WITH JESUS | LUKE 11:14-28 Third Sunday in Lent | March 15-16, 2020 | Pastor Ryan Cortright I wrote my sermon on Tuesday this past week. A lot has happened since Tuesday. On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Since then schools have been closed, sports seasons postponed, tournaments cancelled, our state has declared a health emergency. Here at Our Redeemer we even sent out a message saying that we’ll forgo shaking hands for now and while Jesus did not take hand sanitizer before he took the bread, we will. But remember, I wrote my sermon on Tuesday. At one point I considered scrapping the old one, picking a new text, (probably Jesus’ words about worry in Matthew 6) and starting over. But then I thought, every day someone is having a personal crisis. Every Sunday, there are people who come here with heavy hearts and uncertain about the future and we trust that God’s word will speak to them. So I will trust that God’s Word will work today, even though it’s not the first section of Scripture that comes to mind in times like these. What did we see in our gospel reading from Luke chapter 11? We saw Jesus healing a man who was demon possessed. That was good. But the account seems to focus less on the healing and more on the people’s reaction to that healing…and Jesus’ response to them. What were the reactions of the people? Well, they really weren’t that different from how people react to Jesus today. Some believed in Jesus. There were those who, although they just saw the miracle, they denied that Jesus was who he said he was: the Son of God and the Messiah come into the world. They weren’t necessarily atheists but they were certainly hostile to Jesus; so hostile that they claimed that he was doing this by the power of Satan himself. There were also the skeptics, the agnostics, those who weren’t sure. They too had just witnessed the miracle and still concluded there was not enough evidence to form a conclusion about this man Jesus. They said, “You know, if you just gave us a sign, some proof, then we’d believe.” Yet, if Jesus wrote a religious survey to find out what people thought of him he would have just one question. “Are you with me?” Are you with Jesus? There is no need to ask any other questions because Jesus said that if you are not with him, then, the only other possibility is that you are against him. Really today, with so much on our minds and so much uncertainty literally in every corner of this world Jesus wants us to stop and consider the most important question: are you with Jesus? I have a feeling that most people, even non-religious people, would say that they are not against Jesus. They may say, “I’m against Christians and Christianity, but I’m not against Jesus.” What they mean is that they don’t harbor ill will toward the Jesus they have conceived in their own minds. They may even like a handful of Jesus quotes that fit in nicely with their own views. But neither are they for Jesus. But Jesus himself does not leave neutrality as an option. Those who are not with Jesus are by default, against him. Notice how Jesus himself reacted toward those who were against him. To those who were hostile he pointed out the flaw in their logic. If Jesus were driving out demons with the power of Satan then Satan is working against himself and his kingdom would be self-defeating. What would he say to people today who might acknowledge he was a great teacher but not the son of God and Savior? Wouldn’t he say, “I have not left that option open. You believe that I am just a good teacher to your own peril.” What about the people who are skeptics, unsure what to think of Jesus? They would be like those who wanted a little more proof from Jesus, a sign from heaven. Again, we see Jesus not mincing his words: “You are either with me, or you are against me.” Remember that they had just seen a sign; the finger of God at work, Jesus said. They saw a mute man talk. And in the verses immediately following Jesus said that the only sign that the skeptics would get would be the sign of Jonah whose three days spent in the belly of a fish foreshadowed the three days that Jesus would spend in the belly of the earth before his resurrection. “Want a sign, some evidence?” Jesus said, “My miracles and my resurrection are all you need. If that’s still not enough then the problem is not a lack of evidence but a lack of faith. You stand against me.” You see that it’s not enough to say, “I’m not against Jesus.” The question is this, are you with him? There was at least one person who wanted Jesus to know that she was with him. It was the woman who called out that somewhat strange sounding shout-out to Jesus, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” And it’s in Jesus’ response that we see what Jesus himself said it means to be with him. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” I don’t think any of us would say that we are against Jesus. But are we with him? We live in a world that tugs on our arm in so many says and vies for our time and attention (at least that’s what we tell ourselves) but in reality these things want to take our hearts. Or we can use the analogy that Jesus uses. He describes us each like a home. In this home either lives Jesus or the enemies of Jesus; the devil and his demons. To be with Jesus is to have Jesus as the occupant of your spiritual home. This doesn’t mean that temptations don’t come knocking. At times they overpower us and barge their way in because of our weakness. But Jesus lives there and sin does not find a home. That’s what it means to repent: to acknowledge our sin, to trust that in Jesus this sin is forgiven, and to show that sin the door. This is what it means to hear the word of God and obey it. This is what it means to be with Jesus. But be careful not to say, “I’m with you Jesus” and at the same time keep the back door unlocked so that when temptation comes knocking it finds an open door. In our second lesson from Ephesians 5 the apostle Paul urged the Christians not to become partners with evil. Don’t let it crash on your couch for the night. Don’t let it comfortable in your house. Temptation does not just stop by for a visit. Sin wants to move in. In that lesson from Ephesians Paul warns especially about sexual sins and greed and sins of impure speech. If he were writing to us today I wouldn’t doubt that he’d include fear and worry as temptations that have been going door to door. If you let them in, they will find themselves right at home fed on a steady diet of troubling news headlines and worst case scenarios played out in your head. But what if fear or any temptation barges into your spiritual home and finds Jesus sitting on your couch? And when they try to sit down he won’t move over... not because social distancing requires six feet of space but because with Jesus there is no room for fear and sin. There is no room because Jesus has defeated death by his own death and resurrection. All fear is tied to death in some way. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen because of Covid-19 or any other threat? You would probably say, “I could die.” Or perhaps, “Someone I love could die.” But what is death for a Christian other than the entrance into life? Some people may be wondering if we’ll even be hold Easter services this year. The good news is that Easter cannot be cancelled. Jesus is victorious over sin and death! And maybe the question for us is not, “Are you with Jesus?” but “Is he with you?” The answer is “yes”! And how do you know? He is alive and he’s sitting on the couch of your heart because you are baptized. You were set free from fear and death because those who are baptized have already died with Christ and have been raised to live a new life in him. He is with you in his Word which we hear and obey. Not only does death hold no power over you but the fears that keep knocking, these too Jesus shoos out the door. I’m not suggesting that being a Christian means that we ignore or downplay threats like coronavirus. Trust in Jesus and wash your hands! And realize this: Christ has called us to be the light of the world; to be different. You know that light shines the brightest on the darkest nights. What does it mean to shine brightly right now? I think it means to live without fear even as we take reasonable steps to protect ourselves and those around us. So whether you eat or drink or self-isolate or wash hands for 20 seconds, do it it to God’s glory and for the sake of others; not out of fear. At a time when things are looking down Jesus calls us to look up to him and to listen. He is the strong man who has defeated every enemy. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it. Blessed are those who are with him. Amen.