Sermon - 1/28/18
2018.01.31 23:57:03

EPIPHANY 4/B (2018): Deut. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mk. 1:21-28  


Knowledge,           [W]e know that “all of us possess knowledge.”  This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God (vv. 1-3). 


In the case of the Corinthians, to whom St. Paul writes, the particular knowledge concerned Christian freedom in eating food sacrificed to idols without regard to its effect on brothers and sisters new in the faith.


Paul is merely stating as previously, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12).  In fact, thoughtless exercise of our freedom, if it causes scandal to less “knowledgeable” consciences may be sin for failure to love.  


Christians are in the Way, which implies that we are called to grow in both the church’s confessed faith and in our faith relation in Christ. Christians are called to never-ending growth in knowing our eternal Father in Christ (Jn. 17:3). 


If for love’s sake we accommodate the weaknesses of immature Christians when exercising our liberty; we are not free to perpetuate on-going ignorance or error. These we must challenge for the sake of Truth. 


Martin Luther was presented with a laundry list of error on the part of Roman, Reformed (Calvinists), and fanatical religious divines. The Lutheran Reformation took its stand against these for the church’s true knowledge of God revealed in Christ crucified and risen.  


In today’s Gospel Jesus comes for reformation to the synagogue at Capernaum for the sake of true knowledge of God. Israel, in these last days, was ready to advance in the faith of their fathers.  The synagogue invited Jesus to give a sermonic comment at the conclusion of the Sabbath’s Scripture Readings. 


While Jesus’ teaching is not specified, we assume it to be of God’s graciousness and man’s comfort in his presence. St. Mark records only the congregation’s reaction to Jesus’ words; they found them astonishingly distinct from that taught by “knowledgeable” scribes, in both presentation and substance of message. 


The authority by which Jesus expounded the Scriptures must have brought to the congregation’s mind Moses prophecy from Deuteronomy, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—” (18:15). 


Soon enough, Jesus’ new teaching would bring violent reactions from those occupying the seat of Moses, the scribes, Pharisees, and High Priests; but first Jesus has provoked a truly horrible reaction from satanic realms. A man consumed and host of demons suddenly appeared in the congregation to attack Jesus’ departure from scribal precedents and tradition. 


It is opined that Satan is the most intelligent, enlightened, and knowledgeable of creatures; that, no doubt is true. It is also true that Satan desires that people remain ignorant of the one true God.  Programmatic to that end is Satan’s campaign against God by slander and half-truth, that is, by his anti-word. 


But in today’s Gospel God has raised-up Jesus, “One like Moses”, the only one to whom Israel must “listen”. In Jesus men obtain and experience true knowledge of God’s being, character, and ethic; and believing in this God alone we are remade to our authentic human identity, the image of our Creator God. 


Luther was taught by the church authorities of his day that Christ was a wrathful judge demanding what sinful men could never achieve for unity with God, perfect holiness. Until his epiphany from Scripture of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28) Luther feared and hated God whom he did not know.  But the revelation of Jesus crucified for the sin of the world is precisely the only place where the true God is made known. 


Like Luther, Israel trembled before the God taught by scribes and Pharisees. Israel sought God in Scripture but from their teachers they only “knew” a terrifying Holy God of law about whom the people said to Moses, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die” (Dt. 18:16b). 


The demon-consumed man of our Gospel suddenly appeared in the synagogue to exacerbate the congregation’s natural fear of sinful men hearing the voice of the Lord face-to-face. The demoniac asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” echoing the people’s own fears expressed to Moses.


One might inquire, just how is a demon spirit destroyed? From the facts of the case the demon was destroyed by its exorcism from the possessed man.  The demon, consumed humanity, not of its own nature, to corrupt its host and give expression in the world of its essential being of hatred toward God and men. 


Next the demon intended to enhance the fear already instilled into the congregation by declaring Jesus to be “the Holy One of God” (v. 24b).  In OT Scripture, it is Aaron, High Priest and brother of Moses who is titled, “the Holy One of the LORD” (Ps. 106:16).  But now this priestly title is on the lips of a demon to identify Jesus in his divinity face-to-face in the community of brothers. 


Holiness necessarily comes as a result of separation, of casting out that which is sinful and profane from the presence of a Holy God. While Jesus is indeed “the Holy One of God”, the implication intended from the demoniac was to increase the congregation’s fear built on legalistic traditions about God through the law as taught by scribes and Pharisees. 


But Jesus has come amongst his brothers for a new teaching of Torah’s meaning and intent; the plenary grant of forgiveness and holiness once and for all in the Voice of the One to whom men must listen. God’s plan for separating out our profanity and so being reunited in the holiness of God’s presence, comes by a new knowledge of God only finally delivered with the death and resurrection of his sacrificial Holy One . 


Devils are not permitted to dispense knowledge of heavenly things; they are wont to employ half-truth to advance their lie about God and his Christ. The apocalyptic spiritual battle between the kingdom of heaven vs. Satan’s rule in the world was now in full sway.  To the demoniac, Jesus issued a command, “phimotheti”, or “shut-up”, which according to Luther is the “one little word that fells [Satan]”  (“A Mighty Fortress is our God” s. 3).  


At Jesus’ word the demon is destroyed, forced to depart its human host; the profanity of satanic occupation was separated out of the restored man, portending Jesus’ High Priestly and gracious work of God on the cross for all men and our reunion with God in holiness.


Again from St. Paul, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Through the millennia, from the Fall into the darkness of sin, men have sought no higher value and purpose in the world than to advance in “knowledge” to attain ever increasing stages of enlightenment above and over other men.  We often accord such persons the honorific, “The smartest person in the room”. 


But with the advent of Christ and him crucified we are given to know and participate in God’s intended purpose for us from the beginning; to look, act, hear, and speak as him into whose image and likeness we have been remade, Jesus Christ, who by his High Priestly work on the cross is love (1 Jn. 4:8b).


If Satan would distort us to our destruction from an authentic human identity, consuming us in sin and rebellion; it is God, who is love in giving his Son’s crucified and risen body for our Eucharistic consumption, the author of Life and holiness with God in Christ, in the Way. Amen. 





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