Lent 3-Oculi 2019

Oculi–Lent 3
March 24, 2019 A+D
St. Luke 11:14-28 The binding of the Strong Man (inspired from Gerhard Postilla)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus uses the episode of the healing of a man possessed by a demon to teach us the greater mission for which He came. In many cases in the Holy Scriptures, a demon possessed person displayed outward signs of the possession because of certain physical disabilities. This man was mute in Luke’s account. The Greek word for “mute” is kophon and can also mean deaf and often does, because the inability to speak is often accompanied by the inability to hear. Matthew adds that he was also blind. This demon has impaired this man’s ability to hear, speak, and see.

In the first place, this man, being possessed by the demon is a representation of all of mankind after the Fall. That’s why it’s of note that He was deaf, mute, and blind. The inward spirit of a thing manifests itself in physical, outward ways. Think of Christ’s teaching of the good tree bearing good fruit and the bad tree bearing bad fruit. What is in a man is seen by outward manifestations. (Window has a tree with fruit on it).

Adam was created perfectly in the image of God and was a dwelling place not only for the Holy Spirit, but for the entire Trinity. And by virtue of being formed from his side, so also was Eve. They had eyes, ears, mouths, arms, and legs that served only God and worked His righteousness. Their perfect inner spirit was reflected in perfect, good works. They lived for God alone and therefore every thought, word, and action were for the benefit of God and neighbor. We have a very difficult time imagining such a life, because we have been so corrupted by sin. Only in heaven will we ever realize this kind of life again, free from sinful thoughts and inclinations.

At Satan’s tempting, however, Adam and Eve abandoned original righteousness and fell into sin, corrupting themselves and the world, losing righteousness and leaving sin as their heritage. They exchanged the indwelling of the Holy Trinity for the indwelling of demons. There is no in-between. They gave up the image of the Holy Trinity for the image of the devil. When a child of Adam and Eve is conceived, that child is corrupt from the very moment of conception. Sin is attached to the flesh from the very moment of it’s beginning. It is bound by sin and enslaved to the evil inclinations of the devil. Every human born, is born in sin, at odds with and even an enemy of the righteous God. Every baby is born possessed of the devil and not a child of God. This is shocking, for us to hear, but this is what Scripture teaches, and this is what we confess in our Baptismal liturgy when we say, “depart unclean spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, in every account of Jesus casting out demons, He is giving us a picture of Baptism and a fore-taste of Pentecost that was to come.

That is why this demon-possessed man is a picture of the entire human race. And that is why Jesus’ teaching after the exorcism is so vital for our understanding of His salvific work. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:21-23). This is essentially Jesus’ sermon on a passage in Isaiah that says: “Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?  For thus says the LORD: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children” (Isaiah 49:24-25).  The devil is the strong man guarding his own palace. The palace is this sinful world, and his goods are the people born in sin—all people. (During His temptation in the wilderness, when the devil takes Jesus to the very high mountain and shows Him all the nations of the world and their glory, He is showing Jesus his goods). But Jesus is the one stronger than he, attacking him and overcoming him. Jesus takes away the armor in which the devil trusted and takes his spoil. The devil’s armor is death. Jesus conquers death and rescues us from eternal death, freeing us from the bondage of sin. This is the point of the teaching.

This was the point of Jesus’ mission. He came down, out of heaven to earth, where the devil set up a palace, in order to rescue us from the prison of sin and death. He came to remove the demons in us by original sin and give us the Holy Spirit. And just as helpless as the demon-possessed man was to heal himself and restore his speech, hearing, and sight, so helpless were we to participate at all in our own salvation. Jesus accomplished it all without our help, without any merit or worthiness in us.

He does all of this with the finger of God, ushering in the kingdom of God. So Luther was exactly correct in his explanation of the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer—Thy Kingdom Come—when he writes: “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” And how do we receive this Holy Spirit? How does God give Him? Through the Word and Sacraments. Through Holy Baptism in the washing of water and the Word, working rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit. He gives the Holy Spirit to us when He places His holy body and precious blood in our mouths during the Lord’s Supper, which works forgiveness of sins and gives us life and salvation. For wherever there is life and salvation, there is the Spirit working it on our behalf.

So just like the deaf, mute, and blind man was healed so that his ears, mouth, and eyes were opened, so also in a spiritual sense, our ears are now opened to God’s Word, our mouth is open not only to receive His body and blood, but to return praise and thanksgiving. And our eyes are open to see the goodness of the Lord. These derivatives of salvation are the first part. Jesus makes good trees out of bad by the Holy Spirit. But good trees show their goodness by their fruit. And this is the second part: works follow faith. A godly life flows from the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our house has been swept clean of evil and put in order. This happened from the moment of Baptism. But lest you grow complacent, if you separate yourself from the Word, Sacraments, the gathering of Christians, and doing good, your last state shall be worse than the first. The devil will seize upon the opportunity to enslave you once again in sin.

God has given you freedom to work good for your neighbor, to serve others in your vocations; to live outside of yourself; to be loving wives and husbands, to be faithful parents and obedient children, to work in your occupations as though you were working for the Lord (Eph. 6:7); and to help those in need. This is not the Garden of Eden. You are still tainted with sin in this world. But the image of God is being restored in you. Because of the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf, and the free gift of Grace delivered by the Holy Spirit, God has reclaimed you for Himself. Your good works are a reflection of the Spirit of God. All of your spiritual or physical disciplines during this Lenten Season are empowered and literally “inspired” by God’s divine work in Christ.

In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.

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