“If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you”

Scripture:  Matthew 12:22-30

22 Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “It is only by Be-el’zebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; 26 and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Be-el’zebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

Meditation:  Which condition is worse — physical blindness or spiritual darkness?  Matthew describes a demonized man who was brought to Jesus so he could be healed.  This man was not just physically unable to see or speak.  He was spiritually oppressed as well.  Fortunately his friends brought him to the one who could set him free from his physical and spiritual affliction. Satan loves to keep people in darkness and in fear.  He will use whatever means possible, whether it be a physical weakness, a mental affliction, some emotional trouble, or an addiction, to lead people into despair and bitterness, so that they end up distrusting God and his love for them.  Jesus has power to set us free from any affliction that might keep us in bondage to fear, sin and despair. Jesus’ ability to set people free from crippling infirmities and from spiritual illness amazed those who witnessed his miracles. No one had done such marvelous works before. When they saw what Jesus did, they openly wondered among themselves if this might be the “Son of David”, a title for the expected Messiah. The Lord wants us to approach him with the same awe and expectant faith as those who brought the “blind and dumb” and the opressed to Jesus.

Why did the religious authorities react so negatively to Jesus’ healings and exorcisms? Where they jealous of his spiritual power and authority? Or did they feel threatened that Jesus was drawing people to himself rather than to them? They were unable to stop or silence Jesus because the crowds held Jesus in great awe and respect.  Some of the religious leaders tried to dismiss Jesus’ authority to perform miracles and exorcisms by claiming that Jesus got his power from Satan rather than from God. This was a serious charge which Jesus could not ignore. Jesus answered their charge with two arguments. There were many exorcists in Palestine in Jesus’ time. So Jesus retorted by saying that they also incriminate their own people (their family members and relatives) who also have power to cast out demons. If they condemn Jesus they also condemn themselves.

In his second argument Jesus asserts that no nation, city, or house divided against itself can survive for long. We have witnessed enough strife, genocide, and civil wars in our own time between peoples and nations who cannot tolerate one another or live peaceably side by side. Strife, prejudice and division inevitably lead to disharmony, hostility, and bitter fighting. Jesus said it would not make any sense for Satan to give anyone else the power and authority to undo the chain of allegiance which his armies give solely to him. If Satan lends his power against his own spiritual forces then he is certainly finished and his army is made weak and powerless.  Jesus makes another simple observation: How can a strong person be defeated except by someone who is stronger? Jesus asserted his authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of God’s reign and power to rule in peoples’ lives. God’s power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God’s kingdom has come. Do you want to experience the Lord’s victory and protection over sin and oppression in your life? If you obey him and submit to his rule, you will certainly know and experience his kingly peace, presence, and protection.

What is the point of  Jesus’ grim story (parable) about a strong man’s house being occupied by an evil force? Our foe and the arch-enemy of God, who is called “Satan” and the “father of lies”, is very powerful. Unless we are clothed in God’s strength, we cannot overcome Satan by ourselves. Satan seeks to rule the world in place of God. That is why he uses whatever means he can to get us to obey him rather than God. What does Satan wish to take from us? Our faith and confidence in God and our submission to his kingly rule. Satan can only have power or control over us if we listen to his lies and give in to his will.  Jesus makes it clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. Scripture tells us very clearly that there are ultimately only two kingdoms in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness under the rule of Satan. If we disregard and disobey God’s word, we open to door to the power of sin and to Satan’s deception and control. If we want to live in freedom from sinful desires and from Satan’s oppression, then our house must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord, Master, Savior, and Shepherd of our soul. Do you know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to God and to his word?

“Lord Jesus, you are my hope, my refuge, and my salvation. Be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your protective care and lordship.”

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 (c) 2004-2010 Don Schwager