Though hordes of devils fill the land…

The next bible study is coming up. After our Lord´s annunciation this Sunday (Estomihi), that he´s going up to Jerusalem (Lk.18,31), we on this first Sunday in Lent (Invocavit) hear what that suffering and dying is all about:

For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3,8b

The Old Testament lesson Genesis 3,1-19 (20-24), shows that this struggle started with the fall of our forebears there in paradise. They, who did not withstand the temptation of the evil one, hear the divine promise of the coming Messiah, who would finally conquer the satanic foe and restore us all to our original holy.

Now the serpent was shrewder than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open[l] and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied,“I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” And the Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.”So the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the cattle and all the living creatures of the field! On your belly you will crawl and dust you will eat all the days of your life. And I will put hostility between you and the woman
and between your offspring and her offspring; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,“I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.”

But to Adam he said,“Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you,‘You must not eat from it,’ the ground is cursed because of you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat food
until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Genesis 3:1-19

This is no joyride as the Gospel notes. Forty days and nights our Lord goes without food. The devil takes advantage of this and tempts our Lord with crafty schemes – but fails dismally. Our Lord remains steadfast und faithful to His calling. The angels come and serve him. Just as they comfort him later in the hour of great affliction in the garden, the night he was betrayed.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But he answered,“It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Once again it is written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs.

Matthew 4,1-11

This struggle is not the Lord´s alone, because the fiend tackles his disciples and followers too. Some fall. Some lose faith. Some get lost. Like Judas. It´s the first part of his betrayal, that our sermon text for Sunday illustrates with the words recorded by the evangelist St. John chapter 13,21-30.

When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed in spirit, and testified,“I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me.” The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexed to know which of them he was talking about. One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor. So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to.  Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him,“What you are about to do, do quickly.” Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor. Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. Now it was night.

John 13,21-30

The Epistle reading gives us reason to rejoice and hope, and encourages us to be steadfast in the true confession too, because the victorious savior is with and for us all the way. His glorious triumph was for us and in our stead. His vicarious conquest set us free – once and for all. He is gracious and merciful, whenever we need help.

Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help

Hebrews 4,14-16

That´s why we sing boldly in all affliction:

Though hordes of devils fill the land
all threat´ning to devour us,
We tremble not, unmoved we stand;
They cannot overpow´r us.
Let this world´s tyrant rage;
In battle we´ll engage.
His might is doomed to fail;
God´s judgment must prevail!
One little word subdues him

Martin Luther 1528

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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