St. John 8: 42-59
March 21, 2021 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are accustomed to praying the last petition of the Lord’s prayer as: “Deliver us from evil.” That works fine, but there is a definite article in the Greek. It is literally “Deliver us from the evil.” That suggests that we are asking for deliverance either from the evil one or from the evil beings. Either way, and even if we just pray for deliverance from evil, the Bible teaches us that evil is not a disembodied abstract reality. God is not the source of evil. The devil is.
Thus the Augsburg Confession.
It is taught among us that although almighty God has created and still preserves nature, yet sin is caused in all wicked men and despisers of God by (their) perverted will. This is the will of the devil and of all ungodly men; as soon as God withdraws his support, the will (of unbelievers and the devil) turns away from God to evil. It is as Christ says in John 8:44, “When the devil lies, he speaks according to his own nature.”
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 40–41.
We tend to be far less aware of the spiritual world than our ancestors were. We think that between us right now there is nothing but air, that it is empty. But God is omnipresent. To say “Our Father who art in heaven” is not to stick God into the upper atmosphere. Rather it is to say “Our Father who is all around us, in the air we breathe, in the space between electrons and neutrons, in the deepest part of the ocean, on the highest mountain, and in deepest space. Wherever there is, God is there. He is everywhere and thus He is especially here, as He has promised, in His Word and Sacrament, and shields us from the other beings all around us.
We need Him to be around us because the demons are here also. In Ephesians 2 St. Paul writes:
“(Christ) made you alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2:1–2, NKJV)
Satan is described as a prince who has the power of the air. Air is a reference to the invisible realm all about us. Again St. Paul writes:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV)
We need the God who is in the air to save us. Satan has power, but it is limited. He only has power over the demons and unbelievers, that is, over those who walk in darkness. Though they do not know it, he was the false god worshipped by the Jewish leaders who attacked Jesus in the Temple. That was why they sought to murder Him and were willing to tell lies to get it done. Their father the devil is a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
We live in a world in which Satan can appear good and God evil. Our God is the God who commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. Isaac was spared, of course, but the Father does sacrifice His only Son to reconcile Himself to His enemies. From a human point of view that seems evil, but in this case is the greatest good of all time. The Jewish leaders could not convict Jesus of sin, but they hated what he was doing, not just that He was threatening the status quo but that He was loving the world. Since they rejected this, His love accused them and showed them for what they were.
We are tempted to do the same thing. We imagine that there are better ways for God to be God. This is blasphemy and it shows that we have listened to Satan. This lie is behind all our sins. Whenever we sin we are thinking in our hearts that God is holding out on us or that we know better. We do not trust that what He says is harmful is harmful or that He will provide us not just with all that we need, but that He will shower us with abundance. The God who laid down His own Life to buy us from darkness is not stingy or slack. Repent. Jesus does seek His own glory. He seeks the cross of our salvation, He steps into the breech and is lifted up to draw us to Himself.
Repent and pray: “Deliver us from evil.” That summary petition embodies all our hope and need. We aren’t merely asking to be cleansed of spiritual flaws and made pure. We are asking that God make everything right. We are saying: “Defeat the devil for us for he is all around us. Pull us out of his kingdom for the sake of Your Kingdom.” All the evil that infects and attacks us: poverty, disgrace, sickness, slander, oppression, injustice, loss of loved ones, greed, envy, and all the rest, every single bit of misery and heartache that humanity suffers finds its source in the devil. He is not only a liar but a murderer as well. Do not listen to Him. Read the Bible instead.
Do not then have any sympathy for the devil. He seeks your destruction. And because you are protected by Christ, he vents his anger by causing accidents and injury to our bodies, dividing families and countries, seeding envy and jealousy. He crushes some, drives others to insanity, suicide, and depravations that falsely promise comfort, even as he rewards others to lull them into false security. He is a most dangerous foe, too powerful and clever for us. Therefore we must heed God’s Word and pray without ceasing against him. We must insist and hold fast to the singular reality that God is control and works all things together for our good. For if God did not support us, we would not be safe from him for a single hour.
But, of course, God does support us. He is working out our salvation, chastening as we need, guiding us as is necessary. Hindsight will show how necessary it all was and how gentle. But for now we live by faith. We trust God’s Word and not the devil’s lies.
Jesus hid Himself that day in the Temple and slipped away unscathed, not because He was afraid or unwilling, but because the devil is not in control. As powerful as the he is and as weak as Christ makes Himself, nonetheless, He is still YHWH, God almighty. He picks the time and circumstances and all aspects of His crucifixion. No one takes His life from Him. He lays it down of His own accord and He takes it up again. This is the day that Abraham saw and in which He rejoiced. Let us do the same.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.