Sermon – Epiphany 5 – Luke 4:31-44
Trinity Lutheran Church, Menasha, WI
“The Purpose Driven Savior”
What's your purpose? Why are you here? I don't mean why are you here this morning – although, that's a good question, too. Did someone drag you to church? Are you here to do your weekly duty to God? Or did you come to hear an awe-inspiring, magnificently engaging, fantasic and wonderful guest missionary preacher? (Sorry to disappoint you)
Some years ago a popular book came out, marketed to Christians, “The Purpose-Driven Life”. Perhaps you even read it, too. It spun off a whole cottage industry of purpose-driven paraphanalia, programs and para-church activities. But sadly, at the heart of this book was simply a re-packaging of works-righteousness, an emphasis on what YOU have to do for God, not what God does for YOU in Jesus Christ.
What's your purpose?
Related to that, and probably more important, is Jesus' purpose. Why is he here? Why was he sent? Did you know we have a purpose-driven Savior?
Jesus tells us exactly why he was sent, and what is his purpose: to preach the good news.
If you were just reading along in your Bible, and you only had verses 31-37 of today's reading, you might think that Jesus came to cast out demons. And surely, he did enough of that. Word spread throughout the whole countryside that this Jesus of Nazareth had authority over the unclean spirits. He spoke, and they listened. You might think then, that his purpose was to beat down the bad guys. To bully the bullies. To bring justice and set thing right again in the world. Surely, we could use some of that today, even if we aren't possessed by demons, too.
Or read a bit down, and you might become convinced that Jesus came to heal the sick. For he did a bunch of that, too. Not just Peter's mother-in-law, mind you, but many, with various diseases. This was no trickery, but honest-to-goodness miracle working. I bet any of us over the age of 40 could use some healing – of anything from aches and pains to chronic conditions, heart problems, diabetes, cancer. Is that why Jesus came? To be a miracle worker, the perfect doctor, to take all the pain away?
The people were impressed with his demon-defeating and disease-healing, but Jesus wasn't. He could have stayed there in Capernaum forever, a resident good-dispenser, but he was clear that his purpose would drive him on. He had to go. There were others to see.
And notice, he didn't say, “I have other demons to cast out, in the towns” or “Let me go heal some in the countryside, too, for that is why I came”. The miraculous signs, to Jesus, weren't the thing. They weren't the purpose.
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Preaching the good news of the kingdom. That's his purpose. That's why he was sent.
Which means we must ask, “well then what is that news?”
In Jesus' case, you can't separate the message from the messenger. For who he is and what he does are part and parcel of what he proclaims. He is the king, and the kingdom of God arrives in him. He is the Christ, the Son of God, as even the demons confess. And the Christ is appointed to die. Yes, the good news is that he will die.
All of Jesus' preaching and teaching, all of his healings and miracles, all lead up to Jerusalem, to betrayal and arrest, to suffering and condemnation, to the cross.
And there, too, is God's purpose.
He goes to the cross to atone for your sin. To pay for all your pernicous, foul, wickedness. All the nastiness that you think. All the garbage that comes out of your mouth. All the shameful things you do. And me, too. For all this, for all of you, for all the world – his purpose to pay the price. His purpose to save the day, and all days, for all his people. To make the good news that he has proclaimed, and now sends others to proclaim.
Some of us will be sent to preach the good news, too. Pastors are sent to their flocks. Missionaries are sent to flocks far away. But the message is the same, the news is just as good – for it's always about the King, the Christ, the Son of God. It's always the message of Christ Crucified for sinners. It's always the same purpose, for the salvation of sinners like us.
But for all of us - our part, our purpose, is primarily to receive this good news in faith. To hear. To receive. To be baptized. To be fed his body and blood. To passively receive the gifts on his terms, not ours. Our purpose is to be saved, and only in that salvation, to go and do the good works he has already prepared for us to do.
These good works, while also commanded, flow from faith itself. These good works, love for our neighbor, are a reflection of the love God shows us first. They are never to be separated from faith, not neglected, but they are not how we are saved. That is only through the work of Christ.
Why are you in church this morning? I hope it's not cause mom made you come. I hope it's not to be seen wearing your dazzling new Sunday outfit. And I know it's not to hear the famous preacher from Racine. Instead, let your purpose in this place, now and always, be to receive what Jesus gives. To hear what Jesus says, the good news, preached to you, the poor miserable sinner – who by that good news is received as a child of God forever. May your purpose be to hear, to believe, and to live. In Christ, and in love for neighbor, now and ever. Amen.