daily biblical sermons


HOW JESUS CHRIST DEFEATS SATAN AND RELEASES HIS CAPTIVES TODAY
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, 27th Week of the Year, October 13, 2017
Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2, Psalm 9, Luke 11:15-26


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil" (Luke 11:20-22).


Satan is the strong man guarding his palace, but Jesus is the stronger man who overpowers him, takes away his armor, and divides his spoil. Jesus' exorcisms are a sign that he is this stronger man overpowering the strong man Satan and plundering his kingdom, releasing his captives.


The Jews also had exorcists, as Jesus mentions today, but Jesus' exorcisms are in a class by themselves both for their number and simplicity. Other Jewish exorcists occasionally cast out a demon with an elaborate ritual. Jesus casts out many evil spirits wherever he goes and does so with just a simple word of command. One scholar notes, "There is no record in extant literature of anyone else who carried out exorcisms on such a scale and with such decisive authority, as opposed to the often bizarre rituals to which other exorcists resorted" (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 2007) p. 480).


Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world to bring the kingdom of God to the earth. His kingdom is directly opposed to Satan's kingdom. Each of these two kings is directly opposed to the other. Satan is working on earth to destroy lives, whereas Jesus is here to save them. Satan is trying to cast them into eternal darkness. To do so he tempts them to sin and offend God. God is just and so must justly punish their sins. So Satan uses God's justice to destroy lives. He tempts us to break God's rules and moral laws and commandments so that we will be eternally punished by God. All whom God damns are Satan's captives. He is their lord. They are his kingdom.


Into this seemingly perfect plan of Satan comes Jesus, another king, a rival king. Christ the King comes to destroy Satan's kingdom and release his captives that are still alive in this world, that have not yet been definitively damned at death. During his earthly ministry, Jesus cast out many demons that had captured and possessed people. He sets these people free, forgiving their sins, and giving them new life.


After his death and resurrection, his disciples continued exorcising demons and freeing Satan's captives, both those who were completely possessed and those who were only obsessed by Satan. This ministry continues within the Church to the present day.


This ministry of delivering people from Satan's power today is primarily the ministry of forgiveness of sins and justification, which frees people from their guilt for their sins and reckons to them Christ's own righteousness, making them resplendent in holiness before God and truly righteous. Christ and his disciples could simply cast out possessing demons by a simple word of command, since he has the authority of God to do so. But justification requires his death on the cross to justly atone for our sins so that God can justly declare us ungodly sinners righteous and acquit us of all our sins.


This act of justification is not just a "presidential pardon," whereby a president releases a convicted felon and sets him free, for the felon is still guilty of his crimes. In the case of Christ, he actually goes to jail and serves our jail sentence for us, or, if we are condemned to capital punishment, he agrees to be executed in our place, instead of us, and so when we put our faith in Christ, the divine Judge accepts Christ's execution as paying what we owed God for our sins and sets us free.


But unlike in the case of a presidential pardon, we are now really free, guilt no longer clings to us, our sins have been fully paid for, and we are not only set free but are also declared righteous. And if God declares us righteous and our debt of punishment for our sins is duly and justly paid for us on the cross by the Son of God himself, then we are righteous indeed. We go forth regenerated, born again, a "new man" (Ephesians 4:22-24), a new creature, a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), an adopted son of God to walk with the risen Christ in "newness of life" (Romans 6:4).


Our part in this work of justification is faith. It is clear that we didn't actually do any work to earn this new state. Christ's work on the cross earned it for us. We merely accepted it by believing in him and entrusting ourselves to him and his saving act. So, as St. Paul never tires telling us, it is by faith, not by our works, that we are justified (Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 2 Timothy 1:9).


This great and central doctrine of justification by faith, not by works, because of Christ's atoning death has not always been clearly understood or preached in the Church. It is a central doctrine - the heart of the gospel, the good news of salvation - that the Church needs to rediscover and clearly preach in every age, ours included.


Many complain of a loss of soteriology, a loss of a doctrine of salvation, a loss of a theology of salvation in the Church today. This is it. This is the theology of salvation that we have lost or never really heard or accepted. This is the theology of salvation of the New Testament itself that too many have not understood or accepted. This is the normative New Testament theology of salvation for all times, including our own.


If we could begin to clearly preach this normative New Testament theology of salvation, the Church would be renewed. People would really hear good news when they came to church, the good news of the gospel itself, which probably many have never really heard, understood, or accepted, even though they attend Mass every Sunday.


The gospel is the account of what Christ did to justify us. It is therefore "the power God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16). If you hear this gospel preached to you and put your faith in it, you will experience God's salvation. Why? Because "in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live'" (Romans 1:17).


The gospel reveals the righteousness of God. What does that mean? God's righteousness here means his saving righteousness - not simply an attribute of God himself - whereby he declares and makes righteous all who put their faith in Christ's atoning death on the cross that made reparation for our sins.


And what does "He who through faith is righteous shall live" (Romans 1:17) mean? It means that the one who is righteous by his faith in what Christ did for him on the cross shall indeed live. He shall live a new life as a new creature, a new creation, a "new man," dead to his old life of sin and guilt to live now with the risen Christ and walk in "newness of life" (Romans 6:4) as a child of God.


This is how Jesus Christ defeats Satan and his kingdom and releases his captives today.

 

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