Sermon for Oculi, 2021

Text: Luke 11:14-28

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the opening address of our Rite of Holy Baptism, the pastor says: “The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as his own. We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.” Those are strong words. They’re strong words that teach us about the reality of living in this evil world. It’s an evil world where everything is backwards and upside down. Things that are good are called evil and things that are evil are esteemed as good. We saw exactly this with the way that Jeremiah’s words were received. Jeremiah spoke the truth. He prophesied that Jerusalem was headed for destruction. Rather than listen to the Word of the Lord that Jeremiah proclaimed, those that heard him declared that he deserved to die. In Jerusalem before the exile, good was declared evil.

It happens in our Gospel reading from Luke, too. Good is declared evil. Jesus is good. In fact, he is the only one who is good. Remember, when Jesus is addressed by the rich young ruler he calls Jesus “Good Teacher.” He was right in calling Jesus good, for as Jesus responds to him, “No one is good but God alone.” Jesus who is both true God and true man is good, yet these people call him evil. “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” they say.

This isn’t just a simple, harmless insult. This is evil. These people are not just calling Jesus names, they are outright rejecting him. They have heard the truth of God’s Word. They know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. The proof is everywhere. The words that Jesus speaks are true. The miracles that he’s performed bear witness to who he is. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is the only thing that is good in the evil world into which he comes. They know that Jesus comes to save them. But they reject him anyway. They have hardened their hearts.

The sin against the Holy Spirit is the only sin that cannot be forgiven. When a person rejects the Holy Spirit, their fate is sealed. This is what happened with Pharaoh in Exodus. He hardened his heart. He saw the wonders that God was doing right before his eyes. He knew that the Lord was the one, true God, and he didn’t care. He rejected him anyway. After that, the Lord turned Pharoah over to his own sin. He would save his people Israel, but there would be no redemption for Pharaoh just as there was no redemption for these people who say that Jesus is in league with Satan.

Sometimes we may feel as if we have no faith. We may fear that we really aren’t God’s children. We look all around us and see the really “good” Christians doing all kinds of wonderful things and think that we’ve failed. They’re out there giving to charity and volunteering to feed and clothe the homeless. And what do we see when we look inwardly at ourselves? We see sin. We see all the things that we could be doing and we’re not doing. Our sins are so many that maybe we think it’s not possible for God to forgive them. “Yes,” we say, “Christ has claimed me as his own in Holy Baptism, but that was so long ago. Perhaps it’s not any good anymore.”

Christ has claimed you as his own in Holy Baptism. May we never think this is a small matter! Satan, the strong man who guards his palace, has been disarmed by Jesus at the cross. You were once part of the “goods” that Satan guarded and kept in his palace, but not anymore. The stronger man has come and disarmed Satan. Jesus is the stronger man who overcomes sin, death, and the devil for you. This victory of Christ is credited to your account in your baptism. There at the font your sins were covered by Jesus.

But the problem is that even though Christ claimed you as his own in your baptism, even though it says you were once dead in your sins and trespasses and you were under the power of Satan, the devil doesn’t give up very easily. The devil continues to send temptations your way, trying to do whatever he can to destroy your faith. He tries to convince you that good is evil and evil is good. He comes back with reinforcements. These reinforcements will point to your sin and say your not good enough. They will come to you in the form of false prophets who try and tell you that your baptism doesn’t count because it wasn’t a “believer’s baptism,” or it wasn’t a baptism done by immersion, so it didn’t count. They will scoff at the idea that Christ’s actual body and blood are given to you to eat and to drink here in the Divine Service. “That’s impossible and it’s salvation by works,” they’ll tell you. These reinforcements from Satan will entice you with the things of this world. They’ll tell you that you deserve so much more than what God has given you. They’ll tell you that if you want to succeed in this world you’ll have to forsake the things of God. You’ll need to blend in with the culture and give up on Biblical morality because you can’t get ahead in life that way. Yes, in your baptism the house that is your soul was all swept and in order, but the father of lies returned and he brought friends with him to make it an even bigger mess than it was before.

Luther addresses this problem in the Small Catechism where he gives the answer to the fourth question on Holy Baptism: “What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die along with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six, we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

How many times must a person be baptized? Once. But how many times must a person be converted? Every day. Your baptism was good and valid. It wasn’t valid because you believed it was valid. It wasn’t valid because of who baptized you. It was valid because God in his Word granted you all the benefits of Holy Baptism. You don’t need to be baptized again. But your Old Adam keeps trying to push his head back above the water. You have to keep drowning him. You have to drown him every day. At one time you were in darkness, but now you live the light of Christ.

So how do you go about daily drowning the old Adam? How do you keep fighting off the reinforcements that Satan sends your way? You trust in the stronger man to disarm the evil that attacks you and protect you from the assaults of the evil one. You do this by hearing the Word of Christ where he says “I have done it all for you. I forgive you. Daily you cling to God’s Word. This Word convicts you of your sin, but it also points you again to the cross where that sin was paid for and to your baptism where that was covered and to the Lord’s Supper where forgiveness is placed into your mouth. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” This is the life of the Christian: a daily dying and rising again that is always pointing forward to the Last Day when we will rise from the dead once and for all.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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