“Mine eyes are ever toward The LORD.” How’s your eyesight? Many of us wear glasses or contacts. Perhaps you’ve had laser surgery to see better. How well can you see without your glasses? Are you blessed with 20/20 vision? Today’s Introit asks us how our eyesight is. But Psalm 25 isn’t talking about our physical eyes. It’s talking about our eyes of faith. How is our spiritual eyesight? Is it curved in on your problems and desires, or is it focused and grounded on our Lord God? Is it focused on Him and His mercy, or is it focused on the net of sin and death?
Those who mocked Jesus in today’s Gospel were caught in the net of sin and death. They said He was casting out demons because He had a demon. It’s a ridiculous statement. Why would a demon help a guy caught in the net of sin and death by a demon? It makes no sense. They were the ones caught in the net by their hatred for God’s Son.
Today we are introduced to another element of our Lord’s Passion. He was not just fighting the devil. The devil wanted him to die, but he couldn’t accomplish it on his own. He needed the help of the world. He needed the help of the unbelieving Jews, who would need the help of the pagan Romans. They did it because of their sinful flesh, which did not want to give up their power over the people or their place in the world. They accused Him of being a threat to their life which they did not want to end. So they killed Him. And He took away their place and their nation, their temple and their sacrifices.
He told them what was happening. The strongman was guarding his courts. The devil was guarding his territory. He was trying to fend off The Son of God. But the stronger man was coming to defeat him. He was coming to destroy his hellish power and disarm and defang him. He was coming to distribute the spoils. The devil brought sin, so He comes to give forgiveness. Sin brought death, so He comes to bring life. The devil enslaved us, so He comes to save us from him and from all evil.
But we must not lose our focus on Him. We must not simply rely on “I believed at 1 point in my life; I’m good for eternity.” “God is important sometimes, but other things are just as important.” No, faith must be kept. The flesh must be denied, must be mortified. Christ must remain the center of life. For, He says, the demons are always nearby, waiting opportunity to take us back. The demons of sin and death are always close by to swallow us back up, who have turned our backs on them.
So Mary is blessed, but not precisely because she is Jesus’ Mother. Yes that is a blessing and privilege, but she agreed to it out of faith. She believed the promise first. She heard God’s Word and kept it and pondered it in her heart. She believed it. Therefore she was blessed. You are truly blessed when you hear His Word and believe it. You are truly blessed when His Law convicts you of your sin and His Gospel forgives you and leads you to do what is right in His sight.
So do not lose your baptismal confession. Lent was used in ancient times to prepare the catechumens for Holy Baptism. They were learning God’s Word – they were learning the one, holy, Christian, and Apostolic Faith. The devil was ordered to leave them. They rejected him and all his works and ways. They confessed God the Holy Trinity. On Easter night they were baptized. They received the Light of Christ and were exhorted to never let go of it, but to always let it illuminate their way. Christ was to be theirs and they were to be Christ’s all their days. You are baptized. Your parents took you as a child or you walked to the font when you were older. But it was God Who brought you there. The pastor poured the water over you and spoke God’s Name. But it was Jesus Who did it and Who poured His Spirit into you. He baptized you. He gave you His Spirit. His Spirit wants to work in you. He wants to work in you to lead you to reject sin, to reject the devil and all his works and ways, to reject what is evil, and to desire what is good, to desire to do what is good, and to help you do it.
You need Him to help you because you are constantly at war with the devil. It’s not just Jesus who had to daily defeat him. You do too. The world is very evil, and the devil is far worse. That strongman is far stronger than you too. There’s nothing he hates more than a Christian. So he attacks you. He doesn’t worry about the ungodly. He doesn’t need to go after them because he already has them. But he wants you. He wants you badly. He wants to be your god. He wants you to worship him instead of Jesus. So he will try to turn you and your eyes away from Jesus.
What will he do? He may seduce you to be lazy about hearing and learning God’s Word. He may focus you on desires for different parents or government. He may focus you on trying to hurt others or to see no need to help others. He may focus you on sexual desires and on causing trouble in the home. He may focus you on possessions so much that you have no time for spiritual things. He may get you to love lies about Jesus and God’s Word more than the truth. He may focus you on any and all desires that would force Jesus out of your life and His Spirit out of your heart. He can use anything and everything to do it. You know this is true because you are tempted. He surely has a hand in every time your mind wonders during the Service, every time you wish the preacher wouldn’t touch a certain topic, every time you think the service is too long.
What’s the answer? Repent. Have a change of heart. When you wander, refocus. When you wish a different thing would be preached, recognize your great need to hear what is said. When you think it’s too long, remember heaven is an eternal Divine Service and there is no better place in the world to be than with your Lord. Most importantly, be sorry for your sins. Pray for His forgiveness. Pray His Spirit to help you. He will forgive, and He will provide.
Why will He do this? Because He is the stronger man Who defeated the strongman. The devil defended his territory by nailing God’s Christ to The Cross. But he discovered that Cross is his defeat. He divided his house against himself in the act of killing God. For he made happen exactly what God wanted to happen. He wanted His Son to die, and thus to earn salvation for souls and destroy Satan’s power.
He died and descended into hell. There He proclaimed His victory. There He told the devil he is conquered and you are free from sin and death and hell. There He proclaimed that those who believe in Him cannot perish, but have passed from death to life. There He promised to protect those who believe in Him. The devil lies to you, but your Savior never lies. What He proclaimed to Satan is bad news for him. That means it is good news, Gospel, for you and for all. Christ Jesus died for you to rescue you from Satan. So turn your eyes to the Lord. He will deliver you from the net of sin and death. He will defend us against all our enemies. He will deliver you from all evil. Since you trust in Him, on the last day you most certainly will not be ashamed.