Sermon for Epiphany 4
January 29, 2012
By Rev. Timothy H. Buelow
Theme: “The Blessings of Discipleship”
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to
teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Dear Friends in Christ, Two weeks ago we witnessed how Jesus called Philip to follow Him as His disciple. Philip, in turn,
invited Nathanael to meet Jesus and Jesus called Him too. Some months later Jesus went to four of the men He had met before—Peter, Andrew, and James and John—and called them into full time training as Fishers of Men. The longer these men followed Jesus, the more they saw revealed of just Who He really is.
Others also heard Him preach and witnessed the outstanding things He did. One such group was the
congregation gathered one Sabbath in the synagogue in Capernaum. They were amazed at His teaching
and then astounded by a miracle. Those two things ought to amaze and astound us, too. But better than
that, as we have been blessed to become Jesus’ disciples, we realize that what Jesus can do, He can and
wants to do for us. Let’s focus on these two special Blessings of Discipleship
revealed in our text. We
have 1. Security in Our Savior’s Power
and 2. Strength From His Word
All of us feel the need for security, especially in our insecure world. We feel safer with security
lighting and locks at our homes. We feel more secure when we have good insurance policies and when our employer is on sound financial footing. We feel more secure when we have friends who’ve “got our backs.” They say gun sales have ticked up considerably in recent years.
What about flu shots and the pneumonia vaccine? Did you get chicken pox as a kid? I guess they have
a shingles vaccine now for people like me who did. High Cholesterol? There’s Zocor and Lipitor. Have you changed the batteries lately in your smoke alarms? Have you also got a carbon monoxide monitor in your home?
There’s more than enough to feel insecure about, isn’t there?! I hope we’re all aware that there’s a
connection between all of these things. There is genuine evil in our world and there is personal hatred behind them—the hatred of the devil. He hates everyone. He hates you. He wants to attack individuals like you and me. And he’s got a whole army of devils who work under him. One of those individual demons showed up in the Synagogue in Capernaum the day Jesus was there teaching.
Jesus knew the devil was real. He knew how he became what he is—how he rebelled against God in
the beginning, leading a whole following of angels in rebellion, and when cast out of heaven, how he vowed revenge, vowing to lead the whole world astray. That’s why Jesus himself called Satan “the Prince of this World” (John 12:31).
The devil, for his part, knew Jesus, too. He knew already from the first promise in Eden that one day,
Messiah would come to threaten his worldly domain. He wandered the earth wreaking havoc, always wondering when “He” would come and what “He” would be named. Until “He” did
unleashed his fury. He inspired more atrocious acts—like the murder of the innocent children in Bethlehem. He incited more hatred of the truth, like the Pharisees and Sadducees and even the Galileans who wanted to stone Jesus. He possessed more people physically, like the man in Capernaum, than at any time in history. Because like a lion backed into a corner, he knew his time was limited and that His enemy—our friend and Savior—Jesus was closing in on the goal of rescuing the world, and binding him for a thousand years.
Jesus put the devil on a chain. He bound him by sending out men into all the world to proclaim who he
really is, and to announce freedom to those held captive by him in the slavery of sin and death. As reported by John in Revelation 20 (vv.2,3) “Jesus seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.”
As the Gospel gets more contaminated in our country, as people turn their backs on the church, as they
refuse to teach their children the Bible, as they more and more run after entertainment and scoff at repentance and forgiveness we see the devil’s leash getting longer, his bark getting worse and his bite getting closer.
We see his tenacity, his hatred, his total bent on murdering the souls and bodies of people, by the
possession of the man in our text. Even when commanded by one more powerful than he to come out, he did not go willingly and easily. (v.26) The devil never goes willingly.
Yet as wicked and powerful as he was and still is, the devil and all his intimidating evil has met his
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want
with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”
The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so
amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Mark, who wrote this Gospel specifically for the Romans, never failed to record an incident in which
Jesus shows his absolute power and authority, something Romans could appreciate. That’s one characteristic we Americans share with the ancient Romans. Next time you feel insecure and powerless, just keep this in mind: The devil is
behind all evil in this world. But your Savior Jesus could command the demon in our text to come out and he had to obey, immediately. Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God is at your side, and “He will give his angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their arms lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91). There is nothing, no disaster that will come near you without His express permission, and then, only for your good. No chance accident, no unexpected evil can harm you with Jesus as your friend.
We see the ultimate power of Christ over Satan in what happened on the cross. There, despite all
Satan’s plans and schemes to the contrary, Jesus won the ultimate victory over our dreaded enemy. Satan’s ultimate weapon—death—was knocked out of his hands, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). Satan lost.
While we remain on this earth, chained though he is like a pit bull, Satan is still able to cause all sorts
of crud in our world. Those are the droppings of Satan in his pen. It stinks, and it intimidates.
But Jesus is stronger. Through the preaching of the Gospel Jesus reels in Satan’s leash. “This world’s
prince may still, scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he’s judged the deed is done. One little
word can fell him.”
But not just any word . the Word of Jesus.
That same word that expelled the demon had quite an effect on the people listening to Jesus at the
The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the
Jesus always went to synagogue. The Word of God incarnate went to listen to the Word of God in
Scripture. Now that Jesus had begun his public ministry, he also took the opportunity to teach there. Jesus would have read from the prophetic Old Testament scroll from the front in Hebrew, then he would have translated it into the more modern Aramaic that the people understood and spoke. Then he began to expound on what he had read. Everyone was looking at Him intently, listening to every word.
And their reaction as he preached? Utter amazement—they were literally “struck out of themselves.”
Why? Because Jesus spoke the truth, unlike so many of their scribes and teachers. The contrast was obvious.
Jesus actually cared about these people, cared enough to be honest with them. He loved them as only
God could. Their “teachers” may have pretended to care, but they demonstrated the hatred in their hearts throughout Jesus’ ministry by confronting Him, arguing with Him, and secretly plotting to get rid of Him and His followers.
Jesus preached about what really mattered—life, death and eternity, while the scribes were used to
wasting their time and their people’s time on peripheral piffle.
Finally, our text says Jesus “spoke with authority.” That means, these words which he preached came
directly from God the Father, just as the Holy Scriptures do. Whereas the scribes were often quoting from each other’s sayings and writings like the humanists and scientists of today do, Jesus preached the inspired and eternal Word of God. What a difference that made. It churned the stomachs of the listeners as only truth can. It stirred them up and amazed them.
Who is He that spoke that day and still speaks to us in His Word today? Well the demon himself
answered that question when he said “I know who you are—The Holy One of God.” He is the Son of God and the Messiah, the sinless one who was consecrated—set apart for a special purpose; the salvation of mankind and the revealing of the truth.
James said “even the demons” recognize that there is a God, and the thought makes them “tremble” as
did the demon in Capernaum that day. How should we
react to God’s Word? Bow before it and listen. He speaks with authority to us too. When He speaks, He directs our attention to the most important things. The Bible doesn’t contain what worldlings might consider the most important: 10 Steps to Wealth and the 7 Secrets of a Better You Tomorrow. The Bible tells us to look above and beyond this life.
The Word tells us Who Jesus is, and how He has redeemed us from our sin. God’s Word gives us the
promise that not even the devil and his demons can harm us. God’s Word gives us the courage to live through whatever may fall in our path. The Word gives us the strength to live in the certainty that only comes from knowing we are citizens of heaven because Christ is more powerful than our worst enemy. In His Word, Jesus Himself assures us: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Jesus has called us as His disciples. He has made us His through the adoption of baptism. He has
nurtured faith in our hearts through His Word. He’s called us to follow Him, to listen to Him and to bear
witness to Him. But above all, he has given us the Blessings of Discipleship
: Security in His Power
and Strength in His Word
to face the world we are passing through. Rejoice and be confident in Him! Amen.
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