Lent 3 — Oculi 2018

Oculi 2018 A. + D.
St. Luke 11:14-28
Theme: The Stronger Man and the Finger of God

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus Christ, the enfleshed Kingdom of God, has come upon you. And what He did for the mute man and in Egypt to demonstrate His power, He does even for you in Holy Baptism. Baptism is Jesus casting out the devil by the Finger of God – the Holy Spirit – in water and the Word. Where Jesus is, the devil cannot remain.

There will be no “undecideds.” If you do not belong to Jesus, you belong to Satan. Simple as that. Jesus is not One among many or even First among equals. If you will not be gathered where He gathers, you will have no part in Him. Whoever is not with Jesus is against Him. So He wages war in His teaching and miracles, upon the Cross, and even now in Holy Baptism to redeem and rescue you.

For once Satan was your king. More accurately, he’d stolen you. He deceived you with temptations of power and honor, holding you captive. And it’s not because you were some prized possession he couldn’t live without. You were a plaything – beaten, abused, treated shamefully, and tormented. Every temptation, perversion, and affliction you suffered served the devil’s glee, confining you to his grasp and his flames of torment. Ravaged and defiled, the devil only laughed, seeking more ways to degrade you.

He is the strong man from whom you cannot free yourself. Armed with the mighty weapons of lies and temptations, he guards his palace with the demands and accusations of the Law, with pride, contempt, sin, and Death. You can neither pierce his armor nor stand against his weapons. You are surrounded, afflicted, assaulted, and tempted by more demonic flies and gnats than you could possibly number. And if you do not belong to Jesus, you will be condemned. Repent.

Behold: the Stronger Man, Jesus Christ, has come. God comes armored in human flesh and wielding no weapon but the Spirit – the Finger of God. He comes not as the devil expected, anticipated, or ever could have overcome. And it was a strange and dreadful strife as Death and Life contended.

The devil gave it everything he has. He tempted Jesus with power and honor, flogged Him with the Law’s accusations, burdened His shoulders with the weight of your sins, and pierced His hands and feet with your death. But Jesus responded, raining down plagues upon Hell in the forgiveness of sins, in restoring sight and speech to the blind and mute, in making the lame walk, in feeding the multitudes, and in raising the dead. Though His Armor was pierced through and He was dead, though it seemed the devil had won, the pierced heel of Jesus came raining down from the Cross. The devil’s head was crushed, his jaw broken, and his lying tongue severed.

Satan’s armor was worthless and his weapons impotent, destroyed from the inside out by the wood of Jesus’ Cross. Satan expected God to come bringing death for your sin, but Jesus comes to sacrifice Himself for your sin. He conquered in death, breaking down Hell’s gates and seizing the devil’s captives. Jesus frees you for the Kingdom of God. You now belong to Him.

What was for Egypt works of terror, judgment, and destruction are for you works of life, healing, and peace. Jesus drives the devil out of you by the Finger of God, raining plagues and troubles down upon him. And He places that same Spirit into your ears that you may hear His Word. By the Spirit, Jesus touches your eyes opening them to see by Faith and loosens your tongue that you open your lips to praise Him, confess His Name, and confess your sins. Like the mute man before you, your tongue is now loosed and you give thanks and praise to Him who saved you. You now walk as a child of the Light, for Jesus’ own perfect righteousness covers you. You are the imitator of God for Christ dwells in you in His Body and Blood. The devil dwells in you no more. You belong to the Stronger Man and are a new creation in Him.

But now your hardest struggle against him who is strong in himself and well-armed begins. For when the devil was your king and you were subject to him, it seemed as though he left you in relative peace. A slave to sin and Death, you didn’t know any better. But now that he’s cast out from his throne, Satan thrashes about and stirs up a storm against you. Your family, friends, the world, and Hell itself have all turned against you.

Why? The devil neither loves you nor cares anything for you. He only desires that you share his damnation. And he knows your weakness and many ways of access into your heart where he finds a willing and happy ally.

If you doubt it, consider only how easily you entertain yourself with the most mundane things or steel your conscience to enjoy your favorite sin with nary a thought or distraction. But if you want to skip church or sleep in, how easily do the excuses flood your mind? How easily do you become distracted in your prayers, even the Lord’s Prayer, and grow bored? The devil seeks to overthrow Christ in you. Repent.

Repent and know this: unless the Sevenfold Spirit enters into you, takes possession of you, and bars the entrance by His good Gifts – the holy Means of Grace – the unclean spirit will return with seven of his friends to drive you down to a lower depth of infamy and evil. Do not harden your heart like Pharaoh of old or like Jesus’ opponents. If you claim to be a Christian but still give in to, indulge, and delight in filthiness and crude and foolish talk, sexual immorality and impurity, covetousness and idolatry; if you return to lust, greed, and anger; if you despise your brother in Christ; you are a partner with darkness who will die. Woe unto you if you fall away again.

So you must discipline and mortify your flesh. Surrender all, even the world, honor, and possessions. Return to your Baptism in repentance and contrition. Confess your sins and call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus. Receive His Body and Blood.

For here is Jesus in His Church, ready to cast the devil out of you again and again by the Finger of God in the forgiveness of your sins. Here He stands ready to drive you back to your Baptism, to forgive your sins, and to feed you with His Body and Blood. Here is Jesus for you.

Yes, you must struggle against sin and the lusts of your flesh. But your struggle is not hopeless. You are in Jesus Christ. And though Satan still tempts you, seeking to deceive and mislead you, Jesus beats him down under your feet. He cannot and will not have you. The Stronger Man has overcome.

His Word is living, active, and performative, doing what He says, thus that demon-abhorred water of Holy Baptism is the true and actual casting out of the devil by the Finger of God, washing away of sin, clothing with Christ’s righteousness, and bestowal of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Communion is the true and physical Body and Blood of Jesus, given into death for you upon the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins. You receive exactly what Jesus says you do.

Thus you are now free to live as befitting a Christian. You are free to confess Jesus’ Name and to sing His praises. Free to speak well of your neighbor and serve him in love. Free to rejoice in those things which are pleasing to God. You are free for you belong to Jesus Christ.

And He is here for all who are mute, blind, and deaf. He does not bring you plagues and judgment by the Finger of God, but mercy, healing, and deliverance. You are bought back, redeemed, and your accuser stands silent. The Kingdom of God has come upon you in the Flesh of the Stronger Man.

Blessed, then, are you, for Jesus opens your eyes and looses your tongue blind and tied with iniquity, takes away the infirmity of your transgressions, and raises you from death to life everlasting. Blessed are you, for the Word of God is planted in you by the Finger of God. Blessed are you, for the Word made Flesh satisfies your hunger with His Body and quenches your thirst with His Blood. Blessed are you, for the Stronger Man claims you as His own in victory.

The gnats and flies are a bother, but they will not have you. Jesus Christ, the enfleshed Kingdom of God, has come upon you. And He has indeed plucked your feet from the net.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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