Lent 3 – March 14th and 15th, 2020 – Luke 11:14-28
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
So there Jesus is, and He is doing what He is normally doing – healing. This time casting out a demon that was mute. Here you have this man who is attacked by one of Satan’s minions, made to be silent. Can’t speak. Can’t talk. Cut off from his family and friends. Given by the powers of Satan over to loneliness and despair. And Jesus steps in, heals the man – and suddenly the man can speak. The man can open his mouth and speak words of love and joy. Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise. But I guess some people would have just rather not have heard any of it. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.” What an excuse. Um – maybe this Jesus is demonic – um, that way we don’t have to listen to Him. They would rather have this man remain mute, they would rather hear a preacher preaching something more appealing to their ears than Satan being fought. And as for others – well – while others, to test Him, kept seeking from Him a sign from heaven. Oh, sure Jesus, we’ll believe, but you’ve got to do better than that! We want something more miraculous, something more wondrous! How about something with thunder and lightning – something that lights up the sky, that would be good! So just what in the world is going on here?
We've talked about Satan, we've talked about the world fighting Christ, but here it hits home. The sinful flesh kicks in. This is what the problem is – people are making excuses not to believe, not to trust in Christ Jesus. You see, there’s this pesky little problem – if you believe in Jesus, you really sort of need to believe everything He says. You don’t get to pick and choose – Jesus isn’t a buffet, He isn’t some fast food restaurant where you get to tell Him to hold the pickles – what He says goes. And our Lord teaches bluntly – He speaks to our sin, to our need for a Savior – He points out that we of ourselves are not righteous and that we need to receive mercy from God – we need the forgiveness which He wins. Jesus teaches that we are in need – and in our pride and arrogance we can dislike that and make excuses.
So then Jesus engages in what is called “Apologetics”. Apologetics is what happens when you break down the excuses people give against the Word. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand.” Point one – is Satan dumb? If Satan divided his forces, he’d be weak. Is he weak – ask that man who was struck deaf if Satan is powerless and weak. “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” Point two – other people had been casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. If you accuse Jesus, you accuse them too. Do you really want to do that? The thought that Jesus is in league with Satan is looking worse all the time. And then the kicker, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” Point three – as for you who want a sign from heaven – well here it is. You are seeing God’s own power at work against the forces of darkness. Quit playing like you need something more. This is what God does, God fights Satan, God destroys him. Your excuses are foolish. You need to quit making them and instead repent, for you too need a Savior.
Do you see how Christ just sort of systematically poked holes in all their excuses that they had thrown up, that they had given for why they couldn’t listen? This is the same thing that He does towards us. The simple fact is that we are sinners, and sinners make excuses. We make excuses not to do the things we should, and excuses to do things that are wrong. So – what are your excuses? Now, I’m not Jesus, I don’t get to know your thoughts – but what excuses about the Christian life are you making? What excuses about love? What excuses about stewardship? What excuses about time, about worship, about petty grudges, about your pet sin that you enjoy – what excuses are you making? When you consider what Christ Jesus has taught about sin, about His love and the power of His Word – do any of these excuses really hold water? Really? Are the excuses you put forward any better than those we heard in the text? I know mine haven’t been. And yet, even we Christians who know better will sit around dreaming up excuse after excuse – we think we can feed Jesus a line of B.S. about why we aren’t showing love, why we aren’t studying His Word, why we blow off Church, why we ignore this person, why we play favorites with this one, why we hold on to bad habits. Sometimes I wonder just how stupid we can be. God’s Word not only fights the power of Satan – it breaks our excuses.
So why? Why is Jesus so interested in breaking down the excuses we make, even the excuses for the so-called little things – why does He want to break them down? Because the Christian life is to be one of repentance – to be one where we are constantly brought to the repentance of our sin and constantly focus upon Christ. And should we abandon repentance, should we move from being those who confess their sin to those who instead make excuse after excuse – it goes poorly for us. ‘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 that person is worse than the first.” Little sins never stay little. They always grow, they always get bigger, they always get worse. You can’t appease sin, you can’t let it have just a bit of your life, you can’t lay out the welcome mat for it and say, “Oh sure, come on in, just stay in that bedroom over there.” That simply opens the floodgates, and more and more temptation and sin will flood into your life, until you are worse than you were before. This is a warning against falling away, and if you make excuses – you are playing with fire – and not just a little fire but eternal, unquenchable hell fire. And so our Lord warns us against this – quit your excuses and cling to the Word of life! And our Lord brings this about in you. At your baptism, you were given over by God to a life of repentance – a life that is to be lived out by daily contrition, daily struggle against sin, continual confession of that sin. We are to fight against Satan, not accommodate him with foolhardy excuses to ignore the Word. To be in the waters of Baptism is to be one who fights temptation – and in that water, in that Christian life, there is safety for Christ Himself is with you. We are safer fighting Satan than we are bowing before him. This is the life to which you have been called.
This is also why our Lord admonishes us to listen to His Word. But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” As Christians, we are those who hear the Word of God, we are those who are to strive to keep it. God’s Word isn’t designed to just go in one ear and out the other. It isn’t something to be brush aside, to have lip service paid to. We are to pay attention. And why? Because it is by the Word of God that we are blessed – and we remain in those blessings of God as long as we remain in the Word.
Consider the example of the Stronger Man that the Lord gives us today. “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.” This is what Christ Jesus does for you. You were Satan’s possession, fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay, as Luther would have us sing. You were part of Satan’s kingdom, in bondage to sin – but into this fallen world burst Christ Jesus, the Stronger Man, who defeats Satan and claims you as His own. Christ our Lord defeated Satan by His holy life, by His precious death, by His glorious resurrection – these things all defeat, destroy Satan, and break His power over you. And these things that Jesus did, that He accomplished nearly 2000 years ago are made real in your life today by the power of His Word. The Word of God takes what Christ accomplished then and brings it to you here and now. Christ defeated the old foe, and by His Word, He claims you as His own prize.
When you continually hear the Word, when you live out your baptismal life of repentance and forgiveness, of confession and absolution, when you receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper, you are being forgiven and strengthened and kept safe from Satan, kept in God’s Kingdom. God keeps you in His Word and thereby keeps you safe from the power of the Devil. And the thing is, Satan is going to do everything he can to make you ignore the Word, spurn God’s Law and despise the Gospel of Christ Jesus – because then, you abandon God, you leave the Mighty Fortress behind and are defenseless. So Christ continually preaches His Word – He doesn’t abandon you to your foolish excuses, He doesn’t leave you trapped in the sins with which Satan binds you, but over and over again, His Word of life comes to you, He preaches life and forgiveness, the Finger of God touches you, so that you might open your lips and declare His praises as well. Christ desires you to reap the benefits of His fight against Satan, and He will make these real in your life through His Word, through His Baptism, through His Supper. God grant us faith that we might cling to His Word and keep it ever more sacred all our days. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +