The Strong Man Bound and His Goods Plundered

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 3:20-35 (Gen. 3:8-15)

Dear people rescued from Satan: grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our Gospel reading contains one of the scariest verses in the Bible: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (v. 29). This verse is meant to be scary. It’s meant to scare us from blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

On Pentecost Sunday, we heard about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts and bears witness about Jesus. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and points us to Jesus as the one who has taken our sin away. The Holy Spirit calls us to repentance through the Word of God.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is to reject His call to repentance. It is not about any particular sin, but it is refusing to turn away from any sin and receive forgiveness. Every other sin can be forgiven. No other sin is an eternal sin. We are all sinful and we all commit sin every day. Some Christians even fall into great shame and vice in their weakness. But these sins are not the same as blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is refusing to turn away from sin when you are called to repentance and faith through God’s Word. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not any act of sin, however heinous, but a state or habit of sin which someone wilfully choses and in which he persists in opposition to the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21) We’ve got a list that includes everything from orgies to strife, and from idolatry to anger. In a list that contains grievous sins, it might be a little shocking to hear sins we are guilty of committing appear in that same list. But the point here of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God is again the same as with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Not just those who fall into sin because of their weak and sinful flesh, but those who make a practice of sinning, who live for the sake of sin, who refuse to turn away from sin when the Holy Spirit calls them to repentance and faith.

We are sinful, so we sin. But we have been given the Holy Spirit, and thus we battle and struggle with sin. The Holy Spirit that dwells within us does not allow sin to rule our lives. There is a continual war going on within us because we have the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 7). Christians do not live in sin without turning away from it because we have been given the Holy Spirit, and thus Satan is not able to hold us captive to sin.

Satan is the strong man Jesus mentions in our Gospel text. As Jesus said, Satan doesn’t attack himself or rise up against himself (vv. 23-26). His kingdom is not divided against itself nor does it capture itself. Satan does not cast out his own demons. Rather, Satan seeks to attack us. He seeks to capture us. He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). We are weak, unable to defend ourselves from him. Indeed, without Christ, we are hopeless, captured prey in Satan’s house.

Jesus said, “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.” (v. 27) How is Satan defeated? He does not defeat himself. Rather someone must first bind him, and then plunder his goods. Someone must render Satan powerless and then save the captured prey from Satan’s house.

This is exactly what Jesus has done. Jesus has rescued us from the devil. Jesus bound the strong man and plundered his house (cf. also Isaiah 49:24-26). He bound Satan and rescued us from his captivity.

In our sins, we were hopeless to save ourselves and escape from Satan. Because of our sins we deserve to spend eternity with Satan in hell. But Jesus would not have it so. Jesus is the stronger one (cf. Mark 1:7) who bound Satan. Jesus “took captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8) and plundered Satan’s house, saving us from under his power. Our sin which held us captive under Satan has been forgiven. We have been released from the Law which would accuse us (Rom. 7:6).

Satan’s reign over us has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our sins do not keep us captive to Satan. Jesus bound Satan and he is thus powerless to hold us captive. And since Jesus took captivity captive, captivity itself is captured. There is no longer any captivity to threaten God’s people. Christ has conquered sin, death, and the devil and He has made us free. The threats of hell to capture us are powerless.

Our sins are wiped out. Our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Every grievous sins we are guilty of committing was put on Jesus. Every sin of which we are not even aware was put on Jesus. Jesus took our punishment in our place, thus plundering the strong man’s house. Jesus plundered us from Satan’s house. Jesus saved us from eternal death by His death. Jesus rose again to show Himself victorious over the devil and to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

This is the promise God made already to Adam and Even when they fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. God promised that although the serpent would bruise the heel of the offspring of Eve, her offspring would bruise the serpent’s head. Indeed crush his head. What joy in the middle of such tragedy!

Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in them being barred from paradise. They were kicked out of the perfection of paradise. Instead of the bounty of the garden feeding them, Adam had to start working for their food, all while God cursed the ground and it started to bring forth thorns and thistles to work against Adam and his descendants. Eve and her female descendants had the pain of childbearing multiplied and have to struggle against the desire to rule over their husbands against the order of creation.

Yet, in the midst of this tragedy, God gave the promise of a Saviour who would defeat the serpent who brought mankind into sin. God gave the promise that a mightier one would come and crush the serpent’s head, binding the strong man and plundering us from his captivity.

Jesus is the fulfilment of this prophetic promise. Satan’s reign over us has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our sins do not keep us captive to Satan. Jesus bound Satan and he is thus powerless to hold us captive. The Holy Spirit that dwells within us does not allow sin to keep us captive. Our sins are forgiven like they never existed.

This forgiveness is not a one-time event. Yes, in your Baptism you became God’s child and received the forgiveness of sins. But God also continually gives you the forgiveness of sins through Absolution and through the Lord’s Supper. He doesn’t bar you from the Lord’s Table because you’ve fallen into sin again this week. Rather He continually compels you to come and receive forgiveness. God knows the struggle you have with sin, that’s why He is so overflowing with His forgiveness. God knows your weaknesses. That’s why He gives His Son’s body and blood to strengthen you. God knows what you need and He gives it to you freely.

God gives it to you freely because Jesus earned it for you. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, He earned forgiveness for you. By His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the devil and He has made you free. Captivity itself is captured. There is no longer any captivity to threaten you. Christ has bound Satan and plundered you from his house. You belong to Christ and you have to fear nothing. You are free. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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