Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 31, 2010
Text: Luke 4:31-44
This morning our Lord unleashes a full-fledged frontal assault on sin, death, and the devil. He preaches in the synagogues. His Word possesses authority, divine authority, the authority of God Himself. And He demonstrates that authority by healing diseases, reversing the curse of sin’s wages, reversing death. Indeed, so authoritative is His Word that the unclean spirits, the demons, confess Him to be “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34; ESV), “the Son of God” (v. 41), and at His Word, the demons must flee. They must submit to His will, for though one demon be stronger than the whole world (Luther), Jesus is stronger than all demons combined. For this Jesus of Nazareth is God in human flesh. It is an epiphany of epic proportions: This is no mere holy man, and certainly no magician. This is the promised One who comes to crush the head of the old wily serpent. Why, only God can do that! Only God can conquer Satan! Precisely. Our Lord performs these signs that we may have no doubt. Here is your God, the Man, Christ Jesus. He comes to heal our diseases and free us from our bondage to sin, death, and the devil. He comes to bear our iniquity. He comes to be our Savior.
God knows that we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright (collect). And so He sent His Son. God knew that the people of Capernaum in our Gospel lesson were in the midst of so many dangers that in their frailty, because they are made of the same fallen flesh that we are, could not stand upright either. And so He sent His Son. He sent His Son, Jesus, into their midst, into the midst of their mess, into the midst of their disease, into the midst of their death. He sent His Son, Jesus, into the midst of a people in bondage to the devil. He sent His Son to deliver them. Jesus comes into the midst of the people of Capernaum with His gracious presence, and He speaks to them His gracious Word. He preaches in their synagogue. And His Word brings healing. It is a Word with authority, divine authority, the Word of God that is performative, that always accomplishes what it says. He preaches. And the people are astonished. And then there is this confrontation. One who is possessed by an “unclean demon” (v. 33) cries 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” (v. 34). You see, the demon cannot abide Jesus’ presence. The demon cannot abide Jesus’ gracious Word. For that Word brings healing and drives out the devil. The Word of God is torture to the devil and his demons. Notice, even the demon must confess who Jesus is! It’s a little foretaste of that day when, at the Name of Jesus, every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). That means demons, too. And so Jesus speaks His authoritative Word: “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 4:35). The demon must obey. He tries to go down fighting. He throws the possessed man to the ground. The demon attempts to do as much damage as possible on his way out of town. Nothing doing when Jesus is there. The man is unharmed. And the people are amazed. “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” (v. 36).
Jesus comes to us in the midst of our dangers and frailty. He speaks His authoritative Word, His performative Word, and the result is healing. The result is that sickness and death and devil cannot abide the presence and Word of the One come to forgive sin and restore humanity. The result is that sickness and Satan must flee. God knows our frailty and the great dangers in which we live. So He sends His Son. He sends His Son in human flesh into the midst of our mess, our disease, our death. He sends His Son to carry our griefs and sorrows, to bear in His body our infirmities. He sends His Son where we are, in bondage to the devil. He sends His Son to deliver us. And our Lord Jesus delivers us precisely by submitting Himself to death, even death on a cross. Our healing is in His Wounds. For every disease, every sickness, every injury, every death, is a result of sin. It is a result of the fact that every one of us is a sinner. The wages of sin is death. And Jesus cures you of the disease of sin by His death on the cross, for you, for your forgiveness. The physical healing in our text is not the point. The physical healings are signs, visible testimonies to the authority of Jesus’ Word. They are signs that Jesus is who He says He is, that He is God in the flesh. The point of our text is the spiritual healing that Jesus imparts in His blessed Word.
Jesus may not heal you when you have a fever, as He did Peter’s mother-in-law. You may die from that fever. And even if He does heal you of that fever (and remember, every healing is ultimately from Jesus, a reminder of His resurrection, and our resurrection to come in Him, even when the healing is not what we might consider “miraculous”)… even if He does heal you of that fever, one day you will die. One day you will not be healed, not physically, not yet at least. And yet, in Christ, you really are healed. Because Jesus has healed you of your main disease, sin. Sin is the disease that causes every other ailment, and the blood of Christ covers all sin, cures you of all sin and its consequences. And so in Christ you are healed, given eternal life, even in the midst of death. And the reality is that you will also be healed physically on the Last Day, when you are raised from the dead, in your own perfect resurrection body, without fevers, without H1N1, without the common cold, without heart disease, without injuries, in the perfect health and image of Christ’s resurrection body.
Jesus casts out an unclean spirit in the synagogue and heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and the reports about Him spread all throughout the surrounding region. The people gather in droves that Saturday evening so that Jesus can heal them of every kind of disease and cast out their demons. And with great compassion, Jesus extends His healing hand. He stays up all night, laying His hands upon them, each one individually, delivering them from their afflictions. But the people had missed the point. The point is not the healing, but the preaching, to which the healing testifies. And so, after many hours of healing the people and driving out demons, Jesus seeks a solitary place for rest and for prayer, for communion with the heavenly Father. The people of Capernaum find Him and beg Him to stay. But they only want more miracles. They don’t understand that Jesus must preach. “(H)e 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’” (v. 43). Jesus was sent to preach, and the content of His sermon is Himself.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t be like the people in our text. Don’t get lost in the signs. Don’t beg Jesus to stay in your midst only to heal your outward, physical circumstances. It is not wrong to ask Jesus for physical healing. You should do so. But you should also realize that ultimately your healing comes from His Word, whether or not He physically heals you before the resurrection. Jesus came to preach! And that is the healing you need. You need His preaching. You need His Word. You need His audible Word in Scripture and absolution and sermon. You need His visible Word in Baptism and Supper. His Word is the medicine of immortality. His Word brings you healing, life, heaven, resurrection. His Word brings you forgiveness. It is by His Word that Jesus comes into our midst. By His Word Jesus comes into the midst of our dangers and our frailty and He grants us strength and protection, to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations (collect). By His Word Jesus comes and He extends His healing hand to each one of us individually, making us clean, driving the devil far from us, driving away the disease of sin with His blood-bought forgiveness, granting us eternal life.
Jesus is victorious over all our enemies, over sin, over death, over hell, over Satan and his minions. Jesus is victorious precisely in His death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. And in His mighty Word, His authoritative Word, His performative Word, Jesus imparts that victory, that healing, to us. And so we, too, confess Jesus to be the Holy One, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, only unlike the demons, we confess it in faith, trust, that Jesus has come to save us. And we gather here in this place to hear the preaching, the preaching of Jesus Christ, and so we are healed, forgiven, made clean, made whole. And in this way, in this encounter with the Word preached, we encounter nothing less than the living God in the flesh come to save us. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.