Sermon for Epiphany 4 – January 31, 2021

+ 4th Sunday after the Epiphany – January 31, 2021 +

Series B: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 8; Mark 1:21-28

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

 

“Onward, Christian Soldiers”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are at war. Not political, germ, or cyber warfare. As St. Paul writes, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age. It is a war of words and a war of worlds. A war of God’s Word of truth versus the lies of Satan. A cosmic battle between good and evil.

 

From the outset of Mark’s Gospel, this battle ensues. Jesus is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, where He overcomes the devil in the opening salvo.

 

And again, several verses later in Mark 1, Jesus is in Capernaum. In the synagogue. On the Sabbath day. Teaching with authority. The authority that is his from all eternity now revealed in his word and teaching and in casting out an unclean, evil spirit.

 

This synagogue in Capernaum quickly becomes a battleground. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit.

 

Knowing who is present in this synagogue, the unclean spirit dares to speak. He cried out,  saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

 

Up until this point, the people hearing Jesus’ teaching have been amazed at his authority. Now, as the demon speaks, they find themselves on the front lines of a cosmic battle. It is a battle of words and of worlds. And at first it appears that the unclean spirit has the upper hand. A man is possessed. The unclean spirit speaks. Demanding Jesus leave him. Making a claim that this man and this synagogue belonged to the unclean spirits.

 

So it seems for us in this world too, doesn’t it. So often we witness great evil in the world and see the wickedness of men; we see our own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and it sure looks like the darkness is too deep. The enemy is too strong. It’s tempting to think the devil has won. And if the battle were up to us, if we fought with our feeble strength and weapons, that would be true.

 

But for us fights the valiant one. No sooner had the unclean spirit spoken, than Jesus unsheathed the sword of his own authoritative word. Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”

 

Jesus is more than a man from Nazareth. More than a teacher with authority. He is the cosmic Christ. This is His synagogue. These are His people. His rule is over all things, visible and invisible. His power is without equal. He has come into this world to fight against Satan and to defeat him. He will set free all the people Satan claims as his own.

 

Jesus tells the demon to “shut up and come out of him.” And he does. He doesn’t want unclean spirits preaching who He is. Even though what they say about him is true, it is truth in service of the Lie. Jesus is the Holy One of God, this is true. But He knows and the devil knows that this can be used in all the wrong ways by people who want to exploit Jesus for their own purposes and power. Jesus is the Holy One of God come to die. He is the Holy One of God come to do battle with Death and Sin and devil. He is the Holy One of God who not only drives the demons from people but who casts out the devil from this world. And gives you his victory over sin and death and the devil.

 

And that is good news for us who find ourselves daily entrenched in this battle. The devil is still alive and well today, a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He’s on a leash now and restrained, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t work great mischief. And the greatest mischief he can work is unbelief, doubt, despair. He’s the one who says, “I know who you are, and you can’t possibly be a Christian. I know who the Holy One of God is and you’re definitely not holy.”

 

That’s the devil’s best work. He’s in the doubt business. He’ll use anything to create doubt – your reason, your conscience, sickness, adversity, evil. He’s like the kid who subversively starts fights on the playground and then runs to the principle to report all the fighting that’s going on. He loves to play games with your conscience, your inner critic, reminding you of how much of a religious failure you are. And it’s all largely true, just as it was true that Jesus is the Holy One of God. But in the devil’s mouth, even the truth becomes a lie.

 

Yes, it’s true; we are sinners. God’s Law tells us this clearly, and so that we don’t miss it, the Law even magnifies our sin. But that doesn’t mean you’re not holy. The devil hates paradox, by the way, and loves to make you decide. Which is it? A or B? Are you a sinner or a saint? Are you a child of Adam or of God? Come on, one or the other, you can’t be both, that’s nonsense. That’s devil talk.

 

The good news is “one little word can fell him.” In this morning’s text, the word is “shut up.” I know you parents want your kids to be polite and not say that, but the devil doesn’t deserve politeness.

 

We are at war. And it’s a battle for your soul, your life, your faith. Christ has claimed you in Baptism, clothed you in the armor of God, and the devil hates that and will stop at nothing to drive you from Christ, keep you from His Word, get some distance between you and the Lord’s Supper, estrange you from the company of believers, isolate you in your feelings and guilt and shame. There is nothing more vulnerable to a wolf than an isolated, straying sheep.

 

The devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. “Resist him,” Peter says. He is resistible. How? “Standing firm in the faith.” Not resting on your words and work, but on the solid rock of Jesus’ word and work. Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. Jesus’ forgiveness in his body and blood for you. Jesus’ word of forgiveness.

 

“As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority, I forgive you all of your sins.”

This is God’s great “shut up” to the devil, to your troubled conscience, to the Law that condemns you rightly for your sins. That is why we come to this place – an outpost of heaven on earth; a haven and a safe harbor in this war – to hear God’s Word, pray, praise, give thanks, and eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood.

 

And the next time you are troubled by the devil, by the world, by your own conscience and you begin to doubt your holiness in Christ, you just tell them all to shut up in the name of Jesus and go away.

 

Jesus Christ is Lord, the Holy One of God, and He says you are forgiven and holy and justified. That’s a Word you can count on. That’s a Word you can die with. That’s a Word with authority.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977
E-mail
staff@mybslc.com