Lent 3 Oculi 2023

March 12, 2023 A+D
St. Luke 11:14-28

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

The Lord Jesus Christ has come to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil. He dies for our forgiveness and rises for our justification. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He brings us out of death and to Himself, giving us life everlasting. He is crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross with the accurate epithet, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. There He dethrones Satan, the false prince of this world, and drives both him and his demons from this world. More than a single exorcism, that is the exorcism. Satan is defeated. Death is dead. Jesus is King.

Not much is recorded of either Satan or the demons in the Old Testament. We know that Satan took the form of a serpent in the garden to tempt Adam and that he stood as an accuser of Job. We know from the New Testament about the war in heaven. That is how we know for sure that the serpent was actually Satan and also that Satan and his angels, the demons, were cast down to earth. The New Testament names Satan as the “Prince of this world” and the Gospels record that some people called him Beelzebulb, which refers to him as the head demon. Three times the Old Testament sacrifices to false gods are described as being offered to demons. (Duet 32:17, Psalm 106:37, and 2 Chr 11:15). There are also a few other instances where demons might be involved. There they are described as spirits or as some sort of supernatural being (Judges 9:23-24, Saul and the spirit of Samuel, “Lilith” or “night creature” Is 34:14).

John doesn’t record any instances of demons and not a single exorcism, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke do. It seems that when God became a Man and walked the earth, the demons became more active and obvious. They are clearly evil. They hate humanity nearly as much as they hate God. In the synoptic Gospels and in Acts we see the demons causing pain to humans by violence or by various maladies such as the muteness in today’s Gospel. They afflict some with blindness, torments, and sickness. They also are described as forcing some of those they possess or influence to engage in self-destructive and isolating behaviors. On top of this, they might cause them to go insane, to grind their teeth, to foam at the mouth, and the like.

Jesus helps those suffering from demons by driving the demons out. He does so with very little fuss. He speaks and they leave. He also grants this authority to his apostles. They cast out demons in His Name. Philip and Paul are also recorded as having casting out demons in the book of Acts.

That being said, this was not a large part of Paul’s ministry or of the book of Acts. Paul’s teaching has very little to say about demons. It says nothing about possession or exorcism. He teaches that demons are powerless, a defeated enemy. Unlike false gods, say the likes of Zeus or the god of the Mohammadens, demons are real. And so it is that when false gods are worshiped, it is not that nothing that is worshiped, but rather than demons are worshiped unaware(1 Cor 10:20-21). He also warns about the attempt by demons to lead us into false doctrine (1 Tim 4:1).

The devil is no match for Christ. The battle on the cross was not close. The devil didn’t have a chance. He is a creature. Christ is the Creator. The devil was from the beginning, but Christ is eternal. He existed already in the beginning. He was with God and He is God. The devil is not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. He can only be in one place at a time. He only knows what he can observe. And He can only do what he is allowed, which isn’t much. He is dangerous to fallen men, but the Bible considers him the consummate fool.

In the Bible, one doesn’t wrestle with the devil, but with God. Think of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. The devil is defeated with a word and sent away. Jesus’ struggle isn’t to overcome him, that is rather easy. The struggle is to endure the wrath of His Father in order to regain us for Him and for Himself. The devil is a significant, but minor plot point.

Satan and the demons are much subdued in these last days, even more than they were in the Old Testament. Not because they aren’t real but because they have been defeated. They are still real and they are a real threat, and yet, they are rather easily dealt with. They are cast out even as sin is cast out, by the Word of God, the Sacraments, and prayer. The means of casting out are also the means of keeping out. It is not dramatic. It is calm. Jesus speaks and they leave. There is no need for an elaborate ceremony or ritual. The demons should be respected, but not feared. They have no claim on you so long as you abide in Christ. If His Word is in your ears and heart and upon your tongue, they must depart. Their main power is lying and they hate the Truth.

To drive demons away from you and your children, have family devotions. Read the Bible out loud in your home, every day. Come to Church, every week. Hear the Word and receive the sacrament. Come to private confession and absolution at least once a quarter. Turn off the television and put down your phone. Flee from sexual immorality. Nurture the brotherhood. Develop a community of accountability and support with like-minded Christians. Learn to love them in their imperfections, both being helped and encouraged by them and also helping and encouraging. In addition to family devotions, read the Bible privately, and meditate on God’s Word. In these ways, here, by Word and Sacrament, in the mutual consolation of the brethren, with sound doctrine and practice which stand against the lies of demons, the Kingdom of God that has come upon you in Baptism abides. More than the finger of God, the whole hand, arm, and shoulders defend and uphold you along with a host of holy angels. You are a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Stronger Man and your King. In Him, you are safe.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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