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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jan 28, 2018  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.

The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel Lesson for this 4th Sunday of Epiphany, Mark 1:21-28. There we read these words:

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN.

When mankind first encountered the devil himself, mankind doubted that such an evil being could exist. You know the account of that ill fated meeting. It was Eve who was first deceived by the serpent, and it was Adam, having been deceived himself, who brought sin and death, the evil marks of the serpent, as a curse upon the whole world.

Consider, if you would, the effect of Adam's failure to discern the existence of the evil one. "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat (God said), for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Such was God's command, and in a single act of disbelief and rebellion, Adam ate, and sin and death grasped hold of all of creation. St. Paul says in Romans 5, "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned."

From Genesis 3 and on, the Bible speaks of the dastardly deeds of a personal being, a fallen angel, known as the devil, or Satan. It was Satan who stood up against Israel and moved King David to number the people of Israel in direct disobedience to God in I Chron.1.

It was Satan who tested Job, taking him to the very brink of despair which he would have crossed were it not for the all sufficient grace and mercy of God. It was Satan who entered into the heart of one Judas Iscariot and moved him to betray the Savior, though he had been numbered among the twelve disciples. It was Satan who confused the mind of Simon Peter, such that he sought to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus.

Yes, the devil is real, for as St. Peter says, "...he walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." And because the devil is real, St. Paul says in Ephesians 6, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

When Jesus Christ was born into the world to fulfill the promise of God given in Genesis 3:15, that "He would put enmity between (Satan) and the woman, and between (Satan's) seed and her Seed; (that) He would crush (Satan's) head, and (Satan) would bruise His heel," Satan was aroused to the fight, seeking to put to death the son of God. Spewing forth his evil, Satan sought to destroy Jesus when He was yet but an infant.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

And so, Rachel wept for her children, as all the young boys of Israel were slaughtered at the hand of Satan's emissary, King Herod. All a desperate attempt of the evil one to destroy the Holy One of God that men might remain forever in his grasp and in the grasp of death.

That is why, dear friends, as you listen to God's Word, you have to conclude that Satan's existence is really beyond question. Acknowledging the existence and the power of the evil one, Dr. Martin Luther wrote, in his Reformation hymn which we just sang, "The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on earth is not his equal."

And yet, today, people are quite content to doubt that such an evil being does exist. In doing so, they open themselves up to a great danger, to the temptation that once befell and overcame Adam. Oh, don't get me wrong, people today don't doubt the existence of evil itself, after all, we are living in the age of the very "axis of evil," an age in which we have felt, as a nation, the devastating effect of evil

But, my friends, doubt not the existence of the evil one, for he means deadly woe, and on earth is not his equal. Certainly, this text from Mark 1 should awaken you to his existence, and to "the spiritual forces of evil" that seek to destroy you. As the evil one inhabited this unfortunate soul in the synagogue at Capernaum, so he seeks today to destroy that which he may.

While you don't see today, with great frequency, Satan's possession of the human soul, particularly in "Christianized countries," you should, nonetheless, be sobered by the prospect of his power and driven to pray all the more fervently, Lord, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

The question might be asked though, "what victory has the devil ever gained over God and His Anointed Son, Jesus Christ?" Some would look to the cross of Jesus and claim that, at least for a time, Satan had his way with Jesus, his victory over Him.

But, my friends, such a victory is nothing more than a "seeming" victory, for Jesus' death on the cross was the very event in which He, the Seed of the woman, crushed the head of the Serpent.

While we sing our Hosannas on Easter Sunday morning, rejoicing in the victory of Jesus over sin, death and the devil, we do so in celebration of the battle that was fought and won on Good Friday, for it was there that Jesus destroyed the power of Satan and bound him, that he might not deceive and destroy the children of God anymore.

Wielding that victorious power that belongs to Him, and to Him alone, Jesus confronted the unclean spirit in the synagogue at Capernaum. "Be quiet (He said), and come out of him!" Just as God spoke in Genesis 1, calling forth light out of darkness, so it is that Jesus wielded the same powerful word in Capernaum, rendering the devil powerless to condemn and destroy.

The point is this. Never underestimate the power of the Word. The people in Capernaum were amazed, for Jesus spoke as one having authority.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Perhaps the people had become their own authority, and thus they were suspicious of another authority. Perhaps they were lulled to sleep by the meaningless mantra of their religious leaders. Perhaps they just expected Jesus to be powerless when confronted by the prince of darkness.

Do you ever do that? Do you ever expect something less from Jesus, that is? Are you ever tempted to despair, lamenting, have you ever said, or been tempted to say, "...all we can do now is pray?"

Well, my friends, remember this text from Mark 1, for when Jesus spoke even the prince of darkness was forced to bow before Him. Remember too, the cross of Jesus, in which He dealt the final blow to your enemy, in which He crushed the head of the serpent, rendering Him powerless to condemn and destroy you.

And come here, to this altar of grace, where Jesus will come to you all the more, filling you with His strength and with His power. Kneel here at this rail, and hear the amazing Word of Jesus Christ as He says to you, "Take and eat, take and drink, this is My body, this is My blood, given and shed for YOU." And then witness the flight of the devil as he flees from such words of grace and power.

My friends, the very antithesis of good, Satan himself, is a real, personal being who is bent on the destruction of all that God has created. He is due respect, not as one to whom homage is due, but as one, as Luther reminds us, whose power is not equaled in this world.

And yet, he is not to be feared, for all fear, love and trust belong to Him who holds the field forever, Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God.

"Be quiet (Jesus said) and come out of him! What is this (the people asked)? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." With such astonishment the people in Capernaum looked on as Jesus rebuked and cast out the unclean spirit from a hapless sufferer. "With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."

So it is that the "Seed of the woman," the Son of God, "has crushed the head of the serpent," that he may no longer take captive the sons of Adam.

The serpent's mark, resulting from Adam's failure to obey, has been replaced by the mark of the cross, received, both upon your forehead and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Dear friends, always, always remember. Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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