Lord Of Death, Hear The Word From The Mouth Of God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

The Gospel of John says that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  Furthermore, the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth says that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light. 

My friends all too often we naively believe that false truth and things of satan come prepackaged with red horns and the word ‘evil’ stamped on them.  However, the reality is that satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  “He can disguise himself as polite, caring, nice, helpful, and so forth.  He has the ability to make us think that right things are wrong and he has the ability to twist the way in which we understand love.  He makes the truth into a lie and the lie into a truth.  He spins the facts and as one pastor once said, “…he is always politically correct.”  He is the master of deception.”[1] 

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is truth.  John 14:6 says that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.”  Notice that it doesn’t say that Jesus is ‘a’ truth?  Rather, He is ‘the’ truth.  Jesus doesn’t spin the truth, but embodies it.  We see Him speaking the truth in the Gospels even when it is not politically correct or comfortable for His hearers and He speaks truth back to the lies of the devil.   

As we think back to our Gospel reading from today, we heard about a battle.  It is a battle between the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, and the lord of death, the devil.  In this battle we see that both Christ and the devil are not fighting with bombs, guns, or even supernatural spiritual powers.  Rather, as the Lord of Life battles with the lord of death, the weapons that are used may surprise you.  The weapons that are used in this great battle are words.  That is it, just words.

But you may ask, “Why the battle with words; why the war of words?”  The reason being, words are powerful, deeply powerful.  They have more power than we imagine.  They are much more powerful than deeds or actions.  You see, in our day and age, there is a pressure to focus on deeds not creeds.  Otherwise stated, there is a pressure for the church to put its mouth into actions.  The pressure is to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.  While there is always some legitimacy to this, the church can never give up the proclamation of the Gospel, the Word of God; speaking words. 

Unfortunately, one of the failures in America is that we tend to underestimate the power of words.  However, if we take a moment to think about the power of words, all we have to do is contemplate the power of words in the history of Germany.  The power of words convinced German voters to elect Adolph Hitler to lead their country.  The power of words can convince young men to hijack an airplane and fly it into a building.  Words can convince men and women and even children to strap on explosive vests in order to kill people.  Yes, words are powerful.

So, it is of no surprise that the devil bends the power of words to his will.  He lies.  The devil even takes Holy Scripture and bends it to attempt to mislead Jesus.  Satan takes the words of scripture out of their original context and omits words here and there to try and tempt Jesus into sin.  Seriously, if you look closely at our Gospel reading, you will notice that satan is quoting scripture to Jesus in order to tempt Him.  However, he does so by changing them ever so slightly.  The devil is not interested in eliminating scripture; he is rather interested in twisting it ever so slightly.

The point for us to take note of is that the evil one has been around a long time and is very good at tempting us away from the truth.  The evil one typically does not come against you and me with a red warning label that says, “spicy.”  Rather he comes in deception.  He tells us to trust our emotions, feelings, and personal opinions over the Word of God.  He convinces us that false truths are really true by having us validate truth not on the basis of God’s Word but on whether or not something works.  He attaches glitter, prosperity and charm to false truths knowing that we find attraction in bright lights and the hopeful dreams of being successful.  As we have already noted, the evil one will even twist scripture, take it out of context, and omit important parts.  This is the way that he attacks you and me.  This is how he attacked Jesus.  He twisted and omitted. 

The harsh reality is that you and I in the midst of temptation and trial often turn to false words.  We are easily enticed by twisted truths; we are continuously deceived by the false truths of satan, our flesh, and the world.  Sadly, we don’t completely trust the Word of God.  Surely, we must all confess that we do not listen to the Word of God as we should.  We often pick and choose the lies of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature over God’s Word; we choose that which is easy to swallow.  We are selective in our hearing, choosing that which appeals to our sinful nature, that which is harmful and false for us.  We choose the sweet drink, that which is poisoned.
Never the less, there is comfort in today’s text for us.  In Jesus’ interaction with the evil one, we see that every time Jesus is confronted with temptation and lies He does what?  He returns to the Word.  Jesus could have used divine power to stomp on the devil, but He rather appeals to what?  He appeals to the Word of God.  He appeals to the written Word.  What does this mean?  Practically this means that in our battles of deception from the evil one, our truth and certainty is not found in our emotions, our experiences, our feelings, what works, what makes sense, what looks flashy, rather it is found in the Word.  Martin Luther once said that we are to be, ‘captive’ to the Word of God.  Otherwise stated, it is the Word that shapes and forms us, it is the Word that we stand upon and rest in when confronted by the false lies of the evil one.

While this is good and true, our Gospel reading is not about us battling the devil in the wilderness, but Jesus.  Therefore, as we fix our eyes on Christ in this narrative we see that Jesus saw through the lies of the devil.  He never gave into the temptations that the devil placed before Him even though Jesus was hungry, weak, frail, vulnerable, unprotected, and unguarded in the wilderness.  The devil came to Jesus to tempt Him to sin.  He wanted Jesus to reject the Father.  He wanted Jesus to die.  The devil wanted the whole plan of salvation to crumble and fall apart, thus casting all of humanity and creation into the pits of hell.  He fired, attacked, launched, swung, and lunged at Jesus with twisted words that were bent to his hellish will.  However, the attempts of the devil are simply a joke.  Had the devil forgotten who he was dealing with?  Jesus is the Son of God.  He is the Creator by whom all things were made.  The devil doesn’t have anything to give to Jesus or us for that matter.  He is a taker.  He is a liar.  He is a murderer.  My friends, he only wants to take your soul and destroy your faith.  Christ on the other hand is our Lord who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.  Christ came and endured temptation greater than any we will ever endure.  Where we often give into temptation to alleviate the pressure, Jesus stands against the temptations of the evil one, He remains faithful proclaiming the unchangeable Word.  He held steadfast in the face of temptation, lies, and deceit.  Thus, He lived a perfect life, a life without sin.  He remained pure and sinless so that He might be the righteousness that clothes you.  Yes, Jesus resisted sin, overcame temptation, and was perfect, so that we might be clothed in His obedience and perfection.  In this way, He has truly protected us and made us His own forever.
My friends, when the devil comes at you with his lies, perverted words, and filth, you tell him this,

“Listen to reality you evil foe!  You can certainly exhaust me, attempt to deceive me through twisted words, and I will even fall for your tricks.  However, hear this proclamation; hear these Words lucifer!  I am baptized into Christ.  I am a child of the Lord of Life.  Christ withstood you and your evil ploys in the wilderness, He crushed you at the cross, He fulfilled the Law, He died to forgive my sins, He saves me from you, and He saves me from death.  How do I know this to be true? Because I live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. His Word endures forever. BE AWAY SATAN! Long live the Lord of Life!"
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[1] James T. Batchelor, “First Sunday In Lent Sermon,” http://lcmssermons.com/index.php?sn=3146 (7 March 2014)

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