Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sermon for 3/19/17: Third Sunday in Lent

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The Stronger Man

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Satan is strong. Jesus says so here Himself. Jesus calls this Beelzebub a “strong man.” You have seen how strong he is throughout Scripture: how he deceived Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden; how he turned the life of Job into a living hell, taking the lives of his children and servants, destroying everything he owned; how he uses his minions to possess bodies and minds, stealing the physical abilities and sanity of ordinary people; how he sought to tempt even Jesus into abandoning His work of salvation for worldly fame and goods. On your own, you are no match for the devil. Satan is the father of lies, and, as Luther wrote in his hymn, “On earth is not his equal.”
St. Luke in his Gospel is the only writer to mention that, “when the devil had finished, he left [Jesus] until an opportune time.” The “strong man” is persistent. He tried three times in the wilderness temptation to turn Jesus from His journey to the cross. Many times in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus encounters Satan’s “opportune time.” He encounters demons and their awful work. Each time, Jesus casts them out and silences their cries. But Satan doesn’t give up. He keeps on tempting and testing Jesus.
And if he seeks to overcome our Lord, he certainly won’t give God’s children a pass. Satan is hard at work in your life, too. Just as he deceived our first parents in Eden’s paradise, he seeks to deceive you. His tools are deadly. He uses the fashions of the world to tell you it’s no big deal to view your neighbors as eye candy. He uses the leaders of our nation to tell you that it’s okay to murder the unborn in the name of convenience, to tell you it’s okay to give into depraved lusts. He uses even those who call themselves Christian preachers to tell you it’s okay to give in to your sins, that it’s okay to ignore those things in God’s Word which you find uncomfortable. And Satan’s temptations are appealing; if they weren’t, we wouldn’t find them tempting. And they are tempting—so much so that we give in to his lies and take what the Old Adam within us desires.
So no, you are no match for him on your own. But Christ is. He is the Stronger Man! Jesus overcame the evil one in the wilderness through the Word of God. He cast out demons and undid their afflictions. And finally, Satan saw his most “opportune time” arrive at the end of Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus is nailed to the Cross, and the voices of those around Him become the mouthpieces of Satan: “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God!” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” Yes, there at Calvary, Satan saw his most opportune time to tempt Jesus to abandon His divine mission of salvation. But Jesus stayed the course for you. Jesus destroyed death itself by His death. And when He destroyed death and the devil’s power, He destroyed your sins as well. Now nothing can separate you from Jesus—absolutely nothing. You were united with Him in his death when you were baptized, when the Old Adam within you was drowned. At your baptism, you were asked: “Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways?” And you, probably with someone speaking for you, replied: “I do.” There was no neutral ground there.
Your soul was once captive, bound for Satan’s kingdom. You were dead in your sins and an enemy of God. But through your Baptism, the Lord Jesus snatched you away. The Stronger Man, Jesus, plundered the strong man’s house, the devil’s kingdom of hell, and took you as His prize. And He isn’t giving you back. You belong to Christ forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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