What It Means that You Are Baptized
Second Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018
We are seeing in this Lenten that the lines are drawn. There is no middle ground. Beginning on Ash Wednesday we are faced with our mortal nature. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. We came from dust and we will return to dust. On the First Sunday in Lent we are shown what happens when you are Baptized. You are led out into the wilderness of this world where there is sin and fallenness and evil. Satan is active and always attacking. But our Lord is stronger. He conquers Satan.
The Second Sunday in Lent shows us that He is our Lord and our Master, inviting us as the children to His table where He feeds us His bread, the Bread of Life. We need this bread, this eternal food, if we are to bear up under the assaults of the evil one. Satan is powerful, though, isn’t he? When God created the heavens and the earth, the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters, the Holy Spirit blessing all creation. When God formed man from the dust His Spirit breathed into him the breath of life, the Holy Spirit personally blessing the crown of creation, human beings. The woman was given life from the man and they were both receiving every good gift from their God. They had every tree for food, including the Tree of Life. The one tree He withheld from them for their protection is the one they ate from because the deceiver who is Satan acted to destroy them.
When you are given the Holy Spirit you are an active target of the evil spirit that is Satan. This world is so full of evil that the voice of Satan seems the rational one. Even though most will agree that manifest evil such as the mass murderer at a school in Florida is the kind of victory Satan most seeks, we learn in today’s Gospel reading that there is no grounds for that. What was it again that Adam and Eve had done? Was it some outrageous event such as what we witnessed recently in students being brought down by gunfire? Wasn’t it that they trusted in themselves instead of listening to and trusting in God’s clear word? What was it in the Gospel reading that prompted outrage and scoffing? Jesus certainly did not do something manifestly evil, or even anything evil. Just the opposite, He cast out a demon and the man who had been mute was now free and able to talk.
Satan would have us listen to him and that means that our private sins are as wicked as our public sins. It means that when God does His good work of forgiving and saving people are offended. Or they think it’s foolish. Or they simply don’t care. Having been Baptized, you are constantly faced with the evil of Satan. That’s why so many things vie for your attention. There are many other important things in life to do at the same time as the hour we gather here for worship. There are many other things we need to get done during the time we gather for the study of God’s Word. When you set out each day to pray and read the Bible you get tired, or you are stressed from your problems, or there are things distracting you, or you have too many other things you need to do, or something unexpected comes up. When you put those things before God and His Word you are listening to Satan and not trusting in God alone.
We too often fall into the trap of the world that sees the terrorist as an evil person but ourselves as good people. But you were born in sin. You were born under the realm of Satan. You needed to be delivered and that is why you were Baptized. In Colossians 1 we see that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Holy Spirit snatched you out of the clutches of Satan and plunged you into the death of Christ and raised you up to eternal life with Christ. Sin is not no big deal. It is the continual chipping away of Satan in your life to conquer you and destroy you.
Some were saying that Jesus cast out demons by the prince of demons, Satan himself. Some were tempting Jesus by seeking from Him a sign from heaven. Jesus knows that the line is clear. You are either on the side of the Lord or the side of Satan. He asks them, How can Satan cast out Satan? He knows they are accusing Him of being in league with Satan. But a kingdom divided against itself will not stand. A house divided will fall. Satan seeks to destroy, Jesus seeks to save.
That man was particularly assaulted by Satan, possessing him. But Jesus speaks of the one who is exorcised of an evil spirit. It goes out and seeks a place to rest. But finding none it goes back to the home it just left. What will it find there? Everything is cleared out and in order. Nothing has replaced the demon so it brings seven more and the state of that person is worse than the first.
It’s one or the other. Either you are in the clutches of Satan or you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. If you put all kinds of other things, even good things, before the things of the Lord then you are clearing the path for Satan to take over your mind and your heart. This is not to say that if you’re sick and miss church one Sunday you are under the power of Satan, or if you go through the whole day rushed and taking no time in devotions you are outside the kingdom of God. It is to say that Satan will tempt you in ways that will eventually exhibit a pattern. And if the pattern is that you have crowded out God and His Word in your life then you have cleared the room of your mind and heart for Satan.
By happy chance a woman in the crowd expressed her joy at the teaching of the Lord and blessed the womb that bore Him and the breasts at which He had nursed. And this is something we are indeed forever grateful for. Even so, Jesus speaks to a blessing beyond what His mother had received, one that we all receive. His mother expressed it this way when the angel Gabriel spoke to her that she would give birth to a son: Let it be to me according to your word. She did not understand how she as a virgin could give birth to a son but she heard the Word of the Lord and trusted in it. Jesus says it this way, Blessed are those who are hearing the Word of God and keeping it.
This is the only way. Living in this wilderness of this life as a Baptized child of God is continually being beset by temptation. Satan will wear you down and overcome you. But Jesus is stronger. He overcomes temptation. He defeats Satan. When you hear His word, when you keep His word, you are given strength in the time of temptation. This is why, having Baptized you, He keeps giving you His gifts, forgiving you, strengthening you. It is here in His House, the place where He speaks and Satan is cast out. In His House we are gathered together. Holding fast to His Word we are united and will stand. Otherwise we are divided and will fall.
In the Epistle reading Paul speaks of how easy this is for us who were once in the realm of Satan. On all the sins that so easily come out of us the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. So he says, therefore, do not join in with them! For at one time you were in darkness. But now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Our unity together is in the Lord. Through His preaching and His giving us His body and blood in Holy Communion.
Paul speaks of the incompatibility of divided allegiance when he speaks to the Corinthian Christians. While Christians know that pagan sacrifices are to gods that do not exist, nevertheless, “what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. … You are not able to drink the Cup of the Lord and a cup of demons; you are not able to partake of the Table of the Lord and a table of demons.” Satan’s religion for us is to join in with the world in false belief. But here at the Lord’s Table you find no false god. You find the true God. In the flesh, in fact. Jesus, present, for you, for your forgiveness. For us to partake of this meal of His in unity of confessing our sins, being Baptized, believing that He gives His actual body to us to eat and His actual blood to us to drink, and that we confess together the same doctrine, not whatever we feel.
What it means that you are Baptized is that you are the child if God. Satan knows this. He will keep coming after you. He wants nothing more than for you to stay away from here where you receive the gifts of your Lord. You are Baptized, this is where you belong. Where you receive your Lord Himself, who died and rise for you. Amen.