Lent 3 – March 3rd and 4th, 2018 – Luke 11:14-28
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Another day, another demon. So there Jesus is, just doing His normal Jesus-y stuff of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out demons. And we get something interesting – When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test Him, kept seeking a sign from heaven.” Okay, so what in the world is going on? What sort of logical leaps do you have to make to go from Jesus casting out a demon to thinking that Jesus must be a hit man for Satan? What rationale is there for saying, “Well, casting out a demon is pretty good, but, um, you know, can you just make some sort of comet appear in the sky or something so we really, really know”? Do you see how foolish this all is? And we'll get to Jesus' response in a moment, but let's ponder the foolishness first. You know what this foolishness is? It's self-defense. It is the old sinful flesh trying anything to defend itself against Jesus and His righteousness. This lent we've seen Jesus defeat Satan's temptations, we've seen Him call out our sinful and and selfish pride. And what's left, what's the flesh's only option? Deny, deny, deny. Stick your head in the sand, scream out “fake news”, ignore reality. All in an attempt to avoid Jesus.
And so what does Jesus do? As He sees, as He hears this foolishness, what is His response to the crowd? Well, He's not going to let it go unchecked; instead, He is going to expose the foolishness, and then explain precisely what is happening. To start: 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?” Alright – let's consider the idea that I am casting out demons by Beelzebul. That is basically an assertion that suddenly old Satan's just gone all sorts of senile and stupid and his kingdom is just falling apart. So that's your argument – that the old Serpent, who is more crafty than anyone... just became an idiot. Eh, Satan's just having a brain freeze at the moment! That's not it and you know it. Moreover – And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. Um, you've noticed how there are a bunch of people who are casting out demons, including many sons of Israel – and they're casting them out in the Name of Jesus. You realize that if you pin the “he must be evil” tail on Me, you've got to pin it on them too, right? Is that a move you want to make – because you can be mad at Me and want to ignore Me, but you say this in front of your kid who is casting out demons and He might tear you a new one.
Do you see what Jesus does? The excuses are just simply and kindly pulled apart. The bad logic, the implications of the snap, desperate arguments are laid out. You really don't want to assert that Jesus isn't sent from heaven, because you won't like where that argument leads. So Jesus just bulldozes their arguments – and then He lays out the truth. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Quick question – what does it mean if a Kingdom comes upon you? That's sort of a strange phrase, and we often don't think much about it. But what is it when a Kingdom comes upon someone? These are fighting words. Jesus is saying that it is D-Day. What was D-Day – congratulations Germany, the Allied forces have come upon you; they are here and they're going to keep on coming until you are defeated and destroyed. Know what this is, people – these times when I cast out demons, when I heal, when I preach – these are the opening battles where God invades Satan's kingdom and goes to destroy Him.
Which is why Jesus gives another military example next. 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 thought he was sitting pretty. He'd been running the show down here on earth for quite some time, and things were running wild. He had his power, he'd toss it around willy-nilly. He thought you, O hearer, were safely in his clutches. But then Christ Jesus, the stronger man comes – and what does Jesus do? He bursts right on into Satan's domain, the heart of Satan's stronghold – Jesus kicks down the doors of death and dives into hell, smacks Satan around, and says, “all these folks you thought were yours, Satan? Well, they're mine now. You gave them death; I will give them life. You trapped them in sin; I bring forgiveness and mercy. They're not yours anymore, Satan, they are mine. This is the program – Jesus is fighting Satan, and this fight is going to be a doozy, and it's going to end with Satan battered and bruised, but Christ Victorious.
However, having laid out His plan, having stated what He is doing, Jesus turns back to the folks who are pestering and complaining, and He speaks a warning. Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters. This is the battle I'm fighting, this is what I am going to accomplish. I am winning you life and salvation – it's right here with Me. Come with Me if you want to live; I'm busting open the doors of this prison and I will carry you out. However, if you say, “I'm going to stay right here,” if you are hell bent on staying with Satan, if you are just so anti-Jesus that you'd rather stay in Satan's kingdom... well, you can do that if you want. But let Me warn you, that won't go well. 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 clean and 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 that person is worse than the first. You can reject salvation, you can just hang out and wait for the Devil, but it's going to be bad. Jesus warns that Satan's going to be in a really foul mood because Jesus has defeated him, and he's going to want to take it out on someone, and if you aren't with Jesus, if you aren't living safely in Christ's life and Christ's mercy – guess who Satan's going to take it out on? You. So don't ignore the salvation Christ wins, don't stubbornly cling to Satan, because that way of going is only going to get much, much worse.
Do you hear the warnings that Jesus gives? Jesus died for all; He has won forgiveness for all. All are going to be raised from the dead – the gates of heaven are open, and the only folks who will not draw the benefit of this are the folks who have no faith, who say, “No thanks, I'll just stay right here with Satan.” And that's really, really dumb. Incredibly dumb. And you know what – often our sinful flesh wants things that are really, really dumb. That's the reality. So then, how to handle this, how to keep focused upon Christ and not my own sinful stupidity? Well, there's two more verses to the text.
As He said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” Oh, Your mom is awesome! Suddenly there's a 70 year old Roman Catholic nun in the crowd telling us all to pray to Mary to keep safe. No.... But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” No, while Mary is cool, the way of safety, the way to remain in Christ and the blessings He gives is this – hear the Word of God and keep it, cling to that Word, hold it fast and don't let it go. Even when it says things you don't like. Even when it says things about you that you don't want to hear – even when it tells you that the things your flesh wants are foolish and deadly. Because that Word of God will also give you Christ Jesus and His love and His mercy and His forgiveness. That Word of God was attached to water in Holy Baptism, and it makes fountains of living water spring up in you that Satan and his minions cannot bear to see. That Word of God gives life – the same tool by which Jesus fended off Satan in the wilderness is the same tool by which we live. We have life from Christ in the Word.
So, what does this all mean? Jesus here lays out His battle plan, lays out what He is doing. He is going to defeat Satan and win you back from Him – and the way that you benefit from what Jesus has done, the way you remain in His victory is through the Word of God, is by hearing again His promise, His victory, His life. And Satan will toss up stupid and arrogant idea after stupid and arrogant idea, all trying to get you to ignore the Word of God. So, examine yourself. Seek out the places where the Devil is encouraging your own Christless stupidity – and repent of it. Confess with Christ that your sinful desires and thoughts and actions are absurd and evil and bad – and instead receive Christ and His love, His care, His compassion. “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the LORD.” In the LORD. In Christ Jesus. In His Word, which does not leave you empty but fills you with the Holy Spirit who makes you to be fruitful and to walk as a baptized child of the light. Avoid the empty words of Satan, even the empty words and thoughts of your own mind, your own preferences – and rather be in the Word of God, for that is how the Holy Spirit takes all that Christ has done for you, all that Christ has won for you – and how He pours it all into you. All by the Word – the Word preached and proclaimed, the Word tied to water in Baptism, the Word tied to bread and wine in His Supper. This is where Christ's Victory which was won 2000 years ago is brought to you in your life right now. Continue to give us Your gifts, O Lord – in the Name of Christ the Crucified + Amen.