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Lent 3 – Oculi

by pastorjuhl ~ February 21st, 2008

(An amalgamation of sermons preached in 2004 and 2006.)

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

The strong man didn’t look so strong in the Garden. Yet he was the most cunning creature around. The seed of doubt was first planted by him, and Adam and Eve took the bait. Human weakness brought about the strong man’s power. He seized God’s flock and drove it into his own fold.

The Stronger Man didn’t look so strong in the manger. Yet He was the Son of God. The promise of His coming was first spoken by His Father, and Adam and Eve believed it. Human weakness caused the Stronger Man to take on flesh willingly. He took back God’s flock and returned it to His Father.

This is the story of the strong man, Satan, and the Stronger Man, Jesus Christ. Those who see Him heal a mute man possessed by demons proclaim He casts out demons in the name of Beelzebub: the lord of the flies. They want a real sign. They saw the finger of God at work and denied it. Yet Christ proclaims to the stubborn ones and to you today:

THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME UPON YOU

We see signs and wonders every Lord’s Day here. Sins are forgiven. Bread and wine are shown to be for us the True Body and True Blood of Jesus Christ. Children young and old are brought to the font to be united to Christ in Holy Baptism. The Kingdom of God has come upon us.

It’s no good to mention those who believe Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebub now. Those who say such things rarely darken our doors. These are they who cannot believe Jesus is Lord. The Lord God tells the prophet Isaiah to tell these people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. This is the faith of the scribes and Pharisees.

There are those who see, but wish they had not seen. Casting out a demon can be done by just about anyone. Magicians and so-called mentalists on television work with confederates who are in on the scheme. Though these confederates play innocent, they know exactly what is going on. They look on in amazement during the trick. They act in awe. They play their part quite well.

Who casts out demons? If it is Beelzebub, as certain people said it was when Jesus heals the mute man, then what Jesus does is foolishness. Who has heard of evil getting rid of evil? If two evils battle against each other, both may not stand. To deny Christ’s power over the strong man is to deny God. To deny God is to write a one-way ticket to the strong man’s lair…hell. Two wrongs never make a right. If Jesus casts out demons by the power of Beelzebub, then God’s House is divided and our hope is turned to nothing.

Are you looking for a sign from God? Jesus Christ is that sign. The strong man is powerful. The Stronger Man is more powerful. The strong man seized the flock of God. The Stronger Man ransomed them. He ransomed them not with brute force. He ransomed them from the power of Satan with the strong man’s own weapons.

Jesus allows Himself to be hung on a cross, bloodied and beaten. He died as if he were an evil criminal. The devil takes the bait and swallows Him whole, thinking Jesus is merely a man who is dead forever. Jesus invades the enemy’s domain of death and attacks from the inside out. He demolishes all of the devil’s armor in which he trusted from behind enemy lines. Christ infiltrates the devil’s kingdom and conquers him by means of the very death which Satan brought into the world. Jesus turns the devil’s weapons right back in his face and destroys him. Your house is swept clean. Jesus remembers you when you come into His kingdom. You are free.

The Stronger Man rises from the dead. Satan’s greatest weapon, death, no longer has any power over us. You live in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. The saying is true: WE DIE NOT WHEN WE DIE! When you take your last breath, you merely fall asleep in Jesus. The body sleeps in the grave. The soul is with the LORD Christ in Paradise, waiting for Jesus to return and raise the body. When Jesus returns, you will receive a new body and a new soul. You will truly live.

Blessed are you who cling to that Word of God put upon them with water. Blessed are you whom the Word of God dwells richly through Holy Absolution and preaching. Blessed are you who trust in Christ and are filled with His True Body and Blood in His Holy Supper.

Blessed are you because of Jesus, the Strongest Man of all. He dies and rises again for your salvation. He plucks your feet out of the trap of the enemy; the One Who is your sure defense and alone is your confidence. The nothingness of the world is replaced by something the world cannot give. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous. The Stronger Man, the Prince of Life Who died reigns immortal. Blessed are you, for the kingdom of God has come upon you!

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

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