Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Godly Authority

Jesus taught scripture with an authority and understanding that was not found in the scribes of his day. From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.   (Mark 1:21-22)

Whoever properly speaks and follows God’s word may exercise the power of that word. The scribes were following God’s word in a very shallow, superficial, and legalistic way. Thus they could not expound upon the word with any authority.

The word of God is powerful. When spoken with authority, the word has very practical and immediate applications. Again, reading from Mark:

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.   (Mark 1:23-28)

Everything is subject to the word of God including evil spirits. If we are to fight evil then we must be able to speak the word of God with authority. The Apostle Paul tells us how to do this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-17)

How much we need, today, people who can take up the sword of the Spirit – who can speak the word of God with authority! God told Moses that the children of Israel needed someone to speak the word of God to them:

Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”   (Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

Notice, the prophets and spiritual leaders of Israel would speak to the people in God’s name. They would speak the very words that God put in their mouths. Do we have such leaders today in our churches?

God gave a warning to those who presume to speak in his name but who actually speak in the name of other gods. Perhaps this describes some of our religious and spiritual leaders today. Some of our leaders and some of our churches have wondered from the truth. That is why we do not see any exercise of authority against evil forces in these churches. There is no power. Healings and deliverances are absent from the scene.

Unfortunately, some churches teach that the days of miracles and healings are over. Not so. Jesus gave this command to all his disciples, including us:

Proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.   (Matthew 10:7-8)

There are many in the church today who do not want to hear this message. But is was also true in the day of the Apostle Paul who wrote Timothy:

Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

If we cannot find a church were the true authority of God is being exercised, then perhaps God is calling some of us to start a church that will. Paul’s injunction to Timothy and Jesus’ commission still ring true today. Preach and teach the Word. Preach it with authority. Put on the full armor of God and war against evil. Amen.

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical, liturgical preaching, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

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