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 08, 2015

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

February 8, 2015
Text: Mark 1:29-39

            Jesus comes to preach.  That is what He tells His disciples after they track Him down at the end of our Holy Gospel.  They find Him in a desolate place, praying, communing with His heavenly Father, commending His ministry to God and asking for divine aid and counsel in His work.  Our Lord has demonstrated His Divine Nature as He healed and cast out demons late into the night.  But Jesus is also a man, and this work is taxing to His Human Nature.  So very early in the morning, while it is still dark, He departs to a desolate place to pray.  And note that for Jesus, weary as He is, prayer and communion with the Father is more important than sleep.  This is true rest.  Sabbath rest.  It is just what you need, too.  Well, the people don’t want Jesus to rest.  Everyone is looking for Him.  They want more miracles.  They want more healings.  They think that is why He came, to be some sort of a witch doctor, magically and mysteriously granting relief to those who suffer and healing for all that ails them.  So when Simon and those with him find Jesus and urge Him to come back to the house to treat more patients, Jesus says to them, “Let us go to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:38; ESV). 
            Jesus comes to preach.  The Son became Man comes to be the Word of God in the flesh (John 1:14).  Jesus is an incarnate sermon, if you will, the revelation of the Father’s love for lost humanity… His love for you.  The people gathered together at Simon and Andrew’s house had missed the whole point of the miracles.  To be sure, the people had much reason to rejoice in the healings and exorcisms.  There was real relief distributed, real wholeness granted.  But the miracles were not an end in themselves.  Have you ever thought about this?  Jesus didn’t heal everyone.  He heals a relatively lucky few on earth at the time of His earthly ministry.  It is not that He doesn’t have compassion on all of them, on all those who suffer, of all times and all places.  He certainly does.  And that compassion moves Him to perform healings.  But the true purpose of the healings, the exorcisms, and all the miracles, is to serve the preaching.  Jesus comes to preach.  The miracles are visible sermons, tangible sermons, action sermons on the part of our Lord.  They preach.  They say something about who He is and what He will finally do.  Jesus raises Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and the fever leaves her (Mark 1:31).  And it is like a resurrection from the dead.  So completely has He healed her that she is invigorated to serve, to be the hostess for Jesus and His disciples (side note: On the Sabbath, no less!).  The people of the town, who witnessed Jesus cast out the unclean spirit in the Synagogue begin to show up at sundown, freed from the Sabbath regulations so they can walk to Peter’s house.  They bring to Him all those who are sick with various diseases or demon possessed, and Jesus heals their illnesses, silencing and casting out their demons (vv. 32-34).  What do these miracles preach?  They preach that our Lord has authority over sickness and suffering, authority to raise up and invigorate, authority over demons, to bind them and cast them out.  Jesus has authority over death, to snatch His people from its jaws.  And if He has authority over death, He has authority over the cause of death: Our sin.  These miracles preach who Jesus is.  He is God.  Only God could do what Jesus does.  These miracles preach what Jesus has come to accomplish and to give: eternal healing, eternal wholeness, eternal freedom from death, and the binding and casting out of Satan and his evil hoard.  This He will accomplish by His own suffering and death on the cross, and His triumphant resurrection from the grave. 
            Jesus comes to preach, because in preaching He delivers this true healing, this ultimate healing, accomplished by His saving work.  You see, preaching is God’s delivery system for the benefits of our Lord’s death and resurrection.  What He accomplished by His perfect life of love, His spotless fulfilling of God’s Law, by His cross and empty tomb, this He delivers to you and bestows upon you in the preaching, in what we call the Means of Grace.  That is to say, He delivers the forgiveness of sins, healing, restoration, life, and salvation, in the Holy Scriptures, the preaching of the Word, your Baptism, the Absolution, and the Supper of His Body and Blood.  Faith, then, is your empty hands receiving these free benefits from the Lord in His Means of Grace.  You can’t go back to the cross.  We don’t have it anymore, and even if we did, it would do us no good.  It would only be a relic, at best a fascinating historical artifact, at worst  an object of idolatry.  Jesus accomplished our salvation on the cross, but we don’t receive it there.  We receive it here, where Christ Himself is present, delivering our salvation in the preaching.  That is why He comes. 
            Now, we get confused, like the people in Capernaum.  We forget, or maybe we don’t even realize, that Jesus comes to preach.  And so we demand all sorts of other things from His Church.  We want the spectacular.  We want miracles.  We want dazzling demonstrations of divine power.  Or, at the very least, we want special effects.  We want comfortable seats, a comfortable experience, good coffee, entertaining worship, an inspiring and uplifting message, and songs the touch our hearts but aren’t too specific when it comes to doctrine, or God’s Law, or especially the cross.  We want glory.  Not a boring old sermon.  We want glory.  Not words and water, bread and wine.  We want glory.  Not the cross.  And so we miss it.  It is all too ordinary.  It is all too weak.  It is all too mundane.  Repent.  Thanks be to God, Jesus preaches anyway, in spite of us.  He preaches directly to you and to me in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, in the sometimes boring and often stumbling words of His called and ordained servant, in the visible and tangible sermons of Baptism and Supper.  He may not deliver what we want, but He ever and always delivers what we need.
            And here is what happens when Jesus preaches to you.  He heals you.  Not just temporarily, like those people in Capernaum.  They all eventually got sick again, and in the end, they died.  No, here is healing that endures, a wholeness sustained for all eternity.  For the preaching of Jesus delivers life, the life of the crucified and risen Lord.  And that marks you as one who will never die, because the eternal life you already possess in Jesus is the life you will go on living in heaven, and the life that will enliven your body on the Last Day.  As Jesus raised Peter’s mother-in-law from her sick bed, He will raise you from your coffin.  As Jesus healed those who came to Him with various diseases, He heals you from death.  As Jesus cast out the demons in Capernaum, so He delivers you from the devil and the condemnation you have merited by your sin.  He does it by taking it into Himself, taking it for you, taking it to the cross, and dying it to death.  And then He wakes from death, that He may awaken you.

            And in the meantime He does give you the very same gift He gave to the people of Capernaum.  You may not think about this very often, but every healing is from Jesus, even when you credit the doctor, the prescription drugs, or Mom’s chicken noodle soup.  To be sure, Jesus works through those ordinary and often mundane things to bring you healing, but anytime you’ve recovered from a common cold or a hangnail, that is from Jesus.  And you know that while your Lord works through the stuff of this world to bring you relief and physical healing, the real medicine you need is His preaching.  That is why you call your pastor when you are in the hospital, so that I can come and preach to you.  It is rather odd by human standards, when you think about it.  “I’m sick, so I better call my pastor for a sermon and Communion.”  But you know that is what you need.  And for everything else that ails you, you know that is what you need.  That is why you come to Church.  It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick (Mark 2:17).  Jesus comes to give the medicine of immortality to those who are mortally sick with sin.  Jesus comes to heal by preaching.  And so, if your body is racked with disease, if your heart is weak or the cancer is back, or even if you’re just a little under the weather, this is the place to be, to hear the healing Words of Jesus and receive His risen and living, healing and death-defeating Body and Blood in your mouth.  If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, if you are suffering loneliness or depression, if your marriage is in trouble or there is strife in the family, this is the place to be, where your Great Physician applies the salve of the Holy Gospel to your wounds.  If the devil is oppressing you and the demons are up to no good, if you know and feel the tremendous guilt of your sins, then this is the place to be, where Jesus binds and casts out the devil with a Word, and declares your sin forgiven, and you justified, righteous, spotless, and holy.  St. Ambrose said, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.”  So here you have it.  It may not be flashy.  It may not seem all that spectacular.  But here it is.  Jesus comes.  Jesus preaches.  You are healed.  You are whole.  Your sins are forgiven.  Depart in peace.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.      

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