The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
Malicious slander

Scripture:  Luke 11:15-26

15 But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Be-el'zebul, the prince of demons"; 16 while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Be-el'zebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Be-el'zebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; 22 but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil. 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 passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return  to my house from which I came.' 25 And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

Meditation: When danger lurks, what kind of protection do you seek? Jesus came to free us from the greatest danger of all – the corrupting force of evil which destroys us from within and makes us slaves to sin and Satan (John 8:34). Evil is not an impersonal force that just happens. It has a name and a face and it seeks to master every heart and soul on the face of the earth (1 Peter 5:8-9). Scripture identifies the Evil One by many names, 'Satan', 'Be-el'zebul – the prince of demons', the 'Devil', the 'Deceiver', the 'Father of Lies', and 'Lucifier', the fallen angel who broke rank with God and established his own army and kingdom in opposition to God. Jesus declared that he came to overthrow the power of Satan and his kingdom (John 12:31). Jesus' numerous exorcisms brought freedom to many who were troubled and oppressed by the work of evil spirits. Jesus himself encountered personal opposition and battle with Satan when he was put to the test in the wilderness just before his public ministry (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). He overcame the Evil One through his obedience to the will of his Father.

Some of the Jewish leaders reacted vehemently to Jesus' healings and exorcisms and they opposed him with malicious slander. How could Jesus get the power and authority to release individuals from Satan's influence and control? They assumed that he had to be in league with Satan. They attributed his power to Satan rather than to God. Jesus answers 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 kin who cast out demons. If they condemn Jesus they also condemn themselves.

In his second argument Jesus asserts that no kingdom divided against itself can survive for long. We have witnessed enough civil wars in our own time to prove the destructive force at work here for the annihilation of whole peoples and their land. If Satan lends his power against his own forces then he is finished. Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father explains the force of Jesus' argument:

Kingdoms are established by the fidelity of subjects and the obedience of those under the royal scepter. Houses are established when those who belong to them in no way whatsoever thwart one another but, on the contrary, agree in will and deed. I suppose it would establish the kingdom too of Beelzebub, had he determined to abstain from everything contrary to himself. How then does Satan cast out Satan? It follows then that devils do not depart from people on their own accord but retire unwillingly. “Satan,” he says, “does not fight with himself.” He does not rebuke his own servants. He does not permit himself to injure his own armorbearers. On the contrary, he helps his kingdom. “It remains for you to understand that I crush Satan by divine power.” [Commentary on Luke, Homily 80]
How can a strong person be defeated except by someone who is stronger? Jesus asserted his power and authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of the reign of God. Jesus' reference to the 'finger of God' points back to Moses' confrontation with Pharoah and his magicians who represented Satan and the kingdom of darkness (see Exodus 8:19). Jesus claims to be carrying on the tradition of Moses whose miracles freed the Israelites from bondage by the finger of God. God's power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God's kingdom has come.

What is the point of Jesus' grim story about a vacant house being occupied by an evil force? It is not enough to banish evil thoughts and habits from our lives. We must also fill the void with God who is the source of all that is good, wholesome, true, and life-giving for us. Augustine of Hippo said that our lives have a God-shaped void which only God can fill satisfactorily. If we attempt to leave it vacant or to fill it with something else, we will end up being in a worse state in the end. What do you fill the void in your life with? The Lord Jesus wants to fill our hearts and minds with the power of his life-giving word and healing love. Jesus makes it very 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. There are ultimately only two kingdoms which stand in opposition to one another – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness which is under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God's word, we open to door to the power of sin and Satan. If we want to live in true freedom, then our "house" (the inner core of our true being) must be occupied by Jesus where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. The Lord assures us of his protection from spiritual harm and he gives us the help and strength we need to resist the devil and his lies (James 4:7). "Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways"(Psalm 91:9-11). Do you know the peace and security of a life submitted to God and his word?

"Lord Jesus, be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship."


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 (c) 2009 Don Schwager