"Cause I Said So"#85-22
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 28, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Cause I Said So)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 1: 21-28
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! "Astonishing!" and "Amazing!"-those are the words the hearers of Jesus used to describe Him, His teachings, His works, and His authority. May the Lord send His Holy Spirit upon us, so we also may recognize the Christ as the sole authority of our lives and salvation. Grant this Lord, to us all.
You may have noticed; the world is changing. Way back in 1930, when Dr. Walter A. Maier first spoke on The Lutheran Hour, the world was different. Back then, children said "excuse me" when they walked in front of you. Back then, a man's reputation was every bit as important to him as the money he was making. Companies were committed to their employees, not to a multi-million dollar bonus for a CEO who was making plans to get out before the company had to file for bankruptcy. Back then, athletes were still amazed they were being paid for playing a game they enjoyed.
Yes, the world has changed. Back then people got married first, then they lived together. Closets were for clothes, not for "coming out" of. A meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins, and fast food was what you ate during Lent. Understand, I'm not saying everything was better back then. It wasn't. Back then, cigarette smoking was fashionable. Infant mortality was high, and polio could strike just about anywhere. A trip to the hospital usually meant a final farewell to family and friends. Yes, times have changed.
Here's one difference between then and now. Back then, a minister was known as the pastor or the parson. The word "parson" was not a nickname, but a title, and it meant, "the person." More often than not, the parson was one of the best educated men in town, ranking up there with the physician and the lawyer. I probably don't have to tell you our day has demoted him from that once-lofty status.
Yes, things have changed. No longer can a pastor or a priest expect his words to have the authorization and authority of the Lord. The pastor's counseling no longer carries the weight of heaven. That's because, for many, his words are nothing more than one man's personal opinion, which can be received or rejected like the opinions of any other mortal.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Other positions also have taken a hit. In my lifetime I can remember when every parent told their children that they lived in a land where anyone could become president. Today, I am hard-pressed to think of any parent who would want to see their child occupy the Oval Office. Past and present scandals, the mixing of truth, fiction, and outright lies have tarnished that noble position. The eagerness of 21st-century journalists to gleefully point out to the public every flaw, every fault, and every failing of the chief executive has guaranteed that his authority will never be respected.
Yes, times have changed and, as you've just seen, one of the biggest of those changes has come in the area of authority. You see, we live at a time when no one is respected, and because nobody is respected, nobody has authority. That's why today we no longer have facts; we have opinions. Does life begin at conception or at birth? Is there serious global warming, or is what we are experiencing part of a natural, normal cycle? Should Pluto be a planet, or should it be demoted into being something else? On such subjects and many more, I can bring forth champions who will, from opposite sides of the fence, honestly and with intense personal conviction, argue their opinion. And that's the problem. Everybody has their opinion, and nobody speaks with authority.
Well, actually I know a Person who once did speak with authority. No, that's not my opinion of Him; it comes from the people who heard Him. Jesus was at the beginning of His ministry when He went to the synagogue in Capernaum where He began to teach. Now having a guest teacher was nothing new for people who attended a small town synagogue. Synagogue leaders would often ask a guest, especially an honored guest, to speak before the souls who were gathered. They did this hoping that their visitor might be able to shed some light or offer a new perspective on some part of God's Word. Although Scripture is silent as to what Jesus said that day, I've stood in front of enough audiences and congregations to pretty much be able to reconstruct what happened that day. Things would have started with people talking with each other; children would have been restless, and nobody was expecting much in the way of wisdom to come from Jesus.
Then Jesus began to speak. All on its own the background noise would have died out as people realized Jesus was somebody special saying something special. Pretty soon things had become so quiet, you could have heard the dropping of a pin. Each of the listeners began to think, "Hey, this guy is good. He is speaking with a very special authority and nothing at all like the regular preachers we are used to hearing." Mark sums up their reaction by reporting: "The people were astonished at the Savior's teaching."
It didn't take too long before their astonishment was coupled with amazement. You see, there was an interruption to Jesus' teaching that day. A man, a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit, had come to the synagogue and he began to shout. In his yelling, he identified Jesus as being the Messiah who was going to end the stranglehold of sin and Satan upon the souls of humankind. Although everything the man shouted was true, a demon-possessed individual was not the kind of person the Lord had selected to share the Savior's salvation story. In short order, Jesus freed the man from his curse and sent the devil back to hell. And the spectators who were there? They were amazed; not only were Jesus' words authoritative to them, the common folk of Capernaum, they also were commanding, compelling to powerful evil spirits. Amazing! Even the minions of hell were compelled to obey the Christ!
Amazing! It would not be the last time the word would be used to describe the Savior. After the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel-writer Matthew tells us the people were amazed at the words of the Savior who taught with such authority. How could the crowd not be astounded? The now familiar words Jesus spoke that day have touched hearts and given direction to countless lives the world over.
But it is not just Jesus' words which amazed and astounded. His actions, actions which showed He possessed the unlimited power of God to amend, abridge, and override the rules of nature were obvious to all who followed Him. One day a paralytic was brought to Jesus on a stretcher. Since the crowd prevented the friends who carried the crippled man from getting to where Jesus was teaching, they tore a hole in the roof and used ropes to let the man down in front of the Savior. Jesus took care of the man's primary problem first. He forgave the man his sins. Then, when the Savior saw the crowd questioned His authority to do that which only God should and can do, He proved His power by healing the man and letting him walk home on his own power. That day the eyewitnesses were amazed, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"
Healing a man who had been ill was an amazing event, but it could not compare with the day Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Friends of the family had already told Jesus He need not come since the girl was gone. Mourners were already in place, lamenting the passing of a child so young, when Jesus announced she was merely sleeping. No doubt the people thought Jesus' remark was in incredibly poor taste. Indeed, it would have been tasteless if the Redeemer hadn't successfully ordered her to wake up.
Again and again, Jesus amazed and astonished people who saw His authority. I can't tell you how many natural laws of the Lord were set aside the night Jesus braved a storm and walked on the water to His fearful disciples. If you and I had been there that day, no doubt we, too, would have joined the disciples in being "utterly astounded."
Even when Jesus didn't do or say anything, He was so exceptional, so unique, that people were impressed. Consider when Jesus stood on trial before the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate. Pilate was fully aware that most of the charges brought against Jesus were false. Even so, Pilate asked pointed and pertinent questions of the Christ. Amazingly, rather than defending Himself, rather than pleading for mercy, rather than throwing Himself on the mercy of the court, Jesus chose to remain silent. In so doing, He showed authority over Himself and commitment to the cause for which He had been born. Jesus knew His silence would take Him to the cross, and even though He had prayed that cup of suffering might pass from Him, He remained committed to saving us. And so, His silence saw Him carry our sins to the Roman cross erected outside the city walls of Jerusalem. And there, on that cross, Jesus' silence was broken as He forgave those who put Him there, as He made arrangements for His mother's safekeeping, and as He called out to His Father and shouted, "It is finished!" when His work was done.
Amazing! Yet all of these amazing events are nothing when they are compared to the dawn Jesus rose from the dead. What other word other than "amazing" could have been used by those who had been first to see an open tomb, who received the resurrection news from the angelic messengers, and had the opportunity to personally meet the living Lord? Once Jesus had said, "No one takes it (My life) from me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." The day Jesus died, our sins died with Him. The day Jesus defeated death by His own authority, the grave was transformed. Rather than being the gateway to an eternity in hell, for all who believe in the Christ as their Savior it became the portal to paradise. All this because of the amazing, astounding authority of the Christ, God's Son, our Savior and Lord.
But now, I have to ask a question: who is the authority in your life? Understand I'm not asking who has the power. I want to know who has the authority, and there is a difference between the two. The other day I came out of a restaurant and there, standing around a car, was a crowd. I wandered over and found out everyone was staring at a Hennessey Venom GT. Now don't be shocked if you've never heard of a Venom GT. I hadn't either until I came to Texas where the vehicle is made. "Vehicle." It seems like such a poor word to describe a car which boasts a top speed of 270 miles per hour. Its 1,244 horsepower engine will do 0-60 in 2.7 seconds and 0 to 100 in 5.6 seconds It is the fastest production car in the world. And you know what? The owner of that car confessed he has to be careful and slow way>/i> down when he knows a policeman is ahead. And that, my friends is the difference between power and authority. That Venom GT has the power to outrun any police car, but a stopped police car has the authority to make that Venom GT come to a stop.
So, today I ask you a very simple question: who has the authority in your life? Who is the person, what is the thing, that makes you do what you do, say what you say, think what you think? Who is the authority in your life? Almost 2,000 years ago, right after Jesus began His ministry, He spoke at the synagogue in Capernaum. Scripture doesn't record a single word Jesus uttered, but it does say what the people's reaction was. They said, "Wow! This fellow is different."
That day the synagogue crowd understood the difference between power and authority. The teachers of the Law, with all their book learnin', had power. They had the power of hundreds of years of tradition. They had the power of knowing the rules. You name the subject-they could roll out an encyclopedia of laws that governed the situation. They had power. But they were missing something. They were missing something Jesus had: authority.
But I am not asking about them, I'm asking who is the authority in your life? It is an important question. If you have heard of Him, if you have looked at Him-I mean really looked at what He has done to save you-then I'm convinced that you, too, must feel compelled to confess, "Jesus is the authority in my life because Jesus, God's Son, is my Savior from sin. He is the Lord who has given His life for my life." In this simple statement, you are joining with hundreds of millions of others who have confessed a truth which never changes: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
And if Jesus, right now, is not the authority of your life, then this message is especially for you. Your present life, your eternity depends on your relationship with Him. Do you not think it wise and right to check Him out completely? If you do so and find Him wanting, fine, you've lost nothing more than a bit of time. But I think, when you really look at Jesus you will be changed and you will be able to say, "He is amazing! He is astonishing! He is my authority, my Savior and Lord." To that end, if we can help, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Reflections for JANUARY 28, 2018
Title: Cause I Said So
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Pastor Ken Klaus, and joining us now in the studio, Dr. Dale Meyer.
Dale Meyer: Hi, Mark. I appreciated Dr. Klaus' message, and one of the reasons is because of your namesake.
Mark Eischer: Oh, really?
Dale Meyer: The Gospel of Mark.
Mark Eischer: All right. St. Mark, yes indeed. In fact, we're going to be hearing a lot from his Gospel in the coming months, I believe.
Dale Meyer: That's right. Most liturgical churches operate with readings that are appointed for each Sunday, and normally that includes an Old Testament reading, an Epistle from the New Testament, and a Gospel. Well, this year happens to be the Gospel of Mark as the featured Gospel, so we heard it last Sunday, today on The Lutheran Hour, and it's going to be popping up many times in the next months.
Mark Eischer: What would you say are some of the characteristics of the Gospel of Mark compared with the other three Gospels?
Dale Meyer: The disciples don't get it. I talked about that last Sunday in the message. You would think that it's easy for them, because they could see Jesus. They don't get it until after the resurrection.
Another thing is that Jesus is not little sweet, cuddly Jesus, like we want to imagine Him. I mean, He really gets into it with His religious enemies, like the Pharisees. He lets the disciples have it for being so slow to understand who He is, and what power He has. It's Jesus, really, with skin on. We know that Jesus is true God sent into this world to save us, but in the Gospel of Mark, He is also true man in many, many ways.
One example is Jesus was in the midst of a crowd, and a woman pressed toward Him. She believed that if she touched His garment, she would be healed and, in fact, that happened. So, Jesus looks around and He says, "Who touched Me?" And the disciples say ....
Mark Eischer: "You're in a crowd."
Dale Meyer: Yeah, exactly! I mean, this is Jesus with real skin on, and one of the things in my work with Mark that I've really come to appreciate, He is true God, and that comes across very clearly in all that He does, but He's also true man.
Mark Eischer: You really have a special relationship with the Gospel according to St. Mark, right?
Dale Meyer: Six of us at Concordia Seminary have memorized the Gospel of Mark, word for word. Each one of us has about 130 verses that we have memorized, and that has been, ooh, has that been an experience. One of the reasons why we did this is because originally, the New Testament writings were received orally. Take, for example, well, the Gospel of Mark. About 10 percent of the people in the Roman Empire could actually read and write, so most people heard about Jesus orally. Somebody came and read the Gospel that St. Mark had written, and the hearers heard it. That's why Romans chapter 10 says, "Faith cometh by hearing." So, it's a fascinating exercise for us at the Seminary to memorize this and start to realize, this is the way the faith was communicated, orally, not by opening a book and reading it. There's no offense to opening a book and reading it, but originally, it was the living voice of the Gospel, and sometimes, today, we confine the living voice of the Gospel to a book and put it on a shelf.
Mark Eischer: You've actually taken this out as a sort of a program where you're presenting it in almost like a theatrical setting, the entire Gospel of St. Mark in one sitting, right?
Dale Meyer: That's right. We've done this for about five years, and have maybe almost 25 presentations throughout the country. It takes two and a half hours. In the middle, we have an intermission, and then we come back and finish it off. It has been one of the most profound learning experiences I've ever had, and I know that it's profound for the people who see it. I preach, and I would like to think I can preach a fair sermon. I have never seen people as captivated as they are just hearing the words of Mark presented with some drama but, basically, each one up, who is reciting, it's monologue.
It's monologue, but it is captivating. The experience has taught me, among many other things, this Word of God is powerful.
Mark Eischer: What section do you do?
Dale Meyer: I begin in chapter one, after John the Baptist has announced that Jesus was going to come, then my first lines are, "Jesus came from Nazareth and Galilee, and was baptized in the Jordan by John, and immediately, as He was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens being split open," and we go on, and I take it all the way myself through chapter four and the parables.
Mark Eischer: Okay. All right.
Dale Meyer: Then another team player steps on the stage, and he recites his section.
Mark Eischer: I understand that Mark uses the word "immediately" quite often, and that heightens the drama, I think, of the narrative?
Dale Meyer: Absolutely. I recited the baptism, "And next, He is thrown into the wilderness." Literally, it's a Greek word, "ekballo." "Immediately, the spirit cast Him into the wilderness," dot, dot, dot, so it heightens the here- and-now nature of what is going on. It's interesting. We have had people, after the performance, say, "What is this 'immediately' thing?" Well, it's there. If you look at it in an English translation, it's there, but like so many other things, you pass over it. There's been a scholarly study just of that Greek word, "eutheos," immediately. I mean, it's a fascinating experience.
Mark Eischer: Okay. What else has this experience taught you or revealed to you about the Gospel of St. Mark?
Dale Meyer: The demons are very important in Mark, and they immediately recognize who Jesus is. Pastor Klaus, in his message today, talked about Jesus is in the synagogue. This is the first time that we know that He has spoken in the synagogue, and He's teaching them with authority. "And immediately, there was in their synagogue, a man in the power of an unclean spirit, and he cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are, the Holy One of God.'" From then on, throughout the Gospel of Mark, the demons know who He is. The disciples are slow to get it, but the demons know. Then, this is in my section, chapter three, the scribes, the big religious people, come down from Jerusalem. They come down to Capernaum, and they're saying Jesus has Beelzebul, He's possessed by demons, and Jesus goes after them on that. So, this is a threat.
Another thing that made a huge impact on me is how the religious establishment was out to get Jesus from the get-go. In chapter three, "He goes again into the synagogue. And a man was in their synagogue having a withered hand, and they were watching Him intently to see if He would heal on the Sabbath." Well, He did, and then it says, "Immediately, the Pharisees went out and took counsel with the Herodians against Him how they might destroy Him." Jesus says, "You don't truck with these people. They're not taking the message of repentance into their own hearts." He lets them have it.
In that same story that I'm talking about now, Jesus said to the Pharisees, "'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do ill, to save life, or to destroy?' But they were silent. And looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Stretch out your hand,' and he stretched it out, and it was healed."
I got to tell you, Mark, that this has been one of the most profound things I, personally, as just a poor guy trying to make it on the heavenward way. This has been profound to me. It's been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Mark Eischer: When are you next going to be presenting the Gospel of St. Mark?
Dale Meyer: We're going to be in the Cincinnati area in April. On April the 13th, we're going to be at St. John Lutheran Church in Dublin, Ohio, and then on the 14th of April, at the Federation of Lutheran Churches in Cincinnati.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Son of God, Eternal Savior" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)