Monday, March 12, 2012

Third Sunday in Lent 2012

Luke 11:14-28 (ESV)
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. [15] But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelze-bul, the prince of demons," [16] while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. [17] But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. [18] And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. [19] And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. [20] But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [21] When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; [22] but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. [23] Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
[24] "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' [25] And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. [26] Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first."
[27] As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!" [28] But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
The strong man guarding his palace. That is Satan. He is the prince of the air, the prince of the world. He watches over this palace guarding his goods. Always fully armed, He can’t put down the weapons and relax, because he doesn’t belong here. He knows it. He stole this world. He corrupted man. He rules here as a usurper, and never feels secure enough or at peace enough to let his guard down and enjoy life. Fully armed.
His weapons vary. I always think the Devil’s Advocate does a good job depicting Satan and how he operates. Don’t watch it with your kids. But Al plays the devil. He is a big city lawyer, who takes a younger lawyer on a ride to the top of the ladder. And all the way the younger lawyer is tempted by every temptation known to man. Some he falls for, the gross and crass ones he manages to avoid and in the end Satan gets him with pride.
We really don’t have a prayer. When it comes to satan and his tricks, he has a hold on this world and ourselves that makes it impossible to resist. Even if we want to. Our sinful nature is such that satan gets us with the law coming or going. He is a strong man who rules his house with an iron fist.
But when a stronger man comes…. Jesus is speaking of himself. The stronger man has come. Satan tried all his old tricks on Jesus. He tempted him in every way. And Jesus was tempted. However, his will was not bent towards sin like ours. His being was not corrupted by sin. The only begotten son of the father, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he did not inherit original sin like you and I. He was a stronger man. Satan could not tempt him, and could not keep him from the cross.
When the common temptations that have been so successful on men and women from the days of Adam and Eve, well, he resorted to cruder measures. When you can’t turn those who threaten your existence to your side, well then you must destroy them. He couldn’t touch Jesus. He stirred up his house against Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees conspired to kill him. Jesus warned if you aren’t with me you are against me. But it is quite amazing, and fairly counter intuitive who he has going against Jesus. The Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Scribes, and every respectable person and group in society. The Pharisees were generally respected in society. They might not have always been liked, but people respected them for their religious devotion, their work in charity, their family values, their strict obedience to the law, their good works. And controversy didn’t follow them. Sure some perhaps chafed at their self-righteousness, but normally out of a sense of jealousy because they had somehow succeeded where another had failed. Ever looked at another person jealous because they just seemed to be better at being good than you? Perhaps better at being better? And you kind of wonder why can’t I be like that? Well those were the Pharisees and often the Sadducees. And Satan ends up using them for his purposes. He gets them to yell crucify, stirs up whole crowds to yell Crucify him! Crucify him! And succeeds in killing Jesus.
But it is just there, that the stronger man wins and rests the weapons of Satan. Just there. Because there with his death, he atones for the sin of the world, so Satan can no longer use his very best weapon, the weapon upon which all his other weapons rely, the law. Just their on the cross, with Christ’s death, our sin and guilt was atoned for. And Satan lost the right to accuse. See Satan never had to lie about us to the father. He’d tell the truth when he accused us before him of vile sin. On one hand he’d tempt us to debase ourselves in sinful shame, promising good times and fun, or perhaps safety and security, perhaps even a good reputation, easy passage. Then he’d accuse us before the Father for falling into the temptation. If we avoid the temptation, he then makes us feel so proud we feel better than others who have not managed. He tempts us to fornication, and drunkenness, gossip and slander, theft and murder. And we like to think that some of these things are beyond us, even as we know we are guilty for them. But then it was us he got to yell crucify him, and it was for us he had to die. Yes our sin murdered the only innocent man that ever walked this earth. And it was us the victim pardoned crying “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.” And with his death he paid for our sin and atoned for our guilt, so that us sinners, oppressed by the law, no longer have to scatter before his holy love that cannot bear the presence of sin, but can gather to him where he offers forgiveness in the very same body and blood with which he overcame sin death and the devil.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hears and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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