Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

(Transcribed by machine 04/08/2024)

In the name of Jesus, amen.
Dear saints, we pick up today where we left off last week.
Jesus was in the synagogue in Capernaum.
He had cast out the unclean spirit from the man and delivered him and finished his sermon,
his preaching there, made sure that the demon didn’t preach in church.
And then they leave the synagogue and they go down the street to Peter’s house, Peter
and Andrew, where Peter lived together with his presumably wife because his mother-in-law
was there.
and she was sick, had a fever.
They come and tell Jesus she has a fever.
He immediately goes and takes her hand
and lifts her up and she’s healed.
And she begins, it’s beautiful really,
she begins to serve them.
But then as they’re there at the house
and maybe having dinner or something like that,
what happens is that all the people from Capernaum
and all the region come, the sun is setting,
and they all press in on the house to be healed by Jesus.
There’s a mob that surrounds the house
and Jesus is casting out demons and He’s healing all the sick and rescuing all the afflicted
and all the people are coming to Him.
It seems like Jesus is doing this deep into the night.
In fact, my impression is that Jesus, even the disciples go to sleep and Jesus stays
up and He’s healing person after person, blessing them, rescuing them, healing them from whatever
their affliction and sicknesses and leprosy and demonization and all the troubles until
maybe the last person is there and Jesus heals them up and sends them home.
And it’s already morning.
It’s in the darkness of morning and Jesus, without going to sleep, goes out into the
wilderness to pray.
He would have been – Capernaum is on the northwest corner of Galilee, it’s a beautiful
spot in the hills.
He would have gone up into the hills outside of the city and He’s praying.
The sun comes up and all the people come and start knocking on the door.
They were ready for a breakfast miracle.
And Peter and Andrew wake up and, well, we don’t know where Jesus is.
So they start looking around.
They look around town.
They find him in the wilderness and they say, everyone’s looking for you.
And Jesus says, well, let’s keep going because I’ve got to keep preaching.
So they go to the next town and the next and the next.
And Jesus goes throughout all the area preaching the gospel.
Now the thing that’s interesting about this, there’s a lot of interesting things to note
about this text, but this text is helpful because it highlights for us the distinction
between the works of Jesus and the words of Jesus.
It’s interesting that this is for us, we want to see it as a distinction, but some people
will see it as a separation, even as a tension, and they’ll set them against each other and
we’ll get into that.
But at least to start for us to recognize that that when the people came to Jesus
They almost always were not coming to hear a sermon from him
I mean sometimes they had questions to ask but most of the time they came for some sort of help
They came for healing. They came for a miracle. They came for assistance
they needed so they were in a desperate situation and they needed Jesus to help to help them and
Here’s the interesting thing
It’s that you get the sense that Jesus, He didn’t come for that reason.
He didn’t come to perform miracles.
He didn’t come to feed the hungry.
He didn’t come to heal the sick.
He didn’t come to cleanse the lepers.
He came, like He says in the text, to preach, to preach the kingdom of God.
But Jesus, okay, this is at least my impression.
I want you to test this.
In fact, if you want to read the first four chapters of Mark this week, and you can see
if you get the same impression, is that Jesus just, he can’t, he can’t help himself.
There’s someone in front of him that needs something, and he’s going to bless them.
He’s gonna heal them.
He’s going to rescue them.
He’s gonna deliver them, even though he knows it’s gonna cause him all sorts of trouble.
He can’t help but have compassion.
This, by the way, is why when Jesus heals someone,
it’s probably something like this, and maybe we can,
if someone comes to Jesus and they need something,
they’re sick in some way, and they come to Jesus for help,
and Jesus knows that if he heals that person,
then pretty soon there’s gonna be four or five people to heal,
and then seven or eight people to heal,
and then a whole crowd of people to heal,
and then a whole night of healing with no rest and he’s not going to get to
finish the preaching that he’s doing, he’s not going to get to finish
delivering the message, he knows that his ministry in the place is
going to switch from preaching to healing and he didn’t come to do
that, but he just can’t help it. Here’s someone who needs something and Jesus
says, fine, I’m going to heal you, but please don’t tell anybody. And what do
they do? They go out and they start, Jesus healed me, He rescued, He delivered me,
and now everybody lines up and they’re all at the door and Jesus, okay, and he
heals one after another and here’s the man tearing apart the roof and being
lowered and here’s the five thousand and so and so and so his preaching ministry
is is changed into his healing ministry and he and that’s why he has to leave
it’s why he has to go from one place to another it’s why halfway through his
Galilean ministry he can’t even go into towns because the crowds come around him
to heal. Now there’s something really wonderful about that. I don’t know a
single time in the Gospels, there could be but I just couldn’t think of it, a
single time in the Gospels when someone comes to Jesus and needs something that
he doesn’t give them what they need, that he doesn’t help them, that he doesn’t
deliver them. He sends away the rich young ruler, he sends away, he couldn’t
repent but that was a preaching thing. Everybody who comes to Jesus in need, he
meets their needs. In fact, I don’t know of a single person that Jesus lets die
while he himself is alive. The one exception is John the Baptist, because he
belonged to the Old Testament. But everyone else who is dead around Jesus,
he raises them up. He won’t let these bad things happen to the
people, but the problem is it gets in the way of what he really came to do, which
is preach. There’s a nice little line in the introduction to, I think it’s the
Gospel of John, or maybe to the New Testament, where Luther says that his
His favorite gospel is the gospel of John because John gives us the words of Jesus while
Matthew and Mark and Luke give us the deeds of Jesus.
Now both gospels give us both but really John emphasizes the preaching and Luther says why
this is helpful is because the deeds, the miracles helped those people that Jesus was
serving but the words help us.
The words are for us.
The words are where we find our life and our joy and our peace.
But even now, even for the Christian, there’s a little bit of a difference between the words and the deeds of Jesus.
I think in some ways you can see this in the different churches. There’s some churches, the big churches,
the mega churches. The emphasis in those churches is not the words that Jesus preaches,
but rather the things that he does. He can make you happy and healthy and
successful and he’ll perform miracles. So that’s coming to Jesus for the deeds,
That’s the easy thing, it’s the words that are tough.
Remember how in the wilderness Jesus feeds the 5,000 and he sends them all away, he sends
the disciples across the sea, and he again is praying overnight, and then when he’s finished
with his prayers, he walks on water, he gathers the disciples, they end up on the other side
of the sea, and the people wake up that were fed, and they see that the boat is gone, and
they go and find Jesus, and they want him to do more miracles, they want him to provide
more bread.
They want him to, in fact, they want to make him king because this is great when you have
all of these mighty works being accomplished by Jesus, and Jesus then preaches to them
and they all start to leave.
In other words, do you see the difference?
It’s easy to come to Jesus for bread, for health, for miracles, but Jesus would draw
all people to himself by the word.
He says to that crowd that came to him for the bread, he says,
unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part of me.
And they all grumbled and went away.
That’s when Jesus turns to the disciples and he says,
are you going to leave also?
And Peter says, Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
The words are what give us life.
Now, that setting the words of Jesus against the deeds of Jesus, I think, shows up in two
ways that I want us to think about.
I want to give you maybe two examples that people say, have you heard this before?
People say, well, I like Jesus, I just don’t like His followers.
Have you heard that before?
I hear that a lot, Jesus I like, it’s the Christians, Christ is fine, Christians are
terrible. Now, I want to think about that a little bit. I’ll tell you a little story.
When I was at the seminary, I realized that one of the advantages of being at the seminary
is that there was all these visitors that would come from synodical officials and district
officials, district presidents, and people who were involved in the life of the church,
and I would always want to talk to them and ask them questions. And I figured, I don’t
know, a couple of months into it, it would be great if I had one question that I could
ask all of these guys that came to visit, and so I could compare their different answers.
And the question that I came up with is, what do you think is the biggest problem with the
church today?
And they all had various different answers, in fact that was like their whole life was
trying to solve the problems in the church.
I remember one, I think it was the District President Hennings from Texas, he gave the
most unique answer to that question, what’s the biggest problem in the church?
church, and he said, pastors without a sense of humor.
Now this is an interesting answer to think about.
That’s certainly a problem.
I don’t know if it’s number one, but it’s certainly a problem.
But I realized after asking all, I mean, you know, all these officials would come and visit
the, and they’d give their different answers, you know, conflict in the church, or people
who are not committed to the Word, or that we don’t pray enough, or they’d have all their
different answers.
I realized, though, about two and a half or three years into asking that question that
I was asking a terrible question.
In fact, what I realized was that my question was offensive to God.
Can you imagine, could you imagine that every time you meet a man who’s married, the first
question you ask him is, what’s the biggest problem with your wife?
That is not the right question.
But do you know, do you know this? That you, dear Christian, you, that we the
church, are the Bride of Christ. Asking what’s the biggest problem in the
church is like asking Jesus what’s the biggest problem with your wife. And you
know what? Here’s the amazing thing. There’s plenty of problems with the
Bride of Christ, but Jesus still loves her. And that is the truth that that
covers all of our sins and all of our weaknesses and all of the nonsense. Jesus
loves us. His bride is covered by his righteousness. He delights in us. He loves
you. He delights in you. He considers his church precious for all the
wrinkles and troubles and all the nonsense that is in the church of Christ.
Jesus loves his bride, the church. So I think it’s a wrong question. And in fact, back
to this idea that I like Jesus but I don’t like the church. Jesus himself just
First, He will not give you that option.
He will not say, well, you can have me, but not my people.
You can have me, but not my church.
You can have me, but not my bride.
He doesn’t give you that choice.
To be a Christian, that is to follow Jesus, means also to be part of His body, to be part
of His temple, to be part of His flock, to be part of His bride.
He calls us into the church.
You might not like it, the church might not like you, might not like me, but it doesn’t
matter.
To be a Christian is to be part of the bride of Christ.
So we delight in this, that Jesus calls us to be part of his bride and he rejoices in
us.
But this idea, you see this idea that I like Christ but not the church, that really comes
down to this.
Well, I like what Jesus does, but I don’t like what he says.
I like how he acts, but I don’t like what he confesses.
I’ll tell you the extreme version of that, which I know you’ve all heard is this, I’m
spiritual but not religious, right?
In other words, I want a God who never says anything.
I want a God who never opens His mouth.
I want a God who does very nice things for me, especially when I want, but I don’t want
Him to…
Because as soon as God says something, as soon as there is a word from God, then there’s
There’s a religion, there’s a confession, something to believe, something that’s true
or something that’s false, something that we also have to confess.
And this is the point of Jesus’ preaching, is that He is confessing, He’s speaking.
And those words are divisive, because we will confess either that they are true or they
are false, that they are life-giving or not.
When Jesus says that I came for this reason to preach, he establishes his church to be
what my professor, Dr. Marquardt, used to say, the church is the mouthhouse of God.
We come here for the deeds of God true, but we come here most especially for the words
of God.
And it must be that way because the Lord who creates by speaking is the Lord who recreates
by speaking.
And so if He is going to remake us in His image and bring us into life that never ends,
He’s going to do it by preaching, by speaking, by the Word.
The Word brings to us two things that we could never ever have in any other way.
It brings to us first the revelation of our own sin.
You can know that you are not perfect without the Word of God.
You can know that you make mistakes, that there’s regrets in this life.
You can get to that without the Word of God.
God.
But here’s what you cannot get to apart from the Word of God, the Law of God, working with
the Spirit.
And that is the realization that your sins are offensive to God and that you truly deserve
His temporal and eternal punishment.
The sorrow over sin, that’s the first thing.
And the second thing that you can never know apart from the Word of God is this, is that
you, a sinner, are forgiven by the suffering, by the death, by the blood, by the compassion,
and by the love of your Lord Jesus Christ.
That comes only through preaching, but it comes to us through the word, through the
ear, into the heart, with the confidence that God, who cannot lie, is telling us this which
we must know that he loves us, that he saves us, that he delivers us, that he is
for us, that his kingdom has come and it’s come into our midst and we have
been invited into it. So we see this tension between the works of Jesus and
the words of Jesus, between the acts of God and the words of God, but Jesus
is pressing this into our hearts that he came to preach and what he came to
preach is his salvation and we rejoice.
We rejoice that Jesus, he cannot see us in trouble
and not do anything about it.
He knows all the trouble that you’re in,
he knows your difficulty and he can’t help himself
but to come to you and to bless you in the way
that is best for you, that’s true.
But even more, that he comes to press this
into your heart and mind and onto your conscience
that you, a sinner, are forgiven, that you’re loved,
that heaven is open, that your life will never end,
that you will be raised on the last day
and stand before him in glory,
that you will be judged and the judgment will,
can you believe, the judgment for you will sound like this,
well done, good and faithful servant,
because Christ has died, Christ has risen,
Christ is coming again, and all of that is for you
and brought to you in the word.
For this reason I came, says Jesus,
so that I might preach the good news of the kingdom.
May God grant us by his spirit ears to hear
and hearts to believe this good news in the name of Jesus. Amen. And the peace of
God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus our Lord. Amen.