. “What have you to do with the music I like?” As with the movies, the same is true for type of music we like. We are free to enjoy specific genres but we are not free from the influence of their teachings. And isn’t that what is truly at the heart of the music battles within the Church? Some like one style of music while others like another, but what gets lost in the battle is the question of what is being taught. So there are times when we don’t like it when the Church condemns a specific song or hymn that we like.
But let’s go a little deeper. Let’s ask the questions that many outside the Church might ask, questions like, “What have you to do with my use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana?” “What have you to do with my sexual orientation?” “What have you to do with my views on abortion?” “What have you to do with my use of birth control?” “What have you to do with my view of evolution?” The Word of God speaks to all these issues but when the Church speaks to them it can appear as an invasion of privacy, an invasion of a part of life in which the Church doesn’t belong. But what is truly the issue is the question, “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.”
The Word of God reveals and when we speak it faithfully it reveals the gods within our lives that we do not want destroyed. It reveals the love of self over the love of God. There are three means through which we are tempted; the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. The Word of God attacks all three but it is from our sinful nature that the question arises, “What have you to do with me, Jesus?” And here is the beauty of our Gospel text today.
“But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” (Mark 1:25-26) Jesus separated the unclean spirit from the man. Jesus cast out the demon and preserved the man. That is what Jesus does. That is the doing He does. Together the man and the unclean spirit ask the question, “What have you to do with us?” And Jesus does what He does. He removes the unclean and restores life. He destroys the sinful nature and recreates the saint. But notice that it was not without pain and crying.
If we are honest with ourselves we have to confess that we do not like to ask the question because we are fearful of the answer. We know that if we ask Jesus, “What have you to do with me?” His answer will probably bring forth much convulsing and crying out. The sinful nature within does not die peacefully. It is constantly fighting against the authority of Jesus. If you don’t believe me just consider the thoughts that go through your head when I speak these words: you are forgiven. Did you receive them in their fullness or did the attacks start to come? Did the sinful nature within cry out that you are not that bad of a sinner? Did it cry out that God is not capable of forgiving a specific sin? Or did it simply cry out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus?”
You know the answer to that question. You know that He is the Holy one of God who has already taken your sin to the cross. That is what He has to do with you. That is what He did with you. We were all like sheep who had gone astray but the great Shepherd of our souls took on flesh and came into our world for one thing, to do for us what we could not do. He came to redeem us and restore us back to God. Jesus did what He did. He destroyed the works of the devil and all his demons and He brought life and light to the world. He brought life and light to you and to me. Jesus still does what He does. He is still doing that doing He does. He is still interceding on our behalf separating the sin from the saint.
In a matter of minutes you will taste and see afresh the doing He does. You will partake of the very body and blood of Jesus and in your doing you will receive the doing that He did for you upon the cross. You will taste the true forgiveness that is yours. As you approach the table go ahead and aske the question, “What have you to do with me Jesus?” Then hear Him say, “I do the forgiveness of all your sin. I do the peace within you.” Amen.