Lent 3 Oculi| Luke 11:14-28| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| March 20, 2022
In Genesis chapter three, after Adam and Eve fell into sin, the LORD God said to the serpent, who deceived them, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.” This is known as the protoevangelium, that is, the first proclamation of the Gospel in the Bible. Jesus is the seed of the woman, who will crush Satan’s head even as his heal is bruised on the cross. Yet, this proclamation of the Lord predicts another truth that is often overlooked. “I will put enmity between you and the woman” predicts that Satan will establish his kingdom here on earth and wage war against the children of Eve. Satan is the strong man Jesus mentions in his little parable, fully armed, guarding his own palace, so that his goods are safe. Yet, Satan’s kingdom is not a geographical place with borders, so that you can leave his dominion by crossing a line in the ground. Satan is a spirit. He establishes his palace in the hearts of Eve’s children, so that they become his children. That is why when John the Baptist preached repentance to the scribes and Pharisees, he called them “brood of vipers,” (Luke 3:7) that is children of serpents. Satan is the great serpent, who tempted our first mother Eve.
Now Christ, the seed of the woman, has come to wage war against Satan. It’s interesting that Jesus points out that Satan would not divide his own kingdom, when he is accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Satan certainly wouldn’t divide his own kingdom to lay it waste, but that is exactly what Christ has come to do. We learned two weeks ago how Jesus strove with Satan in the wilderness and overcame each temptation. Then, as he begins his ministry of preaching the Gospel and healing the sick, demon possessed persons cry out in every city against him, until he casts the demons out. The devils know that they are at war. Jesus, the stronger man, has come to strip Satan of his armor and divide his spoils.
Of course, casting a mute demon out of a poor man only foreshadows the great exorcism Christ will perform on Good Friday, when he will strip off all of Satan’s armor by bearing our sins on the cross and redeeming us with his blood. Satan’s armor in which he trusts are his lies. He lies to lead us to sin and unbelief. Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the life. He overcomes Satan’s lies with the truth of his Gospel. He takes our sins away, undoing Satan’s work and removing our guilt, so that Satan may no longer accuse us before God (Revelation 12:10).
Yet, there are those who see Jesus cast out this demon and they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus points out the absurdity of Satan dividing his own kingdom and laying waste to it. But then he points out, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” These are sobering words.
In Numbers chapter twelve, Moses’ older sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, opposed him. God appeared in a cloud, as he would, and rebuked Miriam and Aaron, pointing out that unlike the other prophets, to whom he spoke in visions and dreams, he spoke to Moses face to face like a friend. Then he concludes, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” They should have been afraid to speak against Moses, because they weren’t speaking against their little brother, they were speaking against God, who spoke through Moses.
Well, how much more should these blasphemers be afraid to speak against the Christ, God himself in the flesh! Yet, they don’t see Jesus as the Christ, even though he fulfills every prophecy Scripture says of the Christ. All they see is the man. They think they’re speaking against plain flesh and blood. But no, they are speaking against God himself. And so, they have found themselves on the wrong side of a cosmic war between God’s Kingdom and Satan’s Kingdom. “The Kingdom of God has come upon you, and you opposed it! You should be afraid.” That is what Jesus says to these blasphemers, who accuse him of being in league with Satan.
Yet, people continue to find themselves on the wrong side of this war. Jesus said to his disciples in the previous chapter of Luke, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16). And so, people continue to speak against Jesus without realizing it, because they are speaking against one of his ministers whom he sent. All they see are two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. But if they would consider Jesus’ words, they would take the words from that mouth more seriously. Certainly, every Christian should speak against false teaching, especially if it is spoken by a pastor. Yet, we only know the difference between true teaching and false teaching from the Bible. Yet, most people look at the Bible as just an ordinary book. It’s just paper bound together with ink on it, like any other book. So, they dismiss anything in it that they don’t like.
Beware that you do not behave that way. God’s Word written on paper is still God’s Word as if Christ spoke to us from heaven. And when Christ’s minister speaks God’s Word as it is taught in Scripture, Christ himself is speaking to you. If you speak against God’s Word, no matter who speaks it, you are opposing God’s Kingdom.
God’s Kingdom comes to us today through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. This is because Christ has accomplished everything to win our salvation. He has fulfilled the Law for us. He overcame Satan in our stead. He suffered and died for the sins of the world. He is risen and ascended to the Father’s right hand, from which he showers the Church on earth with his grace. So, until Christ returns to establish us in his Kingdom of Glory for eternity, we live in Christ’s Kingdom of Grace here on earth. That means, we receive God’s Kingdom through faith. As Satan established his kingdom on earth by stealing the hearts of Eve’s children, so Christ today evicts Satan from our hearts through the Gospel. The preached Gospel, which declares the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which also declares the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, are received through faith alone. So, God’s kingdom comes to us through the preached Gospel and administration of the Sacraments, and his kingdom takes root in our hearts through faith alone.
And here it is important to point out that it is not only those who actively speak against God’s Word and Christ, who are on the wrong side of this spiritual war. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” There is no neutral ground in this war. You are either a Christian or you are an unbeliever. You are either a citizen of God’s Kingdom and at war with Satan, or you are in league with Satan and at war with God.
Jesus tells a simple parable to explain this. If an unclean spirit is cast out of a man, but returns to find him swept clean and put in order, then he returns with seven more spirits eviler than himself and the last state of that person is worse than the first. This is to say, that if you repent of your sins and turn to Christ, but do not continue with Christ, but become apathetic, then Satan will return with a vengeance! You can’t stand on the sidelines. Jesus says that whoever confesses him before men, him also will he confess before his Father in heaven, but whoever denies him before men, he also will deny before his Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33) Silence is denial. Indifference is enmity. Neglecting God’s Word is despising God’s Word. Apathy is unbelief. This is why Jesus says to the church in Laodicea in Revelation chapter 3, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Last week, I exhorted you to win when wrestling with God by clinging to the promise he gives you. This is a good exercise when reading the Bible or listening to a sermon. Where is the promise? What is Christ promising me? What must I cling onto? Here is the promise in this lesson, which should give you great comfort and joy. After a woman blesses Jesus’ mother for his great teaching, Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Blessed means to be eternally blessed, to be saved, to be an eternal citizen in God’s kingdom. The word, which we know saves, is the Gospel. No one will be saved by works of the Law. We believe in Jesus; we trust in his forgiveness, and we are saved. Christ Jesus is the strong man, who plunders Satan and rescues us from his kingdom. The word keep, I think would be better translated as guard. It is not that Jesus is promising eternal blessedness to those who keep the Law. That is hardly a comforting promise, since we fail to keep the Law. Rather, Jesus is teaching us to guard the Gospel given to us. We do this by hearing it, learning it, and taking it to heart. And of course, those who trust in the Gospel bear good fruits and perform works of the Law pleasing to God.
This word for guard is the same word used to describe Satan, the strong man guarding his palace. Satan guards his palace with lies. He keeps us captive by tempting us to sin and causing us to doubt God’s grace for us in Christ Jesus. Yet, the Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins for Christ’ sake disarms Satan. We guard and hold fast to the Gospel by continuing to hear it and apply it to our guilty conscience, by receiving the Sacrament and trusting in its benefits. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” says very much the same thing as Jesus’ saying, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Gospel is true. It sets us free from the lies of Satan. Those who hear the Gospel, believe it, and guard it against Satan’s lies by continuing to hear it and trust in it are blessed. They are citizens of God’s Kingdom. And they will dwell in God’s Kingdom of glory forever. Amen.
Here’s a special bonus. On the next page is a great hymn you can sing about this Gospel lesson.