Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sermon: Oculi (Lent 3) - 2018

4 March 2018

Text: Luke 11:14-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

One of the most popular books for high school students to read is a 1954 novel by William Golding called Lord of the Flies.  Like most great novels, it’s disturbing and thought provoking.  It tells a story of the underlying evil inside of human beings – even in children.  I wonder how many modern readers of Lord of the Flies know why that expression is used in the book, where it comes from, and why that became the book’s title.

In our Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ casts out a demon.  But some people, reflecting that underlying evil inside of human beings, attack Jesus for doing this good work.  They come up with a ridiculous accusation.  They accuse Him of casting out demons “by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”  “Beelzebul” is a nickname of the devil taken from the name of one of the false gods of the Philistines.  The name “Beelzebul” translates into English as “the lord of the flies.”

It’s a fitting name for the devil, for he fancies himself to be a lord, when he is really just a rotten imitation.  And his lordship is found in dead bodies and on dungheaps.  Flies begin their lives as maggots eating rotting things and end up in filth.  They carry disease, and are associated with death.  Flies are loathed by man and beast alike.

This lordship of flies represents everything that Jesus came into our world to change.  And it is ironic that even as He is casting out demons He is Himself accused of working for the lord of the flies, that is, Satan.

Satan was created by God and rebelled.  Jesus was begotten of the Father and obeys.  Satan is filled with hatred and rage to be beneath God and seeks to become God’s superior.  Jesus is equal to the Father, but submits to the Father out of love.  Satan is a lion seeking whom He may devour unto damnation. Jesus is the Lamb of God who offers Himself to us in the form of bread and wine to be eaten and drunk for our salvation.  Satan commands demons to possess and oppress people.  Jesus commands demons to depart in order to liberate and release people.  Satan is a liar.  Jesus is the Truth.  Satan brings death to Adam and Eve and their descendants through disobedience and disbelief of God’s Word.  Jesus is obedient even unto death and brings life to Adam and Eve and their descendants who believe in Him as the Word Made Flesh.  Satan is king of nothing and the lord of the flies.  Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

You cannot get more opposite than the Lord of Life: Jesus Christ, and the lord of death, Beelzebul.

Even as our Lord is healing the sick by delivering them from the power of the devil, He is attacked by the mob.  Jesus shows how ridiculous their accusation is, saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.  And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”

In other words, the charge doesn’t even make logical sense.

But our Lord Jesus doesn’t stop there.  For the problem isn’t just that our Lord’s detractors have committed a logical fallacy.  The issue isn’t that they made a mistake in their reasoning.  No indeed!  They are acting out of evil and spite.  Jesus turns the tables on them with an insult of His own: “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?”

Our Lord warns them: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you….  Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”

So who is Jesus?  Is He the Son of God who casts out demons by His own power, or is He a demon who only has power over demons because Satan has given Him power?

This is the crucial question, dear friends. 

What is your confession?  In the words of a book title by one of our Lutheran professors, “What do you think about Jesus?”  Do you think Jesus is a fictional character?  Do you think Jesus is just a first century Jewish rabbi?  Do you think Jesus is some sort of manifestation of evil?  Do you think Jesus is God in the flesh who died for the sins of the world on the cross, rose again from the dead, defeated Satan, destroyed sin’s power, and now calls us to follow Him to eternal life – which He gives us as a free gift?

Our Lord’s attackers – then and now – allow their jealousy, hatred, and refusal to confess their own sins to blind them to the only Man in history who is truly righteous, and who loves them, and is willing to die for them.  And even though He works miracles before their eyes, they refuse to believe.  They refuse to believe out of stubbornness and selfishness.  They refuse to believe because deep down inside, they are the ones who worship the lord of the flies, still hoping beyond hope that Satan can deliver on the promise that he made to Adam and Eve, that by disobeying God, we can all be like God.

The enemies of our Lord don’t simply disbelieve, they are consumed with hatred for those who do.  The enemies of our Lord don’t simply disbelieve that He is God, rather they hate Him because they know that He is God, and they refuse to bow down to Him.  They would rather worship their pathetic little buzzing maggot god that eats garbage and dung.  And it’s little wonder that what we see in Hollywood and on our TVs, in our news reports, and on social media, in our schools and among our politicians, is a continuous diet of garbage and dung.

Jesus has come to deliver us from this sad, nihilistic life that ends in death and hell.  He comes to give us life that we might live it abundantly.  He comes to deliver us from sin and lead us to righteousness.  He comes to conquer the devil who deceived us, hates us, and corrupts us, so that by means of the cross and through our Holy Baptism, we might enjoy eternal fellowship with the God who created us, loves us, and redeems us.

Jesus has come to sweep our house and put it in order, to cast out our demons, to forgive our sins, to heal us from our mortality, and to bring us to everlasting life.  For blessed indeed 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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