Sermon for Oculi (Lent 3)
Text: Luke 11:14–28
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
There is no greater adversary or danger to the human being than Satan. Satan is our accuser. Since He has been cast out of the court of heaven by the blood of Jesus that testifies to our innocence, he now accuses us not before God, but within our own consciences. He struggles to overwhelm us through a bad conscience—a conscience that looks to our sin, not so that we would confess it, but that we would wallow in it. The devil would like nothing more than for you to dwell on your sin as an insurmountable obstacle that keeps you from God. The devil’s claims would be true if your ability were all that is considered. You cannot overcome your sin, your guilt, your shame. But Jesus can, and Jesus has.
Our great adversary does not limit his attack on us to our conscience. He also delights in anything that takes our eyes off of Christ our redeemer. The devil delights in corruption of God’s creation. He delights in floods and famine, death and disease. The devil delights in man’s sin, in war, in crime, in poverty, in greed. The devil loves to listen to arguments. He delights in discord. In all of this, his highest goal is to take your eyes off of Jesus, because when your eyes come off Jesus you are left either with pride, thinking that you are good enough of your own, or despair, because you recognize you are not.
In our text we see one of Satan’s minions sent forth to corrupt the speech of a man so that he could not speak. How diabolic this demon is! God works through the Word. There are many facets to the image of God which man bears even in a corrupted degree after the fall into sin. One way in which we bear the image of God is the ability to speak. No animal comes close to man in the ability to communicate with words. Here is a man in whose flesh the image of God is attacked by the demon which has silenced his tongue. Though we have no reason to believe that this man was subjected to a demon because of any particular sin of his own, Scripture does make it clear that the fall into sin in a general sense makes us subject to the devil.
As long as man is sinful, the devil knows he can continue to accuse us. He is a strong man, fully armed, as long as there is justice in his accusation. He, whom scripture will call the prince of this world, secures his kingdom through his craft and deceit. He knows how to twist words, how to make man fearful and angry. He knows how to stoke our pride and how to trap us in despair.
This is the world into which Jesus comes as our redeemer. Jesus enters enemy territory when He takes on our flesh. He does not come into the devil’s domain by invitation, nor is He welcome. We see this when time after time the demons ask why He has come to them and if he is going to punish them before the appointed time. Satan doesn’t give up without a fight. The devil attacked Jesus through Herod at His birth; he tempted Him to give up His mission while He was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus is most certainly not working for the prince of demons, but against him. Beelzebul and Jesus are not allies, they are enemies, and this conflict is at the heart of the Gospel. Who is stronger, Jesus or Satan, whose kingdom will stand? With the fall of man into sin, Satan has usurped God’s creation and holds it captive. But Jesus, the beloved Son of God, enters His creation to bind the strong man and plunder his house.
The devil’s might is in his ability to accuse you and drive you to fear. Jesus takes away that armor by taking on your sin. If you remain in your sin, Satan is just to accuse you before God and to hold a guilty conscience against you. But Jesus has taken on your sin for you. He has suffered and died and endured the punishment of your sin. Thus the devil is stripped of His power. You have no sin for which Christ has not made atonement. The strong man’s armor is taken away and his house plundered.
This is the plan and power of God. Christ, whose baptism in the Jordan places him in your stead as the sacrificial lamb of God, has removed the devil’s power and might. As soon as Jesus stands with sinners, Satan’s power over you crumbles. Jesus speaks a word and the demons must depart. The mute demon is cast out. This is not the work of Beelzebul, but the work of God. The finger of God has displayed His power over Satan, and in doing so establishes God’s Kingdom on earth.
If it is the finger of God that casts out this mute spirit, then the Kingdom of God has come upon us. Where Jesus binds the strong man and plunders His house, there is God’s kingdom. This is what takes place for you personally in Baptism. “The Word of God [also] teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. But the Father of all mercy and grace had sent His Son Jesus Christ, Who atoned for the sin of the whole world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Thus at your baptism you were marked with the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. Then you were given the creed and the Lord’s Prayer as the weapons by which Satan is kept at bay and you were asked, “Do you renounce the devil, his works and all his ways?” By the power of the Holy Spirit you answered, “Yes, I renounce them.”
Then you were set free from the devil’s grasp, by the strong Name of the Trinity. You are washed of your sin. That means that the devil has no claim on you. You are not a sinner, because you have been redeemed from sin. Since your sins are forgiven, death has no hold on you, for death is the wage of sin and you have none left to your name, because you have been joined to God’s Name. Therefore as certainly as Christ has risen from the dead, you too shall rise from the dead.
Blessed are those who hear this word of God and keep it. We live in trying times. But we have nothing to fear. Your sin is not held against you, death has no power over you, and the devil has no more claim to you.
Look around you and you will see fear and trembling among the nations. We have a situation before us that calls for Christians to be prudent and loving while trusting in God. I do not know how the next several weeks will play out. Medical experts have said the corona virus pandemic will get worse before it gets better. If you are at elevated risk for complications, take the precautions your doctor recommends. The time may come when we need to adjust our schedule. If the meeting of large groups is restricted in the future, we may need to have multiple services and clean the pews in between. That will not be the end of the world. If we are all ordered not to depart out homes, we can share God’s peace with each other through phone calls, text messages, and internet forums. That will not be the end of the world.
If things get worse yet, worse than anyone has even imagined, if hundreds of our neighbors and friends and family succumb to the coronavirus, we will grieve, but we will not grieve as those who have no hope. If the stock market continues to tank and the economy collapses and we all lose every cent we have ever made, we will still know who provides our daily bread. And that will not be the end of the world.
I do not think conditions are heading anywhere near those extremes. But even if they would, we know who has redeemed us. We belong to the one who is stronger than Satan, who is greater than our fears, who has already conquered death. We can say with Martin Luther, “I am baptized into Christ.” We can say with St Paul,
If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Since we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, let our mouth not be muted in this time of crisis. Let us confess Jesus Christ in word and deed. Let us look to him and be courageous in helping our community and loving our neighbor. Let us be prudent in hygiene, wise in planning for the future, yet bold in loving. We know that Christ can protect us from all things, and Christ can call us from this life in whatever manner He chooses. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
We do not know how long this crisis will last or how widespread it will be. But we do know that Christ will come again, the dead will be raised, and all who believe in Him will enter the joy of His inheritance. That, dear friends in Christ, will be the end of the world, and the beginning of the world to come. Do not be afraid of the devil and his threats and torments. Christ fights for you. Christ has already won the victory.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria