Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the third chapter (Mark 3:20-35).
Beloved in the Lord,
The Stronger Man draws near this morning. Though we have hidden ourselves for shame of our sin, neglected His Word, His Will, His House, our Creator will not neglect His creation. Our God does not leave us hiding in the bushes, nor does He abandon us to the whims of our heart’s desire. Contrary to the bumper sticker theology we’ve all seen and heard, the Lord is the seeker, we are the lost. He’s the One who does the searching, we are the ones who need to be found. Thus the Lord walks about in the cool of the day calling out, “where are you? What have you done?” He takes on our flesh and our blood, our human nature. He is born like us – though without sin. He draws near in weakness and the folly of humility that His weakness may be proved stronger than our strength and His folly shown wiser than our wisdom.
The Stronger Man comes into our world, our house, and our lives this morning. But the unbelieving heart thinks him to be a demon or devil, because apart from God’s Word demons and devils are all we know. “He is possessed by Beelzebub!” say the scribes come down from Jerusalem. “And by the prince of demons he casts out demons!” The heart that knows only the things of men, knows only the things of Satan. For since the deception in the garden, man has been bound, held captive in his corruption. And what he feels in this life more than anything is sin, what he knows beyond a doubt is death. Sin and death! The two go together, fettered one to another, each captivating the heart and soul of the descendants of Adam who are themselves held bondage in a strong man’s house destined for fire.
For some the strong man’s house is a place to hide from God, a set a bushes to cower behind, a corner to retreat to, a bunker to hole up in. For others it is a place to revel in the pleasures of the flesh. One can belly up to the bar and drink the strong man’s kool aid, sip on some wicked spirits. In the strong man’s house a person can “get a room” and seduce others for the night, or for an hour, or they can be seduced themselves. Anders can gather in a more pious room. No drinks, no indulgence, but only plotting, implementing, and attempting new methods, emerging ways, and “spiritual” but not “religious” exercises to get out of the house. “Be nice. Be good. Maybe he’ll let you out. Do this, don’t do that? Maybe you can sneak out.”
And the strong man laughs. Humanity’s bondage is sure. Sin is what we feel and experience. Death is what we know for sure. The wages of sin is death. The strong man has us bound in his house. We are bound and we cannot get out. “For no one is able to enter the strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man.” You and I cannot even curtail ourselves let alone our adversary. We cannot break our chains, snap the ropes, cast off the fetters. We are bound. Our will is bound – not free. Bound to sin we commit sin. We look for a way out, but we don’t know where to look. We try to follow others but they’re just as lost as we are. So we go it alone, we go it our way, we stay home where its comfortable. We go fishing. We tell ourselves we’re okay. Our lives aren’t that messed up. And where they are messed up . . . well . . . we tell ourselves that we can fix them. We can patch things up ourselves, get ourselves out, get ourselves to heaven. And the strong man laughs because he knows . . . no one on earth is his equal.
To get out of the house destined for fire we need someone to bind the strong man. We need a Stronger Man to set us free and bring us to a house that will not burn, but will survive for eternity. That Stronger Man is Jesus. Through the wisdom of our Creator the Stronger Man, our Jesus, enters the house in stealth. He does not appear as God Almighty, heaving His chest, swinging His arms, casting the bright beams of His glory to the far corners of the globe! He does not approach in glory but secretly, humbly, drawing little attention to himself He approaches. He bears our human nature and draws near as one of us – though without sin, unbound, free as humanity was created to be. He is fully human and hidden in, with, and under flesh and blood, bone and sinew, He is also fully God.
Born of the Virgin He enters the strong man’s house. Suffering under Pontius Pilate He allows Himself to be condemned. He suffers the hammer and the nails as though He were the chief of sinners. He is bound. He is tortured. He feels the sins that weigh you down and He bears them for you. He faces and embraces your impending death, taking it as His own, taking it into Himself and suffering it for you and for all people on the cross. In Jesus God dies for you. In Jesus the strong man is bound for you. In Jesus humanity is redeemed, bought back, purchased from sure and certain fire. Dying He dies to sin once and for all, that means what happened so long ago, so far away, on tree on a hill, happened for you. Once for all means once for you, and you, and you, no matter your age, your social status, your education, your morality or immorality. The Stronger Man does this for you because He loves you and wants to be near you.
Thus Jesus dies and Jesus rises from the dead. The Stronger man suffers weakness and through His weakness He exerts His almighty strength. The door to the burning house is broken open. Hell’s dominion is plundered. The strong man’s goods are covered in the blood of Jesus. The strong man is himself crushed, defeated by the very tools that once defeated us. For though he once overcame humanity by a tree in the garden, this same tempter is himself overcome by a tree, even the tree of the cross!
Having bound the strong man, our Jesus the Stronger Man, takes up the ministry of reconciliation. Not only has He come to knock down the door of this burning house, but He is come to set the captives free, to give the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation to you. This He does with His Holy Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. This Gospel is His Sword, His arrow, and His battle axe, weapons He wields in the fight to save your soul from the perils of hell. This Gospel is a mighty Word. And with this our Stronger Man, Jesus, seizes the heart of the lost and quickens them to newness of life. The word is preached! The Word is splashed. The Word is placed on the tongue and in the ear.
The Gospel is the inspired Word of the Cross come to sinners with forgiveness. It is the waters of Baptism dripping from head to toe and taking root in the heart. It’s the voice of absolution, the free forgiveness of sins, heard from the pastor who is the Savior’s called, sent and ordained spokesman. It is the proclamation from this pulpit of the Stronger Man’s victory over sin, death, and devil through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is the very body and blood of that same Stronger Man who comes to us hidden under bread and wine, giving into those who eat and drink the very resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Through these the strong man is bound, the bound man is liberated, sinners are forgiven, dead are raised, the Holy Spirit is given, and the fires of hell are quenched for all who believe and are baptized.
Beloved in the Lord, life in the strong man’s house is a lonely life. Sure, there are many in his house, too many. But in that house, in this world, there is only sin and only death. These we feel and experience. These know all too well. But the Stronger man has drawn near to set you free. Setting you free He forgives your sins. All of them, even the worst sins, even the sins you dare not mention for shame and embarrassment. Only those who refuse the Holy Spirit, who remain in unbelief, who stubbornly cling to their shackles and remain in the house destined for fire, only those are unforgiven. For all sins are forgiven except the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Forgiven and set free Jesus leads you to a house built on a sure foundation, a house secure and eternal, one not built with hands, but founded on the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus as the Chief cornerstone. He brings us to His Church. And in this Christian Church we find that we are not alone. We have been made part of a family greater than that of blood. Here in His Christian Church we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are His baptized. We are in Christ. He is our brother, we are his brothers and sisters, united by the same spirit and having the same Father. We are therefore His family united to Him by the bond of the Spirit given us in our baptism. Such a bond is stronger than our earthly ties is worthy of our affections, even our time, treasure and talents. Here in His Christian church we can rest together, sing together, rejoice together, cry together, pray together, work together, confess and be forgiven together. We are His family! For all who do the will of God are the Lord’s brother and sister and mother.
For this, beloved, is the will of God – to believe in His only Son and believing on His name receive eternal life. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI