Sermon – March 19, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Luke 11:14-28 14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” 27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

In our world plagued with evil, misery and misfortune stirred up by the devil, this text is written for our comfort and assurance. Comfort that Jesus Christ came into the world to turn it upside down, to plunder the house of Satan, to march us out of hell and into the kingdom of God. That was the mission of Christ. For that reason he was born. For that reason, he suffered and died.

So, we might ask, “How did that work out for you, Jesus?” The time you spent on earth, in human flesh, walking in our midst, plundering the kingdom of Satan, how did that go?

In our gospel, we see him driving out a demon. Jesus is at war with Satan. Here we see him doing battle. In the parable, Jesus tells of a strong man. His castle is fortified. His armor is ready. He is well defended and able to keep out any sort of intruder. No one can break into his palace. His goods are safe. But, when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, binds him up and enters into his palace, the stronger one takes away his armor in which he trusted and plunders his house and divides his spoil. The strong man is Satan, but the stronger man is Jesus. Jesus is plundering the house of Satan and taking his spoil, that is us, out from the power and dominion of Satan.

Looks like a fabulous success. But, then the people go after Jesus. Some of them marveled, but others attack him, and accuse him of being on the side of Satan himself. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” they said. Others, wanted a sign from heaven, trying accuse him. As if casting out a demon were not a good enough sign itself. Doubt, skepticism, rejection, scorn was what Jesus faced for working to overcome the kingdom of Beelzebul. Just a side note, the name Beelzebul was a common name for Satan during the time of Jesus. Its literal meaning translated into English is “lord of flies.” A pretty good name, I would say.

But skepticism, rejection, confrontation? That’s not the kind of reception we would expect for a Savior who came to rescue us from the lord of flies. Instead of receiving Jesus with joy and thanksgiving, he was received with scorn by the very people he came to rescue.

So, Jesus, how was that working out for you? The lord of flies was sending out his armies of flies to swarm around Jesus and kill him like the strong man trying to fend off the stronger man who was plundering his house.

King Herod tried to kill him by slaughtering innocent babies. Satan tempted him in the wilderness trying to make him stumble and fall without completing his saving mission. The Pharisees accused him of working in alliance with Satan. The skeptics asked for signs to prove who he was. They wanted to get rid of Jesus for casting out demons on the Sabbath. The people were furious, angry, hurling insults at him. Great was the disarray, the upheaval, the confusion among the people of His day.

Finally, Jesus’ own friends turned away from him. His family went out to seize him, saying, “He is out of his mind.” Peter tried to stop him from going to the cross, Judas betrayed him, the disciples fled and left him alone. And Peter denied him. Until finally, the High Priest brought false accusations to the Roman government. He was smitten, afflicted, spat upon, lashed, crowned with thorns, ridiculed, pierced by the sword, scorned, jeered, hung on a cross and left there to die. Alone. All alone he hung on that cross. Even his own Father in heaven abandoned him in his hour of agony and pain. He gave the Holy Spirit who came into him at baptism back to his Father. Then he hung his head and died.

So, how is this working for you today, Jesus? It still goes on today. Jesus is being rejected. His people, the church, are attacked, criticized, called bigots and haters and homophobes. While government leaders try to squelch the name of Jesus, and militant extremists lob off the heads of Christians, the attacks continue. The rejection continues. The denial continues. And the lord of flies still tries to make us his. It is interesting, flies do not build nests. They lay their eggs in rotten, organic matter, such as garbage, feces or animal carcasses. A smelly, rotten kingdom that the lord of flies rules! And that’s right where he wants you.

Some of you long for this rotten kingdom as well. Seeking the pleasures of sin, the glamor of riches and power, lacking love for others and holding age old grudges are all part of the stench of this rotten kingdom of flies. Sometimes the accusations that Christians are bigots, haters, racist, and unloving are brought about by our own actions. Are you any better than the rest of the world? The divorce rate among Christians is the same as the rest of the world. The number of unmarried persons living together in adulterous relationships is almost the same. We are still sinners just like anyone else.

So, how is this working out for you, Jesus? Human reason might tell us that Jesus was a failure. That his mission flopped. Instead of overcoming the strong man, he wound up dead on a cross. But faith, which comes from the word of God, sees another reality. Faith knows that as the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain against Jesus, that as the kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, God sits in the heavens and laughs at them; he holds them in derision, and he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury. (Psalm 2).

Faith knows that Jesus came just for this suffering. Faith knows and trusts that he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. That by his suffering and death he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. We know and put our trust and confidence in his sufferings and afflictions, that he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, and that Faith trusts that upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and that by his wounds we are healed.

Here we see true love in the One who loved us so much that he came to be oppressed by the worst and most ugly sins we could hurl at him. Out of love he came to suffer the sin of human hatred and be put to death. Abandoned by family and friends, he suffered our lack of true love and compassion. Denied and betrayed by his own disciples he came to suffer for us in order to free us from our own selfishness and fear. Out of love he gave himself to suffer for our injustice, our hatred, our anger, our rejection. It all worked out according to plan. It was just the way he wanted, for he offered himself to bear our sins, and pay the penalty for our sin, and free us from the punishment of God. He earned a pardon from God for each one of you, and purchased your soul for the kingdom of heaven.

This suffering of Jesus, in his body and his spirit, was the price of your liberation from the lord of flies. In the name of Jesus you are baptized and he snatched you out of the smelly rubbish of the kingdom of flies and has washed you and robed you in the robes of righteousness. He has made you his bride and presents you to his Father as spotless and without blemish, a bride in full splendor and crowned with the wreath of righteousness.

For this I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. And this is what he won for us on the cross. By the message of the cross which you have believed, you have been saved. You have been given life, and death has been conquered. By his death, death is overcome. By his love, you have been saved. By the Word of God you have faith in Jesus and know a world that the eyes do not see nor reason perceives. By faith we see Jesus sitting on the throne in heaven. By faith we see Jesus ruling all nations, kingdoms, peoples and tongues. Jesus is Lord! Away with the lord of flies. Jesus has entered his house, bound him, and plundered all that he has. The kingdom of Satan is overturned and toppled. And because he has freed us from the stench and filth of the kingdom of flies, we are free to willingly and without hesitation give our lives to suffer opposition, pain and sacrifice out of love for our neighbor.

So, how is this working for you, Jesus? “I have suffered, I have been rejected, I have felt the wounds that you have inflicted in my flesh. The wounds of your sin and evil. I have done this out of my love for you. I have suffered for you and paid the price for you to set you free and give you life.”

Therefore, dear Christian, Have no fear! You have Christ! That is all you need. If you have Christ, you have his victory. Nothing to fear! You are in God’s hands and nothing can snatch you out of them. Neither life nor death.

Blessed are you who hear this word and keep it in faith. Amen.