THE 3RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
2 Corinthians 4:13:-5:1 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Mark 3:20-35 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.
A strong man, that is what the Lord Jesus compares Satan to this morning. How strong is strong? According to the blessed doctor Luther, “on earth is not his equal.” Now that’s pretty strong. That’s even stronger than Pastor Fast from Coburg who holds the Guinness World record for strength for pulling a fire truck down the road. Satan is as powerful as you can get. None on earth is greater. None on earth is stronger. That’s something you need to think about when trying to face him down.
“On earth is not his equal,” yes, those are good words to have in mind when you come up against him, beloved. Strength beyond imagining is his. God gave it to him when he made him in the beginning, when He created him as one of the sons of the morning, the beings of light who testify to the might of their Creator through the very power that He gave to them. God gave him this power for good and for His glory but Satan in rebellion turned it all against Him. Not directly, no Satan could not do that, but by going after what He loved, His creation, man, us.
On earth is not his equal, yes, we see that today in Eden as he comes up against Adam and Eve. Now when we think of the first man and woman we often think of innocence, which is true, but innocence in our minds can often be equated with weakness and naivety. But what we need to know, beloved, is that Adam and Eve are the best we have to offer. They stand in the Eden as God’s perfect creation in His own image. Adam and Eve face the evil one without original sin. Unlike us their hearts are not yet turned toward evil. They are completely holy.
If anyone had any hope of standing against Satan it was Adam and Eve. We need to understand this, beloved. The Lord had not made them with some fatal flaw that would doom them to falling. Adam is profoundly mistaken when he suggests that there was something wrong with the helper fit for him that God had created for him in Eve. Eve was as perfect as Adam was and there was no imperfection in Adam that somehow got passed on to her. No our first father and mother were very good in every sense of goodness, since God Himself is the One who passes this judgement over them, and He does not veil the truth or lie.
“On earth is not his equal.” Now, if Adam and Eve in all their perfection could not stand against the evil one, if they weren’t wise enough to outsmart him, if they weren’t strong enough to resist him, if they weren’t secure enough to withstand him, what hope do you and I have who were conceived in iniquity, who have hearts turned toward evil from youth, who ever lean towards the evil that we do not want to do, what hope do we have against such an adversary? Is it really any surprise when we fall before him time and again?
Why you might ask does God leave us with such an enemy? Why doesn’t He put an end to him? Why doesn’t He have him pick on someone his own size? Why, when we are so weak and in such a weakened state after the fall into sin, does almighty God leave us with such a strong foe? Here we need to remember, beloved, what our real problem is when it comes to sin. It’s easy to think of sin as a bunch of bad or naughty things that we do. Now those things are sinful, things like calling your brother an idiot (even in your head), or looking after a woman to lust after her (even in internet porn), or things like running down your brother or sister - gossiping about them or grumbling against them. But the real problem beloved, is that we were convinced in the beginning that we could stand on our own without the Lord.
This is what Satan convinced Adam and Eve to do and it’s his main goal even now, which strangely is perhaps the very reason that God leaves us with such a strong enemy to trouble us. The Lord leaves us with an enemy against whom we don’t have a fighting chance, beloved, to keep us from thinking that we can get by without Him. He allows such a foe so that we can be led back along the path of repentance to Him. He doesn’t leave us in such a position, where we keep falling on our faces over and over again, because He enjoys watching us fall. No, it grieves Him to the heart each time it happens. No, he allows it so that we might learn to cry out with St. Paul, “O wretched man that I am who will save me from this body of death?”
Who will save me? Yes, beloved that’s where we need to be, because then, and only then, can we be saved, because we know we need a Saviour and are ready to look to Him. And so you see God allows Satan to keep his strength, and make no mistake about it, although he would like you to think otherwise, Satan has no power other than the power that God gives him, but God allows him to keep it because it is the very thing that undoes him in our lives. If we could conquer the devil on our own he would remain the victor over us because we’d have done it by our own power and not had to return to the Lord, which would keep us right where Satan wants us - divided away from God on our own.
And so today the Lord in His mercy unveils the strength of the one who stands against you, as He identifies him as the strong man, who is at the head of a great kingdom of evil, who has powers and principalities in the heavenly places lined up against you, and yes, is even wiser than the sons of light who in their sin often allow themselves to be divided against one another. We in Christ’s kingdom should be of one mind and heart on the goal of the Church, yet, unlike Satan and his forces, we are often rent asunder by schisms and distressed by heresies, again if it wasn’t through our very weakness that God works our victory, the Church would have fallen long ago. Satan’s kingdom though, will not self-destruct because they are united in their goal of destruction.
On earth is not his equal, thanks be to God! Yes, indeed, beloved, which may seem like a strange thing for a Christian Pastor to say, but you see such a powerful foe keeps us from leaning on our own understanding or relying on our own strength, which is the only path to salvation because it leaves us leaning on and relying on Christ and Christ alone, who we see today is the very promised Seed of the Woman, on account of the enmity that we witness today and throughout the Gospel between Him and the Serpent. Again, Satan’s own rage against Jesus works against him, because it proclaims Jesus as the promised Saviour, right up to the point where he sinks his deadly fangs into Christ’s heel on Calvary. That very bite raising Christ up in the air so that He might draw all men unto Himself and bring His heel crashing down on Satan’s head, crushing him for all eternity.
On earth is not his equal, no, but the One who came down from heaven and was made man for us and our salvation is much more than his equal. As very God of very God He is his superior in every way. What we could not do, God has done for us, beloved, in Jesus. As Satan bound Jesus fast to His cross he unknowingly tied himself up in those very bonds. As He wounded Jesus there he gave himself a mortal blow that spells his own doom. Christ has bound the strong man for you beloved. He has bound him so that He could plunder you from his house … so that He could deliver you from the kingdom of darkness into his marvellous light. That plundering happened when you were baptized into Him. Where with a mighty arm and an outstretched hand the Lord wrestled you out of the strong man’s power.
The only way that Satan can have you, beloved, is by dividing you away from Christ, and make no mistake about it he is working hard to make that happen by not only leading you to fall, but most dangerously, by deceiving you into thinking that you should be able to or can stand on your own. But our dear Lord Jesus Christ is here today in His body and blood to overcome these foul plans of Satan by setting before your eyes once more just what it took to save you - the very death of God, so that you might not be deceived or led astray from your trust in Christ and Christ alone, but looking to Him for forgiveness and life, you might indeed be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Amen.