Luke 4:31-44 (4th Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
February 3, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Luke 4:
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “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.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. 38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he 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.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
We all have our comfort zones—those areas where we feel most comfortable. Get us out of those zones or areas, we get all befuddled. I sometimes like, instead of zones, to think more in the terms of comfort boundaries. I’m comfortable, at peace, and all is right with the world as long as I don’t cross that boundary marker. But the minute I cross that line, look out! It’s uncomfortable central! Some folks have geographical comfort boundaries. They are quite content to be in one location and never really stray far from home. Other’s comfort boundaries insist that they see the world and very little of the home turf. Most of us have emotional comfort boundaries. We know just how far we can go, what we can do, what we can endure before our emotional cart is upset. For example, a woman says that she is happy to participate in a group meeting, but don’t ask her to get up in front of people by herself. It crosses her emotional boundary line. I don’t watch medical shows on TV. That crosses my emotional boundary line. Of course, there are those personal boundaries that we dare not cross. Please, don’t get in my 3-foot personal space. I get uncomfortable. The brother says to his sister, “Get out of my room! Don’t touch my stuff!” That’s his personal space.
In our text this morning, the people of the city of Capernaum try to impose boundaries on Jesus, to prevent Him from leaving. Jesus taught in their synagogue with a word of authority so that the people were astonished. He cast the spirit of an unclean demon out of a man in their synagogue. Again, they were all amazed and wondered about Jesus’ word of authority and power. With that same word of power and authority Jesus’ healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a severe fever. As the sun was setting, everyone who had sick people with various diseases led them to Jesus and He laid His hands on them and healed each one of them. Jesus also cast out demons from many people.
In the morning, Jesus departed from Capernaum to a desolate place but the crowd from Capernaum sought Him and tried to keep Jesus from leaving. They were setting up a boundary for Jesus. This crowd was intent on securing the gracious activity of Jesus’ word of authority and power for themselves. They didn’t understand Jesus’ mission and so the crowd from Capernaum functioned as a force set on waylaying Jesus from His vocation, limiting Him to their own boundaries. Imagine having Jesus in Capernaum all the time! Imagine having your town’s own personal exorcist and healer. Who knows what Jesus’ word of authority could help accomplish if they just kept Jesus there within their boundary?
But Jesus’ word of authority was not to be limited. Jesus’ word of power was not to be kept within one specific boundary. His mission and ministry was an itinerant mission. Jesus was not to be confined to one location or one group of people. He tells them plainly, “It is necessary for me to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to other cities also, because I was sent for this [purpose].”
The people of Capernaum failed to understand who Jesus is and the scale of His mission. They hoped to limit His ministry to their own boundaries. We, too, don’t always take to heart and keep in mind the scale of Jesus’ mission. In our own ways, we try to limit Jesus’ to our own boundaries.
Don’t we have our own comfort zones (or comfort boundaries) when it comes to Jesus? Are there not places where we like to keep Jesus and places where we prefer to keep Jesus out? One such boundary is these four cinderblock walls that make up this sanctuary. We know this is a holy place where God invites us to come and meet with Him each week. Jesus is here present in His Word and Sacrament giving to us His Word of authority and power—I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; Take, eat; Take, drink—This is my body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
And this is very much the place where we tend to want to leave Jesus. We head out those doors with a “good-bye” and a “see ya next week, Lord.” We limit Jesus’ Word to the boundaries of this building. We limit Jesus’ Word of forgiveness to ourselves. Two years ago in one of our special classes I surveyed the group. The first question was, “Is the Church for “us” or for “others”? As you can see by this poster (show poster) where we recorded the results, the majority of attendees saw the Church as mostly for us. That’s what it means to limit Jesus to our own comfort boundaries. It’s doing what the crowd at Capernaum did—securing the gracious activity of Jesus for ourselves.
Yet Jesus’ mission is not just for “us” in the Church. It’s for “others” also, especially those who are outside the Church, outside our comfort zone, beyond our comfort boundary of these cinderblock walls.
Last Sunday, Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his hometown of Nazareth: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at release those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ . . . And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18-22) Jesus’ mission is to release all sinners from their bondage to sin, its effects, and the power of the devil through the proclamation of Good News to the poor. His mission couldn’t have stopped with Capernaum. He had to proclaim His Word of authority to the other towns and cities through His preaching the Good News of release in the forgiveness of sins, healing, and casting out demons.
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Later Jesus would again emphasize the necessity of His mission, that it not be limited, “’Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” (Luke13:32) This is why Jesus was sent, to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God and to accomplish humanity’s release from sin and Satan by going to Jerusalem to suffer and to die on a cross, bearing the sins of the whole world.
Through the shedding of His own holy, precious blood, Jesus purchased and won our release. We are no longer held captive by sin and Satan. We stand forgiven, cleansed by Jesus’ blood from every spot and stain. Here in Word and Sacrament, Jesus continues to proclaim this Good News to us. Week after week Jesus pronounces His absolution to us through the pastor as the called and ordained servant of Christ. He preaches His Good News of release to us through the Gospel read and proclaimed. He feeds us with His own body and blood, in and with the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Through the Gospel in Word and Supper, Christ announces to us weekly that the time of our release is now!
And that is the message that Jesus entrusts to you and me. Jesus’ mission, still today, is to continue to preach good news to the poor. Jesus’ mission is that all those who are outside the Church, sinners still held captive to sin, sin’s effects, and the power of the devil, would hear and receive Jesus’ Word of authority that brings release to them through the forgiveness of sins. Listen to the words of Romans 10, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:13-17)
The Church is for us and for others to come into the presence of the Lord Jesus, hear His Word of authority, and to receive from His Word forgiveness and release. Too many people wouldn’t hear the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life won for them by Jesus if we limit Him to our own boundaries and comfort zones. You and I have been commissioned by Jesus Himself to take His message of release outside of these cinderblock walls. In your baptism, you received this commission from your Lord Jesus, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This commission means that you and I are commissioned by God Himself to share the message of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins with those of other religions and those without any religion, young or old, rich or poor, educated or not.
Everyone must hear the Good News of the Kingdom. They must hear the Word of Jesus’ authority that takes away their sins and sets them free from death, free for everlasting life. And telling people about Jesus is, more often than not, way beyond our comfort boundaries. We worry about offending them and their current beliefs. We are concerned that we won’t know what to say or that we might say it wrong and then look silly. We sweat over the fact that the person we share the Good News with might not come to faith in Jesus. They might get angry toward us. They might break off our friendship or relationship.
That’s all very true. The message of Jesus’ forgiveness and eternal life as gift is offensive to some. People do get angry over the message of Jesus’ free forgiveness. Relationships and friendships do come to an end. And sometimes the only thing we can say is “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Yet remember whose mission this is? It’s Jesus’ mission. “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other towns as well.” And to further His mission He picked you—He redeemed you. He baptized you. He release you from your sins and gave you eternal life. He made you a child of God and said, “Tell people about Me, your Savior and Friend,” and added this promise: “I am with you always!” It’s His mission for which you have been commissioned. He is with you in it. Jesus is not limited to the boundaries of these walls, for when you and I leave this place He goes with us. He goes with us in the power of His Holy Spirit whom He has poured out on us richly. (Titus 3:6)
It is the Holy Spirit who works such a change in our hearts that Jesus’ mission truly becomes our mission. He plants within us a love that is so great that it wants to tell others about Jesus and His great love that took Him to a cross to save the world and release everyone from sin, its effects, and the power of the devil. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we do not limit Jesus to our own comfort boundaries. In fact, the Holy Spirit enables us to break down boundaries where they exist, giving us opportunity to proclaim Jesus’ Word of authority in the Gospel to anyone and to everyone.
We all have our comfort zone. We have our comfort boundaries. Let’s go beyond them for the sake of those who don’t know Jesus Christ. Let’s get out of these comfort boundaries for the sake of the mission! May God, through Jesus’ Word of authority, empower you ever more richly with His Spirit so that you will go beyond boundaries, getting out of your comfort zones, sharing your faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.