SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-18; Luke 10:1-20; Psalm 19
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10
We are again about to celebrate our country’s independence. Perhaps you’re getting together with family for a cookout, or at the beach, or to watch a fireworks display. Whatever you’re doing, there is one thing that we often do during holiday gatherings: we reminisce. And, as we remember former gatherings and celebrations, we usually remember them as better, don’t we? How good things used to be! Oh, if only they could still be as good!
Today we hear the 72 disciples recall and recount to Jesus the results of the missions He had sent them on. "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" How great it is to see Your work!
And it is great, isn’t it? “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” says Psalm 19. It is a blessing to see the beauties and wonders of this world and know that they come from a good and gracious God of love. It is great to recall the blessings God has given us in our country, and to be able to pray for our nation. It is also a joy to remember the many good times our Lord has given us in this life, including the wonderful times we have enjoyed at His house with our fellow believers. And, when we see the demons subject to us in the name of Christ – when we see someone baptized, and know that Christ and His Holy Spirit now fills that person; or, when we see a person turn away from sinful ways to join in worshiping Jesus and following Him; or, when we hear of a prison inmate gladly receiving the Gospel and sharing it with other inmates, that they might also know the Savior – how wonderful that is! Look back on your life. If you look carefully, asking God to open your eyes to His work, you will see many examples of the glory of God and of demons being subjected to Him.
But remember: we live in a very troubled world. “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves,” Jesus told the 72 as He sent them out. There is much opposition to God and His Son, and this opposition is very easy to see. There are vicious attacks by those who follow a far different god, a god not of mercy but of vengeance. This is certainly demonic work! There is, it seems, a growing individualism and selfishness that is dividing people, and an increasing pressure to not honor God and others with a holy and pure life but to satisfy one’s own desires – and no desire seems to be too much, too out of line! Is there any desire, any behavior that’s beyond the pale today? But, it’s especially disheartening when Satan, who had been subjected to Christ, rises up again in one of our fellow believers.
Sometimes when I am preparing a sermon I look at sermons I preached on that text previously. Well, nine years ago in a sermon on this Gospel from Luke 10 I began by telling you that I would in a few days see Satan fall like lightning and demons become subject to the name of Christ. How? I would be going into the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, CT and baptizing an inmate there. And, I did. That was a joyous day! A couple of years later he was released and, with help from many of you, got a job and an apartment in Norwalk. He began worshiping with us, sharing with us in Christ’s victory over the demons. Sadly, however, he fell back into the clutches of the demons by returning to drug abuse and other sins. He walked away from his job, left his landlord with unpaid bills, and turned his back on us. How disheartening this was!
Our Lord Jesus knows that we are lambs in the midst of wolves. Their bites and attacks will be felt often. And so, He tells us: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Do not just focus upon past joys and blessings. God is with you now and has written your name in heaven! He did so when He put His name upon you in your baptism, joining you to Christ and filling you with His Holy Spirit. Keep this ever before you, in your mind and in your heart! Your Baptism is not just an event that happened in the past. It is a present blessing – Christ with you, the spirits subject to you, and God as your Father caring for you – and promises a future life with God in heaven.
In fact, this is what the sending forth of the 72, and of many other pastors since then (I say pastors, for that is in essence what those 72 were, for they were men who had been with Jesus and had been carefully taught and trained by Him), is all about: the subjecting of the demons to you by putting upon you the holy name of Christ. Those 72 whom Jesus chose and sent out: we don’t know much about them. We don’t know their names, their backgrounds or their professions. All we know is that they were with Christ. But, as they were sent out, we know that Jesus empowered them to bring:
Peace, His peace, with them.
God’s eternal kingdom. It came near in their ministry, for they brought Christ and His healing.
Christ’s very voice, for He promised them: “The one who hears you hears Me.” To listen to them was to listen to Jesus Himself!
We know these things because Christ said this. He stood behind, and with, their actions and their words.
And so it is with the pastors Christ calls into His Holy Ministry and sends forth to this day. Their Ministry – Christ’s Ministry – is for you. The pastor’s preaching and teaching, his baptizing and absolving and communing, his visiting and praying is Jesus speaking forgiveness and peace to you; Jesus bringing God’s kingdom to you; Jesus putting Satan and all demons under your feet; Jesus assuring you of your heavenly home.
What is your part in this? You are the focus of this Ministry of Christ! Receive it gladly, and receive Him! And especially, pray for pastors. Pray that God would raise up more pastors. And pray that Christ would hold in His mighty hands and defend His pastors, for the demons’ greatest efforts are directed against pastors. To weaken their faith and deceive them is to weaken their work and the faith of the people of Christ they serve. How they have been successful over the years. They even turned a chosen apostle of Christ against Him and led another to deny Him!
Remember who you are and what you have been given in Christ. You are spiritual people, blessed in your baptism with the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within you! You are the household of God, new creations in the crucified and risen Christ. Your prayers are not the weak words of strangers, but the cries of beloved children which Jesus Himself brings to His Father. Your names are before Him in heaven! So, pray for pastors, and for one another. Rejoice in the Ministry of Christ that your pastor brings to you, and receive it gladly. Christ will then be with you to do His work. Satan will fall and be cast down under your feet, and you will be raised up to your Lord in heaven! God bring this about, to the glory and praise of His holy name. Amen.