Deliver Us From Evil

Luke 15:1–10 All the tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3He told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, if you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that was lost until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls together his friends and his neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ 7I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.

8“Or what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, would not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the lost coin.’ 10In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I want you to imagine you are part of the mob that really hates the apostle Paul. Your mob preaches circumcision, blood sacrifices and eating clean foods. Paul preaches Christ crucified. Your mob preaches the Jews are God’s chosen children. Paul preaches that people from all nations are God’s children through faith in Jesus. Your mob preaches salvation by works. Paul preaches salvation by grace alone.

You and the mob really hate this guy! He preaches everything exactly the opposite from you.

The mob wonders, “What should we do with Paul?” You suggest, “Let’s make him suffer!” Everyone chants, “Make him suffer!” People call out, “Let’s chase him from city to city!” “Let’s cause riots while he preaches!” “Let’s get him arrested!” “And beaten!” “And whipped!”

Everyone agrees.

Then one guy stands up and says, “I think all that’s a good idea, but I just read in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome that he rejoices in suffering, because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4). If we make Paul suffer … we’ll only make Paul happier!”

You suggest, “Let’s kill him!” Everyone chants, “Let’s kill him!” People call out, “Let’s hunt him down and stone him!” “Let’s encourage Caesar to throw him to the lions!” “Or cut off his head!”

Everyone agrees.

Then one guy stands up and says, “Normally I would think that’s a great idea, but I just read in Paul’s letter to his friends in Philippi, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ and ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Philippians 1:23). Paul is looking forward to dying!”

Now nobody knows what to do. You can’t make Paul suffer - he rejoices in suffering. You can’t kill him – he’s looking forward to death.

What to do?

Then you suggest, “Let’s let him live! That’s the worst thing we can do to Paul!” Everyone agrees. They change, “Let him live! Let him live!”

Imagine the frustration of the devil. He wants to make Paul suffer, but Paul rejoices in suffering in Christ’s name. He wants to persecute Paul, but Paul considers it an honor to carry Christ’s cross in persecution. He wants Paul dead to end this hated missionary’s life, but Paul is looking forward to death.

You give Paul suffering, he praises God. You give him good, he praises God. You give him evil, he praises God. You give him the certainty of death, he praises God. Because, unknowingly, all these enemies are leading Paul to the joys of life eternal.

Do you see what happened to Paul? He became “devil-proof.”

Jesus teaches us to pray in the seventh petition, “Deliver us from evil.” As we pray this petition, we want to become “devil-proof” like St. Paul. By devil-proof, I mean, that all the devil’s rage and evil only draws you closer to Jesus, his Word, his grace, his refuge and his salvation.

In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther identifies Satan as the Evil One.

In the Greek text this petition reads thus: Deliver or preserve us from the Evil One, or the Malicious One; and it looks as if He were speaking of the devil, as though He would comprehend everything in one, so that the entire substance of all our prayer is directed against our chief enemy. For it is he who hinders among us everything that we pray for: the name or honor of God, God's kingdom and will, our daily bread, a cheerful good conscience, etc. (Large Catechism, Part III, par. 113)

Satan is the source of all the evil in the world. Shortly after creation, Satan rebelled against God and fell from his position as a leader among angels. Satan fell like lightning from heaven. He fell to earth where he tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God. Their sin brought evil in the form of pain, misery, suffering and death.

Luther writes in his Small Catechism:

In conclusion, we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil that threatens body and soul, property and reputation …

The greatest evil is that which threatens body and soul. Satan’s goal is to separate the coin from the owner, the sheep from the Shepherd, the son from the father (Luke 15).

We pray for God to deliver us from the Evil One. Yet, we are not naïve. We know who we are. We are not mere victims of evil. So often we desire what the Evil One is offering. We choose the sin over the sanctification, the iniquity over the innocence, the guilt over the godly, the vice over the victory.

Together we are the tax collectors, prostitutes, criminals, and other “sinners” to whom Jesus is ministering in the beginning of Luke 15. We are the hiding coin and the wandering sheep in Jesus’ parable. At least a woman’s lost coin gets lost by accident. Our lostness is a direct result of our own stubbornness to our ways, our own indifference to God’s will, our own love of sin over holiness.

As coins, we hide in corners, not wanting to be seen, avoiding one another, trying to commit our sins in secret. We embrace the darkness and avoid the light. We are afraid that others will find out about our sinful behavior so we hide in the shadows.

As sheep, we follow false shepherds – seeking greener pastures, wanting more than Jesus has to offer in his words of forgiveness, in his holy Word in our Bibles, and in his sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We don’t want the safety and security of the flock of the Christian Church. We covet the fun of this world’s depravity. We are like stupid sheep, not realizing how good we have it, but running aimlessly here and wandering there, feeding on this and drinking down that.

We are lost with all the evil that surrounds us. The world attacks us with hatred from the outside. The demons whisper seductions into our ears. Our sinful nature willingly runs away from the safety of the flock into the danger of the serpent.

We are not only lost, but we are also lonely. Clinging tightly to our sin as we slowly die a spiritual and eternal death.

and finally when our last hour comes, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.

“‘But deliver us from the evil one.’”

Matthew 6:13b

The Lord’s Prayer – Seventh Petition

Satan is the “evil one” that Jesus identifies in this petition of the Lord’s Prayer. He is the source of all the evil in this world which happens as a result of mankind’s fall into sin. That includes everything from destructive storms to devastating volcanoes, from bitter cold to blazing heat, from flash floods to disastrous droughts, from irritating insect bites to terminal illnesses, from verbal disputes to violent crimes, from minor injuries to fatal accidents, from job displeasures to job terminations, from family squabbles to family breakdowns, from everyday stress to nervous disorders, from all that does go wrong to all that could go wrong. Evil is all that plagues our bodies and shakes our souls. Evil is no respecter of persons; it comes to us all. As long as we live in this sinful world, evil will touch our lives often and sometimes in very bitter ways.

With hearts and lives wounded and scarred by the cutting edge of evil, we fervently pray in the concluding petition of the Lord’s Prayer for deliverance. Our heavenly Father is anxious to hear and answer this prayer. He delivers us from evil by either preventing it from happening to us or, if he allows it to touch our lives, making it work for our good. We cling to God’s sure promise recorded in Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We are lost with all the evil that surrounds. The world attacks from the outside. The demons whisper attacks into our ears. Our sinful nature attacks from the inside out. Our Father in heaven will deliver us from every evil that threatens our body and soul.

The Seventh Petition

But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean?

In conclusion, we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil that threatens body and soul, property and reputation, and finally when our last hour comes, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.

A “why” question that has troubled philosophers and theologians for hundreds of years and is asked by us when we experience suffering and pain in our lives is, “If God is all-powerful and perfectly good, why is there evil?” If we were to try to figure out the answer to that question using our human reason, we would end up either limiting God’s power or God’s goodness. Either way, our answer would not agree with picture of God we find in the Scriptures.

According to the Bible, what is the cause of evil? Who is behind it? Not God. “Evil” is not His creation, for He created the world and everything in it to be “good.” Rather evil came into the world as a result of sin. The first one to sin and the author of evil and sin is the devil. Shortly after creation, the devil fell from his position as a leader among the angels when he exalted himself above God and led them into a rebellion against God. In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempted our first parents, Adam and Eve into sin. He first led to them to doubt God’s Word and then to disobey God’s command. As result of the fall into sin, evil entered our world in the form of pain, death, misery, and suffering. The greatest evil is eternal separation from God brought by unbelief. The aim of the Evil One is by any means to cause a breach between man and God, to break the relationship between man and God. The Evil One is the personification of all that is against God and all that is out to ruin man in this life and in the life to come.

This brings us to another “why” question: Why did God become man? The Bible answers: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). This same Jesus who came to destroy the works of devil teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” This petition is not only directed toward God, asking for Him to “deliver us” but against the devil. As Luther points out in the Large Catechism, in Greek, this petition literally says, “Deliver us from the evil one” (NKJV). The devil, the “evil one” is the one behind “every evil of body andsoul, property and honor.”

Who will “deliver us” from all this evil? The good news of Good Friday is that Christ has “destroyed the devil’s work” by His suffering and death. He has experienced “every evil of body and soul, property and honor” in our place and has destroyed evil at its source, crushing the head of the “old evil foe.” In His Passion and Crucifixion, Jesus willingly bore “every evil of body” in our place. He prophesied through Isaiah, ‘I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard” (Is 50:6). On the cross, Psalm 22(:16) says, “they pierced my hands and feet”. All this was for us, as He suffered in our place! “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is 53)

From the outset of His Passion, Jesus endured “evil of soul.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, as He knelt to pray for strength to carry out His saving work, He said, “”My soul is crushed with anguish to the very point of death” (Mt 26:38). On the cross, He felt the burden of the sins of the world weighing down upon His conscience. He “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” On the cross He felt the greatest evil the soul can endure, abandonment by God Himself, as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Ps 22:1) He was forsaken by God, that we would never be forsaken by Him.

But we were not simply naive. We were not mere victims. We wanted what the devil offered. We put the bonds on our own hands and feet. We went to Babylon as if we were going toward paradise, not away from it. We chose to have the devil as our authority instead of God, and we deserved to remain eternally enslaved to that hellish master.

Yet indeed in mercy, God looked on us: not because we were worthy of mercy, but because he is merciful. And God in his mercy intervened to save. As the devil had overcome us by a tree, so God appointed that by another tree the devil would be overcome. The devil had been crafty with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But with greater craft and craftiness, God laid the plot that when the devil came raving with the cross he would take it and use it against the foe as a noble tree to accomplish our redemption.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son to fulfill the plan of salvation. Yet not as a might warrior did he come to deliver us. Not with the plagues of Egypt did he decimate the devil’s kingdom. But in weakness he came, God in frail human flesh, the offspring of the woman.

For thirty years the Son of God dwelt among us, and then the time came for his great battle with the devil. Long had the curse stood against the ancient serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Long had the devil known the outcome of this fight. But he is the captain of unbelief. He was heedless of the Word of God, and never thought that when he brought the cross to Jesus he was in fact handing over the very weapon that would turn back and defeat him.

You are among the former subjects of Satan. By his death, Jesus breached the wall of the devil’s palace and has rescued you. In his Son, the Father has answered the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. We pray, “But deliver us from evil,” and as it says in Colossians 1, “[The Father] has delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Thus tonight we sing of victory: Jesus’ victory over the Evil One.

As we celebrate Jesus’ victory, at the same time we remain mindful of our unworthiness. Jesus has delivered us from the devil’s kingdom, and how have we repaid him? By toying around with the devil’s things, by dabbling in sin, by half-heartedly adoring Christ and half-heartedly wishing we were back in Babylon.

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of stories about the lost – the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost or Prodigal Son. These stories are about us. We are the lost. The greatest tragedy about being lost is that we don’t realize how lost we really are. We don’t go to church. We live like we are married without God’s blessing of marriage. We air our frustrations on social media and get others to join in our diatribe, all without dealing directly with the cause of our frustration. We make our children’s athletics and professional sports more of a priority than reading God’s Word at home, attending Bible studies at church, or sending our children to Sunday School. We hold a grudge against our brother. We won’t talk to our sister. We despise our neighbor.

And then with every breaking of God’s commandments we try to justify our actions. “I’m busy. I have to see if we are compatible. I’m just speaking my mind. Did I say how busy I am? I’ve been hurt before and I’m not going to be hurt again.”

Such is the sad life of the lost. There is no life apart from the Shepherd. There is no joy outside of His light.

That’s because the wages of your wandering, the cost of your hiding, and the expense of your sin is death. If you remain in the shadows, you will die. If you continue to wander, you will die. If you abandon the Church and its Shepherd, you will die.

Jesus does not want you to die. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). We are of great value to the shepherd of the field and the lady of the house. Jesus is the shepherd and the woman in the parables. He leaves everything behind to go looking for you. He searches in the cracks and crevices, the nooks and crannies to find where you are hiding. He brings you back into His house, back into His flock. Then He and His saints throw a party. Then He and His angels rejoice over you when you repent. He wants you to live – today, tomorrow and forever. He has come that you may have life in Him and only Him.

God sent His Son into this world for the express purpose of seeking and saving the lost. Not because you are so adorable, commendable or remarkable, but precisely because you are such a vile, wretched, miserable sinner. Jesus came for the purpose of calling people out of the darkness of sin into the wonderful light of the Lord’s love.

Jesus knows full well that we are worse than sheep that innocently wander off. We are the ones who deliberately turn our backs on the Good Shepherd, choosing instead to go where we should not go; to do what we should not do; to touch what we should not touch. We are worse than a coin that becomes lost through no fault of its own. We are the ones who leave our Savior willingly, following the sinful desires of our hearts, delighting in our sins, lovingly choosing evil over righteousness.

God has every right to be angry with us. We are ungrateful, disrespectful, sin-worshiping people.

And yet, where is God? He is right here among us, calling us back to Himself. He is here, surrounding Himself with sinners. He is here in mercy and forgiveness, giving us the blessings of His cross to the very same people who put Him on the cross with their sins. He is here, searching us out, not content to lose a single one. He is here in worship - whether we are in a church or a park – washing our sins away in Baptism, comforting and teaching us in His Word, feeding our starving souls in His Lord’s Supper, offering us forgiveness in His absolution, sending us home with His abiding peace in the Benediction.