The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 4, 2024
1 Peter 5:6-11
From the Jordan to the Mountain—
The Devil’s Work Undone!
6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever had to ask someone to fix something that you broke? I have and I can tell you from personal experience that it is kinda really embarrassing! If it happens too often it might get to the point where you go up to that person, ask them if they would do something for you, and the first thing they say is, “What did you break this time?” Again, I can tell you from personal experience that it is kinda really embarrassing!
Now imagine that I went out of my way to consciously and deliberately break something because I was mad and not even the person who can usually fix anything could do anything to fix it. Then it got even worser! I kept on breaking things and no one could do anything to stop me. It was hopeless— until, until someone came along who could not only fix what I had broken, but could stop me as well!
That’s the scenario I want you to keep in mind as we study our sermon text for today. Today as we continue our journey From the Jordan to the Mountain let’s study this portion of Scripture under the theme: The Devil’s Work Undone!
While there are a number of different perspectives from which we could study this portion of Scripture I want us to approach these words in a way that ties in with our theme: The Devil’s Work Undone! That means that we will need to look at two things: the devil’s “work” and how Jesus “undoes” what the devil has done.
Let’s begin by focusing on the opening verse. Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Do you remember why the devil and his evil angels rebelled against God and started a war in heaven? Scripture gives us the impression that it came down to pride. In Provers 16:18 wise King Solomon tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” With that general statement ringing in our ears we read in Jude 6, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home— these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”
From these words we get the impression that Satan and the angels aligned with him were not content with the “rank” that God had assigned to them within the heavenly host. Their pride then led them to rebel against God— thereby rendering them “evil” angels. This lines up well with the advice that the apostle Paul gave to the young pastor named Timothy. As Paul was instructing Timothy on who should be considered for a leadership position in the church, he writes, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).
When Satan and his forces failed in their futile attempt to rebel against the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, in their anger and in their hatred they turned their attention to attacking what God loved most— the crown of His Creation, Adam and Eve. Sadly we know that Satan was victorious in his war against human beings. Sadly, we know that because of Satan’s work now we all have an old sinful nature lurking inside of us, an old sinful nature that is in cahoots with the devil himself.
Pride. Ego. Conceit. Arrogance. Our old sinful nature is infected with all of them— because of what Satan did. Think of how often Jesus warns us against pride. Think of how many times Jesus encourages us to be humble. How did Jesus “undo” the devil’s “work” of pride? First of all He set the example that we are to follow. After He humbly washed His disciples’ feet He said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14, 15). Do you have the kind of humility that would enable you to wash someone’s feet?
The ultimate act of humility is found on the cross of Calvary’s hill. (Pointing to the cross) In his letter to the Philippians Paul reminds us that even though Jesus is “in very nature God,” He willingly “humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6, 8). Since the Son of God was willing to humble Himself to this ultimate degree— for us!— (Pointing to the cross), we also have every reason to be humble and no reason to be proud.
As we strive to be humble that is when we have the confidence of knowing that God will “lift you up in due time.” Whenever God allows hardships and afflictions to enter into our lives Satan will use them to try and fill us with both pride and resentment. “I don’t deserve this!” we cry out. Jesus “undoes” the work of Satan by enabling us to not only be humble, but by also enabling us to trust in our God. Yes, even in the midst of difficulties and hardships we trust in our God. We trust in His strength. We trust that His love for us will “lift us up” and enable us to carry whatever crosses our God may call on us to bear. This trust in our God and in His strength is what gives us the confidence of knowing that “in due time” our God will “lift us up,” ultimately He will “lift us up” to the eternal glories of heaven.
By “undoing” Satan’s work of filling us with pride, by giving us the humility of trusting in our God, Jesus also gives us the ability to take to heart Peter’s words, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” The word that is translated here as “anxiety” can also be translated as “worry.” We all know how hard Satan works to overwhelm us with “anxiety” and “worry.” Satan loves it when we “worry” about what we will eat or what we will drink or what we will wear. (See Matthew 6:25ff) Satan loves it when we are “anxious” about our job or our marriage or our future. He loves overwhelming us with anxieties and worries because that gives him even more room to “work”— to “work” at leading us away from trusting in our God, to “work” at leading us to trust our own strength and our own ability to provide for ourselves. Jesus “undoes” this “work” of Satan by leading us to the foot of His cross and assuring us that we can leave all of our anxieties and all of our worries with Him because His cross guarantees how much He “cares for us”! He is “concerned” about even the littlest things that are taking place in our lives!
God cares for us. Think about what that means. While it is tremendously comforting to know that people love us and care about us, it is even more comforting to know how much our God cares for us! God cares so much that He sent His own Son to die for us— even though we have rebelled against Him and lived a life of sin that deserves rejection by the Almighty. God cares for us. He cares so much that He sent His Holy Spirt to create the gift of saving faith in our hearts. God cares about us. He cares so much that He washed us clean of all of our sins in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. God cares for us. He cares so much that He gives us His true body and His true blood in His holy Supper to assure us that all of our sins are completely forgiven. God cares for us. He cares so much that in His mercy He promises us that He will care for us and watch over us— forever! God cares for us. What a gloriously comforting truth!
As soon as Peter tells us to “cast all of our anxieties” on our dear Lord and Savior, trusting that He does indeed “care for us” more than we can imagine, Peter reminds us that we can’t just sit idly by thinking that we will never face any dangers in this world. Look at the warning Peter gives us in verses eight and nine of our text, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Make no mistake, my friends. Satan is our most powerful enemy. That’s why God the Holy Spirit has Peter describe him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Lions are expert predators. They see their prey long before their prey is aware of it. The lion then stealthily creeps along until their prey is not paying attention— and then they attack! Satan “works” like a lion. He is constantly on the prowl looking for Christians who have allowed themselves to be distracted by the things of this world, Christians who have allowed themselves to become vulnerable by wandering away from the Lord and by wandering away from His church. Satan is constantly “working” to use all kinds of evil and all kind of temptations to wear Christians down to a point where they feel helpless and weak and vulnerable. Then he attacks!
Recognizing that this is how Satan “works,” Peter tells us, “Be self-controlled!” “Be alert!” Perhaps Peter was recalling the words Jesus spoke to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Perhaps Peter was recalling the painful memory of his own fall in the courtyard of the high priest. (See Matthew 26:69ff)
How does Jesus “undo” this “work” of Satan? Through His holy Word and through His holy Supper He gives us the determination to “resist” Satan and the strength to “stand firm in the faith”! Through His holy Word and through His holy Supper He gives us the determination to cling to Jesus as our only Lord and Savior and the strength to defeat Satan by trusting in the victory that Christ proclaimed when He rose from the dead on the third day. As Martin Luther taught us to sing concerning Satan, “One little word can fell him” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)
Jesus also “undoes” the “work” of Satan by assuring us that we are not alone! Not only does Jesus assure us that He is always with us— even to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20)— but He has His servant Peter assure us, “You know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” We have brothers and sisters in the faith that we can turn to and talk to. We have fellow Christians that we can consult and confide in. We are part of a mighty Christian army that has been equipped with the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11ff) No matter how hard Satan “works” to divide and conquer us, Jesus “undoes” Satan’s “work” by bringing us into fellowship with Him and by bringing us into fellowship with each other. Treasure that fellowship, my friends! Treasure it with all your heart!
God the Holy Spirit has His servant Peter conclude this section of his letter by including some amazingly comforting words. He writes, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Our strength and our hope and our victory over Satan do not depend on us. No rather, our strength and our hope and our victory over Satan depends completely on the “God of all grace.” Ultimately this is how Satan’s “work” is “undone.” Satan works very hard to cause us to “suffer.” The “God of all grace” “undoes” Satan’s work by guaranteeing to us that this suffering will only last “a little while.” Satan works very hard to overwhelm us with the anxieties and the worries of this life. The “God of all grace” “undoes” Satan’s work by assuring us that He has “called us to his eternal glory in Christ.” Satan works very hard to beat us down hoping that we will eventually just give up. The “God of all grace” “undoes” Satan’s work by taking us by the hand and saying, “I myself will restore you and strengthen you and establish you.” Notice, my friends, that there are no conditions here. God does not say, “I will do this for you if you do this or if you do that first.” The “God of all grace” has promised to guide us safely through this world into the eternal glory He has prepared for us.
While it is kinda rather embarrassing when I have to go to someone and ask them to fix something that I have broken, I genuinely appreciate when they are willing to do so. Tragically, there is no human being who can “fix” what Satan “broke.” There is no human being who can “undo” Satan’s “work.” Praise God that our Brother Jesus is not just another ordinary human being! Praise God that our Brother Jesus is the true eternal Son of the one and only living God— the Savior that we need! Praise God that our Brother Jesus willingly offered Himself up on the altar of the cross (Pointing to the cross) so that through faith in Him we have the confidence of knowing that the devil’s work is undone!
May this always lead us to say along with Peter, “To him be the power (and the glory!) for ever and ever!”