The Sword and the War (Trinity 21)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Messiah Lutheran Church

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Trinity 21 (October 12, 2008)

John 4:46-53

For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE

TITLE: “The Sword”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on Jesus’ words: “Your son lives!”

We live in an anti-war era. That is in most respects a good thing. It would be hard for the Christian to say that they are in favor or war, or that war is somehow a good thing. It’ just doesn’t seem right. It seems like there’s this commandment about murder that speaks against war of any kind.

But that’s not true.

As hard as it is for us to wrap our brains around at times, the fact is that God uses war. Throughout the Scriptures the struggle between good and evil is called a war. “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,” (Revelation 12:7 ESV) we hear in the book of Revelation. Or again in Revelation we see this picture: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” (Revelation 19:11 ESV)

The war that we fight, with Jesus as our captain, is not, however, a war like the wars of this world. The sides don’t follow ideological or ethnic lines. It is not country against country or state against state. The war that we fight is between light and darkness, heaven and hell, God and Satan. This war has gone on almost since the beginning. In the Old Testament we read how God created the heavens and the earth to be perfect, with Adam and Eve as the crown of His holy creation. But it did not take long for sin to break in and war to break out in His beautiful creation.

Do you ever feel like you are doing battle against forces you cannot see? Do you ever feel as though there are elements of life itself that are out to get you? Don’t be surprised. St. Paul reminds us of this in our epistle:

“For we do not wrestle 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.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

These spiritual forces do everything that they can to rob you of the hope of eternal life that lies within you because of your Baptism into Christ. They never rest, never tire. They war against you constantly. The weapons that they use are the weapons Satan has always used: Sin and death. Sin because the very things we so love to do are the things which destroy us. Lust, hatred, greed, gossip, these are Satan’s weapons against you. When you sin, when you stumble and fall, that is the devil himself working hard to get a hold on you, and ripping you away from your Heavenly Father. The roaring lion lies in wait, and wants to devour you.

This is what is going on when you struggle against sin. This is what is happening when you doubt that God’s Word really matters. This is what is going on as you look at your sicknesses and diseases and ask why. Satan wants to use these things to rip you away from the promises of God.

In our Gospel for this morning, though, we see how God works to win this war for you and for your salvation. A nobleman comes to Jesus with a request. He wants Jesus to heal his son, who is sick to the point of death. We don’t know why this nobleman came to Jesus. We don’t know if he was a believer or not. Maybe he heard that Jesus could heal sicknesses. Probably he heard about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. What we do know is that his son was dying. Any father or mother would do whatever they could to make their children well, even going to someone they didn’t know about yet. The man was in the depths, as our hymn confesses this morning (Out of the Depths, LSB 607).

So he goes to Jesus. Now what does Jesus do? First He berates the Galileans for always wanting signs and wonders. He doesn’t go with the man. He doesn’t touch the man’s son or say some magic over the boy. No, He simply tells the nobleman, “Go; your son will live.” (John 4:50 ESV)

The nobleman then goes home. It was twenty seven kilometers from Cana to Capernaum. That’s a long trip any way you look at it. We can almost imagine what is going on in this nobleman’s mind, the tricks that Satan is trying to play with him. But by the mercy of God, the nobleman trusts Jesus’ word. He goes home with only a word from God in his pocket (Franzmann). But this word does battle with the forces of Satan. This word heals his son, forgives his sin, gives faith where there was doubt, and gives hope where there is none. The greater miracle in our text is that the man believed.

The battle is on, dearly beloved. The war is upon us, but like the nobleman in our text, we have an advantage that Satan can never overcome. We have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The Word of God which created the world is the very same Word of God that is given to you this day by the power of His Spirit. You don’t need signs and wonders. You don’t need showy miracles or flashy solutions to your problems. What you need, what you truly need, is the healing power of His Word. This Word heals your sickness and diseases. Oh, I know. You may not be able to see the healing any more than the nobleman could see the healing of his son. But just because you can’t see God at work doesn’t mean He is absent. No, His Word is all it takes.

The nobleman went home with nothing but the word in his pocket. This day you go home with nothing but the word in your ears. But what a word it is! This word brings hope, gives life, and creates faith out of nothing. The battle is won because you have the victory in Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid of those weak weapons of Satan. They cannot harm you anymore. You have the difference. You have the One who defeated Satan himself. Like that nobleman, you are free. Free to live. Free to go home in peace, knowing that with God’s Word in your heart and soon in your mouth and soul, you are free to believe. You are free to believe that when God promises He will never leave you nor forsake you, it is true.

The war is on, but the war is really over. Jesus won it at His death on the cross and resurrection for our justification. As we prayed in the Introit, “The whole world is in your power, O Lord, King Almighty, no one can gainsay you.” Because He has won the victory through death and the grave, the war is over. Yes, there is some mopping up left to do. Yes, Satan continues to come about and roar, but He has no teeth. You need not fear Him.

Come, then, to the feast of victory for our God. Come and rejoice in His mighty deliverance. He has done all things for you, His beloved children. Come, believe, receive, and rejoice in His mighty salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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