“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!”  Luke 4:36; Epiphany 4; Feb. 3, 2019

Grace…(Praise God for National Lutheran Schools Week!)

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office.  One day after a busy morning of chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue.  It was late afternoon, and Herter was famished.  As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken.  She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”  “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I’m starved,” the governor said.  “Sorry,” the woman said again.  “Only one to a customer.”

Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.  “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”  “Do you know who I am?” the woman said.  “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken.  Now, move along mister.”  (She had the real authority.  She was in charge of the food. J”)

Authority…This past week we needed to listen to our authorities.  The weather reporter was one such authority, as we were often told, “Stay indoors and off the roads unless it’s absolutely necessary.”  Our principals and superintendents were authorities as they said, “No school today, again and again and again. J”  Our governor declared a state of emergency, and even sent out a notice on Wednesday night to turn your thermostats down to conserve gas.”

Authority is on our mind today because the Gospel of Luke tells us of a time early on in Jesus’ ministry that He went into the synagogue in Capernaum and He began to teach.  As Jesus taught, it became very clear to those at the synagogue that they were in the presence of an amazing teacher, not just one of the teachers of the law, but a real ultimate authority.  He was amazing!  No one else taught like Him.  He wasn’t just teaching them like the scribes of the day.  Jesus spoke with true authority and conviction.

So, today, I would like to ask the questions to all of you.  What made Jesus teaching so amazing and full of authority?  And is Jesus’ teaching still amazing and full of authority today?  Why or why not?

First, it is said that at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the teachers of the law and the scribes normally taught about God, by quoting human experts.  For example, the pattern of worship in the synagogue was to read from God’s holy Word, the Law and the Prophets, which is the Old Testament of our day.  Then the teacher of the Law would read from what was called the “Mishnah” or ways the rabbis believed you could keep the Law and then also readings from the Talmud which were reflections on both the Law and the Mishnah from rabbis of the past.  What I am getting at, is the teachers of the Law, were often only quoting what rabbis or teachers from the past were saying about the way one can keep the Law.  It would be like a person who hears about a situation or problem in life, and can only quote from a resource manual, instead of talking to someone who truly understands the situation, and can bring true help.

Jesus taught with a message directly from God.  It wasn’t from the Mishnah or Talmud or books from other human writings.  He didn’t need them.  His teaching was directly from God.  Remember Jesus first sermon in His hometown of Nazareth, where He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”  Then He said, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” The time had come!  The Kingdom of God was present, Jesus,  God Himself, was present with them.  He spoke with this authority, because God had come to save His people.

Even the demons recognized Jesus and they trembled.  Luke tells us that in this synagogue there was a man “who had a spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in 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!” The demon knew the authority of Jesus, and they knew what He could do.  However, this horrible, unclean spirit had afflicted this man in the past was now over.  The time had come.  The man was made clean.  The demon was silenced and cast away, because Jesus, the amazing authority of God was here.

The demons recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God, but the people didn’t get it.   In truth, for much of Jesus’ ministry the people’s eyes were still blinded by sin.  They didn’t understand who He was.  They didn’t understand that He had come to address sin head on and destroy the works of the devil.  All of the teaching, the healings, and the miracles were done so that sin and its effects would be overturned.  Yet Jesus knew that it would take one final offering to overturn the works of the devil.  That offering was Himself.  He submitted to all of the rejection, the betrayal and denial by His own disciples.  He was mocked.  He was spit upon.  He was whipped all for us.  He was sent to the cross, until His lifeless body hung for us.  All of this was done so that the works of the devil would be overturned. 

Then on the third day. Jesus rose again to announce the victory, for all who believe in Him. In His resurrection from the dead, sin, death, and the devil have all been defeated.   He had risen, just as He said He would.  And He’s given that victory to us!

So, now I ask, “Is Jesus teaching still amazing and full of authority for us today?” Yes it is, but sad to say, sometimes we don’t treat it that way.   Sometimes His teaching, sad to say, is treated the same way that the demon did.  We know who He is, but we don’t believe in Him.  That’s what the demon did!  And there are times when we do the same.  We know that Jesus is the Holy One of God, but we don’t believe His Word.  He says, “Ask and it will be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened.”  And we don’t even go to Him in prayer, in good times or in times of trial.  He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  And we turn to other things, to cure our sorrows.  And He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  And yet we listen to the ways of the world, instead of what Jesus has to say. Dear Lord forgive us!

Jesus Word has full authority still today, just as it had back then.  And He gives us the privilege of sharing it.  Just before He ascended into heaven He commissioned His disciples saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age. “ Today that authority has been passed on to His church, that means believers like you and me who put our trust in Him.  We are given the privilege of making disciples of all nations.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we have Lutheran Schools like West Shore Lutheran School, to stand in the authority of Jesus, and to make disciples.  This year our theme is “Real Present God.”  It’s based on Psalm 46, and it is a reminder that our God is real—He understands our issues and troubles.  He’s not just distant and far off.  He is present with us in our lives.  In His Word and sacraments.   This is a great comfort for all of our children, and families, and we praise God for the blessing of Lutheran schools.

And this ultimate authority of Jesus is true for all of us as well.  Because everywhere we go, by virtue of our baptism, we carry the name of Christ and His authority.  For although sin, death, and the devil have been defeated, they are still here, raising their cruel heads every day.  When real problems come up, like arguments in marriage, or troubles with raising a family, we can be assured that our Real Present God has authority over them.  Rather than just reacting out of anger, let’s take these problems to the Lord and trust that He will bring good out of this situation as well.   He has the ultimate authority over it!   Let’s trust Him at His Word!

God grant it…