Mark 1:21-28 – And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Ickey Woods has a celebratory shuffle like no other! You may remember him as a rookie sensation running back for the Cincinnati Bengals. He ran for over1000 yards that year and became famous for doing the Ickey Woods shuffle after every one of his15 touchdowns. In recent days, Geiko Insurance has come out with a commercial where his dentist asks Ickey if he knew that you could save a certain percentage on Geiko insurance. With a mouthful of the dentist’s hands, he says, “everybody knows that.” Well did you know that Ickey Woods will celebrate just about anything? At which point we see Ickey standing in a grocery isle waiting for his number to be called to get his cold cuts. When his number is called, he dances up and down the isle singing, gonna get me some cold cuts.” I laugh out loud every time I see it and often when just think about it! He’s amazing!
Far more amazing, of course was and is and ever shall be Jesus Christ. In our Gospel lesson for today, we focus on Jesus as He enters into a synagogue in his adopted home town of Capernauum / a lake shore town about the size of Janesville. All eyes and ears were on him, as he taught in a way that was in stark contrast to the scribes and teachers of that day. The first lesson we want to learn today is that Christ’s authority was and is like (no other).
When Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew to and ten other rather ordinary men to follow Him into unknown directions, they followed. When he commanded unclean spirits to be gone, they were gone. When He told a fever to leave Simon’s mother in law, it left and when He told a leper to be clean he was clean. When Jesus told a paralyzed man to walk, he walked, and when told the dead daughter of Jairus to live, she lived. When Jesus commanded raging storms to be still, they were still, and when He invited Peter to walk on water, Peter walked on water. When Jesus forgave the sins of a woman caught in adultery, they were forgiven, and when He cried out on the cross that the salvation of mankind was finished, it was finished. Jesus Christ was and is and ever shall be amazing. In each in every one of our days, we have reason to be left speechless, or to do the Ickey Woods shuffle, or to break out in praise and thanksgiving, or to spend our days serving and obeying. In fact, all of the above!
Two reactions we find in our Gospel lesson for today – 1) The demons were and are (trembling). It is the devil who caused the man in that synagogue to cry out against Jesus. Satan knew then and he knows today who Jesus of Nazareth was and what His purpose was. With these words, Satan revealed himself wiser than many modern theologians. James writes it this way, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and they tremble/shudder.”
A second reaction is that of the people who were listening and watching closely Jesus that day in Capernaum. The saints who are listening were and are (speechless). Mark writes in v. 22 that they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one exuding authority….v. 27, all became thunderstruck….v. 28 and the report about him went immediately everywhere. I asked Debi yesterday what it is about Christ that amazes her. She thought about it and pretty quickly answered, that He is omnipresent……and then she added omnipotent. How would you answer that question? Does it happen very often that God’s Word strikes you as a thunderbolt? Or have you and I stumbled into a lukewarm kind of Lutheranism that rarely finds itself amazed at the grace and the mercy of the Triune God? Lesson #1 today is that Christ’s authority was and is like no other. He’s amazing!
A second lesson we learn again today is How surprising it was and is that He would give the keys of His Kingdom to His (Church!). When Jesus said to Peter and the early disciples that He was handing over the keys of the kingdom, He wasn’t at all stretching the truth. These keys may be exercised privately in every one of your relationships here and now, and they are exercised publicly in every local Christian congregation in and through the means of grace.
When Christian friends and family assure you that God in heaven above loves you and is not punishing you and that in fact He took out all of His anger on His own Son, they speak with authority. Believe them. When they warn you with tears in their eyes that you’re stumbling off the narrow and straight road of salvation, pay attention to them. As a dying of thirst traveler would pay attention to a friend pointing them in the direction of the nearest oasis. As a homeless man would pay attention to a friend directing him to the nearest soup kitchen and shelter.
When called and ordained servants of Christ announce to you that all your sins of crabbiness and orneriness and laziness and self-centeredness have been washed away, they are. On the other hand, when a pastor warns you that your sins of pride and stubbornness will damn your marriage to failure, believe him. When the Triune God claims child after child with the sign of the cross in Holy Baptism, forgiveness of sins is delivered directly into the heart and soul of that child, as promised. (Story of Pastor Muther flailing his arms and doing what I call the Muther shuffle and getting as excited as he can be when teaching Baptism).
And then there is the Lord’s Supper, dear friends. Oh my, that meal where your pastors say again and again to you that you are loved and forgiven and precious in the sight of your God. That meal where your debt is cancelled, your value is affirmed, your salvation is delivered, and the gates of heaven thrown open by Him Who is sitting at the very right hand of His Father and ruling all of heaven and earth with authority. (Story of one celebration of the Supper where as we were returning to the chancil and the people of God were singing with joy and Pastor Muther whispers into my ear, “Larry, Holy Communion is great.” It kind of leaves you speechless, or maybe you want to do the Ickey Woods shuffle, or perhaps you just want to break out in praise and thanksgiving, or to spend our days serving and obeying. Or how about all of the above.
In closing today, two important reminders about this amazing authority that Jesus has handed over to His Church. This Great Commission which is to go into all of Janesville and into all of Waseca and Blue Earth Counties and into all of Minnesota and into Sicachique, Mexico and into Zhlehtown,Liberia,and into the far corners of the world and make disciples for Jesus Christ by baptizing and teaching with authority.
First, this authority has been bought at a (steep price). Not with gold and silver, but with holy and precious blood and with innocent suffering and death have we been purchased. We are not our own, we have been at a price, that we may be His own, and live under…….Jesus made it clear in John 10 that He lay down His life that He might take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
Secondly, on this Lutheran Hour Ministries weekend, we learn again that with this authority comes amazing obligations and (opportunity). Your bulletin insert will remind you that four out of ten people in this world have never heard of Jesus Christ, nearly 2/3 of the seven billion people on this planet are not followers of Christ, and that growing numbers of our younger generation are concluding that the Church is not relevant.
Lutheran Hour Ministries shares the Gospel about (one million) times a week in the United States. The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t just good advice. It’s good news that has the power to lift hearts and save souls. It is a word that never returns void and always accomplishes God’s purposes when it is in fact planted and received. It’s a message like no other. As often as this Good Gospel goes forth in its truth and purity, as often as hearts are receiving and believing, that often there will be a harvest. That often there will celebratory shuffles, that often there will be singing like you’ve never heard before, that often there will be servants serving just for the fun of it, that often there will be checks written for missions near and far, and that often there will be obedience not only out of a sense of duty but mainly with a spirit that says in one breath “He’s amazing” and in the next, “Here am I, send me.” Amen.