Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
January 29, 2012
In a public place if someone has a medical emergency the cry will go out, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Most of us are not equipped to help someone who experiences a serious medical issue. Especially when time is of the essence, you need a doctor or other medical personnel immediately. When you’re at the hospital the doctor is easily recognizable. But out in public settings you have to ask the crowd if there is a doctor present.
This is the way it is with God. He is not immediately recognizable. When people are having problems they cry out to God. Since He’s not immediately recognizable it’s as though they’re asking, “Is there a God in the house?”
I wonder what the people were thinking on that day in Capernaum that’s recounted in today’s Gospel reading. It was the Sabbath. Time to go to church. Time to hear the Word of God preached. But on this day things seemed a little different. The man teaching the Word of God was doing things a little differently. Never mind that they knew Him, and perhaps many of them had grown up with Him. He was teaching in a way they weren’t used to. With authority. Not the way they were used to hearing from their scribes.
What was going through minds on that day? He was speaking on the Word of God as though He was behind it all. The scribes often quoted the authority of others. They knew their place. Did Jesus know His? How did the people of His hometown receive this kind of teaching from someone they knew so well?
And then the interruption. Just when they were trying to figure out Jesus in comes a man with an unclean spirit. The people there may not have understood what was going on but the demon did. The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, the demon was terrified by it. Its immediate reaction was, “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God.” This demon could see the writing on the wall for Satan and his minions. What do you have to do with us? Why don’t You leave well enough alone and go back to Your carpentry? But the demon really knew why Jesus had come—to destroy them.
The people were puzzling about Jesus. How did a carpenter get these preaching skills anyway? How did a regular person like they were come to speak with such authority when it came to the Word of God? But not the demon. He knew exactly who Jesus was. Namely, as he said, “the Holy one of God.” The demon knew who had entered the synagogue on that day.
As Mark tells us the account there wasn’t a lot of time for reactions. But we can imagine people asking at the entrance of a man who is demon-possessed, “Is there an exorcist in the house?” Is there someone here who can cast out the demon from this man? Will God come into His House on this Sabbath day and release this man from the tyranny of this demon? I can hear someone saying, “Is there a God in the house?”
It just so happens there was. If the people were astonished at the authority by which Jesus taught the Word of God they were even more amazed when they saw the power of the words He spoke as He commanded the unclean spirit to be quiet and then to come out of the man. Of course the demon was unable to resist Jesus. He didn’t like it so he cried out and convulsed the man, but come out he did.
And if that was amazing; if the people then were talking among themselves, debating among themselves, wrapping their minds around these events, what is clear is that that demon that had no ability to continue his demonic work had known exactly who Jesus was. There was a God in the house. God Himself, in fact, was in the house. Jesus entered that synagogue that day not merely as a scribe who taught the Word of God but as God in the flesh.
Paul says in the Epistle reading today: “although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Think for a moment about this remarkable statement. There are many religions, many gods in whom people put their trust. But as Christians we don’t go down those roads. As Paul goes on to say, “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” As Christians this is essential doctrine. And if Paul had stopped there there would have been no problem, because that is exactly who God is. God the Father is the one true God, the Creator of the universe and the one for whom we exist.
The thing is, Paul didn’t stop there. Even though it’s true that God the Father is the true God and the God of all creation, He’s also the Father of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. So in actuality it wasn’t enough for Paul to say that for us there is one God and He is the Father who created us all. Paul was compelled to go on and say, “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” If you’re going to talk about religions and beliefs and gods there comes a point where when you talk about the true God you must talk about the God who has made Himself known in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the Lord, as Paul says “through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
It is this God who walked into the synagogue on that day. The true God. It is this God that nobody realized was before them in the flesh except the one Jesus casted out, the demon. Jesus Christ was there on that day teaching the Word of God with authority unlike any of them had ever seen. It was authority that had power even over demons, which overtake a person and wreak havoc on their life. What happened from there on out was that word got around, His fame spread. But here’s the thing, they didn’t recognize Him. People knew about this man who taught with authority and did amazing things. But they didn’t see God in the flesh. They didn’t know who He really was.
We have the same problem still today. No, Jesus isn’t walking around the planet as He did two thousand years ago. So what do we have? People are looking for God. People are seeking out spiritual and eternal answers. So many people look for God but they don’t recognize Him the way He comes. He may not be walking around but God comes in the flesh still today.
What we believe is different is different from the world. We recognize that there is a God in the house. We believe that God still comes to us in the Person of Jesus. He is present right here before us at His Table. And He speaks with the same authority that He did in that synagogue two thousand years ago. That’s why we hear His words when we are given the bread, “Take eat, this is My body, given for you,” and when we are given the wine, “Take drink, this is My blood, shed for you for your forgiveness.”
So many seek God within themselves. Or they search for a god that is like the one they wanted at the end of the Gospel reading. There was a lot of excitement. There were stunning displays of glory. But did people know who He was? This was an amazing time, when God was walking on the earth in the flesh. There were plenty of people who believed in God—and yet, many did not believe that God had come in the flesh and was dwelling among them; that God was in the house.
But though it was an amazing time and certainly unique, things are not all that different today. There are many people who believe Jesus is God. A lot of people are excited about Him. But do they believe He is in the house? Do they recognize Him at the font? Do they recognize Him when He makes Himself known at His Table, where He gives us Himself, His body and blood in the bread and wine? Do they see that the one who hosts His Meal at His Table to give His body and His blood is the one who wants them to see Him here? For as many who marveled at Him, or debated Him, or questioned Him, all He really wanted for all of us to see was Him hanging on a cross while bleeding and crushed with the weight of every person’s sin and guilt.
If you want to know if God is in the house, remember that the God of Creation, of bringing things into existence, is the one who gave His Son over to death, even death on a cross, so that God could then accomplish His marvelous work of restoration. Restoring us to eternal life with Him. It is all in the one who was the recipient of the demon’s words: “I know who You are—the Holy One of God.”
So do we. And He is in the House. Amen.