March 7, 2021 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus was casting out a demon, and it was mute. Thus when the demon had gone out 0f the man the man spoke. The multitudes marveled, some with wonder, others with jealousy and hatred. Some of the later, under demonic influence said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, likewise under demonic influence, refused to be satisfied and constantly demanded more signs. They sowed the seeds of doubt. Why would Jesus cast out demons? What does He gain by it?
We are rightly suspicious of men who claim power to do miracles such as casting out demons. It is wise to ask questions such as “Who benefits?” and “Follow the money.” Maybe for a friend or for a righteous man, a good man will lay down his life. But what does Jesus gain in giving His life for this mob that despises Him and which will call for His blood on Good Friday?
He gains citizens for His Kingdom, a Bride for His passion, friends for conversation, and children for laughter. He compensates the demons even as He commands that they depart. They must leave us, but they get to have Him. They get to do their worst to Him as He is forsaken outside the city gates, suspended between heaven and earth, a worm, and no man. This is the payment He makes to get back what they stole. Questions of benefit fall flat because God is love, real love, selfless love, love for the unlovable and unloving. Divine love can not be discerned from nature. It is only known by Divine revelation.
In response to the crowd, knowing their thoughts, Jesus says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.” Lincoln sort of misquoted this. The point isn’t that nations should get their act together and unite for the sake of power. The point is that there is no true unity with fallen men or with demons. Satan’s kingdom was divided and it has fallen. No kingdom of men can endure.
But God’s Kingdom does endure. What the crowd is witnessing is not demons fighting amongst themselves to see who is strongest, but Satan being unseated. Jesus is the stronger man. He flicks away the demons with a flick of His finger. His goods truly are at peace.
We are divided also, not only in our country and in our congregation and families, but we are divided also within ourselves. We rightly read the account in Luke 11 as historically accurate. We understand it actually happened. We see in it Jesus’ power over demons and the hostility He faces and submits to among men. We also see His patience and mercy as His compassion is misunderstood.
But we need to also apply this to ourselves. We need to ask how are we like the man struck dumb by a demon or like those in the crow who are stirred to bloodlust and pride by demons. We need to read this not just as things that happened but as the standard for how God interacts with and is present for His Church.
Here is the simple answer: We also suffer from demonic forces. Since Baptism, we are of two minds. Part of us fears the wrath of demons while at the same time wanting the pleasures they promise and despising God. This is the old man. He must be constantly drowned and killed. This is what Baptism indicates. Baptism also gave us another mind. God raised up a mind in us that fears Him and wants to please Him while trusting Him to give us what He has promised. This part of us is content with what God gives for it loves Him. Therefore it does not covet, scheme, or brood. This part trusts God’s Word and does not panic..
We are thus, to a man, all of us, divided in ourselves. Therefore our kingdoms must fall. We are not the masters of our own minds and passions. This is why we cry constantly for Christ’s mercy and help. Left to ourselves, we would bring all to ruin. God sanctifies us by His Word and Sacraments. By these, the old Adam in us is suppressed and the new Adam fed and nourished. Jesus does not here say “Blessed is Mary” or “Blessed is this mute who is now free of demons” or even “Blessed are those who but blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.