6. Epiphany 5.19 “Jesus Saves” Luke 6:17-26
Today I’ve got a classic three-point sermon for you. I don’t think I’ve ever done a three point sermon (because the Gospel seems always to have a single point, in my reading) but it felt like a nice change-up from my usual change-up. I can sum up my 3 points in an elegant, but simple, bulleted list:
*Jesus saves—because you need saving.
*Jesus saves—by His Word and touch.
*Jesus saves—not by removing suffering/death but by making it work backwards.
Which, now that I look at it, seems to be just one point (Jesus saves!) looked at from three slightly different angles. Oh, well. “Jesus” is always the right answer to any theological question (right?). And “one yet three” strikes a familiarly orthodox chord, so we’ll count it as one, three-point sermon and we can all cross that off our bucket lists. I bet you’ve heard this before—that Jesus saves (Satan spends, BTW). But the why, how, and what of Jesus’ salvation perhaps is not always crystal clear in our minds, though our Gospel today makes it so.
Jesus came down from a mountain where He’d been driven by the Pharisees’ hatred of Him for all that healing and free saving/forgiving He was doing in their synagogues. And He came down with “them”—they would be the 12 Apostles He’s called out from the masses. On the plain, Jesus finds a great multitude of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem, from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases and unclean spirits. And they were healed, Luke says simply. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him because power went out from Him and healed them all…
This makes our first two points. Point 1: Why does Jesus save? Simply because you need saving! We all do. Apart from Jesus, we are a lost and clueless bunch, wandering around, looking for things, things to make us go, and not finding those things ourselves. Now, you may look at our Gospel and go “Well, pastor: I’m not sure I’m in as bad a shape as those folks in the Gospel! I have ailments, but not diseases, and I have a couple issues but I wouldn’t say I’m tormented by demons! Jesus is probably overkill for me. Just a little positive thinking is all I really need!”
But uh, no. ‘Fraid I’ve got some bad news for you. When I say you need saving it’s because you have the same disease and same demon those folks in the Gospel had. The disease is called “sin” and the demon is called “Satan”—the old beast-master. So, yeah. You’ve got it bad. And it turns out, only Jesus can save us from this sorta stuff. No one else has the power to conquer sin, death, and devils!
But, when Jesus does His saving thing, the Gospels show two and only two responses: 1) the proud Pharisee types, the holy rollers, scorn Him, revile Him, because He wounds their Pride. They think they don’t need any saving because they think suffering and death are natural events rather than symptoms of original sin. To suggest they are sinners offends them! So, they chase Jesus out of their churches because they aren’t and won’t ever be charity cases! Response 2): poor, miserable sinners believe Him, bend the knee and worship Him; and in this worship of Jesus they find life, joy, salvation. Now; even though some will throw this free and delightful salvation right back in Jesus’ face— trying to throw Him over cliffs, stone Him (with rocks), nail Him up on a cross, Jesus will go on doing His saving thing anyway. Why? Simply because you need saving. It’s Who Jesus is—His Name’s literally “God Saves”—though He gets nothing out of this, expects nothing in return from you, just wants to see you finally happy.
Point 2: How does Jesus save? Again, our Gospel shows simply and clearly that He did His saving thing by Word and touch. The “great multitude of people… came to hear Him” our Gospel says. When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan—which kicked off our whole Epiphany season (that is now winding down) the Voice of God the Father sounded from heaven “This is My beloved Son! Hear Him!” I don’t know how it could be made any plainer how it is that Jesus saves—by His Word! He is the Word made flesh, the Word who made the heavens and the earth! The Way to Salvation is simply hearing Him, as Paul says in Romans 10:14-18: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing of the Word of God!”. That’s how our great multitude in our Gospel was healed of disease and unclean spirits—by hearing Jesus, the Word.
Such hearing moves to touch. The whole multitude, hearing Him, “sought to touch Him because power came out from Him” (clean, eternally renewable Power that does not pollute but purifies the entire environment 🙂 and they were simply drawn in to be touched by that. We see this throughout the Gospels: Jesus speaks the saving Word, and sin, death, and devils are driven right out by the Word. But Jesus is not some aloof, remote Lord. He is the Good Shepherd and His lost lambs crave the touch of the Shepherd’s strong hands. We yearn to be lifted up on His shoulders and carried home by Him.
So Jesus did not only leave us a Story. In the Story, there’s Divine Contact, there is Holy Communion with Jesus. He washes us with holy water to make us clean in Baptism. He makes bread and wine His very Body and Blood and feeds us by His own hand the Bread of Heaven, our soul’s delight. He loves wedding feasts, banquets, parties. He loves to sit at Table with us, feast, laugh, and catch up—over the richest Feast; to fill us full of Himself, so that the Divine Life and Joy that drives Jesus would be ours fully, eternally, as well. And that Power, that Communion, are here for you, for me, right now, in His Gospel and Sacraments which perform the same saving miracle as on that great multitude on the Palestinian Plain…
Point 3: What does Jesus’ saving look like? By what signs is it recognized as ongoing? Jesus tells the What of His salvation in an elegant but simple bulleted list of Beatitudes and Woes. Now, these Beatitudes and Woes show that Jesus’ salvation does not at first look like saving at all, but looks like a good crushing under the weight of suffering and death! His saving Way looks like loss, utter and complete defeat, rather than gain or victories that would be inviting to us. That makes it tricky to recognize—trickier still to embrace!
Jesus saves not by removing suffering/dying but by making that work backwards as C.S. Lewis showed in Narnia. Poverty of body and spirit becomes the path to possessing the Kingdom of God. Hunger the way towards satisfaction. Tears the road to laughter. And the hatred of all men—their excluding, reviling and casting out our names as evil for (Christ’s sake!) becomes the badge of honor, the gentle touch of the King’s blade on our shoulder that makes us knights of the realm—the ultimate reward and joy and honor for Christian soldiers.
All the things that hurt us and that we fear, Jesus makes work backwards, work for us. Since it was our lust to possess Heaven’s Power and Glory by our own hands (knighting ourselves!) Jesus makes our loss of Power and Glory the Way of receiving it as pure Gift. So, reviewing my elegant, simple, bulleted list: *Jesus saves… (because you need saving!). *Jesus saves… (by Word and Touch). *Jesus saves… (by the Magnificent Defeat of His Cross) so the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory, (and the Peace surpassing understanding!) will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.