St. Luke 11:14-28
March 8, 2015 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has defeated Beelzebul, the prince of demons, who was guarding us in Hell’s prison. He took away our praise and our prayers. We were mute and could not speak God’s Name. The devil thought our sins would keep us in. He trusted in the Law’s strict demands for justice and retribution. We are sinners and the wages of sin is eternal death. How could we ever escape? The devil’s strength was in the Law’s threats. There he placed his trust.
But the Lord Jesus came with strength that baffled Satan’s wisdom and confounded his expectations. Behold: the Lord’s mercy endures forever. He takes away our sins, the devil’s armor. He comes not with might of armies or show of right, but He comes in meekness and humility. He allows all of Hell’s fury to be emptied into Him. He takes every accusation the devil has. He endures the scorn and slander, the whip and lash, the nails and spear; He is forsaken by His Father; He becomes sin and guilt; and when every accusation has been met, where Justice has no more to ask, when the devil is spent and his head is crushed, then Jesus dies.
But what is this? The got a pyrrhic victory like no other. Hell’s gates hang on their hinges. The cherubim with flaming swords now usher us out and back to Paradise. The strong man who held us in, the demon that made us mute, the seven unclean spirits that think to take up abode in us are done, gone, defeated.
Jesus rises from the dead, victorious, and makes room in us for the Holy Spirit. He puts His Name on our lips. He gives us thanks and praise to sing. We are not mute. We are not dead. We are not unclean. We are His, bought on the cross, claimed in Baptism, fed in Holy Communion. Blessed are we who hear the Word of God and keep it.
Now we too are in the fight. We are not locked in Hell, mute and dead. We belong to Him. We hear His Word. We praise His Name. And though we’ve been won, the devil defeated, the war goes on. We are not innocent bystanders. We are His sheep and His soldiers, His brothers and His children, His ambassadors and His bride. If we are not with Him, we are against Him. If we try to watch from a distance and not engage, we will learn that we’ve been seduced and deluded and the unclean spirits have us back.
This war is fought as this war was won: with and for the Word of God. That is how the Lord battled the devil in the wilderness. That is how the Caananite woman knew that God had come to spare her daughter from the affliction of demons even in the midst of trials and setbacks. The Word of God speaks us righteous and clean. It claims us and bestows God’s goodness upon us. Thus, as Jesus casts out a demon, is falsely accused of being a demon, and warns us of the unclean spirit that seek to destroy us, He says: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
The word “keep” in English might sound like the word “obey.” That is what the devil wants you to think. He wants you to think that those who are blessed are those who obey the commandments and those who are cursed, those who belong to him, are those who have broken the commandments. But he is a liar. It is true that breaking God’s commandments is dangerous to faith and that it hurts people. Christians love God’s Law and want to obey His commandments, but they are still infected with original sin. If they say they have no sin, they deceive themselves. But the Lord Jesus Christ has taken away our sins. He does not curse those who sin and repent, He forgives them. The Lord Jesus Christ only casts demons out of people who were in league with demons. He only loves those who have broken the Law for He only forgives sinners. It is not true that those who break the commandments are cursed for all the blessed of the Lord have broken the commandments. Those who are cursed are those who will not repent. Those who break the commandments and hear the Word of God and keep it are blessed.
The word that Jesus uses here for “keep” is the same word that He used to describe what the strong man did to his goods: He guarded and protected them. So it reads like this, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and guard it.”
It is possible, like seed sown on rocky soil, to hear the Word of God but not guard it. It is possible to be baptized but despise it. The end state of those people is worse than the first. Jesus calls us to a life of faith, a life of war. We are to hear the Word of God and guard it, hold it, treasure it. We are to keep on listening, keep on learning, keep on repenting and believing, trusting that He is good and that He loves us and that He has bought and won us.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We have sin. But that sin has been paid for. Jesus did not stop short. He did not break us out of prison and then leave us to find our own way. He did not forgive some of our sins and now asks us to do our part. He has brought us all the way home. He has paid for everything.
Real war is different than Hollywood portrayals. It is mostly boring, a lot of waiting. The exciting times are mainly scary, not glorious. The real heroics don’t come in the instants of courage, the sort of stuff that commanders tend to give medals for, but from being steadfast in the tedious, boring details, day after day, so that they are ready as they can be for the time of attack. Spiritual warfare is similar. It is day-in and day-out little things. It is hearing the Word of God, going to Church on Sunday, attending Bible class, listening to Issues, etc, talking with your children about God, praying, and so forth. Most of it is quiet, simple, not mountain-top experiences, not terrifying confrontations with the devil. But these things keep the devil away. For the devil and his defeated army are driven back by the Word of God and prayer. You set up a barrier and a safe place for your children by holding family devotions. When the Christian receives and guards the Word of God, when hears and repents and believes and rejoices in what God says and gives, when he is absolved, when eats the Body and drinks the Blood, he is engaging the enemy and bolstering the defenses of the saints.
Blessed are you. You are hearing the Word of God. You are guarding it. Soon you will add your prayers to those of your brothers and sisters around you this morning. You will sing the songs of the angels with the whole company of heaven. You will praise God and be fed anew in His Holy Supper. The devil is defeated. You are filled with the Holy Spirit and there is no room in you for unclean spirits. Come, let us put God’s armor on.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.