And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
For the past two weeks we have seen Jesus revealed as God by the casting out of demons. Jesus shows his power over the darkness of evil.
Lest we think that demons are not real, we are reminded by God’s Word that our opinion means nothing. Jesus, our Lord, recognizes that they are real and he also shows us that demonic oppression and possession is different from mental illness, epilepsy, or other physical ailment. I say this because one of the prevailing thoughts today is that “we have a better understanding of mental and physical illness than Jesus did.” Really?? Do you realize what they are saying? Who is it that their not-so-subtle dig is directed at? The very one who created the world and gave them the life and breath to spew this out. We also express the Biblical doctrine of their reality every time we confess the Nicene Creed— they are a part of the invisible creation.
Demons are real and Jesus came to cast them out. Not just from people of His day, but from us.
Demonic influence is real today, just more subtle. But it does not take much to see that it is real. You can see this in the current pandemic, for instance. I speak not of the illness and death, but rather the fear that this has caused among the majority of people. Do you realize that fear is the opposite of faith? It is only God’s perfect love in Jesus that casts out all fear. And we receive that by faith. Satan is rejoicing that churches are still closed, or people don’t attend public worship because they are afraid. It’s time to start trusting this One whom we confess as God and Lord to protect us. We are His. His love for you took Him to the Cross. Will you let fear erase that Cross from your life?
In today’s Gospel Jesus delivers us from the devil and shows Himself to be God- our God, our Savior, our warrior, our Messiah. So we pray the blessng of the Holy Spirit as we consider the theme, “Cast away.”
The Devil is Real
The Devil is Real
To understand today’s text we must acknowledge that the devil is real. He is at war against God’s saints, which includes you. Fear is his primary weapon, for it ultimately leads you to distrust God’s promises. When that happens we are open game for him. Scripture is replete with warnings about this:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
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. 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.
C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to his novel Screwtape Letters pens this in the introduction
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
In understanding last week’s and today’s Gospel, we must start here.
One must note that the placement of this scenario in the Gospel of Mark- we are only 20 verses out from Jesus’ Temptation in the wilderness. That was the first time we saw Jesus drive the devil away. He does so by using the sword of God’s Word. Driven away, he changes his MO and sends those possessed by his hordes to make another attempt at attacking Jesus.
Jesus takes them down with the same sword. Last week we heard in the Gospel that Jesus “preached with authority, and not like the scribes.” Last week he rebuked the demon and told him, “shut up and get out.” By that Word He cleansed the demoniac. This week we hear that he does it again, but no details are given. Him preaching with authority is what does this.
When you hear the preaching of God’s Word, you hear the authority of Jesus. That word is effective and creative. No demon can withstand it. No evil can claim you as its own. But for us fights the valiant one with that Sword of His Word.
While in our text today the demons took a stab at Jesus, the mastermind behind this, Satan, appears once more, but in a very fierce way. The show down takes place on Calvary.
At first, it appears that the devil had won. Jesus was dead. Satan was able to steal the election by snuffing out his competition. C.F.W. Walther captures this perfectly in the second verse of his hymn, “He’s Risen! He’s Risen!:
The foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, for Jesus was slain whom the evil ones fear.
But he was slow to realize that what really happened was that this was the moment that the curse, spoken upon him by God in the Garden, was totally and completely fulfilled. The death of Jesus crushed his head. The ancient Easter hymn captures this:
It was a strange and dreadful fight when life and death contended:
The victory remained with life,
The reign of death had ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up in death,
It’s sting is lost forever. Alleluia!
This was the moment for which all of history longed: The defeat of Satan, the freeing of God’s people from his stranglehold, the death of death itself. God and sinners reconciled.
In Baptism, you died with Christ on that Cross. Your sins were taken away and now remain in the tomb, so all you are left with is His life and salvation. You were sealed against Satan and his minions, marked as God’s own child. Through faith you live out this calling. Faith in Jesus
We know the devil’s MO. The way we beat Him is by staying close to the Sword of God’s Word, that Word spoken on us, and to us by Jesus Himself. We beat Satan by receiving the Eucharist each week. Through fervent prayer. By understanding his tactics— the tactic of fear, the tactic of questioning, the tactic of false unity through compromising the faith, the tactic of questioning, the tactic of leading us down the path of “following our hearts”, the tactic o f trusting our conscience, our eyes, our opinions more than the promises spoken to us by God in His Authoritative Word.
When we fall for his tactics and sin we have and advocate with the Father to whom we flee for mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We bask in the Holy Spirit that He gives us who assists us in our Christian walk.
Jesus saved you. The same exact Jesus who preached with authority, who healed all of the sick, who cast out demons, who defeated the devil on the Cross, is risen from the dead, and still does this for you. Every day. Even when our day ends. Here and now. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.