As we noted this past Sunday in worship which many of you attended in person and which many of you attended online, the coronavirus concerns we face can only be answered by connecting to the calming peace of Jesus, the only One who can help us deal with something that has come into our lives and has been referred to by some people as an enemy we can’t see. May God now be with us as we share his Word to see what God tells us about how to deal with a different kind of enemy. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We often remind ourselves as citizens of this nation and as thankful Christians that people who have served our country in the military deserve our deep respect and admiration. And so we appropriately give them that. From what I understand people who have served in active combat will say that perhaps the worst enemy is an enemy you can’t see – whether not knowing where enemy fire is coming from or not knowing if the person approaching you is an enemy or a friend. That is all the more reason to pray for those who serve our nation in the way they do. God bless all of them as they do so.
An enemy you can’t see is without question at the heart of the danger we face as Christians. As we this evening continue our Lenten emphasis that the Son of God goes forth to war, listen to tonight’s theme verse from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in chapter 6: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. God bless all of us as these words help us in the war for our souls which we are part of as the Christian soldiers of our Lord.
This verse of the Bible is right in the middle of a part of the Bible that may be familiar to many of us, where the apostle Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God as a soldier of the Lord — armor which includes things like the breastplate of the righteousness of Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins, the shield of faith in what Jesus has done for us, the helmet of salvation, knowing that we will live in heaven when we die, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. If you want to fight and defeat an enemy you can’t see, that’s what will do it – Jesus Christ and the Word of God which tells us about him.
And we truly need Jesus and his Word, because we truly are fighting an enemy we can’t see. All those expressions St. Paul uses – “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil” – all those expressions are making a simple point – the point the apostle Paul makes in the opening words when he says our “struggle (our battle) is not against flesh and blood.” It is against the devil himself, who uses whatever methods or temptations or people he can to try to keep us from believing Jesus is our Savior from sin and to keep us from believing that what the Bible says is true and means something for our lives every day that we live.
But even though we can’t see Satan, we can definitely see his results. We saw some of those diabolical results in tonight’s reading. We saw the results of the enemy we can’t see when we heard the members of the Sanhedrin say about Jesus after all the lies were told about him, “He is worthy of death.” We saw the results of the enemy we can’t see when we almost had to close our eyes as those soldiers spit on the Savior of the World and struck him with their fists as they mocked him and said to the Son of God, “Prophesy to us Christ, who hit you?” We saw the results of the enemy we can’t see when we stood at a distance and heard the oaths and curses of one of the Lord’s chosen few, who in his fright said of his friend, the one of whom he once said, “To whom else should we go? You have the words of eternal life,” “I don’t know the man.”
Those were the results we saw tonight in our brief Lenten reflection. The results we see all around us are legion. They are many. There are people all around us whom we want to help who seem honestly confused about what it means to be a male or a female, people all around us whom we want to help totally in the dark when dealing with the death of someone they love, people all around us whom we want to help yearning for something more than they have or they are, yearning to make something of themselves, yearning to be accepted by someone they look up to, yearning to escape abuse or trauma, yearning to find a purpose that will make them feel fulfilled, but always and only ending up so empty. The enemy we can’t see wants people not to see the simple answer. He does not want people to see that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost – that Jesus wants us to go out to the highways and the byways to bring in the lame, the crippled, the blind – all who have felt the ravages of a war they may not even know they are a part of – all who may not even know they have an enemy they can’t see.
And all this is not to mention the results of the enemy we can’t see that we see in our own lives – the temptations of the devil that we ourselves fall to every single day and the sadnesses in life which are the results of the devil’s intrigues which make up so much of our lives every single day. The devil is an enemy we can’t see, but we can see very well why the apostle Paul says our struggle is against him and all his forces in what he calls “the heavenly realms.”
But there’s something else in the heavenly realms, too. That expression – the heavenly realms – when used in the way Paul is using it in his letter to the Ephesians is referring to the spirit world – the world we can’t see. It is not in this context referring specifically and only to heaven. However, there is someone from heaven who is also active in the heavenly realms – in the spirit world – in the world we cannot see. And that is our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the apostle Paul who in these words is writing at the end of his letter to the Ephesians the encouragement to all of us to fight the good fight of faith at the very beginning of his letter six chapters earlier said that our Lord Jesus has already fought the fight – and has won. This is what Paul said in Ephesians chapter one: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
It is true that we see all around us the sad and tragic results of the enemy we can’t see, but it is equally true that in God’s Word we see the defeat of the enemy we can’t see by the one whom we see as our Savior from sin – the Son of God who went forth to war to win a battle we could never win by never sinning ourselves– a battle we could never find any happiness in because all without Christ would only be sad – a battle which would end in an eternity apart from God with no hope for that to ever change. We saw our warrior standing before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, accepting their accusation that he was worthy of death, though we are the ones worthy of death. We saw our warrior allowing those blows to strike his face and his head, even though we are the ones who strike him by striking others with unkind words or unloving actions. We saw our warrior enduring the threefold denial of one in his inner circle, even though we are the ones who have so often joined a circle of deniers and mockers and people who should go outside and weep bitterly.
But our warrior did all that – and he did all that for us. He did all that so nothing that Satan could ever try to do to us would ever happen to us. The Son of God went forth to war to let us see that the enemy we cannot see is a total loser, a total fake, a total liar – totally out of touch with what really is important in life – and that is to know that because Jesus loves me and gave himself for me, I belong to him now and forever. That is what we can hang on to in our struggle against the enemy we can’t see. No matter how hard this battle is – and all of us know how hard this battle can be — and maybe some of you are feeling the weight of this battle more than ever at this time right now in your life and in our world – or for whatever reason – but we can know from the Son of God who went forth to war that each of us can always say, “Because Jesus loves me and gave himself for me, I belong to him now and forever.” The devil may be an enemy you can’t see – but Jesus can – and Jesus does – and Jesus did – and Jesus won! Amen