Christ’s Powerful, Authoritative Word
By The Rev. James T. Batchelor
Today’s Gospel comes right after last week’s Gospel. Last week, we saw Jesus give His epiphany to the people of Nazareth. It didn’t go well. The people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus. It is not surprising to learn that Nazareth was not the headquarters for Jesus’ preaching and teaching ministry. Although Jesus grew up in Nazareth and although Jesus was known as Jesus of Nazareth, Capernaum eventually became the headquarters for His ministry. Today’s Gospel is an account of three events with a common theme and all three take place in Capernaum.
The first event happens in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus had established His credentials as a rabbi and He was, once again, teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The people in the synagogue appreciated His teaching. Today’s Gospel says, “They were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority.” (Luke 4:32) Apparently they were accustomed to teachers who talked a lot, but didn’t say very much. Jesus, on the other hand, was teaching God’s word in its truth and purity.
As Jesus was teaching, a man suddenly interrupted His class. This man was demon possessed and the demon forced him to scream at the top of his lungs, “Ah! what have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy One of God!” (Luke 24:34) Although the demon’s words are true, they are still disruptive. They interrupted the Bible class. The forces of evil hate it when God’s people gather together to study God’s word. They will do whatever it takes to stop such a gathering.
Jesus immediately put an end to this disruption, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 24:35) The demon had no choice but to leave. The people were amazed and the news of what Jesus had done spread far and wide.
The second event happened in Peter’s house on that same Sabbath. Just as we sometimes have guests for dinner on Sunday, so it was not unusual for people to invite guests to their home on the Sabbath. In this case Peter asked Jesus to do the honor of eating with him.
In the course of the normal conversations that happen at such occasions, Peter mentioned that his mother-in-law was very ill with a high fever. Once Peter made Jesus aware of her condition, Jesus went in to her and healed her. The healing was so immediate and so complete that Peter’s mother-in-law was able to serve the meal.
Finally, when the sun went down and the Sabbath was officially over, everyone from the surrounding countryside brought their sick and injured friends and relatives to Jesus. Jesus healed them all. He even dealt with several more people who were demon possessed.
The common thread through all of these events is the power and authority of Jesus. He taught with power and authority. He rebuked demons with power and authority. He even rebuked a fever with power and authority. Jesus speaks to nature and nature listens and obeys. Jesus speaks to spiritual powers and they listen and obey. A little word from Jesus has power and authority over all things.
Jesus has the power and authority of the creating word. The same power that said, “Let there be light,” (Genesis 1:3) now rebuked demons and fevers. The creative power of God is in the God-man Christ Jesus. As the Holy Spirit inspired John the Evangelist to write, “The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. (John 1:2-3)
When the Son of God came to earth and took on human flesh He brought His power and authority with Him. During His teaching ministry, He healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. The people of Capernaum saw that Jesus was from God. They saw that His healing was part of His teaching. The Lord had visited them and given them His epiphany.
The people who came to Jesus for healing remind us that we live in a broken world. Every sickness – every demon possession – every malady that we experience is a consequence of sin in this world. Death, the common experience of all people, is an especially cruel reminder of our sin. We inherit that sin from Adam as His sinful nature is passed down from generation to generation. We also add to that sin with our own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. We have inherited a broken world and our own sin adds to that brokenness.
Jesus brought His power and authority to us in order to undo the damage that sin had done to His creation. Every sickness that He healed, every demon that He cast out, every person that He raised from the dead was a reversal of the curse of sin. Every healing was a sign that pointed forward to the ultimate healing that Jesus worked for us.
The ultimate, eternal healing that Jesus worked for us happened on a cross. On that cross, Jesus suffered the final, eternal consequence of our sin. He endured the full punishment of sin for us. He endured the full wrath of God in our place. He satisfied the judgment of God against our sin. As God promised through His prophet Isaiah: He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
The healing that Jesus gives to us was authenticated by His resurrection from the dead. Through His resurrection we have the promise that all His work – His perfect life and His sacrifice on the cross – all His work is for us. He promises that we shall rise just as He rose. He promises that we shall also live with Him in heaven forever.
What is behind His promise of salvation? The power and authority of His word – the same Word that created the whole universe out of nothing – The same Word that continues to sustain and keep all things in existence; That very Word became Flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That Holy Word revealed Himself in Capernaum with power and authority. All things are possible with His Word.
Jesus’ Word creates the sacraments. Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. (Luther, Martin: Small Catechism) In a similar way, Christ’s body and blood are joined to the bread and wine of the sacrament with the Words of Jesus, “Given and Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luther, Martin: Small Catechism)
By the power of His Word, Jesus joins us to Him in His life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Through baptism, His righteousness becomes our righteousness. The punishment He endured on the cross was credited to our account. His burial becomes our burial and His resurrection assures us that we too will rise from the dead to live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
By the power of His Word, He gives us His true body and blood under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink. Through this sacrament He offers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. He strengthens us in the one, true faith that leads to life everlasting.
Through this Word, the Holy Spirit changes unbelieving enemies of God into faithful children. We cannot produce faith, our own or anyone else’s. Instead the Holy Spirit calls us by God’s word. He gathers us all together in one, holy, Church that is eternally united with Jesus Christ.
Christ’s Word is powerful. It has what we need. It does what it says. Don’t let it gather dust during the week. Don’t be ashamed to study it with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ’s Word has power and authority – the power and authority to rebuke demons – the power and authority to rebuke fevers – the power and authority to save your soul. Amen.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2010 James T. Batchelor. Used by permission.