Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Lord Even Over Evil” based on Mark 3:20-35 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, June 10, 2018
What can the power of Christ strengthen you to accomplish?
Perhaps you are having difficulty in your marriage. The power of Christ is strong enough to overcome selfishness on your part or even the sins of your spouse. Strengthened and motivated by his love, and in thanksgiving for his love, there is no rift that cannot be reconciled.
Maybe, for you, it is an habitual sin or addiction that, try as you might, you have not been able to quit. 12 steps and a slew of self-help books haven’t been able to scratch the surface of your struggles. However, the power of Christ, through his Word and Sacrament, is stronger than your own willpower. He can, and will be, the fix your heart, body, and mind are so desperately seeking to find.
You may have your doubts about the power of Christ in those situations. And, truth be told, overcoming those obstacles, with something as simple sounding as Word and Sacrament, is certainly easier said than done. And, in the Gospel for today, from Mark, chapter 3, there is a strong case study for why that power of Christ can be so difficult to trust.
It started with a little bit of betrayal. Long before Judas and his infamous kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane or Peter’s repeated denials before the rooster’s crows, others who were supposed to be loyal to Jesus showed themselves to be quite the opposite.
It was those closest to him who threw the first stone. Here, his family; his mother, brothers, and sisters—they were the ones who went to take charge of him, to seize him, to grab him and shake him by the shoulders. They are the ones who were saying, over and again, He is out of his mind.
But his family wasn’t alone in placing stumbling blocks along his path. The teachers of the Law, who came down from Jerusalem, too, tried to get Jesus to stop what he was doing—to stop preaching, to stop teaching, to stop healing, and, as odd as it sounds, to stop driving out demons from those who had been possessed.
Of these two groups standing in the way of Jesus’ mission, it might be easier to understand where his family was coming from. They may have thought, like some silly Snickers commercial, that Jesus simply wasn’t acting himself because he was a little hungry. He got so wrapped up in his work that he didn’t have a chance to eat and, therefore, he was doing things that made him appear beside himself—a little out of his mind.
The teachers of the law, though, were a different story. They, themselves, were so caught up in trying to discredit Jesus that they abandoned logic in their accusations.
How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
While some were saying that Jesus was out of his mind, it was actually the charges of those teachers of the law that were bordering on insanity.
Why would Satan control Jesus to drive out Satan? That doesn’t make any sense. Satan would be fighting against himself and against the demons that he sent if he had possessed Jesus and gave him the power to expel and exorcise them.
No, Jesus was not possessed by Satan or any demons. In his address of the accusations that stood against him, Jesus revealed the work that he came here on earth to accomplish and who, instead, was actually in Satan’s possession. And, as he often did, he taught this truth with a parable. Listen again:
No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.
You know the rules for interpreting parables, right? You find out who or what is meant to represent you in the parable and who or what else is being illustrated as well. Finally, then, you search for the heavenly truth that is being taught.
Are you the strong man? Are you the robber? No, brothers and sisters, you are the possessions. And, unfortunately, the strong man who had possession of you is not Jesus or God, but, rather, someone who you needed to be stolen away from. That strong man is Satan, himself.
Ever since the fall into sin, all of mankind has, by nature, been under the possession of the Devil. And, as Jesus intimated in his parable, Satan was able to keep human beings in his possession because he is strong. He is so strong that he convinces those in his possession to do things they ought not, and sometimes even know they shouldn’t, do.
The strong man had convinced Jesus’ own family to call him insane. The strong man had convinced the teachers of the law to abandon logic. What has the strong man, through his powerful lies, strengthened you to accomplish?
To distrust or doubt the power of Christ?
To be selfish in your relationships?
To depend on bottles of booze or pills to get you through the day?
To worry about and fear the challenges you face on a daily basis in your health, in your bank account, or in your career?
To covet that car, that house, that wife, or those children because, with even more lies, you believe that you deserve them?
In the opening hymn today, you sang, “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.”
In order to get you, the possessions of the strong man, Jesus had to tie him up. He had to take away his power, to remove the venom from the ancient serpent’s bite.
In writing this hymn, Martin Luther identified the way that Jesus was able to take away Satan’s power, the one word that he, and we, can say to overcome his temptations and accusations. Jesus identified Satan for what he really is. That one word is “liar.”
Satan works against you in the same way that he did against Adam and Eve in the beginning. He lies. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from this tree? Did God really say that he will strengthen you and support you and provide for you all that you need? Did God really say that you shouldn’t desire things that aren’t yours? Did God really say that you should love your husband unconditionally? Did God really say that you are forgiven?
Satan is a liar! Jesus tells the truth. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.
Do you doubt the power of Christ? You are forgiven.
Have you gone back to the same habitual sin or addiction over and again? You are forgiven.
Have you been selfish, greedy, impatient, or discontent? Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
Jesus is able to pronounce that forgiveness upon you because of what he did for you. He lived perfectly in your place and, sacrificing his perfect life on the cross, he received the punishment that your sins deserved so that you wouldn’t. He gives you forgiveness because God’s wrath for sin has already been doled out on him. He gives you forgiveness because his work declares you innocent in the eyes of your God. He gives you forgiveness because the debt your sins incurred has already been paid.
Yes, you deserve hell. It is true that God shouldn’t provide for you or preserve you. But, because of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death, done for you, when Satan says that you are going to hell or that God doesn’t love you and that he will not provide for you, he is lying.
Satan is the strong man who tried to keep you as his possession in his house. But, thankfully, for us fights the valiant One, whom God himself elected. You ask, who is this? Jesus Christ it is. The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God; he holds the field forever.
The Devil is strong, but Jesus is the Lord even over evil. By the power of Christ, your sins are forgiven. By the power of Christ, the Devil is undone. By the power of Christ, given to you in Word and Sacrament, call the Devil a liar and be strengthened by the truth. Amen.