EPIPHANY 4, B – January 28, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 32; Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” (Deut. 18:15)

 

Our Scripture readings today speak very fervently about Jesus. First, there’s Moses, Israel’s greatest prophet. In some of his last words, he tells his people:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” (Deut. 18:15)

And so: when the prophet like Moses comes, God wants you to listen to and follow him, and not Moses. Jesus is greater! How highly Moses praises Him!

Then, there’s the apostle Paul. Writing to the Corinthians, he says:

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. (1 Cor. 8)

Paul has in mind here Israel’s Creed, Deut. 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jews confess this every day. Well, Paul is saying that all things, and especially us, are from (think down ) and for (think up , or back to) God. He is Father. But all of this back and forth, this down from and back to (↓↑) God, is through Jesus. Through Him God the Father brings us forth, and through Him we know God and offer ourselves back to Him. Jesus is the one Lord of Deut. 6. How highly Paul praises Him!

Finally, there’s Mark’s Gospel. He says Jesus astonished the people with His authoritative teaching; relates how an unclean spirit called Jesus “the Holy One of God” – and was not contradicted; and then tells how Jesus ruled such spirits. Jesus is the authority of God among us to make us clean! How highly Mark praises Him!

Such fervent words about Jesus call for far more than being astonished and saying, “Wow!” about Him. They call for a fervent trust in Jesus. And, how is such fervent trust seen? How does it bring forth fervency in our lives? Mark indicates this in our Gospel reading. Notice that he doesn’t call the spirit that Jesus casts out of the man “evil.” He calls it “unclean.” So: when that which is unclean comes out we are then clean and can love and worship and follow Jesus. And, how do we rid ourselves of uncleanness? By confessing our sins. “Blessèd is the one whose transgression is forgiven, against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,” begins Ps. 32. Since this is so, the psalmist goes on to say, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” This is faith. It says: “God will bless me with His forgiveness when I acknowledge my uncleanness and confess my sins. So, I will confess them.” God calls those who do this godly. “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you [for forgiveness!] at a time when you may be found.” (Ps. 32:5)

Oh, how strange this is, that the person God calls godly is the person who confesses that he is sinful! When you think of a godly person, a fervent believer, I’ll bet you think of someone who is doing great deeds for God and for other people; or, of someone who speaks boldly and passionately about Jesus. It is not the poor, humble sinner. But, God says that it is the humble sinner who is godly. So, be godly and confess your sins!

You may wonder, “But what sins do I have to confess?” How about beginning with your blindness to how unclean your sin makes you in God’s sight, and so your failure to appreciate how great a gift, a cleansing, is His forgiveness in Christ? How about your lack of fervency in rejoicing in the gracious opportunities God gives you to hear and learn His astonishing Word? Or, perhaps your slowness in spreading Christ’s fame and too often being quiet about Him? This allows the unclean spirits greater opportunity to influence people and keep them in bondage to their sins. Perhaps you could confess your slowness in taking advantage of the times and places where God offers you Himself, because you assume that He will always and easily be available? Psalm 32 urges, “let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” The implication is that we will not always be able to find God; and He certainly seems to be hidden – or, we hide ourselves – when we feel our sins. The feeling of uncleanness leads to hiding and hanging onto our sins and, like a guilty child who runs and hides so as not to be found, running away from God instead of running to Him! This is perhaps the worst of the things our sin does to us. It makes us doubt God’s desire to forgive; doubt His love for us in Christ. Could there be a greater denial of God, a greater sin?

Sin truly makes one unclean. The unclean spirits simply take advantage of it. And, it is more pervasive than possession by unclean spirits. It fills the hearts and lives of us all. But, we have Jesus! He is the Holy One of God, the clean One who came to bring God’s cleansing to us. By the astonishing power of His Word, His voice, He casts them out of us and removes their uncleanness.

 taking them within Himself and offering up His life for them.