Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany



Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

February 5, 2012
Text: Mark 1:29-39

Beloved in the Lord, perhaps it could go without saying, but the fact is, you called me here to preach the Gospel. God called me here, through you, His people, to preach, and to administer the holy Sacraments. And so in the words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson, “necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16; ESV). Paul was sent as an apostle of Jesus Christ to preach. I have been called into the ministry and ordained to preach. And not just any word. I am called to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is the same message Paul was called to preach. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that by His life, death, and resurrection, all your sins are forgiven, and you have eternal life. In preaching that, St. Paul and all the Apostles and all Christian ministers throughout the history of Christendom do nothing but continue the preaching of Jesus Himself. Jesus says in our Gospel lesson: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38). Jesus came to preach. “And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (v. 39). It is a powerful preaching, this preaching of Jesus, for it always does what it says. It declares sins forgiven, and they are forgiven. It directs the hearer to trust in Jesus Christ, and faith is created by the Holy Spirit, working in that Word. Jesus preaches, and demons must flee. Jesus came to preach, and blessed are they who hear that Word and receive it with great rejoicing, clinging to that Word for their very eternal lives.

Too often we come to Jesus desiring something other than preaching and His Word. In fact, too often what we desire from Jesus we desire to the exclusion of preaching and His Word. We desire gifts that do not deliver the benefits of His crucifixion and resurrection, that do not deliver the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and restored fellowship with God. What I mean is, too often we come to Jesus, not so that He can take away our guilt, but so that we feel better about ourselves. We come to Him for affirmation, rather than forgiveness. Or we come to Him to be entertained, or to be inspired (in that not-so-biblical way of speaking about inspiration), to enjoy warm feelings, to compare ourselves and our superior morality to others (judging them), or perhaps to get a holy pep-talk for the coming weak. We come to Him for principles that will lead to a successful life, to health, wealth, and prosperity. Maybe we come to Him because hanging out with Him for an hour or so at church gives us status in the community. Perhaps we come to Him simply out of a feeling of duty, as though the mere outward act of coming to church gives one points with God. The fact of the matter is, too often we come to Jesus, come to church, for the wrong reasons, and all of us, without exception, break the Third Commandment by despising God’s Word, not holding it sacred, not gladly hearing and learning it. We come for the wrong reasons, or we don’t come at all. We come expecting Jesus to deliver something He doesn’t. And when He doesn’t, we blame the preacher, or the boring old liturgy, or the annoying family the next pew over. Repent, beloved. Jesus came to preach. And He continues to preach in the Word of His Apostles and Prophets as recorded in Holy Scripture, and in the ministry of His called and ordained servants. That is why you come to church. That is why you come to Jesus. For the Word. For preaching. For Supper. So that the Word can have its way with you, bringing you to repentance and faith, forgiving your sins, and giving you eternal life.

Jesus’ miracles of healing were all about the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The wages of sin is death. Sin is the cause of all sickness and suffering and heartache and disease. None of these things would exist had sin not entered the world by the craftiness of that wily serpent, the devil. Jesus comes, reversing all of this, casting out demons and healing diseases. He is bringing life where there is only death. He comes in compassion, healing by His Word and His touch. With great compassion, Jesus took special care to take Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand… and yes, Peter was married! So much for clerical celibacy… He took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and raised her up (the same Greek word used for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and our own resurrection from the dead!), and the fever left her (the Greek word translated “left” here being the same word as forgiveness!). Jesus’ healing is all about the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It’s about death and resurrection. And here’s the point: The people who were coming to Jesus for healing desired something other than preaching and God’s Word. They desired something to the exclusion of preaching and God’s Word. They had missed the forest for the trees. They were all concerned with the miracles and the healing, but they didn’t see that this was all about eternal healing, eternal life, delivered in the forgiveness of sins that could only come from God in the flesh now standing before them.

Of course, it wasn’t wrong for them to come to Jesus for healing. After all, who do you go to in your time of need if not your Savior, Jesus Christ? You come to Him when you are sick or suffering. You come to Him in prayer, believing His promise, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Ps. 50:15). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). No, it is not wrong to come to Jesus for healing. What is wrong is to look to Jesus only for physical healing, to see Him only as some sort of magician or witch doctor, to miss, to refuse to see, the purpose of the healings, which is to show that this man is the Son of God, and He brings eternal healing, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

If all Jesus offers is physical healing, and temporary physical healing at that, for all that He healed later died… if that is all Jesus offers, He is a poor Savior, indeed. The fact is, not everyone was healed that day, in our Gospel. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed. Many who had camped out on Peter’s front lawn throughout the evening were healed. Jesus spent the whole night healing, out of compassion for those who were sick and suffering and afflicted by demons. But early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus slipped away. He went out to a desolate place to pray, to lay His heart before His heavenly Father and to receive strength from God. And as a side note here, Jesus, in His human nature, gets tired. But notice what He does when He is tired. One would think He would sleep in after a late night of taxing labor. Instead He rises even earlier for prayer. When Jesus is tired, He makes a special point of making time for prayer and communion with God. We do well to follow His example. At any rate, He leaves the house and goes to a desolate place. Everyone is looking for Him. There are more who need healing. When Peter finds the Lord, he urges Jesus to come back and finish the job. But Jesus has another idea. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38). The crowd back at Peter’s house had missed the point of Jesus’ coming. He did not come to be a miracle worker. Jesus came to preach. Now it was time to take that preaching to all the little towns in Galilee, and by the Word of the Gospel, to cast out demons.

Now, dear friends, do not miss the point of what we’re doing here, or rather, what Jesus is doing here among us. He is not here to meet our false expectations or felt needs. That would be a poor Savior, indeed. The Lord Jesus is here among us, true God and true man, in His flesh, to grant us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through His Word. He is here to put us to death with His Law, and raise us up to new life with His Gospel. And understand: This is the healing you really need. Because in forgiving your sins, death no longer has a claim on you. Jesus has claimed you for Himself. And if you belong to Jesus, you have eternal life. Sometimes Jesus does meet your felt needs. Often, Jesus does heal your diseases. Every sickness from which you recovered is a healing from Jesus. Don’t take that for granted. But these healings are not the goal. They are means to an end, and not the end itself. The end, the goal, is eternal life in Christ. And you receive that in the Word. Jesus came to preach. And He sent out preachers to continue that preaching. St. Paul was sent to preach. I was called to preach. A necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel. Because the Gospel is all that matters. The Gospel is the only reason we have pastors. The Gospel is the only reason there is a holy Christian Church. The Gospel delivers Jesus, who by His death has made His healing universal, for all people. The Gospel delivers Jesus, who forgives all your sins, and by whose life, death, and resurrection, you have life forever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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