19 March, 2017 – The Third Sunday in Lent
Sermon on Luke 11:14–28, Lent 3, March 19, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In our Gospel text we are alerted to the alarming fact that we have a potent and malevolent enemy, Satan, and under him a potent and powerful army of demons. Nevertheless we are comforted today with the Good News that even with such a powerful foe there is a champion who is stronger, Jesus Christ, who casted out demons throughout his ministry, and this great and wonderful work of rescuing souls and giving them freedom from sin, death, and the devil has continued throughout the ages as the Holy Christian Church sends out faithful pastors to preach the Word and administer the sacraments. Amen.
“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.
Friends, here indeed is good news. Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus’ busied himself with preaching and healing and casting out demons. This is good news because, if we are honest, and if we have any sense of reality, we will confess that we are constantly being harassed by the devil, our old evil foe.
It has been a great strategy of the devil to teach people to rely on their reason and deny the supernatural. Indeed, Satan does not mind if a person thinks he does not exist and talk of demons and angels is foolish talk. because then he has him in his pocket. And he is especially delighted in the so-called Christian who would believe that there is a devil but who is so smug to believe that the devil only afflicts poor Africans and other weak people.
These smug Christians he also has in his pocket, and uses them to great effect as false teachers in the church. But the fact is, and Scripture testifies to the fact, and experienced Christians know, that the devil is constantly throwing his fiery darts at the believer harassing him and tempting him to break from God’s Word: to commit idolatry, disobey parents, disregard the faithful preacher, to steal and covet and so on. And so it is that the Apostle Peter testifies, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Indeed, if it were not for God’s grace we would all be devoured by Satan in a flash. And the good news in this text is that there is someone who is far stronger than Satan, Jesus. Who rescues us from Satan’s clutches, forgives us our sins, and sets us free to serve the one true God. And we have been taught to confess this in the catechism that Jesus, “is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil [there is the rescuing from Satan]; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” [And there is the rescuing from Satan in order that we might serve the one true God]
Now it is crucial to understand that Jesus punished the devil and his demons and drove them out and rescued people through the Word. And it is crucial to understand that Jesus has left his precious Christian church with His Word and Sacraments to continue his work of driving out the devil and rescuing people from Satan’s clutches so that they might joyfully serve God and neighbor.
And so it is to this day that as people hear the Good News preached in its purity, and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered according to Christ’s institution, Satan is driven away and chased for he must relent before the preached Word, and he must relent when the faithful confess it and believe it.
Now our text presents us with three different responses to this wonderful work of preaching the Gospel and giving the sacraments and rescuing poor sinners like you and me from Satan’s clutches. The first group is that of true Christians who with good and honest hearts rejoice in the Gospel and the sacraments. They marvel that God is so gracious to save us and forgive us our sins and rescue us from the Enemy. And this is revealed in our text when the people marveled after Jesus drove out the evil spirit and the dumb man spoke. And such rejoicing is done to this day by the faithful even when there are no great and fantastic exorcisms, but when the Word is simply preached and the sacraments administered, for such Christians know by faith that God uses such quiet unassuming means to truly rescue and save us. May we always find ourselves in this humble little group!
There is a second response to the wonderful work of rescuing sinners from Satan’s clutches through the preached word and the sacraments and this is evident in our text with these words, But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.’” This second group are the haughty and arrogant people, always passing themselves off as super-spiritual and enlightened, and denying and discrediting the fantastic work of converting and saving people from the clutches of Satan through God’s Word.
They find it offensive that American Indians, Muslims, Hindus, the homosexual offender, and all other false religious people are converted and became true Christians and begin to live a life of true holiness through faith in Christ and in obedience to God’s commands. They find it offensive that these people should leave behind their false worship and false hope—not to mention their fear, despair, and loneliness—and cling to the hope that God loves them and forgives them their sins in Christ. They do not want these people to hear God’s Word and repent and be converted, because that would mean they would have to repent. Oh to be sure they will convert them to their own false worship and convince themselves that they represent true christianity, but they are no different than the Pharisees and Scribes in our text that accused Jesus of working with devil and discredited His work. Watch out for these people who pass themselves off as super-Christians, and Lutherans even.
Then there is the third group. Like the haughty arrogant ones they, too, hate the Gospel and discredit Christ’s work of rescuing sinners from Satan through the preached Word and sacraments, but they do it subtly and not openly. In our text this third group did not openly discredit the wonderful exorcism and they did not openly say that Jesus was in league with Satan but they refused the Gospel for themselves and discredited Jesus’ saving work by challenging him and asking for a some sign.
These people today are those who hear the Word and recognize its truthfulness and can even recite it backwards and forwards, but are not content with it: the Word, the sacraments, and the faithful preacher fail to soothe them and they seek something more fantastic and exciting. They often hop from church to church until they find one that soothes them. Or, they will harass the faithful pastor with fine sounding arguments wanting him to do this or that until he leaves or they kick him out. Lord have mercy. They are the ones that the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about when he wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth.”
Friends, we are all guilty of discontentedness with the Word and seek for signs like those Jews in our text, but let us forsake it, and be content with the word faithfully preached and the sacraments administered. It is through these that our Lord Jesus Christ continues his work of chasing away demons and saving people, you and me, granting the forgiveness of sins, hope, and freedom. Using the words of our Gospel text, let us be content with “God’s finger,” and not seek to see his whole self (we would be destroyed anyways), that is, let us be content to hear the Gospel, that we are sinners, that we are forgiven for Christ’s sake who died on the cross for our sins, and that God has prepared good works for us to do.
And indeed, let us really torment the devil and not only be content with the Word and sacraments but rejoice in them. Indeed, let us consider especially for today our baptism. where God through the Word in and with the water chased the devil away and forgave us our sins and gave us such great and precious promises of eternal life and peace with God on Judgment Day. Let us all learn to be exorcists ourselves and chase away the devil himself by rejoicing and saying and singing, “God’s own child, I gladly say it, I am baptized into Christ.” SDG.