“The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion” is the theme of the Lenten devotion that Steadfast Lutherans has put together this year. The following sermon addresses the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. For further reflection, read The Large Catechism, III. 112-118 (The Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer) and II. 27-31 (The Second Article of the Creed).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Victory! Of victory we sing, for the stronger man has bound the strong man and plundered his goods. Our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the devil and, in answer to the prayer he taught us to pray, he has delivered us from the Evil One. Thus tonight we sing of victory: the glorious battle, the ending of the fray.
In mercy, God looked on us when we were shamed and sunk in misery. Without first parents, we had fallen headlong into death and destruction. We were like Israel, who went into Egypt at the prospect of food and ended up becoming slaves. We were like the inhabitants of Jerusalem: the satanic Nebuchadnezzar came and despoiled us, tore us from our home, and took us as exiles to Babylon.
But we were not simply naive. We were not mere victims. We wanted what the devil offered. We put the bonds on our own hands and feet. We went to Babylon as if we were going toward paradise, not away from it. We chose to have the devil as our authority instead of God, and we deserved to remain eternally enslaved to that hellish master.
Yet indeed in mercy, God looked on us: not because we were worthy of mercy, but because he is merciful. And God in his mercy intervened to save. As the devil had overcome us by a tree, so God appointed that by another tree the devil would be overcome. The devil had been crafty with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But with greater craft and craftiness, God laid the plot that when the devil came raving with the cross he would take it and use it against the foe as a noble tree to accomplish our redemption.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son to fulfill the plan of salvation. Yet not as a might warrior did he come to deliver us. Not with the plagues of Egypt did he decimate the devil’s kingdom. But in weakness he came, God in frail human flesh, the offspring of the woman.
Behold! As an infant, he lies weeping, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It is a glorious wonder that his weak hands, which were easily bound with a swaddling cloth, would be the devil’s undoing. Yet his hands are not only human hands: they are the hands of God. In the manger rested the mighty hand and outstretched arm that had overcome Pharaoh and led God’s people out of Egypt.
For thirty years the Son of God dwelt among us, and then the time came for his great battle with the devil. Long had the curse stood against the ancient serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Long had the devil known the outcome of this fight. But he is the captain of unbelief. He was heedless of the Word of God, and never thought that when he brought the cross to Jesus he was in fact handing over the very weapon that would turn back and defeat him.
Jesus valiantly entered into the Passion for which he was born. He endured the nails, the spitting, the vinegar, the thorns, the blows, the mocking, and death itself. His blood flowed from his wounded side, and he hung there as the slain Lamb, the sacrificial victim. Yet as a victim he won the day. His weakness proved stronger than the devil’s strength, indeed, then the combined strength of sin, death, and the devil.
If Jesus’ crucifixion is his bruised heel, then how devastated must be the devil’s bruised head! If Jesus is considered to have the lesser wound after experiencing such suffering and death, then the devil suffers more and dies a worse death. For him is reserved the second death, the lake of fire. And as he awaits his doom, he gets to watch his kingdom fall to pieces, his subjects be snatched away, his plots come crashing down on his own head.
You are among the former subjects of Satan. By his death, Jesus breached the wall of the devil’s palace and has rescued you. In his Son, the Father has answered the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. We pray, “But deliver us from evil,” and as it says in Colossians 1, “[The Father] has delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Thus tonight we sing of victory: Jesus’ victory over the Evil One.
As we celebrate Jesus’ victory, at the same time we remain mindful of our unworthiness. Jesus has delivered us from the devil’s kingdom, and how have we repaid him? By toying around with the devil’s things, by dabbling in sin, by half-heartedly adoring Christ and half-heartedly wishing we were back in Babylon.
In just a few minutes we’re going to hear the reproaches, in which Jesus makes known to us how ungratefully we’ve treated him. The reproaches cut to the heart, all the more as we’re freshly remembering what Jesus has done for us. We can only respond by lamenting our sins and begging his mercy.
Yet I want you to keep in mind something vital: Good Friday is not about misery, but the work of Christ and faith in Christ. The reproaches serve faith in Christ by destroying a competing faith, namely faith in ourselves. The reproaches serve to show that we as the redeemed have not outgrown our need for the Redeemer. The reproaches serve to emphasize that Christ’s work of redemption was based completely on his grace and not at all on our merit. The reproaches prompt outcries of “Lord, have mercy!” And the Lord continues to have mercy on us, and he keeps us as his own to live under him in his kingdom.
And then we stand and assured of Christ’s mercy we sing of the victory, and we approach our Savior as he distributes the spoils of war: his body and blood, the fruit of the tree of his cross. Blessed be the Father, who through the Son has delivered us from the Evil One, and by the Holy Spirit has granted us repentance and faith. Glory be to the Trinity forever. Amen.
The outline of this sermon is largely based on the Good Friday hymn, “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle” by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus.
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
Sing the ending of the fray;
Now above the Cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ, the world’s Redeemer,
As a Victim won the day.
God in pity saw man fallen,
Shamed and sunk in misery,
When he fell on death by tasting
Fruit of the forbidden tree;
Then another tree was chosen
Which the world from death should free.
Thus the scheme of our salvation
Was of old in order laid,
That the manifold deceiver’s
Art by art might be outweighed,
And the lure the foe put forward
Into means of healing made.
Therefore when the appointed fullness
Of the holy time was come,
He was sent, who maketh all things,
Forth from God’s eternal home;
Thus he came to earth, incarnate,
Offspring of a maiden’s womb.
Lo! He lies an infant weeping,
Where the narrow manger stands,
While the Mother-maid his members
Wraps in mean and lowly bands;
And the swaddling clothes is winding
Round his helpless feet and hands.
Thirty years among us dwelling,
His appointed time fulfilled,
Born for this, he meets his Passion,
For that this he freely willed.
On the Cross the Lamb is lifted
Where his life-blood shall be spilled.
He endured the nails, the spitting,
Vinegar, and spear, and reed;
From that holy body broken
Blood and water forth proceed:
Earth, and stars, and sky, and ocean
By that flood from stain are freed.
Faithful Cross! above all other,
One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Sweetest wood, and sweetest iron!
Sweetest weight is hung on thee.
Bend thy boughs, O Tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For a while the ancient rigour
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend.
Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ransom to uphold;
For a shipwrecked race preparing
Harbour, like the Ark of old;
With the sacred Blood anointed
From the smitten Lamb that rolled.