Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jesus Matters

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 31, 2010
Luke 4:31-44

If there’s one thing we need to be reminded of; one thing we can’t escape; one thing we ultimately must answer to—it is that Jesus matters. You can talk about God all you want. You can wish for what you want to be true all you want. You may have convinced yourself of what truly matters in your life. You might wish for God to truly love you and so take away your hardships. You might think you’ve got it all because you’re comfortable, you have the means to take care of yourself and you’re successful. If it has all been taken away or you’re simply struggling in life to take care of yourself and your family that may seem all that matters to you.

But none of this matters without Jesus. Jesus matters. There’s a trend going on called militant atheism. Some outspoken atheists are trying to turn the world onto their belief that there is no God, but more importantly, they’re trying to turn people away from Christianity because they believe it’s evil. They don’t believe it for a second, but Jesus matters. They will soon enough find that out when they answer to Him on Judgment Day. We pray our Lord to bring them to faith in Him so that they may see that He matters, eternally.

But it’s not only in confronting atheism that we need to understand that Jesus matters. We need to know that He matters in our daily lives. Because whether you believe in God or not, you have to answer to the fact of the specific person of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, nothing matters. Without Jesus there is nothing that lasts except for eternal separation from God.

Jesus makes this known in the Gospel reading. He comes into the lives of those people with the message that He matters. Jesus brings a reality to the lives of ordinary people that is otherwise unseen and unknown. When you’re in the hospital bed and you see tubes coming in and out of your mouth and nose, and in your arm, your reality seems pretty apparent. What may not be easily understood by you in that time is that yours is a reality that goes beyond that hospital bed. You are tied to this altar and the people who sit around you in these pews. Jesus matters. He’s not a doctor or a friend. He’s the one who has the final word. He’s the one who is in your life alongside those tubes and apart from them. He speaks to you with authority.

The people who heard Him were amazed. With His Word He brought out of a man a demon. With His Word He silenced that very demon. Jesus matters. We may not always see it. But there are unseen things that know it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. The demon Jesus was standing before knew exactly who Jesus was. That demon knew something we often overlook: Jesus matters. The demon was powerful. The man appeared to have no hope against such power. But the demon met up with the one thing in this universe that cannot be overlooked. Jesus matters. The demon knew exactly in the way He matters, too: he knew He was God and the Christ.

If you don’t think Satan is powerful then take a look at the wonderful words of the Epistle reading. For one week make an attempt to live out those words. Be patient and kind; do not envy or boast; do not be arrogant or rude. Don’t insist on your own way; or be irritable or resentful. Do not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. Bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. Just try it. The best you’ll be able to do is make an attempt. The beautiful words of the love chapter serve to show us how pathetic we really are, that we’re no better than those who aren’t Christians. Jesus matters. You can’t go being a good Christian boy or girl, man or woman apart from Christ. Satan is always at the ready to snare us. The world is more than willing to lay a trap for us to do what we would like rather than humbly submit to others and love them unconditionally. Jesus matters. There is no eternal love without Him.

Everything Jesus does in the Gospel reading is eminently practical. There is nothing in our lives that ultimately matter apart from Christ, because apart from Him there is no eternal hope or salvation. When He heals Peter’s mother-in-law that is great for her. But it wouldn’t have mattered much if Jesus simply healed her so that she could no longer be sick. Jesus matters. He’s the one who’s important here, as the demons earlier pointed out. She is healed not so that she may be healthy but so that she may serve.

You’re a Christian. If your parents tell you to do something do you obediently do it or do you whine and complain about it? If your child needs help do you patiently guide and care for them or do you grudgingly do just enough to get by with something approximating help? When your boss places unexpected expectations on you do you jump at the challenge of being able to serve in such a way or do you resent having to do more than you’re worth? If you’re in authority over others, do you humbly serve them, grateful for the opportunity to do so, or do you mostly think about what you can get out of them?

Jesus matters. You may get by without answering to everyone you know, but you must answer to Jesus. He matters. You can’t just talk about God and how you love Him. You must see that God is your God in Jesus and because of Him. You must come to see that though you’re a Christian there is nothing as deadly as not seeing clearly who He is. The demons knew. They saw Him clearly and spoke clearly of that. But they didn’t know Him as their Lord.

Since you and I do we must come to terms with the fact that we are so often like Jeremiah, trying to get out of God calling us into His Kingdom. We must admit that the reason Paul exhorted his brother and sister Christians to walk in love is because we so often do not. It’s time we stand before God and confess that we are broken. That we live as if Jesus does not matter. That the fallen world we live in is too often a world we’re right at home with. Following the ways of the world, succumbing to the temptations of the devil, listening to our heart rather than the clear Word of God.

Jesus matters. He silences the demons’ clear statement of who He is because they speak of who He is apart from who He is on the cross. He goes on to preach to many because He goes on to preach until He comes again in glory that He has indeed come in grace and mercy in His suffering and death.

Jesus matters. That’s why you are Baptized. He matters so much that you have been washed clean in His gracious washing, you have been united with Him in that new birth. He matters. That’s why you come here to His Table often to commune with Him. To partake of His very Body and Blood.

You can talk about God all you want. You can wish for peace on earth or a break from the daily grind or that you wouldn’t have to worry about if your next paycheck is going to come. But none of it matters without Jesus. He matters. What will anything in this life get you apart from Him? In Him your life and everything you do not only matter but are richer and fuller and full of life and meaning. You are a servant of the Lord. You know who He is and you have opportunity to let others know about this one in all of history in whom there is true relevance. Jesus matters. What matters to Him is you. In His mercy He died for you—and that’s what matters. Amen.


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