Text: John 4:46-54 (Gen 1:1-2:3, Eph 6:10-17)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Wars are terrible, mainly because people die. And typically it is the young people who suffer the most. Wars make widows and widowers, but most often, wars make orphans. And who is it that typically goes off to fight in wars? Usually the young men. They are the ones sent to the front, to be injured, and to die.
The Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has come to end the war against the Creator and against creation declared by the evil one. Our Lord has come not so much to win a war, but to win the peace. He has not come to kill more people on the other side, but to save the world from the ravages of sin, death, and the devil.
And as followers of Jesus Christ, we are enlistees in this army, we are the Church Militant, we are the ones equipped with armor to combat the “flaming darts of the evil one.”
One casualty in this ancient war was a young man who had been attacked by the enemy and was dying on the battlefield of life in this fallen world ruled by Satan and his minions. A man who worked for the government was suffering because his son was “at the point of death.” For this is what war does, it kills. And this war is made on all of us whom God created in six days. This war has waged so long that we have forgotten what peace is actually like – which is why God’s Word reminds us in the Genesis account of God’s creation, harking back to a time before the war began, a golden age of peace and prosperity.
The decisive blow in this war was dealt when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” When God became Man, He took control over the enemy. He enlisted His people into an unstoppable army that runs not on its stomach but on its faith. He Himself made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation by dying for us – and by rising again to life. Today we await our General’s return to finally rid the universe of all death and destruction, of remaining sin and corruption.
St. Paul reminds us of what it means to be a Christian. The world thinks Christians are weak. Sometimes I think Christians think Christianity is something we dabble in on Sundays, something that gives us suburban comfortableness, something that makes us respectable in the eyes of society.
In fact, Christianity is the enemy of all that is respected in the world. The world respects money and power, while Christianity believes these to be transitory. The world respects positions of authority, while Christianity scoffs at the world’s self-serving pomp and circumstance. The world glories in idleness and selfishness, while Christianity glories in working for the kingdom and in serving those in need.
Parents, do you really want your children to be Christians? This means they will love God more than you. This means they will follow a call to their Savior even if it means giving up a life of comfort to serve the Lord anywhere on the planet. This means they will be willing to forsake anything and everything in order to perform the most menial tasks for the Kingdom. To desire that your children be Christians is to want your children to have to put on armor and do battle against mighty “rulers” and “authorities.” To be a Christian is not to get along with the world, fit in and not make waves. To the contrary, Christians are ever eager to tweak the nose of the beast – even if it means a prison cell or a hangman’s noose. “Take up your cross and follow me” – is this really what we want for our children? To follow Jesus means a cross. Nothing is more contrary to our culture.
The government official who sought Jesus may not have understood all of the ramifications, but he got this much: he did not want his son to die. He did not want his child to be a casualty in this cosmic war between the evil one and the Creator – with all of God’s creation, “the heavens and the earth” – caught in the crossfire.
Our Lord criticizes the weak state of His troops: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” How often this describes us, dear friends! We want a sign. We want proof. We want something other than the mere Word of God to hold onto. We want science to confirm what we believe. We want the world’s approval of our faith. We want to make sure we are on the winning side before we strap on the armor. But here is reason for hope: the official did believe the Word of Jesus. “Sir, come down before my child dies.” This is faith in action, it is a prayer that Jesus has the power even over death. It is a humble petition that acknowledges the Lord’s superiority. Jesus said: “‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.”
The man believed. The man believed!
This belief is what St. Paul calls a “shield” – “with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
And so, dear Christian brothers and sisters, dear fellow soldiers under the orders of Christ, the Christian life is not for those who seek clean hands and a light load. Prepare to get dirty and muddy in the trenches, to be wounded and bloodied and to take up the battle against the dragon. Train your children to be warriors, for our Commander and King is also our Savior and Redeemer. He has come to liberate us from the enemy and to steel our hands for battle.
We are in the last days, and the stakes are high. This is no time for cowardice and for malingering. The Lord has achieved victory for us at the cross, and the shield that St. Paul speaks of is emblazoned with that emblem, the sign given to us at Holy Baptism.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Our Lord does not send us to the front unequipped, to be cannon fodder in a senseless war of glory for politicians, but rather He Himself leads from the front and calls us to charge with Him in the expulsion of sin, death, and the devil from the creation that the Lord made through His Word and by His will.
We are ready to fight, dear friends! Even now when the battle is at its hottest. We are baptized! We are redeemed! We are covered by the Lord’s body and blood. We have the “belt of truth” and the “breastplate of righteousness.” We have the Gospel of peace as shoes to protect our walk. We have the “sword of the Spirit,” the only offensive weapon in our armory, and the only weapon we need. With the sword, we can decapitate the dragon. And that sword, dear friends, is the Word of God!
“Go; your son will live.” Go, dear friends, you will live, your fathers and mothers, your grandfathers and grandmothers, your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters in the Church – will live. For we have been given the shield as a free gift, the shield of faith that renders the attacks of the evil one as harmless darts falling to the ground.
Our Lord, the Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier, the One into whose name we have been baptized, the One who died and rose again, the One who fortifies us for battle by His body and blood, the One who has forgiven us all our sins and conquered death and the grave, the One who overcame Satan and promises us eternal life, is rallying us to final victory!
And in this victory, dear friends, we will see the “very good” paradise restored, the dead will be brought to life, and the Church’s dreadful warfare shall end in glorious peace – now and even forevermore! Amen.
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.