Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh, that He might overcome the devil, and defend us poor sinners against the adversary: We give thanks to You for Your merciful help, and we beseech You to attend us with Your grace in all temptations, to preserve us from carnal security, and by Your Holy Spirit to keep us in Your Word in Your fear, that we may be delivered from the enemy, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen
Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.
15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.
17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.
18 “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.
19 “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
20 “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.
22 “But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.
23 “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says,`I will return to my house from which I came.’
25 “And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.
26 “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth, Your word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
The demon possessed the man. He had control. He tormented him, and there was nothing the man could do about it. But then along comes Jesus, and Jesus exerts His power over the demon and sends him away. The text doesn’t make this to be some difficult task for Jesus. He simply casts the demon out. Jesus later says that He casts out demons by the finger of God. He barely has to lift a finger.
But it’s no wonder. God is the almighty Creator. He created the devil and the demons, though they are corruptions of the perfect creatures that God had originally made them.
But why doesn’t God, by His great power, just get rid of them. Their intentions are pure evil toward us. Jesus calls the devil “a murderer”, and the “father of lies.” He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. The devil and his demons desire to bring chaos and destruction. Certainly the devil is seeking to cause the greatest amount of death, destruction and evil through COVID-19. Most of all the devil seeks our eternal destruction separating us from God’s Word and destroying faith.
So with all this evil that the devil and his demons cause, why won’t God just shoo them away, or judge them? He could. There were the demons possessing the two men in the country of the Gergesenes. One of the demons cried out, “Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt 8:28). They knew that He is the future Judge. Even then they feared the last judgment and condemnation. They dreaded their fate of being locked forever in the torment of hell. They knew the day would come, but they were hoping for that day to be averted, or to delay it. And Jesus did not give the demons the torment beforehand, but allowed them to continue to roam the earth, with their first stop being the herd of swine upon which they wreaked havoc.
Now, if God did cast away far from the earth the devil and his demons, there still would be no shortage of evil in the world. We and this fallen world are able to create enough evil as it is with all our sins that we commit towards God and against our neighbor.
But, despite that, why doesn’t God, by His divine power annihilate the devil and bring His evil to an end?
God does set out to defeat the devil. Casting out demons is an attack against Satan’s kingdom, but it is not their defeat. Though we can say that the exorcism is a sign of what was yet to come. The defeat was promised in the Garden of Eden. The woman’s Offspring would crush the serpent’s head. And the woman’s offspring defeated the devil by His death, as the book of Hebrews says, “through death He destroys Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).
The devil and his demons are defeated. Yet they continue to roam the earth. They remain active, though, as ones whose condemnation is sealed.
Why? God is not waiting for them to repent, for they are condemned to hell. But God seems to keep them around to accomplish is will, which ultimately makes a fool out of the evil one. God turns their evil into good. They unwittingly become servants of God.
Take for example, Joseph. Surely the devil was involved in the evil plot of his brothers. Yet, though they meant evil against Joseph, God meant it for good, namely the preservation of the line of the Messiah.
And then there’s the Israelites. God used the evil of other nations who through their idolatry served the devil. Through them, God chastised his people, and brought them back to Himself through repentance.
And then there’s Job. The devil believed that Job believed in God only because of the abundance of blessings that he had. So the devil afflicted Job greatly, but this only showed the strong faith that God had given Job. God, through Satan, humbled him, that He may exalt Him.
Then there’s Paul, who had a thorn in the flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” he called it. Though Paul prayed to God that it be removed from him, God would not, because God used this evil of the devil to keep Paul humble, so that he would not boast in the great revelation that he had been given, but that he remain humble and continue to rely in the grace and strength of God.
Sometimes, God uses the evil of the devil for judgment upon a person or a people. Those who persist in their obedience to the devil, God gives them over to their uncleanness, to the lusts of their sinful hearts. This will be their own punishment, and will add to the severity of their judgment.
Ultimately, we see God’s turning of the devil’s evil works into good, in fact our greatest good, at the cross. The murderer sought to destroy Jesus in death. But Jesus willingly entered into death’s grip, for this was how He would destroy the devil and deliver us from the evil of the devil.
The devil has been defeated in us believers. Luther’s baptismal rite includes an exorcism, a casting out of the devil, which is fitting. For the unbeliever is held under the power of Satan. Satan rules in his heart. But when God brings us to faith in the gospel, He casts out the devil for Christ to reign in us. By the forgiveness won on the cross, which is yours through faith, the devil is stripped of all his power. With what can he now accuse you? If God justifies you, or declares you righteous through faith in Christ, how can the devil condemn you? And though you die, yet shall you live. The only kind of death you have now is a blessed death, a death through which you enter into eternal glory, and your body sleeps until the Day of Resurrection.
And certainly the devil still is roaming and active, and though he intends evil, God turns it into good. We have this promise in Paul’s letter to the Romans, which goes, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Through the trials and threats that the devil instigates among us like this virus spreading about, God draws us closer to Him, offering us forgiveness, comfort, and assurance of His gracious providence. He causes us to hear His Word, to keep His gracious promises dear in our hearts, that we may be blessed now with His peace, and also blessed eternally.
Furthermore through days like this, even in days where the devil attacks more aggressively with greater threats, and greater danger to our lives, with Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, we endure these days with hope and peace and love for our neighbor. These make for good occasions to share the hope that is in us. And in this way that which the devil intends for evil is made into something through which God is glorified in the world.
Everything that the devil tries against Christ and His Church is foiled! This must drive Satan mad! He is made into a spectacle. What fool! Through the works of the devil, God chastises us, draws us closer to Himself, comforts us with His gospel, and makes His name exalted on the earth.
Yes, Satan is our dangerous foe in the world, but Christ is on your side. He has claimed you in baptism. Scripture says, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom 16:20). We know that Satan is defeated. Christ now rules in us. And you who have suffered the evil of the devil in life, will be vindicated on the Last Day. Then on that day, the devil and his demons will be locked away for good in eternal shame, and you shall be with your gracious Lord in perfect peace and joy. 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.