Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by Setting Captives Free

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

We call Jesus our Redeemer. The word “redeem” means to buy back from capture and captivity, to pay a ransom. As sinful human beings, we were captive to the law of God because of our sin and the consequences of sin, principally death. But Jesus has set us free from the law, its threats, and its curses, by keeping God’s law for us perfectly. As Christians, we are no longer “under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). But we are not to abuse our Christian freedom. Instead, Jesus has set us free so we will become slaves to righteousness, serving others in love, always thanking our Redeemer.

First Lesson – Deuteronomy 18:15-20

What request did the people of Israel have for the Lord when they had previously assembled at Mt. Horeb (Sinai)?

The Israelites asked that the Lord no longer speak to them with his own voice—in all his majesty. They feared they would die. We sinners cannot deal with holy God in his full glory, as the Lord had told Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

Whom was the Lord going to send?

The Lord was going to send a prophet from among the people of Israel who would speak on God’s behalf. He meant his own Son, our Savior Jesus.

Which is worse, for a preacher to speak a little that God has not commanded, or to speak in the name of other gods?

Preaching a little false doctrine is just as bad as advocating idolatry. God insists on passing along his Word of Truth 100 percent. Only the truth can combat the father of lies. (See today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21-28.)

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

What Corinthian problem does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses the important issue of adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden by God). For instance, in the New Testament era, Christians are given the freedom to eat all things, but some Jewish Christians were still having difficulty understanding that they were free from Old Testament ceremonial laws about meat sacrificed to idols.

Whom does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses those who understand that they are free from the ceremonial laws (the strong Christians).

What command does he give them?

Even though they are free as Christians, Paul encourages the strong Christians to surrender their freedom out of loving concern for their fellow Christians (the weak), so that the weak Christians might not sin against their consciences.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Who was greater, Moses or Jesus? Why?

Jesus was greater than Moses. Moses was a faithful servant over God’s house, but Jesus is God’s Son who is over God’s house. Jesus was faithful even when God told him to die on the cross for us with the world’s guilt on him.

Who or what is God’s house on this earth?

We are God’s house, as long as we hold onto our courage and don’t fall away from Christ when others try to influence us. God’s Spirit lives in all Christians together and individually. We have become God’s holy house by faith.

What will happen if we don’t fix our thoughts on Jesus and don’t hold onto the eternal hope Jesus gives?

If we do not, God will not live in us anymore. We will not live with God forever. We will die apart from him, with the devil.

Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

What struck people, when Jesus taught?

Jesus amazed people because he taught others based on his own authority (verses 22, 27), while the Jewish teachers of the law often based their teachings on quotes from famous rabbis.

How did Jesus demonstrate his authority?

Jesus shows his authority by casting out an evil spirit. (Note how the demon tried to scare/ deceive people by screaming out the truth.) Jesus is God. He has the power, ability, and willingness to set us free from the devil and all harm.

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