JESUS DESTROYS THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL
"Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God." Luke 4:34
Is it possible that for too long we have failed to connect the dots of our religion? That we have skimmed the surface but never plumbed the depths of the love of God? This is not a charge to be more fervent, to try harder to know God or to experiment with yet one more religious formula. Such appeals have a form of godliness, but they have no power. Instead it is a call to see what is in front of our face, to learn the meaning of the prayers the church gives us to pray, so that by them we might learn the joy of our salvation.
Today let us consider the Sanctus, the words we sing as part of our communion liturgy, for these words, Holy, Holy, Holy recognize what our text teaches: that Jesus, who is factually present among us in the bread and the wine, is the Holy One of God who came to destroy the devil, all of his wicked works and all of his wicked ways.
While Jesus was not pleased that the demons confessed this fact, He is delighted when we do; when we recognize that what we are about to receive in the Sacrament is the Holy One of God, who became incarnate, suffered death and rose again in order to answer for all of our sins, in order to make us God's people. He did this to sever our attachment to the devil, a bond that was created by our sins, but one that cannot be broken by any human agency, not by technological advance or by the promises of the latest social policy. However hard we might hope in these things they are false promises, diversions meant to keep us happy in our captivity because only Jesus can break these iron fetters, and if the Son sets your free, you are free indeed!
Not only does this Supper liberate us from the devil's oppression, but it also frees us from the penalty our sins merit, which is a share in the unending misery that causes the demons to fear and tremble. We are vindicated and in Christ we are pronounced holy, blameless and fit for heaven; for in Holy Baptism we renounce the devil, and are infiltrated by the Holy One of God.
Now when we consider our daily lives, how our sinful nature spews forth a perpetual stream of squalor, how carnal and worldly we are due to the sin that dwells in us, this is an amazing thing; amazing and astonishing that God does not reject us, tire of us or abandon us, but rather He continually cherishes us, cleanses us and restores us to Himself. May we who are the objects of such lavish affection cease our sins by the power of His Spirit, and express the same love to others.
As part of the Sanctus we also sing Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! Please zero in on the word "He" and learn from it to look only to Jesus, not to ourselves, other people, or to any false god or vain philosophy, to do what only Jesus can: to destroy the works of the devil, who is the sum of all evil.
Martin Luther (after whom no boulevards are named) says in his explanation of the Last Petition, "Deliver us from evil," that this petition includes, "all the evil that may befall us under the devil’s kingdom: poverty, shame, death, and in short all the tragic misery and heartache of which there is so incalculably much on earth." These are the things that Jesus conquered on the cross. Yes, they still occur in the world and we can be caught in the crossfire. They can hurt us, but they cannot harm us. Like the man in today's gospel lesson the devil might throw us to the ground, but we rise up unharmed because nothing in all of creation, not even death, can separate us from the love of God which is found in the Sacrament we here receive. Yes, we live in the world and are subject to its sorrow, not only this, but as often as we give in to temptation we contribute to the problem, and invite the torment of demons. Don't do that! Instead "depart in peace" from the Lord's altar and practice the Christian virtues of faith, hope and above all love, which does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
We also sing Hosanna as part of the Sanctus because it too describes what happens in the Eucharist. Hosanna is a fervent prayer for God to come to the rescue of His people, but in the church it took on a new meaning, so that for us it is an expression of praise and thanksgiving that God sent His Son to be our Savior; one that is most perfectly expressed as often as we eat this Bread and drink this Cup.
The Sanctus we sing in our communion liturgy does three things, then. It recalls the events of the past, that God, in Christ intervened in our fallen world, not to fix it or to improve it, but to redeem it by the death of His Son. It recognizes that in Holy Communion Jesus, who once came to save us, comes to us now as well, to rescue us from our ongoing offenses; to continually cleanse us; to keep us safe from the demons that would possess the heart swept clean by His body and blood; and to be with us as He promised, so that we need never go through the sorrows and disappointments of life alone, or face death alone, but with Jesus who is with us, for us and in us. It confesses that Christ who once came, and who comes to us now in the church, will also come again, for the Supper we partake in is a taste of the things to come; a true taste, but only a taste. The fulfillment is yet to come. When that hour comes we will no longer see through a glass darkly, but behold God face to face. We will know Him, even as He knows us, which is perfectly and completely. It is a blessed knowledge and communion that will never end, and one that will transform us and restore us to the glorious creatures God made us to be. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras