Sermon - 9/16/18
2018.09.18 22:27:08

PROPER 19/B (2018): Isa. 50:4-10; Jas. 3:1-12; Mk. 9:14-29


Mute,            [Jesus] rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of [the child] and never enter him again.”  And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (vv. 25b-27). 


Today we have another resurrection miracle as Jesus leads, both Jew and Gentiles, to a new exodus in the new creation coming into being. Jesus and his disciples are still in the Gentile territory of the Decapolis, literally “the ten cities”. 


Jesus has just descended the Mt. of Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John previewed his resurrection glory in the presence Moses, and Elijah, the latter as harbinger of Jesus’ coming Passion.


Jesus and his disciples were about to leave off their Gentile mission, continuing the new exodus, ultimately to the place of Jesus’ glory on the cross. But before they could be on their way Jesus is once again confronted by a demonic challenge to his messianic bona fides. 


Today’s exorcism of the Gentile boy connects us with last Sunday’s healing of the Gentile deaf-mute man whom Jesus restored to wholeness in hearing for understanding and an unstuck tongue to speak God’s praise.


That healing was the final miracle for our “understanding the loaves” (Mk. 6:52), taught between feeding 5,000 men in Jewish Galilee and 4,000 mostly Gentiles in the Decapolis.


As regards apostolic “understanding about the loaves” their hardness of heart (v. 52) still prevented them from being on board (v. 51) the universal exodus and training into their servant office. 


Jesus’ Apostles actively opposed him at both wilderness feedings that consisted of ethnically mixed tables. About the 5,000 they told Jesus, “send them away” (6:36); of the 4,000 Gentiles the Apostles grumbled, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mk. 8:4). 


If today you referred to an ethnic group as “these people”, offense would instantly attach as racial slur.  The Apostles intended their remark precisely in that way.  In their mind they were “unreasonably” expected to serve Gentile, unclean “dogs”; whom Jesus had previously declared clean (7:27) by exorcising the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman. 


Now Jesus must teach his church, without a full comprehension of the loaves to an understanding about another divine necessity, his Passion. Before ascending the Mt. of Transfiguration, “[Jesus] began to teach [his Apostles] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31). 


At this, Jesus received blowback from his Apostles and stern rebuke from Peter. Jesus condemned their satanic response (vv. 32, 33).  Next Sunday Jesus will announce his Passion, a second time.  Well, “once burnt, twice shy”; this time the disciples’ will be less aggressive as Mark reports, “they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him” (9:32).  Between Jesus’ two Passion predictions we now arrive at today’s exorcism. 


In calling his new Covenant church into existence it was clear that this new people would consist in catholic character; no longer grounded in the ethnic DNA from Abraham’s physical seed. The church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles equally possess righteousness begotten, not of Jewish seed, but of the same faith gifted to Abraham.  The church consists of a people defined, not by the spilt blood of circumcision (Ex. 4:25); but through Baptism into the blood of Jesus, rejected and crucified. 


The wilderness feedings portended a new ethical character of unity in a common feeding on the way to heaven’s Promised Land. But Jesus’ disciples still neither understood about the “loaves” nor his predicted “Passion”, both of which are of a piece, two sides of the same coin.


And this is where we find ourselves, without understanding, at the foot of the Mt. of Transfiguration, observing apostolic impotence and confusion at their inability to exorcise a taunting demon. Jesus laments, of his Apostles and all of us, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me?” (Mk. 9:19). 


Understanding spiritual matters comes by teaching and hearing the word of God. I preach and teach; you hear.  If I teach something less than law and pure gospel, St. James warns of a greater judgment (3:1). 


Jesus is God’s true Teacher of his word, because unlike his hardhearted Apostles and us, Jesus is God’s obedient Listener given a tongue for the weary (Isa. 50:4, 5).  


Unlike the tongues of sinful men, “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8), Jesus is God’s faithful Suffering Servant, ordained in place of “faithless Israel”.  OT Israel had become no better than deaf-mutes.  The Jews hypocritically belittled Gentiles as “dogs” and the Apostles thought themselves superior to “these people”; but there is now no longer any difference.  


The point of the Loaves and the Passion is Baptism. In Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female” (Gal. 3:28).  Before God, apart from Christ, all are equally guilty; failure in one point of the law makes us accountable for it all (Jas. 2:10). 


Sinful man, baptized into the Suffering Servant Office of Christ is homogenized into one Loaf and one salvation. Abraham’s ethnic DNA no longer holds sway in God’s election.  There is only our status as the Baptized, imparted by the HS from the Seed of God’s word for faith. 


By Baptism we are ordained to be “NT people” who understand “the Loaves and the Passion” for us. These things neither scandalize us nor cause us to object to prayerful service for “people” we formerly held in contempt.  Our unity partakes the single Loaf that is Jesus’ flesh and blood crucified for the many.


Ancient Israel had become weary; they thought God had abandoned them to a well-earned travail. So also Christians, NT Israel, become weary from interminable attacks, from Satan, the world, and by our weak and corrupt flesh.  The demoniac’s father confesses repentant faith, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24b). 


When the Apostles privately inquired of Jesus, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” he responded, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (vv. 28, 29).  Again this is a rebuke against their hardheartedness.  Their prayer on behalf of the Gentile “dog” suggested rebellion against God’s catholic salvation in Christ. 


After the feeding of 5,000, Jesus came to his Apostles walking over the chaotic sea and resurrected himself into the boat; still for heartlessness they did not understand, refusing to listen about the divine necessities: the Loaves and the Passion.


On the Mt. of Transfiguration God spoke of the glorified Jesus to Peter, James, and John, saying, “Listen to him” (9:7).  Apart from Christ, our prayers always oppose God’s salvation.  Apart from Christ, we are incapable of comprehending the Loaves or the Passion. Thus godly and effective prayer is necessarily associated with the community’s Eucharistic Altar.  We in the new exodus are called to understand the “Loaves and the Passion”.


Last Sunday I preached we are not “prayer-warriors” as some think; rather we are “warrior-priests” privileged to offer Eucharistic prayer through Jesus, our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, who had imparted to Abram heaven’s blessed bread and wine (Gen. 14:18, 19).


In the end there is this: the teaching, the prayer, and the fellowship that comprehends the Loaves and the Passion (Acts 2:42) all of which associate us in Baptism’s necessity of Jesus’ sacrificial suffering, death and resurrection.


With Jesus, God’s perfect Listener; you are invited Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day into the incarnate Word, for understanding and being lifted out of your weariness.  By his Word we recognize that Baptism joins us to a fellowship, a repentant suffering on account of sin. 


We Eucharistically participate in the crucified flesh of Jesus’ passion for forgiveness; and in Eucharistic prayer we approach our Father at the Altar of our feeding to participate in remaking the world in his image and after the likeness of his Son. Amen.





Answer this post


  Enter text shown in left:

© 2018 Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community