Jesus and the Ruler
(Matthew 12.22-30; Mark 3.20-27)
14Jesus forced a demon out of a man who could not talk. And after the demon had gone out, the man started speaking, and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some people said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”
16 Others wanted to put Jesus to the test. So they asked him to show them a sign from God. 17Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said:
A kingdom where people fight each other will end up in ruin. And a family that fights will break up. 18If Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? Yet you say that I force out demons by the power of Beelzebul. 19If I use his power to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? They are the ones who will judge you. 20But if I use God's power to force out demons, it proves that God's kingdom has already come to you.
21When a strong man arms himself and guards his home, everything he owns is safe. 22But if a stronger man comes and defeats him, he will carry off the weapons in which the strong man trusted. Then he will divide with others what he has taken. 23 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don't gather in the crop with me, you scatter it.
Return of an Evil Spirit
24When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when it doesn't find a place, it says, “I will go back to the home I left.” 25When it gets there and finds the place clean and fixed up, 26it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and that person ends up in worse shape than before.
Being Really Blessed
27While Jesus was still talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up, “The woman who gave birth to you and nursed you is blessed!”
28Jesus replied, “That's true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God's message!”
The man is mute and Jesus casts out a demon so that he is able to speak. But something more is happening here than meets the eye. The predictable challenge comes that this is simply Satan’s work. The response that Jesus gives hints at a very different conclusion. “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” After the miracles of Moses, Pharaoh’s magicians knew what was happening was well beyond what they could do. “This is the finger of God” they said (Exodus 8:19). So below the surface the action of Jesus is an announcement of a new “exodus.”The healing of the mute is one small sign of a much larger redemptive action to deliver his people from bondage – to bring salvation. Jesus comes as one who is able to bind the “strong man” and take his spoil.
Jesus invites us to respond to a radical call to a new allegiance. To have the demon cast out is a first step. The next is to ask for a new spirit – the Holy Spirit, lest the darkness returns seven fold. This is more than an invitation to moral reform. It’s a new relationship in and through the Spirit (Romans 8). The wisdom and power of Jesus are in evidence and a well intentioned woman in the crowd notes how blessed the mother of this man must be. Perhaps she had a son with a very different sort of story. Jesus allows this spontaneous comment to become the occasion for noting a much more profound source of blessedness found by those “who hear the word of God and keep it”.
God of grace you have come to set your people free. You have given us the words of life. You have called us to renewal. Help all who bear your name to stand against evil, and be drawn by your Spirit to be conformed to the image of Christ.