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Sermon for February 4, 2018

Mark 1:29-39 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany—Series B)

“One Little Word Can Fell Him”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

February 4, 2018

 

29And immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. 30Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever, and immediately they spoke to Him concerning her. 31And after He came to her, He took her hand and raised her up and the fever left her and she began to serve them. 32After evening came, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all the sick and the demon-possessed. 33And the whole village stood gathered together at the door. 34And He healed many who were sick with various diseases and He cast out many demons and He did not permit them to speak because they knew Him. 35While it was still dark, after He got up, He went out and went away to a desert place and began to pray there. 36Simon and the others with him searched for Him. 37And they found Him and they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38And He said to them, “Let us go into the neighboring villages so that I might preach there also. I have come out for this purpose. 39And He went into the whole region of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out the demons.

 

           “The dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:2). God’s holy Word does not give us a whole lot of background information on “the old evil foe,” as Luther calls him. So what do we know about him?

          The devil is one of the evil angels, himself a good creation of God, who fell away from God into sin. Satan, along with the other evil angels, are those who by their defection from God became evil and have been confirmed by God in their evil so that they can nevermore become good. Jesus refers to the devil as “a murderer from the beginning” who “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44 ESV). Satan and the evil angels seek to harm humanity, the crown of God’s creation. They seek to hurt people in their body, in their earthly possessions, and particularly in their souls. The entire state of unbelief is a work of the devil: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1-2 ESV). Everyone who does not believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is, in reality, thinking and doing exactly what the devil wants! And those who deny the devil’s existence are actually following his will for their lives.

          The devil especially and unceasingly wages war against the holy Christian Church. It is his desire to destroy the Church, the believers in Jesus Christ, and so he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8 ESV). You and I and all believers in Jesus are those very people that the devil wants to destroy and he is very cunning in his attacks. The “prince of this world” seduced Adam and Eve, along with all their descendants, into the captivity of sin and death. He made all people his allies through sin and unbelief, people who are by nature subject to eternal condemnation in hell.

          St. James writes in his epistle, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15 ESV). It is Satan who uses the fallen world and our own sinful flesh to lead us into temptation and then into sin. We hear Luther teaching us in the Large Catechism that the devil “cannot allow anyone to teach or to believe rightly. It hurts him beyond measure to have his lies and abominations exposed, which have been honored under the most fancy, sham uses of the divine name. It hurts him when he himself is disgraced, is driven out of the heart, and has to let a breach be made in his kingdom. Therefore, he chafes and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might. He marshals all his subjects and, in addition, enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies. For our flesh is in itself lazy and inclined to evil [Romans 7:18], even though we have accepted and believe God’s Word. The world, however, is perverse and wicked. So he provokes the world against us, fans and stirs the fire, so that he may hinder and drive us back, cause us to fall, and again bring us under his power [2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:6–7]. Such is all his will, mind, and thought. He strives for this day and night and never rests a moment. He uses all arts, wiles, ways, and means that he can invent. If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us.”[1]

          Our bodies are subject to disease and pain. We lie ill with fevers and flu and cancer. We are subject to all kinds of griefs and troubles in this world, some brought about by our sins and some the consequences of the sins of others. Because we live in a world, in a creation, that has been corrupted, we are subject to natural disasters and storms, droughts and floods, overabundance and underabundance. Satan’s kingdom is a real mess and he uses all his lies and half-truths to twist the Word of God, to cause us to doubt the Word of God. He works to have us desire the pleasures of the sinful world and our sinful nature rather than desire the treasures of God’s reign and rule. The devil will work against us so that we doubt God’s love when we are sick or when we grieve. The devil will work to paint a terrible picture of God so that we don’t want anything to do with him, all so that we might remain under Satan’s power, condemned to death and hell and eternally separated from the God who made us.

          “There was no counsel, help, or comfort until [the] only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9].”[2] Jesus, the incarnate Son of God brought the Lord’s reign and rule among humanity. He overcame the power of sickness. He restored Simon Peter’s mother-in-law to health, reversing the effect of sin against her. Jesus, the God-Man, healed many who were sick, literally, those who were having it bad. He threw out the demons, the evil angels, restoring people to their Creator, to the Father’s reign and rule. “So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.”[3]

          This is what the inbreaking of the reign and rule of God in Jesus Christ does. We see it playing out in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus proclaims the Gospel, that God’s rule and reign is infiltrating the devil’s kingdom, and is turning it upside down and inside out. It is Jesus, very God of very God, who took upon Himself our human flesh, in order to bring the Father’s reign and rule to all humanity, to transfer people from the rule of Satan to the reign of God, to bring us from death to life, and from sin to righteousness. “Let us go into the neighboring villages so that I might preach there also. I have come out for this purpose,” the Lord Jesus announced. “I’ve come to upset the devil’s kingdom and redeem God’s creation and His humanity from all sins, from death, and from the power of Satan. I’ve come to preach the Good News of the reign and rule of God that is here among you now. I’m going to demonstrate my authority as the Messiah by preaching the Word and speaking that Word right in Satan’s face as I cast his evil angels out of my people, restoring them to Myself.”

Indeed, Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). In doing so, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 ESV). And so it is that the divine Son of God “became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. . . . He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me [and you] and pay what [we] owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become [our] Lord. . . . After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, [and] sin . . .  [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].”[4]

          The Lord Christ has redeemed and saved you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. Through the Word of God in and with the water in Holy Baptism, God’s grace and power have delivered you from the power of Satan and has transferred you to the reign and rule of His Son, Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). By the power of the Word of the Gospel, you are able to resist the devil and his lies and his temptations because you are a redeemed new creation in Christ! In faith by means of the Word, you now “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:11-17 ESV).

          It is the Word of God that overcomes Satan. It is the Word of Christ that has defeated the devil and won the victory of salvation for you. Sin, Satan, and death no longer have mastery over you. You belong to God in Christ by virtue of your Baptism. You have been transferred into the reign and rule of God in Christ. Now your hope and refuge against the devil are in the Lord Jesus who has set you free from the devil’s tyranny by His death and resurrection victory. And that’s why we Christians sing about God’s power in Jesus over the devil as He brings the Lord’s reign and rule to us. I now invite you to join me in singing the third stanza of hymn 656, “A Mighty Fortress”:

          Through devils all the world should fill,

                   All eager to devour us,

          We tremble not, we fear no ill;

                    They shall not overpow’r 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.

 

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 415–416.

[2] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 402.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 402.

[4] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 402.


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