Brought Out From The Dungeon


Text: Isaiah 42:1-7

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

About 500 years ago, Martin Luther produced two different liturgies for baptism.  The first was published in 1523, and the second in 1526.  Now, I mention this because these original baptismal orders might sound a little foreign to our modern Lutheran ears.  Let me briefly describe them.  

First, at the beginning of the baptismal liturgy, the pastor began by blowing on the child’s eyes and saying, 

“Depart you unclean spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit.” 

Then, the pastor would pray to God that He would “break all the snares of the devil.”   And then, the pastor would conclude with the words, 

“I adjure you, unclean spirit, by the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit that you come out and depart from this servant of God…”

The pastor would also then go on to spit on his fingers and touch the child’s nose and ears, saying, 

“Ephphatha, that is, be opened… Devil flee, for God's judgment comes speedily.”    

Now, as we hear this, I am sure it sounds a bit different, maybe you are thinking that it even sounds like an exorcism.  

Dear friends, the baptismal liturgy from 500 years ago absolutely had an exorcist quality to it.  You see, baptism is no joke.  It is not a fairy-tale religious rite.  Instead, baptism is a hostile takeover – it is an expulsion of the devil.  You see, in baptism, the devil is not only driven away from the baptized, but God snatches the baptized person and places them in the holy ark of the Christian church.  

And so, in baptism, a name was placed upon you; you were separated from the multitude of unbelievers, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and you received the Light of Christ.  Indeed, the devil was chased away and you were made a member of Jesus’ church and an heir of the treasures of heaven.  

To quote our reading from the Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah, in baptism, your blind eyes were made to see.  You were brought out from the dungeon - you are no longer sitting in darkness but placed in the marvelous light of Christ.  

* * *

Now, please listen; what I am about to tell you. It is very important.  Notice in the baptismal rite and the Old Testament reading in Isaiah that the Lord does not go into the prison cell to spruce things up.  That is to say, the Lord does not come into the dark prison cell of sin, death, and the devil to spruce things up with a fresh coat of paint, new curtains, and a plush Martha Stewart area rug.  The Lord does not come to the door of darkness and offer the Devil honey, jams, or jellies – he does not bring a fun basket of goodies to the kingdom of darkness while visiting us in the shadows of sin.  The Lord does not befriend the devil or leave us with lovely decorations covered in hearts while we lie spiritually blind in a dungeon.    No!  Instead, He gives you eyes to see.  He snatches you from darkness.  He brings us out of the dungeon.  And then He rebukes the devil with all of his works and ways.  

Baptized Saints, you are made a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven in Baptism.  You are made a member of Christ.  You are not of the world, and you are not of the devil, but you belong to Christ.  

* * *

This brings up several practical things for you and me to consider, though:

First, because of your baptisms into Christ, you are no longer ‘of’ the world.  That is to say, you can’t and won’t join the world’s ways because Jesus didn’t join the world’s ways.  And so, it is o.k. to be different from the world.  Actually, get used to it.  If the world is jumping, you and I may find ourselves sitting.  If the world is excited, we may be sad.  If the world is sad, we may be happy.  Again, you and I belong to Christ, which means we do not join the ways of the world because Jesus did not sing their song or dance their routines.  Mark this: there is an essential difference between believers and unbelievers.  The former has nothing in common with the world or with the nature and manner of the world because there is a fundamental difference between Light and darkness, sight and blindness, and freedom and bondage.  

Secondly, beware of Christians who are more interested in being approved by the world than being faithful to Christ.  You cannot make a deal with darkness. The interests, goals, and purpose of the Kingdom of God and the world lie in opposite directions and can never be reconciled.  Those flirting with the world every chance they get will end up taking off their baptismal garments and becoming enemies of God, while making their beds with the evil one.        

Thirdly, Jesus is very clear in the Gospel of John the 17th chapter that even though we are not ‘of’ the world, we are still ‘in’ the world.  Keep in mind that our baptisms do not take us out of the world – it does not zap us into heaven to avoid trials and persecution from the world. Furthermore, our baptisms do not lead us to seclude ourselves from the world by going to the desert or hiding in some religious cultural monastery. No, that is not how it works.  You see, as long as you still have breath, you will continue operating in this dark world.  But remember that even though you will live, work, and walk in this dark world, the Lord promises to preserve and protect you in your baptisms.  And so, to the point, many days you will find yourself interacting and rubbing shoulders with your neighbors in their dungeons.  But never forget that the cell door is open for you, and you have the Light of Christ.  

Fourthly, the world is dark, and it will continue to be dark.  And so, do not be na├»ve or surprised when the world does worldly things.  That is to say, too many Christians freak out when pagans do pagan things.  Please hear me out, though.  I am not condoning evil.  But instead, we Christians need to wise up, sober up and understand that bad trees will always produce bad fruit.  And so, we should not expect good fruit from a bad tree or get overly worked up when a bad tree produces bad fruit.  The world is blind to sin and locked in darkness - we cannot expect a shining light from a dark dungeon cell.  Things will only change at the very end when Christ comes again to toss the devil and his cohorts into the lake of fire and then refine everything by fire. 

And finally, we must remember that this Christian life is a life of returning always to our baptisms.  You see, it is like this.  Those dark prison cells of the world can become comfortable.  And so, we Christians have a way of wandering out of the light, back into the prison, and into the darkness. That is how sin works.  It tempts us, entices us into the shadows, and seduces us into blindness.  And so, without even noticing it, we can end up back in the dungeon.  We can even end up locking the dungeon door as we settle in a corpse's bed.   But hear this: our Lord is never content to let His wandering sheep go.  He is never content to lose a lost coin.  He is never content to give up on a prodigal son.  And so, daily, you and I are called out of the world’s prison cells back into the light of our baptisms where we belong.  Daily, the Holy Spirit, through the Word, will lead us to repent of our wandering hearts.  And daily, the Holy Spirit meets you and me with the Words of Jesus to pronounce the forgiveness of sins.  The Gospel blows open prison’s bars, snatches us out of the dungeon, and places us right back where we belong – in our Baptisms, abiding with Jesus in forgiveness, life, salvation, and freedom.  

Baptized Saints, the Gospel has opened your eyes.  You have been snatched from darkness.  You belong to Christ.  Continue to abide in Christ, always returning to your baptisms in repentance and faith.  You do not belong to the misery of sin, the ignorance of the dark world, the sorrow of death, or the wickedness of evil – you do not belong in the world’s dark dungeon - but you belong in the bright, clear day of the Gospel.  Christ has snatched you into the light and given you a clean conscience through a bloodstained cross, confident assurance by an empty tomb, and a hopeful faith that He is coming again, for you are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Amen.

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