Sermon for June 10, 2012

Mark 3:22-27 (Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper5)—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

June 10, 2012

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

Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Mark 3:

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Who comes to mind when you hear “the strong man”?  I think of people like Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stalone, and Chuck Norris.  Who would you put into the category of “the strong man”?  You might be surprised to find out that Satan is on that list.  The “strong man” Jesus refers to in our text this morning is indeed Satan.  Satan is the strong man who has a house full of goods, a house filled with people whom he holds captive.

What do we really know about this strong man, Satan?  The Bible doesn’t describe Satan’s origin in great detail.  2 Peter 2 speaks of angles who sinned.  Jude 6 mentions “angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home.”  When this initial rebellion of the devil and his evil angels took place the Bible doesn’t say.  But ever since Satan and his demons rebelled, this evil being has sought to discredit God and harm God’s people.

The “ancient serpent” of Genesis 3, identified in Revelation 12 as “the devil, or Satan,” tempted Adam and Eve to join him in the desire to be like God.  And they did!  Ever since, Satan’s strength has been evidenced by the enslavement of people through sin.  And he doesn’t work alone.  He commands countless evil angels, demons.  Together, they work for the spiritual destruction of Christ, His people, and His Church.   Scripture describes demons possessing various people, causing sickness and afflictions, and engaging in combat against good angels (Rev. 12:7–8).  Some even know Scripture and can manipulate it to further their diabolic cause (Gen. 3:1; Matt. 4:6).  Satan can masquerade as an “angel of light” when it suits him (2 Cor. 11:14).  Satan and the evil angels are primarily concerned with one thing: destroying the relationship between God and humanity, chiefly by destroying faith.  This sounds scary, and, in fact, it is.

Satan is the strong man.  He is powerful.  Satan is able to win far too many of the daily battles for our souls.  And we are too weak by ourselves to defend against him.  He tries deceptively to lead us away from God and His goodness.  Think of how successful Satan has been!  Just consider last week how many times you and I fell into the devil’s temptations and succumbed to his lies.  Think of the guilt you feel in your life and how Satan continues to accuse you, whispering to your heart, “You are so bad, so evil.  Look what you did, said, thought.  Look who you hurt!  They will never love you like they used to.  And God can’t stand you.  You are a sinner.  You aren’t worth anything to anyone.”

God forbid that we should believe these lies and half-truths because when we do believe them it is like being held fast in the strong man’s chains.  Satan has us where he wants us.  He’s created doubt as to God’s love for us.  He’s caused us to despair of ever being free from our guilt.  He makes it seem that we are just too evil to be saved from death and hell.  He’s given us license to sin and disobey God because it will feel good and make us happy no matter whether it harms us or others in body and soul.  And that’s what Satan wants—to be lord of sinners who have been turned away from God’s presence through temptation and despair.

So would Satan be so stupid as to rise up against himself and cause a division so that he would not be able to stand?   Jesus says in our text, “If a kingdom should be divided against itself, that kingdom is not able to stand.  If a house should be divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  If Jesus, as the scribes claimed, was in league with the devil and was working for the devil, why on earth would Jesus be casting out the devil and uprooting the work of the devil by healing diseases and preaching the Word of God?  Why would Satan destroy his own realm when he clearly has the upper hand?  If his kingdom and house were divided, Satan would be powerless, which is obviously not the case!  Satan remains strong—the strong man who holds people captive to sin, death, and hell.

The only way, then, to plunder the strong man’s house and his goods, people held prisoner by Satan, sin, and death, is to bind the strong man.  He needs to be tied up before any rescue can happen.  Satan needs to be tied up if captive people are to be taken away from him and set free. Who, then, can bind the strong man except the stronger man?

Jesus’ ability to cast out demons means that the one stronger than Satan has come to restrain his activity and to release those enslaved by Satan, sin, and death.  The casting out of demons from people is nothing less than a forceful attack on the lordship of Satan.  Jesus’ mission was to confront Satan on his turf and to crush him, just as God promised the Savior would back in Genesis 3: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

In fulfillment of this promise, God the Father agreed that His own Son, Jesus, should be wounded for our sake.  On Good Friday, the Father watched His Son give His life into death on a cross and, by the shedding of His blood, crush and defeat Satan.  The Father then heard the words of victory spoken with His Son’s last breath, “It is finished!”

The devil’s house has been plundered by the Son of God.  Satan, the strong man, is tied up and defeated because Jesus has taken away your sins.  Jesus set you free from your sins through the forgiveness He won for you on the cross!  His dying destroyed the power of death and His rising again on the third day has restored to you everlasting life!  Satan can no longer accuse you of your sins because every last one of them is forgiven, sent away, removed as far as the east is from the west.  The Lord encourages you in Ephesians 6, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:10-11)  Your faith in Christ, like a suit of battle armor, will protect you against the flaming darts of Satan, against his temptations and lies.  God then promises you in James 4:7, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  With faith in Christ as your Lord and Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you have the ability to refuse to go along with the devil and his temptations and lies.  You draw upon the strength of Christ Himself who bound the strong man and plundered his house in order to save and rescue you from Satan, sin, and death.

Although the devil still prowls around us like a roaring lion, he is an ever-defeated animal, crushed by the victory of Jesus’ cross and resurrection.  Although the devil’s temptations and lies are very real and very seductive, we have the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit to overcome them and to resist them.  In the words of Martin Luther’s hymn of the Reformation, “Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not over-power us.  This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none.  He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.” (LSB 656:3)  And that Word is Jesus, who has bound the strong man and rescued us from Satan, sin, and death.  Amen.

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