Sunday, February 1, 2009

Never Count Him Out

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 1, 2009
Mark 1:21-28

Maybe he was getting a little too big for his britches. A little too full of himself. Who did he think he was, anyway? Why was it that everything he says goes? Why shouldn’t others also have a say in how things would go?

There were some who actually stood up to him. Some who told him what they thought of him. You don’t have a corner on God wants. We also want to have a say. So they told him. They would bring him down a notch. Maybe then he would see that it wasn’t all about him, but about them as well.

Moses had actually tried to get out of this gig when God first called him to it. If only Aaron and Miriam would have thought things through they would have realized that Moses had never wanted it to be about him. He wanted God to call somebody else. But when God calls a man God is the one calling the shots. You’re free to reject the call, of course. But, then, you’re rejecting God as well. He will find somebody else. He always does. And that’s really the reason why it’s never about the person He calls. He can always find somebody else. But when He calls you He’s the one at work. He’s the one doing the thing that’s being done.

Something Aaron and Miriam had forgotten. They accused Moses of it being about himself when really they were the ones wanting it to be about themselves. It’s hard to see who it’s really about when you’re concerned with it being about you. Moses finally got it. He tried to get out of God’s call at the beginning not because he didn’t want it to be about himself but because he did. He didn’t want to follow God’s call but go his own path.

Today’s Old Testament reading shows us that the greatest prophet of the Old Testament—Moses—has no greatness in and of himself but his greatness lies in pointing us to the Prophet par excellence, Jesus Christ. Why did God point to the greatness of Moses in the Old Testament? Because in looking at Moses you were seeing the representative of God—of, in fact, Jesus Christ. You weren’t supposed to listen to what Moses had to say, but what God was saying through Moses. When God called Moses to speak then you were to listen. That’s what God does, He calls people to speak so that you may hear Him, that is, God. You discount Moses, you discount God. Never count Him out, though. God will find a way to speak to you, even through a stammering Israelite like Moses.

Never count Him out. Even when He comes into a small town like Capernaum. Even when He makes His grand entrance to earth in a little town, and there, in a stable. Even when He’s then incognito for thirty years. Even when His grand Ministry is often carried out in small towns like Capernaum. Never count Him out, because He is the Prophet par excellence, the one God promised in the Old Testament reading. The one God Himself sent.

Moses showed up and told the people of God what God had to say. Jesus showed up, too. He went into that synagogue and spoke the Word of God. What did Satan think of all this? Well, he doesn’t like it when God is constantly getting His Word out. Through people, of all things. So Satan attacks those people. Moses was doing his job, bringing the Word of God to the people of God, and he was attacked by those people, his own brother and sister, no less. This is what Satan does. He tempts us. He gets us thinking that God wouldn’t work in the way He does. He should work in a way that conforms with our sensibilities.

This is what God does, though. He gets His Word out. Through people. Through His own Son, in fact. He is the the very Word itself. The Word made flesh. Never discount God. Even when He comes Himself. Even when He comes in His own way. As a man. Coming with His very own Word to give. The people were astonished at His words. How could a man from these parts have this kind of authority? How could He be speaking authoritatively, unlike the scribes who were professional teachers of the Word of God?

In fact, it seems that we’re often the ones who count Him out. Satan never does. That’s why he went after Moses. That’s why he went after Jesus in the wilderness. Failing there, he kept after Him, in this case a demon trying to put a stop to Jesus’ bringing God’s Word to the people of the synagogue. The demon even clearly says he knows who Jesus is. And then he even says it! There’s no discounting who Jesus is by Satan.

But there’s no returning the favor, either. Jesus not only counts out Satan, He brings him to his knees. If God will not allow His people to go against His chosen vessel, whether Moses or His Son, neither will Jesus allow Satan to be the one telling the world who Jesus is. Be silent! Come out of him! There is no way Satan could count out Jesus. No way. The demon came out of the man even as he was commanded to.

The people? They were still kind of dazed. What was going on? How did this man come to be able to do this stuff? In other words, they were still counting God out. Not quite sure what to make of Jesus; not quite sure if God really could work through an ordinary man. His fame spread, though. And no wonder. The things Jesus was doing were amazing. But His fame should not be confused with seeing that Jesus was indeed very God of very God and the Word made flesh. Crowds that thronged to Him during His Ministry were nowhere to be found in His suffering and death. Even here God was at work in Jesus and even then should not have been counted out, because it was in that very suffering and death the Word of God was most clearly brought to mankind.

If you wonder what to make of the Church that sends regular men to pastor congregations; what to think of the Church that Baptizes babies as well as those who haven’t long to live; what to make of the Church that centers its life around a meal that doesn’t offer much to eat but trusts that what is being partaken of is food of nothing less than immortality; what to make of God doing His work that He does through ordinary words—written on the pages of the Bible, proclaimed by those He calls, spoken to His people to forgive their sins… then take a look at Jesus. Don’t count Him out. If He wants to come to you in water and bread and wine and ordinary words, marvel if you will, but especially rejoice! Rejoice that as He sauntered into that synagogue in Capernaum, so He comes into this House here today, to do the very same thing: forgive you and bring you life. Amen.


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