“Christ, the Stronger One overcomes the devil for You in Baptism ” — Oculi 2024

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03. March 2024
Luke 11:14–28

And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today, we see the many ways that the devil afflicts, sickens, and kills us. And we also see how Christ comforts, heals, and raises us from the dead on account of our baptism. You would be mistaken if you think these are metaphorical, spiritual ideas far from daily reality. God’s Word gives you to see what is really real, not the artificial reality that we create to insulate ourselves from the uncomfortable truth. And today, Jesus reveals to you the power and influence of the devil and his demons.

As Christians, we believe that we are both saints and sinners at the same time. We are saints by virtue of our baptism, in which we were clothed with Christ and made heirs of God’s kingdom. But we are also sinners because our old Adam, our sinful nature, still clings to us and wages war against our new self in Christ. And one of the most potent weapons that the old Adam uses against us is the devil.

The devil is the ultimate chaos maker, who defies God’s rule and seeks to destroy God’s creation. He is the “father of lies” who seduces us into sin and leads us down the path of destruction. He is the “prince of this world” who wields power over this age’s kingdoms and seeks to keep us captive to fear, doubt, and despair.

But the devil is not just a myth, a legend, or a caricature we use to explain evil in us or around us. He is a real spiritual force that afflicts us. Artists throughout the millennia have tried to covey the ugly truth of this foe, even notorious bulletin covers. He is a furious enemy who does not stop attacking us until he has either led us to despair or torn us away from the Word. And he uses many tactics to achieve his evil ends. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks plainly to reveal the devil’s strategies. For example, the devil can afflict us with physical illnesses, thus Jesus heals a man who was mute because of a demon. He does this because the devil is himself a virus, a debilitating disease. He infects us with his lies, his temptations, his doubts, his fears, and his despair. He weakens our faith, our hope, and our love. He wants to make us sick in body and soul. 

But the devil can also afflict us with all manner of emotional and psychological disorders, too, as Jesus warns that an unclean spirit can return to a person and make their condition worse than before. The devil is a psychiatrist, a terrifying therapist. He messes with our minds, our emotions, and our relationships. He tempts us to doubt ourselves, to hate ourselves, and to fear others. He would have us be anxious, depressed, and suicidal.

And the devil can afflict us with spiritual doubts and temptations, as Jesus rebukes the crowds for seeking signs and wonders instead of repenting and believing the Gospel. The devil is the ultimate skeptic, the perennial critic. He questions our faith, our hope, and our love. He tempts us to doubt God’s goodness, despair of God’s mercy, and reject God’s truth. He wants to make us proud, self-righteous, and ungrateful.

What can we do in the face of such afflictions? They seem to come daily, fast and furious. How can we resist the devil and his schemes? We seem to stumble and fall without end. The good that we would do, we do not. The things we keep doing, we ought not. The answer is simple and yet profound: we cling to Christ and His promises, especially the promise of our Baptism.

As Luther wrote in his Small Catechism, “Baptism…works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” In other words, Baptism is not just a symbol or ritual, but a powerful sacrament that connects us to Christ and his saving work. It is the clothing of soldiers of the cross, the battle armor and mail of the victorious Christ.

Through baptism, we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Thus, in Holy Baptism, we die to sin and are raised to new life in Christ. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who strengthens us and guides us in our daily struggle against the devil and his minions.

Again, as Luther wrote in Catechism, “Baptism… signifies that the old person in us, along with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned through daily repentance and be put to death, and on the other hand, that a new person should daily come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” In other words, baptism is not a one-time event, but a daily, lifelong process of dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ, through repentance, faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

What can we do in the face of the devil’s afflictions? How can we resist the devil and his schemes? If the devil afflicts you in any way, if you are sick in body, mind, or soul, or tempted to doubt or despair, remember your Baptism! Speak the name of Jesus out loud because His name is the only name by which every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth must kneel, even and especially the devil. Make the sign of His holy cross, remembering that Christ marks you the crucified as His own. Seek the care and counsel of God’s Word in holy conversation with pastor and brethren. Pray the Lord God of Heavenly Hosts to send the promise of His holy angels to defend and protect you. 

And remember that you have been clothed with Christ and are a child of God. Remember that you are forgiven, healed, and raised from the dead by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. And remember that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to comfort, guide, and strengthen you in your daily struggle against the devil and his minions. 

In Baptism, we are given a new identity, a new purpose, and a new destiny. We are no longer slaves to sin, death, and the devil, but heirs of God’s kingdom. We are the house swept and put in order and filled with saints with a mission to proclaim the gospel and to serve our neighbor in love. Thus, when the devil comes with his temptations, interferes in our lives, and accuses us of sin and unbelief, we tell him: “I am baptized, and in that baptism, I have been forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Your accusations have no power over me, because I belong to Christ.”

We cling to Christ and his promises, especially the promise of our baptism, as we face the afflictions of this life. Let us resist the devil and his schemes by putting on the full armor of God. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

And let us also remember that we do not face the devil alone but with the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God has given us not only His Word and His Spirit but also the holy Christian Church, through which He gives us the forgiveness of sins, the sacraments, and the mutual consolation and support of the believers. In other words, we need the church, as a community of believers, to help us in our struggle against the devil and his underlings, to encourage us in our faith, and to remind us of our baptismal identity.

We need the church because we cannot survive the devil’s attacks on our own. We need the church to remind us of our baptism, to proclaim the gospel to us, to administer the sacraments, and to bear witness to Christ in the world. In other words, as baptized Christians, we are free from the power of sin, death, and the devil, but we are also called to serve our neighbor in love, and to support and encourage one another in the faith.

So, my friends, let us not be afraid of the devil and his minions but trust in Christ and his promises, especially our baptism. Let us put on the whole armor of God and support and encourage one another in the faith as we face the afflictions of this life. And let us look forward to the day when Christ will come again to raise us from the dead, to heal all our afflictions, and to establish his kingdom of justice and peace.

And Christ will come again, not to judge or condemn us, but to comfort, heal, and raise us from the dead, on account of our baptism. Christ will come again, to renew the heavens and the earth, to wipe away every tear from our eyes, and to make all things new because we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in the life of the world to come. You are a baptized child of God, so nothing, not even the devil, can separate you from your Jesus.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin