It’s War!

Sunday December 12, 2021, The Third Sunday in Advent (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Binding the Strongman

Zephaniah 3:14-18Isaiah 12:2-6Philippians 4:4-7Luke 3:10-18

Opening up with today’s reading in Luke we see John the Baptist, as God’s drill sergeant recruiting his way through the Jordan Valley. He’s preparing the nation for the coming conflict. His rallying cry cuts sharp and deep into the heart of the people as he calls them to muster. “The Great One is coming!” “Get ready!” “War will soon be upon us!” John accepts only the committed and sincere. Self-righteous hypocrites are quickly 4-F’d and rejected.  The chosen are initiated by baptism in the Jordan. Their first order in God’s boot camp: REPENT! Life can’t go on as usual. This is a different kind of war. It’s spiritual. Spears and swords are useless. The weapons of choice in this operation are prayer, fasting, and love of neighbor; these are the only things that can overcome evil. Few, if any, realize the seriousness of the situation. “I baptize you with water,” exclaims John, “but the Mighty One is coming. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He will chop down the fruitless trees. His wheat will be gathered into his barn, and He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire!” and with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.

Then, one day, it happened. He is baptized. The sky opens up. The Father proclaims Jesus’ identity, and the Spirit marks Him out. This is it! Sin…Salvation…the whole creation hangs in the balance. All of mankind has a stake in the coming battle. The ax cuts at each of our sinful roots. If Jesus fails then everyone will be kindling. No hope. No Joy. No wheat, only chaff for burning. The Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for the initial engagement. It is bare knuckles against evil, now! The Kingdom of Heaven is advancing on the earth. The Prince of Peace is a mighty warrior with one objective: Bind the Strongman! 

Satan and his demons know Jesus is coming for them. They have all the puzzle pieces of prophesy. God’s battle plan has to do with sin somehow, but the rebellious angels just can’t figure it out. Satan sees Jesus in a weakened condition while fasting in the desert and takes a shotgun approach to get the Messiah to stumble.  Jesus fends off three temptation attempts by the Strongman and wins the day. Other evil attacks ensue over time in an attempt to nullify the Son of Man, but to no avail. Finally, crucifixion seems like Jesus’ Achilles’ heel and Satan goes for it. Jesus suffers through His Passion, and it appears that evil will win after all; however, something is going wrong. There’s an inkling about it while Jesus is on the cross (Matt 27:42), but when Christ resurrects on Easter Sunday, the total devastation of the Devil is assured. In a demonstration of Devine Jujitsu’ the wisdom of the Almighty deceived the deceivers: “for if they had known the mystery of God, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). Satan is crushed. Jesus plunders his house, and the souls of men are set free (Luke 4:18).

The other three readings today in Zephaniah, Isaiah, and Philippians are passages of joy, salvation, and triumph in Jesus. In this third Sunday of Advent, let us not forget that you cannot separate the cradle from the cross. Had Jesus failed, there would be no tidings of comfort and joy, no celebration of that holy night, only the dismal mockery of God’s grand attempt. It is one thing to take the field but another to leave in triumph. But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so by the grace of God, He may taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). He is victorious! He lives! Alleluia! He now hands over the battle to you. Let us put on the full armor of God and advance God’s Kingdom in this world through the victory of Easter and in the love and joy of Christmas.

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