Creeping through the house was a cunning art. Taking a single step was a strategic game to avoid creaks in the wooden floorboards. The goal was to maneuver through the house unnoticed. Any sound or change in shadows elicited alarm. There was nowhere to hide, every inch of the haunted house left visitors open and vulnerable to eyes prowling around in the shadows.
The figures themselves caused fear, but it was their voices which caused the utmost terror. Names were the fare that fed the voices lurking in the shadows. If the monsters skulking in the shadows spoke a name, their haunting became personal. Obscured by darkness the masked figures haunt the house but, if they speak my name, they haunt me.
Martin Luther knew what it was to be haunted day and night. He was haunted by sin, death, and the power of the devil. The darkness knew his name. The slithering foe daily emerged from darkness whispering his name, calling him by his sin.
The same darkness that haunted Luther, haunts you and me. The serpent whispers our name. Our own sin is the fare that feeds the prowling lion seeking to devour us. The devil knows our name and labels us by our sin. The devil breathes out death as he names us for what we are, sinners.
Fear is a natural product of sin. Luther concluded that a conscience which becomes so haunted by sin becomes a slave to fear. In his lectures on Genesis Luther writes,
“After their conscience had been convicted by the Law, Adam and Eve were terrified by the rustling of a leaf. We see it to be just so in the case of frightened human beings. when they hear the creaking of a bean, they are afraid that the entire house may collapse; when they hear a mouse, they are afraid that Satan is there and wants to kill them. By nature we have become so thoroughly frightened that we fear even the things that are safe.”
The Law speaks, and in speaking, convicts us of death. We are guilty of fleeing and rebelling against a holy God. Our adversary names us by our rebellion, our iniquity, our shame, our scarlet letters. The unholy trinity of sin, death, and the devil taunt us.
The final word does not belong to our sin or the haunting accusations of the serpent. The final word, the voice of the Gospel, unlike the voice of the serpent, does not whisper. It speaks in a loud voice. It is a voice that pierces through the darkness. This voice cries out in the midst of our darkness, “It is finished.”
This voice is the Word of God. It is the Word incarnate, it is Christ who gave up His life for ours. Jesus, the Word of life, let the darkness take Him so that we might be released from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil.
This Word broke into our darkness to take our sin, death, and fear, robbing the accuser of his power. The Lamb of God became our substitute, He became our sin. He became the One haunted by our sin.
This Word drowns the voices which haunt us. In his famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress, Martin Luther writes, “one little word shall fell him.” Our enemies are struck down by theWord.
Christ comforts our sin-stricken conscience with His sweet Gospel. His voice overpowers all others. The Word calms our fear. Christ does not name us according to our sin, but names us according to what He has done for us. He calls us Baptized, children of God, saints, His beloved.
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also.” —Martin Luther