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The Third Sunday in Lent - Luke 11:14-28 - "Blessed and Cursed are Those Who Keep God's Word"

[Luke 11:14-28] Now [Jesus] was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you…

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”


Blessed and Cursed Are Those Who Hear God's Word and Keep It

Hearing the Word of God and keeping it will not get you blessed by this world. Instead, hearing and keeping God’s good Word will get you called evil. It might even get you crucified. Nevertheless, Jesus tells the woman in today’s Gospel, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”

Scripture speaks of those “who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” [Isaiah 5:20]. You are baptized into Christ and are hearers of God’s Word in His household. Around you – and even in your own sinful nature – is a world of words calling the good Word of God evil, calling evil good, making the light of God’s commands out to be darkness, and treating sinful darkness as if it’s light.

Consider what happens to our Lord Jesus Himself in today’s Gospel. Jesus does the good work of God – He casts a mute demon out of a man, enabling the man to speak. For this good work of God, Jesus is called a devil – “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”

As it was for the Lord, so it is for His children. The good of believing God’s Word will get you called evil, a devil, a hater, negative, and so on. To speak or teach God’s Word faithfully is called unloving and hateful. Insisting upon correct doctrine and church practice will get a man accused of “shortening the arm of the Lord” or “putting God in a box”.

God has been good to us. In Jesus, God has loved us as Himself. Much of the good God has done for us is that He has given us His Law and Commands. He hasn’t left us without a guide. And He shows us our sins by this Law so that we can turn to our Redeemer. But this goodness of God is seen as evil by the world.

This is fallen man’s reaction against God’s good Word. Sin itself began as a rejection of God’s Word as something evil: God’s Word, His command, to Adam and Eve was just keeping Eve and Adam from becoming wise like God (or so they were told). So, they followed a different word, that of the serpent, which they came to believe would make them enlightened. God’s Word became evil to them; the devil’s word became good. Calling good evil and evil good.

Think of what reactions arise in response to the faithful hearing and keeping of God’s Word on so many issues: Marriage, divorce. Homosexuality, transgenderism. God’s order of creation regarding male and female. Abortion, or the unnatural desire to limit the number of children. Living together unmarried. All real life issues, and God has not left us without a guide in these matters. He loves us.

Yet how quickly is God called a devil, a hater, for His good work of teaching us the blessing of marriage, the blessing of the undefiled marriage bed, the blessing of being fruitful and multiplying, the blessing of male and female. For His goodness, God is hated.

Think of how you respond when a sermon confronts you with your sin: How you manage your money. Looking out so much for your own self-interest. Your crude or crass joking. The lack of keeping God’s Word in your life and household. When the good Word of God brings to light your sin, do you in turn call that light darkness? Do you call the good Word of God evil because it pokes at your conscience?

Or do you thank God for daily being a Father to you and for loving you enough to correct you as His son or daughter [Hebrews 12:6[1]]? Do we thank God for His Word and Commands, for not leaving us without a guide?

If Jesus were to cast out our demons – if He were to root out our sins – would we love Him or hate Him for it? In the world around us, and within us, so often Jesus is called a devil.

We are to “speak the truth in love”, “with gentleness and respect” [Ephesian 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15]. But do not confuse that with being called “loving”, “gentle”, or with being respected. To hear and to keep God’s Word as it truly is, is always the way to love God and to love your neighbor. It is the thing Jesus calls “blessed”.

The greatest way in which we hate God and hate our neighbor is that we love ourselves and desire to garner approval from others at the expense of the truth. We seek to make God’s good Word more palatable, more tasteful so that we can be loved or respected by the world instead of being called a devil with Jesus.

To hear and to keep God’s Word is, in truth, an act of love. When was Jesus most hated by the world? He was most hated by the world as He was loving the world most – when He was hanging on the Cross to save it in keeping with His Father’s will. Jesus heard and kept the Word of His Father who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Jesus is the one and only man who truly has heard the Word of God and kept it. Jesus’ hearing and keeping the Word of God perfectly meant going to the Cross to save.

Jesus’ hearing and keeping of God’s Word is found in both His active and His passive obedience to God’s Law. Jesus’ active obedience to God’s Law is that he actively fulfilled, kept, obeyed God’s commands in full – He lived the perfect life of loving God with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength and of loving His neighbor as Himself. Jesus heard and kept the commands of God as one who then offered His perfect, unblemished life as the sweet smelling, satisfactory sacrifice to God on behalf of, and for the sake of, all the rest.

Jesus’ passive obedience is that He suffered – it was laid upon Him – the death and hell that is owed due to man’s sin. Jesus obeyed, submitted Himself to, the demands of divine Justice as the one bearing your sin. He kept the Law’s requirement of condemnation – your condemnation – in your place, condemned by the Law for you. It was laid upon Him to suffer the death and hell owed on behalf of all the rest.

Both this active and passive keeping of God’s Word constitute the sacrifice Jesus offered for you. This sacrifice makes atonement for your sin – for the sin of the whole world – so that you are forgiven. In this way, Jesus fully heard and kept God’s Word – Blessed is He.

For this, was Jesus blessed by the world? No, He was hated, was mocked, was spit upon, was struck with fists – and still is in you, in you who keep and teach this Gospel. To hear and to keep God’s Word of Law and this Gospel is the most blessed and the most hated thing.

Jesus has said as much elsewhere: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” [Matthew 5:11]. But why should we be willing to endure such a blessing? To love the God who so loved us. And to love our neighbor as our self.

Your neighbor needs God’s Law and guide as much as you do. Your neighbor needs God’s Gospel as much as you do. You are called to love your neighbor enough to be called a devil by him. The one who hates you now may one day pick up what you’ve given him. For the keeping of God’s Word, Jesus was hated, called a devil, stricken, and crucified. So it was for Him, so it will be for you – for love of God and love of neighbor. Amen.

[1] Hebrews 12:6 – “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

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