Monday, February 27, 2017

Go Mountain Climbing with Jesus (A sermon based on Mark 9:2-9)

This week we're at a crossroads in the church year. The last Sunday of Epiphany (where Jesus shows his identity) is Transfiguration Sunday, where we see Jesus identity as true God most clearly. It's not by accident that this Sunday immediately precedes Lent (where we see Jesus suffer and die for us). As we see him in apparent defeat, how important to keep in mind who he is: the eternal Son of God, who won the ultimate victory for us on the cross.  So as we see the Mount of Crucifixion, let's keep in mind the Mount of Transfiguration and remember who Jesus is. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Mark 9:2-9 and...

Go Mountain Climbing with Jesus

A sermon based on Mark 9:2-9

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 – Transfiguration B


Do you like mountain climbing? Because of my fear of heights (or, I guess, to be more precise, my fear of falling from heights) I'm not a big fan of scaling cliffs or scrambling across loose rocks with a drop off on either side of me. But I do like a nice gradual slope on a wide path to the top of a mountain. Even though it takes some effort (and lots of heavy breathing) on my part, it's usually well worth the view when you get to the top.

Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? One where you get to the top and there at the top your life has changed? That expression "mountain top" experience comes from the Bible. Just think how many people had an experience on the top of a mountain that changed their lives.

On the top of Mr. Ararat, the ark came to rest after being on the open water for more than a year! And Noah offered God a sacrifice of thanks for that moment of rescue.

On the top of Mount Zion Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. Though God stopped him, that moment must have changed his life!

On the top of Mount Sinai, God appeared to Moses in a fiery cloud to give him the commands he himself had written on the stone tablets. That experience must have forever changed Moses.

On the top of Mt. Carmel, Elijah summoned God to send a pillar of fire to consume his water drenched sacrifice to prove that he was the true God, right before Elijah commanded that all the prophets of Baal be slaughtered. What a mountaintop experience!

Well, you know that Moses and Elijah had another mountaintop experience centuries later—one they shared with Jesus and with three of his disciples. On the Mount of Transfiguration, they appeared with Jesus as he shone with the light of the sun! What a mountaintop experience that must have been for Peter, James, and John.

This mountaintop experience on the Mount of Transfiguration prepared them for another mountaintop experience on a different mountain. It prepared them for the crucifixion on Mount Calvary.

And this morning, I invite you to join those three disciples and go mountain climbing with Jesus that you might have your own mountaintop experience of sorts. Go from the Mount of Transfiguration, where you'll get a sneak preview of Jesus' divine glory, to the Mount of Crucifixion, to prepare for Jesus' death for us.

Listen now to Peter's description of Jesus' transfiguration as it's recorded for us in Mark 2:2-9… 

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 

5 Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 

7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" 

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  

I.        From the Mount of Transfiguration 

One evening Jesus took three of his disciples, his three closest friends, Peter, James and John, mountain climbing. These three were in Jesus' inner circle, who alone accompanied him inside the house of Jairus when Jesus raised his daughter from the dead. These three were invited to come with Jesus when he would pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, and these three were invited this evening to travel to the top of a high mountain to join Jesus in prayer and quiet instruction.

But it was late and the disciples were tired. In the Gospel of Luke we learn that before long they started to drift off. But when they woke up, how startled they must have been! There was Jesus, but boy did he look different! He had transformed or transfigured. This is the Greek word from which we get the English word metamorphosis. He was completely changed—all lit up in brilliant light!

Have you ever been asleep in the dark when someone suddenly turns on the brightest lights in the room? Or been driving down the road when someone with LED headlights flashes their brights in your face?  It takes a minute for your eyes to adjust and at first it's so bright that it hurts your eyes. You have to look away. That's how it must have been for Peter, James and John.

Mark says that, "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." And Matthew and Luke tell us why. Jesus himself was shining as bright as the sun. Matthew says "His face shone like the sun," and Luke, "His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening." How spectacular! But that wasn't all…

Two men who were literally centuries old were standing with Jesus, talking to him. We don't know how the disciples recognized them. Maybe they overheard Jesus call them by name. But somehow they knew who Moses and Elijah, the two great prophets of the Old Testament, were. No wonder the disciples were terrified!

And bold, impetuous Peter, scared half to death, couldn't just keep quiet and observe. Instead, he started talking. Though he didn't really know what he was saying he was so scared, he interrupted Jesus' conversation with the prophets to suggest that they put up three tents to put the glorious scene on pause—to capture the moment and make it last.

And then, just as amazing as the Transfiguration, God the Father interrupted Peter! God revealed that he was too was present on that mountain in the form of a cloud, like he was so apt to do (just think of the pillar of cloud and fire he used to lead the Israelites through the desert, or the cloud that covered Mount Sinai when God gave Moses his Law, or the cloud that settled over the tabernacle and filled the Holy of Holies when God was present with his people). And just as he did at Jesus Baptism, God the Father spoke.

"This is my Son, whom I love." The other gospels add, "whom I have chosen," and, "with him I am well pleased." Then, "Listen to him!" Peter and the others understandably grew even more terrified, since, after all, Peter was just told off by God. "Don't speak, Peter. Don't interrupt. Listen to him."

And yet, as terrifying as it must have been, how exciting it must have been! Peter was right when he said, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here." They got a glimpse of Jesus' divine glory! There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was the Son of God, the one and only eternal God, Jehovah himself! What a mountaintop experience!


When you hear about Peter, James and John's experience, do you wish that you could have been there too? Do you wish that you could see a glimpse of God's glory on some mountaintop now? Well, if so, you're in luck! Those three disciples aren't the only ones who get to see God's glory! Because they recorded these events for us, we get to see his glory too.

Through the Word of God recorded in the pages of Scripture we get just as great a view of Jesus' divine glory. Peter later wrote of this transfiguration experience, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain and we have the word of the prophets made more certain…" (2 Peter 1:16-19)

We have the Word made more certain since we have seen God's full plan of salvation completed. We have seen the glory of God when we realize how Jesus has fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy given through Moses, through Elijah, and through all the other prophets.

We see Jesus' glory when he reveals himself among us, not in a cloud that envelops us on a mountain, but in the quiet whisper of a sermon, in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, and in the waters of Baptism where he gives us the comforting assurance, "Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you." We see his glory when we see that Christianity isn't a new religion created in the hundreds AD, but the only true religion given to Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Elijah, to every true prophet.

And what comfort we have in climbing that mountain with Jesus and seeing our Savior's glory! When we read of Jesus' miracles and when we hear like we did last week, "Son, your sins are forgiven," when we wonder "Are these things true?" then we climb the mountain, see the transfiguration and say, "Yes! Jesus is God's Son, God himself with full authority to do what only God can do. He did please God in every way on our behalf. We can listen to him and trust every word that he says." Dear friends, when you see God's glory, don't speak, but listen. Observe and marvel at the glory of our God! 

II.      To the Mount of Crucifixion 

Now, while there could no longer be any doubt to the disciples that Jesus was the only true God, they still didn't really get what his mission was about. As quickly as it began the transfiguration was over. Moses and Elijah were gone and Jesus looked like he usually did once again. But the disciples were confused. What did this all mean?

Well, Jesus had just told them what it all meant only six days ago. Mark tells us in chapter 8, "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this…"

Whenever God appeared to his people in a cloud, it meant that he was about to act in some supernatural way. When he appeared to Abram in a smoking fire pot, he was about to make a new nation. When he appeared to the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire he was delivering them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When he covered Mount Sinai in the cloud he himself inscribed the 10 commandments on the tablets of stone. When the cloud settled over the Tabernacle, God himself was present among his people acting on their behalf.

Now that he appeared again in the cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration, he was ready to act in a supernatural way again. From the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus set out toward Jerusalem one last time. Again and again he told his disciples what would happen there, "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mark 10:33-34)

Even that evening of the Transfiguration he, Moses and Elijah were discussing Jesus death on the cross. Luke tells us, "They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem." And though the disciples were listening in, they didn't seem to get it. Peter rebuked Jesus. The three discussed what exactly does he mean by, "Rise from the dead"? Though he spoke to them plainly, they didn't understand what he meant and were too scared to ask him about it.

But even though they didn't get it that night that they saw Jesus' glory, even though they didn't understand the night of Jesus' betrayal or the day of his crucifixion, imagine what comfort that climb up the Mount of Transfiguration brought Peter, James and John later.

After they climbed the Mount of Crucifixion they were tempted to think, "He's dead. He's defeated. He's not the Messiah, not our Savior. Everything is hopeless." But after the Holy Spirit enlightened them at Pentecost, they could take comfort in the Mount of Transfiguraton. "Jesus is God. We were there. We were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (cf. 2 Peter 1:16) "We have seen his glory; the glory of the One and Only!" (John 1:14)

What comfort they had when they realized that as true God, he could have stopped the crucifixion from happening at any moment. He could have called down an army of angels to defend him, but instead he went to die, to suffer hell, willingly. And he did it all for them.

What comfort they had when realized that since Jesus is true God his death on that cross could pay for every one of their sins. God's death on one end of the scale far outweighed the sins of the whole world of all time on the other end. And what peace they found in the events that took place on that Mount of Crucifixion, strengthened by their experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. What a life-changing mountaintop experience!

Dear friends, blessed with the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament, we have "the word of the prophets made more certain." And in 20/20 hindsight, we understand what the disciples at first did not. But even though we get why Jesus had to be handed over, killed and rise again, often times we're still tempted to doubt too aren't we? When I lose my job, my health, or a close friend or family member I'm tempted to wonder "Is Jesus really in control of the situation? Is he really God?" When the guilt of my sins weighs me down I'm tempted to think, "Does the death of some guy who lived 2000 years ago really pay for my sins? Am I really forgiven?"

And when I do start to think this way, I need to go mountain climbing with Jesus and have another mountaintop experience with him. It's not by accident that the Last Sunday of Epiphany, Transfiguration Sunday, where we see Jesus in all his glorious splendor, comes right before the season of Lent. Because the Mount of Crucifixion means nothing without the Mount of Transfiguration.

What comfort we find when we first climb the Mount of Transfiguration where we see Jesus in his glorious splendor. Yes! He is true God. He is in control at all times! What comfort we find when we follow him from that mount to the Mount of Crucifixion and see that though Jesus, the One and Only God, could have easily stopped the crucifixion at any time, he didn't. He suffered willingly for us. What comfort we find when we remember that as true God his death on the cross does count for us and for all people. His death was not just the death of "some guy who lived 2000 years ago," but the death of the living God our my place. So we are forgiven. We are at peace with God.

This Lenten season as you climb with our Savior to Mount Calvary and watch him go to the cross to pay for your sin, don't forget the this first mountaintop experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and remember what you've seen here. Our Savior is the God of Glory! It wasn't weakness that took him to the cross, but love—his great love for you. It is good, Lord, to be here and have this mountaintop experience as we see our Savior's glory! In his name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Paralyzed No More! (A sermon based on Mark 2:1-12)

For most of us, we can only imagine what it would be like to be totally paralyzed. But can you also imagine the joy of having that paralysis healed?! The truth is that all of us were once spiritually paralyzed by our sin -- unable to do anything to move toward God or do any good thing. But Jesus has healed us! He's taken away our sin and he enables us to move and live for him. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based no Mark 2:1-12 and rejoice in what God in his grace has done for you -- that you are paralyzed no more! 

Paralyzed No More!

A sermon based on Mark 2:1-12

Sunday, February 19, 2017 – Epiphany 7B


Our Gospel Lesson for the 7th Sunday After the Epiphany is recorded for us in Mark 2:1-12… 

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" 


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I woke one morning in sheer horror. And this was a nightmare I didn't wake up from. I couldn't feel my legs. Worse, I couldn't move my legs. I tried to sit up, but to my dread, my arms wouldn't move either. I was completely paralyzed. I screamed in terror. Eventually my neighbor came. Thank God for good neighbors. He became one of my best friends.

That day was one of those defining moments of life. I woke up paralyzed and there was no cure. And the worst part of it all was that I knew it my own fault. It was because of my sin that I was now paralyzed. I brought this on myself. I knew it. I don't want to go into the details of what I did. I'm still so ashamed of what I did. But just trust me when I say I deserved this paralysis and so much worse and I knew it.

But it was no small grace of God that he gave me friends: A godly neighbor who came to my aid when he heard my screams, a godly brother who with his friends – now two of my very best friends – took care of me. They took turns feeding me, rolling me to prevent bedsores, cleaning me and changing the straw after I soiled my mat, even reading to me to keep my mind active. What blessings those four were to me.

But one day, some time later, a man came to us who I thought I recognized, but just barely. I'd only seen him from a distance. But I thought he might be the leper that I would occasionally see on the edge of town when I left for business (before my paralysis, of course). I would toss him a coin and he would wait until I had passed by a safe distance to retrieve it. But this man was different. He couldn't have been the leper I'd seen. This man was healthy and clean, not a leper. And he came with this report:

"Jesus! Jesus of Nazareth!" he cried, "He did this to me! Three days ago he made me clean! You remember me? You used to toss me a coin or two as you left town. I heard your sad story—of your paralysis—and I mourned for you, and… well… for me that I would no longer receive your coins.

"Well, when Jesus healed me, I immediately thought of you. He told me to keep quiet about what he did for me, and to go to Jerusalem to show the priests. But I couldn't help it. I had to come here. I had to tell you. If he could heal me of my leprosy, surely he could heal you of your paralysis. You should go to him. He's back in town! Go to him now while he's still here! He's known to leave town at a moment's notice."

My heart lifted with hope, and then immediately sank. It lifted with hope that this Jesus could heal my body. But it sank when I thought, "But would he?" Perhaps for a leper, who by no fault of his own contracted that contagious disease, Jesus would offer his help. But for me… for me who earned this paralysis, who deserved this suffering by my own sinful lifestyle… No. Maybe Jesus could help. But he wouldn't help me. I deserved my fate. Surely, he would tell me what teachers of the law had told me with a chuckle at their clever pun: "This is what you deserve. You made your bed, now lie in it." Besides, even if I wanted to go to him, how would I? It's not like I could just walk over there.

But it didn't matter what I wanted or what I believed. My neighbor who was at my side, heard the report of the former leper. He ran to my brother and told him what he had heard. And of course, my brother, in turn, got his two friends. The four of them fashioned a harness of sorts out of rope. One man would wrap the rope around his waist and shoulders, then under a mat they made for me with wooden slats, and then on to the next man who would wrap the rope around himself. They did this in pairs, two at my torso and two at my legs. They picked me up and they carried me to Jesus. Thank God for such loving friends!

When we got to the house where Jesus was, I was again disheartened. The crowd that had gathered there was already so large they didn't fit inside the house. They were pressed in around the doorway and near the windows so they could hear what was said inside. There was no way, that we would ever get in to see Jesus.

But my friends were undeterred. If they couldn't find a way, they would make a way. They went up the outer staircase to the flat roof of the house. And taking one of the slats from my mat, they started digging into the clay roof. Once they had dug a small hole through, it was easier for them to start pull sections up and away from the roof. Soon they had a large gaping hole in the roof. Then they took the ropes and tying them to the corners of my mat, they lowered me through the roof until I was lying just beneath Jesus.

What would he say? What would he do? Would he help me? Would he heal me? Or would he send me away? Would he tell me that I had received what I deserved for my sin? Would he scold us for our vandalism?

But what he said when he saw me, was the most beautiful, wonderful thing he could have said! He looked up at my friends. He looked down at me. And as if looking right into my soul he said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 

Forgiven! He knew what I had done. I don't know how he knew, but he knew. And he didn't condemn me. He didn't tell me, "You got what you deserve." He forgave me! He forgave me! My heart not only lifted, it soared. If I never walked again, I didn't care. I had been forgiven!

But the teachers of the law, the very same who had told me I deserved my fate, objected to Jesus claiming authority to forgive sin. They understood that he was claiming to do what only God could do. If he claimed authority to forgive sins, he was claiming to be God. This, in their minds, was blasphemy—robbing God of his glory by claiming it for himself.

But Jesus looked right at them and I could tell that he knew their thoughts, just as he knew my sin. He knew they doubted his ability to forgive sins and his authority as God. And he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…." He said to [me], 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home."

And immediately, I felt a warmth spread from my chest down my arms and legs—a power surging through me giving strength to my whole body. I wiggled my fingers, then my toes. I lifted my arms and legs and with an energy I don't think I ever had before the paralysis, I leapt to my feet! I could move freely! I could walk! I was paralyzed no more! Surrounded by gasps of amazement, I picked up my mat and did as Jesus told me! I went home praising God!

But as I left, I wondered if the teachers of law understood the lesson that Jesus gave them that day. I wonder, do you?


You see, you too were once paralyzed. Now you may not have been physically paralyzed as I was, but like me you were paralyzed by your sin. You were unable to move, spiritually speaking. You were unable to do anything good, unable to move toward God, unable to do anything to earn his favor. And your paralysis, like mine, was self-inflicted. It was well deserved, well earned, caused by your own rebellions against his laws.

And I won't ask you to tell me what those sins were as I'm sure you too might be haunted by them and shamed by them, just as I am ashamed to speak of my sins. And, honestly, you should rightly be ashamed, just as I was. For our rebellion against such a loving and compassionate God… there is no excuse! You deserve hell just as much as I do.

But… he has done for you what he did for me. He has not only seen you're your faith, but has given you your faith. And the promise he gives to you for your faith to cling to, is the same promise that he gave to me. "Son, your sins are forgiven." "[Daughter], your sins are forgiven." 

Do you doubt it? Do you even wonder if Jesus really does have the authority to forgive your sins? Look at the miracles he performed. Look at my strengthened arms and legs! See the proof! That's why he healed me—not just to bless a poor paralytic who deserved the consequences of his sin—but to prove who he was, to prove to those teachers of the law that he did indeed have the authority on earth to forgive sins.

He proved that he wasn't just the Son of Man, but also true God in every way!—true God who could read men's thoughts, true God who could heal paralysis, true God who lived a perfect life in our place, true God who's' death on a cross was more than enough to pay for the sins of all mankind. If you ever doubt, just look at the miracles. See the proof! It's not blasphemy because he is true God! He does indeed have the authority to pay for sins—mine and yours!

You know, had he forgiven me of my sin and then left me paralyzed, I would still rejoice. That grace would have been sufficient for me. But he did even more for me. He took away my paralysis and gave me strength and renewed my ability to live for him.

Well, friends, you too have not only had your sins forgiven—every one of them!—but he's also removed your paralysis. He's enabled you to go and live for him and for others. So, go and do as my four friends did for me: Look for those in need and meet their needs as best as you're able. It may not be as grand as caring for an invalid or physically carrying someone to church, but it could be offering someone a ride or simply reaching out to them to learn why they haven't been here lately. It may be giving above and beyond your offerings, to someone in need. Or giving someone a ride to a doctor's appointment or a shelter, in the hopes that you might someday give them a ride to church.

What can you do to be like my neighbor, my brother, my friends, who picked me up and carried me to Jesus? How can you meet others' needs? And especially, how can you help carry them to Jesus? Figure it out, and then, go do it. Do it not because you must or you will feel guilty if you don't. But do it to thank him who said to you, "Son, your sins are forgiven." "[Daughter], your sins are forgiven." Do it for them who are spiritually paralyzed and cannot come to him without your help. And one day, they may love you for it as much I love my neighbor, my brother, and my friends, who did all they could to bring me to him.

"Your sins are forgiven." Now go live for him in thanks, in the name of Jesus, who has healed me and you, who has forgiven me and you, who wants to use me and you to bring others to him, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An A+ and an F2 (A sermon based on Mark 1:40-45)

Did you get good grades in school? Would you get good grades with God if he were to grade you according to how well you keep his assignments (the 10 Commandments)? We all deserve an F for the way we have failed to keep his commands. And we all deserve to flunk out of heaven. But Jesus got straight A's for us. And by his grace, God declares us to be A+ students of him. So we pass the entrance exam to heaven through faith in Jesus. Read or listen to (download) this sermon about a man who had an A+ faith and F2 obedience based on Mark 1:40-45 and be encouraged to put your trust in Jesus...

An A+ and an F2

A sermon based on Mark 1:40-45

Sunday, February 12, 2017 – Epiphany 6b


I'd never heard of this until I came to Kenai. But in Mr. Holper's classroom, an A is not the highest grade you can get. You can get an A+. That part's normal enough. But what was usual to me when I first heard it is that an F is not the lowest grade you can get. He doesn't go down to G or H (and why do teachers all just skip over the letter E altogether?). Instead, the grade lower than an F is (for some reason I've never bothered to ask Mr. Holper for) is what he calls an F2.

Of course you have to do really well to get an A+, like get none wrong at all. And, inversely, you have to do pretty poorly to get an F2, like don't study or prepare at all.

This morning we hear the account of a man who initially scored an A+. He got the highest marks as he put his trust in Jesus and believed that Jesus was both willing and able to help him in his great need. But then he went and got an F2 when instead of obeying Jesus in thanks, he did the very opposite of what Jesus told him to do.

And as we look at the life of this unnamed man who got an A+ and then an F2, we'll also consider what grade we would get on our report card if God should give us one. Our text for this morning is recorded in Mark 1:40-45…


40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."

41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.


What a strong faith this leper displayed! Give him an A+! There was no cure for leprosy—that disease that slowly ate away at your body causing the nerves to fail and flesh to rot, causing parts to fall off and friends to flee. The diagnosis of leprosy was not only a death sentence, but a condemnation to die alone—away from family and friends, banished to live among the other lepers also condemned to die.

And yet, this man had more than just a lingering hope. He was certain that Jesus could heal him if he were willing. There was no question at all about Jesus' ability to cure the incurable. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."

And he believed that Jesus was both willing and able to help him in his desperate situation. And after all, if Jesus were willing, but not able, he was powerless to help. And, on the other hand, if he were able, but unwilling, the man still would receive no aid. But Jesus was both willing and able. And this man believed.

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

What a great faith! A+!


Ah… but, alas! He didn't keep the grade…

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.

Jesus gave this former leper a very specific command. Don't tell anyone what I just did. And what a relatively easy assignment to keep it was, when you consider that he didn't have to do anything to keep it. Can you imagine how happy the students would be if Mr. Holper told them, "For tomorrow's homework, do nothing. If you do nothing, you will get an A."? Literally this man's assignment was to just "say nothing." If he just kept quiet, he would obey Jesus' command.

But does that command seem confusing to you? After all, doesn't Jesus want us to talk about him? Doesn't he want us to spread the news about him?

Well, apparently it was a confusing command to this former leper too. He thought he knew better than Jesus. And so he disobeyed a direct command from the Son of God who had just healed him. Instead of keeping quiet, he blabbed to everyone he saw.

But Jesus didn't want people talking about his miracles just yet. He knew that people would flock to him all right, but he also knew that they would flock to him for the wrong reasons. They would view him only as a miracle worker who would multiply their bread and give them lots of fish, who would cure their diseases and give them money from the mouth of a fish. They would look for him to cure the symptoms without concern for the real disease of sin.

Yes, surprise, surprise, Jesus knew best. But this man thought he knew better than his teacher. So he disobeyed the direct command of Jesus himself: "Don't tell this to anyone." Give him an F2.


Ah… but before we look down on him too much, perhaps we should evaluate what grade we deserve. Let's face it, it doesn't take much examination to see how often we too have disobeyed a direct command of Jesus. We don't do what he tells us to do. We do do what he tells us not to do. And we, too often thinking we know better than Jesus, go against what he says. And then, on top of it all, we have the audacity to get angry with him when he isn't the kind of Savior we want him to be.

"Save me from my back pain. Save me from my emotional pain. Save me from my financial pain. Save me from problems and suffering and boredom and unhappiness. And if you were willing and able to help this leper, then why aren't you willing to help me? Why won't you take away my pain?!"

He promises that he's somehow working all things for our good. But we don't understand. We're confused by his insistence that must endure suffering. And we think we know better than him. So we look for our own solution, in a bottle, in self-serving laziness, in ungodly entertainment. And we disobey the direct commands of Jesus.

Can you see all the red ink all over the pages of our lives? Checkmark after checkmark go behind each one of God's commandments. And we've botched not just one or two assignments, but every day of life. We have failed. Worse, we have earned an F2. Fail the driver's test and you don't get a license. Fail the entrance exam and you can't get in. And you know the consequences of failing this life: expulsion from God's heaven.


But Jesus, the very best student, and teacher, and master, is willing and able to help us. Perhaps not always in the way we wish he would help us, since he may not always be willing to take away our pain, but he is always willing to work it for our good. He is always willing to use the consequences and circumstances that we face to draw us back to him and back to his Word.

But he's more than just an expert teacher, showing us how to do better. In his Word he shows us again that he's a Savior! And he shows us what kind of Savior he is: A savior from sin, our Savior from sin, a Savior from our mistakes, a Savior from our disobedience to his very clear commands, a Savior from our rebellion against God, a Savior from death, a Savior from the hell we have all earned by the F2 of our sinful lives.

There is no doubt that he is able to help us. He revealed clearly who he is by his miracles—the very Son of God from heaven, come to help us in our need, the sinless Son of God who aced God's test with a perfect A+ every moment of his life. And there is no doubt that he is willing to help us. He revealed that clearly on the cross—that he is willing to go to hell and back to save us from it, to take the punishment our F2 deserves and to give us the A+ he's earned.

And so, now, you and I pass the test with flying colors! We get the credit for his A+! We are perfect and sinless in God's sight! That is what God has declared us to be! And you know that God does not and cannot lie! This is who you are—an A+ student in Christ.


Now, go be what God has declared you to be: that straight-A student! Have an A+ trust in him as you trust him above all things. Trust in him who was willing and able to pay for your sin. Trust in him who is willing and able to work all things for your good.

And be the straight-A student he has declared you to be as you obey him and do what he says to express your thanks to him! Do what he says even if you don't fully understand why he says it. Trust that he knows best and obey.

And for us, he no longer says, "Don't tell anyone," but "Tell everyone!" So don't keep quiet, but speak up! Share the Jesus and his A+ solution with others. When they're hurting, remind them that while he never promised to take away all pain in this life, he did promise to take away their sin, their guilt, and their shame. He promised to take away their F2 and the punishment and the hell they deserve for it. He promised to work all things—even their pain—for their eternal good. He promised to be with them always and to give them the strength they need to endure to the end.

So talk about your faith. Invite a friend to join us some Wednesday night or Sunday morning. Invite them to lunch or to a cup of coffee to share what you know of Jesus. Or, simply share this sermon with them: forward the email when you get it, like it on Facebook, or repost to your page to share your Savior.

No longer keep quiet, but go and tell that they too might know our A+ Savior and what he's done to make us who were F2 students failing out of heaven, A+ students in God's sight, who pass the test and will get in. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Why Does It Hurt So Much? (A sermon based on Mark 1:29-39)

Why does God let pain into our lives? How could it possibly be for our good? In this week's sermon we see how God let sickness and even demons into people's lives for their eternal good. The suffering they endured for a while pushed them to Jesus. Their pain drove them to seek him for help. And their suffering drove them to see him as their Savior from sin, death, and eternal death in hell, and not just one who would help in this life only. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Mark 1:29-39 and see how God could be using the pain in your life. 

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

A sermon based on Mark 1:29-39

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 – Pentecost 5B


"Why? Why do I have to go through this?" Do you ever ask yourself that question: "Why me? Why now?" Do you ever ask that of God. "Why the surgery? Why the back pain? Why the depression? Why the fever? Why the job insecurity? Why the problems? Why the pain? Why, God, do you allow this? Why do you send this?! Why does it hurt so much?"

In our text for this morning we hear about a lot of hurting people—people who were sick, burning up with a fever that wouldn't go away, people who were demon-possessed, harassed and controlled by the dark thoughts that wouldn't go away. And we see how, coming to Jesus, they got the help that they needed, miraculously cured, free from the demons that haunted them.

But in our text for this morning we also hear about other hurting people—people who longed to see Jesus that he might help them too—that he might take away their disease or drive out their demon too. But… Jesus didn't help them as they'd hoped. Instead he ditched them and let the demon or disease linger. And they might have wondered why? Why would he heal others but not them?!

So too, you and I often face challenges, struggles, hurt and pain. Sometimes we pray to Jesus and he helps by taking away the struggle or the problem or the pain. But other times, he lets it linger. He lets us hurt.  And we might wonder why? And perhaps our text for this morning offers two answers to the question, "Why does Jesus sometimes let us hurt so badly?" First, he may let us hurt to drive us to himself. But then, when we look to Jesus for the wrong reasons, he might sometimes let us hurt to drive us to the cross. I'll explain. But first, our text from Mark 1:29-39…


29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"

38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.


I.      To Drive Us to Jesus 

Have you been to the Chena Hot Springs? Some people think they're pretty gross because the waters guests are invited to wade in, while quite warm, are also unfiltered. But others believe that the minerals in those unfiltered waters have healing qualities and that a long soak in the hot springs will restore health.

That's been thought of hot springs for a long time. In fact, even back in Jesus' day there was a resort in the largest city in Galilee (which, by the way, is never mentioned in the Bible and it would seem that Jesus never visited). The resort was in a city called Tiberias, named after Emperor Tiberius, and was only 10 miles away from Capernaum which Jesus made his home base during his Galilean ministry.

Well, it would seem that after Jesus drove a demon out of a man in a synagogue (see last week's sermon for that account if you missed it), that someone ignored the Sabbath rules about travel and went running south to Tiberias to spread the news. Remember the last verse of our text from last week? "News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee." (Mark 1:28)

And those crowds came running to have Jesus do what the hot springs couldn't: heal them of their disease and take away the demons that haunted them. But while they traveled, Jesus was invited to lunch after church over at Peter and Andrew's place. "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew."

But it wasn't just for the lunch that the brothers invited the Jesus, James, and John into their home. It was for another miracle. "Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her." Literally she was "thrown down, burning up!" In Matthew's account he calls it a great fever or fire. And all three Gospels seem to indicate that she'd been like this for a while and that she might not recover with only bed rest. Perhaps Peter wondered if Jesus did the miracles just in the public eye to prove his divinity and his power, to rally the masses around him before he began his work as Savior. But would he do a private miracle seen only by a few just to help Peter and his wife and not to get any publicity?

And of course, you know the answer. "He went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them."

And while they were eating others were walking and waiting. Because as soon as the sun went down and the Sabbath restrictions were lifted, they thought it was time for Jesus to get back to work. "That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door…" And the Greek for "the whole town" could just as well be translated "the whole urban area" and could well have included the inhabitants of Tiberias and the guests at the hot springs resort. So the "whole town" in verse 32 might be talking about that "whole region of Galilee" mentioned in verse 28. They each heard the news of the exorcism that took place that morning and wanted their own miracle that evening.

And you know how Jesus responded. He got right back to work: "Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons…"


So, what about our question, "Why does Jesus sometimes let us hurt so much?"? Well, consider this: If Peter's mother-in-law hadn't been sick, would Peter and Andrew invite Jesus to their home? Would Peter's mother-in-law have ever met Jesus? Would she have become a believer? Perhaps. But if the people from all over Capernaum and the whole region of Galilee hadn't been sick or demon possessed, would they have come to Peter's house? Would they have come to see Jesus? Would they have ever become believers?

So you can see then that Jesus used their ailments, their suffering and pain—which may well have lasted many years before this night! He used those hurts to draw them to himself so he could demonstrate who he is and his power over sickness and over demons, so they could see and believe that he is the Son of God.

And they saw not only his power, but his love and care, practically pulling an all-nighter, staying up late healing and yet still getting up early for prayer. (In fact, he was so tired the next day that when he took a nap on the boat, he would have slept right through a furious storm if not for the disciples waking him.)

And I know that I've told you before that one of the keywords of Mark's Gospel is "Amazing," but another one that we find again and again in this short Gospel is "Immediately." Here it's translated, "as soon as…" "As soon as they left the synagogue…" It shows us Jesus' sense of urgency and his unrelenting pace at which he preached and healed.

That's the same loving, caring, driven, powerful Jesus that we have today. He can most certainly help us in every problem that we face every day. And he no longer needs to sleep! So maybe he lets those problems come into our lives to drive us to him in prayer. Maybe he lets us hurt so badly to keep us connected to him.

By the way, if Jesus, who is in his very nature true God himself, still needed to pray to God the Father, how much more don't we, who are so much more helpless and weak, need to pray to God for help! So maybe God allows our problems and pain, or even sends us problems and pain, so that we, like those in Capernaum come looking for him!

So, maybe instead of whining and complaining to God, "Why me? Why now? Why do I have to go through this?" we ought to be thanking him for drawing us to him in prayer again! After all, be honest: How much do you focus on God when things are going well? But when they're going badly, isn't that when you seek him out the most? He cares about you! You know he does! So go to him in prayer! That's what he's waiting for. Talk to him and let the problems and pain you face in this life, drive you to him again and again. And Jesus' response may be like the one he gave that night. He may heal you and take away the torment and the pain. He may restore your health and make you whole again.

But, then again, he may not. Though he has the power to heal in every case, nevertheless, we still have to be ready for him to say "No" to any request of ours to take away the pain. He might have something better in store…


II.    To Drive Us to the Cross 

What a difference a day can make. If only you'd traveled a day sooner, maybe you wouldn't have been in that accident. If only you'd sought help earlier, maybe you wouldn't be in the situation you're in now. If only you'd have done things differently back then, you'd have fewer regrets today.

I wonder if that's how some of people felt that next morning. "If only we'd have left for Capernaum sooner we might have made it. If only we'd have traveled yesterday, Jesus might still be here." Because when they made it to Capernaum and everyone was looking for him, not everyone found him. Nor would they find him back at Peter's house that afternoon. Now it was too late. Jesus was moving on.

But why? Why didn't Jesus stick around? Why didn't Jesus stay there and let the people come to him? Surely news would spread even further and more would come to him from further away. Just as people traveled from all over the Roman Empire to soak in those hot springs in Tiberias, surely they would travel from all over the world to be healed by Jesus in Capernaum. But instead, Jesus left. And he left a lot of hurting people still hurting. For them he let the pain linger. Why?

Well, I think we have two clues in this text. The first is found in what Jesus said to the demons. "He would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." The second clue is found in what Jesus said to Peter: "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."

Why didn't Jesus want the demons spreading the news about him? Wouldn't that be good for others to know that Jesus was the Christ, the God-man who could cure any disease? And why would the demons want to get that word out anyway? Wasn't Jesus driving them out of people left and right?

Well, demons don't always tell lies to rob people of their souls. They often use half-truths and will use something good to rob people of what's best. If they could get everyone to think of Jesus just as a miracle worker, one who would solve all of their problems here on earth, but get them to ignore matters of eternity after an eventual death, well… then the demons would win. Jesus wasn't just a doctor or healer. He wasn't just an exorcist. And if that's all people saw him as, they would be far worse off in the end.

How did Jesus want people to see him? That's where our second clue comes in: Jesus said to Peter: "Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."

Jesus didn't come just to heal, but especially to preach. He came to share the good news that he would conquer not just sickness and demons, but sin, death, and hell itself. He wanted to be seen as a Savior from sin, not just a healer of disease. He let people have sickness and pain to drive them to him, but he also wanted them to hunt him down for the right reason. So, Jesus didn't stick around. "He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons."

For some people the pain continued. Why? Well consider this: If Jesus just took away every earthly problem of everyone in the region of Galilee would they care about their bigger problem of sin? Would they come to know Jesus as Savior from hell? Would they be in heaven today? Or would demons be feasting on their souls? Perhaps Jesus let their problems continue and the pain linger so they would not only be driven to Jesus, but that they'd be driven to him for the right reasons. Perhaps he sent the pain to drive them to the cross to see Jesus as their Savior from sin, from death, and from eternal death in hell. In that case, what blessing the pain would be!

Maybe when Jesus went off in the dark very early in the morning to a solitary place of prayer, he was praying that he might not be tempted by the popularity to abandon the mission and just start a free clinic where he could heal and feed everyone. Maybe he was praying that the crowds wouldn't be so distracted by the miracles that they would forget about their need for a Savior from sin. Maybe he was praying for those who had been healed that they might not now forget about God so that satan would get the best of them in the end.


Well, whatever Jesus was praying for that morning, there's one big difference between his prayers and ours. You know what it is? Well, Jesus would pray to "our Father in heaven" just like we do. He would pray that God's name would be kept holy and that his kingdom would expand. He would pray that God's will would be done perfectly by himself and more and more by others. He would pray in thanks for the daily bread that God provided him by the charity of others. And he would even pray that God would help him face the daily temptation to sin and rebel against God and his perfect plan.

But the big difference? Jesus would never have to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," because Jesus didn't have any. He never sinned like we do. He never crossed the line like you and I so often do. He never challenged God. He never whined or complained. (And if anyone knew about pain, it was Jesus.) And he remained perfect for you and for me, to give us credit for all that he's done well.

And he wouldn't just sit back and accept the admiration of the crowd and settle in to receive their praise. He had to keep going. He had to keep moving. He had to keep heading toward Jerusalem and to the cross—where he would die for every sin of yours and mine: for every complaint against God, for every prayer we've left unsaid, for every time we've refused to help someone else who's suffering and in pain.

So you and I are forgiven. Our sins are erased. And no matter what your physical health is like, your spiritual health is perfect! And maybe we know all that because of some earthly problem that drove us to Jesus in the first place.

So, if you're experiencing some problems or some pain, that's okay! Let those problems and pain drive you to Jesus. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Ev'rything to God in prayer!" (CW #411:1)

But at the same time, be ready for Jesus answer, even if he let's the pain continue. Let that drive you to the cross. You know that he still loves you in spite of the pain. He proved it on the cross when he took your sin away, when he defeated satan, when he won heaven for you—where there will be no more pain ever again for all of eternity.

And then let that cross move you to thank him and follow the example of Peter's mother-in-law and having been healed (at least of your sin), get to work serving him. Go do as Jesus did and help others who are hurting that you might share the good news of Jesus as Savior—not just from temporal pain, but from sin and its eternal consequences. So even if the pain lingers, we have every reason to rejoice. In Jesus name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Jesus’ Authority is Amazing! (A sermon based on Mark 1:21-28)

"Wow! Isn't that amazing?!" Have you ever said that or something similar? Have you ever been surprised by something amazing? Jesus often amazed the people by his power. He healed the sick, he raised the dead, and he defied the laws of nature. He even had power over demons. In some amazing ways he demonstrated who he was -- the divine Son of God. Jesus still does amazing things. He still has power over demons. Yet, more amazing than all of these, is the Word he gives that creates faith in our hearts in his amazing grace that defeated our enemies for us, took our sin away, and keeps us safe in him every day. As you read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Mark 1:21-28, be amazed by Jesus authority over demons and his authority in his Word...

Jesus' Authority is Amazing!

A sermon based on Mark 1:21-28

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Very soon two great adversaries are going to collide in an epic battle. The rivalry has been growing for a while. And lots of people are watching on the edge of their seats to see who will emerge victorious. Whoever wins will be the unmistakable champion. Who are you rooting for?

Let me clear though: I'm not talking about the Falcons and the Patriots who are going to duke it out next Sunday in Super Bowl 51. Both the Seahawks and the Packers are out, so who really cares? J This morning, I'm talking about a showdown between Jesus and his enemies, the demons. That rivalry had been growing ever since Eden. Lots of people were in the synagogue (their church) to see who would win. And of course, it's no surprise to you, who emerged victorious. Jesus was the clear champion that day.

Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by driving a demon out of a man it had been possessing. And Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by his teaching. Our text for this morning, which tells of that showdown, is found in Mark 1:21-28…


21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24"What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

25"Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" 26The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.


I.        His Authority Over Demons 

This week I finished reading a book that I highly recommend. It's a new release from Northwestern Publishing House ( and it's called 2000 Demons and is written by E. Allen Sorum. It tells the story of Jesus driving demons from a man who called himself Legion (which was a troop of 2,000 Roman soldiers). In the book Professor Sorum calls for a sober recognition that demons are very real, that they are out to get you, to devour your soul, and leave you lonely, hurting, and ashamed, and ultimately on a despairing end in hell. He does this not just to scare his readers, but to make them aware of the very real enemy out to eternally devour us all.

If you saw an army of 2,000 vicious enemies marching toward your house with the clear intent of torturing then killing you, you wouldn't bury your head in your hands and pretend they didn't exist, hoping they'd just go away, would you? Of course not! You'd take the threat seriously. That's really what we've been studying in our Bible Class on the Screwtape Letters too: how clever and crafty our enemy really is!

And while Professor Sorum points out the very real and powerful enemy that threatens us all, he also highlights the comforting truth that while we take demons seriously, we need not fear them because we know one far more powerful than they, who came to protect us, and keep us safe from the devil and his minions. While demons are more powerful than you, they're not even close to as powerful as Jesus… (And that's really what we've been studying in our Bible Class on the book of Revelation.)

One day as Jesus went to church… (and by the way, if Jesus, who is the very God who authored the Bible, went to church, how much more don't we need to?) …Well, one day when he was at church teaching the Word of God, "a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!'"

Does it surprise you that demons go to church too? Of course, the demons are going to work hardest on those listening to the Word of God! He already has the unbelievers in his grasp. And while he speaks the truth—that Jesus is the Holy One of God, come to destroy the devil and his demons—I think the demon hoped that the people would view Jesus in the same light: As one who had come to destroy, not to save.

But Jesus demonstrated his amazing authority by commanding the demon, "Be quiet! … Come out of him!" And while the evil spirit resisted, nevertheless it was forced to obey. Jesus had that kind of authority over it. It had to do what it was told. "The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek." Jesus clearly demonstrated his amazing authority over even demons.

How does that make you feel? It ought to make us feel glad right? But, in reality, all too often you and I have sided with demons! We take their side every time we say as they did, "You're not the boss of me, God! I'm my own boss. I'll do what I want instead of what you want." In other words, we side with the demons every time we sin.

We side with the demons every time we twist or distort God's Word to make us feel comfortable in our sin, echoing satan himself in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say…?" "Did God really say drunkenness is a sin? I'm just having fun! Did God really say pornography is the same as adultery?! Come on! Who does it hurt?! Did God really say that an unloving thought about a co-worker is as bad as murder? I'd never kill anyone!" But do you hear who's behind that thinking? We have sided with satan and his demons so often that we might rightly be afraid to hear that Jesus came to destroy the devil and all who side with him.

We too might wonder, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? [We] know who you are—the Holy One of God!" He is the Holy One who cannot stand the sight of sin.

Nevertheless, as John wrote in his first epistle (1 John 3:8), "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." And that's exactly what he did. Though he was tempted by satan himself, he perfectly resisted every temptation that he might give us credit for his sinless score. And then, as satan crushed his heel by having the Son of God tortured to death on a cross, Jesus crushed satan's head by paying for all of the sins of all of mankind of all time—totally destroying the devil's work he brought about in the Garden of Eden. And on Easter Day, Jesus emerged victorious at the dominant victor once and for all.

That's the authority that Jesus still has over demons. So how do you overcome the enemy? You side with Jesus. Or, really, Jesus brings you onto his side as he brings to you faith in his perfect life lived for you, his perfect death died in your place, his triumphant resurrection that guarantees your own. And he keeps you on his side by keeping you in that faith. And you know how he does that: by the amazing authority of his Word.

Did you notice what really amazed the people? It wasn't that Jesus drove out a demon…


II.      His Authority in His Word 

"The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." And even before Jesus drove out the demon, "The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law." It was the Word of God clearly taught by Jesus that amazed the people most.

What if I could speak a word right now that by my speaking it and by your hearing it your debt would instantly be removed right now and for the rest of your life? Wouldn't you want to hear it? What if I could speak a word that would instantly make you perfectly healthy, with no cancer, no sickness at all, no back pain, no stiff joints, no excess pounds, immediately right now and for the rest of your life? Wouldn't you want to hear it?

Now I obviously don't have that authority to my words or I would have already spoken myself richer and thinner. J But Jesus does have a Word that keeps the devil at bay. His Word gives you the riches of heaven itself when you hear it and believe it. His Word makes you spiritually healthy—perfect and flawless before the Father. And one day that Word will make you physically healthy too--in every way—when he gives us each a new glorified body that cannot be corrupted nor decay. That's the amazing power of God's Word! Don't you want to hear it?

So read that Word—every day! Set aside just five minutes each day to read that Word of Life! Set a timer if you want. Just five minutes! Start with the Gospel of Mark. Then jump back to Genesis. Or read a Proverb a day for a month, then start over again. Or read through the Psalms twice in a year by reading one per day. Or download a "Through the Bible in One Year" reading plan. Just move it all back a month. Start February 1st and finish at the end of January 2018. (Who says resolutions can only take place with a new year?)

And as you do, read and study and learn that amazing Word, Jesus authority will impact you. Jesus will more than just amaze you, he will actually change you. He will make you less selfish and less lazy. He'll make you more generous and eager to serve others. He'll make you more kind and patient, loving and compassionate. Because as you listen to his Word, you'll be amazed again and again that he forgives you of every sin and promises you heaven itself! You'll be amazed at the his authority that can even raise the dead—including you, when he takes you to be with him in heaven! What amazing authority Jesus has!

As I listened to the audiobook of 2000 Demons this past week, the snow was falling hard all around me. The temperature was in the 20's and the wind was blowing hard. Nevertheless, I was dry, comfortable, and warm. You know why? I was in my van. The cold couldn't affect me.

In a similar way, one of the expressions the Apostle Paul loved to use again and again in his epistles was "in Christ" or "in Him." That's what you and I are: Safe in Christ, where the devil and his minions—as powerful as they are—can't affect us. As David declared in Psalm 3:3, "You are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head."

So stay in the Word, dear friends, and stay safe in Jesus by his amazing authority! Then, go do as those in Capernaum did that day: When you leave church, go spread the news about him quickly throughout the whole region. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen!


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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