Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lent 3 Sermon

Lent 3 – March 11th, 2012 – Luke 11:14-28

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Once again, Christ Jesus our Lord strides forth to battle. Once again we will see Jesus tangle with Satan and his minions – but the battle will not be done when the demon is gone. No, today we will see another battle, another fight. This fight is against man’s desire to not view himself as helpless, man’s desire to save himself. Let’s work our way through this text and see what we get this morning.

Now He was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. It almost sees as though by now, Jesus casting out demons is just old hat. Another day, another demon cast out. There is no long story of the mechanics of what happens here, there is no pleading mother that we see, or friends bringing the man. . . simply the man has a demon cast out of him to the crowd’s astonishment. What does this mean? The fact that Jesus casts out demons, the fact that Jesus takes on Satan and His minions, the fact that Jesus performs miracles shouldn’t be surprising to us. Oh, we still marvel at this, but it’s not surprising. This is what we know Jesus to be doing. But not everyone is happy.

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons,” while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. The human mind, sinful and depraved, has no limits to what it will say, think, or do. We are the undisputed masters of denial, we will go to any lengths to avoid any truth we don’t like. And here we see people look for reasons not follow Christ, not to acknowledge that they need Him. Oh no, this Jesus, He’s in league with the Devil. Oh no, um, we need a real sign from heaven. . . as though casting out demons isn’t a clear enough sign. And note, this doesn’t have to do with the facts of what happened. . . this isn’t what we get from a lot of people today who even deny that any of this happened. No, these are people who see that Jesus casts out a demon. . . and then try to work their way around it. Why is that? They don’t like what Jesus says, what Jesus is about. If Jesus claims to be our savior from sin, then that means I’m a sinner and I need a savior. And that’s what these people don’t want to hear.

It’s the same thing we oftentimes don’t want to hear. Don’t think that these people in the text are the only ones who see what God says, what God does, and then stick their heads in the sand. We do this, this is the normal operating procedure of what our sinful nature does. We all have our pet sins, the weaknesses we are more susceptible to. . . and man if we don’t try to white wash them, if we don’t try to work around them, to excuse them. We will dodge the truth. We will dodge the commandments. Don’t covet! And then we see something shiny and new that our neighbor has. Don’t lie, and quickly the neighbor is badmouthed. Don’t steal, and then we can be quickly underhanded when it helps us out. No adultery, and then our lust runs wild, even if only in our thoughts. Don’t kill, and then we hate. Just run through the commandments, run through the catechism and what Luther says about them. . . and sit and take a hard look at yourself, and you’ll see that we will duck and dodge God’s Law often at our own convenience.

But Jesus doesn’t simply let us live in our delusions . . . He speaks His Word over and over again. And do you see what He does here in the text? It is a tour de force of destroying delusions. First, Jesus tears apart what the people are saying. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid to waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Now, Jesus here isn’t expounding on the profound mysteries of salvation, this isn’t a deep and thought provoking observation. He’s just making a simple and obvious point. Guys, Satan ain’t dumb, and what you are saying isn’t making any sense. He is more than smart enough not to wreck himself, so what I did isn’t Satan fighting Satan. I’m fighting Satan for you. Jesus is just very calm and rational here, and He picks apart the people’s complaints. This is what God’s Word always does, this is what the Truth always does. . . we throw up barriers, we hide behind delusions, and God’s Word very simply pokes holes in our protestations. Most of the time our excuses don’t make any sense, and one of the things that God will do is simply show us how our excuses don’t make any sense.

But He continues. Rather than just showing these people that they are in denial, He shows them why they should know better. For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. Look guys, we can see that God is at work here, many people are casting out demons in My name, your own sons, even! Your sons see the truth, they live in it, and if they understand why don’t you? This is just a great twist that Jesus gives here. We tend not to be consistent in our delusions. We will pretend that something that we do is alright, but terrible and wrong for our neighbor. Jesus just points this out right here. These people, because they are angry and upset with what Jesus preaches, are willing to condemn Him, to lie about Him. . . but what are they going to say about their kids? And this also brings out another interesting point. They will be your judges. There is nothing wrong with, out of love, calling a spade a spade. That doesn’t mean we should be high handed, that doesn’t mean we ignore our own sin, but what do you think these sons are going to say to their dads when they find out about this? They ought, if they are good sons, tell their fathers that they are wrong. They ought to see to improving their father’s honor, so that their dad doesn’t stumble around and act the fool. God will speak His truth to us through many ways, including through our loved ones who will properly admonish us when we need it.

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. And here we see the twist, the change of emphasis that Jesus makes here, and here their delusions are directly attacked. He’s made His point about these people, Jesus has laid down the law pretty bluntly, so now He’s going to change His focus. Oh, He’s going to now focus not on destroying our personal lies, but speaking the Truth about Himself. What is going on with My healings, My preaching? The Kingdom of God has come upon you. Do know what that means, do you see what Jesus is saying? He is saying I am the Messiah. I am the promised one. What you have been waiting for since the days of Adam has come, God’s chosen champion is here.

And then Jesus explains exactly what He is doing. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe, but when One stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, He takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Satan is a strong man, and Satan has been dwelling in the world, has been claiming it as his own since the fall. The prince of this world has been having his way, trusting to his own power, but behold, now Christ Jesus, the Stronger One, has come in, and what does Jesus do? He attacks Satan. Jesus goes on the offensive, Jesus bashes down Satan’s armor, Satan’s servants, He casts out demons, and Jesus reclaims us. Had you thought about it that way? That we were Satan’s property, his horde, his prizes of the war which he had waged on God. And then Jesus comes on a raid, and smacks Satan around, and takes us away from Satan and into His own household?

This is the part of the text, the truth that we, that our sinful flesh, can find so displeasing, so dissatisfying. We like to pretend that we, by ourselves are okay. That we are alright. That’s we are decent people – and yet the Messiah comes, and He says that He is here to rescue us. That means that we need rescuing. That means that our lives aren’t up to snuff, that means that we need to repent of our sins and be rescued by Christ. And just as the people in the text complained about Christ and wanted to live in denial, so too that is the temptation for us today. To live in denial, to simply pretend that everything we do is wonderful and nothing we do ever stinks. But Christ does not let our delusions stand. He doesn’t here our protestations that we are fine and just walk away, leaving us to our own devices. He knows that we are lost without Him, and even as we in our sin protest, He comes to beat down sin and death and the world to win us salvation. This is what we see here this today. There’s a demon that makes a man mute – even before the fellow can ask, Christ casts out the demon. And this is stated so matter of factly because this is what Jesus does. He takes it to Satan, He takes it to Satan’s kingdom, and even our delusions won’t prevent Him.

And this battle against Satan is seen most fully, most dramatically, upon the Cross. It is there, as He hang dying, that Jesus enters most fully into Satan’s house. Death, that’s Satan’s thing, that’s what comes from the sin that Satan loves to stir up, that’s where we are stuck without Christ. Without Jesus all our delusions and dreams about how wonderful we are simply end in a grave covered with flies and maggots. But Christ will not stand for it, He will not let us remain bound to Satan, and so upon the Cross Jesus goes crashing fully into Satan’s Kingdom. The Lord of Life confronts the lord of the grave, confronts Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, on Satan’s own turf, and thoroughly destroys him. Satan is vanquished, crushed, beaten and broken. And what then does Jesus do? He pulls us out of Satan’s clutches, He frees us from the fear of the Grave, and gives us life in Himself. Christ our Lord is raised from the dead, and by our Baptism, God has tied Himself to us, He gives us His own resurrection, and we are raised to new Christ’s new life.

This is what Jesus is doing, this is what His goal and task is, the defeat of Satan and our liberation. This is what we see Him doing all this Lent, marching His way to the Cross, swatting Satan’s servants out of the way, and more than that, wresting our eyes off of ourselves and on to Him. And what we see? All His foes defeated, all opposition crushed, as He gathers you, His beloved people to Himself. All praise to Christ Jesus our Lord, who gathers us back to Him by His Word when we err, and who crushes Satan for our freedom. In the Name of Christ the Crucified + Amen.

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