“No one lives forever”, at least that’s how the old saying goes. In today’s First Reading for the 4th Sunday of Epiphany, found in Deuteronomy 18:15-20, we see this sentiment – no one lives forever – as Moses is approaching the end of his life. (Note that Moses did reappear at Jesus’ Transfiguration. It can be said that in this world no one lives forever, but that in God’s kingdom people do live forever. What a hope we have in Christ!) As Moses is approaching the end of his life, the people were concerned as to who, if anyone, would replace Moses. Moses assures them that God would continue to be faithful to them and send them a new prophet like Moses to lead them. Notice Moses’ warning to the people to listen to this new prophet. Also notice the warning that a prophet must only speak what the Lord tells the prophet to say. The immediate fulfillment of Moses’ words would be in his assistant Joshua, but the long-term fulfillment is in Jesus. It is Jesus Who is sent from God and Who speaks the words of God. What does Moses warn us if we do not listen to Jesus? Listen to Jesus and follow Him as Lord and Savior.
Psalm 111:1-10. The Psalm for today, 111:1-10, is a wonderful psalm of praise. Notice that it begins with “I”, “I will give thanks to the LORD”; but that is the last “I” in the whole psalm; the “I will give thanks to the LORD” of the psalmist immediately leads to a recounting of the glory, majesty, and works of the Lord. Let our praises be filled with what God does! One of the things I appreciate about Lutheran teaching is that it quickly gets off of “I” and talks of what the Lord does. Notice all that the Lord does for His people. Holy and awesome is His Name! Let your praises be filled with recounting His acts of blessings!
The Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, is a continuation of reading through parts of 1 Corinthians. The apostle Paul is speaking out against all the people in Corinth who thought that their freedom in Christ was license to do whatever they wanted (nothing changes, does it?) How many people today think the same thing, e.g. “I’m not hurting anyone else by what I do, so I can do whatever I want.” Well, Paul would say, your sinful actions do in fact hurt others, and so don’t do things that will cause others to think sin is OK. Paul says to let the love of Christ guide your behavior so that you won’t be the cause of someone else to sin.
Notice also that he says idols and other gods are not gods at all, but he warns the Corinthians, and us, not to associate with other gods so that we don’t cause our neighbor to sin. Even though we don’t dabble with other gods/idols, what are the things that try to get control over us such that if we followed them we would cause other people to sin? Paul says not to do something that will cause another to stumble.
Mark 1:21-28. The Gospel is recorded in Mark chapter 1, vs. 21-28. This passage occurs right after Jesus has called four disciples to follow Him. What was the first thing He did as He began His public ministry? He immediately went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and taught. If we want to be followers of Jesus, what is the first thing we do? Go to worship! Notice all the times recorded in the Gospels where Jesus is at the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was His custom, or He was at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Notice that Jesus’ teaching was with authority; He was teaching the things of God, and as God in human flesh, He certainly taught with authority.
Part of His authority is to drive out evil, and there was a man there with an unclean/evil spirit. Notice the question the man/unclean spirit shrieked out: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? (YES HE HAS!) And the evil spirit recognized Who Jesus is and His authority – the Holy One of God. And Jesus did what He came to do, to set the man, and us, free from evil. The people in the synagogue were astounded, Jesus’ words and actions were with authority, even over the unclean spirits.
Later in Jesus’ life and ministry all the forces and powers of evil would band together to get rid of Jesus by crucifying Him, but in His death and resurrection He defeated them, and He now sets us free from the sin and evil that beset us. Praise be to Jesus!