One aspect of Jesus’ ministry that seems to go hand in hand with the many wonderful acts of kindness Jesus has demonstrated – healings, blessings, feedings and other miracles – has been this ongoing dogged opposition to everything Jesus represents
14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
In this passage it’s as if a curtain has been parted and we see this opposition for what it is – we see what truly is going on and what or who is behind it. We get a glimpse of the extent of this spiritual battle between Satan and Jesus. It has been ongoing ever since Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. This was just another of those ‘opportune times’ in the game plan of Satan to attack Jesus once again.
I am a white middle class male living in a modern city. People who are like me, but who are not followers of Jesus, don’t think too much about spiritual things or the existence of a spirit world. The material world is all there is. I was somewhat surprised last week when after visiting a museum in my city I was invited to complete a survey where the very first question was “Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?” I guess the word spiritual in my culture has changed in definition over time, and now probably means different things to different people. Interestingly I had trouble linking that opening question to the others in the rest of the survey.
In the culture Jesus steps into, there was probably a greater awareness of spiritual things than in our culture. Nonetheless, Jesus reveals what is happening in this encounter with this mute man as nothing less than a demon being responsible for his affliction and the very finger of God at work. He confirms his role in proceedings by informing his opponents that the kingdom of God has come upon them. Jesus is making things clear as to what is at stake here. There is a world controlled by Satan and his demons. This world contains people who don’t even realise they are under someone else’s control. And there is the kingdom of God with Jesus the king, on his way to Jerusalem to destroy Satan once and for all and to secure a place for those who will trust and serve him in that kingdom.
Near the end of this encounter a woman blesses the mother of Jesus for producing such an amazing son. In replying, Jesus puts the emphasis for blessing where he wants it and where it should be – on those who are hearing the truth of what he is saying and obeying him.
Head: Are you prone to not thinking enough about the spiritual battle raging around us or are you prone to becoming too focussed and anxious over spiritual battles? What can you do to better walk a middle ground?
Heart: If there are times when you start to become afraid of talk about spiritual warfare, what are some Biblical truths you can draw on to help you overcome any unnecessary fear?
Hands: As you further consider the reality of this spiritual battle, what are some things in your life you might need to change as you further consider Jesus’ role in the kingdom and your own?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father. I admit that sometimes all this talk about demons and spiritual warfare can seem pretty scary and at other times it can feel like something very foreign and from another world. Help me to develop a balanced mindset about these things. Help me to never lose sight of the spiritual warfare that is part and parcel of our lives on this earth. Help me to remember that Jesus has won the battle and that those who trust in his work in defeating Satan are part of his kingdom and are children of the living God.
I confess there are times when I desire to enjoy the things of this world to an extent that blinds me to what is going on behind the curtain. Please keep me spiritually aware of your view of this world. Amen.
A song to listen to: Centre My Life
Tim Hewlett – Living Church Creek Road