Luke 4:31-44 shows us Jesus enacting the fulfillment of Scripture (4:19-21) and the fulfillment of His identity as the Son of God (1:32, 3:22, 4:3, 34, 41). Jesus is the Holy One of God, the very Son of God, who will make Himself known through the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God.
This Christ came for you. He loves you. His cross is sufficient for you. His resurrection has won life eternal for you. Relatedly, you should trust in His mercy and grace. You should hear His Word. You should look for Him where He has promised to work in the Sacraments. You should sing His praises and speak to Him in prayer. May it be so! Amen and amen! Would that each of us might believe, embrace, and hold to the above and daily increase therein! In fact, that would be more than enough to keep us occupied in both thanksgiving and repentant faith until Jesus returns.
But what about them? They and Them could be those who have never heard, those who have heard and rejected, those who have fallen away or lapsed. They need Jesus, too. Jesus came for them. He loves them. His cross is sufficient for them. But how will they call, believe, and hear (Romans 10:13-17)?
Epiphany is one of the most missional seasons of the Church Year. Every single liturgical season shows us Christ accomplishing His mission for us. But Epiphany has the added flavor of being about Christ’s revelation of Himself, His Father, and His God-given mission.
Epiphany is one of the most missional seasons of the Church Year.
Relatedly, They and Them could be faithful Christians who are scared, scarred, sick, or alone. They need Jesus, too. Jesus came for them. He loves them. His cross is sufficient for them.
Our reading this week shows us Christ for Them. First, it is Simon’s mother-in-law. Was she too sick to ask Jesus for help herself? Was she too modest? Or perhaps, maybe those closest to Jesus were deeply aware of the They’s and Them’s in the periphery? In any case, this woman who was ill with fever did not need to get to Jesus herself or make her own plea: “They appealed to Him on her behalf” (4:38).
The next paragraph picks up the same thing. Surely some of the sick could have stumbled their way to Jesus (we certainly see this all over the Gospels). But like the paralytic we will meet in 5:18, the hurting in Capernaum did not need to get to Jesus on their own because they had people in their lives who believed Christ was for them: “All those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him.” Notice the beautifully passive posture of the hurting. They were brought to Jesus because someone had them.
“I’ve got you.” I do not know how many times I have said those words to one of my own young children. Whether they were hurt by unkind words, an embarrassing failure, or a scraped knee full of gravel, sometimes what they most needed was to hear and believe the words, “I’ve got you.”
Finally, we encounter Christ for Them from the very lips of Jesus. Word had gotten around that Jesus was in Simon’s house. The reports had been spreading (4:14, 37). Word was out and the people were starting to show up. So, what does Jesus do? “He departed and went into a desolate place” (42).
Of course, this did not sit well with the people of that place. They wanted Jesus for themselves. And I do not think we need to read this as though they were necessarily being greedy or selfish or narrowly treating Jesus like a cheap miracle worker. I think they just really wanted to be with Jesus. Jesus did not leave their town because they had failed in their reception of Him. Rather, Jesus moved on because others needed Him too, and Christ was for them, too.
Note the conviction, purpose, and resolve in Jesus’ words: “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (4:43).
Jesus moved on because others needed Him too, and Christ was for them, too.
Many in Capernaum had heard about Jesus as the reports spread. Many heard Jesus Himself. Many had personally been touched and physically healed. What an incredible time for that community! All of this was good and was part of Jesus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the Anointed One, full of the Lord’s Spirit, who would proclaim good news and heal (4:18-19).
His departure was not because the people had failed or because Jesus did not see that ministry as good. Jesus left because He had too. This theme of “divine necessity” is all over in Luke’s Gospel. Here the compulsion from God is that Jesus’ proclamation would reach Them too.
In order for this to happen, someone has to go to them. Someone may have to bring them. Jesus needs to be revealed to them just as He is for you.
As a preacher, you are called by God to proclaim the Gospel to your hearers. Talking about the Gospel for others is not proclaiming the Gospel. Preachers are called to primary discourse (see Forde’s Theology is for Proclamation). We proclaim Christ to and for our hearers. But the same Christ who is for you is also for them. The same Christ we proclaim to the people in our pews is the same Christ who is for those not in our pews.
Christ is for you. Christ is for them. Jeremiah’s call was for Jeremiah; we should not read ourselves into every text. But the same God who worked Jeremiah with His word for others (Jeremiah 1:5, 7, 9-10) in our Old Testament reading this week is the same God who worked through the villagers of Capernaum to bring people to Jesus. And this same God continues to work through His people, to create faith in the hearts of those who hear the Gospel when and where it pleases God.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 4:31-44.
Lectionary Podcast-Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 4:31-44.