Epiphany 5 –
February 4, 2018
"When we seek relief From a long-felt grief, When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring; Show us that bright shore Where we weep no more."
Sometimes life just stinks! Often life is not a bowl of cherries. There is a seamy side of life. It is a life that is difficult. Life can be hard, tough, disappointing, and often painful.
Living under the constant fear of God’s judgment caused Martin Luther to confess with regularity even the slightest offense to his spiritual guide Johann Staupitz. Staupitz, who served as the chaplain of the University of Wittenberg where Luther taught theology, eventually grew tired of Luther’s perpetual appeals for forgiveness and said to him, “God is not mad at you. You are mad at God.”
Luther had a word for this kind of terror. He called it Anfectung. Although there is no English word that corresponds exactly to this German phrase, we know that Luther was expressing the deepest kind of darkness that one can ever experience when his worst moments of terror, depression, doubt and despair are all combine in the darkest of days. C. S. Lewis in his work “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” described it simply as, “being always winter and never Christmas!”
All three of our lessons call our attention not only to the reality of suffering but they point to the Great Physician who is able to cure and heal. They point to healing from that suffering as the Savior comes to us in our great need. You are not alone in your suffering. Your Savior walks with you.
As you consider the pains you as a believer in Christ must endure we will find three significant forms of suffering.
1. Personal suffering – the depths of human suffering – Job 7:1-7 - Why is life so hard? Why do we suffer? Job suffered more in a short episode of his life than most of us do in a life-time. His question is reasonable: Why is his life so hard? Is God unhappy with him? Is it some kind of curse? Is it karma- judgment for deeds in a previous life? Job certainly didn't understand why his life was so chaotic, but he did hold on to God. Sin in the form of sickness and weakness can often beset us. This was Job’s lot in life. He was not being punished for any particular sin. To the contrary, Satan argued that Job would fall like a house of cards if trouble entered his life. This is Satan’s tactic - to bring misery into our lives so that we would give up hope.
Even at the end of the story there is no answer given to his question “Why is life so hard?” The answer to the “why?” question can only be really worked through when we cling to Christ in grim determination, knowing that only His love sustains us.
The purpose of the church is not to produce well behaved children and perfect marriages. Nor is it to build a strong financial base. Or establish rules for living. Or create a political platform. Or teach a moral ethic. The purpose of the church is to point us to the One who suffered death for sin. For only by His stripes are you healed. So look to Christ. Who suffers for you.
Transition: There is one’s personal suffering. Then there is the suffering we share mutually.
2. Vicarious sufferings – sharing others’ misery – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 - We have all known people who have become hardened and embittered by the challenges faced in life. They tend to be chronic complainers who feel entitled to the sympathy of others. Yet, their constant cries repel their friends and family.
On the other hand, are the quiet thankful folk who see life as a series of challenges to be faced. Suffering is something to be dealt with, lived through, learned from, and redeemed. This is a very different perspective than the victims who meet every trial with resistance, resentment, and anger. We can learn from them. We can help them in their suffering.
Transition: As difficult as suffering might be - whether it is ours, or others, or both, it shall not last.
3. Temporary suffering – the solution of our suffering – Mark 1:29-39
Jesus makes known who He is by demonstrating His authority. Last week, He showed that He has authority over the unclean spirits. This week, He demonstrates His authority also over sickness and disease.
He does His proper work; delivering people from the effects of sin. By healing diseases and casting out demons, He foreshadows His eventual defeat of the power of sin and the devil by His death at Calvary.
Jesus overpowered evil. Everyone searches for Jesus because He heals all kinds of diseases. Jesus begins His public ministry with healing both mental and physical illnesses. Only God can heal! By restoring people to health Jesus shakes Satan’s kingdom and arrives to offer the people new life.
The Good News is that Christ’s kingdom is at hand. Jesus broke into time and space at Christmas. He began His work at His Baptism and fulfilled it on Easter morning when He broke from the tomb. In repentance and faith we experience His power in our lives. The same power He demonstrated to the people in all the areas of Galilee is what we experience every time He comes to us in His Word and Sacraments – to give us His strength, His peace, His purpose, His power!
We put our hope in His mercy and unfailing love and receive power to endure sin and the trials in our lives. David put it this way, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:10-11)
As we live in a world of sin and sickness we do not always understand WHY the righteous suffer. But we trust that Christ is in control and His will is best. He remains in control. He promises us the final victory in Christ.
Jesus lifts us up by His almighty power. Here we have not only compassion but also the power of Jesus to heal. The love and compassion of Christ always gives us a lift; a lift from sickness to health, from despair to hope, from sin to holiness, from death to life.
Jesus’ death and resurrection win the victory. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-26
Jesus lead Thou on Till our rest is won, Heav’nly leader, still direct us, Still support, consol, protect us, Till we safely stand In our fatherland.
Words – 1,370
Passive Sentences – 5%
Readability – 74.8%
Reading Level – 5.8
Woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, © WELS
Jesus lead Thou On, Lutheran Service Book © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis