Bigger Than That!
January 31, 2016
Rev. Michael A.Trask
The text for my message today is Luke 4:31-44. As I read about Jesus in Capernaum and tried to grasp the meaning of it, I felt like the photographer who discovers he is too close to his subject and starts backing away, away away in order to take it all in. No matter what you think about Jesus at this moment, he is bigger than that.
It seems like everyone puts their own interpretation and spin on Jesus, making him out to be less than he actually was.
Some in our day believe that he was simply a local character who had achieved a modicum of fame and was lionized by his disciples who hatched a plot to get rich and famous and powerful off of his name. But this group always seems to forget that the all but one of the disciples died violently at the hands of their persecutors. They became neither rich, nor famous, nor powerful, only persecution and suffering would be theirs. So their motivation in writing and telling about Jesus must have been something different than this group believes. Jesus is bigger than that.
Others, in a vain and unstudied attempt to bring all religions together, are fond of saying that Jesus is just one among many historical religious figures, each of which have but a sliver of the truth about the same God. This they think will solve all the differences in the world. However if you look even a little bit at the various world religions, you’ll notice that the gods they worship are all very different from one another, and in fact contradict one another on the most basic levels. This approach only works for those who wish live in the fog of ignorance and broad generalizations. Jesus is not simply one God among many. Jesus is bigger than that.
And then there’s the chrinos. Christians-in-name-only. They might wear a cross to accessorize their look, might even have it tattooed on themselves. Though they say they are Christians, they don’t live like Christ is very important to them. Time for Christ is consistently squeezed out of their lives. There’s always something more important, more pressing, more interesting, more fun. To a chrino, Jesus is kind of last resort, an emergency go to guy, an insurance policy, an emergency airbag system. Jesus is bigger then that as well. As we shall see in today’s Gospel.
In Capernaum, Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath. And people were astonished at his his teaching. Astonished!. What was so astonishing about his teaching? Luke says “his word possessed authority” Now a lot of commentators will point-out that Jesus delivery was stronger and more certain in comparison to the rabbis they were used to listening to. There was no “hmming and hawing” , he was absolutely certain in his words. Indeed, we know this to be the case, because we have a lot of his words recorded for us to read, and he was most defiantly confident in his teaching. But it’s bigger than that.
Luke said “his word possessed authority.” But let’s see how this played out in the rest of the text. With his word, in verse 35, he rebuked a demon and commanded to leave a possessed man, and it was so. With his word, in verse 38, he rebuked the fever that Peter’s mother-in-law had, and the fever left her and she was immediately healed. With his word he rebuked more demons as recorded in verse 41. And this sort of thing is not confined to this text. Mark 4:39, The disciples are out in a boat, they are about to be swamped. Jesus stands up, rebukes the wind and the waves and the water becomes like glass. He saved their lives. And then there’s the centurion reported in Matthew 8, a Roman Soldier who recognized full well who Jesus was. He asks Jesus to help his paralyzed servant at home. And Jesus was about to follow him to his home but the Roman Soldier said, “You don’t need to come, for you see, I too am a man with authority….with soldiers under me, I say to one, go and he goes and to another come and he comes. Jesus just say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus did so… and the servant was healed from a distance.
So the centurion had his soldiers under his authority and what did he believe that Jesus had under his authority? Though he didn’t know the term yet, whatever microbes were afflicting his servant! But put that together with what he did with the waves and the wind and who he turned water into wine….and what do you got? You’ve got something more than a local character, something more than a historical religious figure. Who has authority over such reality. No one except God. The very creator of the world had come down to earth and lived among us. This is big. This is bigger than big.
And what is the meaning, of how he used this authority? How he cast out demons by his word. Demons writhed with fear and grief in his presence. What does this tell us about him. It tells us that he has come to do battle with the ancient serpent…. the Devil… the one who led us into sin; the one who even now afflicts the souls of far to many people with possession, temptation, guilt, sadness and all manner of grief. So he has come to rescue our souls. And what about the healing of illness illness, how he used his authoritative word to heal those whose bodies who were overcome with disease? He’s come to rescue our bodies!
And so when we back up with he camera, and try to frame this text properly to capture it’s meaning, We can see Just how big this Jesus thing is. What he was charged to do on his mission to earth was nothing less than to return the world and its people back to it’s pristine and perfect state. How’s that for big? Have we not all longed for this? Do we not long for it every day as we see the way things go in the world?
And now you may be wondering, Okay. I’ve a pretty bad knee right now, why hasn’t jesus fixed that. Or maybe you’ve just said goodbye to one of your loved ones as you saw them die and you wonder, Okay, why didn’t Jesus fix that right now? Or you look at the raging world with all of it’s hatred and violence and illicit behavior and your wondering, why doesn’t Jesus fix that? Many people who have not had the opportunity to witness the miraculous have privately concluded that Jesus isn’t really all he’s cracked up to be and therefore not worth their time, not worth telling their children about. For his words seem to be just words. For they haven’t seen any miracles.
What they fail to realize is that the miracles were but a sample of what was to come and what was ultimately going to be. There would come a day when there would be “no more mourning or crying or pain” There will come a day when this “old order of things is passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) when we live in light and love and eternity. All this Jesus came to bring about. His miracles were a sampling of the new world that is to come. When people didn’t get that, and fixated on the spectacle of his miracles, Jesus usually became annoyed.
And there would come a day in his ministry where no miracles would be used. He would be captured, whipped, stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross where he would suffer and die. If you are even the least bit skeptical of Jesus because you haven’t seen a miracle, you should direct your truth-seeking mind to ask why he didn’t use a miracle when he went to the cross. You should probably also inquire as to why he went there willingly, and why he did nothing to prevent it.
If you were to ask Jesus, which he thought was more important, all the miracles he did while he was on earth, or his death on the cross. He would without hesitation inform you that his death on the cross was by far more important. He even said, early early in his ministry “The son of man must be lifted up (on a cross) and that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14) His death on the cross was his purpose in coming. And if you miss that, you miss Jesus. For it was by his death that he would attack the root of all of our problems in both body and soul.
Think about it: If there were no sin, there would be no hatred and malice and war. If there were no sin, we’d live in a world of perfection. So sin is the big problem behind all problems. Remember how the bible says, “The day you eat of it, you will surely die” and “The wages of sin is death.”? Jesus went to the cross to be paid our wages. At the moment he died he said “paid in full.” The full measure of what we deserved was given to him.
“The son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.” That’s the purpose of Jesus spelled out to you and me. Whether you have been blessed with a miracle or not, the real question is do you believe on this one who was lifted up for you. Do you believe that you must be reconciled to God through him? This is where you need to be. Both now and for the rest of your life.
To the people suffering persecution in Revelation Jesus says “Be thou faithful unto death I will give you the crown of life.” And how does one remain faithful? By hearing the authoritative word of God. In that word he says “I forgive you” and it is so. In that word he says “you are my son… you are my daughter” and it is so. The Living, active, authoritative word needs to be part of your life. It will sustain you until that day when we are all with him, rejoicing in the world made new. AMEN