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The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (1/31/2021)

Deut. 18:15-20; Ps. 111; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

Knowledge, [W]e know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up … [I]f one loves God, one is known by him (vv. 1, 3).

Some at Corinth exercised their freedom by eating food offered to idols scandalizing some less mature brothers and sisters in the congregation. Paul describes the offense of disparate knowledge, which is to say, in matters of personal piety we are free;

But the danger to orthodox Lutherans is that in exercising Christian freedom we may be “puffed-up”. Paul previously explained, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12). Thoughtless or proud exercise of freedom, if it causes scandal to less “knowledgeable” consciences may be sin for failure of love.

However, in matters of the faith, the church is one holy catholic and apostolic. That being our witness; why then do a plethora of denominations promote disparate beliefs, surely a source of mirth and ridicule for unbelievers and heathens.

Put another way; why aren’t all Christians Lutheran? Drill down, and the answer is: the offense of disparate knowledge of God belying the catholic faith, “believed everywhere, always, by all”.

If for love’s sake we exercise our freedom judiciously; still, we may not endorse errors; these we challenge for the sake of Truth in knowing God in Christ.

Martin Luther and the Lutheran fathers were confronted by successive errors in the faith, not only from Rome, but profligate Protestant divines promoting their “tradition(s)” (Mk. 7:8). Against the array of errors, Lutherans took their reformation stand in “Sola Scriptura” for the church’s saving knowledge of God and Christ, our source of eternal life (Jn. 17:3).

Today Jesus arrived in Capernaum’s synagogue for reformation, to advance Torah knowledge in face of the “tradition of the elders” (Mt. 15:2). Jesus was invited to expound on the assigned Sabbath Readings and quickly was opposed.

St. Mark records the congregation’s reaction in observing Jesus’ words were different from their teachers. The authority with which Jesus expounded Scripture brought Moses to mind, “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—” (Dt. 18:15).

Soon enough Jesus’ teaching would generate violence (Mt. 11:12) from those then occupying the positions of Moses and Aaron; but first, opposition again came from Satan (cf. Mk. 1:12, 13). A man, consumed by demons, appeared attacking what the congregation would have perceived departed from taught “traditions”.

Satan is a most “knowledgeable” creature; it is also true he desires people remain in sin’s ignorance of God. Programmatic of this end are Satan’s slanders and half-truths.

Jesus is Speech of God, in whom we experience and know God, his character and ethic. In Christ alone, we are being re-made to authentic humanity, the “image and likeness” of our Creator.

M. Luther, taught by the “elders” of his day, thought Christ a wrathful judge demanding perfect holiness of our own (Mt. 5:48). Until his scriptural epiphany of salvation by “grace through faith apart from works of the law” (Eph. 2:8, 9; Rom. 3:28), Luther hated this God he did not know. Jesus crucified for the sin of the world, however is the only place where God is known in truth.

Like Luther, the congregation of Capernaum trembled before the God taught by the traditions of scribes and Pharisees. Israel sought God in Scripture, but teachers taught the terrors of law.

At Capernaum, the demon exacerbated the fear of hearing the Lord face-to-face. The demoniac asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” and so echoing Israel’s plea at Sinai, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die” (Dt. 18:16b).

Here we ask; “just how is a demon destroyed?”; by the separation from its host by exorcism. The demon was consuming the man, a being not of its own nature for expressing its own essence—of hate. The demon intended fear in the congregation, declaring Jesus, “the Holy One of God” (Mk. 1:24b) titling Divinity in the community.

Holiness separates profanity and sin from its presence. The demoniac intended to sow doubt toward Jesus’ teaching as contrary to the traditions of elders.

But Jesus came for Torah teaching understood from “the Beginning” (Jn. 1:1); the grant of forgiveness and imparted holiness, once for all, by the Voice of “one like Moses to whom men must listen”.

God separates profanity from his holiness, by an ever-maturing knowledge in word and sacrificial death and resurrection of his “Holy One”. Devils are not permitted to dispense knowledge of heavenly things; rather the church is given to proclaim the gospel to both “the heavens and the earth’ (Eph. 3:10).

Into today’s Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven’s battle against Satan’s worldly rule, came to full sway. Jesus commanded the demoniac, “phimotheti”, or “shut-up”, reputed as Luther’s “one little word that fells [Satan]” (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, LSB 656/657 s. 3).

The demon departed its host, separating Satan’s profaning from our humanity. The restored man is seen as portent of Jesus’ High Priestly sacrifice on the cross man’s reunion to God’s holiness.

Again, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” From the Fall through the millennia men have sought no higher purpose than advancing “knowledge” superior to others, perpetuating disparate knowledge.

But, in Christ crucified and risen, we know and participate in God’s intended purpose from “the Beginning”; to hear, see, speak, and act as Him into whose likeness we are being made anew. Jesus Christ, by his work on the cross is God’s sacrificial love (1 Jn. 4:8b).

If Satan, by sin would consume and distort us to destruction from an authentic humanity; it is God, in giving his Son’s crucified and risen body for our Eucharist consumption, Author of our holiness. Amen.

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