Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009 Third Sunday after Epiphany Matthew 8:1-13

And having come down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. & look, a leper came, bowed down to Him saying, "Lord if ever You will, You are able to cleanse me. And having stretched out the hand, He touched him, saying, "I will; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, "see that you speak to no one; but you go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering Moses prescribed into witness to them. And He, having entered into Capernaum, came toward Him a Centurion, calling for Him, and saying, "Lord, my son is fallen in the house paralyzed, dreadfully tortured." and He said to him, "I will come to heal him." and answering, the Centurion said, "I am not worthy in order that under my roof You come; but only say a word and my boy will be healed." For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers, and I say to this one "Go!" and he goes; and to another "Come!" and he comes, and to my slave, "Do this!" and he does. And having heard, Jesus was amazed, and said to those following, "Amen, I say to you, from no one, so great a faith in Israel have I found! And I say to you that many from east and west will come and recline at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, and the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; there, will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And Jesus said to the Centurion, "Go, as you believed may it be done to you." And was healed, the boy, in that hour.

Understanding authority is a tricky thing. We send our children off to school, under the authority of teachers, and all is well until they find out that sometimes teachers make mistakes. We turn 18 and are able to vote for our government authorities, yet soon some show themselves to be corrupt. A young woman marries her husband, takes his name, and lives under the authority of his household, and he sometimes abuses that authority and fails to manage his homelife as the its appointed head.

Our problems with authority occur when we fail to see God as the ultimate authority in our lives. God provides us with parents, and with teachers. God establishes governmental officials, and He joins you together with your spouse that you may be one. Now, any of these God-given authority figures may fail in their duties, that is true. But we also fail and sin whenever we try limit the authority of any person to his or her own perfect record. Their authority is never their own, it is perfect–it is God's!

And God's authority is different than that of temporal man. People may claim authority of their own, apart from God, and try to make others obey by fear of force, or by military might. But this is not how God's authority works. Your Lord Jesus does not rule His kingdom of heaven on earth–the church, by rules of Law. He rules without rules! Jesus' authority is not in what He can get us to do, but rather in what He chooses to do for His people, including the miraculous healings for lepers and the paralyzed.

How interesting that two military men are placed under the Lord's authority. The first, Namaan, finds God's requirements foolish and utterly useless for him to do. But washing in the Jordan worked! The second, the Centurion, understands God's authority as being different from what a soldier does. Soldiers receive commands from superiors and give orders to underlings, and expect men to obey. The Centurion expected Jesus not to even enter his home, but do it all himself, with only a word!

What did the Centurion realize, that the Syrian commander Naaman didn't? Simply that all authority belonged to God! Not only did God have authority to give commands to men, expecting them to obey His Law, but God also had command over sin, over sorrow, over death, over evil itself. The miraculous healing which God would accomplish was not about what people do or don't do. It was all about what He does, by His gracious love. The Centurion did nothing. He just believed and received.

So how about you, when it comes to God's authority? Do you foolishly try to help the Lord out by shaping up everyone else but yourself? Do you make the mistake of seeing God's authority only through the eyes of the Law of what we are to do or not do for Him? Or do you learn from the Centurion's faith, which trusted Jesus' authority as seen in what He Himself does for you by His grace? Do you believe and thus receive God's good gifts of grace by faith alone?

You are blessed to be cleansed like Namaan from your malady of sin, by the washing of water and Word in Holy Baptism. You are blessed to be those who hear the Gospel Word of Jesus which proclaims you forgiven and saved eternally. You are invited with those from east and west to dine with Jesus at His supper, feasting on His body given at the cross for you, and on His blood shed for you there. . .

Hymns for today from LSB:
#587 I Know My Faith is Founded

#401 From God the Father, Virgin Born
#510 A Multitude Comes

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