Sermons

Does God Care?

February 4, 2024 Speaker: Ray Lorthioir Series: Sermons 2024

Passage: Isaiah 40:21–31, Mark 1:29–39

Sermon 2-4-24

Pastor Ray Lorthioir

Trinity Lutheran Church

W. Hempstead, NY

Based on the lessons for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany: Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39

 

Does God Care?

Last week we saw Jesus return to Capernaum, the city He had made His new home and base of operations. On Sabbath, He stood up to teach in synagogue. We don’t know what He had to say, but it created a huge stir. And in Jesus’ presence an evil spirit cried out of a man. It identified Jesus as the Holy One of God. Jesus would let it say no more, and then cast it out of the man. This created even more of a stir. As we read last week in Mark 1:27-28, “27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching — and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.’ 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”

This week the narrative continued with Mark 1:29-31, “29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

If the local Pharisees had seen this, they would have accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath law’s ban on doing work. But the giver of the Law, Himself, saw no violation. In Matthew 12:12 Jesus declared, “. . . it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath,” even though it is also good to rest on the Sabbath. For as He said in Mark 2:27-28, “27. . . ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” Yahweh made the Sabbath for our good, not our punishment. That was a bit of news.

In Mark’s Gospel the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is Jesus’ first healing miracle. And notice that Peter had a mother-in-law. This means he also had a wife.

We don’t know at what time of the day news about Peter’s mother-in-law went out, but when the sun went down and the Sabbath was over and the new day had begun, people picked up every sick person in town and brought them to where Jesus was. It was now legal for Him to work. And work Jesus did.

That must have been some scene. How long this went on into the night is anyone’s guess. Now, in a small town like Capernaum everyone knew everyone else and everyone else’s business. It’s still that way today in small towns all over the world, even here in the U.S. Therefore, this night of miracles must have been like what children experience on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus. The excitement, pillow talk and chatter must have been nearly endless before everyone settled down for that night. But fortunately for Jesus’ sake the need for rest finally overcame everyone.

Nevertheless, an hour or so before dawn, Jesus quietly got up and walked out of town. Great things had been done through His hands. He knew the nature of the people’s excitement. He knew that He could have established a huge ministry in His adopted hometown. But instead of making plans for Himself, He did something extraordinary. We’re told in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Fully God, Jesus, nevertheless, showed Himself fully human. He spent time with His Father in heaven. That’s what prayer is. And in this time with the Father He sought the Father’s will. This is clear from the very next verses.

We read in Mark 1:36-38, “36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ 38 Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” Can you see the picture? There was no electricity, so these people went to bed and got up with the sun. So, as the first grey of dawn stole into the sky and cocks crowed, sleepy heads cleared quickly at the memory of the night before. Soon all of Capernaum was astir with people wanting to be where Jesus was. This in itself should tell you something.

Peter and company must have known that Jesus enjoyed walks in the open country outside of town and they must have known where to search for Him. When they finally found him, their comment said it all, “Everyone is looking for you.” Imagine that! But instead of capitalizing on His success and triumphantly coming back into town, something that would have been naturally human, Jesus said, “Let’s go somewhere else.” His time with God had made it clear. He had come not just for Capernaum, but for all the villages and cities of Israel. His answer was, let’s get going into the unknown. Then and there His newly called disciples had to decide if they would follow Him into that unknown.

Finally, notice why Jesus wanted to go on – “so I can preach there also.” He said nothing to them about miracles or healings or driving out demons. He put the premium on preaching. And so it is to this day. Preaching is the means by which God’s purposes for us in His Word are made known. It is the means by which we are brought to the place of assurance about Jesus Christ and His good will toward us.

In looking over today’s lessons, we might call this the Sunday of God’s good will toward us. Of course, we can never forget that God’s good will ultimately was bought with the suffering and death of Messiah Jesus. Jesus’ vicarious suffering and death for us is how atonement for our sin was made for us before God. It’s how Yahweh can then show His good will toward sinners.

But as we saw in the first lesson, it has always been Yahweh’s purpose to have good will toward us. Do you think it might be because Yahweh knew He would send His Son even before the foundation of the world? 

The problem is that we don’t care much about our Creator’s good will. We’d much rather do our own thing and forget about Yahweh. Nevertheless, Yahweh makes His plea with us to listen and respond to His good will.

That’s the appeal He made in today’s first lesson. Isaiah 40:21-22, “21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Sometime when you’re out in the country or at the shore away from city lights, on a clear night, put a blanket down, lay on the ground and look up. If you do, you’ll get the correct perspective. You’re not looking up. You’re looking out. You’re looking out from our little planet into the reaches of space. It goes in all directions. Do the same during the day and you’ll see our atmosphere, the blue sky, doing the same thing. It stretches in all directions. This is the canopy. It’s indeed like a tent. If you’ve ever camped, you know that laying on your back and looking up at the ceiling of a tent is the same kind of thing. It’s a canopy above.

Please notice that Scripture calls the earth a circle. In Scripture, there’s nothing flat about the earth. In the book of Revelation “four corners of the earth” are spoken of. But that’s referring to the four cardinal points of direction — north, east, south and west. It does not mean that the earth has four literal corners.

In 1828 American researcher and writer, Washington Irving, published “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.” In this book, Irving made up a fable that when Columbus proposed to sail West to find India he was opposed by the Spanish Church that supposedly declared that the earth was flat. Columbus did appear before the Council at Salamanca. It was composed of professors of astronomy, geography, mathematics as well as church dignitaries and learned friars. All there knew that the earth was a sphere. The dispute they had with Columbus was over the size of the earth. Columbus thought that the earth was smaller than it is and that his proposal to sail west would work. Others at the council believed earth was larger and that the trip would fail. That was the dispute. And the members of the council were proved correct. Columbus absolutely failed to reach India sailing west. But he found something else — the new world. And so, here we are.

Others throughout the 19th century picked up on Irving’s fable. Therefore, most of us learned in school that Columbus represented “science” against “religion.” Religion believed and taught a flat earth. This is a flat out falsehood invented by Irving. And science, represented by Columbus, taught a spherical earth. This is a fable. The real argument was over the size of the earth.

One more thing. Has any astronaut found Yahweh enthroned above the earth? Certainly not. But that doesn’t mean that He isn’t enthroned above the earth in dimensions that we don’t have access to. Are there such dimensions? Centuries of human experience with otherworldly stuff say yes. Most importantly Scripture says yes. Only materialist philosophy says no. And materialism is increasingly unable to explain the world we live in.

So, the purpose of these first two verses of today’s first lesson is to shake us into awareness. From the very beginning, it has been known that the earth has a Creator. He is likewise Creator of everything that exists and lives on earth. It’s when we chose to rebel against this overarching truth that we get into trouble.

Isaiah 40:23-24, “23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.” 

Beyond the existence of the created universe, there is additional evidence for Yahweh’s existence to be found in human affairs. Where are the great tyrants of all ages? Where are their empires and their riches? Yahweh has swept them all away and replaced them with new rulers and new empires, just as He will sweep all of us away in death.

Isaiah 40:25-26, “25 ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Our newest telescope is able to see further and more clearly than anything that came before it. The images now being retrieved show that there is no one like the Creator of this universe.

Isaiah 40:27-28, “27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

God doesn’t care! Just this week Christine ran into someone who bellowed that at her. But as we see here, it’s not just individuals that can reach this point of despair. The whole nation of Israel had reached that point. And why not? Isaiah wrote in a time when Israel’s very existence was being crushed under the weight of the Assyrian Empire. Did God care? Yes. The problem had been that Israel had not cared. They had not cared about Yahweh and His commands. Therefore, after hundreds of years of warning about the disaster such an attitude would bring, disaster had come. It looked like Yahweh didn’t care. But the reverse had been true. Israel hadn’t cared. But now that disaster had come, Israel was suddenly caring a lot. But now Yahweh was pronouncing on them the judgment that He had righteously and rightly threatened. It would only be seen after the disaster had passed that Yahweh cared.

Isaiah 40:29-31, “29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the midst of any disaster, there are those who will make it through intact, whether they live or die. It’s those who hope in Yahweh. If those who hope in Him die, they will be with Him in the glory of eternal life because they have hoped in Yahweh. More on this in a minute.

If those who hope in Yahweh live, they might not live to see the restoration Yahweh has in mind. But their descendants will. And that’s what happened with Israel. Several generations had to wait, hope and die in exile. But eventually Yahweh came through, and Israel was re-established in its own land.

Here on earth, we have to be able to look over long periods of time to see that Yahweh is not asleep. Restoration does happen — but only for those who hope in Him, and cling to Him no matter how long He takes.

Now, the ultimate hope that the Israel of Isaiah’s time had is that Messiah would come. Our hope is similar — that Messiah will come. But, it’s that He will come back. For the world has already seen His first coming. And as can be seen from the news that has come to us from ancient Capernaum and Galilee, the people there were not disappointed. Jesus had been worth the wait.

But they had Him for only a short time. And even then, they did not rightly recognize what they had. For we read in Luke 10:13-15, “13 [Jesus said,] ‘Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon [gentile cities] at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.’”

In the present time, we see only a limited number of genuine miracles in the Name of Jesus. Nevertheless, we have the Word He left through His Apostles and Evangelists. And as Jesus told the Apostles in Luke 10:16, “16 ‘He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.’” And the one who sent Jesus is Yahweh who stretched out the heavens. Therefore, we need to recognize that listening to Jesus and His Apostles through Scripture is listening to our great Creator, the one without equal.

Scripture is quite clear. Those who bellow that God doesn’t care don’t know the crucified one who gave Himself for them. For, even if terrible things happen in this life to those who have put their faith in Messiah Jesus — the crucified one — they will be rewarded in death and resurrection with the glorious righteousness of Messiah. And in such righteousness there is no darkness, danger, fear or punishment.

In addition, all those who live this life in the faith that the Word of Christ brings to them live life in confidence that the Spirit of the Lord will lead them in His righteousness all their days. By the same Spirit, they will know the Lord who cared enough for them to give His life for them. And by that same Spirit they will care for the Lord who has cared for them. In this way, those that wait for the Lord will renew their spiritual strength in life through Him.

The strength of the strongest people on earth will fail. If they live long enough, age and disease will weaken them. And death will ultimately render them absolutely powerless. Period. 

But there is one whose strength is above all. And that strength never ends. It never fails. Long ago, some people tried to put that strength to death. It was they who absolutely failed. For Jesus was raised from the dead in an immortal body.

The victory of Messiah over sin, death and the power of the devil is the strength that all those who put their faith and hope in Jesus have. It’s not their own strength. It’s His. And by faith in Jesus, they are strengthened to His victory in this life. Amen.

All Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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