Lent I – February 22, 2015
Sermon Text: Mark 1:9-14
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 first chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Out of the Water and into Battle
Immediately, having been baptized by John, Jesus is driven by a Dove to the Wilderness. Still dripping with His Father’s voice the Beloved One finds Himself among the beasts of the earth. This is no Eden. Everything is against Him; the ground, the animals, the devil. Only the Angels minister to Him, and this at the conclusion of His temptations. The New Adam is all alone with the Serpent and the world. He is there to liberate His bride. He is there to renew what was lost in the fall. He is there for you and me and for all humanity, every man, woman and child. His concern is your eternity not temporal fame. He battles not against flesh and blood, but “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 ESV) He takes “nothing for [His] journey except a staff– no bread, no bag, no money in [His] belt”– (Mar 6:8 ESV) nor a sword in its sheath.
He is driven by a Dove and bearing “the exact imprint of the Father’s nature” (Heb 1:3) He enters the dominion of the great usurper, the murderer of souls now meets the Resurrection and the Life in a cosmic clash of Words. For it was words that brought down the first Adam and so it shall be with Words that the Second Adam brings low the deceiver and raises up humanity.
Temptation: Wrenching us from Christ
You who have been baptized into Christ share not only His victory over sin, death, and the devil, but you also have been marshaled into a heavenly army in confrontation with the Devil. Immediately, upon your baptism you were transferred from the dominion of the devil to the Kingdom of God. The Stronger Man entered the strong man’s house, bound him with Words and plundered him with Water. He who was your enemy has proved His friendship. For “greater love has no man than this that He lay down His life for His friends.” (John 15:13) Christ calls you His friend. He who was your warden is now your mortal enemy. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Pe 5:8 ESV)
He intends to wrench you from Christ and His Church through temptation. For the Devil knows no other way. Eden’s strategy may not have proved a success in the wilderness but Satan’s methods are dear to his heart, bound to him like rusty fetters and clanging chains, irons which will one drag him to the lake of fire.
But until that day, that great and terrible day of the Lord’s return, Satan is after you. Being after you means tempting you like he tempted Adam, like he tempted Jesus. To wrench you from Christ he must first wrench you from the Word. His first temptation, his most lethal word is a word instead of God’s Word. He will do all that he can to make God’s Word appear worthless in a world where mammon is necessary to survive. He will impose everything upon you to force you to support your body and life while neglecting the bread of life. What you see, what you feel, the rumbling in your stomach, the aching of your heart, he will use to his advantage and your peril if you surrender God’s Word for bread.
Where the lure of mammon fails our adversary will appeal to our piety. “For if the devil cannot cause us to despair of God’s benevolence, he brazenly tries next to see whether he can make us proud and reckless enough to rely on our own righteousness.” (Luther’s House Postils, pg. 316) Using and abusing the very Word we are to hold dear, Satan sets before us words and promises of God, fitting the scriptures together like a distorted puzzle, confusing Law and Gospel. He tempts us to do what God has not ordained, setting our piety and righteousness, the works of our hands, against the righteousness of God which comes by faith. Such an alternate spiritual lifestyle is called tempting God. Where the first temptation leads to despair of God’s goodness, this temptation leads to arrogance.
Where temptations to mammon and piety fail, the lure of fame and power returns us to Eden. “You will be like gods” is our heart’s desire. Thus “the third temptation involves setting human traditions and doctrines above the Word of God.” (Luther’s House Postils, pg. 318). Anything that is exalted above the Word of God seeks to unseat God from His throne and is tantamount to worshipping the devil. Therefore, all self-centered and self-conceived spirituality, no matter how much it appeals to reason, glitters before the nations, or enchants the masses, leads to idolatry and bends the knee before the altar of demons.
The Tender Mercies of Old
These temptations have not left us because we are baptized into Christ. As you well know and as experience teaches quite the opposite has occurred. And we must admit that we have fallen into sin. Even after conversion the appeal of sin to the senses, to the soul, is sometimes too much. Falling into sin the greatest temptation is to remain in sin, to let sin have dominion over us, to comfort ourselves with cheap grace. Yet, the Way of the Lord is a “Highway of Holiness upon which no unclean person shall walk.” (Isaiah 35:8) What are we to do? Who will save us from this wretched body of death? Here, now we must lift up our eyes with King David and behold the tender mercies of the Lord. Though we have done what is shameful and not done what is good, the Lord does not keep a record of sins. With the Lord there is forgiveness; therefore He is feared. “He remembers His covenant forever, the Word that He commanded for a thousand generations” (Psalms 105:8).
It is a covenant sealed in blood. Not the blood of bulls or goats for there could never be enough for the sins of the world. The blood of the Lamb of God, He takes away the sins of the World. David’s Son is David’s Lord and John’s Lamb is John’s bridegroom. The Son of Adam is the Son of God who goes forth from the waters to the wilderness, from Judea to Galilee, from Capernaum to Jerusalem, from the mount of transfiguration to Mount Moriah. And He goes alone for us, for you and carrying the wood upon His shoulders bearing the weight of the world upon His heart.
He is the mercy of God made flesh,
the One who is stronger than the strong man, even in His weakness.
Jesus is the friend of sinners, and the fuller of a soiled conscience.
With pierced heel He siphons the cobra’s venom
With striped back He heals the wounded.
With bloodied brow He outwits the deceiver.
His death is the end of Death’s reign.
His burial is the sanctification of the graves of all the saints
His Resurrection is just the beginning of a harvest yet to come
Water and Words are His weapons of liberation.
Bread and Wine are food for the journey.
Absolution is His greatest delight. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16 ESV)
Today, therefore is not a day to despair. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of God’s favor and the serpent’s demise.
Today His mercy calls us. To wash away our sin.
However great our trespass, whatever we have been,
However long from mercy Our hearts have turned away
Your precious blood can wash us And make us clean today.
Those who hunger for righteousness shall not be denied but are given to feast upon the Lord of Life Himself. We need not be anxious about this life, but trusting in Christ and His Word we follow His direction and go where He has promised to be. Here at this altar He feeds us with Himself, the very bread of life, the bread that gives life, the bread that is His body and the cup that is full of His blood. These are given for the journey that we not grow weak and weary but rather possessing a stronger faith in Christ we also grow ever more fervent in love toward our neighbor.
Today is a day of repentance. Though you have fallen prey to temptation the way to paradise is no longer barred by flaming swords. Such fiery blockades have been extinguished in the waters of your baptism. The way is open and the one who once washed feet has cleansed your heart of all iniquity. His Works have made sure your destiny. He has blazed the trail before you and is even now preparing a place for you in His mansion. If it were not so, He would have told you. Therefore, you have His Word and His Word trumps your feelings. His Word leads your heart. His Word is your light and your life.
Today is the day of the Lord. It is the day upon which He gifts His people with steadfast love and tender mercy through Word and Sacrament. “And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised. (Deu 26:18-19 ESV). Your praise is not in your works or your traditions but in Him who sets you high above the nations. You are His beloved people redeemed by His beloved Son. “Let Him who boasts boast in the Lord!” (1 Cor. 1:31)
Battling Satan with the Sword of the Word
Beloved in the Lord, it may seem that you are alone in this world surrounded by wild beasts and demonic forces. It may seem as though there is little help against such warfare and it may seem that you would be better off not fighting. Christ has called you to faith. Faith in Christ sets you against the devil, the world, and even your own sinful nature. Faith in Christ engages you in a cosmic battle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 ESV) It is a good fight. It is war worth waging. For its outcome is already known which is why Mark’s gospel account gives little attention to the temptation itself and repeatedly announces Jesus’ casting out of unclean spirits. Everywhere the Word is preached the dominion of Satan is undermined and the kingdom of God advances.
This Word is given you to not only believe but to also put to use against the Devil. The Devil hates the Word of God and cannot stand to hear it spoken. Therefore we Christians not only speak it, but we sing it.
We sing it for the edification of the body of the Christ, His Church.
We sing it to make the good confession.
We sing it to comfort hurting hearts and encourage weak consciences.
We sing it in church and we sing it in our homes.
We sing to the Glory of Christ our Savior and Redeemer
and we sing God’s Word for the tormenting and chasing away of our devil! To hell with the Devil! To paradise with Christ! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!