Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
February 3, 2013
Text: Luke 4:31-44

            What do all the people in our text have in common; the demoniac in the synagogue, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, those coming to Jesus with various diseases and infirmities, those plagued by unclean spirits?  In every case they are utterly in the grip of sin, death, and the devil.  And in every case they are utterly helpless to do anything about it.  In this way, beloved, these people are exactly like you.  You may not even know it, but you, also, are utterly in the grip of sin, death, and the devil, and you, also, are utterly helpless to do anything about it.  And that is why this morning’s Gospel is such good news.  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, comes in the flesh, casting out demons and healing diseases.  He comes to undo all that sin has wrought.  He comes to free you from your three main enemies (the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature).  He comes to heal you from death and all its precursors (disease, infirmity, despair).  He comes to give you the medicine of forgiveness that only comes by His blood and death, and the eternal life of His resurrection.
            Don’t think, though, that the point of this text or of Jesus’ ministry is the miracles.  He did them, to be sure, and they were wonderful gifts to those who received them.  But the miracles, the healings and exorcisms, these aren’t the point.  If they were, Jesus would be nothing more than a magician.  He wouldn’t be the Savior.  Our text bookends the miracles with what is most important: Preaching.  Our Lord is a Preacher, THE Preacher, and His preaching delivers His death and resurrection to those who hear and believe.  In the beginning of our text, we hear that Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as is His custom (Luke 4:31).  He not only remembers the Sabbath Day and keeps it holy by attending Church, but He also grants the Sabbath rest of His preaching to the congregation.  There He is, teaching them on the Sabbath, opening up the Scriptures to them, and they are astonished at His teaching, because He teaches with divine authority: Thus says the LORD (v. 32).  And it is, in fact, the LORD who is speaking.  At the other end of our text, after the miracles, He departs and finds a desolate place, away from everyone, because the people have focused their attention on the wrong thing.  They are focused only on the miracles.  They seek Him and find Him and ask for more.  But what does Jesus say?  I must preach the good news,” the Gospel, “of the kingdom of God to other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (v. 43).  Jesus came to die for the sins of the world and to conquer death in His resurrection.  And He came to deliver that death and resurrection to the world, to you, beloved, in preaching.
            Impressed with the miracles, the people had missed the point.  Well, you can’t blame them for wanting more healings.  There is more than enough sickness and death in this world to keep Jesus busy for a very long time, not to mention demonic activity.  Imagine there was a guy somewhere here in West Michigan who could heal whatever sickness or disease you can imagine with a word or the touch of his hand.  You’d flock to him, too, and you’d bring your sick and infirm friends and loved ones.  Such a man would offer hope in situations that seem hopeless.  Death has such a grip on the world.  Sickness is but a foretaste of death.  It touches every one of us.  If only there was someone who could reverse the trend.  The people thought they had found such a one in Jesus, and actually, they were right.  But He didn’t come to deliver them in the way they desired or prescribed.  What they missed is this: The true medicine, the true healing, is in the preaching.  Those who were healed that day would get sick again and die.  But the preaching, well, that gives nothing less than eternal life.  The greater service Jesus provided that day, the greater miracle, was the preaching, the medicine of immortality.  And He must take it to other towns as well, for He was sent for this purpose.
            All too often, like the people in our text, we miss the point.  Why doesn’t Jesus do a miracle for me?  Why doesn’t He heal my cancer or wipe out my debt or save my marriage?  Why does He let my mother suffer and my uncle die and my best friend grieve the loss of a child?  I don’t know.  I have no idea.  God doesn’t say.  Like a child to her dad, we ask our Father “Why?” and He answers, “Because,” and that’s all we’re left with.  But we can say this: We’ve missed the point of Jesus’ work if we think His purpose is to do miracles for us.  He can do them, and He does… but not always, and not even usually, at least not by our definition.  That’s just not what He’s here for.  That’s not why He was sent.  He was sent to die for your forgiveness and rise from the dead for your eternal life, and to deliver that to you in Preaching, in Word and Sacrament ministry.  Because that’s what you really need.  In giving you that, in giving you Himself and His death and resurrection, He doesn’t just treat the symptoms, He gets to the heart of the disease.  He doesn’t just take away cancer and debt and divorce, He takes away sin and conquers death.  He doesn’t just drive out demons, He crushes the serpent’s head and damns the devil and his wicked host.  The true healing, the true exorcism, is going on right now.  It is to have Jesus Christ applied to you in Baptism and absolution and Scripture and sermon and Supper.  That’s what you need more than anything else in all creation.
            You actually know this instinctively, even if not explicitly, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit in and of itself.  That’s why you call your pastor when you’re sick or in the hospital.  I’m not a doctor.  I can’t give you medicine or perform surgery.  I’ve never done a miracle.  But you call me.  Why?  Not because you want Jon Krenz.  You call because you need Jesus.  You need His Word.  You need His preaching.  You need His body and blood.  You don’t know whether you’ll recover from the sickness or not.  But you know that when Jesus is there with His Word and His Sacrament, you have all the healing you need.  Your sins are forgiven.  Death is destroyed.  You have eternal life.  You will rise from the dead on the last day.
            And you know that when Jesus is there, the devil must flee.  Jesus doesn’t just heal in our text.  He casts out demons.  Where Jesus is, the devil cannot abide.  Now, this is very important.  Physical demon possession is fairly rare here in America, probably because the devil works best among us industrialized westerners by convincing us he doesn’t exist.  Then he can fly under the radar and do great damage undetected.  Possession does happen, and it’s more common in other cultures where there is overt paganism, but that’s not usually how he works among us.  Don’t think for a minute, though, that he doesn’t have just as great an influence here among us.  Just look at the devolution of the culture, the desecration of marriage and sexuality among us, the disregard for human life both in the womb and out of it, the blatant hostility in our culture against God and His Church.  But it isn’t just out there that the devil wreaks havoc.  He aims his arrows of temptation and affliction at your heart, too.  He knows just where to hit you.  He knows your favorite sins.  He knows when you grow tired.  He knows when you’re defenseless.  It’s a miracle that you’re even a Christian.  If the Holy Spirit should forsake you for even a moment, you’d renounce Christ and be lost. 
           But Jesus comes for you right here and casts the demons out.  You are baptized into Christ.  You are no longer in the devil’s possession.  You are God’s own child.  And in His Word, in the preaching, Jesus drives the unclean spirits away.  In His Word, in the preaching, He applies His death and resurrection to you and makes them your own, so that your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life.  And that’s not all.  He gives you His body and blood in the Supper, the medicine of eternal life, the healing you ultimately need.  He does for you exactly what He does in our text for the demoniac and Peter’s mother-in-law and the crowds that comes to Him for healing.  There you are, utterly helpless, utterly in the grip of sin, death, and the devil.  And Jesus comes and speaks His healing, exorcizing, freeing Word over you, and claims you as His own.  He takes you into His Father’s house, cleans you up, binds your wounds, and feeds you from His Table.  And so you have the ultimate healing, the forgiveness of sins.  And having the forgiveness of sins, you know that Jesus will raise your body without corruption and incorruptible on the Last Day.  The Lord Jesus gives you this healing already, as a gift, in His preaching.  This is why He came.  And it is good news, indeed.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        


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