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Jesus Is the Stronger Man (Third Sunday in Lent)

[Read Luke 11:14-23] …………20 “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”

Jesus Is the Stronger Man

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”

“At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” [Ephesians 5:8]

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”[Colossians 1:13]

You have been stolen by a better master. You have been pillaged and looted to a better home. A strong man had you bound up as his possession. A stronger man invaded his home, burst your bonds, and stole you away to a better kingdom. You have been transferred, delivered from darkness to light.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is seen freeing people from the bonds of the devil. As Jesus does this, He is falsely accused of doing evil Himself. But, on the contrary, Jesus is the Son of God and His stronger power is the finger of God at work – “if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. ”

Has the Kingdom of God come upon you? We wait for the Kingdom of God. But even now, as we wait, the Kingdom of God does come to us in the means of grace – the Word of God and the Sacraments.

In Baptism, in the Word of God preached and spoken and read, and in the Lord’s Supper of Christ’s Body and Blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, the kingdom of God comes upon you now. As Jesus has said, “I will be with you always” [Matthew 28:20].

Not by what you can do, but by God’s work through His Word and Sacraments, the finger and power of God is at work. By these means – by God’s Word, by the Supper, by Confession & Absolution – by your Baptism always at work – by these means, Jesus is the Stronger Man for you daily and weekly.

Daily and weekly, through those means of His grace and power, Jesus is the Stronger Man for you who delivers you from a once-strong-but-now-defeated-enemy who once had you bound with strong bonds.

The devil is a strong man. The Son of God is stronger.

The world of sin-corrupted mankind is called the devil’s domain – all those who dwell in darkness. What are the chains, the bonds, the fetters by which the devil has bound so many in his domain?

First is sin. Original sin. The devil, in deceiving our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, bound all of human nature – and therefore all of humanity from conception and birth – to sin and evil. Corrupted by sin, human nature is in the devil’s domain. Formed from a sin-corrupted stock, from corrupted human nature, we are all conceived and born in the devil’s bonds and as sinners subject to the devil’s power and dominion. Jesus said this most simply when He said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh” [John 3:6], speaking of our sin-corrupted nature.

From original sin comes what is called “actual sin” – the sins we actually commit as we participate with our sinful nature. Every time we carry out the sinful corruption of our nature by our actual sins in thought, word, and deed, we strengthen and mend the devil’s fetters on our human nature. We grow as slaves to the sin we commit. [John 8:34]

Secondly, the devil has mankind bound by death. Man is bound by death. “The wage of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. “The soul that sins will die” [Ezekiel 18:4]. This domain of darkness is a place of sin and death. Death bound us and held us away from the God who is Life.

Binding men and women now is also the fear of death. Man who doesn’t know God as his hope knows death as his greatest fear. The fear of death and the fear of death’s forerunners, like sickness and disease, have together been powerful forces turning the gears of human endeavor worldwide throughout history.

Man’s fear of death and disease in which he is bound has led, on the one hand, to many medical advances for which we are all thankful and by which we all benefit. On the other hand, this fear leads also to panic, to irrational frenzies, and even to hate and violence.

Ironically, man’s fear of death sometimes leads to man killing. We so fear death in our day that, when an elderly loved one begins to die, many want the doctors to just end their lives immediately (by euthanasia) so we don’t have to deal with death as it really is.

Or, when a baby is to be born with little chance of living long, or with some other effects of death or original sin, the doctor’s answer is to abort the child – to end the child’s life hidden in the womb, so we can hide ourselves from having to see and experience death out here.

Men and women really are bound and enslaved by this fear. Even in the Church, there are congregations which have closed their services before the fast-food restaurants or shopping centers have had to close theirs.

Now the fear of death’s potential forerunner, a new virus, has made many of us frenzied, irrational, and selfish. In a panic, hoarding goods – buying, in fear, more than what you really need, not thinking at all about those who do need it but cannot buy it because the frenzied few have emptied the shelves. Not common sense and rational courses of action, but panic and fear.

Mankind has turned to many things because of this fear of death – except he has not turned to the one who could free him of it. You and your neighbors turn your minds to many anxious thoughts because of the fear of death, and you forget to turn your thoughts to the one who has conquered death. In Jesus, there is no longer fear, but calm. In Jesus, death no longer binds you but is a defeated foe. Fearful death is now the gate to life immortal because of the Stronger Man, Jesus.

Sin, death, and the devil are strong. Jesus is Almighty.

By His death Jesus has trampled down death – “Death is swallowed up in victory”[1 Corinthians 15:55]. “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases”– [Matthew 8:17].

On the Cross, Jesus entered the strong man’s domain. Jesus entered your sin and your death on the cross, and by His resurrection Jesus has burst those bonds. Jesus has looted you out of the devil’s domain – He has entered and has stolen you out of sin, death, and the fear of death. You now belong to the household of the Stronger Man.

Since Jesus has burst the bonds of sin and death and has delivered you out of the devil’s domain, don’t put yourself back in bonds by willful sinning or by letting the fear of death rule over you.

In the midst of a scared world and scared neighbors, your peace and your calm and your rational behavior is a witness to the peace you have with God through your Lord Jesus Christ. That you are not dominated by a fear of death gives your neighbor reason to hope in the Lord in whom you hope.

We do get sick. We do die. We do respect the life God has given our bodies and therefore take rational precautions. And we’ll end today with these words of faith in the Stronger Man: Jesus said of Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” [John 11:25].

Courage shall not fail you. You are at peace with God. And nothing in all creation - neither death nor sickness nor any other peril – shall be able to separate you from the love of God. In peace and calm, live by faith in the Stronger Man, Jesus Christ, who is our Resurrection and our Life. Amen.

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