The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany at Hope, Jerseyville
“A Word of Authority”
Sermon Text: Luke 4:31-44
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A good mentor is an invaluable thing. You can’t put a price on having someone take you under their wing, teach you the best of what they know, and continue to be there and support you as you follow in their footsteps, striving to be as good as they are. I feel like I have a number of great mentor pastors: one I look up to as a preacher, another as a teacher, several in terms of personal and pastoral care, and another I turn to in crisis. I learn and try to take the best from all of them and from the best of my seminary professors. They have all molded, shaped, and formed me into the pastor I am and continue to do so. Perhaps you have people like that in your life as well, people you look up to and try to imitate. Really, you almost have to. Very few people, if any, are great on their own without someone to mentor them or inspire and influence them. Without others, we likely would not amount to much.
For me, as a pastor, this is doubly so. What I do as a pastor, I do not do on my own. I do not preach by my own authority, I do not baptize or celebrate the Sacrament of my own accord, and I do not forgive sins by my own righteousness. I do these things as a called and ordained servant of the Word and by His authority, in the stead and by the command of Christ. And thanks be to God for that because if we really look at our power and authority as humans, we have very little.
We only have power and authority over those things which are below us: our children, (at least until they grow up,) our employees or trainees and those below us in the pecking order at work, dogs, cats, and animals (as God gives us dominion over them at creation), other inanimate objects (we can decide what we wear each day and maybe what or how much we eat), but that is about it.
We don’t really have power and authority over the earth, certainly not the weather, otherwise temperatures this week would have been drastically different. And we might have authority over certain people, but certainly not control, especially not over children. Really, we only have limited control over ourselves. We don’t chose when we do and do not get sick or have a fever or how high that fever gets.
We even have limited control and will-power over our actions and we find ourselves over-eating or eating things we shouldn’t because they taste good. And so we do things that we know we shouldn’t because we think they will make us happy. We really don’t want to sin. We don’t want to covet, but we still think it would be nice to have just a little more. We don’t want to lie or bend the truth, but maybe we bend the truth for self-preservation, so we don’t get in trouble. We don’t want to get angry with other people, but I can only tolerate so much, my patience only goes so far. I don’t want to yell at my mother and dishonor her, but how many times is she going to do that thing that I hate that really gets on my nerves.
And I immediately regret it. I get bloated when I over-eat. I give thanks for the things I have. I come clean and tell the truth. I apologize for yelling and getting angry, but I can’t help it. I do the very thing I hate because I have no control.
I have no control over myself and my sin, and I certainly have no control over death. We can’t decide who lives and who dies. We don’t get to choose when a person passes away or how it happens. That is out of our control. And we have no control over the devil. We can’t limit his power and the temptations he puts before us. We don’t get to tell him that he can only go this far and no farther. We cannot keep him from leading us into false belief and other great shame and vice. And we have no power and authority over hell and who is condemned and who is saved. We are not in control.
But Jesus is a different story. Jesus has no great mentor or teacher, but he comes preaching and teaching as one with authority. He doesn’t quote Moses or the Prophets, calling on their authority and the authority of the Torah. He is the authority. He is the Word. He is the Scriptures and all the Scriptures testify to Him. He doesn’t forgive in the stead or by the command of someone else, but He does it because of who He is.
He rebukes the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law and it immediately goes away. He is the one who lays hands on the sick and diseased and heals them. He is the one who rebukes the demons and commands them to leave and they obey. He even is the one who those very same demons confess to be “the Holy One of God,” and “the Son of God.”
He is the one who has power and authority over sin, death, hell, and the devil. He is the one who lets Himself be nailed to the cross to die. He is the one who descends into hell not out of obedience to hell, but in order to proclaim His victory and show that hell itself cannot hold Him. He is the one who rises from the dead, overcomes all the power of sin, death, hell, and the devil, and proclaims His victory on earth for forty days before ascending into heaven to sit on His throne of victory and power at the right hand of God.
And He is the one who comes to you today. He is the one whose word you hear that forgives you all of your sins. It is His body and His blood which is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins for you to eat and drink and be in communion with Him. He is the King of glory, the everlasting Son, who upholds earth and heaven, who is with you. He is the one who fights for you and with you throughout all your days and burdens, through every sickness, disease, and assault of the devil. He is the one who has claimed you as His own so that even though you have no power over your sin, death, and eternal fate, He commands them on your behalf. He wipes away your sin with His blood. He dies your death that it may not hurt you. He rises from the dead to give eternal life to you and all believers, and there is no one with greater power or authority to say otherwise. It is by Christ’s authority, all authority in heaven and on earth, and by His power, and by His work that you are saved. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.