Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Oculi â€“ Lent 3 (March 11, 2012, rev. from 2008)
TITLE: â€œBy the Finger of Godâ€
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 from Luke chapter 11.
A house divided cannot stand, so says our Lord. In this season of political speeches and party politics, we can see a little bit about what division can cause. The worse the internal division, the weaker a candidate becomes. This is true in politics, and it is also true at home. A home that is being ripped apart by divisions, hatred, jealousy and envy cannot handle the external pressures put upon it. How many families have fallen apart over some tragedy, because they could not agree on how to handle it?
If this is true in politics and in the family, how much more is this true in the church? Imagine a church where no one agrees on why they are here. Are we hear to preach the Gospel, to provide social opportunities, to serve the poor and the destitute, or are we here because we have always been here? Are we here to serve the community or is there some higher purpose involved? While we may seem to know the answers to these questions, what is obvious to one person is not always obvious to another.
It was the same in the day of our Lord. The Jews were divided in to more little sub-groups than we can imagine. Pharisees, scribes, sadducees, essenes, who knows all of the groups we could have found in Jesusâ€™ day? Each group had alliances with the others on certain subjects and not on others. It is a wonder in many ways that Judaism survived at all.
But this is the way of the world. Pride, vanity, envy, these things all push us to divide, to bicker and fight and divide much more than they do to be at peace with one another. St. Paul exhorts us to be imitators of God and to sacrifice for one another, as Christ did for us (Eph. 5:1-2). But that does not come easy, does it? The me factor in us always gets in the way. â€œIt was the woman you gave to me!â€ It is much easier to ask someone else to bend, to change, and to sacrifice for us than it is for us to do it for them.
So it is that when our Lord heals this man who was a deaf/mute, that some of the Pharisees declared that He casts out demons by the power of Satan, or Beelzebub. They canâ€™t imagine Jesus being in league with God, far less being God-in-the-flesh. It must be that what He is doing is satanic. Still others didnâ€™t think Jesusâ€™ miracles were enough! He didnâ€™t part the waters like Moses, or the river like Joshua. He hadnâ€™t ascended into heaven like Elijah. If Jesus wanted to be taken seriously, He was going to have to show off a little more. Jesus needed a better PR firm at the very least.
Our Lord, though, is not satisfied to convince a group os skeptics that He is the Messiah. He has bigger plans. He didnâ€™t come to bicker with the various groups in Judaism or to simply be another miracle worker. He came to seek and save the lost, to redeem the captives, to raise the dead and to forgive the sins of the whole world. He came to work by the Spirit and Finger of God to bring you to heaven, and to bring the kingdom of God into your midst even this day.
Do you believe it? Do you believe that Jesus is still at work, here, now, forgiving sins, rescuing from death and the devil, and giving eternal salvation? That is what He is doing here this day. He is as present today as He was for that mute man who was possessed by a demon. But He is not merely present, like a sympathetic friend in times of trouble. No, He is the mighty redeemer. He comes not merely to listen, but to act. He comes to do what you cannot do, to fix what you cannot fix, and to redeem what you cannot possibly redeem.
How does He do this? The Finger of God is His Word and holy sacraments. Johann Gerhard put it this way:
Just as Christ here by the Spirit and the Finger of God expels the devil, so also He still today imparts His victory against the devil and transfers us out of the kingdom of the devil into Godâ€™s kingdom of grace through the Spirit and the Finger of God; that is to say, through the Word and holy Sacraments. For the Word and the holy Sacraments are nothing else but the Finger of God which He lays into our ears and upon our eyes. The power of the Holy Spirit is in these means. Through them He works in us faith and rebirth, along with renewal, so that we are redeemed from the kingdom and the power of the devil.
The kingdom of God is your kingdom, dearly baptized. We pray that Godâ€™s kingdom would come among us also, and He answers our prayers by coming down through His Word and Sacraments. Through these we receive Christ Himself.
This is why we pray in the Psalm, My eyes are ever on the Lord. In the midst of the fighting, divisions and fear that your life may be sometimes, God enters in to gently place His Finger where it is needed most, and to inscribe His name upon your heart. â€œOn my heart imprint your image,â€ as we pray in the hymn. The Finger of God does not finally point to you with words of accusation and judgment. His Word and Holy Sacraments create faith out of nothing, hope for the brokenhearted, and peace where there is no peace. That is who He is. That is what He does for you.
So come now, dearly beloved, and feast on great mystery which is Christ Jesus. He has defeated Satan for you. Come and worship Him by receiving what only He can give to you. Believe it for Jesusâ€™ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.