Sermon for February 3, 2019, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Luke 4:31-44 (Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)

“For This Purpose”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

February 3, 2019

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 4:

31And [Jesus] went down into Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32And they were amazed at his teaching because his word had authority. 33And there was a man in the synagogue who had the spirit of an unclean demon and he called out with a loud voice, 34“Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are, the Holy One of God!” 35And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Muzzle it and come out of him!” And after the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36And they were all amazed and began to discuss with one another, saying, “What is this word, because with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits and they come out?” 37And the report about him went out into every place in the neighboring region. 38After he arose from the synagogue, he went into Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they entreated him on her behalf [to help her]. 39And he stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. Immediately she rose and began to serve them. 40And when the sun had set, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him. And he laid his hands on each one of them and healed them. 41And demons also came out of many crying out and saying, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew him to be the Christ. 42Now when it had become day, he departed and went away into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him and they came to him and tried to keep him from leaving them43but he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do.” 44And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

          Last Sunday, we heard in the Gospel reading that Jesus had come to His hometown of Nazareth. There He proclaimed the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 because He, the Christ, had come to bring release to those captive to sin, death, and the devil. Jesus, true God, had become Incarnate in order to free His people from oppression, enslavement, and imprisonment to sin, sickness, death, and Satan. He would also win this release and rescue for the Gentiles, and that got Him thrown out of town because the Jews did not want a Messiah who would extend the gifts of God to the nations.

          What’s at the heart of the mission and ministry of Jesus is that all people need what the Incarnate Son of God has come to bring—rescue and release from sin, sickness, Satan’s oppression, and the power of death. The whole of creation, in fact, needs this rescue and release from its bondage to corruption and decay brought about by humanity’s sin. The Word of God tells us in Romans 8, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20-21 ESV). Because of Adam’s sin, all of God’s good creation came under His judgment. Nothing in all of creation has, since that time, been able to fulfill its God-given purpose. All of creation, including us human creatures, is trapped in an endless cycle of deterioration that leads to death.

          We can see this cycle played out during the ministry of Jesus. What is it that He encounters during His ministry in Galilee? Demon possession, sickness, sin, and death. In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus confronts the spirit of an unclean demon. He meets the feverishly-ill mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Then, “all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him. . . . And demons also. . . .” In Luke 5, Jesus encounters a leper and a paralytic and, later in chapter 6, a man with a withered hand. In chapter 7, we see Jesus confronting the sickness of a centurion’s servant and the death of a widow’s only son.

          We also see this cycle of sin, sickness, and Satan’s oppression leading to death in our own day. The devil and his evil angels are constantly working against us to lead us into temptation and sin. He works through false religions and spiritualities, twisting and distorting the Word of God in the Bible, in order to lead God’s human creatures further away from their one true God and Lord. As a result of the devil’s temptations and because of the weakness of our corrupted, sin-filled human natures, we daily sin much in thoughts, desires, words, and actions. Our own original sin, inherited from Adam through our own parents, inclines us only toward ourselves and away from God and His Word of authority and power. We desire, according to our sinful natures, to be gods for ourselves, and that leads us into sin, rebellion against our true God and Lord.

          You and I and all of God’s human creatures also encounter the bondage and corruption to decay faced by the whole creation. Our bodies are subject to sicknesses and diseases—physical, mental, and emotional. Seemingly healthy people die without warning. A loved one is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Perhaps you are faced with an anxiety disorder or clinical depression. And then there are just the basic needs of food and shelter and clothing that many in our community, state, nation, and world lack. These are all examples of creation’s bondage in its fallenness. The effects and consequences of sin leading to death are everywhere.

          In spite of this, a new era of salvation from sin, sickness, Satan, and death has broken into this fallen creation. The Holy One of God has come in human flesh to rebuke that which holds people and creation in bondage.

          The demons, the evil angels, correctly identified Jesus. “We know who you are, the Holy One of God!” They cried out, “You are the Son of God!” They have this prior knowledge of God the Son, against whom they rebelled and instead followed Satan. There is no question in their minds that Jesus is the Holy One of God, the Messiah, the Son of God made flesh who indeed had come to destroy them! And Jesus rebukes the demons. He censures them to prevent their speaking a confession of Him and to bring their possession of one of God’s people to an end. Where the devil and his evil angels seemed to have had free reign, Jesus puts it to an end by Jesus. The demons were rebuked and cast out.

          Similarly, Jesus rebukes and ends the sicknesses of the people. He rebuked the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law and it left her. He laid His hands on any who were sick with various diseases and healed them. Jesus sets free those who are in bondage by rebuking and ending that which binds them.

          Jesus, the Holy One of God, the Messiah, had come to undo that which held creation in bondage and captivity since the Fall of Eve and Adam into sin. The culmination of this release would come in the rebuke of sin and death itself with Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. The Good News is that Jesus’ teaching and miracles demonstrate that the new era of salvation has broken in. Jesus’ healings and all the exorcisms He performed point to the ultimate release from Satan’s bondage and captivity to sin. For with His death and resurrection, Jesus would perform the ultimate in healing and the exorcism of the world.

          Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God, lived among us under the bondage of our sin. On the cross, Jesus endured hell and death itself so that you and I and all of God’s human creatures, indeed, the whole of creation, might be set free from the power of Satan, sin, and death. We read in John 8, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (Jn. 8:34-36 ESV). Jesus, the Son of God, has delivered you from the jaws of hell and has brought you again into the Father’s grace and favor. He’s brought you from Satan to God, from death to life, and from sin to righteousness (Large Catechism II.31). To bring you this freedom from the bondage of sin and its effects, Jesus “became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. . . . He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for [you] and pay what [you] owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become [your] Lord. . .  After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate [you] from the wicked world, the devil, death, [and] sin, . . . [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].”[1]

          The authority and power of Jesus’ word, fulfilled in His perfect life, death, and resurrection, has accomplished salvation, freedom, and release from the oppression of sin, death, and the power of the devil for you and for all people. It was for this purpose that the Holy One of God became flesh and dwelt among us so that you and I might be set free from this bondage through the forgiveness of sin to have life forever with the Lord. It is the very Word of Christ that continues to be preached today that announces this very salvation to you. You are released from your sins with the Words of Absolution, which are the words of Jesus spoken to you by His called and ordained servant. You are released from your sins as you hear the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as your hear it read and preached. Through this Gospel Word, your Baptismal faith is strengthened so that you might be victorious over the consequences and effects of sin in this life, knowing that what awaits you in glory is life forever with God in perfect peace. Jesus offers this comfort until the completion of all things when we will enjoy together the fullness of the release that the Lord gives. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 ESV).

          Indeed, He has overcome the world, the devil, sin, and death itself. Jesus’ Word bestows on you the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life which His life, death, and resurrection won for you and for all people. In the certainness of faith, we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies,” (Rom.8:23) looking forward to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ when we will enjoy forever the complete freedom from all that would oppress us. Amen.

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 402.

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