Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 13, 2010

Sermon on Revelation 12:1-6

The sermon preached on the Festival of the Ascension, May 13, 2010.

Downloadable Version

He Lived to Fight Another Day

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.  The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Near the end of his consideration of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther writes in his Large CatechismIf we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing. And let no one think that he shall have peace. He must risk whatever he has upon earth—possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Luther might have had in mind the words of Revelation 12.  For here we get a view of what’s been going on and what is going on around us that would cause us to say such things and Luther to write such things.  The veil is pulled back so that we see the war going on between heaven and hell.  John sees a great and wondrous sign…in heaven: a pregnant woman is about to give birth and a dragon looks to devour her child.

We don’t have to wonder about who these characters are.  Verse 9 tells us that the dragon is Satan.  Verse 5 makes it clear that the child is Jesus.  That leaves only the woman.  At first blush, you might say, “Duh!  Mary, the mother of Jesus!”  Except verse 17 says that this woman had other children:  those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. That means we’re not simply talking about Mary.  We’re talking about that “mother” from which Jesus came.  God tells Eve one of her offspring will crush the dragon.  Then we see Cain and his family fall away from the Lord, but Seth, the son who replaced Abel, and his family calling on the name of the Lord. From Seth comes Abraham, who was promised a son who would be the blessing of all nations.  From Abraham comes David, who was promised a son who would be king forever.  From David comes Mary, who was promised a son whose kingdom would never end.  This woman is that Holy Church throughout the ages, once Israel the physical nation, now Israel the spiritual nation.

Now the vision makes sense.  The devil wants to destroy hope, he wants to devour Jesus.  Because He knows what Jesus’ birth means – salvation, forgiveness, heaven!  So, he has Pharaoh murder the baby boys of Israel.  He has Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians conquer Israel.  He has Haman try to wipe out Israel.  He uses Herod to try to murder baby Jesus.  He uses the Jewish and Roman authorities to put Jesus on a cross.

And yet, he failed. Her child was snatched up to God. Time after time, Christ escaped the dragon.  Moses survived Pharaoh’s holocaust.  A remnant survived Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.  God raised up Esther and Mordacai to foil Haman’s plot.  Angels warned Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt.  And even when success seemed achieved – Christ is dead! – there was no success!  Christ rose!  Christ ascended!  Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling on behalf of the Church!  Time after time, Jesus lived to fight another day.

Yet, this isn’t a daring escape in the nick of time.  Jesus didn’t abandon a sinking ship.  This was God’s plan – then and now.  Revelation 12:6 is painful, but necessary, to read:  The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. She who gave birth to Jesus must flee to the desert to escape.  Because the devil’s angry that he lost his prey.  He’s angry because he lost, period.  Hear what comes next: Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ didn’t put an end to the devil’s war.  It only changed the theater of operations.  Instead of trying to devour Jesus, now the devil turns his gaping jaws towards you.  His fury spews forth a flood.  Islam sweeps across the world with its one billion adherents.  Atheistic communism tries to take over the world and wipe out religion.  National Socialism – the Nazi party – tries to wipe out the Church.  The knowledge of science tries to trump – and stamp out – faith.  The mysteries of the occult push Jesus and the Word to the side.  Scandals in the Church – embezzlement, hypocrisy, pedophilia, adultery – drive people away.  False teachings in the Christian Church lead to division and polemics and drive even more away.  The Church lives in a desert.  Oases are few and far between.  Times of peace and rest are even less.  We’re always battling and always seeming to lose.  As Luther wrote, all we can seem to expect is misfortune and grief.  Everything we have is taken from us by the devil and his allies.  If Jesus lived to fight another day, what’s He doing?  If Jesus overcame the devil, why can’t I see it?  Jesus ascended, but how about us?

But pay attention.  The woman fled to a place prepared for her by God. While fleeing from the dragon, the woman, the Church, was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. And when the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away…. [T]he earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river. 

Jesus, who lived to fight another day, continues to keep us alive to fight another day.  The same power that He used to rise from the dead, He uses on our behalf.  Note how God foiled every attempt in Scripture.  Note how God ended communism and Nazism.  Note how God humbles science’s infallible claims – Climategate, anyone?  Note how God checked Islam’s spread in the middle ages and holds it back today in ways we can’t imagine as the Gospel goes around the world.  Note, how no matter what you’ve lost, the Scriptures are still an open book, especially in First Amendment protected America.  And hear the promise of God, Faith comes from hearing the message. What Jesus did for the apostles, He does for us – He opens our minds.  And with faith, we see the grand sweep of history.  It’s not the Church that barely survives.  It’s the devil, and the world, and our flesh who barely survive, who escape in the nick of time, who rearrange deck chairs on a sinking ship.  Christ died!  But He rose!  I’ve sinned, but by faith, I am justified, declared not guilty!  Hell’s jaws opened wide, yet Christ died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring me back to God!

And now He’s Christ high-ascended, bending His will, using His power to keep the devil at bay, to stop the world’s triumphant march, to curb my sinful flesh.  He lived to fight another day – for me!  Until that glorious day when the desert will bloom, when Christ will return, just as He left, with that iron scepter in His hands, and hurl that dragon into the fires of hell.  And then He opens the books.  And He reads our names.  And the doors of the holy city swing open, and there He is, saying, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since before the creation of the world!  Amen!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: