Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 7)
June 23, 2013
Text: Luke 8:26-39

            The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has disarmed Satan and his demons.  And I’m not sure we appreciate just how good this news is for us.  For apart from the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, you and I are the man naked, bound in chains, and living in the midst of death.  Apart from the Savior, you and I are in the possession of Satan and afflicted by the legion of his demonic hoard. 
            Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that you and I are physically possessed by demons, as the man was in our text.  Physical possession does still happen, but in our context it is rare, as Satan has deceived us Westerners into thinking he doesn’t exist.  Thus we let down our guard and allow him to wreak havoc in our lives.  Even we Christians here in the West who do believe the devil exists, nonetheless live, practically speaking, as if he does not.  And the great danger, here, is that if we do not know the reality of the devil and his demons, we will fail to understand just how desperately we need Jesus to come and save us.  In other places much more attuned to the dark spiritual forces, physical possession is much more common.  For us, the danger is the devil hiding his influence over us under addiction, pornography, greed, a lust for power, and all the forbidden fruit upon which the devil focuses us, whispering once again the lie: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4; ESV).  And so we take and eat that which brings death.
            Physical possession aside, the fact of the matter is that each one of us sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are born in the spiritual possession of the devil.  That’s what it means to be born in original sin, the guilt passed down to us from our first parents.  That’s what it means when King David confesses in Psalm 51: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5).  Sinful from the moment of conception (and just an aside here, to be sinful from the moment of conception also means you are alive and have a soul at the moment of conception, so among Christians there ought be no debate about when life begins).  You’re sinful from the moment your parents conceive you, before you ever have a chance to commit an actual sin.  Just as most of you were born American citizens, with a couple Canadians thrown into the mix.  You didn’t have anything to do with being born that way, and yet, you have to own all of the consequences of being born that way.  You were conceived and born into the devil’s kingdom.  St. Paul writes of this in our Epistle.  Outside of Christ, we were, he says, “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (Gal. 4:3).  That means that we were under the devil’s deception.  We didn’t have God as our God, as our Savior.  We were bound to sin and death, and happy to be bound to sin and death.  This is what we call the bondage of the will.  And that’s why the Baptism of our children is so important.  Because in Baptism, our Lord Jesus comes in the Name of His Father and with His Holy Spirit to claim us as His own.  He frees us from our slavery to these elementary principles of the world, frees us from the power of the devil, casts out Satan, and takes possession of us by breathing into us the Holy Spirit and saving faith.  That’s why we’re singing so much about Baptism this morning.  The Lord Jesus takes us out of our slavery to the devil and makes us sons of God, for in Baptism, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:7), an heir of the very Kingdom.
            In our Holy Gospel, we see what Jesus does for those who are in the devil’s possession.  He comes to them.  They do not ask Him to come.  They do not want Him to come.  The man in our text certainly did not want Jesus to come.  But come He does.  He comes and He speaks His Word and the demons must flee.  And the Lord Jesus does this still for us in His Word.  He does it in Baptism.  He’s doing it right now in Scripture and preaching.  And He will do it in a few moments with His Body and Blood in the Supper.  In His great mercy, He still comes to us, right where the demons are afflicting us, and He speaks His Word, and the demons must flee.  And let me tell you something: If you really understood this, you would never miss an opportunity to hear the Word and receive the Supper.  Luther said of the devil: “He is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it, so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ.  He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour.”  And then this: “If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are at every moment aimed at you [Ephesians 6:16], you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible” (LC V:81-82).[1]  If you don’t have the desire to hear the Word, if you don’t have the hunger and thirst for the Sacrament, you’re simply blind to the demonic danger all around you.  Repent, and heed the warning.  And rejoice in the Good News: Jesus comes to you here so that the devil cannot harm you.  And so also, when you feel the affliction of the demons and the accusations of Satan, turn to the Word of the Lord, open the Holy Scriptures, call your pastor and be absolved of your sins, and come to the Holy Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood. 
            With the man in our text we can see the devil’s agenda.  He wants to cut us off from other people, just as the man was cut off from his community.  He wants to take away our health, our safety, our sanity, as he did to the man in our text, who was seized by the demons and broke the shackles placed on him for his protection and the protection of others, and was driven by the demons, naked and exposed, out into the desert.  He wants to lead us to the place of death, as he led the man in our text out to the tombs.  Yes, he wants to kill us and to drag us to hell with himself and his demons.  But we also see in our text what the Lord Jesus does.  In casting out the demons by His Word, Jesus restores us to community, to the community of saints that is the holy Church, as He restored the man.  He restores our health and sanity, as He did for the man who, having been freed from the demons, is now clothed and in his right mind.  He leads us, as He led the man, to sit at His feet and learn from Him, and hear the gracious Words of forgiveness and salvation that pour from His lips.  And like the man, He gives us a charge to return to our home and our community and declare how much God has done for us.
            You see, the Lord Jesus has freed you.  You are now possessed by the Holy Spirit.  And so you need not be afraid.  The devil is powerful, to be sure.  The demons are powerful.  Much more powerful than you, which is why you ought not go playing around in their sphere of influence.  But they are no match for the Lord Jesus Christ.  They are no match for the Holy Spirit.  You are safe in Christ.  You are safe in His Spirit.  You are baptized, God’s own child.  God’s Name is on you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Because you belong to Him.  You are precious in His sight.  And so, you are no longer the man naked, bound in chains, and living in the midst of death.  You are child of God and heir of heaven, clothed in Christ’s righteousness, freed from sin, death, and the devil, and living in the life eternal and abundant that is the risen Lord Jesus.  And here you sit at His feet, your mind set right, healed of all that has so long afflicted you.  Which is to say, your sins are forgiven.  The darkness is broken forever.  The serpent’s head is crushed (Gen. 3:15).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

[1] In Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia, 2006) p. 440.


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