The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

 

January 31, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 4:31-44

Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, meet with us this day according to your promise

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.  And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

 

  1. In our text Luke introduces us to some of the people Jesus came to save, the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised as Jesus described them (Vs. 18). We walk with our Lord on a typical day in His ministry as He is teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. The people were amazed at His authority over sickness and the devil. Who were these people? They are people enslaved by the power of sin and Satan. Christ was born to take away sins and destroy the works of the devil (I Jn. 3:5, 8). He is the healer of every evil that sin and the devil have brought into the world; He is the remedy for all the mischief which Satan has brought upon mankind. The devil is very real. He is our adversary, like a roaring lion walking about seeking whom He may devour (I Pet.5:8), and like a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, (Jn. 10:10) and a liar, murderer and deceiver that only Christ can overcome (Jn. 8:44; II Cor. 11:13-14). Man is born a slave to sin and Satan’s Kingdom. Sin entered into the world, and death by sin (Rom. 5:12). Sin is the ultimate cause of all sickness, disease, pain and suffering in the world. Sickness, disease, and suffering are part of the curse which came upon the world when Adam and Eve sinned. If our first parents had not disobeyed God and eaten of the forbidden fruit there would have been no sickness or death. When Adam sinned all of humanity and even Creation itself was condemned to suffer the consequences of curse.

 

  1. This week I was reading about the life of William Cowper. He was born in England in 1731 and suffered chronic depression his entire life often on the brink of insanity. Four times he and had to go stay at an insane asylum until he regained his right mind. He often found relief by reading and writing poetry. Cowper was a recluse who spent his entire life in the English countryside and it was while he was the asylum at St. Albans that he found a Bible on a bench in the garden and began reading it. As he read, he began to feel a ray of hope and then he came across the words of St. Paul in Romans: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Rom. 3:25). It was that verse that brought Cowper to faith in Christ but he still struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Later Cowper’s family moved to the town of Olney where John Newton, the former slave ship captain was pastor and they became close friends. Hoping to lift his spirits, Rev. Newton suggested they write a book of hymns together. He had already written Amazing Grace, one of 280 hymns in the Olney Hymn book and Cowper ended up writing 68 of them. It is often difficult for us to come to terms with Christians who struggle with chronic sickness and depression, yet many believers struggle with these things. It was during Cowper’s worst bouts of melancholy and despair that he wrote some his most memorable hymns.

 

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

With blessings on your head

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He shall make it plain.

TLH P. 514

William Cowper

 

I.

  1. Jesus came to save and comfort those suffering the results of sin. The redemption of Christ liberates man from the guilt and power of sin and one day creation itself will be set free from the bondage of sin, corruption, and death. Our Gospel lesson raises a question: Why do some people get sick and suffer while others do not? Many skeptics in the past have accused God of being unjust: How can God be loving when He allows pain? How can He be a God of mercy when He permits disease and suffering? These are questions no one can answer completely except to say that: God is too wise to be wrong; too kind to be cruel. In our Gospel we see Jesus going everywhere healing every kind of disease, even raising Lazarus from the dead who had died from sickness. Peter said at the home of Cornelius: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10:39). Christ has the power to heal any disease and provide any thing we need or want in this life. He has complete authority over the devil, sin, and sickness. When Christ speaks, things happen, the fever departs, the demon leaves, and the sick are healed. By healing the sick and casting out demons, Jesus was revealing what He had come to do for the world. All the people Jesus healed during His ministry later died, yet by healing them, Jesus showed us that sickness and death are not the end.

 

  1. What Christ would accomplish on the cross would one day bring ultimate and final healing for our souls and mortal bodies. For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:20-21). Physical sickness reminds us of the reality of death. If people were healthy until the day they died most would not be ready to meet the Lord. They would be like the rich fool in our Lord’s parable who said to himself: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Lu. 12:19-21). Sickness often forces us to consider the things of God and the needs of our soul. Man’s heart by nature is hard as a rock. What can awaken him to his need for Christ? A long illness often draws us to God for it humbles us, and reminds us of the brevity of life as James wrote: For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (Ja. 4:14). Sickness will reveal the quality of our faith. True religion is good and beneficial not only while we are healthy and sailing on smooth waters, but also during times of sickness when we are in the midst of a storm.

 

  1. Are we building our lives on the rock of God’s Word or on the sand of human thinking and experience? The true foundation of our faith and life will be revealed when the storms come. Every life will have storms at some point. Sickness and suffering show us our need of grace and help draw us back to Christ and the means of grace. If this happens, than sickness was a mercy from God. When Paul was suffering his Thorn in the Flesh, which most say was some kind of physical problem, he prayed three times for God to remove it. But the Lord said no. Then He revealed why He allowed him to suffer. He was preserving Paul from soul damning pride. God said to him: My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (II Cor. 12:9-10). O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom.11:33). Now we know in part, but a day is coming when we will know exactly what God was doing and what was the purpose for our suffering. Sickness reminds us to prepare to meet God and to walk with Him each day in true repentance and faith.
  2. Jesus invites us to pray and ask the Father for everything we need and want in this life. I would not leave this subject this morning without pointing you to Jesus the Great Physician. He has the power to heal any disease, to answer any petition, to calm any storm, and to provide any need you may have. He is our Great High Priest, our Mediator with the Father, our Intercessor whose perfect blood and righteousness have opened the way to God’s presence. Jesus our High Priest knows our every need and His ear is always open to our cry. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus invites us to pray, He commands us to pray, and He promises to answer every proper prayer in His own way and time. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (Jn. 14:13-14). And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Lu. 18:1). If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mt. 7:11). He is the Sovereign God, able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we or think (Eph. 3:20).

 

  1. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Mt. 7:7). Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (Jn. 15:16). Do you realize that in the New Testament Jesus never refused to heal anyone who asked Him? He was always ready to hear and answer the prayers of all who came to Him. Do you also realize that He has not changed? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). And do you know that history is filled with examples of how God has answered prayer in the past. He has healed millions of people just like you and if so, then why not you? He is no respecter of persons and He has promised to listen and answer when we call. We come to God in prayer with the attitude of our Lord: Not my will but Thine be done ready to accept whatever God chooses to give us. But let us not be afraid to pray boldly for miracles, and to plead with God for all that we need, as the angel said to Mary: For with God nothing shall be impossible (Lu. 1:37). Let us follow the example of Elijah an ordinary man like us who prayed that it would not rain for three and a half years and God answered his prayer. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Ja. 5:16-18).

 

Thou art coming to a King

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much

TLH P. 459

John Newton

 

  1. Jesus came to preach the Gospel, to call people to faith in the promise that their sins are forgiven in Him. He speaks with authority and calls you back to the God who knows all your sins yet still forgives and accepts you for the sake of His Son. Christ is still preaching that same message in the church today through His called ministers. He invites you to come to Him for rest. His Word is alive, powerful, and filled with divine authority. His Word is able to grant faith, healing, and new life to all who hear it. Are you bothered by your sins? Does the devil accuse you? Is your heart filled with doubts and fears? Realize that the devil has no power over you. Death has been defeated. One day our bodies that suffer pain and weakness are going to be healed and restored to perfect health at the last day. Christ spoke His Word over you at your baptism through His called minister when the Triune God joined you to Himself, just as He speaks the word of forgiveness in the Absolution, and in Holy Communion: This is My body, this is My blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. After years of doubts and fears about his salvation William Cowper finally understood the reality of Christ’s full atonement for sins. He is an example of Christ’s power to save and preserve His sheep through they are weak and sick and often filled with despair, and depression. He carries His lambs to Heaven to be with Him. William Cowper sat down one day and wrote a hymn about of his new found confidence in Christ.

 

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

 

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there have I, as vile as he

Washed all my sins away.

 

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave,

Then in a nobler sweeter song

I’ll sing Thy power to save

TLH P. 157

William Cowper

 

 

 

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