Lent 3 Oculi
March 21, 2022 A+D
St. Luke 11:14-28
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We don’t actually know that much about demons. Pretty much everything that we do know, we know from the New Testament. We know that they are real, malevolent, and powerful. But we also know that they are extremely limited. They are creatures, not the Creator. St. Paul calls them supernatural powers, “the rulers of the darkness of this age” and “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” but they melt before God’s Word as though they were never there.
In today’s Gospel, Satan is depicted as a strong man well-equipped who trusts in his equipment, but Christ is said to be stronger. He takes away the equipment that Satan trusts in with a Word and it is done. We are the plunder that belonged to Christ by right, which was stolen by Satan. Christ buys us back at His own expense, paying in the attack with Blood. The battle is completely one-sided, of course, and Satan never had a chance, but, still, it is costly for the Son of God.
At the time of the Incarnation, as recorded in the Gospels, there is a flurry of demonic activity. There are even a few occasions where it seems as though demons inhabit people and control them, speaking through their voices, throwing their bodies around, though even then they aren’t quite able to accomplish what they desire. They don’t have complete control. Demons are also sometimes reported as directly afflicting people with physical ailments. In today’s Gospel, a demon has rendered a man unable to speak. For the most part, demons seem to be more about influence than control. That certainly seems to be all they were allowed to do before Christ became a Man. I suspect that is again the case since the resurrection.
Nonetheless, we all face demonic activity. This is no small thing. Again: demons are real, malevolent, and powerful. It is clear, however, that God never allows His people to be tempted beyond their strength. St. Paul writes:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV).
In a similar way, God promises the means to overcome Satan with His Word in the New Testament.
St. Paul writes: 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:8-10, NKJV).
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. . . . (Take) the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:11, 16, NKJV).
And James, the brother of Our Lord, promises that if we submit to God and resist the devil that he will flee from us (James 4:7, NKJV).
The demons are obstacles to faith and if given the chance they will destroy our faith and our bodies. They are real. They are malevolent. And they are powerful. They are more dangerous than mad, ferocious dogs but they are on a very short chain. Christians should respect their prowess and their malice, but not fear them. Instead, Christians should fear God and trust in Him.
The demons then need not occupy huge amounts of our attention or study. They are a defeated army and have been for millenium. But what they try to do to us is of interest. It shows where they see us as weak and what they fear. Much can be learned from the account of how Satan tempted Eve in the garden and her failure, just as much can be learned from the temptation of Jesus in the desert and His victory. With the mute we don’t learn demonic tactics, but we see the demonic objective. This is what they desire: for us to be mute.
That is because with the heart a man believes and with the mouth he confesses. They do not want us to confess Christ, to praise His Name, or to witness to His Gospel. They also do not not want us to speak for the unborn, to speak against the patent unfairness and unnaturalness of male swimmers competing against female swimmers as though they were females, or of the injustice of judging men and women to be racist simply on the basis of their skin color.
Now if any of the above statements made you cringe that this sermon was veering away from Theology and into the realm of politics and that the Church should be silent on these matters, I’d say the demons are gaining ground. They color morality as merely politics. They tell us that we cannot and must not use Theology and the Bible to judge all of life but only a small segment of it and that we should keep that private. They want to make us mute on myriad topics so that all the world might be deceived.
To our shame, all of us have succumbed to this temptation from time to time. We have been afraid that if we spoke out loud what the Bible says about touchy topics such as fornication, private property, or tithing that our children would withdraw their affection or our grandchildren from us, that we’d risk a promotion at work, or even that our friends or neighbors would look at us as judgmental, biggoted, or sexist. Driven by that fear, rather than the fear of the Lord, we have become mute when we were called upon to speak. We have not acted in love for our neighbors but simply in self-interested cowardice that wanted to avoid conflict or increase material gain. Brothers: we were too weak for that.
If ever there was a time in the history of the West when the world needed Christians to speak the truth out loud, when the world needed the Gospel, it is now. Let us not be cowed by demons. Let us live to the Name of our Baptisms. Let us confess Christ, praise His Name, and witness to His Gospel, in season and out of season, in public, often, and without apology. The demons do not get to decide what is theological and what is political, nor may they proclaim any territory or realm out of bounds for the truth, for the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.
At the end of today’s reading, a woman calls out to Jesus “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus replies, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” An important part of keeping is speaking. Let us hear the Word of God and keep it: speaking it, praising it, confessing it, using it, spreading it.
In all of this and at all times, God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. He makes a way of escape for you in the Person of His Son. This is the point of the great exchange, of His crucifixion. He parts the Red Sea and bids you follow Him out of slavery, escaping the clutches of Satan, the world, and your sinful flesh by forgiveness. In Him, you can and you will bear temptation, slander, and persecution. He will not abandon you. Rather He, who called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. Jesus lives. The shield of faith will quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. In heaven, there are no mutes, nor is there anyone one left to either tempt or accuse you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.