Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
On Tuesday, June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest seaborne invasion of history. British, American and Canadian forces stormed ashore at Normandy, on the coast of France. The Nazis kept the Allied army contained for two months. When the breakout occurred in August, there was no holding the Allies back. From that point, Nazi Germany had only nine months more to live. Even though D-Day meant that the decisive battle had already been won, the war continued for those nine months until Victory Day when the weapons were still at last. But the D-Day victory meant that Nazi Germany’s defeat was just a matter of time.The Kingdom of God has Invaded
As Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and Good Friday, he sent the seventy-two disciples out among the towns. This was the message he gave them to proclaim, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9). Those disciples were not simply sent out to talk to people about religion. Like soldiers, they were sent out into battle. There are two kingdoms engaged in bitter warfare. We’re not talking about geographical areas. The Kingdom of God is not a place. No, the kingdom of God refers to God ruling as king. But, there are those who resist the rule of the Creator God, and instead fall under kingdom of the Devil. All who are outside the Kingdom of God are under the dominion and reign of Satan. When we were created by God, we received all kinds of good things from him. The Devil came, and led us into rebellion, disobedience, sin, death, and all evil. But God’s reign is now near! The time had come for God to finally rescue his people. So, this war isn’t over land or power, it’s over souls! God has launched an invasion into the heart of the Devil’s territory. Jesus brings God’s kingdom into direct conflict with Satan’s. God is going to restore the earth to its rightful order.
The seventy-two came back from the trenches with joy! Even the demons had to listen to the disciples and leave those they had afflicted. They had seen victory in combat and were anxious to tell Jesus about their triumph. Jesus takes this moment to teach the disciples, and us, an important truth. Jesus told them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning.” (v. 18) Jesus told them that there was more to their actions then they might have thought. There was a spiritual dimension to their work.
The disciples only saw the battle picture from the limited perspective of their hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. They had charged into a line of demons and routed them in various skirmishes. But Jesus saw the whole map. Jesus had seen the heavenly reality which matched the earthly victories of the disciples. He informs them that their work is part God’s great offensive against the Devil.
The War in our Day
Just like the disciples needed to realise that more was going on then what they experienced, so we too need to realise this. We need to recognise that as Christians, we are caught up in a battle, a war which continues to rage. The battles we fight are not just this-worldly, they are spiritual. In this war we experience both victories and the occasional defeat.
It is quite easy living as Christians in 21st Century North America to become discouraged. We look around at how the Christian Church is doing and we can begin to think that the battle isn’t going so well anymore. Churches which were filled to the brim with people 60 to 100 years ago are now virtually empty. Churches are closing. Members are aging. Its been years since we’ve had kids in the church on a regular basis. Our children and grandchildren have little or nothing to do with Christianity at all. On top of that, our society pulls further and further away from God’s will for our lives. We’ve lost the fight on abortion, on gay marriage, on euthanasia. Doesn’t it feel sometimes like we’re in full retreat?
Or perhaps it’s your own personal battles which are leaving you feeling defeated. Maybe there’s some sin which keeps getting the best of you. You’ve thrown all your might into beating that sin and it still bests you. Perhaps its your children who have left the faith and you feel like you have failed as a parent. Maybe living day-to-day with bills, and raising children, and all the business of life just has you beat. It could be that you’ve been fighting the battle for decades, and you just don’t know how much longer you can go.
Christ has Won the Decisive Battle
When we face the battles like this we need to recognise that there is a spiritual war going on as well. The Church’s course in this world, the moral and political struggles which we face, the battles between good and evil, between justice and injustice, which go on in this life, reflect the battle which takes place in the spiritual sphere. What we most need to realise is that victory has been won. That decisive battle has already been fought. A loud voice in our Epistle reading declares that the Devil and all his forces have been defeated by the Word and the Blood of the Lamb. The heavenly reality of the victorious battle in heaven is joined to the earthly reality of Jesus death and resurrection. That means that Jesus, because of his death on the cross has won the decisive battle. As followers of the lamb, we believe that we have already been saved by his blood, and that his self-giving death won the battle.
And just like D-Day marked the beginning of the end for Hitler, likewise Jesus crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension are the major defeat of Satan. This means that whatever we might go through, even if it seems like we’re loosing the battle against our own sinful tendencies, the busyness of life, or the pressures of society around us, we can take courage in the fact that Jesus has already won. This is the ongoing battle in which all Christians are engaged, whether they know it or not. The Lamb’s final victory is inevitable. Even if we loose a battle, Jesus has won the war. Our call is to trust in him, and continue to fight the good fight.
While Luke depicts some of that war in earthly terms, our Revelation lesson tells this from the heavenly perspective. St. Michael, the general of Christ’s heavenly armies, waged war on the Dragon and won the battle. Michael and his Angels have thrown the Devil down to the earth. Satan can no longer waltz up to God and make accusations about you before God. The Devil has no place any more in heaven, because the death of Jesus has nullified the charges which he would seek to would bring against you. God has dealt with your sin through the death of Jesus and now God has declared that you are in the right before him, and part of his people. The accusations of the Devil are useless because your sins have been covered by the blood of Christ. Your names are written in heaven; in God’s book of life. The victory has already been won.
Christ has triumphed through the Cross and just like he commissioned those seventy-two disciples, so too he has commissioned pastors in the church. Each week pastors proclaim the Word of the Lamb and give you his blood. We’re not at church because we like to talk about religion. We’re here because through his Church, Christ continues to defeat Satan. When you trust in Jesus, Satan looses. The Christian Church is still preaching the Gospel and that means that the devil is still being defeated and the kingdom of God coming to you!
On this day we remember St. Michael and all angels. We remember that God has his heavenly hosts who continue to do battle with Satan. He sends his holy angels to be with us, that the evil foe may have no power over us. And he has no power over us because in this war, the decisive battle has been won. Christ through his death on the cross for you, has defeated the Devil and all his forces. “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13)
“And take they our life, goods fame, child and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won. The Kingdom ours remaineth.” (Mighty Fortress, LSB 656 St. 4).
Thanks be to God. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.