Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany based on Mark 1:21-28
Dear people saved from the devil: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Talking about the devil is not a popular topic of conversation. It is not even common in sermons these days. People want to hear good and pleasant things, not about the devil or about hell. “Tell me about Jesus blessing the children or calming a storm, not about the devil or his demons.”
This is understandable. It is not nice or pleasant to hear about the devil. Yet, it is important that we hear about him. It is important that we hear about this great enemy of ours who is scheming to tempt us and prowling to devour us. It is important that we know that he is wily and cunning, a murderer and a liar, and that we understand that he unceasingly wages war on the Church of God through every means possible. This means the devil wages war on you.
Ever since tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, the devil has been tempting mankind to question what God says. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” he asked, twisting God’s Word. (Gen. 3:1) “Did God actually say,” the devil continually asks.
The devil has his successes. The Bible tells us the devil incited King David into sin which resulted in God striking the people of Israel so that 70,000 men died from pestilence (I Chron. 21). The devil enticed King Ahab into a war which resulted in his death (I Kings 22). It is the devil who forbids marriage (I Tim. 4:1-2) and who tempts married people to infidelity (I Cor. 7:5), which we know goes everywhere. The devil snatches God’s Word out of hearts who hear so that they would not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12), and he sows his evil children among the children of God to cause strife, discord, and fighting even in the church (Matt. 13:38-39).
Do you think the devil is not behind the evil we see in the world? Do you think he is not behind the teaching of evolution that is taught to our children in school that denies what Scripture teaches? Did God actually say, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first billion years”? (cf. Gen. 1:5) Do you think the devil is not behind the murder of unborn children, whose blood cries up to God from the ground? Did God actually say, “You shall not murder, unless the child is not yet born”? (cf. Ex. 20:13) Do you think Satan is not behind homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, and every other perversion of God’s gift of marriage? Did God actually say, “You shall not commit adultery, unless you were born that way”? (cf. Ex. 20:14)
The devil has so blinded the minds of this world that they will unhesitatingly and unblinkingly call black white and white black (2 Cor. 4:4). His power in the world is so great, that Scripture even refers to him as “the god of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
Unbelievers are completely under the power of Satan until God’s grace and power deliver them from the domain of darkness and transfer them into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14).
This then is why we hear about Jesus casting out a demon in Epiphany. Yes, it reveals that Jesus is God, but it also reveals that the coming of the promised Saviour means that the reign of God has arrived in the person of Jesus, as He takes men captured by the devil away from the devil with nothing more than His Word. “Be silent, and come out of him!” is the command from Jesus for the devil to release his grip on the man and depart. It is the revelation that Jesus was beginning to turn back the forces of the devil and drive him to destruction.
Just before His crucifixion, talking about His own death, Jesus announced, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31) Jesus’ death appeared to be Satan’s victory, but in reality, it meant his overthrow. It meant the casting out of Satan from power and his reign ended.
The world was judged when Jesus was judged. The world was found guilty, but Jesus took that guilt on Himself. Jesus was punished for the sins of the world as He suffered and died.
Death was unable to keep Jesus. Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead. This means that Satan’s threats of death because of our sin are vain and useless. Our death is now nothing to fear, since we will rise from the dead as Jesus rose from the dead. Everyone who is in Christ has conquered death. Everyone who is in Christ will rise to everlasting life.
Thus, remain in Christ. Remain in Christ by remaining in His Word. Remain in Christ by receiving His body and blood. Being in Christ is your protection from Satan and his attacks and temptations, and from his fiery darts with which he seeks your eternal ruin.
Do not think that God gave you His Word for nothing. Do not think Christ commands you to abide in His Word (John 8:31) for no reason. God gave you His Word and commands you to abide in it because you cannot defend yourself from the devil on your own. Abide in Christ’s Word so that you will not fall for every trick and temptation of the devil.
If you do not abide in Christ’s Word, when the devils tempts you and asks, “Did God actually say…” you will have no idea of what God said or didn’t say. If you do not abide in God’s Word, you will be blown around by every false teaching and false teacher because you do not know what God has actually said.
And do not think Christ Jesus instituted a useless meal. Do not think He commands you to commune often for no reason. Christ gives you His body and blood to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith often so that you are always protected from the devil. Martin Luther wrote, “If you knew how many fiery darts the devil was shooting at you, you’d run to the Sacrament of the Altar every chance you got!”
Christ’s body and blood keep you in Christ, which means His righteousness and perfection cover your sin. Christ’s body and blood keep you in Him, safe from the devil’s ugly accusations, safe from a guilty conscience, safe from hell.
Christ gives you His Word and His body and blood because He doesn’t want to lose you. He refuses to allow the devil to take you. He yearns jealously over you (James 4:5) because He wants you completely for Himself.
The devil is more powerful than we are. He is smarter and more cunning than we are. He is our great enemy who is scheming to tempt us and prowling to devour us. But he cannot have us. He has been defeated and his power has been destroyed. He bit Jesus’ heel, but he bit off more than he could chew as Jesus crushed his head.
Christ has given us His Word so that we won’t fall for Satan’s twisted lies. Christ gives us His body and blood, so that even when we do fall into sin, the devil still can’t have us. Christ’s Word and His body and blood strengthen and preserve us in body and soul to life everlasting.
That’s why we can talk about the devil all we want without fear or unpleasantness. The devil is powerless. He’s been cast out. He may convulse and cry out like the demon did, but he must obey Christ who conquered him. His reign is ended. His power is gone.
Did God actually say that the devil, the ruler of this world be cast out? Yes, He did, and then He died and rose again, and actually did what He said and cast the devil out. His power over us is finished, and we do not need to fear him. That is both a nice and pleasant thing to hear. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.