4th Sunday after Epiphany
29 January 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"What is this? A new teaching with authority!" No other rabbis were speaking with such authority. Their teaching would often consist of comparisons of what one rabbi had taught, but on the other hand, there was such and such said by another. But here comes Jesus, and He just plainly says what the Word means, and is able to command diseases and rebuke evil spirits by the power of that Word. He has authority because He is the very God who gives that authority.
Of course, as a fallen, sinful human, you aren't too keen on authority, especially the Lord's authority. You want to be your own god, have your own way, try to get of your problems yourself, with out any help. You live in a nation that emphasizes the legendary American "rugged individualism." Culture, media, neighbors, and family all encourage you to be your own boss, do your own thing, and don't let anyone tell you what you can do.
But it doesn't quite work that way. Since Adam and Eve fell, every human except Christ Himself has been born under the authority of sin. You may think you are in control, but your broken and sinful Old Adam lusts after the things that the devil, the world, and your sinful self have to offer. And led astray by those unholy desires, you spin out of control, and remain under the authority of these enemies of God.
Yet this is not true authority. It is a sham. These menaces have no true authority over the baptized. "Sin, disturb my soul no longer." "Satan, hear this proclamation." "Death, you cannot end my gladness, I am baptized into Christ!" You have been freed from such evil. You are released from the bonds of the old evil foe, and are not under his false facade of authority.
That is because your Epiphany Lord God in the Flesh. He has the authority, as He is the source of the authority. He is the Lord of creation, who has made and sustains all things. And here He is, revealing Himself as the Lord God, who speaks His Word and makes it so.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard would regularly use that expression: "Make it so." He had the authority on his ship to declare something, to give a command, and expect that thing to happen. Yet, his authority came from a source, up through the ranks of Starfleet Command. He could expect lower ranking people to obey him, and he himself to respect and obey orders from those over him.
Jesus, on the other hand, has no officers above Him. He does not receive His authority from other individuals or groups. He is the Lord, and exercises the authority that simply is His.
But what does that mean, that Jesus has authority. Our friends in some church bodies get caught up in this idea, and will focus mostly on God as the Sovereign. For them, simplifying a bit, the chief message of Scripture is that there is a God and He has authority over all. For a Lutheran, the biblical understanding of Christ and the heart of Scripture is the Gospel: that God in His great, boundless love for you, became Man, suffered, died and rose again for you! The joy of His authority is that He clearly and definitively can proclaim His saving Gospel as the One who perfectly knows it and gives His forgiving message!
You can rejoice in this Jesus who has authority, as He is the "Prophet like [Moses]" -- but not just a prophet like Moses, but THE Prophet, the One bringing and preaching God's Word, declaring the Gospel that fulfills the law that came through Moses. The One whose authority is most splendid and glorious as He gave everything up, and endured death on a cross for you, dying to forgive you, and rising, justifying you.
No need to get wrapped up in someone whose authority is limited to comparisons or quotes. Jesus Christ speaks His own saving, life-giving Gospel! He speaks His salvation to you, and makes it so.
He speaks it and it happens. And we repeat His words. Today we especially give thanks for His repeating His authoritative, saving words through our teachers. This year, the Lord has begun to use Mrs. Holly Borrasso to repeat His words among us. And we thank Him that He has used Mrs. Nancy Bowman to do the same, until she recently began serving Him in other ways, outside of the classroom.
Praise the Lord who speaks with such authority! Praise the crucified and risen Lord who declares the merciful, forgiving Gospel to you! Amen.