Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sermon: Oculi (Lent 3) – 2017

12 March 2017

Text: Luke 11:14-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There are two ways to react to Jesus: belief or unbelief.

Jesus is a completely unique figure in history.  Every country in the world uses the BC/AD scheme for numbering our calendar.  AD stands for “Anno Domini,” Latin for “the year of Lord,” or in other words, the number of years since the reign of the world’s king.

Jesus is the only major religious figure on the planet whose tomb is empty – not because it was robbed or vandalized, but because He just walked out of it. 

Jesus is quoted even by those who hate the church and want to justify sinful behavior, being quick to tell us that Jesus said, “Judge not…” and told us to love one another – as if Jesus is saying that it’s perfectly okay to break the ten commandments without being called to repentance.

Jesus is considered to be a great teacher by some Jews, a prophet by Muslims, an avatar by many eastern religions, a Buddha by the Dalai Lama, an enlightened soul by Zen masters, and when challenged for putting a sign on His cross that said, “King of the Jews,” the Roman governor who found Him not guilty, but permitted his execution anyway, was to say, “What I have written, I have written.”

Jesus has been worshiped by millions of people as God, including about two billion people living today.  What we know about Jesus mainly comes from the Bible, the most printed, purchased, translated, read, quoted, studied, loved, and hated book in the history of mankind. 

Jesus changed the world as no other man in history, and is still changing the world. 

Jesus was acknowledged to be a worker of unexplainable miracles even by His enemies who denounced Him in the Talmud, whose authors denied that He is the Son of God, but argued that He is a “sorcerer” – one who does miracles by means of the devil.

And this same dichotomy is as true today was true when the events reported by St. Luke in our Gospel happened.  Jesus is either the Son of God or a tool of Satan.

In our Gospel, Jesus has just cast out a demon and made a mute man well again, so that he was able to speak.  This was not a medical cure.  This was not a magic trick.  This was not a coincidence, but rather a constant pattern in the life of Jesus. 

And so, there are two explanations for this: either Jesus is who He says He is, who the church confesses Him to be, and who Scripture testifies that He is: God in the flesh, or, He is a sorcerer – doing miracles by means of the devil.

And just as today, we see opinion divided.  “The people marveled.  But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.’”

So, in other words, either this Jesus is God in the flesh, the Lord and Savior of the world, the victor over sin, death, and the devil, the hope for mankind and for each individual soul in this fallen world, the ultimate incarnation of love who dies on the cross as an atonement for all our sins, the One who is creating for us a new heaven and a new earth and will raise our bodies at the resurrection so that we will live sinless and glorious lives for all eternity, or, He is an evil and duplicitous liar who can do miracles because He is the ultimate villain who hates mankind and who seeks to glorify Satan.

If we have to determine whether a person is good or evil, we typically look at his deeds.  There is very little debate about whether or not Hitler and Stalin and Mao carried out good or evil deeds.  It is not going out on a limb to call such people evil.  And similarly, when we read about people to risk their own lives to save others, when we hear of people who act in ways that are honorable and heroic and in love for their fellow men, we generally don’t look for some way to distort their good deeds into demonic behavior.

It simply doesn’t make sense to call good evil, and to call evil good.  And Jesus Himself points out the nonsense of it all: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.  And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.  And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?”

Those who look at the works of Jesus: the casting out of demons, the curing of blindness, the restoration of hearing to the deaf and speech to the mute, making the lame walk, healing people of crippled hands, paralysis, hemorrhages, fevers, dropsy, epilepsy, leprosy, and even raising the dead – and ascribing these works as evil and of the devil – are simply stuck in the prison of their own minds, being captured by a narrative that they are too stubborn to release.

The bottom line is that Jesus casts out demons because He is the God who created them, and they are the angels who have disobeyed Him.  These fallen angels go where they are forbidden to go, and they never help mankind, but always torture and imprison the sons of Adam.  Jesus has come to set the captive free, to cast out the works and workers of darkness, to forgive sins, to restore human dignity, and to even overturn our sentence of death by His own death upon the cross.

And what’s more, Jesus rises from His own tomb, and proclaims this victory to all.

Dear friends, it has become fashionable to look past all the hard evidence of Christ’s divinity and to join the false narrative that either considers Jesus to be a fraud or a worker of evil.  But don’t be deceived. 

A good tree bears good fruit.  Evil does not work to bring healing and health and completeness and life and restoration of communion with God.  Only God in the flesh can do this, only the “finger of God” can point to a demon and cast it away, while the hand attached to that finger can bear the scar of the nail that held Him to the cross, the same cross the church proclaims, the cross that is the altar upon which Lamb of God was slain.

Our Lord performs wondrous good works because He is both wondrous and good.  He forgives because He is God.  He loves because He is love.  He is with us here and now in His Word and sacrament.  His glorious work continues.  The demons are no match for Him.

And let us never forget what He taught us about mankind and what a man’s confession of Christ truly means: “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”

Let us continue to gather with Him, and let us not only believe, but confess and rejoice as well. For “blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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