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Sermon for Oculi – Comfort for those in fear of the devil

by Pastor Beisel ~ February 24th, 2008

It’s a little bit late in coming, but…

Sermon for Oculi

Text: St. Luke 11:14-28

Rev. Paul L. Beisel

When you look around at the world today, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of Christ’s victory over the devil and sin. Every where you look it seems like evil reigns and good is oppressed. Satan seems to have the upper hand. Here in our own beloved country we all wonder if the senseless murder of unborn children will ever be outlawed. Every other day there seems to be another report of a school shooting. The Internet has provided yet one more way for men and women to commit adultery with their eyes, as if magazines and television were not enough. It seems that we constantly hear of another college girl victimized, or another child sodomized. The devil’s grip on humanity seems to be just as strong as it ever was, and it doesn’t seem to be loosening any time soon.

And yet we are told not to despair. We Christians are supposed to close our eyes to it all and trust blindly in our Savior Jesus Christ, like sheep following a Shepherd through the valley of the shadow of death. Easier said than done, right? We may follow our beloved Shepherd through this vale of tears and sorrow, but you can bet that our eyes aren’t closed, and our hearts are not free from fear. Make no mistake-defeated or not, the devil still frightens us. And perhaps some of that fear is warranted. After all, who does not still keep a watchful eye on a caged lion? Satan has already been dealt the losing hand, but he is a good bluffer. And he will do anything to make us think that he is in control. He would have us all believe that this world is going to hell in a handbasket, that God has lost his grip on mankind. His desire is to lead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice, and he is quite a successful record doing it.

Today our Lord gives us one more reason to believe that all is not as it seems, and that the devil is as much a liar and deceiver today as he was in the Garden with Adam and Eve. He would remind us by this Gospel today that Satan has been defeated and that hell really has been vanquished by Christ our divine champion. He shows this first of all by casting out a demon who had taken control of a man’s mouth and ears. And just as it is today whenever divine works are performed there were some who believed and some who disbelieved. Those who believed were immediately struck with awe at what they saw. The rest were skeptical, and pretended as if what Jesus did were really no great feat of strength. “He casts out demons by the Lord of Flies, Beelzebub. Is that all you can do Jesus?” They would have him do a real sign, not some magic trick. “Show us something more! Give us a real reason to believe in you!”

As usual, Jesus is not amused. “Every house divided against itself is brought to ruin. And a divided household falls.” Here Jesus speaks language that we all can understand. For we have seen how families fall apart when husbands and wives are at odds with each other and refuse to work together. We have seen governments crumble into oblivion by mistrust and infighting. If Jesus were working for Satan, if he were really casting out demons by the power of the devil, then wouldn’t this spell the end of Satan’s kingdom? Why would the devil work against himself? How foolish of them to think this! “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” That about says it all, doesn’t it? If this was God’s work, then all those who denied it just became guilty of blasphemy.

So also today we have divine works being performed every week here in the Church. The Gospel is preached, devils are driven out through holy baptism, and souls are strengthened by divine mercy in Word and Sacrament. To the eyes these things don’t look all that impressive. What is a sip of wine and a little water poured on the head compared to such a great enemy as the devil? No doubt many said the same thing about David when he went against Goliath. And because they are not spectacular in appearance, many people deny their divine power. They say, “Oh, that baptism of yours is just plain water. That Communion of yours is nothing but bread and wine. And the words that your minister preachers are just old, forgotten doctrines. There is no power in those things. Show me something really heavenly!”

Don’t you realize that this is the reason so many abandon the true church for false ones? They see only with their eyes and not with their ears. They see that such and such church down the road or across town has much more the appearance of a church of God than this one, even though it teaches the devil’s lies. And like a young girl in love for the first time, they ignore the not-so-good things about it, like the fact that it denies the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, or the fact that it denies the washing away of sins in holy baptism, or the fact that it teaches men to trust in their works, or in their personal commitments to Jesus for certainty of their salvation. They see these as insignificant, so long as they feel comfortable in the church.

Fools! The power is in the Word of Christ. The power is in His divine Command. Appearances deceive. Words are what matter most in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ words are just as applicable today as they were then: “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” If it is by God’s authority, by Christ’s command that we baptized, and commune, and preach, and teach then this is the kingdom of God that has come upon you. And if this is true then what you see with your eyes is only half of it, not even that. What you are seeing here in the church is the stronger man disarming the strong man and plundering his fortress that he has built. What you see here is the same thing that the people in Jesus’ day saw when he preached, taught, cast out demons, healed the sick, and did other signs in their midst. You are witnessing Christ’s victory over the devil, Satan’s Kingdom laid waste, and the spoils of war being shared with those who are with Christ, if you have eyes to see it.

That is what is going on in this place, and anywhere that Christ’s Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments administered. The victory that Christ won on the cross, the victory that was confirmed when he rose from the dead, that victory is being celebrated every time you gather here for divine worship. It is being rubbed in the face of the devil every time you stand here and confess that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended in triumph into the heavens. Our stronger man plundered the strong man’s castle from the inside out when he cast out demons, when he taught and healed the sick, and ultimately when on Good Friday He died the sinner’s death on Calvary. Our problem most of the time is that we don’t see this happening. We don’t see the devil screaming in defeat when the pastor says: “I baptize Thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We don’t see the devil retreating in fear when the pastor says: “Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you.” We don’t hear the cries of outrage in hell when the church stands and sings: “O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe!”

If we did, then we would not be bored in church. We would not wish we could be somewhere else or thank God that the service was shorter today than it was last week. We would not plan our Holy Week around our busy schedules, but we would plan our schedules around Holy Week. We would not treat our pastors like they were out to get us or make our lives miserable, but we would hold them in the highest esteem because through them Christ makes known His salvation to us. Most of all, we would not sit in fear every day of our lives, thinking that God has lost control of the world, and that the devil has won. Instead we would rest secure in the knowledge that Christ’s death and resurrection brought an end to Satan’s reign of death. We would face the challenges of life with the firm and hearty conviction that God will work all things to our good, even if to our eyes it seems as though all were in chaos.

So have no fear, O little flock. Christ has won. That is what He wants you to see today. “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.” Satan’s grip on humanity was strong, no doubt about it. From the beginning he has sought to overthrow every good work that God has done. He won in the garden. But his victory was short-lived, for God had an ace up his sleeve. He said to the woman: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The stronger man, Christ Jesus, crushed the head of the serpent when he offered himself as a sacrifice for sins to His Father in our place. Satan’s grip on us was strong, but Christ’s love for humanity was stronger, and now he shares the spoils of his victory with all who believe. The grace and mercy of God be with you. Amen.

2 Responses to Sermon for Oculi – Comfort for those in fear of the devil

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    I like the appearances can be deceiving angle. Thanks.

  2. Alison

    Amen, Praise the Lord!

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