Our Gospel picks up right were Mark left off last weekend. Jesus had called to himself a few disciples, and now he heads to Capernaum. “The went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” We see Jesus doing something that we will find him doing often in his ministry. Going to the synagogue and teaching. Jesus teaching style immediately grabbed the people’s attention because it was different. Jesus did not teach like the other teachers of the law, who would have cited different people’s opinions and weighed them and then listed some possible conclusions that could be drawn. No, Jesus taught with a knowledge and insight that were his by right as the Son of God. He said this is what it means. This is what is true and what is false. This is God’s Word and how it applies to you. This theme appears often in the Gospels. The people are amazed at how Jesus teaches.
But on this trip to the synagogue something out of the ordinary happens. “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’” Jesus’ teaching is interrupted by this man possessed who makes one thing very clear. Those demons knew who Jesus was and they shout it out for all to hear. Jesus reaction is swift. “Be quiet!,’ said Jesus sternly, ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” Jesus does not waste much time to silence this man and then to free him, driving out the demons that possessed him.
Yet here we run into one big question? At least I do. Why does it seem so bad that this man is yelling out? I mean if it was someone pointlessly interrupting Jesus’ sermon, I could see how it would be a bad thing. Or if it was something that Jesus wouldn’t want being said or a problem he couldn’t take care of it would be bad. I appreciate it that none of you are yelling at me in the middle of this sermon, but Jesus was pretty well equipped to handle the situation. And, you have to admit, the man was crying out something that was a fairly fitting Epiphany theme right? This is the Holy One of God, would not be a surprising sermon theme for these verses today. Couldn’t you say it was verification for Jesus that even the demons had to acknowledge who he was? Yeah, we know Jesus wasn’t publically announcing he was the Christ quite yet, but it wasn’t like he was hiding either, with all the clues and signs he gave. And yeah, a demon’s testimony probably wasn’t the best source, but wasn’t the message still right on? Wasn’t this another great opportunity for Jesus to be verified as that promised Messiah? Didn’t this verify
One of the reasons that it seems like a natural question to wonder if this was all bad, is that we are sometimes looking for just a tad more verification ourselves. It’s not that we doubt Jesus is who he said he was. We just would love to have a little bit more to put our minds at ease. We wonder what it would be like to see what Capernaum saw. To see a demon driven out of a man at church, shrieks and all. To watch as all types of diseases were cured in a touch. To watch a lame man who had been lowered through the roof on a mat, pick up that mat and walk home. We would love to see any of these things. Just one more verification.
But you know what we would rather see than any of those things happening in Capernaum? We would really like to see a little verification in our lives. To see that person we know miraculously recover from that illness that seems to be the end. To watch as an amazing resolution unfolds to a gigantic problem that we are facing. To have no doubt that this whole church thing matters as we witness God at work in our lives. Maybe it is just a little hindsight we want. We are waiting on God to give us some understanding of why we went through what we went through and for it to be so obvious that we could draw the picture for all people to see. We want to be able to verify Jesus right? We want to see a little bit, feel a little more, and have the trump card to play when doubt comes calling in our minds.
Would any of those miracles be enough verification? We sure think so! But they weren’t for most of Capernaum. What does Jesus say about that place where he gave such evidences that we would deem overwhelming? “And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.” None of those miracles in themselves overpowered unbelief in Capernaum. Jesus knew the limit of what those miracles did. They called for attention, but they weren’t the verification. If they were, he would have done them all. Jesus had not run himself out of opportunities to do more, but he knew they weren’t the point. He didn’t view them as something he had to do to offer proof or a sign of who he was. So no, the miracles aren’t what would be verification.
What about in your life? What about the things you want to see for a little more assurance? Sometimes we see such things. But let’s be fair. We still see them by faith. If you want to make the miracles of your life the reason why you know Jesus is who he says he is, then what about when the miracles don’t happen. What about the times that someone could say, well that isn’t anything great, there are plenty of reasons why that happened. Is this solid ground to stand on? Wanting to find little verifications in our lives. Aren’t we building the verification of our Savior on something subjective? Something that he doesn’t tell us to look at. Something we want rather than what where he says to look. And if we move our confidence in Jesus somewhere he hasn’t directed that confidence can be let down. Jesus doesn’t say to you, I am always going to heal you the way you expect. He doesn’t say I am always going to show you what I am doing for you right now. Such things can’t be the way we verify our Lord. We open ourselves up to the sting of doubt when we say here is where my trust will be built.
Where does Jesus want us to look for his verification? The same place he wanted those people in the synagogue in Capernaum
looking. He wanted them to see his authority in his teaching. That is why he shut up that demon so quickly, and yes, that showed his power, but it showed the power of his word. He wanted those people to see how different his teaching was as he showed them this is what God says to you. Don’t waffle on it. This is not a matter of debate. I the Son of the Most High have come to show you the truth. That truth is what will vindicate me. Build your confidence on me because of what I am teaching you. Because I am showing you what shall stand.
Jesus directs your eyes this morning to the same source for verification. He wants you to look closely at his teaching. To see here is the one that Moses talked about. The prophet who would arise from among the people to speak the Word of God. Here is the one whose lips speak the very Words of God. Here is the one who gives you teaching that shall not fall to the ground or fail
you. And see where he points you in the middle of doubts. Not to some miracle that you hope to see or think you see. He points you back to his words, the product of the miracle of inspiration. That words that are just as true for you and me today as they were when Jesus spoke them. This is why we preach from this word. This is why it serves as the sole basis of what we teach. Because it is through these pages that God still speaks to us from our pulpit. It is here where you find your certainty. Your Jesus has said so, and because he has said it, there is no doubt that it is true.
Let this Word be the source of your trust. Let this Word be your help and stay in this life. It shall not fail you. The one who demonstrated his power over the devil and his demons says that here, in this word is where you will find him and will find the life that he has won for you. When you are searching for someone to count on, someone who will never prove false to you, find your Savior speaking to you, reminding you of his great love for you. Pointing out to you who he is, the long awaited prophet, and preaching to you the good news of what it means that he has come. Here, listen to his claims, that your sins have been washed away. Here, listen to his statement that the doubts that have spotted your record and mine, those secret desires to see more have been banished by the truth of his life for you. Here find the truth you are seeking, the one who teaches with authority as he teaches us today.
May this be the verification you are seeking today. Not found in the calming of storms or the raising of the dead. But found in the teaching of your Savior, that shall not be changed despite heresies attacks. That shall not fail you, no matter how hard this world and the devil try to convince you it will. That shall not be made optional, even when our sinful nature tries to do that. Here is the certainty that is yours. The prophet has spoken, and your Jesus’ words to you will not fail. Amen.