Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pentecost 5 Sermon -- Mark 6:1-13 (LSB Proper 9B)

July 5, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

[Jesus] went about among the villages teaching. And He called the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Those whom the Lord God sends out to proclaim His Word carry authority with them. They are given what is necessary for them to fulfill the task that is divinely assigned. This was the case with Ezekiel, the Twelve, St. Paul, and even Jesus. Though each of them comes from a different background, each possesses the Spirit of the Lord God and the authority which comes with it.

When Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, He came to teach the people. Jesus was present to speak about the Lord God, what He had done for His people, and what He promised to all who believe in Him. That was His task on that particular day, as well as His entire life. Throughout Galilee, Jesus attracted great crowds as He proclaimed the message given Him to speak. Still others came to Jesus’ presence as He did great wonders accompanying His proclamation.

But when Jesus attempts to do so in His hometown of Nazareth, He gets no positive reaction. The people of Nazareth had heard of what Jesus had done all over Galilee. They ask: “How are such mighty works done by His hands?” Yet the people are not willing to receive His message. They wonder in astonishment: “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him?” Jesus’ proclamation is impressive; His teaching is full of divine wisdom. But the people doubt that Jesus knows what He says or has the ability and right to say it.

Instead of hearing the words about the Lord God and His great acts and His merciful promises, the people of Nazareth get wrapped up in the speaker. They ignore the message and agonize over the messenger: “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” Rather than hearing with gladness the magnificent proclamation which Jesus has to give, “they took offense at Him.” Their obsession with the person of Jesus kept them from receiving His message.

This is a problem that can affect you also. You can become so concerned about the messenger that the message is never heard. The answer to the questions which the Nazareth worshipers had about Jesus is quite simple. Jesus gets His teachings, His wisdom, and His ability to do mighty works because He is the incarnate Son of God and He carries the Holy Spirit as the Christ. That is His true identity. That is the true person of Jesus. He is the carpenter and His siblings live in Nazareth, but He is much more than that.

Because Jesus carried the Holy Spirit and the authority of His Father, He could speak and do such things. On the surface, He looked like any ordinary Galilean man. But the office entrusted to Jesus by His Father, the Lord God, makes Him special. It is parallel to what you heard in the other readings: Ezekiel’s being made extraordinary by the call of the Lord God; Paul’s being made extraordinary by the revelation and vision of Christ that he received. Jesus’ office as the Christ made Him unique. Yet, the people of Nazareth could not accept this.

As mentioned earlier, the same problem can affect you. There are many people who hold offices with divine authority and sanction. They are ordinary people, at times even unimpressive people. Yet the Lord God’s choice makes them extraordinary. By virtue of the office which the Lord God has conferred upon them, they are not common. But how often people sinfully focus on the individual instead of the office!

You have a bad habit of considering the person instead of their position. Government leaders are dishonored by your comments about their person because you disagree with their ideology. Employers are disrespected by you because of their lack of good interpersonal relations. Parents are considered by you to be good based upon their skills or their dedication to their children. Spouses are deemed valuable when they meet your expectations. Even the clergy are received by congregations based upon their personality or charisma.

But these types of evaluations miss the importance of the office held by the individuals. You don’t ask the question: “Is this not whom the Lord God has given authority and status?” No, the questions are: “Isn’t this the jerk who raised my taxes or the moron who voted to end my favorite program? Isn’t this the ogre who never compliments my work? Isn’t this the woman who can’t keep her children under control or the man who calls himself father but never shows up at the children’s activities? Isn’t this my ‘partner’ who always needs my help and never pulls their weight? Isn’t this the ‘man of God’ who is cold and ineloquent?” Those questions, those thoughts put all the emphasis on the person and completely ignore the office and the accompanying authority given by the Lord God.

But what does Jesus do when faced with such questions? What does He do when the people say: “Isn’t this the carpenter?” He replies: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The Gospel writer says: “He marveled because of their unbelief.” And yet, Jesus doesn’t suspend His work. He doesn’t go home and sulk. No, He goes to fulfill His office.

St. Mark tells us that Jesus leaves Nazareth “and He went about among the villages teaching. And He called the Twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” Jesus continues to do what He had been chosen by the Father to accomplish and for which He carries the Holy Spirit. He will continue to proclaim what the Lord God has done and promised because there are people meant to receive it. And not only will He make that proclamation, but Twelve others will do so with His authority, “proclaiming that people should repent, casting out many demons, anointing many who are sick with oil and healing them.”

Thankfully that takes place. In those acts, your salvation is found. Regardless of how others consider their person, individuals who hold divinely-given offices have tasks to fulfill. Rulers must govern the people. Employers must run their businesses. Parents must rear their children. Spouses must love and cherish one another. Preachers must speak the truth of Christ, both the message of repentance and the message of forgiveness. These tasks must be done. And for Jesus it is especially so. For He has been charged by His Father to bring salvation to a world plagued by sin, absent of righteousness, and without hope. Regardless of whether people “hear or refuse to hear,” Jesus must fulfill His role as the Christ, the Word of God come down to earth.

“So Jesus went about among the villages teaching.” He goes to other synagogues in Galilee and speaks the Lord God’s message of hope and joy. He reminds people of what the Lord God has done and continues to do for them. Jesus doles out the forgiveness of sins to people who faced eternal condemnation for their faults. And in the face of great opposition, Jesus travels relentlessly to His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection to bring life to the world.

Because Jesus didn’t abort His mission in Nazareth, you have been given a share of what He accomplished. Jesus has fulfilled His office as the Christ for you. Carrying the Spirit of the Lord, Jesus is sent “to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against [the Lord God].” Jesus is sent because “they and their fathers have transgressed against [the Lord God] to this very day,” and the Lord God desires their salvation. Jesus goes to these who have rebelled to bring the pardon which the Lord God has for them.

But as was seen in the Gospel Reading, Jesus does not do this alone. It is true that He alone earned salvation by His perfect life provided in substitute for your sinfulness. But then Jesus sends others with His authority, carrying the Holy Spirit, to bring the merits that He earned to you. Jesus continues to send apostles out to speak His message of what He has done and what He has promised. They are to speak it whether people listen or not. They are to act with His authority whether people recognize it or not.

As the authority of Christ is seen in your midst—in His teaching, wisdom, and mighty works—you can be assured that the salvation He has earned is yours to keep. Your confidence is in the authority that the Father gave to His Son to bring into this world. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself and about you: He is the source of your eternal good. Jesus doesn’t turn away from His duties, but fulfills them, so that you may receive what the Lord God has set aside for you: forgiveness, life, and salvation. So it is brought to you as those whom He sends go about the villages teaching and proclaiming the words and works of Christ.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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