Lent 3, March 15th, 2009 – Luke 11:14-28
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
In the face of an unpleasant truth, we like to make excuses. We mess up at work – and we can then tell you all sorts of reasons why it’s not our fault. We upset a friend, and well, they just took things completely out of context and blew things all out of proportion. Our kids get into trouble, and it’s not really their fault, it must be those bad kids they’ve been associating with this. And Pastors are no exception. My wife and I were talking about this – ever wonder why Preacher’s kids tend to be so rotten – because too many pastors say, “Oh, not my little angel, they’d never do that” all the while that little angel is running around like hell on wheels. When confronted with an unpleasant truth, when confronted with our sin, we like to stop up our ears, we like to make excuses, we like to cast blame. This, dear friends, is what happens in our Gospel text today. People make excuses, refuse to see what is actually going on – and Christ calls them on it.
Now, [Jesus] was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. As the text starts we see Christ going about His business – taking the battle to Satan, breaking down Satan’s kingdom bit by bit. The Son of God goes forth to war. Look, a demon, let’s take care of him. This is a wondrous thing – this shows that it is God at work for our benefit, God come to rescue us from sin and death and damnation. Surely, that is a joyous thing, surely all will rejoice over that!
But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. But some people don’t rejoice over this. They make excuses. Duh, no, He’s not sent by God – He’s casting out demons by demons! Duh, no, He’s not from God, we’d need a sign from heaven to prove that. . . not just this. Excuses. Why? Why these excuses, why these false and idiotic reasons not to believe? Jesus calls them on their stupid arguments – But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” Jesus calls them to the carpet. We all know Satan is powerful, that Satan isn’t dumb, that his kingdom is doing fine and wicked right now. If he were divided, it would have crumbled of itself long ago. Besides, it’s sort of dangerous to say that I’m casting out demon in the name of Satan, because your own sons are casting out demons in My Name – attack Jesus, you attack your own sons. Quit holding onto the idiotic ideas.
But why are they there in the first place? A key point to note – Jesus knew their thoughts – Jesus knew what they were thinking. There was something that made Jesus doing these miracles leave a bad taste in their mouth. And then Jesus hits the nail upon the head. “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” There it is. There’s the problem. Whose kingdom? God’s Kingdom. You see, there is no neutrality spiritually, there are no undecided – the people who checked off no religion on that big survey that came out this past week aren’t really undecided – “Whoever is not with Me is against Me.” We are not morally neutral – we are either with Christ, or we are against Him.
That says something, doesn’t it? It says something about sin. We like to slough off sin, we like to make excuses for sin, we like to pretend that it doesn’t matter much. It does. Sin is wicked and vile and gross. Your sin is wicked and vile and gross. It’s not just Hitler, it’s not just Stalin who were sinners – you are as well. That is something that Christ comes and shows – because all sin is against the will of God, all sin pleases Satan. When you sin, you make Satan rejoice and cackle with glee.
And this is where too often our defense mechanisms kick in. How dare you say that about me! Why, I’m a good person! How dare you accuse my little angel of doing something! How dare you say it is my fault! We don’t like hearing that. We are like the people of Jeremiah’s time, hearing the Law preached in it’s full bluntness, hearing that we are sinners who by our sin bring folly upon our own head, and all too often we don’t like that. We fuss, we fight against it, we blame the messenger as it were, we cry out kill the preacher, we cry out “that’s just your interpretation”, we cry out “don’t be so negative, we just need to think happy thoughts.”
Know this for what it is. This is your old, sinful nature kicking in. This is the Old Adam, this is your flesh wanting it’s own way – which since the fall is actually Satan’s way. And Christ knows this – He knows the truth that since the fall you, along with every other naturally born human, have been stuck in Satan’s kingdom, fast bound in Satan’s chains. And we hear the Law, and we are terrified, so terrified we try to deny it and avoid it. The Law means by rights we should be destroyed, that we should be cast out, cast down, just like Satan. It means by nature we are on the wrong side and God would be right to smite us! And that’s rough. But listen – “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.” Christ doesn’t come to smite you – He comes to smite Satan and claim you, to take you back from Satan.
Don’t you realize that Satan with his temptations, with his urging you to sin, is just trying to keep you trapped? Satan is trying to keep you bound to sin, wrapped up in petty thoughts and jealousies, wrapped up in doubt and fear and misery, wrapped up in trying to pretend you’re perfect when you know you are anything but. That’s his kingdom, where the best you can hope for is a vain, smug, false self-righteousness. But Christ our Lord is not content to let mankind linger there in Satan’s clutches. Instead, He bursts in – for He is the Stronger Man, and He takes up the contest against Satan, and He defeats Satan. And you, dear friends, are the prize He seeks, the treasure our Lord would fight to reclaim – and He finds you, dented and bruised and dirty as you are, for being kept in Satan’s kingdom is a harsh thing, and He washes you clean – claims you as His own – takes you and brings you unto His own house.
That is what your Baptism is. It is where the struggle that Christ fought against Satan upon the cross is made real in your life – it is where it is applied to you – where you are washed clean. And dear friends, the life of Repentance, Confessing your sins, is nothing else than saying, “There, at the font, in my Baptism, is where I live. I am Baptized, I am one whom Christ has claimed and washed clean and forgiven.” As part of the baptismal rite, we ask the person being baptized if they renounce Satan and all his works and all his ways. What is confessing your sin but merely once again renouncing Satan and all his works and all his ways, even the works and ways that pop up again and again in your sinful flesh in this life? Confession is a return to baptism – and we need to return to our Baptism, we need to remember what Christ gave us there all of our days. Christ tells us why.
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of the person is worse than the first. The idea of “once saved, always saved” just isn’t Scriptural. People can fall away – people can renounce their baptism – and then things are worse than before. When we abandon our Baptism, when we refuse to repent, when that font is no longer the Truth of our life, of who we are – we open ourselves up to great shame and vice and wickedness. We say, Satan, have your way with me.
Therefore, we are to repent, to see that we continually strive to live out our lives as the Baptized. That is why Christ calls us to the supper. The house in the passage was empty – but Christ calls you to the Supper and He fills you with His own Body and Blood so that you are full, so that you are never empty – so that you are always ready to resist the lure of Satan. This is the reality of life on this earth. If we are not with Christ, we are against Him – but see that He calls you unto Himself, He fought to claim you as His own, and He provides His Word to keep you as His own – that is why those who hear the Word of God and keep it, who remain in the Word and in the blessings of life and salvation and forgiveness that the Word gives are indeed well and truly blessed.
Dear friends, I urge and exhort you – turn away from the false excuses you would raise for yourself. They are false, and they only give Satan joy. Rather this, call out to God for mercy, cry out that you know your sin and need rescue, and our Gracious and Loving God will create a clean heart in you, He will renew a right Spirit with you. He does not desire to cast you away, but our Lord’s delight is in casting out and thrusting down Satan, so that you belong to Christ alone, so that He can restore you and uphold you. This is what Christ does – He defeats sin, including your sin. Do not fear to face down your sin, for Christ faces it down with you, indeed, for you. This is the promise He made you at your baptism – this is His promise to you for life. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +