Sunday, March 7, 2010

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

Oculi – The Third Sunday in Lent 7 March 2010

Luke 11:14-28   (Audio)

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus was about to set His face to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die for the sins of the world He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They responded with a myriad of answers ranging from John the Baptist, to Elijah, to one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the Living God.”

In his classic apologetic for the Christian faith Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis tackled this important question, “Who is Jesus?” Lewis wrote that there are three possible answers to the question – Either, Jesus is a liar, or He is a lunatic, or He is who He says He is and He is telling the truth.

This question, “Who is Jesus?” is part of what is going on in the first part of today’s Gospel Lesson from St. Luke. Jesus had cast out a demon from a man that had kept the man from speaking. The crowd watching was amazed and they marveled at this miracle. But then the questions came, “Who is this Jesus?” “From where does He get His power?” Some accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Others demanded that He provide them a sign from heaven before they would believe Him. But Jesus Himself claimed that He cast out demons by the “finger of God”, the Holy Spirit. So, either Jesus is a demon possessed lunatic, or He is a liar, or He is who He says He is and He is telling the truth.

Isaiah prophesied “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) The good work that Jesus performed in casting out an evil demon is called by some in the crowd an evil deed itself! But Jesus refutes this attack by stating that evil does not cast out evil, for a house divided against itself cannot stand. Yet, the second group also calls Jesus’ actions evil, demanding a sign to prove that He is not a liar. No, the demons flee at the command of the finger of God, for, in Jesus, the kingdom of God has come and is present.

The power of Satan is strong, and on our own we have no defense against him. But Jesus is stronger than Satan. He takes the devil’s armor of sin and death and destroys them from the inside out by the holy cross. He exorcizes and frees us by water and the Word. We were once darkness, but now we are light in Christ the Lord.

Oh what pitiable, half-hearted, milquetoast, fence-straddlers we are. We think we can have our cake and eat it too. We have had our demonic original sin cast out of us in the cleansing torrent of Holy Baptism. We renounced Satan and all his works and all his ways. The demons fled from that Holy Water, cast out, searching for dry and barren habitations. But how quickly the flood waters have receded and we have returned to our casual and unconcerned way of life, thinking that compromising your faith to avoid the worldly scorn of others does not matter. You think that a little sin won’t hurt? God doesn’t expect you to be perfect? You hear the Word of the Lord but you do not keep it. Often you act as if you cannot stand it. Do you believe that you are saved and you need not worry about the forces of evil, that you are freed from sin to keep on sinning?

The demon is gone, for now, but he will come back, and he will bring others, more evil than himself, with him next time. The only way to keep him out is to have the house of your soul occupied by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does not and cannot abide with sin. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” If you are not with the Lord, then you are against Him. There is no fence-straddling. There is no middle ground. You cannot be a little bit sinful or a little bit holy any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant. Only blessed are those who hear the Word of the God and keep it.

For you, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you are a sinner and you will continue to sin, you are not holy. But the Stronger Man Jesus Christ has defeated Satan for you and has stripped him of his strong armor. He has poured into you in the Baptismal flood and in faith the Holy Spirit. Though He will not share you with sin and devils, He will defend you from them. And when you sin He calls you to repent that you may be forgiven and restored in the innocent, shed blood of the One stronger than Satan, Jesus Christ. For, to keep the Word of God is to cling to it in the face of temptation, to trust in it in humble and contrite repentance, and to give thanks for it in love, and praise, and service.

Even now you are invited to keep God’s Word in Sabbath rest as He feeds you, forgives you, and strengthens you as you eat and drink the body and blood of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Today, your Lord stands ready to forgive and renew you by the Spirit of God, the Spirit who drives out the demons as the finger of God and strengthens people for bold, uncompromising witness to Jesus Christ. He Himself wishes to take up residence within you through His Holy Body and Blood, once offered for you as that "fragrant and sweet-smelling sacrifice to God."

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

No comments: