“Jesus’ Word Possesses Authority” (Luke 4:31-44)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 30, 2022

“Jesus’ Word Possesses Authority” (Luke 4:31-44)

In last week’s Gospel, from the first half of Luke chapter 4, we heard Jesus say what he was anointed and sent to do. He quoted these words from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Now in this week’s Gospel, from the second half of Luke chapter 4, we see Jesus do those things he said he was sent to do. He puts his words into action. If Jesus says he’s going to do something, he will do it. You can count on it. Jesus does what he says.

Jesus said he would proclaim good news to the poor. Today we see him doing that. Jesus said he would proclaim liberty to the captives. Today we see him doing that. Jesus said he would set at liberty those who are oppressed. Today we see him doing these things. He is faithful to his promises. Jesus’ words are trustworthy and true.

And his words are powerful and effective. They do what they say. His words are not mere empty syllables. No, Jesus’ word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. His word is powerful. It is effective. His word called creation into existence. He, the Son of God, upholds the universe by the word of his power. When Jesus speaks, things happen. His words bestow the very gifts he offers. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And so our theme today: “Jesus’ Word Possesses Authority.”

As it says in our text this morning: “And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” “His word possessed authority.” We will see that authority being demonstrated today in three directions: 1) His word possesses authority in doctrine. 2) His word possesses authority over demons. And 3) His word possesses authority over disease and death.

So first, his word possesses authority in doctrine. The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching.” In our text, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. And the people there could tell that there was something different about this man’s teaching. “His word possessed authority,” it says. And the people were astonished at that. They were used to their rabbis speaking in a qualified manner, basically just quoting one another: “Rabbi Shimei says thus and such.” “Rabbi Hillel says we should do this or that.” Well, here comes Jesus, and he doesn’t sound anything like those guys! He speaks like he knows what he’s talking about! He speaks with the ring of truth, divine authoritative truth!

Jesus’ word possesses authority to this day. By his teaching, Christ establishes the doctrine of the church. He determines what we believe, teach, and confess. What he says, goes. His word has normative authority for what we preach and teach. For instance, when Jesus says, “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”–when he says these things about the Lord’s Supper, we take him at his word. We believe, teach, and confess that this “is”–not just “represents”–this is his true body and blood. And we believe, teach, and confess that this Sacrament actually delivers, bestows, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ word possesses authority in our doctrine.

And Jesus’ word possesses efficacious, life-giving authority to give you the very gifts he promises. His word delivers the goods. So when Jesus says “for you” for the forgiveness of sins, he means it. In his speaking, he is giving you the gift, by his authoritative word. His word does what it says. And so, Jesus proclaims good news to the poor.

That’s the first point. Jesus’ word possesses authority in doctrine, in his teaching. Now the second thing we see in our text today is that Jesus’ word possesses authority over demons. We don’t think about this much in our modern, Western world. We are generally not aware of the spiritual warfare going on around us. But there is a battle for the souls of men. Satan and his minions are out to get you, to do your harm in body, mind, and soul.

There seems to have been an upsurge in this activity during the ministry of Jesus. We read in the gospels about demons, unclean spirits, afflicting people in body and soul, causing them torment. For example, in our text today: “And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon.” But Jesus comes, and, true to his word, he proclaims liberty to the captives. Jesus rebukes the demon and says, “Be silent and come out of him!” And the demon comes out of the man, having done him no harm. The people are amazed. They say: “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Jesus’ word possesses authority over demons.

Friends, Satan is real. He is the old evil foe, who means to do you woe. Take him seriously. But do not fear him. He is a defeated foe. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. By his blood shed on the cross, Christ has won your forgiveness and your freedom. Your risen and ascended Lord holds the keys of Death and Hades. Jesus Christ descended into hell to proclaim his victory even there. And now, every day, God sends his holy angel to be with you, that the evil foe may have no power over you. Fear not, for Jesus’ word possesses authority over the devil and his demons.

And now, third, in our text today, Jesus demonstrates his authority over disease: “Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.”

Jesus’ word possesses authority over disease. Notice, he speaks to the fever, he “rebukes” it, our text says. Earlier, Jesus had rebuked the demon: “Be silent and come out of him!” Later, he will rebuke more demons. But now he rebukes a fever. Jesus is the Great Physician who heals all our diseases. He sets at liberty those who are oppressed.

A lot of us have been oppressed in recent months, having fevers, even high fevers. Some of our countrymen have died, maybe even some people we know. We have no guarantees that a virus or a variant or even a vaccine itself might not lay us low or take us down. But here’s one thing you can count on: The Alpha and the Omega is greater than the Delta and the Omicron. In other words, God Almighty is greater than those diseases.

And so, even if we die, we have our ultimate healing guaranteed in the blood of the Lamb. Christ will raise us up whole and full of life on the day of resurrection. Our bodies–your body–will be free from all disease and from death itself. Christ has redeemed you in both body and soul. You are baptized. Therefore, you will share in Christ’s resurrection. In Holy Communion, you take into your body the very body and blood of Christ. Your sins are forgiven. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

Jesus’ authoritative word raised up Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from her fever. Jesus’ word raised up Jairus’s daughter who had died: “Talitha, cumi,” “Little girl, I say unto you, arise!” Jesus’ word raised up Lazarus’s dead body: “Lazarus, come forth!” And Jesus’ word will raise you up also. He will raise you to everlasting life and perfect health on the day when he returns. Jesus’ word possesses authority over disease and death.

Brothers and sisters, today we have seen that Jesus does what he says. He puts into actin the promises he gives. And he does it through his mighty word. He proclaims good news to the poor, teaching the truth of the gospel. He proclaims liberty to the captives, casting out demons. He sets at liberty those who are oppressed, healing a woman with a fever. Jesus does what he said he would do.

And then at the end of today’s reading, Jesus says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Indeed, today Jesus has come to these towns, to Bonne Terre and De Soto. He has come here to preach the good news of the kingdom to us. Today Jesus is here, speaking his living, life-giving gospel into our ears. And Jesus’ word does what it says. His word possesses authority, authority in doctrine, so that you can know the true teaching that alone gives life. His word possesses authority, the authority to overcome all the works of the wicked one, the devil, so that you need not fear. The life-giving word of Jesus possesses authority, authority over disease and death itself, so that now you have the sure hope of everlasting life: perfect health and wholeness in both body and soul, in Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Published in: on January 28, 2022 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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