Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sermon -- Festival of St. Luke, Evangelist and Doctor (October 18, 2015)

LUKE 4:38-41

LUKE, THE PHYSICIAN, TESTIFIES 
TO THE GREAT PHYSICIAN.  

In the name + of Jesus. 

     When we consider the writings of the Evangelist Luke in both his Gospel and in the book of Acts, we notice that Luke was a detailed historian.  Luke did not invent myths or write fairy tales.  He documented names and dates.  He used specific terminology and identified items with striking accuracy.  But if Luke is to be recognized as a scholar, it stands to reason: he was also a physician.
     The physician, Luke, recorded many of Jesus' miraculous healings.  Luke, the physician, testifies to the Great Physician.  Luke would have worked with herbs and other medicines.  Jesus worked with a touch of his hand and an authoritative word.  In our reading from Luke's gospel, we hear Jesus issue his authoritative word with a strange expression.  Jesus had gone to the house of Simon Peter in Capernaum.  There, he healed Simon's mother-in-law.  Luke recorded it this way: “He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her...” (Luke 4:39)  Jesus rebuked the fever.
     If we survey the gospels, we notice that Jesus made several rebukes.  Jesus rebuked the demons when he drove them out of those who were possessed.  Luke records one of those instances in his gospel.  “Demons also came out of many, crying, 'You are the Son of God!'  But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.” (Luke 4:41)  Jesus rebuked the demons because he did not want the testimony of demons.  Demons are not interested in preaching people toward Jesus, but rather away from him.  Therefore, Jesus rebuked them.  Jesus also rebuked Simon Peter.  After the disciples confessed that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus told them that this meant that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again.  Peter rebuked Jesus and said, “Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)  Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23)  If Jesus did not go to the cross, there would be no salvation for sinners.  Jesus also rebuked the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus was not to die by drowning, but by crucifixion.  Whenever Jesus rebuked someone or something, the common theme seems to be that Jesus rebukes whatever would prevent him from winning our salvation.
     But then Luke records this: “He rebuked the fever, and it left her...” (Luke 4:39)  To see how this is consistent with preserving our salvation, we must understand that the woman's fever was the result of sin in this world.  Every fever, every ailment, every disease, every allergy, and finally every death is the result of sin.  It is not the result of one specific sin for which God is smiting you.  It is that we are sinners living in a sin-encrusted world.  This corruption means that our bodies break down.  We become frail, sick, and weak.  Genes mutate.  Immunity systems fail.  Eyesight fades.  Hearing goes.  Organs shut down.  And finally death comes to us all.
     It is no surprise that healthcare is such a popular topic.  Employees come to expect a generous healthcare package at their jobs.  Politicians make all kinds of promises to improve it, fix it, or guarantee it.  Healthcare is considered as much of a right as free speech and as necessary as food and water.  It is reported that 1/6 of the US economy is tied to health care.  For many, health has become a false god.  Even people who claim that they can never get out of their homes will not miss a doctor's appointment.  We all pray for longer, happier, and pain-free lives.  We trust doctors, hospitals, and medical prescriptions to be the answer to our prayers.  And yet, none of these will save anyone from the grave or improve the sinful condition.
     Although St. Luke was a doctor, I can assure you that the most important thing Luke ever wrote was not a prescription.  Luke, the physician, testifies to the Great Physician.  Jesus Christ is God who became man.  He was a flesh and blood man who dwelt among flesh and blood people in the midst of their various diseases, their disabilities, and death.  Jesus ministered to those who were hurting and ailing, bringing his healing touch to those who were brought to him.
     The gospel writer Matthew declared that Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)  And indeed, Jesus did everything to deliver us from sin and its consequences.  He took into his body every one of our infractions against the Law and the curse that comes with them.  He became sin for us, taking our guilt and all the consequences that comes with our broken condition.  Jesus gave his body into death to deliver our bodies from every consequence of sin—damnation, death, disease, and decay.
     Luke, the physician, testifies to the Great Physician.  For, the one who suffered and died for us in our sinful condition also rose from the grave in his body.  Jesus' body lives and reigns forever in glory and immortality.  He demonstrates that the bodies which God gave us will not be forever discarded, but rather that we will be raised up from the dead in glory, in immortality, without frailties and without failing.
     It is amazing to me how many people—even Christians—like the idea of reincarnation.  People want to come back with new bodies and live in this corrupt, disease-ridden, and death-filled world again and again in an on-going cycle.  If you have suffered at all from sickness, weakness, or disease, why would you want to come back to it?  In any case, that is not what Jesus promises you.  Jesus' resurrection is not some spiritual aspirin which is supposed to mask aches and pains for a little while.  The Great Physician gives you perfect and everlasting healing for all your sicknesses and diseases.  He gives you the resurrection of the body not to return to a broken world, but to dwell in a perfect Paradise.  Heaven knows no hospitals, prescriptions, healthcare plans, or even Kleenex.  Sin has been removed.  All things have been redeemed, restored, and made whole.
     Granted, we are not there yet.  We still live in a world where we are afflicted with disease or knocked out by sickness.  Hospitals continue to be built, and their beds continue to be filled.  The world still needs doctors and nurses to minister to the sick and dying.  It is right to show mercy to the sick, for they need it.  And we thank God for the gifts he has given us in tending to the needs of the ailing—doctors, nurses, paramedics, and technicians, medicine and therapy, and research for new treatments which can bring healing and comfort to us.  We are right to be grateful for these, just as we are grateful for the many gifts God gives us to sustain us in this world.
     But if you desire a long, healthy, happy, and pain free life, then listen to your doctor, St. Luke.  Luke, the physician, testifies to the Great Physician.  All your longings for health, healing, and wholeness find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  Your solution is not to run to the medicine cabinet, but to the altar.  Here, the body and blood which were given into death to win your salvation are given you to apply Jesus' salvation to you.  It results not merely in a few extra years of life, but life everlasting.  It produces not temporary relief from pain, but eternal rest and peace.  Here is your remedy for death.  This is the medicine of immortality which, if you eat and drink of it, you will live forever with your risen Savior.  And like your flesh and blood Jesus, you too will be saved from the grave with a body that is immortal, imperishable, incorruptible, glorious, and perfect.  For, Jesus will rebuke death and sin and raise you up to eternal life.  It is not something that you merely wish for; it is something you merely wait for.  The physician, Luke, testifies to the Great Physician who is your remedy for sin and death, and who will restore everything to glorious perfection.
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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