Sermon for Oculi, the Third Sunday in Lent, AD 2022

Luke 11:14-28; Exodus 8:16-24

Jesus drives a demon out of a mute man, a great work of healing, and yet some of the people accuse him of working by the power of Beelzebub. Who is Beelzebub? He is their name for the prince of demons, or Satan. The name Beelzebub literally means “lord of the flies.” It was the name the ancient Israelites gave to one of the pagan gods but given that all pagan gods are really demons in disguise, it came to be a word for Satan. Jesus is accused of driving out demons by Satan. Jesus states the illogic of their claim – if Satan is working against Satan, how can his kingdom stand? A divided realm is one that is falling.

The funny thing is, Satan’s kingdom is falling. It will not stand. The members of Satan’s kingdom have no love for each other. This is the case with the demons, and the case with those who are not part of God’s kingdom. All who are sinful are ultimately selfish and will do anything as long as it benefits themselves. Satan’s kingdom only stands by a temporary truce in opposition to God. Satan has built his castle as a strong man who has fooled the world into following him, these he holds as his possessions who all oppose and fight against God.

The greater lesson from Jesus follows from this, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” The kingdom of God is one which is never divided against itself. All those who are in Christ are united in Christ. This implies that those who say Jesus is working by Beelzebub are not part of the kingdom. To speak against the work of Christ is to oppose God. God will never have a divided kingdom. God’s kingdom is one where all confess by the Holy Spirit that the Father has sent the Son to do great works of salvation for the world. Against this, there is no unity, no kingdom, no lasting defense.

Yet people still speak against God and oppose his kingdom. Those who speak against Jesus in the lesson follow many Biblical examples from the Old Testament, no one more than Pharoah. When the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt, God sent Moses to command Pharoah to let His people go. Pharoah refused to listen to God’s word, even when Moses showed mighty signs to Pharoah like turning his staff into a snake. Pharoah first scoffed because his magicians could do the same thing by their Satanic arts. They turned staffs to snakes and we able to turn water into blood. They were even able to recreate a plague of frogs. Pharoah used this as a reason to reject God’s command through Moses and harden his heart.

God allowed the magicians using satanic arts to replicate the first plagues for his purposes. Of course, they could only replicate, they could not solve the plagues. Satan never brings relief, only more pain and temptation into the world. They could make more water blood and add more frogs, but could not take one away. Then Moses brought plagues of gnats and flies to Egypt and the work of Satan was completely stopped. The magicians of Pharoah could not even make one gnat, much less make any go away. God had given Satan enough time to be comfortable, and then came in with the crushing left hook, the winning blow. The so-called lord of flies could not make or remove a single fly without God’s permission. Pharoah faces this earthly hell of plagues for failing to heed God’s word.

This is an image of what happens to those who speak against God, like those who spoke against Jesus. To call what Jesus does evil or demonic is to reject that work of Jesus. When Jesus’ work is rejected, so are his benefits. There is no salvation, no kingdom of God for those who reject the work of Jesus. Therefore, we must repent of speaking against Jesus.

Maybe you think you have not spoken against Jesus like the people watching Jesus’ miracle, but this does not mean you have not spoken against him. We often speak against him when we don’t like what he does. Sometimes we speak against Jesus because he does not do what we want when we want. Rather than learn patience, we complain that he doesn’t do anything, that prayer doesn’t do anything. Or we may speak against Jesus when his commands are not fashionable or to our liking. Maybe the way God says to live in the Ten Commandments sounds prudish, old-fashioned, our out-of-touch. We think we can speak or live against these commands and still be Christians, but there is no division in the kingdom of God. Therefore, as St. James says, we must bridle our tongues and continually live according to Christ.

Sometimes sin may also come by not speaking. Jesus healed a man who was made mute by a demon, he was unable to speak. Not every muteness is demonic, but this one was. Another demonic muteness is when we are to speak for truth and for Christ, but hold back. Whether it is from fear, the idolatry of what others think, or other sin, it is certainly not from Christ. The devil wants us to be mute when we are to speak up for the truth. When Christians do not speak up, evil wins.

Look at Moses, who was slow of speech and slow of tongue. He was called by God to speak the words of God to Pharoah and to set the Israelites free. Moses gave every excuse of why he couldn’t do it, but God chose him. Moses eventually submitted, and because he was able to speak the Word of God boldly, God worked mightily through him. The greatest empire on earth fell to its knees by the work of the finger of God. That finger of God is no less than the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word of God.

Knowing we have the Holy Spirit through baptism, we can speak for truth and do not need to be silenced by fear or other idols. The same Holy Spirit who saved His people from Egypt works through you as you speak the Word of God. So do not be ashamed or afraid to speak. There are times for Christians to speak publicly. We speak truth against the murderous practice of abortion because it is sinful and harmful to our neighbors, even though it is completely legal. That is why I will be encouraging you all to help participate in the 40 Days of Life in the coming weeks, to speak and pray against this public and permitted evil. Sometimes we need to speak against the actions of people we love. They may need to hear that their way of life is wrong. To speak against this is not hate, but the love of a friend. Parents know that once their children are grown, all they can do is speak, warn, advise, and pray. Do not think these are meaningless or in vain. The devil says to stay silent, to let evil prosper, to let your friend or relative remain in sin for the sake of peace. Remember the peace of the devil’s kingdom is a weak and temporary peace. For when you speak the Word of God, then God will work in a mighty way.

Jesus says, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. To keep the Word of God is both to live by it and speak it. This is not just to recognize there is a God, or agree with some facts. Even the priests of Pharoah recognized by the third plague that Moses worked by the finger of God, and trembled. Yet they did not have faith in God. They did not see the work of the Holy Spirit was for them. Confessing God’s greatness is one thing, confession Christ’s salvation is another.

Before we can confess God, he must free us from sin and loosen our tongues. Only through Christ is anyone able to speak at all, this is true. God has given us this ability. Yet even more, only through Christ can we confess that we believe He has saved us. Only when the finger of God moves our hearts by the Holy Spirit through baptism and the Word do we take in that this salvation is for us.

God saved the Israelites by a mighty work against Egypt. If they had not believed this work, they may have never left. The work had already been done, but it had to be held to by faith. That faith then involved first painting the blood on the doorpost, trusting that God would pass over them with death. Then it was taking one foot in front of the other and moving toward the promised land. It was nothing they had done to free themselves, their faith was the hand that received.

We too can trust in the work of salvation done for us. Christ in his little finger is much greater than the devil. Although we were both the captive goods and guards of the devil’s stronghold, Christ’s kingdom came mightily upon us. In his death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed death and punishment, and thus the devil has no more weapons to defend his kingdom. The strong man is made completely toothless by the stronger man. Every plague that the devil meant for you Jesus has put upon him, and he is bound and powerless. Christ the stronger man has marched in and freed you. He has taken the devil’s goods and made them his own, the church.

Martin Luther wrote in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” about the devil that “one little word will fell him.” Luther was recorded later as saying that little word was “liar.” For that is all the devil has left, are his lies. His lies that tell you that it is better to live against God’s commands, that speaking for truth is pointless, that he can bring you peace by keeping silent. When these temptations come, tell the devil he is a liar, and trust in Christ. You can speak what is true knowing that the stronger man is on our side. Although it may not bring peace in this world, only the one who confesses Christ will be in his kingdom. For Christ has said those who hear and keep the Word of God are truly blessed. Amen.

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