Epiphany 2 Service


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Sermon Text:

Luke 4:31-44

And [Jesus] 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.

Dear Fellow Redeemed:

Jesus’ authority cannot be opposed. That is the blessed message that we see in our text. His preaching establishes Him as the One Who reveals God’s Kingdom. His Word puts aside all other powers and authorities, visible and invisible. He saves as the One anointed to make atonement for sins.

Jesus’ audience in our text had been astonished at His teaching. It had authority. No one teaches about the Kingdom of God like the One Whose kingdom it is. So many of the things He was saying about it were surprising to people.

One thing was especially surprising to them: in a time in which human works were being emphasized by Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus was emphasizing Scriptures that promoted humility before God. The Pharisees and Scribes were proud of the great things they were accomplishing, and assuming they were impressing God with them. Jesus was saying that these things aren’t what God is looking for. To some like these, who wanted to justify themselves as righteous before God, He said one time, Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The One Who really knew about the Kingdom of God was preaching that people weren’t going to attain it by following the works righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus’ authoritative teaching had a recurring theme; you must humble yourself before the God Who does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love (Micah 7:18). The repentant tax collector in His parable went home justified, not the self-righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching that made God’s Kingdom about His grace rather than sinners’ attempts at righteousness.

Our text notes a break in His teaching. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. The man was being controlled by a power that was overwhelming. He didn’t have any control over his mouth opening and the words coming out, “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.” In case in this day and age this would need to be said: this is what it seems to be. One of the devil’s angels (called demons) was inhabiting a man, forcing him, like a slave to do his bidding. This demon was speaking through him and contorting his body in whatever way the demon chose.

Imagine the helplessness. The demon-possessed man and those around who loved and cared for him didn’t have any answer for it. No one did. He must just endure it day after day. The mention of him being unclean reminds us of what a disruption this was as Jesus taught in the Synagogue. No one who was unclean was supposed to be there according the law, or around people at all. We can imagine that all the people scattered when they saw and heard this man. The demon inhabiting him had forced him to disrupt in this way.

Before we talk about how Jesus responded, we look a little further in our text. Jesus has left the Synagogue and gone to Simon’s house. Jesus encounters another disruption there. Simon’s mother-in-law is sick; she has a high fever. The people don’t have an answer for it. They appealed to Him on her behalf, it says.

So, there are two incidents in our text in which people are helpless, without an answer.

Demon possession and illness aren’t the same thing. We suffer various maladies in our bodies because of the world’s corruption. God has given us a medical profession to which He imparts wisdom in understanding these things, and providing treatments and medicines that relieve the sick and suffering. We have prayed for a vaccine, and an end to the Covid-19 pandemic; we seem to have a vaccines now, and the prospect of that end. God’s provision of medical science is a great blessing even though we continue to struggle in finding a cure for cancers and other forms of sickness. Sickness is a natural occurrence. Demon possession is different matter - a supernatural occurrence. It isn’t treated with medicine. We are even more helpless before demon possession than before illnesses.

Interesting, then, that Luke presents both as having the same solution. Think of how similar it is that Jesus rebukes the demon and tells him to come out (and he does), and He also rebukes the fever that is inflicting Simon’s mother-in-law, and it leaves her. Demon possession and illness are very different; but both are solved with the authority of Jesus. He simply says the Word, and both individuals are made whole. Jesus is the prophet that God has raised up from among his brothers. Our Old Testament lesson talks about that prophecy. His authority cannot be opposed.

And Jesus’ peerless authority matters so much to us because, in addition to many of this world’s things that befuddle us, You and I don’t have any answer to the guilt of our sins and it’s consequent punishment; we’re completely helpless in the face of it.

We see this when we consider ourselves in light of the list of things St. Paul says in our epistle lesson that believers should be. I want to be generous. I want to have that said of me. I want to know that of myself. But so often, I have been afraid of being without, and have failed to trust that God would provide for my needs. Then, I have sinned. I haven’t been the steward He requires me to be with what He has provided. I want to be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer; but I have often forgotten the Lord for a moment, and trusted more in myself for solutions, and for answers. Then, I have sinned. I have looked to what amounts to other gods, or even to myself as a god. Paul has a number of other things on his list, and the list could be much longer. The point is, we don’t have an answer in ourselves for the guilt of our sins and it’s consequent punishment, we’re completely helpless in the face of it.

Jesus has an answer though. The answer of this One Who rules the visible and the invisible of this world is to put our guilt on Himself, and to take our punishment to Himself. The demons weren’t wrong in calling Him Son of God. They weren’t mistaken in knowing Him to be the Christ, as Luke says they did.

Know this for yourselves. Know what a great benefit it is to you that Jesus’ authority cannot be opposed. His blood must make atonement for your sins when He sheds it on the cross for you (He has been made the greedy and selfish one so that you are perfectly generous in God’s eyes; He has become the idolatrous forgetter of God’s provision so that you are the one perfectly patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer). The grave had to release its hold on Him, so that He would rise from it. His Resurrection must anticipate your own resurrection. No one can have it be otherwise - not demons or the devil, not any other power in this world, no one. The atonement that He makes must deliver forgiveness for your sins. You don’t confess them this morning in vain; they are forgiven.

The fact of Jesus’ authoritative Word should bring you great comfort when you attend the Supper to which He has invited you at His Table this morning. The same word that turns water to the finest wine in our gospel lesson, that overpowers demons and illness in our text, that brought you to faith through the Spirit’s power in Baptism (or in your hearing of it), promises that you receive not only bread and wine at this table, but enjoined with it, Christ Himself for the remission of your sins. It isn’t a figure of speech. It is Christ present for you. Don’t doubt it. Cling to His clear Words: “This is My body given for you; this is My blood shed for you.” They are powerful in this Supper, just as they are in the text. There isn’t anything He can’t do!

Jesus’ authority cannot be opposed. It is absolute, and it is employed for your salvation. God be praised. Amen.


Almighty and everlasting God, You govern all things in heaven and earth: Mercifully hear the prayers of Your people and grant us Your peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Romans 12:6-16

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

St. John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

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