“Deliver Us from Evil”
What is evil we speak of in the seventh petition in the Lord’s Prayer? Luther, in the meaning to the petition says that we pray to God that He would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor. Luther is picturing evil as anything that would be harmful to body, soul, property and honor.
In the Greek, the word is “πονηροῦ”. And it refers to those things that are physically harmful. It also could mean moral wickedness. The evil, or the morally wicked destroy and pervert what is good and just.
And so consider what is evil. Natural disasters are evil. They bring destruction to life and property. The coronavirus is evil, because it is harmful to life and livelihood. We see all too well the disruption it is bringing to our lives and to society.
There is the evil that others bring upon us. Others harm us physically, emotionally. They bring harm to our property and reputation. They bring harm to our faith, tempting us to sin.
But where does this evil come from? The source of it is the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning. The New King James Version translates this petition as “Deliver us from the evil one.” This is fitting since the devil, a personal being, is the personification of all evil. Death and destruction are in his wake. He slays with lies. See what he did to man.
He brings harm to God’s perfect creation. By tempting them to sin, he perverts Adam and Eve’s original righteousness, that they then have original sin. Man and all creation have fallen. Paradise is destroyed. The relationship between God and man became one of enmity. Man no longer knows God. Man is blind with unbelief, and believes falsehood instead of the truth.
We see the evil the devil caused, and still causes. We see and experience the dangers of the world both from the violence of creation and the violence of man. But then are we also willing to admit our own evil. We are not just victims, but we are also evil. We have perverted justice. We have done violence to the moral law, sinning in thought, word, and deed. We have offended our Maker. I am evil. To use the words of Paul, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18). “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
You know what else is evil? It is evil that Jesus was crucified. He is the only human on earth that did not deserve this. Who could accuse Him of any sin? Pilate, wondered, “What wrong has this man done?” The thief on Jesus right said, “This man has done nothing wrong” (Lk 23:41). He was perfect. He preached truly about God. He showed mercy to people, healing, feeding, and raising the dead. He loved mankind, even to the end, even unto death. Even when He was reviled in the midst of His suffering, He did not revile in return (1 Pet 2:22). He did not threaten those who caused His suffering, but forgave them.
This is evil. This is a perversity of justice. An innocent man suffers. But not just a man, but God Himself is convicted by man. The Creator is hung on a cross by His creation. The perfect One suffers the curse of the Law at the hands of sinners. The devil sees his deceit and wicked plans come to fruition, soon shall Satan have his victory…or so he thinks.
But Jesus suffers this willingly. This evil that Satan and the world commits, God intends it for our highest good. The murderous plot of Satan proves to be his undoing. And the evil that the world commits turns out to be its salvation. This is the working of God.
For listen to what Christ cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
God does not forsake us. We should be the ones suffering in the throes of hell, but here it is the only begotten Son of God suffering it for us. What a tremendous mystery this is! Christ, the Holy One of God, almighty, eternal, infinite God becomes sin for us, He becomes our sin, and He suffers the justice for our evil.
So in His suffering and death, Jesus is delivering us from all evil. He endures it, takes the evil of our sins, the evil of the devil and the world in order that we may be delivered from evil.
He crushes the serpent’s head. The stronger man has bound the strong man. He destroys Satan’s dominion and his kingdom and wins freedom for all of us under Satan’s captivity. Every one of Satan’s accusations against us, and every claim he makes on us, are made nothing, for Christ has atoned for our sins, and has redeemed us to be His own.
He atones for our sins, so that our evil sins cannot condemn us forever. Our sins were buried with Him in death, and there remain our sins, since we have been joined to His death and resurrection through baptism. How, then, can we be condemned for them?
And now having sins forgiven, and Christ’s imputed righteousness through faith, we are called saints, a royal priesthood, a holy nation! We are called God’s holy children.
And though we have evil all about us in the vale of tears, God delivers us from it. We know that God works all things, even evil, for our good. When we are threatened with harm from the fallen creation, God remains our refuge, and draws Him closer to Himself. When we suffer the evil of others, we rejoice that we are caused to suffer for the name of Christ, and are given opportunity to show the grace that Christ showed to His enemies.
Even though evil may threaten our lives, we know we will be delivered, for we have a lasting inheritance with God in paradise. He has turned death into a blessed thing for His believers, for through it we are drawn from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.
And so, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” We ask Him, that all these blessings of Good Friday may come to bear on us. And since the Father has given Christ to death on the cross for you, you know that God delivers. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.