The Third Sunday in Lent| March 15, 2020| Rev. Rolf Preus| St. Luke 11:14-28
And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say 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. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” St. Luke 11:14-28
The devil is a strong man, fully armed. He guards his palace. His goods are in peace. His goods are the souls of men, women, and children who are under his power. They are his by fraud and deception. He has no legitimate claim. Everyone born into this world since the fall of Adam has been born under the power of the devil, bound in sin, headed for eternal destruction.
The mute man could not speak. He was bound by a demon of Satan. Satan hates God. His hatred of God knows no bounds. He hates those God loves. He has hated the human race from the time God made Adam and Eve in his own image. The devil’s armor is his lies. This is how he led our first parents into sin. This is how he holds their descendants in slavery to his power. He controls them through lies and deceptions. The devil’s lies are widely accepted as gospel truth. That’s why Jesus called him the prince of this world. But he is judged.
The devil is a strong man, but a stronger man than he overcame him, took away his armor, and divided his spoils. The devil led our first parents into disobedience and by means of that original sin lays claim to the souls of men. Christ is the second Adam who replaced Adam’s disobedience with obedience. He defeated the devil and all of his demons. When he came into this world to do battle against the devil all hell broke loose upon the earth. Demon after demon came rushing out of hell to possess new victims. They did so to defy the Lord Jesus. The battle ground between the devil and God was the bodies and souls of human beings. It was so then and it is so now.
The man was mute. In St. Matthew’s Gospel we learn that he was also deaf and blind. Why would a demon bind a man’s tongue, stop up his ears, and blind his eyes? He would do so out of pure spite against God because he rejoices in hurting people. The devil and his demons enjoy inflicting pain and suffering of those whom God loves.
It was a foolish lie to accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. The devil does not fight against himself. Jesus drove out demons by the finger of God, that is, by the Spirit of God. He demonstrated visibly, vividly, and very publicly that the kingdom of God had come to this earth.
The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are at war. The kingdom of God is where God rules over his children. The kingdom of Satan is where Satan rules over his slaves. You are either a child of God or a slave of the devil. God rules his children by the Holy Spirit. He gives us grace to believe his holy word and to live godly lives. Satan rules over his slaves by deceit and fraud.
You are either a slave of Satan or a child of God. Since people don’t want to believe this they deny it but denying the truth doesn’t change the truth. In the baptismal liturgy the pastor says:
The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as our own. (LSB p 268)
The word of God teaches that our will is bound to the devil from the time we are born and that we remain slaves to the father of lies until God sets us free by his grace, by his Spirit, by his word. Moses writes in Genesis 8:21, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” David writes in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Jesus says in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” In John 3:6 he says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Again, he says in John 8:34, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” And again in John 15:5 he says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Jesus promised Paul in Acts 26:17-18,
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
St. Paul writes in Romans 8:7-8,
The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You are either a child of God or a slave of Satan. There are no free agents. Those with their own personal spirituality are slaves of the devil, spiritually bound and unable to free themselves.
Henry David Thoreau was a famous American writer of the 19th century. He denied original sin. He believed that human beings were by nature good. On his deathbed a minister asked him, “Have you made your peace with God?” Thoreau replied, “I didn’t know we’d quarreled.” His reply was widely admired by many intellectuals of his day.
“I didn’t know we’d quarreled.” So says the heart, mind, and will that is enslaved to Satan, the father of lies. To which Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” There is no such thing as spiritual neutrality.
Jesus illustrates this truth by telling a story about a demon that leaves a man, wanders about seeking another, and finding none returns to the man he left and finds him spiritually empty. He reenters that man with seven spirits more wicked than himself and makes the man ever more enslaved.
When the doctor prescribes antibiotics he tells you to be sure to take them all. Don’t stop taking the pills as soon as the symptoms go away because just because you cannot feel the symptoms, doesn’t mean you are healed. Just because your outward life conforms to how a Christian ought to live doesn’t make you a Christian. Following rules, even very good ones, doesn’t make you a Christian. It is a matter of faith. We don’t choose our faith. God does. Apart from Christ we are enslaved by lies. We live on every word that God speaks. A woman from the crowd praised Jesus saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts which nursed you.” Jesus replied, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
To keep the word of God is to guard it, to hold onto it, to treasure it, and to refuse to let it go. The Bible says to speak the truth in love. To ignore love when speaking God’s truth is to deny God’s truth because God is love. His truth is centered in his love for all people. God’s love in Christ sets sinners free from slavery to sin and the devil. You cannot speak that truth if you don’t love those that God loves. God’s word is not our own personal weapon with which to subdue people to our will. It is God’s power to free sinners from the power of the devil by bringing them the forgiveness of sins. We speak the truth in love.
We speak the truth. The devil made the man mute. He would make us mute. “Go ahead and hold to the truth,” he says, “Just keep it to yourself.” We are permitted to believe what we want, but we may not tell someone else that he is wrong.
That’s not what it means to keep God’s word. It does not mean to lock it up in a drawer where it will be kept safe. To keep it means to believe it, teach it, confess it, and preach it. Speak out! The lies Satan spews forth that surround us everywhere need to be confronted and contradicted. Every false teaching that the devil invents has two common features. First, it contradicts the Bible. Second, it compromises the gospel.
If the Bible teaches it we confess it. We confess that the Bible is entirely true and without any errors on any topic it addresses. We confess that everyone is born sinful and that baptism washes away all our sin. We confess that sinners are justified by God through faith alone in Christ because Christ alone did everything that needed to be done to make us righteous and save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. We confess that we eat and drink Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins. We confess that Jesus is the only way to heaven and nobody can be saved apart from faith in him. We confess that the God we worship not only governs our souls by his grace, but moves heaven and earth in service to his children whom he loves.
The devil and his kingdom are very real and dangerous. But we have God’s word. It is the almighty power of God to protect us from the devil’s lies. It will keep in in the true faith. It will drive the devil away from us. We are not slaves of Satan. We are children of God. No evil power, no deadly disease, no financial or political catastrophe can shake our faith because God himself sustains it by his holy word. We keep it and we are blessed. Amen.