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Epiphany 4 2024
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 28, 2024
Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28


Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


It is just another Sabbath day in Capernaum, a busy little city of about 1,000 on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  There is a bridge in Capernaum over the Jordan River where they tax anyone traveling from the territory of Herod Philip to the area of Herod Antipas and vice versa. Today, for the Jewish population, it is the Sabbath and all the Jews gather at the Synagogue in the center of town. The men sit in the main lower level and the women and children are up in the balcony area.  The men and women each talk amongst themselves and the children play underfoot as everyone waits for Sabbath services to begin.  It seems like just another ordinary Saturday, just like the Saturday before, and the Saturday before that.

It is an ordinary Sabbath except that there is a new visitor in town.  Lots of visitors pass through Capernaum, but this guy is different.  His name is Jesus and He is from Nazareth but he has come up from the area of the Jordan River north of the Dead Sea where the wilderness preacher John was baptizing people before he was arrested by Herod Antipas.  This Jesus is apparently starting some sort of movement and has recruited some of the local fishermen, but no one is really sure of who He is or what He is up to. 

            On Saturday, Jesus, and His fishermen followers, enter the Capernaum Synagogue and Jesus walks to the center, to the scroll stand, unrolls the scroll and starts to teach.  Who does this guy think He is to just waltz into the synagogue and start to teach?  Apparently He does not know His place. But then He starts to teach and the people are listening and mouths drop open in astonishment.  His guy does know His place.  He is not like the regular rabbis.  This Jesus is a great teacher and He teaches with authority.  It is like He is the author of the text and knows it inside and out. This Jesus is really causing some kind of buzz. 

            And then all hell breaks loose; literally.  While this Jesus of Nazareth is teaching and the people are silently listening in astonishment, suddenly a man cries out, Mark 1:24 (ESV) 24 “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.”  The man has a demon and the demon identifies Jesus of Nazareth.  What a bizarre scene. 

            The teacher stops teaching and rebukes the demon, Mark 1:25 (ESV) 25 …“Be silent, and come out of him!”  Who does this guy think He is?  He is yelling at a demon that possesses a man.  Who has authority over a demon?

            But then the unclean spirit obeys Jesus’ command and comes out of the man.  Mark 1:27 (ESV)  27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  

            Jesus and his four fishermen followers exit the synagogue and head south toward the sea.  The people left behind are stunned.  You’ve got to think that there are a lot of mouths hanging open in amazement at what they just experienced.  Could it be true?  Could this Jesus, who teaches with authority, and commands demons, really be the Holy One of God?  It is an astonishing morning at the synagogue in Capernaum.  The people are astonished and they do not really know who Jesus is. 

            Today is a regular Sunday here at Immanuel.  You got up this morning, brushed your teeth, had your coffee, got everyone ready and came to church.  Most everyone is sitting in about the same places they sat last week.  It is just another Sunday at Immanuel.  Nothing too special. 

            But what if we had a visitor?  What if a new teacher was here to teach with authority?  What if Jesus Himself would come into our midst to be here with us in this place on this ordinary Sunday morning?  That would be astonishing; Jesus arriving with authority.

            Now, we do not have Jesus here in the flesh, but He is still here with His authority.  Jesus gave authority to forgive sins to the Church through the apostles.  On the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection He appeared to the disciples and commissioned them, John 20:21–23 (ESV) 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 

            Jesus’ Church has the authority to forgive and retain sins and here, at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Hamilton, Ohio, you have called me to be your pastor and to announce Jesus’ forgiveness to you as the one you have called to act for the Church under Christ’s authority.  By Jesus’ authority your sins are forgiven.  

            And then, remarkably, the Lord God speaks to you in His Word.  “This is the Word of the Lord,” and you respond, “thanks be to God.”  Now, you can get kind of used to hearing God’s word, and familiarity may reduce your amazement, but it is truly astonishing that God speaks to you through His authoritative Word.  Thanks be to God!

            And then comes the reading of the Holy Gospel and you hear Jesus’ own Words in your own language and you begin by declaring, “Glory to You, O Lord.”  Afterwards you exclaim, “Praise to You, O Christ.”

            Pondering how astonishing it is that God is speaking to you, respond with astonishment in your voice, thanks be to God!  God is speaking to you, with authority, at this ordinary Sunday gathering.  All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus and He gives us His Word and tells us to make disciples; baptizing and teaching.  At this weekly gathering of the baptized, recognize the astonishing authority of God’s Word.  Praise to you, O Christ!

            Jesus astonishingly transforms the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper and declares that this bread is His Body and this cup is His Blood for the forgiveness of sins, and commands, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  It does not make sense but Jesus says that it is true and so it is true.  

            Unlike that Sabbath in Capernaum, Jesus did not, this morning, walk in here in His body that ascended into heaven, but He is here.  He sends His authorized representative to forgive your sins.  He gives you His divine Word.  He gives you His Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and wine.  He dwells in your heart, and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is astonishing.

By rejecting Jesus’ authority as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, they reject His baptism, they reject His declaration of forgiveness, and they reject forgiveness offered in the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion. 

            Jesus is astonishing, but so many are unimpressed.  There are so many who reject Jesus’ authority and His teaching because they want to control Jesus’ narrative.  They want to pick and choose what they take from Jesus and what they reject.  They are not astonished at Jesus’ teaching; instead they are offended by Jesus’ words and substitute their own ideas.  Just like what is taught in Jude 8 (ESV) 8 … these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.” 

            By rejecting Jesus’ authority as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, they reject His baptism, they reject His declaration of forgiveness, and they reject forgiveness offered in the Body and Blood of Jesus in Communion. 

            Repent of the times you have rejected Jesus’ authority, and the times you did not marvel at His authoritative teaching.  Ponder how amazing it is that Jesus comes to you to deliver the forgiveness of sins earned for you on the cross of Calvary, and eternal life won for you at His resurrection.  And when you hear, “This is the Word of the Lord,” respond in astonishment, “Thanks be to God!”  Amen.