By Tyson Thorne

October 5, 2016

The Samarian Ministry at Various Cities (9.51-18.34), 11.14-28

The New Testament is replete with information about the existence of demons. Interestingly, there is no intention on the part of the authors to teach about the demonic, leaving us to work out what we can through the various accounts. On this occasion Jesus was casting out “a demon that was mute.” While the Greek is unclear we learn in the next verse it was not actually the demon who was mute, but was a symptom of possession the demon caused in its victim: “When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak” (emphasis mine).

As per usual, the crowds were amazed. Rather than amazement, however, a few looked for conspiracy and began to hypothesize that Jesus was in league with Beelzebul. Who, then, is Beelzebul? The name has many varieties including Baalzebub, Baal, and even Satan. What these men were suggesting is that Jesus was actually an agent of Satan himself, sent to deceive the people of Israel into serving a false god. So the people of Israel in the first century had their conspiracy theorists too.

We shouldn’t make light of the accusation, however. In light of this charge others began to test Jesus asking for a sign from Heaven (as opposed to one from unknown origins). Jesus puts the argument to rest in an interesting way. Rather than outright denial, he teaches the people about the nature of kingdoms. What purpose would Satan have to remove his own soldiers from people that had already been won? The only reason would be if the demons being cast out served another master, indicating a divided kingdom. “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed” is a truth the Hebrews knew all too well. Their own history proved such.

Jesus didn’t stop there. Some of the men making the accusations had sons who were exorcists, and Jesus compares himself to them. He goes a step further, stating that these sons would be the judge of the matter. And just like the late night TV commercials Jesus wasn’t finished, there’s more. Should Jesus be performing such miracles by the power of God, then another kingdom is at work -- the Kingdom of God! That should excite everyone present.

Jesus took the opportunity to provide one more proof in the form of story. A strong man’s possessions are only secure from weaker men. When a stronger man comes everything is taken. The strong man in the story is Satan, who guards the people his servants take hold of. Jesus is the stronger man, who came to plunder. This is the first instance we get a clear picture of the two kingdoms – that of Satan and of God – are in a literal war for the souls of humanity. In this war Jesus is fierce, and all those who do not stand with him scatter in his presence. It is a side of Jesus we only catch glimpses of throughout the gospels, but one which is all too real in Revelation.

Through this we are reminded that the spiritual world is infinitely more important than the physical. Though or bodies may be riddled with disease or broken and worn out it will pass away soon enough. Our spirit is immortal and it is best to spend our days nurturing it and building it through faith.

Furthermore, rather than attempting to accumulate vast wealth which is temporary how much better is it to serve God and build his eternal kingdom? It places fresh importance on the priority of evangelism as well. Especially in light of what Jesus says next.

Jesus tells us a bit about the life of an unclean spirit. When one is exorcised from a person it roams through arid places (we don’t know why), and when it finds no home it revisits the person it once possessed. If that person has not chosen to stand with Jesus they might be re-possessed, and worse. Since the original demon (a strong man) was overcome, he brings others more powerful than himself to try and retake what was lost. There are spiritual realities all around us, and we must start paying attention.

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