n Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Oculi, Lent 3
February 27, 2005
Text: Luke 11:14-28
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 YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
The kingdom of Satan is real. In fact, it is the kingdom into which we all were born. Every person is born sinful and unclean. And to be sinful and unclean, without the grace of God, is to be in the kingdom of Satan.
Some imagine that there are three kingdoms someone could be in. You can be in God’s kingdom, the Christian Church, and be a believer. You can be an open and unrepentant sinner, and be in the kingdom of the devil. Or you can be neutral, looking at both sides, and by an act of your own will choosing the side you will support.
However, there is no neutrality, spiritually speaking. There is no third option. It is either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. There is no free will in this matter. You are either bound to God or bound to Satan. You cannot choose. You are born into Satan’s kingdom by virtue of your sinful inheritance. You are re-born into God’s kingdom through the work of God the Holy Spirit, using water and the powerful Word of God, the Gospel, the power of salvation. Either way, your will is tied to a kingdom.
Two weeks ago we heard about the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. There Jesus showed His power over the prince of darkness by speaking the Word of God to Satan and telling him to be gone, and Satan had to leave. That same power is at work here in the words of St. Luke. We have described for us another scene where Jesus is casting out a demon. The demon must leave, for the Son of God is speaking, and the demon must reluctantly obey.
What is the reaction of those who see this miracle of Jesus’ power over the forces of darkness and evil? Jesus is denounced as an ally of the devil. There is so much hatred directed at Jesus that even when He does good things his enemies refuse to see it, and instead try to think of ways to make whatever Jesus does proof that He is illegitimate, a pretender, a false prophet.
So Jesus meets their criticism with a question: “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” How can any kingdom remain when it is torn by civil war, by disunity, by in-fighting? Jesus, in effect, tells His enemies that their reasoning is completely false. Satan does not fight against himself but always works to strengthen his kingdom. Besides, Jesus says, your own sons cast out demons, too. Are you going to say the same thing about their work? Of course not. And that shows their bias against Jesus. No matter what He does, they will oppose Him.
There is no more sure sign of the kingdom of Satan than opposition to Jesus and His Word. Wherever God’s pure Word is preached and rejected there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is twisted out of shape and taught falsely there we find Satan’s kingdom. Wherever God’s pure Word is mocked and ridiculed, persecuted, there we find Satan’s kingdom. Satan has a good hold on people throughout the world, and he will not let any of it go without a fight, even though he knows his time is short.
Satan knows his time is short because he knows he has already lost at the cross of Golgotha. He knows that is where his kingdom was finished, done in, as death itself was killed. However, what Satan knows and what people know are two different things. And Satan hopes that he will be able to keep people in the dark, spiritually, so that they will not ever come to know that he is defeated and they are freed, freed from sin, death, the devil’s power, and eternal damnation.
So what must the devil do to keep people in the dark? He must attack God’s Word, the Word that brings light and truth and salvation. That is why we should not be too surprised at the perversions of God’s word going on all around us. We should not be surprised at King David’s struggle recorded in 2 Samuel, as he deals with the terrors of death: When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me.” David is stating the life of the Christian who is dealing with the lies of Satan who hopes we will stay away from the victory of Jesus over death. Satan wants us afraid. Jesus wants us confident, by trusting Him and His word. We also should not be surprised by Paul’s words in Ephesians, where he warns us about the tricks of Satan: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”
None of this should surprise us because we are in the middle of the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. That war is most evident to Christians, as you’ve heard before, since Satan specifically wants you for his kingdom, which means he must lure, tempt, coerce, scare you out of the kingdom of God.
Luther, preaching on this text in 1532, had these words of wisdom about how to fight Satan, words which remain true today:
When a person whom the devil has greatly overwhelmed and seared with many accusations comes to me with heavy heart and troubled conscience seeking comfort and instruction, I have the mandate, as does every Christian, to comfort my brother and pronounce God’s grace, for Christ’s sake, upon him. The devil must yield, not to me, a poor and wretched sinner, but to the Word which the Lord Christ has left us upon earth. When your conscience is weak and terrified, therefore, and you are unable to grasp tightly enough the comfort that God graciously wants you to have, the forgiveness of sins, then know that Christ has given the Lord’s Supper, his true body and blood to eat and to drink, so that you have no reason further to doubt that his body was given for your sins and his blood poured out for your transgressions. Where such faith and trust are present, there it is impossible for the devil to dwell and hold sway (Hauspostille, I, 331).
Luther directs to God’s word and sacrament. That is where the kingdom of God is found, that is where the power to defeat Satan is given. For the power is the power of God, His Word, His Body and Blood. This is reliance upon the promises of God is why David could write: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.” And why Paul can encourage us: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” We learn this from God’s truth, His Word. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
You are not neutral in the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Victory is found only in God’s kingdom. There is where final peace is brought, and where deliverance from the misery of Satan’s kingdom is promised, given, and received, by faith in the forgiveness of sins bought by Jesus Christ.
I close with the final words of Luther’s sermon:
Let us, therefore, thank God for his grace, because he has sent his Son for help against the devil, to drive him out, and has left us his Word through which today yet he performs this work, destroying Satan’s kingdom, building and extending the kingdom of God. God keep us in such grace through his Son and the Holy Spirit (Hauspostille, I, 343).