Text: St. Matthew 6:13b. But deliver us from evil. (KJV)
Prayer: My heavenly Father, I pray that You would save me from every evil of body and soul, property and honor, and that at the hour of my death You would mercifully take me from the troubles of this world to Yourself in heaven; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.
When a child reaches a certain age, almost any order is answered with the question, “Why?”“Come in out of the rain, or you’ll get wet.” “Why?”“It’s getting dark; time to go to bed.” “Why?” No answer satisfies!
Three “why” questions appear in the Passion of our Lord—none of which is answered. Jesus asks Judas “why”: “Friend, why have you come?” (Mt 26:50). The second question is Pilate’s to the leaders of the people: “Why, what evil has He done?” (Lk 23:22). Jesus asks the third question as He hangs on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46). Can this be? God forsaken by God? It is impossible to penetrate the divine mystery and workings of the Holy Trinity. Earlier in His ministry, our Lord said of the Father, “He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone” (Jn 8:29). Could Jesus make that claim now?
A “why” question that has troubled philosophers and theologians for hundreds of years and is asked by us when we experience suffering and pain in our lives is, “If God is all-powerful and perfectly good, why is there evil?” If we were to try to figure out the answer to that question using our human reason, we would end up either limiting God’s power or God’s goodness. Either way, our answer would not agree with picture of God we find in the Scriptures.
According to the Bible, what is the cause of evil? Who is behind it? Not God. “Evil” is not His creation, for He created the world and everything in it to be “good.” Rather evil came into the world as a result of sin. The first one to sin and the author of evil and sin is the devil. Shortly after creation, the devil fell from his position as a leader among the angels when he exalted himself above God and led them into a rebellion against God. In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempted our first parents, Adam and Eve into sin. He first led to them to doubt God’s Word and then to disobey God’s command. As result of the fall into sin, evil entered our world in the form of pain, death, misery, and suffering. The greatest evil is eternal separation from God brought by unbelief. The aim of the Evil One is by any means to cause a breach between man and God, to break the relationship between man and God. The Evil One is the personification of all that is against God and all that is out to ruin man in this life and in the life to come.
This brings us to another “why” question: Why did God become man? The Bible answers: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). This same Jesus who came to destroy the works of devil teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” This petition is not only directed toward God, asking for Him to “deliver us” but against the devil. As Luther points out in the Large Catechism, in Greek, this petition literally says, “Deliver us from the evil one” (NKJV). The devil, the “evil one” is the one behind “every evil of body and soul, property and honor.”
For the body there are lungs that can’t breathe and kidneys that fail, cells that go wild and lymph glands that spread cancer. There are bodies that go hungry and bodies that grow old. There are accidents, diseases, and death.
For property, there’s the moth of inflation, the rust of recession, the mold of unemployment, the doors we must lock on our homes and cars, the smoke alarms and fire stations so often necessary, the lack of rain and then again too much of it.
For honor, there’s deceitful lies, gossip and slander, betrayal of confidences or sins and the like, all dredged up from the swamp of hell by the greatest liar of all, Satan.
The greatest evil of all is that which threatens the soul. There’s indifference to the soul’s needs leading to spiritual death by slow starvation; trusting in one’s own works self-righteously pushing the Savior out of the picture; worldliness misdirecting the soul fatally into the backwaters of possession and pleasure; false teachings deluding the soul’s taste buds with their poison; ill will and quarrels, jealousies and hatred causing the soul to shed bitter tears.
Who will “deliver us” from all this evil? The good news of Good Friday is that Christ has “destroyed the devil’s work” by His suffering and death. He has experienced “every evil of body and soul, property and honor” in our place and has destroyed evil at its source, crushing the head of the “old evil foe.”
In His Passion and Crucifixion, Jesus willingly bore “every evil of body” in our place. He prophesied through Isaiah, ‘I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard” (Is 50:6). On the cross, Psalm 22(:16) says, “they pierced my hands and feet”. All this was for us, as He suffered in our place! “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is 53)
From the outset of His Passion, Jesus endured “evil of soul.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, as He knelt to pray for strength to carry out His saving work, He said, “”My soul is crushed with anguish to the very point of death” (Mt 26:38). On the cross, He felt the burden of the sins of the world weighing down upon His conscience. He “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” On the cross He felt the greatest evil the soul can endure, abandonment by God Himself, as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Ps 22:1) He was forsaken by God, that we would never be forsaken by Him.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus suffered from a lack of property. Jesus did not own anything other than the clothes that He wore. He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt 8:20). At His crucifixion, the soldiers gambled for His robe. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (Jn 19:24). Even after His death, Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb. As famed preacher Charles Spurgeon put it, “as his sins were borrowed sins, so his burial was in a borrowed grave.”
Jesus’ honor was under assault throughout His ministry, especially during His Passion. As Isaiah writes, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is 53:3). In Psalm 22, Jesus says, “I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.” (Ps 22:6). As He hung on the cross, “the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. (Mk 15:31)
Having endured “every evil of body and soul, property and honor” in our place on the cross, Jesus “breathed His last.” His last words from the cross were a prayer, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46) These words demonstrate for us the final deliverance for which we pray in this petition. “And at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end and “graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.” Such a blessed end will be ours if we persevere in our faith, trusting in our Savior Jesus Christ during our earthly lives and unto our dying hour.
The Bible often pictures eternal life in heaven in negative terms, telling us what heaven won’t have or be like. In heaven there will be no more evil of body and soul: no hunger, no thirst, no death, no mourning, no crying, no pain (Rev 7:16–17; 21:4; 22:5). In heaven, Jesus “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
In heaven there will be no more evil of property and honor. Jesus promises us an eternal dwelling place, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn 14:2–3). In eternity, believers, despised and rejected during this life “will reign” as a “kingdom and priests” (Rev. 5:10).
In heaven, we’ll no longer need to pray “deliver us from evil,” because evil will all be gone. While we remain in this life, we pray this petition as our confession of faith that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18). Soli Deo Gloria