The children have given us a marvelous lesson within a lesson this morning by presenting the Christmas story during the season of Epiphany.
The season of Christmas tells us that Jesus Christ is fully man, like us in every way, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones, born of a woman. And He is dwelling among us.
The season of Epiphany tells us that Jesus Christ is fully divine, unlike us in every way, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, unchangeable, almighty, just, good, merciful, gracious. He is God and God is love. And He is dwelling among us men and women.
The seasons of Christmas and Epiphany come as a package deal. One without the one the other will do you no good. We've got to have both to get the complete picture of Jesus. And only then are you ready to enter the season of Lent, which tells us that the fully human, fully divine God / Man, is crucified on the cross. You see, without Christmas or without Epiphany, His death on the cross is either not "for us men" or not "for our salvation."
Which, of course means, that you've got to have the season of Christmas and Epiphany and Lent before you're ready for Easter – which is one, big party.
So with that wonderful lesson that the children have given us regarding the humanity of Jesus Christ, let's crossover again into Epiphany and consider the divinity of Jesus Christ from the gospel text appointed for this 4th Sunday in Epiphany. The Gospel according to St. Luke, the 4th chapter, verses 31-44. We'll take this in three parts.
I. Luke 4:31-37
"And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word, possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, "Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!" And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region."
Last week, we heard that Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown. He went to church on the Sabbath day where there were lots of old familiar faces in the congregation. When He left Nazareth, He was a young man, a well-respected carpenter. When He returned to Nazareth, He was a "Rabbi," a teacher. Which means that when and where ever He went to church, He would be asked to read the scriptures and preach a sermon.
The text He chose was Isaiah 61. "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." And then He rolled up the scroll and sat down. And here comes the sermon. It's a short one, pay attention. "Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And Luke reports that they all thought it was a marvelous sermon. But that was just because they didn't realize at first that He was actually referring to Himself, suggesting that that He was the One whom Isaiah was talking about. Once they realized what He was really saying, they hated the sermon. Some people are just fine and dandy with the Christmas story. If Jesus wants to be a man and live among us men and women, that just fine. But they can't swallow the message of the season of Epiphany.
Now, I know that over the years, I've preached some pretty bad sermons, some real stinkers that you didn't like one bit. But thankfully, you've never been so furious that you've tried to throw me off the Interstate overpass. But the folks in Nazareth "were filled with wrath and they rose up and drove him out of the town," and tried to throw Him over a cliff.
So from Nazareth, Jesus heads over to Capernaum. He'll come back to Nazareth in time, but for now, they were just not ready to listen.
In Capernaum, He goes to church on the Sabbath day. And naturally, He's asked to teach. Once again, Jesus runs into trouble from the congregation. Only this time, the trouble comes, not from old friends and neighbors but from ancient enemies and mortal foes. There are demons present in this congregation and they're all hiding in one of the parishioners.
The demons have a real problem with Jesus' divinity too. "Have you come to destroy us?" And the answer is "yes!" First, He "rebukes" the demon. They interrupt Him. He's the teacher. They're not. They need to shut up. And then He tells them to get lost. ejxejlqe – "Come out!" And after making a real scene, they do what they're told and depart.
And the parishioners are amazed. This was not just preaching. This was preaching in action. This was not just talk but this talk had real substance to it. "His word possessed authority." His Word does what it says.
"He proclaimed liberty to the one held captive by demons." And what He did in the synagogue there He does in this synagogue here. He rebukes your sinful and demonic nature and commands the unclean spirits in you to come out. And His Word has authority. It does what it says. The old sinful nature in you is put to death every time it hears His Word of rebuke and it comes out of you.
But this is not His last Word to you. To you, Jesus speaks another word, not of rebuke but of grace. To you, He "proclaims the year of the Lord's favor." "I forgive you all of your sins." And His Word has authority. It does what it says. "Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
One more thing needs to be said here in praise of this congregation. Luke writes, "Reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region." They didn't keep a secret. They spread the word about Jesus. That's the way evangelism works. It doesn't need a program or a catchy slogan. Just tell others about Jesus. His Word has authority. "He rebuked the unclean spirits in me and they came out of me. By His Word, He filled me with His Holy Spirit. He set this captive free."
II. Luke 4:38-41
"And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. 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. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
From the Synagogue, Jesus went to Peter's house to make a house call on Peter's mother in law who had the flu. Once again, Jesus speaks His rebuke. "He rebuked the fever." And just as with the demons, so with the fever. "It left her." There's that authority again.
Peter's mother-in-law had no trouble with the divinity of Jesus. She was sick and in need of a physician and Jesus had come to her, just as He promised He would. "Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick" sure do. (Luke 5:31) So what does she do? She got up and prepared a meal for them to eat.
"Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" too. Jesus is as interested in your physical body as He is your spiritual soul. The root cause of all bodily illness and disease is sin. So, He rebukes the your sin and casts it out. And before you can get up and prepare a meal for Him, He's already got one ready for you to eat and drink. "This is my body." "This is my blood." Remember, His word has authority. It does what it says. So as you eat the bread, He gives you His own healthy body. As you drink the wine, He gives you His own precious blood.
After dinner, Jesus and the boys got up to leave. By this time, the sun had gone down which, by the way that the Jews kept time meant that the Sabbath day was officially over. People were free to travel again and travel they did. As Jesus opens the door of the house, he was met by a line of people a mile long waiting for Him to heal their body and cast out their demons. And one at time, He laid His hands on them and rebuked their fever, rebuked their demons. And they were healed and the captives were set free.
III. Luke 4:42-43
"And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose."
Small towns always have a hard time getting good doctors. A real good one had come to Capernaum and the people wanted Him to stay. But Jesus insisted that He had to move on. His mission and purpose in life was not just to heal and cleanse the people of Capernaum in the first century AD, but to disinfect the whole world of sin. Not just Capernaum but every nook and cranny on the planet. Not just for a particular point in time but for every moment and point in human history, past, present and future.
And this He would do. But not just by the power of His divinity, but also by the weakness of His humanity. Remember, Christmas and Epiphany are a package deal.
The people were amazed at His authority. But what that means is, they were amazed at His great preaching and miracles and power to cast out demons. They loved the season of Epiphany. But His authority to do these things leads Him to an even greater authority. Jesus said, "I have authority to lay down my life and I have authority to take it up again." (John 10:18). Apart from the season of Christmas, He could never have said this.
It's from the cross that Jesus preaches His best sermon. "Father, forgive them." And we are forgiven. From the cross, He bares all the fevers and diseases of the body in His body, and "by His stripes we are healed." (Is.53:5) From the cross, He rebukes Satan and all his disgusting germs and casts them all out by rising from the dead. Just as He said He would.
This is the Jesus whom the children confessed so beautifully this morning. This is the Jesus upon whom you've pinned all of your hope. Fully man, fully God, who, by His authority, laid down His life for us men and who, by His authority, took His life up again for our salvation.