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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:14-20 even over demons

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jesus Drives Out Demons
(Matthew 12:22-32,43-45; Mark 3:20-30)

14 Jesus drove out a demon that was mute. After the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed.

A miracle led to three different responses from the people around Jesus. The first reaction was the simple amazement from the people who had faith. These were the disciples and also the many women who followed Jesus. Recall that Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Cuza, Susanna, “and many others” traveled with the disciples and the Lord (Luke 8:1-3), perhaps including the wives of the disciples (1 Corinthians 9:5). It’s well to remember this detail, since some speculators in our time who have never really read the Gospels wonder whether all the disciples were homosexuals since they were all men and there were seemingly no women around. But this is just ignorance of the what the Bible says and betrays a kind of “I’ll say whatever I want to say” attitude that’s espoused by our current U.S. leadership and certain leaders of the past like George III, the last king to rule over America (1760-1783). Even this attitude can be forgiven, though, since it is faith in Christ that saves, and blasphemies of many kinds are covered over by the blood of Jesus.

15 But some of them said, “He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”

Another reaction to Jesus’ miracle was this attack on Jesus’ authority. This came from the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were jealous of Jesus’ power, and were worried that the people would give Jesus greater honor than they had. The Lord would answer them after another group spoke up.

16 Others tested him by demanding of him a sign from heaven. 17 But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed. And a house divided against itself falls. 18 If Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

The third reaction was to test Jesus, or tempt him, by demanding another sign (as if one miracle weren’t enough) so that they could mock him. Jesus presents several answers, five in all, to these people who didn’t have faith in him. He might have just dismissed what they said, but instead he took the time to answer them carefully and, as Luther says, “in a friendly way” (Sermon: “Christ’s Defense Against those who Slandered Him”).

Jesus’ first response is that one devil can’t possibly cast out another devil. If Satan’s kingdom of rebellion and tyranny ever fell into civil war and were divided, it could never stand at all. The pagan Roman author Sallust said, “By union the smallest states thrive. By discord the greatest are destroyed.”

You say that I drive out demons by Beelzebul, 19 but if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 Yet if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Jesus’ second response to his critics and doubters was that if he drives out demons by the devil, how were their own sons driving our demons? Whom does Jesus mean by “your sons”? Were there other people driving out demons at this time? There is no record in the Bible, in Josephus, in the Talmud, or in any other sources, which describes anyone except Jesus driving out demons apart from Jesus’ followers: the apostles and early leaders of the Christian church. The Pharisees would not have accepted “sons” as a title for the Lord’s disciples. Jesus must mean that there were Jews, “sons of Israel,” who were driving out demons, or at least claiming to have driven out demons.

Such a claim must not be made lightly. To face a person or a place that is truly inhabited by a demon can bring great fear and teaches respect for a frightening, unseen power. The proper use of the gospel at such a moment can also strengthen faith, for it shows that Christ and only Christ is truly the Master of all things, seen and unseen, visible and invisible. The Bible warns that someone dabbling lightly in this arena might be overwhelmed and even struck down by such powers, as happened to the sons of the Jewish priest Sceva. “The evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:15-16).

With his words, Jesus simply allows that someone among the Jews might be claiming to have driven out demons, and maybe there was such a report. Whether it was true or not, Jesus allows for its truth, but if so, wouldn’t that person also be driving out demons by the devil, as they claimed he was doing?

The Lord will give three more answers to this question. They all point to his authority as the Son of God over all things in creation. All seven categories of living things beyond the plant kingdom are subject to Jesus’ power and authority. Since I mentioned some of these recently, it would be good to list them once again to refresh our memories:

I, Two kinds of creatures apart from land animals:
    Ia, Swimmers: fish and other creatures of the water (Genesis 1:21a)
    Ib, Flyers: birds and other creatures that fly (Genesis 1:21b; Leviticus 11:19)

II, Three kinds of land animals:
    IIa, Livestock (Genesis 1:24, 3:14)
    IIb, Wild animals like lions and bears (Genesis 1:24, 3:1, 3:14)
    IIc, Creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 1:24, 3:14)

III, Intelligent creatures, seen and unseen:
    IIIa, angels, the messengers of God (Genesis 19:1; Job 1:6)
        (the demons fall into this category, but rebelled against God)
    IIIb, man, the crown of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26, 2:7)

Jesus has authority over them all. We remember this with humble reverence even though he has set man up as master over the animals of creation. We are responsible for them, and we are answerable to God. Jesus showed his authority by commanding even demons, and he commands us, too. Show your faith in him with your humble obedience and rejoice that he is your Lord and Savior.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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