Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 7)
June 20, 2010
Text: Luke 8:26-39

“One little word can fell him,” the Church sings (LSB 656:3). Yet for all practical purposes, we pretend he doesn’t exist. Satan, I mean. And he likes it that way, because if he can convince us that he doesn’t exist, he can work behind the scenes to undermine our faith in Christ and lead us away from the Church. And he can do this without our even knowing it. We need to know that our enemy exists, and that he is doing all within his power to capture us away from Christ. Satan and his demons are real. And we must acknowledge this reality if we are to guard against him and his sinister attacks.

So who is Satan and who are the demons? Satan and the demons were created by God originally as holy angels during the six days of creation, probably on day one. We don’t know all the details, but there was a rebellion in heaven. It was a rebellion of pride. Led by Satan, then named Lucifer, which means “light bearer,” the evil angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. They aimed at removing God from His throne, which of course, they could never do. Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10:18; ESV). Jude writes, “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (v. 6). The devil and his demons are chained, restrained by God, and yet, they have a great deal of power and influence in this world as they await the judgment to come. And so it was Satan who came in the form of a serpent into the Garden of Eden and successfully tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and so sin against God. The devil led our first parents to sin, and we have been trapped in and oppressed by sin and its consequences ever since. The name Satan aptly means “enemy.” Devil means “accuser,” “liar,” “slanderer.”

"Besides these two names, Satan is also called Abaddon and Apollyon
(Revelation 9:11), which means ‘the destroyer’; Beelzebub (Luke 11:15),
which means ‘lord of the flies’; and Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15), which means
worthlessness. The devil is also referred to as a murderer (John 8:44), a red
dragon (Revelation 12:3), the ancient serpent (Revelation 20:2), the prince of
this world (John 12:31), the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2), the
spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2), the
evil one (Ephesians 6:16), the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), a roaring lion
(1 Peter 5:8), and the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4)."[1]

Satan is very dangerous. His demons are his servants and compatriots in wickedness. We have no idea how many there are. But they are more powerful than anyone of us, or even all of us put together. We should take heed. We should not investigate them beyond what the Word of God tells us about them. We should not play within their sphere of influence. We should avoid ouija boards and tarot cars, fortune telling, and black magic. And we should resist Satan’s every temptation with the Word of God. Most of all, we must remember that though the devil is dangerous, he is restrained by God. And though the devils are more powerful than all the world, God has more strength in his little finger (Luther). By virtue of our Baptism into Christ, we bear the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are in God’s hands. And so ultimately the devil cannot harm us.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t try. And you can bet that the minute you allow him any room in your life, he will take advantage of it. For the devil is jealous for you. Remember that every one of us is born into this world being a member of the spiritual kingdom of the devil. We are born spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God, which is to say, we are born as unbelievers, dead in trespasses and sins, and in the spiritual possession of the devil. That is why we baptize babies. In Baptism, God snatches us out of the devil’s kingdom into His own Kingdom. And he makes us at that point marked men and women, for now we are the devil’s enemies. The devil wants to get us back into his own possession, and if he can’t do that, he’ll bring as much harm upon us as he is permitted. At every turn he will place stumbling blocks in the way of the believing Christian. He will tempt us. He will seek to lead us to doubt Christ and our salvation. We know from the book of Job that the devil can bring great physical harm upon people. And yes, the devil can even physically possess people. Not Christians. We are in the possession of Christ, possessed by the Holy Spirit. There is no room for evil spirits. But demons still physically possess people, just as they did in our Gospel lesson. Usually not here in the Western world, though it does happen here too. Possession is much more common in undeveloped countries marked by animistic religions. But here, remember, the devil works best when he convinces us he doesn’t exist, and that is, for us, the greater danger.

It’s a little scary, isn’t it? And that is why our Gospel lesson is so important. What happens when Jesus comes to one afflicted by the devil and his demons? At the presence of Jesus, the demons tremble. At His command, they must depart. The Gerasene man was afflicted by Legion, thousands of devils in physical possession of one man. But when Jesus comes into the man’s presence, the demons cause the man to fall down to his knees and beg with a loud voice that Jesus would not torment them. The demons know that Jesus has the authority to cast them for all eternity into the abyss, the Lake of Fire prepared for them, as He will on the Last Day. This is not that Day in our text, but the demons must still bow before this divine authority. The demons recognize, in fact, what even the disciples have not yet fully grasped. Jesus is the Son of the Most High God, God in the flesh, the Messiah and Savior of the world. And He will destroy the devil and his demons and their evil works forever.

For now, the demons beg that Jesus let them enter a herd of pigs. Pigs, unclean according to the Law of Moses. A fitting destination for unclean spirits. Jesus gives the demons permission. And as always happens when unclean spirits are given a little slack, great destruction ensues. The pigs rush down a steep bank and are drowned in the lake. Why does Jesus allow this? It is a foreshadowing of what He will do to Satan and all demons on the Last Day, when He drives them into the Lake of Fire, Gehenna, the end times hell, where they will suffer for all eternity along with all unbelievers.

But enough with the demons. What happens to the man who has been freed from slavery to the devil? He is clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, the posture of a disciple. He begs to be with Jesus from now on, to follow Him wherever He goes, along with the Twelve. But not now. Not yet. Now Jesus gives him an important task. He is to return to his home and proclaim how much God has done for him. “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:39). Jesus is God. In proclaiming how much God has done for him, he proclaims how much Jesus has done for him. He confesses Christ. We are not all called to be apostles. We are not all called to be pastors. We confess Christ in our daily vocations, in our homes, in our cities, that Jesus may free others from their bondage to Satan.

Beloved in the Lord, you were born in the spiritual possession of the devil. But Christ has freed you. He drove the devil away with His Word and water, your Baptism into Christ. The unclean spirit had to flee, to make room for the Holy Spirit, who now possesses you. Jesus speaks His Word and the devil flees. One little word can fell him. You are safe. What happens to those who are freed from slavery to the devil? You are clothed, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, your baptismal robe, and you are clothed for spiritual warfare in the whole armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, ready shoes given by the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:10-20). And you are in your right mind, the mind of Christ Jesus. You sit at the feet of Jesus, as His disciple, hanging on His every Word. That is what you are doing now as you are gathered around font and pulpit and altar, hearing His life-giving Word and receiving the Sacrament of His body and blood. Your Lord Jesus is readying you for life in this fallen world where the devil still has power and influence for a little while longer. You are to go out an live in this world, in your daily lives and vocations, confessing Christ, proclaiming how much God in Christ has done for you for as many days as God grants you in this earthly life. And then, after all is said and done, you will be with Him forever, as was the desire of the Gerasene, and as is your desire also.

There is this cosmic spiritual battle going on even now for your soul and the souls of all men. We must know that, and we must know our enemy. We must be on our guard, for our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 9-11). Indeed, the battle rages. But the war is won. Satan has his little season. But his days are numbered. For in His death on the cross, our Lord Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. He destroyed the old wily foe. The accuser can no longer accuse those covered by Jesus’ blood. The father of lies cannot stand in the light of Truth Incarnate. The murderer has no power over the One who is the resurrection and the life. For Christ is risen. And you are named by His Name. You are His prize possession. You are engraved upon the palm of His pierced hand. Let the devil and his demons rage. The time of their judgment is coming. In Christ, the Kingdom of God is your inheritance. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] John D. Schuetze, Angels and Demons: Have Wings—Will Travel (Milwaukee: Northwestern, 1998) pp. 54-55.

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