Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany



Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

January 29, 2012
Text: Mark 1:21-28

Authority. Jesus comes into the synagogue and teaches the congregation with authority (Mark 1:22). With authority, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of a man, and because of the authority Jesus possesses, the spirit obeys (vv. 25-27). And in this way, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reasserts God’s authority over men and demons. For when you get right down to it, the crisis in the Garden of Eden was a crisis of authority. Out of love, and by His authority as Creator of man and of the heavens and the earth, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent, the devil, sought to usurp God’s authority by tempting our first parents to doubt God’s Word and disobey His command. And Adam and Eve, in succumbing to the temptation, rebelled against God’s authority. What they really wanted was autonomy, to be a law unto themselves, to be their own authorities. That is the temptation the serpent held out to them: “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5; ESV). You will be able to determine what is good and what is evil for yourself. If you eat this fruit, you will have this authority. But it was a lie. It always is coming from him. What really happened when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit is that they came under another authority. They came under the authority of sin… Now they could do no other. They came under the authority of death… The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). They came under the authority of Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). So much for autonomy. Humanity was now bound in slavery to sin, death, and the devil, and unable to do anything about it. You see, autonomy is a false promise of the father of lies. You cannot be under your own authority. You are either under the authority of God, as you were created to be, or you are under the authority of the devil. When our first parents fell, they sold us, their children, as slaves to the devil. We are in bondage. If we are to be freed, God must accomplish it. He must do something about our slavery. He must deliver us from bondage and lead us in Exodus from our slavery. And that is what He does in Christ Jesus. That is what He does in our Gospel lesson this morning.

Jesus teaches with authority. The Word made flesh proclaims the Word of the Father with all the authority of God Himself, because He is God Himself. In the Garden, God’s teaching, God’s Word, God’s authority were rejected by man. Here Jesus reasserts that authority in His preaching. St. Mark does not record the words of Jesus’ sermon for us, but suffice it to say, it was a call to repent and believe the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand in the person of the One now teaching you (Mark 1:15). Repent. As we learned last week, that means to recognize how utterly and hopelessly sinful you are, and that you are unable to do anything about it. But there is Good News, the Gospel. Jesus is here to deliver you from your sins. Therefore turn from sin and receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life from your crucified and risen Lord. Jesus comes preaching this Good News, and He has the authority to do so. He has the authority to call you to repentance, and He has the authority to forgive your sins, because He is God! The congregation is amazed at His teaching. They are astonished because He teaches them as one who has authority, and not as their scribes (v. 22). Their scribes always taught them on the basis of other authorities. At their best, they declared, “Thus says the LORD.” At their worst, they would cite two or three differing opinions of the rabbis of time past, and leave the matter open for indecision. Jesus does not have to say, “Thus says the LORD.” He is the LORD. And He doesn’t waffle between opinions. He declares truth. He is the Truth. He preaches with authority, and His Word is powerful. It transforms hearers from unbelieving slaves of Satan to believing, forgiven sinners, freed from bondage to sin, death, and the devil, now servants of the Most High God.

And it is not as though the devil and God are two opposite but equal powers. God is the God of the devil, too. The devil and his demons know this, and shudder (cf. James 2:19). And so the man with the unclean spirit in the congregation cannot contain himself. The demon cries out in fear: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are—the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). The demon knows that this preacher is God in the flesh. The demon knows that this is Messiah, the One come to save His people, and all humanity, from demonic power. The demon knows that this One will pronounce judgment over Satan and all the demons, and on the Last Day cast them all into the Lake of Fire for all eternity. Jesus possesses that authority. And He demonstrates it here. “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” (vv. 25-26). With the authoritative command of the Lord, the demon must depart. Of course, he makes a perverse show of it. He convulses the man, seeking to do as much damage as he can on his way out. He cries out with a loud voice. Imagine how chilling that voice must have been. And yet, he comes out. He departs. He must. He is no match for the Savior. He has no authority to stay. He must bend to the authority of Jesus, who is God in the flesh. The serpent once usurped God’s authority over man in the Garden. But Jesus has come to undo the devil’s victory, reasserting God’s authority over man, and in that authority of Almighty God, He casts the demon out of the man.

Again, the people are amazed. They “were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him’” (v. 27). We are amazed, too, as Jesus continues to teach us with authority in His Word and drive the devil away from us, as He continues to claim us as His own by His divine authority, to free us from sin, death, and the devil because He has the authority to do so. He does it in Baptism. He does it in His authoritative Word. He does it as He declares your sins forgiven. He does it with His body and blood, given and shed on the cross to free you from bondage, now distributed to you, into your mouth, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. How can He do this? He paid dearly for it. God’s Law, which man had broken, which you and I have broken, had to be answered for. It demanded death. For Jesus to defeat the devil and reclaim us as His own, He had to die. Ultimately, Jesus asserts God’s authority over you and over the devil by switching places with you and all men. In His body, nailed to the cross, Jesus suffers the penalty of man’s sin, the sins of all people, your sins, beloved, that He might free you from the devil’s possession. Jesus submits Himself to the worst that men and the devil can do to Him, and in thus submitting, He wins. He suffers. He is crucified. He dies. But after three days, He is risen from the dead, and He comes to you in His Word and His Sacrament, in His risen body, to claim you as His own.

So you are now under His authority. You are free from sin, for your sins are forgiven. You are free from death, for you have eternal life in Jesus Christ and the sure and certain promise of the resurrection. You are free from the devil, for now you are a servant of Christ. Repent, therefore, and believe the Gospel. Turn away from your sins and cling to Christ, your Savior. Believe His Word. Rejoice in His authority. And receive His gifts. Love one another. Serve one another. Confess Christ to one another. For such is the life of the redeemed in Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus comes with authority, and by that authority, He calls you out of the devil’s kingdom, to be His own. Beloved in the Lord, by His Word of authority, today, your Lord Jesus Christ drives the devil away from you. It is amazing, to be sure. It is also absolutely true. The curse of Eden is reversed. Now God invites you to come and enjoy the fruits of another tree, the Tree of Life, the tree of the cross. And in so eating and drinking of the fruit of this tree, you have eternal life. Come, and eat and drink, therefore, and know that the gates of Paradise are once again open to you. Because you belong to Jesus. You are under His authority. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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