Stronger

Posted: March 5, 2017 in Luke

Luke 11:14-28, “Stronger”

Sports movies are all about the drama.  There’s an opportunity – the challenge – the seemingly impossible – the struggle – and the overcoming.  Just when you think it’s over, it’s not. 

What makes for compelling drama for us would be downright terrifying if it applied to the Lord Jesus.  After all, Jesus is God Incarnate, fully endued with all of the mighty power to be expected of the omnipotent Creator God.  There is no fight He cannot win.  In fact, if His victory was ever in doubt, we’d have far less confidence of His deity!  How could Almighty God fail?  He can’t…and praise the Lord, He can’t!  We don’t want the compelling drama of an underdog with Jesus – we want the confidence of an ever-victorious Messiah.  (And that is exactly what we have!)

Not that the events surrounding Jesus aren’t compelling – without question, they are!  Jesus not only routinely faces down the devil and his minions, but He has to deal with our own doubts, unbelief, and sin.  Yet even here, He can do it.  Jesus is the Victor – He overcomes.  We can have confidence in Christ.  He is infinitely stronger than Satan, and totally worthy of our faith.

Contextually, we don’t have much to go on regarding the chronological timeline.  Jesus was just seen answering a disciple’s question about prayer, as He once more gave the instruction/example of the Lord’s Prayer, and emphasized the confidence that children of God have that God hears and answers our prayers.  But even then, we don’t know exactly when those words were said in the earthly ministry of Jesus.  Overall, Luke has shown Jesus headed towards Jerusalem and the cross (9:53), but some of the events that have followed have been somewhat thematically arranged, rather than chronologically focused.

Such might be the case again here.  When comparing this section of Scripture with the accounts of Matthew & Mark, we find what seems to be the exact same event, recorded far earlier in Jesus’ ministry.  Both Matthew and Mark show this prior to the feeding of the 5000, the Transfiguration, and even prior to Jesus’ parables.  So why did Luke place it here?  We cannot be certain, but perhaps a couple of suggestions can be made.  (1) The rejection and questioning Jesus faces here is a sampling of the rejection Jesus routinely faced, and what is yet in store for Him when He reaches Jerusalem.  The proofs of Jesus’ deity & His identity as the Messiah were numerous & plain – but the eyes of the people were blind to them.  They (specifically the Pharisees and other Jewish leadership) didn’t want Jesus to be the Messiah, so they turned against every piece of evidence that was provided to them.  (2) In Luke’s immediate context, a specific prayer request Jesus guaranteed would receive an answer from the Heavenly Father was the gift of the Holy Spirit (11:13).  That gift is contrasted with not only the evil spirits conquered by Jesus in the following event, but also with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that is done by the people standing by as witnesses.  They rejected the work and evidence of the Holy Spirit that was performed right in front of them, and thus they did not “hear the word of God,” nor did they “obey it.” (11:28)

Whatever the reason for Luke’s placement, what we find is a grand battle.  Not between Jesus & the demon – that battle is over in mere seconds, a TKO by any margin! – but between Jesus and the unbelieving crowd.  They saw the power of God in Jesus Christ, and they shut their eyes in willful disbelief.  They missed out on the blessing that could have been theirs: the blessing of the salvation of God.

Luke 11:14–28

  • Conflict: Demonic or Divine? (14-23)

14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.

  • The question might be asked if it was the demon or the man who was “mute.”  Technically, the grammar could go either way – it’s the context that shows that the muteness was caused by the demon unto the man.  Certainly the demon had no inherent disability in itself; this was simply one of the afflictions it forced upon its victim.  Matthew’s account makes this a bit clearer, as it is the man who is described as “demon-possessed, blind, and mute.” (Mt 12:22)  That’s a dire situation!  Not only was the man demon-possessed (which was bad enough!), but he couldn’t even ask for help if he wanted to, nor could he look for anyone to heal him even when his mouth couldn’t respond.  This man was totally trapped by the chains of Satan, with no possible hope of freedom.  No hope, that is, apart from Jesus.  Jesus shows up, and everything changes!  Jesus comes, and He casts out the demon without difficulty.  Again – remember that the man was totally at the mercy of Christ.  He had no ability to help himself, nor any way to ask for help if he tried.  Yet Jesus saw His need, took mercy upon him, and showered him with the grace for which he was unable to request.  Jesus took on the impossible, through His own loving initiative, and did it!
    • That’s always the way it works.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible.  Things seem hopeless until Jesus shows up…then everything changes.  And it’s not as if we add anything to the equation.  If Jesus doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.  No one is forgiven without the grace given them by Jesus.  No one becomes a child of God apart from the love that Jesus first gives to us.  No one experiences any freedom from oppression or guilt or crushing temptation, except when he/she has been showered with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have no hope of ourselves – all we have is Christ, and He is enough.  He is the hope of glory!
    • Before we go any further, ask yourself: do you believe this?  Do you believe that Jesus is your only hope?  Have you tasted of the grace He so freely offers you?  There is no promise of God you can receive if you do not first go through Christ.  Apart from Jesus, you will always be bound to sin, bound to its consequences, enslaved to death and the devil.  Only Christ offers freedom; believe upon Him!
  • So that’s what was going on as Luke’s telling of the event unfolds, and that’s all he says about it.  Jesus shows up to an impossible situation, and immediately resolves it.  There’s no drama – no light show – no fog machine or stirring soundtrack of music…there’s just Jesus and the freedom He gives.  In a flash, it’s over.  Someone walking up to the man not 15 seconds later would not have seen a struggle between the forces of good and evil…he would have just seen a man, fully at peace, staring into the face of the Son of God.  Why?  Because Jesus infinitely outmatches the devil.  That’s exactly what He will teach later on, and it’s on full display here.  When Satan and Jesus go head-to-head, there’s not even a hint of drama.  Satan can gear up every spiritual and earthly force he can muster, and he still isn’t any competition to the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is in another category altogether.  The best the devil can do is “heavyweight.”  Jesus is “all the weight” – He is omnipotent!
    • As an aside, this ought to tell us something about many of the so-called “deliverance” ministries, who sell packages on spiritual warfare & videos of them supposedly fighting the devil.  They talk about strategies and drama and painful sweaty effort.  When they do, they aren’t talking about anything Christian.  Christ effortlessly conquers the devil and every demon.  When Jesus does it, it’s for real.
  • In this case, Jesus did the work, the man was freed from his demon & demonstrated it through his speech and his sanity.  As a result, “the multitudes marveled.”  And how could they not?  When the work is really of Jesus, people take notice!  In fact, it was all of this attention that some of the people found unwanted.  Some of them (Matthew tells us it was some of the Pharisees) accused Jesus of having secret evil motives…

15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.

  • Was it divine, or was it demonic?  Jesus did a miraculous thing in this exorcism, but what if it was just a big trick designed to deceive?  What if “Beelzebub” (Satan) was really behind all of this stuff?  If the king of the demons told a demon to leave, surely it would have to leave.  Maybe this supposed prophet was really false – a Manchurian candidate who was really in league with the devil!
    • Who is “Beelzebub”?  Most Greek manuscripts actually read “Beelzebul,” (Βεελζεβουλ) which seems to be a reference from 2 Kings 1:2 speaking of a local false god worshipped in Ekron called “Baal-Zebub,” – the “lord of the flies.”  How this name of a pagan deity became an epithet for the devil is unknown.  It’s fitting, in any case.  Those who follow Satan believe themselves to be powerful; in reality they are sitting among filth.
  • If conspiracy theories weren’t bad enough, others among the crowd demanded “a sign from heaven.”  They wanted proof that Jesus could be trusted.  The conspiracy theorists were nutty enough (as Jesus was about to point out), but this was truly absurd.  People asked for a sign…Jesus just gave them one.  He cast out a demon…what other miracle could Jesus possibly have performed that would indicate His victorious power over the devil?
  • What all of this really goes to show was their stubbornness.  The problem wasn’t a lack of evidence; it was an unwillingness to believe.  All the evidence required to believe that Jesus is the Messiah was right in front of them.  These people were just predisposed against that conclusion.  They didn’t want Jesus to be the Messiah, so they invented excuses why He couldn’t be…even if their excuses didn’t make a lick of sense.
    • That hasn’t changed in 2000 years.  Skeptics are still skeptical, not for a lack of evidence, but from a lack of will.  If people don’t want to believe, they won’t.  There is not a single argument against the existence of God or the validity of the Bible that has not been answered.  The evidence is there, if people just put a bit of effort into looking at it.  They don’t want to, so they don’t.  It’s their will that’s lacking.

17 But He, knowing their thoughts,

  • Before we go any further, notice the mention of Jesus’ omniscience.  He knew “their thoughts.”  Some of their objections were obviously voiced.  After all, to seek a sign from Jesus Himself would have required them to speak to Him.  Even the accusation about being in league with “Beelzebub” is described as having been spoken out loud.  So Jesus would have perceived all of that in the same way as anyone else: just by using His ears.  Yet there were other thoughts He knew that no one else could perceive.  He knew how many of the people actually thought that way.  He knew the precise nature of their objections.  He even recognized the root cause of their willful rebellion, even if they didn’t understand it themselves.  He knew their thoughts because He is God.
  • What makes this important is that it Jesus’ deity has now been demonstrated in two ways.  First, He showed His omnipotence as He cast out the demon.  Now He shows His omniscience by knowing the thoughts of the crowd.  There ought to be no question that He is God because He shares the same attributes as God.  He is all-powerful & all-knowing. 

… said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.

  • Far from being an obscure teaching, this short quip illustrates the absurdity of their argument.  The kingdom of Satan was obviously in their midst, evidenced by the man who was demon-possessed.  Not a single person among them voiced the possibility that the man had been faking it the entire time.  Jesus never got called out for using “shills” like so many word-faith “healers” today.  Jesus didn’t have to plant people with fake diseases in His audiences so that they could appear to be healed; He merely showed up among the sick and demon-possessed & healed whoever was there.  The man had truly been afflicted by a demon, and his affliction was provably removed.  Whereas he had previously been mute, now he could speak.  There was no question that what Jesus did was a legitimate cleansing.  An actual demon had actually been cast out.
  • The question was whether or not Jesus did it by the power of God or by the power of Satan.  And the answer should have been easy.  Why would Satan tear down his own kingdom? What purpose would it serve?  He cares nothing for the souls of men, coming only to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn 10:10).  For him to all the exorcism of a demon underling, and free a human under his direct grip, is for him to work against himself.  Does the devil deceive men?  No doubt…he is cunning beyond that of the most evil of men.  But he isn’t that stupid.  He doesn’t willingly give ground, especially when God gets the glory.

19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

  • Jesus’ second question truly showed how illogical the argument was.  If Jesus was satanically empowered (just to argue the point), what then did that say about other Jewish exorcisms?  I.e. if the only way for anyone to cast out a demon is if the devil allows that person to do it (which is basically what they were claiming about Christ), what did that say about the Jews when they did it?  Jesus certainly was not the first person ever to cast out a demon among the Jews.  We don’t read of others in the Old Testament, though Luke does record the dealings of some “itinerate Jewish exorcists” in the New Testament (Acts 19:13).  Surely no one did it with Jesus’ efficiency or success rate, but considering demons were recognized among the Jews, it only makes sense that other people attempted to cast them out.  Thus, if Jesus has to be empowered by the devil to do it, how much more did the Jews?  They were slandering their own “sons” as tools of the devil.
  • There’s a bit of question as to who the “sons” are.  Jesus isn’t literally speaking of the children of those accusing Him that day.  This must refer to other Jews – but to whom?  Some argue that this is a veiled reference to Jesus’ own disciples, who could rightly be identified as Jewish sons (being Jews themselves).  Not only had they been documented as previously casting out demons (Lk 10:17), but the disciples (especially the 12) will sit in judgment over the 12 tribes of Israel during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Mt 19:28).  That said, even if Jesus’ reference was more generic to other Jews, they would “judge” those accusing them of satanic power…not in the age to come, but in the present day.

20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

  • Here’s the rub.  If Jesus didn’t use the power of Satan to cast out demons (which He didn’t), then there was only one other option: God.  Surely normal humans have no power to accomplish spiritual tasks or engage in spiritual warfare.  Men and women in their flesh may be able to say “no” to temptation from time to time (though normally they don’t), but they stand no chance against a full-on satanic assault.  This is routinely observed among those who play around with demonic things such as witchcraft, Ouija boards, and the like.  When people engage demons, people lose every single time.  They invite demonic oppression (if not outright possession) into their lives, and they enter their own living hell.  So if people cannot cast out demons, who can?  God.  God has no problem casting demons aside.  God cast Satan and 1/3 of the angelic armies down to earth when they rose up in rebellion – surely God has no problem plucking demonic possessors out of the minds of men.  When God moves in His power, nothing can stand in His way!
  • And keep in mind, this wasn’t a one-time thing.  Notice the use of the plural “demons.”  Exorcisms were routine in the ministry of Jesus, with one of the more famous instances taking place among the Gaderenes (Gerasenes) when Jesus cast out an entire legion’s worth of demons from a single man, sending them into a herd of swine.  That’s 5000 demons in one shot…and Jesus didn’t even break a sweat.  In Luke’s account, Jesus didn’t raise a finger – He merely “permitted” the demons to enter the pigs after they begged Him to allow it (Lk 8:32).  This was power.  This was the true power of God at work…and it ought to have been recognizable!  When God moves, it’s known.  People see it, and are left in fear and trembling.  Even when people want to deny God’s involvement, it can’t be done for long.  When Moses first performed signs in the presence of Pharaoh, the Egyptian magicians attempted to imperfectly reproduce the miracles of God.  They were mildly successful for a while (though the differences were clearly seen), but eventually they gave up.  Even Pharaoh’s magicians recognized the “finger of God” (and labeled it as such – Exo 8:19).  If those pagan magicians could do it, why couldn’t the Jews?
    • Once more, this comes down to a matter of the heart and will.  Even when the Egyptian magicians recognized the true God at work, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart.  Likewise with the Jewish Pharisees, and with so many people today.  People never see what they don’t want to see.  We can put our hands over our eyes & claim blindness, but the truth is different, even if the end-result is the same.  That’s what so many people do with God.  They look around at the creation surrounding them, place their hands in front of their spiritual eyes & say, “We evolved out of nothing!”  They breathe in & out with the lungs God gave them, shut their eyes & deny that life is a gift.  They look at babies in the womb, shut their eyes & claim it’s just a clump of tissue.  And it’s the same thing in regards to Christ.  They read the words of the gospel, see the proofs of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, witness the transformed lives of Christians all around them, and more…and they throw their hands in front of their faces, claiming they don’t see anything there.  It is stubborn unwillingness to believe, and it will be their doom.
    • Don’t let your stubbornness be your ticket to hell!  Honest people have honest questions about God…that’s normal.  But the kind of skepticism shown towards Jesus here, and seen so often among people today, is not honest at all.  That’s willful – that’s a purposeful denial of the truth, borne out of the pride of men.  And it kills.  Beware that you don’t seal your own death through dishonest denials of the Son of God.
  • Keep in mind there was good news here, if only the skeptics would see it.  “The kingdom of God [had] come upon” them!  Jesus was there, performing the work of God, freeing people by the power and grace of God, and His grace was there for the asking.  Life and liberty was among them – anyone listening to the words of Jesus that day could experience immediate reconciliation with God the Father – anyone could be made His own son or daughter.  The kingdom of God was there!  All they needed to do was enter it through faith! (As do we!)
    • Notice the use of the past (English past; Greek aorist) tense.  The kingdom of God was already there.  Objection: aren’t we still awaiting the kingdom of God?  Yes.  When Jesus comes back in power and glory at the end of this age, He will institute an earthly kingdom that will last for 1000 years.  During that time, all of the remaining promises to Israel will be literally fulfilled, Satan will be locked in prison, and there will be a righteousness on planet earth unlike anything that has ever been seen.  We will see government in its perfect form: a theocracy ruled directly by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Among men, the best we can do is a democratic republic, because men require checks & balances on power…we can’t be trusted with it.  But Almighty God can.  When God the Son rules as King, His government is perfect.  That is what’s coming in the future.  But…even though it is future, it is here today.  In fact, it began 2000 years ago when Jesus first walked the earth.  Formally, the kingdom of God will begin upon Jesus’ return & last for 1000 years.  Informally, the kingdom has been with us since Christ.  There is a now & not-yet aspect to the kingdom.  Now, Jesus reigns in our hearts as King – even if He is not yet reigning upon the earth.  Now, the kingdom ethic can be lived out by Christians – though it is not yet known by the world.  Now, the gospel of the kingdom can be proclaimed – though it is not yet received by all.  But for the Christian, the bottom line is this: we can live as kingdom people right now!  We don’t have to wait for the kingdom to come, because in a very real way, it is already here.
    • And again, this is terrific news – because that same kingdom can be experienced by anyone at any time.  The moment you put your faith & trust in Jesus Christ, you become a part of His kingdom.  You enter it the same way as Jesus invited the Jews of His day: through faith.
  • So Jesus has pointed out the absurdity of the accusation against Him.  If the devil tore down the devil’s kingdom, what purpose would that accomplish?  Yet if it was God that tore down the devil’s kingdom, what message did that send?  It meant that God is far more powerful than the devil & can overcome him anytime God so chooses!  Jesus goes on to illustrate that idea…

21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. 22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

  • The basic idea is simple.  Someone capable of defending himself doesn’t worry about various attackers.  Someone fully armed & skilled doesn’t fear thieves (especially in Texas!).  Not too many people take on Chuck Norris when he’s home.  Not too many burglars would pick his home to break into, and never if they knew he was home.
  • But even Chuck Norris can be outmatched.  There’s always someone stronger than a strong man.  In this particular example, the “strong man” is the devil.  And there is no question of his strength!  This is the being that tempted the first human beings with sin before there was even a 2nd generation to tempt.  This is the being that convinced one-third of the angels that it was possible to take on Almighty God, and win.  This is the being that has deceived literally billions of people through false gods and religions, thereby sealing their eternal doom.  The devil’s strength is in his lying tongue, if not in his sheer power – which is no doubt mighty in itself.  But there is One who is stronger: Jesus.  Jesus is stronger than the strongest man – Jesus is stronger than Satan himself!  Again, when Jesus and Satan battle, Jesus is not in the position of a Rocky Balboa-underdog; He is the all-powerful Almighty God.  Jesus doesn’t merely outweigh the devil by a boxing class; Jesus is a totally different order of existence.  Jesus is the I AM, the always-existing Creator God.  Satan is just another example of the vast multitude of things Jesus created.  We might as well question if a fully grown man is threatened by a glob of Play-doh or Silly Putty.  Satan poses no threat to Jesus whatsoever…Jesus is the Stronger One.
  • And what does Jesus do with the Satanic strong man?  He “overcomes” (conquers) him, takes away “his armor” and “divides his spoils.”  We don’t want to push the analogy too far, but the idea is clear: whatever it was that Satan held is now taken over by Jesus.  When Jesus delivers a person from the grips of Satan, nothing is left behind.  No part is held over, remaining in debt to the devil.  Jesus comes in, and Jesus takes it all!  Paul gives a great picture of this: Colossians 2:13–15, "(13) And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, (14) erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. (15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."  When we were dead, Jesus gave us life.  When we had debt, Jesus gave us forgiveness.  When we were held in bondage, Jesus gave us freedom, and even paraded our former-tormentors through town showing His victory over them.  Jesus took away everything the devil had over us, and turned it back onto his own ugly head!  Now we have freedom!
    • If that’s the case, why do we give anything back?  When we come to faith in Christ, we find complete freedom in Christ.  Yet sometimes we sell bit and piece of us back into slavery. Whatever it is we present ourselves to, being willing to obey, we are presenting ourselves as slaves (Rom 6:16).  When we present ourselves as obedient to sin, we present ourselves as slaves to sin time & time again.  Don’t do it!  If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – if you have followed Him as your Lord & King, trusting Him as your salvation, you have been freed! Live in your freedom!  Don’t present yourself again to bondage – enjoy the freedom and grace you have in Jesus.

23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

  • Jesus wraps up His argument with a warning.  Those who weren’t working with Christ were working against Him.  This is clearly what was happening with the Jewish Pharisees & skeptics who were present that day.  Jesus had freed a desperate man from demonic bondage, and the first thing the skeptics did was accuse Jesus of being satanically inspired and empowered.  If that’s not working “against” the kingdom of God, nothing much is.  They were scattering the seed of the gospel away from the soil in which it was intended to be planted.  Spiritual warfare didn’t end with the exorcism of the demon – it continued through the rebellion of men.
  • Question: Is it really this drastic?  Is it really that black/white, that people are either for or against Jesus, with no middle ground in-between?  Yes.  People want to believe there is a middle ground – as if they can be ambivalent towards Jesus or the things of God, but that’s not the way things work.  Some things are binary, without a middle ground.  We’re either breathing, or we’re not.  We either eat, or we don’t.  And it doesn’t have to be that basic – we face binary choices all the time regarding politics (presidential choices), art (preferences towards pieces), and more.  It’s no different here.  Spiritually speaking, there are only two kingdoms: God’s & Satan’s.  To which do you belong?  Anyone not belonging to Jesus Christ in faith is, by default, in the kingdom of Satan & thus works against the Lord Jesus in sin and unbelief.
    • But does that mean that someone not actively working with Jesus is working against Him?  What about the man that John & the other disciples wanted to shut down in his ministry?  Luke 9:49–50, "(49) John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (50) But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”"  This is no different than what Jesus says in our text – it’s just the flip side of the coin.  This man may not have been travelling with the disciples, but he was working with Jesus.  After all, this man was doing his ministry in the name of Christ, and apparently he had real faith in Jesus because demons were actually obeying him.  This man didn’t need to belong to the Jesus’ group of 12 in order to belong to Jesus.  He had faith, and was working by it.  We don’t all have to belong to the same church or worship in the same way with the same preferences in order to worship the same God.  As long as we share belief in the essentials about Jesus, just about anything else can be different.

Regarding the actual work that had been done (the exorcism), the Jews had seen what happened when Jesus cast out a demon & conquered the devil by the finger & power of God.  What would it look like if God wasn’t involved?  If Jesus wasn’t there to overcome the strong man (whichever demon it might be), what would be the result?  That’s what He goes on to explain…

  • Contrast: Exorcisms without Christ (24-26)

24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’

  • Notice that Jesus doesn’t suggest what caused the “unclean spirit” to leave the man.  There’s no suggestion that the demon was somehow overpowered by human means – it just leaves, for whatever reason.  Keep in mind that demons are limited beings, unable to exist more than one place at a time.  If a demon needs to be somewhere, it needs to leave where it’s currently at, and go.  So this demon left. 
  • In addition, it would seem that demons can be cast out by the power of Christ, without the actual formerly demon-possessed person coming to faith in Christ.  After all, Jesus routinely healed people who didn’t come back to thank Him, some perhaps never believing upon Him.  Jesus just did it out of His grace & mercy.  It seems likely that some possessed by demons might have done the same thing, either with Jesus or with His disciples.  Some were unable to ask Jesus for the exorcism in the first place, and they may not have wanted anything to do with Jesus once they came to their right mind.  Jesus doesn’t force anyone to believe – that’s a willing choice we all must make.
  • In any case, the demon is out of the person & wandering wherever it is that demons wander (the Jews believe it was the “dry places” such as the wilderness, which might explain Jesus’ own temptations by Satan in the wilderness), and eventually this particular demon got bored.  He decided to return to his “house” – i.e., the man he formerly possessed.

25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

  • The house may be have been cleansed, but it was empty.  The man’s mind was unoccupied and open for the taking…so that’s exactly what the demon did.  In fact, the demon made it worse, bringing along seven others to increase the man’s torment.  At this point, it would have been better if the demon never left in the first place.
  • What happened?  Go back to the earlier illustration of the strong man.  The strong man was overcome (or just left), but the Stronger didn’t come in to the house to dwell there.  The house is left unguarded & alone.  And why then wouldn’t the original strong man return & beef up his fortifications?  The house would forever belong to this strong man & his minions unless the Stronger man returned – otherwise it would be hopeless.
  • The point?  Jesus brings with Him the kingdom of God & offers true freedom.  He conquers the devil any time there is an encounter.  But unless the power & presence of God remains, the devil comes right back.  All of these people witnessing the power of God in action could just as easily experience the onslaught of the devil if they did not remain under the protection of God.  Even those cleansed by Jesus needed to remain cleansed by Jesus if they wanted to retain their freedom.  What’s required for such a thing?  His presence.
    • Praise God that is exactly what He gives to those having faith in Him!  When we believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ as our God & King, receiving His forgiveness of sin, we also receive the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit.  We are born of the Spirit & sealed by the Spirit, permanently made a child of God.  In fact, our bodies actually become the temple of the Holy Spirit, and there is never a moment He does not dwell within us.  That’s not to say we’re always filled with His power, and led by Him – we still have the freedom to rebel, after all.  But we do have His presence, and He is with us always.
    • Born-again believers can experience demonic attack or even demonic oppression.  But those truly born of the Holy Spirit can never be possessed by the demons.  We will never belong to the devil; we now permanently belong to God.  Praise the Lord!
  • Application: Blessed are the Believers (27-28)

27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

  • This seems like such a bizarre response to the words & actions of Jesus (and it is!).  Jesus was currently teaching this truth about His infinite power over the works of the devil, and “as He spoke these things,” this woman spoke up and started praising Jesus’ mother. What was going through this woman’s mind, we don’t know.  It’s unlikely she knew Mary or the events surrounding Mary, so this isn’t any sort of early false Marian-worship.  It’s possible that the woman was calling attention to herself using a form of false piety – or it’s possible she wanted to praise Jesus, though in an admittedly indirect way.
  • What the woman said was true…Jesus’ mother Mary was indeed blessed, and God (through the angel Gabriel) declared that she was.  But that wasn’t the point, and this wasn’t the time to make it…

28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

  • Technically, this could be translated “On the contrary…” although what the woman said was actually true.  Jesus isn’t really contradicting the woman so much as redirecting her.  Jesus does not deny the blessedness of His mother; He shifts the focus.  His mom wasn’t the point; the gospel was.  The whole reason Gabriel pronounced Mary to be blessed was because she was privileged to give birth to the Messiah – the One who was speaking to the crowd that very day.  Jesus is the good news; not Mary.  Thus the true blessedness went to those who heard, understood, and obeyed the gospel (the good news – the word) of God.
  • The gospel had been proclaimed and demonstrated.  A man had been cleansed of his demon, and the power of God was what did it.  The right response was to believe.  People needed to have faith in the word of God that was proclaimed about Jesus, and only then would they be truly “blessed.”  Oh how happy is the man or woman who comes to faith in Christ!  How happy is the one whose sin is forgiven – the one who has been made a child of God!

Conclusion:
Is Satan strong?  Yes.  But Jesus is Stronger…infinitely so!  There is no power of the devil that Jesus cannot overcome.  This is no hold on your life that Jesus cannot break.  Jesus is never the underdog – and praise God He is not!  He is stronger than anything you can imagine, because Jesus is the Almighty God.

With that in mind, consider for a moment how foolish it is for Christians to hold things back from Christ.  We have challenges in our lives that we routinely try to conquer on our own.  We have temptations that we try to push through in our own power.  We have griefs in which we just grit our teeth and bear.  Why?  For heaven’s sake, why would we do such a thing when we can avail ourselves of the power of God?  Christian: you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ!  His infinite power is yours for the asking.  So ask!  Obviously we do not hold Jesus as the fictional Aladdin held his genie in a bottle/lamp – He is God, we are His servants.  But we are His beloved servants.  We are His friends.  He wants to give you power and grace for your trials – He wants to give you the strength to endure and thrive.  So ask. 

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