Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I think we can all generally agree that if demons speak a truth about Jesus, but people refuse to do so, that’s a bad thing. The demon-possessed man here in Capernaum says that Jesus is the Holy One of God. But, as we heard last week, the people of Jesus’ own home town of Nazareth refused to say that about Him, and in fact tried to kill Him. I detect more than a little irony in the fact that the demon calls Him Jesus of Nazareth, while the people of Nazareth rejected Him. But Jesus goes on from Nazareth, back to Capernaum, and He is teaching the people there. They are amazed at His words, as they were in Nazareth, but in Capernaum they do not reject Him. They marvel at Him. They say that His words have authority.
It is the same authority that Jeremiah had. Jeremiah said to God, “I don’t know how to speak; I’m only a youth!” And God said, I will put My own words in your mouth: words to destroy and break down, words to tear down and overthrow, words to plant and build. Jeremiah didn’t have any authority from himself or from his own abilities. The only authority he had was the word that God put in his mouth to speak to the people.
And that’s the same authority Jesus has, though even more. Because Jesus does have this authority of and from Himself as the Son of God. He is the Word that God has spoken into this world, and it is a word of authority. He has been anointed to identify Him as the Son of God, and He has been sent to put right and restore everything that’s gone wrong in God’s good creation. He has been sent to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives and the oppressed, sight to the blind, and the Year of Yahweh’s favor that never ends. It is the year in which everything is put right and everything is restored.
And that is what Jesus is doing here in Capernaum. Notice how He treats both the unclean spirits and the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law in exactly the same way. He treats them both as intruders, as enemies. He rebukes the unclean spirit, and then He rebukes the fever. Both are equally corruptions of His creation, so He rebukes both of them, and they both come out and leave behind their victims. Both the man with the unclean spirit and Peter’s mother-in-law are left without any ill effects or harm.
This is what He has been sent to do: to show that He is the one who is going to restore all things. But He does not want the demons telling people who He is, because people will misunderstand. One early Christian said, Let us not believe devils, howsoever they may tell the truth. Jesus silences the unclean spirits, though they call Him the Holy One of God and the Christ. As in Nazareth, people will look only on the outward works, the miracles, the healings, and conclude that this is what Jesus has come to do. They will see the healing and the exorcisms, as they do in Capernaum, and they will try to keep Him for themselves, their own private healer.
But He will not be the sort of Christ who is only a healer, only a miracle-worker, only a good teacher with impressive words. He will go on, proclaiming that the Reign of God has come near. The works are a sign of that, but they are not themselves the Kingdom. Because Jesus did not come to heal a few people for a short amount of time, not then and not now. Jesus did not come to give a temporary fix to sickness and death. He did not come to put a band-aid on the cancer of his creation. So He goes on to other villages, other towns.
He goes on to the cross. And that is where He will be confessed as Christ. As a hanging, dying man, He will be seen as the Anointed and Holy One of God. He will be confessed as Christ not in the glory of miracles and works, but in the shame of crucifixion. Because that is where He speaks the greatest and final rebuke to sin, to death, and to the devil. He rebukes them not here and there, but throughout the entire creation. He rebukes them not once or twice, but forever. Because there He takes everything that sin, death, and the devil have to give, and He takes it all as His own. And then He rises from the dead. And because He is risen from the dead, He cannot die any more. What can death do to Him? What can sin do to Him, or the devil? They already killed Him, and it wasn’t enough. Now they cannot touch Him, nor can they destroy what He has begun in His resurrection: the restoration of all things. He has gathered you into His new and good creation, and under His reign. Therefore, sin, death, and the devil cannot harm you either. He has rebuked them, and He has come to destroy them. He will have no sickness, no death, no sin, no mourning, or crying, or pain anymore; He will have no hospitals, no funerals, no drugs, no IVs. This is the beginning of the end for all that, as He releases people one by one from whatever captivity, or whatever oppression in which they find themselves.
He has come to destroy, tear down, and overthrow the authority of sin, death, and the devil, in your life and in His creation. And He has come to plant and build a new creation, new people, a Kingdom in which righteousness dwells. This is the Holy One of God, the Christ, and His Word has all authority in heaven and earth. Thanks be to God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 2/1/19