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Third Sunday in Lent

Luke 11:14-28

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Mar 15, 2020 

The devil is not stupid.  We should learn that first of all.  The chief of demons, beelzebul (another name for satan), does not let his kingdom be divided and crippled by squabbling and infighting.  If he worked against himself by casting out his own demons, then satan would be destroying his own kingdom.

Humans do this sort of thing all the time.  Nations, families, even gatherings of the family of faith can be found biting and devouring one another from time to time.  May it never be so among us!  Yet it has, and surely will again.

In contrast, the devil rules over a most efficient and powerful kingdom.  His demons hold sway over countless souls.  They are so stealthy that they are able to lead humans around without anyone the wiser.

So it has been for millennia.  So it might have remained forever, as each generation marched off to hell under the watchful eyes of their demonic anti-shepherds.

“How unfair it is!” we might have complained.  Yet even the complaining comes from satanic influence.  Of course it is fair!  Adam and Eve listened to satan’s words and rejected God’s Word.  Each man, from conception onward, has been stamped with the corrupted nature of Adam.  We each choose sin countless times in our lives.  God provides a way out of temptation every time.  Yet we so often decide to follow the sin, not the way out.  In our sinful actions we declare, “I want to be my own man, not God’s man,” although what that really means is that we are satan’s man.

The prince of darkness believes in free will and choice.  Of course he does!  No one should be bound by any authority!  This means that no one would be bound by the Word of God.  This is a clever ploy, since every time a sinner follows their free will, that really means that they are following sin and satan.  But he has deceived mankind into thinking that our free will is able to choose what is good and pure, as if it were not corrupted in sin.

The prince of demons wants us to think that we are morally good.  If we think that we have beaten satan, then we proudly believe in ourselves.  We think we have cast out one demon, but in reality, we have brought seven more down upon our heads.  We think our house is swept and in good order, when in fact a tornado is about to strike.

We cannot beat satan.  That fallen angel is simply too clever, too mighty.  Our dear Lord Jesus calls satan the “strong man” in our text.  The strong man would hold us captive forever, and all our willpower and all our plans and all our inner goodness (whatever that animal might be) cannot get a single soul out from satan’s grasp.

The sermon ought to end here, with a final note of despair.  “There is no use trying!  Give up!  Eat, drink, and be merry, because there is no hope we can ever get free!” That would be the truthful message, except for one fact: A stronger Man has come.

The stronger Man saw that satan held all of humanity hostage.  It was as if satan was guarding a treasure, and nobody could steal it from him.  But the strong Man said, “We will see about that!” and then beat the snot out of the strong man.

In Lent we are pondering and meditating upon the way that the stronger Man beat up satan.  That is why we see these little previews of His victory in the Readings.  Last week, Christ set free the Canaanite woman’s little daughter who was badly possessed by a demon.  Today we hear how Christ cast out a demon that was oppressing a deaf mute.  Here satan was surely trembling in his boots, so to speak.  “This Guy is attacking my kingdom!  He has to be stopped!”

But beelzebub is not powerful enough to stop Christ, the stronger Man.  “Perhaps a clever temptation could beat Christ,” he thought.  But no, we heard two weeks ago how Christ overcame satan’s temptations in the wilderness.  “Maybe if one of His own betrays Him . . .” thought the devil.  Surely he celebrated the clever trick he was using to lure the Son of God into a deadly trap.

But God’s plans are better and wiser than the scheming of the devil.  Clever as that fallen angel is, God’s plans are foolproof.  When satan compelled Judas to betray Christ, that did not hurt God’s plan, but instead made God’s plan come to pass, because it led to the Cross and the suffering of God’s Son and the shedding of holy Blood for mankind.  The very thing that would ultimately destroy satan’s kingdom was the thing that satan helped to bring about.

God is much more clever than beelzebub.  God tricked the devil into doing the exact thing that would destroy his own kingdom.  Is satan divided against himself?  Only when the Lord God forces him to do the exact thing that was the worst possible outcome from satan’s point of view.

Therefore Christ has triumphed.  He has crushed satan’s head by allowing Himself to be crushed on Calvary.  But whereas Christ rose again the third day, never to die again, the so-called prince of demons is mortally wounded, never to recover, and will suffer the agony of hell’s torture for eternity.  That is how badly Christ beat him.

Now Christ, the stronger Man, has carried off the treasure that used to be in the clutched of beelzebul.  The treasure is you.  This is why Christ suffered, why He died, why He shed His precious Blood.  He wanted to win you out of satan’s grip.  Since Christ has claimed you, you are His forever.

In this way, Christ is gathering His own kingdom.  He gathers it around His Word.  Everyone who keeps the Word belongs to Christ.  Those who keep the Word are those who put their trust in what Christ has done instead of trusting in themselves.

Even now, satan keeps whispering in people’s ears.  The ancient serpent says, “Did God really say that you have eternal life simply because Christ died for you?  That does not seem fair.”

But we have the pure Word, and have no need to listen to the voice of the prince of flies.  He buzzes around us with his annoying untruths.  He may confuse us and disorient us for a little while.  But Christ keeps drawing us back with the mighty Word.

In that Word, He has blessed us, and will continue to bless us forever.  The Word delivers everything Christ has won for us by beating up satan.  Because we have received the gift of faith, we see how sweet the precious Gospel is.  We love the precious blessings given by our dear Lord who has rescued us from darkness and evil.

In His Name and to His glory.  Amen.

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