“But Deliver Us from Evil” (The Lord’s Prayer; Luke 23:32-49)
“But Deliver Us from Evil”: The seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. And how appropriate that we should come to this petition on this particular day, Good Friday. For the greatest evil that has ever been perpetrated on this earth is the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, really, Good Friday could just as well be called “Evil Friday,” that is the magnitude of the evil committed against this wholly innocent man, the most innocent man who has ever lived–indeed, the only truly innocent man to have ever lived.
But the reason we insist on still calling it “Good” Friday is because out of that monstrous evil God has worked the most marvelous good. It’s like what Joseph told his brothers after they had committed a terrible wrong against him. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” So also, in an even greater way, God has brought good out of the evil committed against Jesus.
And because of the incredible good that came out of the enormous evil done on this day, this is how and why we can pray “But deliver us from evil.” And we can be sure that God will do it, as we will now see.
Yes, Good Friday was the day on which the worst evil ever done was done. If ever there was a man who did not deserve to die, it was Jesus of Nazareth. He went about only doing good: Preaching repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Teaching the truth of God’s word, in all wisdom and authority. Unfolding the true meaning of the Law, cutting through the wrong ways that the scribes and Pharisees had taught. Forgiving sinners who knew their need. Healing the sick–the blind, the deaf, the lame. Delivering troubled souls from the clutches of the devil. Feeding the multitudes. All these things were good, immensely good.
All good, and nothing wrong. “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus was brought before the Roman governor, and Governor Pilate declared, “I find no guilt in this man.” Again he told the crowd, “After examining him, I do not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” But the religious leaders who hated Jesus stirred up the crowd, so that they shouted, “Crucify, crucify him!” Once more Pilate said, “Why, what evil has he done?” Indeed, what evil has Jesus done? Answer: None. Even the criminal crucified next to him had to say, “This man has done nothing wrong.”
In contrast, you and I have done a lot of things wrong. The Bible calls this “sin.” It’s our general condition, and it comes out in specific acts that we can identify. Things that we do wrong, say wrong, and think wrong. Things we fail to do right, or think or speak right. It’s our lack of love for God, the fact we do not trust him as we ought, the ways we do not take his word and his commandments seriously. These are offenses against God and deserving of his punishment. Then there are the wrongs we do against our fellow man, especially to the people we encounter in our life. Our sinful nature shows up in the ways we fail our neighbor, the hurtful things we say and do, the ways we avoid helping people when we have the opportunity to do so.
But Jesus? There’s nothing wrong that he has done. No reason for him to be up there on that cross. He has every right to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Couldn’t God have stopped this, this outrageous injustice? Why are you letting this happen, Lord? This is your obedient servant up there on that cross! The bad guys are getting away with this! Why? Why?
Sometimes we search for answers, and we don’t know why. Even though we’re not perfect and sinless like Jesus was, still there are times when evil is committed against us. People do us wrong, unfairly. And sometimes they get away with it. Our reputation is tarnished, or maybe we take a financial hit. Then there are other times when evil things just happen to us, and there may not be anybody specific to blame. A flood, a tornado, a disease. Bad things happen, to bad people, good people, and everybody in between. Evil happens. And, when it does, we wonder if or when God is going to do anything about it.
It’s at times like these that we especially need to pray what our Lord Jesus has taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “But deliver us from evil.” Our faith is in our heavenly Father, in his goodness, and in the final deliverance he has promised us for the sake of Christ. Even when it looks like evil is prevailing–especially when it looks like evil is prevailing.
For that is exactly what Jesus himself prayed, when it looked like evil was having its way with him. Christ’s confidence in the Father’s deliverance did not waver. He summoned up what little strength he had left and he cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Here this seventh and final word from the cross echoes the seventh and final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Saying “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” is simply another way to pray “But deliver us from evil.” Jesus here is entrusting himself into the hands of his Father to deliver him, body and soul, from this evil that is being done against him, this evil thing that’s happening to him. And in so doing, Jesus is providing for us the greatest model and example of prayer, prayer that is borne of faith.
And Jesus’ prayer was answered, of course. The Father did deliver his Son from evil. That’s what Easter will show. As Isaiah prophesied: “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Yes, God has delivered Jesus from evil. And for you who trust in Christ and are joined to him in Holy Baptism–you can be sure that in the end God will deliver you also from whatever evil or evils you face in this life.
Good Friday could really be called “Evil Friday,” because of the horrible evil done on that day. But in what was literally his last hour on the cross, in his last moments, Jesus’ last word from the cross was “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” This was his way of praying the petition he had taught his disciples, “But deliver us from evil.” And because of the great good that came out of that evil–the good news that our sins are forgiven and we are put right with God–and because the Father did deliver Jesus, this is how we can pray now, “But deliver us from evil.” For we know that our Father will do this for us, just like he did for Jesus. “Our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, he will give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven.”