Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 4

"The Voice of Authority Speaks"

Mark 1:21-28

February 1, 2015

People are tired of politicians. Why is that? It's because none of them seem to speak the truth. None of them speak with the voice of authority. They lecture, whine, complain and fuss but none of them speak with authority.

On the other hand, as citizens, we have become antinomian. We no longer want to hear or respect the voice of authority. Even when the Pope speaks, most Catholics respond with "who are you to tell me what to do?" You don't have to look far to see our world and society are in bad shape. Throughout the world, the rule of law is being ignored as lawlessness is flaunted.

Oddly enough, when people no longer hear the voice of authority, they begin to gravitate to any voice that sounds like strong and directive. We see that in the rise of radical Islam as opposed to wimpy whining of politicians. Islam is simple. It speaks with the voice of authority. It tells you "you do this and this and you don't do that." The expected response is "Yes!" Which voice conveys authority, the Marine Drill Instructor shouting orders or the wimpy, whiney voice nagging you to do something?

Islam has taken on the voice of the Marine Drill Sergeants. It gives orders. People obey. This is contrasted with the wimpy voice of the church in America. It seems to me that the best the church can do is offer suggestions. Contrasted with the voice of authority the people heard in Jesus, His followers whether bishops or pastors or lay people seem to wimp out. The church waters down our Lord's voice of authority. The result is confusion, apathy, unbelief and defection to religions who do sound authoritative.

Consider today's Gospel. Mark 1:21-27. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately 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 out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

Jesus was teaching the people with an authority they'd never heard from their rabbis. As He taught, a demon-possessed man began to disrupt the service. Although the demon recognized the power and authority in Jesus, it wanted to discredit Jesus. His challenge to Jesus tried to replace authority with fear. Our Lord refused to have this demonic spirit compromise His authority. Jesus told it to leave the man. In doing so, He gave even more credibility to His teaching with authority.

The people marveled at the power and authority of Jesus. They'd never seen or heard anything like it. Why was that? Jesus spoke by His own authority as the incarnate, eternal Son of God. His word was as pure and fresh as spring rains. His word wasn't being second-guessed, reinterpreted or filtered by others. This grabbed the attention of the people. They'd never heard the Word of the Lord taught like this.

God speaks to us with authority. The devil wants us to question, doubt and reject that authority. In the garden the Lord told Adam and Eve, "You will not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will die." Along comes the devil. He plants the seeds of doubt by asking, "Did God really say that?" Then, the devil flat out rejects the authority of God by telling them, "You will surely not die!" Adam and Eve first questioned and then rejected the authority of the Lord God. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Jesus came to bring us Good News. He speaks to us with authority. He tells the demon to leave and it leaves. He tells you, "Your sins are forgiven." Wow! There's power and hope in this authority. So, why do you wimp out and question whether or not it's true? It's the devil again seeking to have you question the voice of the Lord's authority.

This is the sad state of the church today. When Jesus speaks, it is with all the authority of God. That seems simple enough. Yet, those who are to speak with this authority, deliberately water it down. What do I mean? We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Yes, you say, that's what we've been taught. Is this what most Americans believe? No. Most have been caught up in the rebellious spirit of our times. They say that the Bible contains the Word of God.

What's the difference you ask? When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, we say it speaks for itself. No, it's not all perfectly clear and easily understandable to us but we allow the Word of God to speak for itself. Those who claim that the Bible contains the Word of God, undermine the authority of God. Anything they don't understand, anything they don't like, anything that points out their sin is questioned and rejected.

We are not to trifle with the authority of God's Word. The Lord spoke with authority through Moses to the Pharaoh. The king of Egypt doubted and rejected the Word of God. In the end, even the great Pharaoh yielded and bowed to the authority of God. At the end of his life, Moses was told that the Lord raise another prophet, meaning Jesus. This prophet would speak the words of God. As the Lord spoke through Moses in today's Old Testament reading, "if anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account."

Jesus speaks with authority to us. A large portion of His church does not want to listen to that voice. Because they refuse to listen to the voice of authority, liberal western Christianity is wimping out. It questions everything in the Bible. It believes little about the Bible. It no longer speaks for God or with His authority.

People seeking some sort of spiritual meaning for their lives reject the gutless, wishy-washy, watered-down Christianity they find in most churches. Since they hunger for some sort of teaching that seems to speak with the voice of authority, they turn to religions like Islam. They turn to the cults. They turn to drugs and alcohol. They turn anywhere but to the very place that should give them the hope they seek.

We believe Jesus when He speaks with the voice of authority. He put His life on the line for us. He went to the cross for us. The sinless One took our sin in order that His forgiveness would be ours. His resurrection is the loudest testimony of His authority. He speaks with authority. He doesn't use the voice of a drill sergeant. Even in the still, quiet voice, His authority is loud and clear. He is our authority. In Him and by His authority, we have forgiveness, hope, peace and empowerment to love and serve others in His name. Amen.


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