Sunday, February 3, 2013

Epiphany 4, Series C

Sermon on Luke 4:31-44
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 3, 2013 (Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, casting out a demon, and healing many other people, including more demon-possessed people.  These are great and impressive miracles, of course.  Casting out demons, and healing people simply by speaking the Word is certainly not something you see every day.  It is a testimony to just Who Jesus is, that He can do this.  He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, including the ones which prophesied that the Messiah would make the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.  It’s no accident, of course, that today’s text comes right after the account of Jesus’ reading of that passage from Isaiah in Nazareth which we heard about in last week’s Gospel.

But there’s more to it than just the fact that Jesus is doing miracles.  Remember why it is that people get sick in the first place, and why it is that demons can possess people at all.  The creation itself has been fundamentally corrupted by the sin of its inhabitants.  All disease, hunger, thirst, injury, disaster, and, yes, even demon-possession, are symptoms of the fact that mankind, the crown of creation, is now subject to death, and therefore creation itself is subject to futility, instability, and breakdown.  Jesus’ mother-in-law’s fever, and the possession of various people by fallen angels, are things that are only symptoms of the basic disease of sin that was brought into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

And so, Jesus’ ability to heal people and drive out demons is more than just merely a miraculous demonstration of the fact that He’s God.  It’s more than just a rather dramatic way of proving His claim to be the promised Messiah.  It is, in fact, part and parcel of what He came to do.  He came to put to death the old creation in His own body, and raise up for us a new creation, in which we, cleansed and purified of sin and all its effects, will live forever.  He came, not just to do away with the effects of sin temporarily for a few people back in first-century Palestine, but to do away with sin itself, forever, and restore the creation to what it was originally intended to be.

Now, St. Luke actually hints at this in his choice of words to describe what Jesus does for Peter’s mother-in-law.  He says that the fever left her.  The verb that is translated “left,” as in “the fever left her,” is actually the same word that is translated “forgive” when the object of the verb is sin.  Fevers, and other forms of illness and injury, are only in the world because of sin, since the wages of sin is death, and these are reminders and precursors of the death that comes to all sinners.  And so, forgiveness and healing go together.  Because we have the forgiveness of sins now, we will have perfect healing when Christ comes again to raise us up and undo the death that is only in the world because of sin.

It’s also not surprising that demon-possession is also healed by this Jesus who comes into the world to forgive sins.  We see an exorcism every time there is a baptism.  Holy Baptism is actually a casting out of the chief demon himself, Satan, in order to make room for the Holy Spirit.  The same thing is true of Holy Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, and the Holy Supper.  That which is corrupted, and desecrated by sin is destroyed to make way for the new creation that God will resurrect to live before Him in righteousness and purity forever.

And I’m not just speaking of purely spiritual things, either.  Peter’s mother-in-law eventually died.  So did everyone else that Jesus healed during His earthly ministry.  But when Jesus forgives us and raises us up, He raises us up not just spiritually, but physically as well.  He makes us part of the new creation, the new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  Peter’s mother-in-law, we can assume, was a believer, and so even though she died, yet she lives.  Even though Peter himself was crucified upside down under Roman persecution, he lives in eternity.  You and I also, because our sin has been forgiven, are also raised up.  We will live forever, not just spiritually, but also bodily.  When Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead, we will be raised up from the dead to live forever with Him in the new creation.  Compared to this, the miracles recorded in our text are actually not all that spectacular.  They are merely dim foreshadows of the greater miracle that happens here every Sunday, where your sins are forgiven and you are raised up to eternity.  You become part of the new creation when you eat and drink the first-fruits of that new creation, namely the risen body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Instead of being granted temporary healing, we receive here a new and eternal life where neither sickness nor demons will ever come near us again.  You are forgiven.  You are raised up.  You will live forever with your Creator.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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