St. Michael & All Angels (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
September 29, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 18:1-10

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There was once a time when the ancient dragon called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, had council with Almighty God. There was once a time when that evil spirit could go in and out of the heavenly places and present himself before the throne of Almighty God, as we hear in the Book of Job.

He would go before God, as he did in the case of Job, and accuse the sons of men of every manner of wickedness and evil. He would talk about your lies and your pride; your hidden agendas and your betrayals. He would accuse you before God concerning your laziness and greed; your hatred of others and your self-exaltation. And he would say to God, “Consider your servant so-and-so. Look at how they treat your creation. Look at how they treat their wives or shame their husbands. Look at how they rebel against their parents and undermine authority; how they hate the governments you have established and how they seek only their own good and never their neighbor’s. And look at how, when they do good, they take all the credit and pretend that they are good and decent people, when really their hearts are black and rotten.”

He would say these sorts of things because he is the prince of this world and he tempted mankind at the beginning, causing us to fall into sin and shame. He robbed God of God’s most valuable treasure and most precious creation: man. For on the sixth day, when everything was ready, when the garden was planted and the beasts had been prepared, and the birds of the air were flitting about, and the sea was teaming with creatures of every living kind; when all creation was nearly finished everything was waiting with baited breath at what the Creator would do next. So He came and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the beasts of the field, and over every living thing.”

It is popular lore to talk about how God created everything for His glory. And so He did. But His glory is man, for His eternal plan has been to become one of us. God created everything for man. And not just any man, but the Man, Jesus of Nazareth. For from and Him and through Him and for Him are all things made (Colossians 1:16). Adam was a type of the one to come, as St. Paul teaches in his letters. The heavens and the earth and all that fills them was made for man, for this man. And since they were made for Him who was and is and is to come, so they were made for His brothers and sisters, beginning with Adam.

So on the sixth day, when God had finished all the rest of creation and set all things in order and in their proper place, God formed man from the dust of the earth and formed woman from the side of the man and brought her to him that they might become one flesh and have dominion over all creation. Here, you might say, was God’ crowing achievement; His piece de resistance; His magnus opus; His masterpiece. For no other creature in heaven or on earth has been made in His image after His likeness, and given dominion over every other living creature.

But the great dragon came hunting. And what better prize trophy for his mantle place of the eternal fire than this creature whom God had made in His image and after His likeness? What greater achievement could be accomplish than to rob God of His most treasured creation, than to rob Him of man who is called “son of God” (Luke 3:38), as the Scriptures call him in Luke 3:38: “Adam, the son of God.”

And what was the devil’s great temptation? What was his master stroke? To say to woman, “And you shall be like God.” Oh, the betrayal! She was already like God, made in His image and after His likeness. With man she already had dominion and rule over all creation! What more was there to be like God? To know good and evil. Not to know like we know a math problem, but to decide what is good and what is evil. But here, too, the master stroke of that ancient evil serpent called the devil can be seen as clearly as brush stroke on canvass: Already man knew good and evil. For God created all things and called it “Very good.” What God creates and gives, then is good, and what He does not give is evil. And He did not give the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to man to eat from, but to learn from. But calling evil what God had called good, the devil gave what God forbade, and man ate and death entered the world.

Man fell. And the accuser, that same tempting devil, accused man day and night before the throne of God. The devil had had his revenge: he had stolen from God His most prized creation. And once stolen the devil threw it back in God’s face over and over and over again, retelling and retelling all the sins of man, this most precious creation, created in the very image and likeness of God. The devil pointed his finger at man who now decayed and died and became the dust from which he had been formed, and gladly and eagerly reported to God all the wickedness and vile intent that fills your heart and mine.

There was once a time when the ancient dragon called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, had council with Almighty God. There was once a time when that evil spirit could go in and out of the heavenly places and present himself before the throne of Almighty God, as we hear in the Book of Job.

There was once that time, but no more.

For in the fullness of time God sent forth His only-begotten Son who was not created in the image of man, but man in His image and after His likeness. And this Son, unlike Adam, was not a son by adoption or by decree, but by nature and essence. This Son of Man was sent forth to do battle with Satan not in heaven but on earth were the devil had been cast down. He has come to do away with the accusations of the devil and to stop his lying tongue and to bind him up and plunder him, taking back from him what he stole from God: giving freedom to all mankind.

And war arose on earth, the Son of Man fighting against that ancient dragon called the devil and Satan. Only this was not a war waged in the likeness of the wars of men, this was a war waged by the blood of one man, Jesus, the Son of God. Whereas Adam had lost his glory in his disobedience and so brought shame to all of us; this one Man called Christ won His glory by His obedience, bringing glory and honor to us all. For whereas death entered the world through the one man, Adam, and spread to all mankind for all have sinned; this one Man, the Son of Mary, brought life to all man by His obedience and life. So that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. And the accuser of man is silenced.

No more does that devil who is called Satan accuse man before the throne of God, for Man has been exalted to the right hand of God and has been given rule and dominion over heaven and earth as it was in the beginning. Man has been restored. But not only restored, glorified with the glory of God. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone on us the light of knowledge and glory in the face of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come. And those the accuser had accused before the throne of God have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 7:10-11)

This is what it means that for freedom’s sake Christ has set you free. The battle was waged for you in the waters of holy Baptism. For there you died with Christ to sin. There you were plunged with the Son of Man into the depths of the sea, the abode of the evil one. And from there you were raised with Christ, given His life and immortality, His righteousness and peace with God.

And now you reign with Him in dominion and rule, not against flesh and blood, but against the schemes of the evil one who goes about like a roaring lion, for he knows his time is short.  But take heart, by beloved, it is not your accuser but your angels that always see the face of our Father who art in heaven (Matthew 18:10).

+ In Nomine Iesu +