Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany [c] January 30, 2022
31 And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! 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.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.
40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
In the Name of Jesus.
The demons have a message. The demons are, of course, the fallen angels.
All the angels were created holy, but some fell. Envious of what God had given to man and woman, greedy for power they did not have, resentful of being created as spirits and not as the image of God, spiteful for being set as servants to humans to bring them messages of life from God instead of being given the office of lordship over man and woman, these angels fell.
In Scripture, these fallen angels are spoken of as devils, as unclean spirits, and as demons, the chief of whom is called the devil or other times Satan. Created to be messengers of the word of life, messengers of fellowship with God, they took their created office of messenger and made themselves messengers of malice, hatred, envy, lies, and death.
They are still messengers. That’s what God created them as. Like a dog with rabies—by having rabies he doesn’t cease to be a dog, but now, instead of being a dog bringing his master playfulness, a wagging tail, and a tongue ready to give friendly dog kisses, he becomes a rabid dog, a dog bringing snarling and sickness, but still a dog.
The fallen angels are still messengers to us. But now they bring not the message of gifts from God, but the message of a stingy god, a god of accusation and retribution.
So what’s the message the demons bring to you, to me, to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even to our world?
The message is the lie. It’s not a complete lie. Like the most effective lies in our world, it’s a lie which has some truth in it, so that it portrays itself as truth, even as at the end of the day, it is a lie unto death.
With Job, that man in the Old Testament deeply afflicted, Satan brought the lie like this. He brought affliction to Job, loss of wealth, loss of family members, finally loss of Job’s personal health.
But that wasn’t Satan’s endgame. Satan and his demons love bringing evil—all the sickness, hunger, affliction, hatred, envy, despair in our world—Satan is evil and he loves bringing evil.
But his endgame is not the affliction itself. Satan’s endgame is to use the affliction to bring doubt to our conscience. To use the affliction to make us think that God is only a God of accusation, and not a God of grace giving gifts. That is, Satan wants us to know God for his power, for his Law, not for his kindness and his Gospel.
So Satan brought affliction to Job, and then, as Job suffered, Satan tempted Job’s friends and Job’s wife to go to Job not to build him up in the Gospel, but to terrify him with the Law.
Do we want to know how to give really bad advice to a friend who’s suffering? Do we want to know what’s the worst possible counsel for a loved one afflicted?
Listen to what Job’s friends say to him when he has lost everything and he’s sick on the bed. First, Job’s friend Eliphaz:
If I were you, Job, I would seek God and commit my cause to him.
That’s Eliphaz’s way of letting Job know this is all his fault for not committing his way to the Lord.
Second, Job’s friend Zophar:
[Job,] God knows worthless men. When he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?
Zophar’s way of letting Job know that the reason Job suffers is because God is getting back at him for his sin.
If we want to make sure that when a friend is suffering he will never have a clean heart before God, if we want to make sure that when a friend is at his lowest, his conscience will never be at peace, that’s how we do it. We point him to his sin, remind him of the guilt, we tell him that everything is happening because he’s under the accusation of the Law and if he would just make a commitment to God, then he wouldn’t be suffering. And the fact that he is suffering is evidence that he doesn’t have enough faith.
Satan is the one tempting Job’s friends to give him that self-righteous advice.
So what’s the message the demons bring to you, to me, to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
The accusation. Always the accusation. The Law of God, the guilt. That is always the message the demons bring.
It’s a true message.
The Law of God is holy, and we are not. So by the Law, we are under the accusation.
And the sinner under the accusation, the sinner with a conscience unclean, that’s what the demons want.
So the demons don’t mind telling us about God’s power, and his holiness, and his righteousness, and his anger.
They will tell us the accusation of God’s Law, because that’s what leaves our conscience in despair. The demons will tell us that part of the truth. But they won’t tell us the greater truth. Luke 4:34:
[The unclean demon said,] “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.”
The demon doesn’t mind proclaiming that God is holy. Because that leaves the sinner in despair, since the sinner is unholy.
What is the greater truth the demon will not bring to our consciences?
Not only is God holy, he is the One who makes holy. He is the One that makes you holy. He is the One speaking to you his Gospel, forgiving your sin, cleansing your conscience and making you holy. No demon ever brought that message to a conscience.
And demons also came out of many [people], crying out [to Jesus], “You are the Son of God!”
The demons don’t mind proclaiming that Jesus is God the Son. Because if Jesus is himself the all-powerful Son of God, then in his holiness, he will mow the sinner down with power to great to resist.
What is the greater truth the demons will not bring to the conscience? Not only is Jesus true God himself, but as true God, he became man in order to bear the sins of every sinner. And because he is true God, when he gives himself over on our behalf on the cross, his death atones for the sins of every sinner of every generation, no one left out. And because your conscience is cleansed by the Word of forgiveness spoken from the mouth of God the Son, his forgiveness justifies you both on Earth and in Heaven, for he is God of all.
That’s the greater truth the devil and his demons will not tell you. The Gospel, the justification of the sinner, the cleansed conscience, grace and mercy as free gift of God—you will never hear that from a demon.
And [the people] were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word [of Jesus]? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”
Authority and power.
Jesus has all power because he is true God who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created all things, including the man and the woman, and including the angels, some of whom fell and made themselves. His power over all creatures is never at question.
But also with authority he commanded the unclean spirits to come out.
What is Jesus’ authority? It’s not his power. It is his office. It is the authority the Father gave him to take on human flesh, the office to bear the sins of the world, to die on the cross as the Lamb of God, the authority given him to atone for our sin with his own blood, the authority given him, then, to proclaim that Gospel to us and our families, so that by that Gospel, our sin is forgiven, our conscience cleansed.
By the authority to forgive sins, the Gospel’s authority, Jesus casts out the demons. For where sins are forgiven, the demons have no more accusation against the sinner. Where sins are forgiven, the conscience is cleansed and the demons can bring no more despair. Where sins are forgiven, the demons have no more voice, and for the sinner, there is life and salvation.
The demons do not want you to know that your sin is forgiven, that you are justified freely by the Word of Christ.
But Jesus was sent for just that purpose. Luke 4:43:
[Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Today, this Gospel of Christ Jesus is proclaimed to you: You are no longer under the accusation of the Law; by the blood of Christ your sin is forgiven; your guilt is remembered no more; you stand before the Father justified.
In the Name of Jesus.