Today’s Gospel lesson, Luke chapter eleven verses fourteen to twenty-eight, occurs immediately after Luke’s account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer, where “One of [Jesus’s] disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’ And [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…”’” (Luke 11:1-2).
Jesus shows us by example and in teaching us to pray that this is what faith does: faith prays, confessing the faith. Faith speaks.
Specifically, faith confesses that God is holy—hallowed be Thy name. Faith beseeches God for mercy, imploring Him that His kingdom may come upon us also—Thy kingdom come.
That Jesus teaches us to pray, and what He teaches us to pray, also teaches us what faith itself says.
That the demon is mute, that Jesus casts out the demon and the mute man speaks, shows us what unbelief does: unbelief is silent, content with nothing being said, specifically content with no confession of God’s holiness, no request for God’s kingdom to come upon us.
That the demon is mute and that the mute man spoke, teaches us, again, that faith speaks and unbelief is silent.
In today’s Gospel lesson, unbelief is expressed this way. “Some of [the people] said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,’ while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:15-16).
Some of the people accuse Jesus of being in league with satan. That is, some of the people accuse God of being unholy.
This is what unbelief does—it speaks something similar but ultimately opposite of what faith and God speaks.
Some of the people keep seeking from Jesus a sign, that they would know that heaven is in their midst. That is, some of the people want not for the kingdom of God but for the kingdom of man to be in their midst.
God’s kingdom comes among us by and according to His Word, and when you want God to be your Burger King, when you must “Have It Your Way,” it’s no longer God’s kingdom but yours.
“Give us a sign from heaven” is a prayer desiring not the inch God may give but the mile your heart and will wants for itself.
So to us Jesus speaks the parable of the Stronger Man: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil” (Luke 11:21-22).
The strong man is the devil. Unbelievers are under the influence and effort of satan. When you were baptized, the influence and effort of satan was drowned and killed, and the Holy Spirit took up residence.
But your house, so to speak, must be more than swept and in good order, because the devil seeks to re-enter.
The stronger man is the Holy Spirit. Believers are under the care and protection of God. When you were baptized, you were marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, and as God fought to win you for His own possession, so He’ll fight to keep you.
But your house must be more than swept and in good order. There are no neutral parties. There’s no such thing as a house between God and the devil.
Either the Holy Spirit resides in you—or not.
Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23).
When you were baptized, you were brought into the Church Militant—the Church on this side of the Resurrection—the Church at war with satan, where the fighting is real, the fatigue is felt, and few are those who find the way to eternal life (cf. Matthew 7:14).
Against you fights the strong man, fully armed.
And though satan is a defeated enemy, what he advertises still sells.
The song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is actually a great example of what I mean.
Looking for a soul to steal, the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, “Boy let me tell you what…If you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you…I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul ‘Cause I think I’m better than you.
The boy said, “My name’s Johnny and it might be a sin, But I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret, ‘Cause I’m the best there’s ever been.”
Of course, you know how it plays out.
The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat, And he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.
Johnny wins. The devil loses.
That’s what Charlie Daniels and the devil want you to think. But, of course, when Johnny dies, he’s going to hell.
The devil’s armor is his false humility.
He only pretends to lose. He got Johnny to acquiesce to sin—and—to think himself victorious. With Johnny, the devil wins.
The devil’s content with false peace. He’s content with silence. He’s content with words and songs and creeds and deeds. He’s even content with not being the only god worshipped.
He only needs an inch to get the mile.
If satan came to you and said, “Sacrifice your friends and family, sacrifice your job and money, sacrifice all your stuff, and I will grant you an everlasting life of poverty,” we’d easily resist.
But he knows how to appeal to us.
He tempts us with what we want, hoping we’ll believe that we can worship “God and…” instead of “God alone.”
When satan comes to you and says, “Keep the twenty, give the five. Sleep in. Eat another course. You don’t have to apologize. You’ve done nothing wrong. You deserve this. I’m proud of you.” we like it.
That’s what we want to hear.
The strong man’s armor—satan’s armor—is his false humility. He’s content to lose as long as he brings you down with him.
But—so that we would hear and believe unto everlasting life—Jesus tells us of the Stronger Man, the Holy Spirit, God Himself.
The Stronger Man attacks and overcomes. The Stronger Man takes away the false humility of the devil and divides his spoil.
The Stronger Man has stronger armor and better weapons—the truly humble sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ.
He doesn’t win by accepting the devil’s challenge—he knows better than Johnny does.
Jesus muzzles the devil by means of His cross and death. Jesus silences all that satan says by speaking to us all the words of eternal life.
That is, Jesus shows us that the Lord’s Prayer is true:
God is holy.
In Christ, the Kingdom of God, the power of God, the finger of God, has come upon us.
To help us, heal us, and have us forever.
Jesus silences satan and sets us free to speak, to pray, to confess—that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God, and that we who believe in Him have life in His name.
The strong man, the devil, may have gone down to Georgia.
But Jesus sets His face to Jerusalem.
He goes to Calvary—to fight for you—and win.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Oculi (Lent 3) Sermon, 2019
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt