The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany January 31, 2016
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
294(1-3), 292(1-4, 8-9), LSB 849 [TLH alt 134], 294(4)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authorityHe commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2 grants a special power to the President. It reads: “The President…shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”
So it is that at the word of the President, a person convicted, imprisoned, accused, or being prosecuted for committing a crime can be free to go and suffer no penalty for wrongdoing. No branch of government, not even congress or the citizens themselves, can block, overturn, or reverse a Presidential pardon. One of the most famous pardons in American history took place when President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon in 1974 for suspected crimes against United States federal law.
Imagine that! One word from the President and a criminal can go free. Now that’s a word of authority. That’s a word that can really get things done.
More powerful than the word of any President, however, is the word of Jesus. His Word, more so than the word of anyone else, is able to get things done—things that strengthen our faith, increase our hope, and guide us to everlasting life. A WORD FROM JESUS GETS THINGS DONE.
The people who gathered in the Capernaum synagogue came to realize that listening to Jesus was different than listening to the usual teachers and preachers who would come there. When Jesus spoke, He was always sure of what He said. When He read from the Old Testament prophets He explained directly how the things they had promised had come to pass. While other teachers sometimes seemed confused or unwilling to declare just what Moses, Isaiah or Jeremiah was talking about, Jesus preached confidently, knowing exactly how the Scriptures were being fulfilled.
Jesus’ sermons were more believable, more powerful, and more authoritative than what the crowds were used to hearing, and the people were amazed at the difference. Their hearts were touched, their minds were opened, and they began to understand things they had not understood before.
Jesus’ Word was able to get things done that were far beyond the ordinary. When a man possessed by an evil spirit came into the synagogue Jesus said the words, “Be quiet and come out of him!” (v. 25), and the demon shook the man violently and departed. The people turned to each other wondering how Jesus’ words could be so powerful as to cause even an evil angel to turn and run.
Jesus’ Word had this sort of authority and power in the synagogue because He is the Son of God. He is “of one substance with the Father” as we confess in the Nicene Creed. So you see, when Jesus talked, God was talking.
Many times Jesus made it clear that when He spoke, God was speaking. He said: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me” (John 7:16 NIV); and “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10 NIV).
Jesus, even though He is His own “person” distinct from the Father, He is also at the same time one with God His Father. So, when He preached in the synagogue His words had a power and authority that could not be matched, for as the Son of God, He spoke as God.
Remember what authority the Word of God carries. When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light (cf. Genesis 1:3ff).
When God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the Red Sea, the waters parted and the Israelites went through on dry ground (cf. Exodus 14:21ff). Whatever God says, happens. One word from God gets things done—no matter how great or small the thing is. Likewise, a word from Jesus gets things done no matter what the thing is. No matter how great or how small, Jesus’ Word has the authority and power to accomplish anything.
Jesus uses that Word to get things done today too. For although He is not teaching at a synagogue in Capernaum anymore, He is risen from the dead and is still raising His voice.
His Word pleads for us, speaking on our behalf before His Father in heaven. As it is written in Romans 8:34: “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (NIV).
He still speaks, most obviously, to us in the Bible. There too, just like in Capernaum, generation upon generation is amazed at the authoritative teaching that is found there. The words of Jesus in the Scriptures are not like other words. They ring true. They captivate and move the heart and the will.
A word from Jesus in the Bible is still able to get things done. Think about how the Lord uses His Word to get things done for you. You were lost in your trespasses and sins. You were guilty of things you had done and guilty of things you had failed to do. From the time you were conceived you were a wrongdoer and deserving of God’s anger and punishment, but with a word Jesus changed your standing. With a word at baptism He said, “The name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is on you.” That Word made you a child in God’s family, and those who are in God’s family are forgiven.”
Maybe you have done things that you wish you could do over, things that have made your life difficult and hard. You wish with one word you could right your wrongs and change the past. With a word Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” and “Go in peace” (cf. Matthew 9:2).
How many times aren’t we afraid of something? We are afraid for our health or for our jobs or for our family or friends. When our concern over earthly things makes us afraid Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32 NIV); and with a word He tells us with certainty and authority that we are under His rule and part of His kingdom, so we have nothing to fear.
The Word of Jesus still sends the Devil and his temptations running the other way as it did in Capernaum. The Word of Jesus still gives forgiveness, peace, and happiness. The Word of Jesus is as powerful as it ever was and gets as much done as it ever did.
Yet we still fail often enough to use it. When we could run to the Bible to hear just the right word that could make a difference in our lives, sometimes we are not listening for that voice of Jesus; or in the back of our minds we do not really think that a few words from Him will be able to make anything better of our trouble. We do not always trust that God’s Word alone will be able to accomplish very much, even though we have seen time and time again that it does.
The blood of Jesus, His death on the cross, cleanses us from these sins and from others like them, and we rise up with new enthusiasm. We let Jesus’ Word dwell in us richly so that He can use that Word to get things done.
In the winter months, not too far from the start of a new year, is a good time to begin a new routine of turning to Jesus’ Word daily—just three chapters a day in the Bible will get you through the whole Bible in a year’s time.
A pastor I know ran into someone in the grocery store who was reading his Bible. The pastor asked, “Do you really get through the whole thing?” The man replied, “I’ve read the whole Bible about 20 times. A few chapters a day, every day, for 20 years. It changed my life.” Well, that pastor started doing it too, and years later he reported that it changed his life as well.
Jesus invites us to cling to His Word and make use of it because by that Word He does so much good for us. It will change your life because Jesus’ Word gets things done in your heart—affecting your confidence in God, your ability to cope, your attitude, and more.
Take up a daily devotion book, a Bible promise book that collects verses on particular topics and arranges them together, and watch the Word of Jesus get things done in you too.
Sometimes what people say to us doesn’t have much impact on us. But Jesus’ words to us are unlike any other because they are the words of God. His words get things done both in us and for us, so keep them close to your hearts. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.