Sermon for Epiphany 5
February 4, 2018
The Preaching of Jesus
Who is Jesus and why has He come? These are the basic questions of the Epiphany season. From the arrival of the Magi to the Transfiguration, we are given manifestations of God’s glory that reveal to us that Jesus is more than mere man and that in His coming, He is overthrowing the way of life that we have all become used to; a life filled with sickness and oppression. As He brings the reign of God, He pushes out the reign of the devil and the results of sin.
Here in today’s reading from the Gospel according to Mark. We are given a couple of clues as to the authority and power of Jesus that reveals Him to be more than ordinary and purposed in the ministry on which He has embarked. Both the power over sickness as well as the authority to command demons to depart and be silenced speak of His divinity. These actions demonstrate that He is surely a teacher come from God as Nicodemus (John 3) would describe Him. He is one that teaches with authority, unlike the Scribes, as the crowds in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 7:28-29) would declare in their astonishment.
Today, we come on the scene as Jesus is leaving the synagogue, where in last week’s reading, He healed the demon possessed man. This is part of the revealing to Israel and to the world, even to us, who He truly is. The miracles are accompanied by preaching and teaching but in neither the miracles of the preaching has Jesus yet revealed the fulness of who He is or the ministry for which He came. He can do wonderful things. He can teach remarkable things. But the wonders of what He will do have not yet been fully revealed. He is bringing the kingdom of God near to the people but He has not yet brought the people into that kingdom. He is freeing many from temporal physical and spiritual oppressions, but He is yet to reveal the fullness of the liberation that He shall bring and that is His intent to bring. Freedom from more than the consequences of sin but even from sin itself.
With the liberation of a demoniac and the healing of a fever, to word gets out. Everybody hears and the whole town comes to the house of Simon and Andrew. He gave to all that came to Him the healing that they sought. He cast out the demons and would not let them speak. He would not let them speak because they knew Him. They knew Him to be the One through whom all things came to be. They knew Him to be the Son of God. They knew Him to share the divine essence with the Father and to be almighty in Himself. He is the Messiah, the One anointed to redeem and lead His people into eternal life. These demons understood the significance of His baptism where He stands as the one man approved by God in all that He has done. That He would unite God and man in a restored relationship and condemn every one of those demons to their fate of everlasting punishment. But Jesus had not revealed His looming passion and He would not let these liars distort and spin the truth of His ministry before He Himself would reveal that the Son of Man came to serve man by assuming his death.
In saying that He rose very early morning, our English translation makes an understatement. The Greek says that He rose in the night, so it was probably closer to midnight than it was to dawn or even the milking time of the goat farmers. He went out to a desolate place and prayed. Mark doesn’t give us any clues as to what Jesus prayed about, but as we are told in other places, it was likely that He prayed for those to whom He ministered as well as himself that He might be strengthened that He might fulfill His purpose.
When Peter and the others do find Him, He is told that everybody is looking for Him. He has become a celebrity. They want him. They desire him and they need Him even if they don’t quite know why. But Jesus hasn’t come for them alone. His purpose isn’t to relish in the fawning crowds of one location. “Let us go to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He had to go to other towns, to the next one down the road for He came not just for the people of Capernaum. He came for all. He came to bring healing and freedom from the devil for all people; to as many as would believe. His mission was universal, catholic as we confess. His mission was to all people everywhere and in every time. It was for those in Capernaum and those in the next towns. It is for you.
From the healing of a single demoniac and a lone feverish woman, the word gets out and He provides for all what He gave to the few. He heals many and speaks words of hope and then goes to do the same for others. As He would continue to traverse Israel bringing healing, He would commission Peter and the others to go into all the world baptizing and teaching (Mt 28:19). The necessity of extending the kingdom of God would continue through the Apostolic era until the Good News would spread from Rome to India and Asia Minor to Ethiopia. This ministry that began in one small commercial town and continued in village after village, continued through the ages as the Gospel spread across Europe and the New World and continues to spread today in the same way across Africa and Asia. We find it incredible that the whole town was at the door to see Jesus. It is much the same in some places as millions are added to the numbers of the Church each year and the people stand at the windows and doors as they seek to be included in kingdom of God.
Jesus must go to these other towns that He may preach in them also. It is at His word that things happen. Demons are silenced and evicted and fevers disappear at His word. He must go to these other towns and speak. He must continue His expulsion of evil and His restoration of health. And for three years, He would go from town to town preaching. In His preaching, He would heal and work faith and many would believe. This preaching would not stop at His crucifixion. It would be there that it would expand as the Apostles would be sent and they in turn would teach and prepare others that would be sent. The same preaching continues today as pastors and teachers and parents speak words in the name of Jesus that cause demons to flee and bestows faith that will raise up everyone that is struck down by disease.
It is through preaching that Jesus would extend the kingdom and it was through preaching that the Apostles would extend the kingdom. It is no different today. We understand this and that is why we help pay for the education of seminary students and why we support missionaries abroad. It is also why we should encourage our young men and old to pursue the holy ministry in this day of diminishing faith among our own populations and the decreasing numbers of seminary graduates. We are facing a greater need with fewer being trained. But as Jesus started with but a few, the Word flourished as it was preached and that Word of Jesus can do the same today.
Jesus gives a reason for His actions: He came out that He might go to the next towns and preach there also. He didn’t linger. He intentionally pursued what lay ahead of Him, even as it led to the cross. His ministry was purposed from before the foundations of the earth were laid; purposed in incarnation and Passion; purposed in preaching and bringing to bear the reign of God here (head) and here (heart) as well as to the physical body. After Pentecost, His disciples would be purposed in their preaching first in Jerusalem and then later throughout the known world. There may be times that the spread of the Gospel may seem accidental but in most cases throughout history, it has been the result of intentionality, where somebody or a group of somebodies goes out with a purpose in their going.
It is with such purpose that we are even given the Bible that records for us all that Jesus has done and taught whereby we have the testimony of the Apostles and prophets that preach to us all that God has done for us and for our salvation throughout time and specifically in the person of Jesus. It is with such purpose that Jesus patiently teaches from town to town and compassionately heals disease after disease and extraordinarily endures suffering and death. His was not a haphazard ministry. Nor is it today. It is purposed still that through preaching the devil would be banished and silenced among us; that through His coming out, Jesus would continue to come to us with the healing that brings immortality.
(Speak a little on the intentionality of the ministry given to Redeemer)