Dear Believers in Christ, baptized of God,
The devil isn’t really a problem is he? After all, we have put men on the moon. We have sent space probes billions of miles into space. We have split the atom, and unravled our genetic code. We have created supercomputers and robots that perform many tasks better than we do.
This is the age of technology and human advancement. At the very least, we have much bigger problems than the devil, right? We have problems like the economy, unemployment, wars in the middle east, natural disasters, tornados here of late. The devil isn’t really a concern, is he? But that is exactly what he wants us to think, that he isn’t a real danger, or that he doesn’t even exist at all.
Yet, in today’s lesson we have the man who was possesed by the devil (both blind and mute). Last Sunday we heard of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possesed by the devil. The first Sunday in Lent we reviewed Jesus being driven into the wilderness to be tempted and attacked by the devil’s lies.
So he is real and his lies are powerful. He attacks us, not just physically, but spiritually. To do that he attacks God’s Word. He lies, saying, “Did God really say that?” He plants the seed of doubt. “Surely we don’t have to hang on every Word that God says, and take it so literally, and so seriously. Surely we can let it slip now and then in the name of fun and in the name of agreeing to disagree. Surely we can bend it according to what we’re feeling at the moment.”
But what doesn’t feel so good, are the consequences of following his lies: Broken marriages, families torn apart, lives destroyed, prison sentences, and sometimes even death row.
And then the devil lies again, saying there really is no hope for us. Yet, Jesus says otherwise. He says, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” How can the devil be stopped? How can his lies be silenced? How can temptation to sin be overcome? “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.”
In fact, believers in Christ, we daily overcome temptation, silence the devil’s lies, and drive him out. Through the Word, through the remembrance of our Baptism, through the true body and blood of the Lord, given and shed for the remission of our sins, through faith in Jesus Christ, daily, we drive the devil out.
But that doesn’t mean he gives up easily. He can be counted on to return again and again. If one way doesn’t work, he will try another, or maybe come back with the same temptation but with a little different twist. Today I would never disobey my parents, but tomorrow they are being unreasonable, and that changes things, doesn’t it? Today I would never deny the Lord, but tomorrow I might find myself surrounded by unbelievers, who happen to seem pretty cool, and then we find how easy it is to just go along. At one point, Peter found himself cold, tired, and surrounded by Christ’s enemies, and in danger of being persecuted for his faith. So he denied even knowing Christ, three times. Scripture says, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
The devil is also a master of disguise. He calls good evil, and evil good. Just as he accused Jesus of being in league with the devil, today he calls out anyone who takes a stand on the truth. Anyone bold enough to say Jesus is the only way to heaven, the devil says is being unloving, cold, and with no tolerance for other viewpoints. Or, to call sin for what it is, that must be of the devil. It’s too rigid and narrow minded, to claim the ten commandments must be followed at all times.
Yet, God promises, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.” For the Gospel is the power of God. That’s how God’s Spirit works in our lives, in our hearts. That’s how God enters and remain in our heart. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Even Mary would not have been blessed, had she not also heard, and kept the Word of God. A certain woman told Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee…But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.”
We also notice that sometimes even after being banished from someone’s heart, a demon may come back. Jesus says, he finds his old home “swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
For example, maybe a person has overcome an addiction to drugs, and therefore the demon has left, for now. But then, instead of giving God the glory, this man claims it was all his own doing. What a perfect opportunity for the devil to return. Trusting in himself now he is worse off than he was before. And so earlier Jesus scolded those who trusted in themselves, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye…indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
So we confess, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.” A much stronger man is required. Jesus says, “If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”
Jesus invades the devil’s kingdom, and “taketh from him all his armor” - all his power. All the sin, and guilt, and shame, that the devil uses to accuse, and condemn – Jesus takes it all upon Himself. As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so the Lord, opens not His mouth. We remember His silence before Pilate and Herod. He accepted the blame for our sin.
And now the devil’s accusations toward us lose their power in Christ. For He has already accepted the blame, died, and risen for us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
Jesus was born without any sin, yet, He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. And with His stripes we are healed.
With His Word in our hearts, we daily overcome the devil, silence his lies, and drive the devil out. So we remember our Baptism, and we continue to eat and drink the true body and blood of the Lord. “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.” “Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the Word of God.”
May God continue to comfort and strengthen us, and keep us, by His Word, by His Sacraments, and by His Spirit who works through the Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen