Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 3, 2019
The All Powerful Word
Rev. Richard Langness
Ascension Lutheran Church
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours this day from our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Being the sacramental people that we are, we know that it is not the inherent character of things that give them value or strength but rather it is something deeper, something greater, that is attached to them. Thus, we have keepsakes that we hold onto because of the ones who gave them to us or the memories associated to them. With the sacraments we have simple common water, bread, and wine and yet with the Word attached to them we have a life giving Baptism and the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. The physical things that are before us are not necessarily the fullness of what God gives to us through His Word.
Martin Luther recognizes this truth with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which Adam and Eve were not to eat as well as the tree of life from which they were barred. It was not the fruit itself that brought death but rather the breaking of the command of God, the rejection of Word that was attached to it. Likewise, it was the power of the Word that made the tree of life a life giving tree. Had Adam and Eve eaten of it they would have been restored to their former life. It was not the fruit, but the very proclamation of God that brought either life or death. This is also what we see in our Gospel reading today.
When God speaks to us He either threatens or promises. He speaks Law and Gospel. He speaks the Word which either kills or makes alive and that Word is Jesus. No, we do not like to see Jesus as one who kills and yet we must recognize that He is the one who judges for He is the one who bore the judgment of the world. Thus, when we read Matthew 25 and see the sheep and the goats there, we must recognize that it is Jesus who welcomes the sheep into life and it is Jesus who sends the goats into eternal death. The Word, Jesus, both kills and makes alive.
The Word went down to Capernaum. Jesus 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. (Luke 4:31-32) Had the people known who it was that was teaching them they would not have been astonished for the word spoken was indeed the Word, the Word that was with God in the beginning and the Word that was God now spoken into our flesh. And again, this Word has the power to kill and make alive.
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.” (Luke 4:33-34) Note the reaction of the demon to the Word of God. Note the disdain, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The demon may recognize that Jesus is the Holy One of God but it rejects the Word of God. It rejects His authority. It rejects His authority until it must bow down to it.
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. (Luke 4:35) The authority of Jesus is such that when He speaks even the demons must obey. This is the same for all humanity. For now, God is patient with us and He allows us to reject the Word of God with the desire that we would come to receive it in the end. But there is a day coming when the patience of God will have run its course and every knee will bow before Jesus; either unto life or unto death. The demon here is a picture of the latter. It obeys because it must obey and yield to the authority of the Word. But it does so in protest.
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. (Luke 4:36-37) Now we might like to see this as something positive. Yes, the people are amazed at Jesus’ authority and power. And yes, reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. But do you see what is lacking? Do you see how the people failed to grasp the Word that was attached with the physical healing that just took place?
All too often it is easy for us to focus our attention on the physical rather than upon the very Word of God given to us. It is easy for us to be amazed at the Word and talk about the Word, but how well do we live our lives connected to that Word? Instead of speaking about Jesus, do our lives speak Jesus? Do they speak the Word of God, the all-powerful life giving Word of God now enfleshed within us? Do people talk about us or do they talk about Jesus?
Simon’s mother-in-law had an amazing encounter with the Word of God. She was ill with a high fever. Physically, she was sick. She felt like many of us do at times. But note what Jesus does. He does not give her a special medication. He does not even touch her. He simply speaks. He rebukes the fever. He speaks life into her. The fever cannot do anything else but obey the Word of God and leave. Simon’s mother-in-law then shows us the proper response to the Word, she serves.
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. (Luke 4:40-41) We live in world filled with hurting people, people who are sick and people who are oppressed by the devil and his demons. But we also live in a world that has been attached to the Word, the all powerful Word. Jesus has come into our world. He suffered the judgment of our sin in our world, in our flesh. Having born the full wrath of God in our stead He also rose victorious in our world. He left the physical reminder of the empty tomb to show us the life that is in the Word. This Word speaks life to the sick and to the ones oppressed and the devil and his demons can do nothing but obey.
Last week Jesus preached a great nine word sermon. He did what many people would like their pastors to do; He kept it short. Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) The problem with a short sermon like this is that one must either attach it to the Word of God or reject it. One must either connect with Jesus or reject Him. One must either receive the life He gives or hold fast to the death that is there in rejecting the Word. Those nine words leave no room for critique. You either hear the Word or reject the Word. You either respond to the Word or you reject Him.
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 4:42-44) Simon’s mother-in-law rose up to serve. She didn’t lay there listening for Jesus to say more. She acted upon the Word and began to serve. The people of Capernaum were amazed at what they saw and the physical healings that took place. But again, they failed to see the Word of God that was physically standing before them. Thus, they wanted to hold onto the man rather than embrace the Word. They failed to see the purpose for why the Word of God became man.
And what was the purpose for the Word coming into the world? In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10) The purpose of Christ coming into the world was to manifest the love of God to you.
Today, the all powerful Word of God has come to you. He has come to you in the hearing of the scriptures. He has come to you through the preached Word and He comes to you in simple bread and wine. The Word that speaks death and life has come to you today. This Word is patient and kind. This Word does not envy or boast. This Word is not arrogant or rude. This Word does not insist on its own way. This Word is not irritable or resentful. This Word does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. This Word bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And this Word never ends. This Word is Jesus for you. Amen.