The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Jesus casts out demons, and immediately the wicked ones accuse Jesus of being in cahoots with the devil, casting out demons in the name of “Beelzebul.” We know the name—Beelzebul—and even if we were unfamiliar with the name, we would know from the context of the Holy Gospel that this name obviously refers to the devil. But… there’s more to it than simply calling the devil by a different name. You see, the name “Beelzebul” is an old Canaanite word that means “lord of the flies.” For those of you needing a refresher, the Canaanites were the Old Testament “bad guys.” They didn’t worship Yahweh. They worshipped the false god Baal. “Beelzebul” breaks down to “the Baal of the flies,” more specifically, “the Baal/god of those who dwell on and feed on stench and rot and death and decay.” This same “god of the flies” was worshipped by the Egyptians. It was a very works-righteous form of worship. Basically, you had to do your part in order to keep the god of death/decay; aka “the lord of the flies” happy, or else he would send death, decay, and flies upon you.
Think about that as you consider the Old Testament account. Almighty God is using pestilences of gnats and flies in an attempt to get Pharaoh to see and listen to the Truth and repent. God is using plague and disaster to try and make Himself known; to try and draw Pharaoh to Him in repentance and faith. God is showing Pharaoh who is boss! In a very real way, God is showing Pharaoh that He is “the Lord of the lord of the flies.” The false god they worship—the Baal of the flies, the demon who leads them astray with such false worship and false comfort and security—can do nothing apart from God’s almighty will. Moses’ God and Lord—our God and Lord—is the Almighty One (singular). There is no other. The lord of the flies answers to Him. Beelzebul has NO POWER OR AUTHORITY over the Lord of Life. The strong man that is the lord of the flies is bound up, overcome, and put down by the stronger God of Israel. It’s not even a contest.
What’s so truly sad is the fact that Pharaoh’s magicians recognize plain-as-day what’s going on here. They see it. The almighty and all-powerful finger of Yahweh is sticking out like a sore thumb, at work and triumphing over their impotent gods. “Pharaoh, this Yahweh is the real deal. You might want to re-think your plans.” But Pharaoh refuses to see. He refuses to listen. He hardens his heart to the sore thumb that is God’s almighty finger working in his midst. The same goes for those wicked naysayers with Jesus. He casts out demons (among the many other miracles He performs), and they refuse to even consider the fact that this might be from God. They hate Jesus, so clearly this and must be from the devil. He must be working in service to Beelzebul. That’s the only explanation, right?
It’s easy to see how stupid and stubborn Pharaoh was, isn’t it? It’s easy to see how stupid and stubborn those wicked naysayers were, right? Well… I wouldn’t be too quick to condemn Pharaoh or the naysayers. Look around. I’m not even referring to the immoral, godless rot that passes for culture and entertainment and political leanings nowadays. We live in a culture of death nowadays, and our entertainment and our politics reflect this. They don’t direct it. They reflect it. They reveal it. The flies are feasting all around us! Do we see? It’s amazing how blind we can be when we choose to not see. We choose to not see because seeing would mean that things would have to change—we’d have to change—and Lord knows we don’t want that! But I’m not even talking about all that.
Let’s just point to the latest “worst thing ever” to strike us. I don’t know if I’d agree with all the “experts” at Walmart or the barbershop or on Facebook or the 24/7 news channels by saying that we’re in the midst of pestilence and plague, but a lot of people—even good Christians—are scared. The stock market is tanking. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer is more precious than gold nowadays. According to all those “experts,” the end is now upon us. The Cubs won the World Series. A certain person was elected President. And now this. All that’s left is for the sun to crash into the earth and hell to freeze over. “Come, Lord Jesus! How much longer?!”
Folks: Who’s in charge? Let’s look back over recent history. We won’t even go back to the days of Noah or Egyptian slavery or the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of wicked Rome. Let’s look back to Bubonic Plague days. Was God still in charge? Did Christianity survive the “Black Death”? What about polio? What about Spanish flu? How many lives were lost to those terrible sicknesses? Was God defeated? How did God survive before antibiotics? Let’s just look back to 2004 and every couple years since then. SARS, Avian flu, Swine flu, MERS, Ebola, Zika, and Ebola again. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like God came out on top in all those instances. But… today is different, right? And that’s just the “human extinction virus” side of things. God has managed to survive minor fluctuations in climate temperatures, multiple world wars, Great Depressions, Bear markets, terrorist attacks, and all the other things that get people—Christians included—running around like Chicken Little, convinced that the sky is falling, the world is ending, and God has either lost the fight, changed sides and now fights against us, or doesn’t care.
And don’t think for a second that you are innocent and the problem is with “all those people.” We’re all just as guilty. Life gets tough; we begin to feel the pain and sorrow of the crosses we bear; tragedy hits, and we don’t always see God’s loving Fatherly hand at work, do we? Understand: I’m not accusing anyone here of being a hard-hearted, God-denying unbeliever like Pharaoh or the wicked naysayers who harassed and rejected Jesus, but I am saying that we don’t always hold fast to that which we so boldly claim to believe. It’s easy to be a Christian when things are going great. It’s quite another thing, though, to remain faithful as your world is crashing down on you, or at least not going according to plan. It’s sad how just a little discomfort and suffering gets us running for the exits. We don’t always recognize Fatherly love disciplining us and calling us to repent and hold fast to Him. Sometimes we only see wrath and punishment and despair, if we see God at all. “God, give me a sign. Something is really wrong here. Give me something so I can know that You’re still with me; that You still love me; that You still care about me.” Really?! Maybe the problem is not that God has wandered away from and abandoned you, but that you have wandered away from Him. Turn around! As far as asking God for a sign/proof that He still loves you, He’s already given you a sign. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to die for it.
Sadly, though, even that is sometimes not enough. Jesus said this of the Pharisees who were demanding a sign—proof—of His authority. “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus pointed those looking for proof of God’s finger in action to His own death and resurrection. Sadly, even that wouldn’t be enough. “They won’t be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.” What’s really sad is that what Christ said of the Pharisees can just as easily be said of us. “I know Jesus died for me, but God, give me a sign so I can know that You still love me.”
Folks: Here is the sign and proof of God’s love for you. Here it is, hung on a cross for you. This isn’t just the finger of God; it’s the broken and bloodied corpse of God in the flesh. Yes, to the eyes of man this does look like defeat. I get it. This looks like Beelzebul won, but Jesus—almighty God Himself in the flesh—declared victoriously from this cross that He won. The fight is finished, once and for all. Saving faith—the new man who has been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection—hears this and believes this; holds fast to this. I love the irony here. Here on this cross of shameful defeat is the Lord of Life triumphing over sin, death, and the devil! Saving faith is able to see this because saving faith hears and believes Christ. Here is where Almighty God has lifted up and shown us that He is the stronger One. Here is where the Lord of Life has bound up and put down the wicked masters we know as sin, death, and the devil. This is where the victory was fought and won! And three days after crushing the head of that wicked and ancient serpent; three days after defeating the lord of the flies, the Lord of Life rises again, proving to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that death has no dominion over Him.
And make no mistake: Your Lord knows our frailties and our weaknesses, which is why He continues to work this sign/miracle of life in your midst. Here it is, His loving Fatherly fingers reaching down from heaven to unplug your ears and open your eyes; to breathe His life-giving Holy Spirit/breath into you; to place His mark upon your head and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ the Lord, washing you with His Holy Baptism; to feed you and nourish you with His resurrected and victorious Body and Blood. Look here. Look to this rail. No matter how bad things may get in life, here is your Lord of Life, right where He has promised to be, now and to the end of the age. The Light of Christ shines forth. It pierces the darkness of this fallen and sinful world. This Light the darkness cannot and will not overcome. He has said so, and He’s in charge.
May this Light, this joy, this peace shine forth in you and through you all your remaining days. May the Truth of Him who overcame and vanquished the evil one for you—the Truth that is the Lord of lords and God of gods… for you—guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and into all eternity. Folks: Be at peace. Your Lord is in charge. Regardless of what you may hear from all those “experts” (including the fool in the mirror), not even the gates of hell can prevail against this. He’s in charge, and He’s with you now, and He’ll be with you to the end of the age and for all eternity.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people.
Send Pastor Jason Zirbel an email.