The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Series C – Luke 4:31-44
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
It may not be popular, but it is indeed true: Jesus has come to bring division.
He appears, He epiphanies, to break things apart.
Make no mistake, here in Luke chapter 4, Jesus has not come into Galilee offering the olive branch, but in fact the sword.
For in Him, is found the culmination and fulfillment of the very first promise that the Lord ever gave.
Thousands of years before Christ’s ministry began in Galilee, the mouth of God was opened and spoke to the serpent in the garden, promising both to him and to us, that “I will put enmity, a division, a wedge, a separation, between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Indeed these words are the words of promise, but they are also a promise of conflict, division, and war.
In Luke chapter 4, you and I are found as witnesses to beginnings of a battle.
For this is why Jesus has come, namely, to drive the devil, sin and death from the garden of his kingdom, and so the garden of man’s heart.
For in fact, the warpath of Jesus is already underway, it began in the waters of the Jordan river, where the Christ, in his baptism, was seen and marked as the Holy One of God, the one who’s calling it is to bear the world’s sin and destroy the power of that devil that wishes for man’s destruction.
In these name-giving waters, the Father reveals his Son not only to the crowds at the Jordan River, but also to his enemy.
For Jesus will not battle the devil in secret, but out in the open, for every eye to see.
From here, Jesus is driven into the wilderness, being tormented, tested and tempted…and yet despite the onslaught of the devil’s attacks, he bears them up in his body, found at last, victorious, never wavering or ceasing from preaching his Word of conquest, promise and victory.
So now, on this Fourth Sunday of our Lord’s Epiphany, we find that war and division has come also to Galilee.
Here Jesus begins his battle by entering the synagogue, but he is not to be found throwing punches or ducking for cover, rather this Holy War is waged by nothing more than a Word.
It is the Word of authority, the Word from the Lord’s own lips, the Word that goes out and drives back the demons, the Word that goes out and makes faith alive and humanity whole again.
We find in all of Luke chapter 4, a continuous theme and reality, and it is no small or trivial thing, rather this reality, found throughout our Gospel reading, is our one true hope, indeed we have no life outside of it.
And that reality is this: That where Christ is, and where His authoritative Word goes out, the devil, his demons, sin, death and disease, and all that keeps man in bondage, cannot help but flee.
And…that life, healing, salvation and faith, cannot help but remain.
This is what the presence of Christ and His Word does.
Indeed our Lord has come to bring division…and thanks be to God that he has.
For his path doesn’t end in the synagogue, no our Lord continues to fight, he has come to bring our warfare to an end.
And so as he enters the home of Simon Peter, he again fights our battle with death not with sticks and stones but with his life-giving Word.
Christ rebukes the fever oppressing Peter’s mother-in-law, and in this, we see that our Lord has not come only to drive the demons back, but to fight against every consequence and corruption of our fall into sin, even disease, sickness and death.
Later on, we find that it becomes evening and Jesus is still in the house.
And so the crowds begin to gather around him, bringing their sick and diseased and tormented to his feet.
And what we find in the original text of the Gospels is really quite fascinating. For here, the crowds are described, as some of the Gospel writers literally have it, synagogueing, or assembling in worship around the house.
This epiphany of our Lord, as the people synagogue around him, couldn’t be more to the point.
For here, what our ears find is the truth that Jesus is not simply a member of the synagogue, or a travelling preacher. Rather, Luke shows us this reality that Christ himself is the synagogue.
In other words, that his own flesh and blood, his own authoritative Word is what gathers and calls together the sick, the infirm, the diseased, the dying, the oppressed, and the captives.
He is the healing himself, the giving of faith, the release from death, the forgiveness of sins.
Where his voice rings out, we find that the weak, the hurting and the afflicted cannot help but gather around him. Where he is, death, disease and sin cannot help but flee.
In Jesus is found the final division between man and his captivity. In him, he has come to bring and to be that promised enmity between the serpent and our mother Eve.
And he comes to bring release, to drive back our sin, to bind us in his life, all through His Word.
For indeed, this same Christ, and this same Word, comes also to you, it brings division and separation also in this place.
For we gather here not as those who have it altogether, not as the self-righteous, not as those who are well, but rather, in fact, we synagogue here as the sick, the infirm, the bruised and the hurting.
Those who have come to circle around the house of God, fresh from a week’s worth of fighting.
Whether it’s the battle within our hearts and the temptation that plagues us, or the battle without in the world that hates us…still we need what is given, spoken and washed over us here.
For Christ has come to bring division and set us free not so that we would live for ourselves, but in him, by him, and through him.
The same Word that has snatched you out of the jaws of death and sin in Holy Baptism continues to be given even now.
For when you hear the words, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” hear in the ears of faith the division that has been given.
Where your sins torment you, and the guilt of them is too much to bear, hear his divisive Word, that he comes here, and now, to drive back the devil and his voice from your hearts, to take the pain, guilt and condemnation of your sin far away.
It matters not how we momentarily may feel when these Words are spoken. Perhaps sometimes when Holy Absolution comes to us, we may feel relieved…and other times we may not…but how we feel isn’t what makes any of this true.
What matters is the authority of Word spoken, it mattered then in Luke 4, and it matters now.
For it comes not from the personality of your pastor, but from the lips of God himself.
He who is able, and has the authority to forgive, renew and strengthen.
And all of this, this Word and its authority is found both here in Luke 4, and here on this 4th Sunday of epiphany, solely and totally in his cross.
Where he has become the very thing that he now takes away from you.
Where in the fulfillment of his ministry, the Christ who is life, faith and salvation, has become the lamb of God, bearing your disease, your sin, the devil’s accusations and your death.
So that in his becoming of these things, the one true sinner crucified on your behalf, he has in his flesh swallowed up every torment, every lie, every sin, every accusation and every separation between his grace and you.
For in this authoritative Word, indeed, he has given you nothing short of his own faith.
Faith which clings not hopeful feelings or ambiguous beliefs, but faith which takes hold of Christ, the true lamb of God, the only true wedge between death and life.
So it is that to have faith, is to have none other than Christ himself.
And in this Christ, to have all that he is and the absence of all that he has sent fleeing away.
In this faith of yours you have life, salvation and the forgiveness of sins, delivered to you by his Holy Word and his life giving body and blood.
This Jesus whom you gather around, is the true synagogue, the rest for you souls, and the true healing for your disease. Here in Christ, here in faith: life and salvation cannot help but remain.
So also, here in Christ, here in faith: sin, death and the devil cannot help but flee and dissert.
So that when you find yourself despairing, when suffering and guilt come pounding on the door to your heart, when your sins overcome you and the accusations are too much to bear.
Look to that which faith possesses…not blind hope, not warm feelings, but Christ himself.
In him, and by this faith, planted and sustained by his preaching and his Word, there is no condemnation, no more death, no more guilt.
For he has driven the wedge into himself crucified for you, it is finished…here remains life, salvation, and peace.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.