What amazes you? The audacity of politicians – what they say and how they say it? The more than $70 million spent on the campaign ads in Iowa alone? X-treme sports? Downhill skiing? Jump and catch in the end-zone to win the football game? The miracle of conception, growth and birth? Sunrise / sunset…
Where would you put “Jesus” on a list of things that “amaze” you? Or would He even make the list?
This is now the fourth weekend in Epiphany – the season of the church year where we see Jesus “revealed” / “epiphanied” in special ways – 1) His baptism; 2) water into wine at Cana; 3) last week – “not just another Sabbath” as Jesus “revealed” that He is the fulfillment of the Isaiah 61 promise of the Messiah (Luke 4:18-19). The hometown folks at first were AMAZED (v.22) but then became “furious” and tried to throw Him off a cliff, but (amazingly!) Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on His way. – and as we read in today’s Scripture – Jesus came to Capernaum where the people were AMAZED at 1) Jesus’ preaching with authority; 2) His driving out demons by the authority of His Word and 3) rebuking the high fever of Peter’s mother-in-law! THAT’S AMAZING – THAT’S QUITE THE AUTHORITY that JESUS revealed!
There’s a humorous story about “authority” – especially with all the political debates going on. Back in the ‘50s a man by the name of Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts. He was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes and no lunch he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was really hungry! As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman said. “Only one to a customer.”
Governor Herter decided that he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”
“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Now move along, mister.”
We smile, but do we try to get our way with God, feeling entitled or privileged rather than recognizing Jesus’ Word has AUTHORITY over all things?
Don’t we often wish for some of these same miracles today? If we could, we would be among those who we read in Luke 4: “when the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying His hands on each one, He healed them… At daybreak… the people were looking for Him and when they came to where He was they tried to keep Him from leaving them. But He said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” They wanted the physical healing – Jesus wanted to give them so much more!
Miracles are to point to belief in Jesus and His Word, not just the curing of the sick – we read in John 20:30-31, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, “You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb (“had cancer”) that he had been cured! But before he could think much about it she said, “He died.” Campolo felt terrible.
But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When we came into that church last week, he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him.
But, the lady told Campolo, “After you prayed for him, God’s peace came over him. His last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung, we’ve laughed, we’ve read Scripture, we prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days! And I called to thank you for praying for healing.”
And then she said something incredibly profound: she said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed.”
Jesus’ authority – the “amazing” thing about Jesus – is not about cures for physical diseases – but the ULTIMATE healing of body and soul – salvation through Jesus for eternity!
This is the amazing “good news” that Jesus also speaks to us today; the eternal healing – the forgiveness of sins through Confession and Absolution / the reminder that we are living “under Him in His Kingdom” already right now through our Baptism – the true body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion for the strengthening of our faith and a “foretaste of the feast to come!”
Amazing Grace – is it just a song? Or is it truly Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! (Or do I foolishly think that I still have the authority?) In another hymn we sing: Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all!
In the amazing name, authority and grace of Jesus. Amen.
Don’t miss the amazing gifts of God through our worship this next weekend, as we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus! God’s blessings also this week as we read, hear and study His amazing Word in our daily devotions and prayers!