23/3/03 Lent 2 B.C.P. : Luke 11:14-28
11:14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was dumb. And it happened as the demon was going out, the dumb one spoke. And the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, He casts out demons through Beelzebub the chief of the demons. 16 And others, tempting Him, sought a sign from Heaven from him. 17 But knowing their thoughts, He 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 shall his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons through Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, no doubt the kingdom of God has come on you. 21 When the strong man, fully armed, guards his dwelling, his goods are in peace. 22 But when one stronger than he comes, he overcomes him. He takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and he distributes his arms. 23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. 24 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he walks through dry places seeking rest. And finding none, he says, I will return to my house from which I came out. 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and decorated. 26 And he goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in, they dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first. 27 And it happened as He spoke these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice and said to Him, Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which You have sucked. 28 But He said, No; rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.
When we think of the events of September 11th, violence in Northern Ireland that endangered Primary Schoolchildren, and the cold blooded murder of a journalist this week, we cannot doubt that there is evil in the world. We look at events and say, 'How could people do this ?' The answer is that since the first sin of Adam there has been evil in the world. Prowling around waiting to rear it's ugly head. Sometimes, if we are honest, it erupts into our lives when we, for example say something in haste or do something motivated by selfishness.
Some say that the people in Jesus' day were primitive and explained things by the work of evil spirits which today we would recognize as a medical condition. Yet why would Jesus, the Son of God who was involved in creation, not recognize this and heal them normally ? If evil spirits did not and do not exist, how did people get better when Jesus ordered evil spirits to go ? And what caused the herd of pigs to throw themselves off a cliff after Jesus had allowed evil spirits to go from a man into the pigs ?
Abraham Lincoln has been credited with saying, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Actually, Lincoln quoted Jesus, who was refuting a ridiculous accusation that his power came from Satan (Beelzebub). Jesus suggested that if Satan used his power against his own cause, Satan's kingdom would soon fall. Lincoln applied this principle to the not-so-United States just before the Civil War: a nation divided over such a fundamental issue as slavery could not endure.
Three Principles we can observe from this passage :
1) Jesus opposes Satan and is stronger than Satan and his followers. This was shown by the healing of the mute, v14. If Jesus was not more powerful than the evil spirit that made the man dumb then he would not have been able to expel it.
Jesus also uses the imagery of a stronger man robbing a strong man to show that he is more powerful than Satan. 21 When the strong man, fully armed, guards his dwelling, his goods are in peace. 22 But when one stronger than he comes, he overcomes him. He takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and he distributes his arms.
The name of Jesus till has power today. I have been in situations where people have asked me to pray against evil spirits and, after prayer, these have gone. In those situations it is because the prayer is offered in the name of Jesus, that is, with his backing and power, that it succeeds. It is not because I am powerful or a clergyman or a particularly good prayer. It is because the name of Jesus still has power and authority to defeat the evil one and his forces.
2) The kingdom of God is to be found in Jesus, verse 20.
But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, no doubt the kingdom of God has come on you. The kingdom , or rule, of God has come in Jesus. This involves undoing the effects of evil.
Jesus undid the effects of evil when he drove out demons. He undid the effects of sin in the world by healing the sick. That is not to say that everyone's sickness is due to them sinning, but is saying that sickness is in the world because of sin. Jesus undid the effects of sin and death by being nailed to a cross, taking upon himself the punishment for the sins of the world, and rising to life. This is the ultimate victory that Jesus won over sin and the devil. It underlines the extravagant claims that Jesus made about himself. We celebrate and proclaim this in this service as we look to his return when all sin, death and suffering will be comprehensively and finally conquered .
As King of the created order and King over sickness, evil and death Jesus deserves people's honour, worship and obedience. Jesus said to the woman who flattered him that it is better to hear and obey the Word of God than to be his own mother !
3) Jesus can drive out demons, but someone else needs to be invited in for continued protection, i.e. God the Holy Spirit.
24 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he walks through dry places seeking rest. And finding none, he says, I will return to my house from which I came out. 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and decorated. 26 And he goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in, they dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.
A life reformed but lacking the presence of God is vulnerable to attack from evil forces. But if an evil spirit had returned to the house or person to find a stronger Spirit than himself residing there he would not be able to get back in. God the Holy Spirit lives in every believer. He will be able to resist the attentions of the evil one and to protect and guide us in our lives. This is why in the Lord's Prayer we can confidently pray, ' but deliver us from evil', literally 'the evil one'.
There is no sitting on the fence when it comes to Jesus, you are either for him or against him. Even those who sit on the fence have made the decision not to follow Jesus. That is why Jesus said 23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
There is a chorus that goes, 'He that is in us is greater than he who is in the world...' This is very true. God lives in us by his Spirit and he has conquered evil and one day will banish it from God's people. Until then we are called to rely upon the Holy Spirit in our lives and to obey the Word of God, bringing glory to King Jesus.