From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. (ESV)
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No Man Weaker
Martin of Tours, Pastor
11 November 2013
The pastor has no power but the power of the Word of God. This means that in the eyes of the world, he is a powerless man. He commands no armies, levies no taxes, does not jet about the country on campaign, and has no authority over property or body. The world then presumes him to be a milquetoast, a weak chinned fellow trying to herd cats. He is a risible character in our culture. He is put upon by all persons, because he is unable to defend himself from ridicule or anger. He may not lash out or bring suit against his persecutors. There is no one weaker.
In the ears of God's people, he has been invested with the power of God unto salvation. The Lord Jesus has breathed on him (Jn 20:21-22) and conferred on him the peace that surpasses human understanding (Phil 4:7). It is no wonder the world thinks him foolish and misguided! For he offers something that human reason could never digest or absorb, let alone understand (1Co 2:14). He has only the weapons that bring peace to the heart, never the heavy-handed tools used by the powerful; tools that coerce and enforce obedience from the unwilling. He has only the mercy of God with which to comfort and console the spiritually downtrodden and oppressed, never the oppressing laws and regulations that disturb and destroy the dignity of those who find themselves crushed under the burden of culturally-normed rules. He has only the proclamation of divinely-worked forgiveness, never the demand for performance that pervades our success-oriented society. He breathes out what cannot be seen to give absolution for guilt that is fully felt. He speaks for God, never for the kingdom of this world.
The Christ, who breathes on Him, is a powerless man. In the eyes of the world, He was only worth being oppressed and He suffered the judgment of the law and her practitioners (Is 53:8). He commanded no armies, levied no taxes, and walked in the dust to conduct His campaign to save the world. He refused to become an earthly arbiter; he would not make mundane judgments between suppliants (Lk 12:14). He never piled crushing burdens on the weak and suffering. He dashed to pieces the world's rules (Lk 6:1-5). He never "outs" the guilty, but covers sin with His own precious blood (Rm 4:7). The world presumed the pastor's Master a milquetoast, a weak chinned fellow trying to herd cats. He was an object of ridicule. He was put upon by all persons, beaten, and spat upon, because He refused to defend Himself from ridicule or anger. He would not lash out or disprove the taunts of his persecutors (Mt 27:42). Never would He demand that they appear with Him before the bar of justice, so that He could plead His case against them. Instead, He reasons with them and tries to quiet their madness by pleading with them "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Is 1:18). He gives out to them what they have not earned, giving Himself into their filthy, grasping hands (Lk 20:13-14). He is nailed to the accursed tree and He dies. There is no one weaker. This weak One gives the weak pastor the words to say.
We should believe what we hear, not what we see. We should believe our pastor's speech is God's speech if we believe that Jesus' speech is God's speech. For He gives over into the mouths of our pastors the power to give holy absolution, to say out of existence our sins. These weak men offer the powerful words of the weak Savior for whom they speak. When they speak, it is as though Christ Himself deals with us. That is the power of the Word.
"We must take pains to set a high value on the promise of the Word, to extol it in every way we can. Let us also pray earnestly that our faith be increased and strengthened by God. For if we do not believe, we shall receive nothing, just as the unbelieving Israelites did not enter the Promised Land but were struck down and slain in the desert, with the exception of only two, Joshua and Caleb (Num 26:65).
"Thus we know that because we have been baptized we are children of God and fellow citizens of the saints in the kingdom of God (Eph 2:19). Who has given us this certainty and comfort? The minister of the Word, the priest. What, I ask, does this man teach, this man who is altogether worthless, needy, poor, and a beggar with barely the ability to pay for a cord? How could this man give the kingdom of heaven?
"For this is the way the irreligious and unbelievers speak. Thus it is stated in Ps 78:19-20 concerning the people of Israel: 'They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?' 'And the Capernaites asked: 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' (Jn 6:52). But the psalm names the punishments of the unbelievers: 'He made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror'(Ps 78:33).
"Accordingly, one must conclude with certainty and firmness that a pastor of the church has the power to open heaven to those who want to be baptized, absolved, and taught in the Word. Therefore because he has the power and the divine command, he can and should absolve and remit sins. Christ has expressly given this power to them in Jn 20:23
, saying: 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, etc.'"
Lectures on Genesis, 48.20
Dear heavenly Father, we know that because we have been baptized we are Your children and fellow citizens of Your saints. You have given us the certainty and consolation of holy absolution. The minister of the Word, the priest, teaches this even though he is altogether worthless, needy, poor, and a beggar. Help us to believe that, because You have commanded him to speak the gospel, this man gives us the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
For the call committee of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Spirit would grant them wisdom and discernment
For all those who feel the guilt for their sins, but have no one to announce the mercy of God to them, that the Lord might send workers into his harvest field to speak guilt out of existence
For all veterans, that on this Veterans Day, they might be strengthened in body and soul
For Juanita Duffala, that the Lord Christ would be her strength and shield
Art: Eyck, Jan van The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429)
© Scott R. Murray, 2013