Luke XLI: Lk. 11:14-28 [Audio here]
Perhaps C.S. Lewis put it best when he said that people tend toward two opposite dangers when it comes to demons: unbelief on the one hand and unhealthy obsession on the other. Lewis said he thought the devils were equally pleased with both errors and “hail a materialist or magician with the same delight.”
The Inhumanity of Idolatry
The scene opens with Jesus casting out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out of the man, the mute man began to speak (Lk. 11:14). Given the previous scene, the implication is that this man has been enslaved by the demon, preventing him from praying. While Jesus cautions us against certain snap judgments about the results of sin (and presumably demons) (cf. Jn. 9:1-3), the gospels still often associate demons and sickness (cf. Mt. 4:24, 12:22, 17:15-18). In fact, the Bible warns against idolatry precisely for its deformation of human beings: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see… Those who make them become like them” (Ps. 115:4-8, cf. Ps. 135). In this sense, while there is clearly not a direct demonic/sinful cause for every sickness, there is a general sense in which the healing of Jesus is a war on the idols and demons enslaving and deforming humanity (Mk. 1:34, 39). This is fundamentally because the image of God is for communion with God and others.
The Divided House
Luke points out that people are divided over Jesus (Lk. 11:14-16). So Jesus addresses this division by addressing the suspicions of some, that He is empowered by the “prince of the demons.” Jesus is addressing that accusation, and revealing the folly: that kind of kingdom is laid waste; that kind of household falls (Lk. 11:17). And besides, by that logic, by what power do their sons cast out demons (Lk. 11:19)? At the same time, Jesus is clearly talking about their own divisions about who Jesus is: whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Lk. 11:23). So His point is also about Israel. Israel is a house and a kingdom. The parable-like image is Jesus describing what is actually taking place: Israel has become the palace of a “strong man” who is fully armed, guarding his goods (Lk. 11:21). It’s simple logic to note that the only one who can take out that “strong man” is “one stronger,” and the clear implication is that Jesus is claiming to be that “one stronger” – this was how John foretold Jesus coming as “one stronger,” baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire, winnowing the wheat and the chaff (Lk. 3:16-17). Perhaps the Israelites might have thought of their oppressor as being Rome, but Jesus is implying that there is an even more insidious power at work in Israel.
Clean Houses & Blessings
Clearly, the warning that follows is for Israel: Jesus has come cleaning the house of Israel, casting out demons and healing the sick, but this is only good if Israel embraces Jesus and follows Him into the Kingdom. Otherwise, the demons will return with a vengeance, bringing seven other spirits more evil than the first, and the last state will be worse than the first (Lk. 11:24-26). It seems that a woman in the crowd wished to express her loyalty to Jesus and honors his mother (Lk. 11:27), but Jesus redirects the beatitude to hearing and obeying the word of God, just like Mary did (Lk. 11:28). This is how Israel can keep her house clean and free of demons and all evil powers: through obedience to the word of God.
Conclusions & Applications
This scene reminds us of the Exodus, when Pharaoh was the “strong man” who had enslaved the Hebrews in the house of bondage under the power of the Egyptian gods (Ex. 12:12, Num. 33:4). When Jesus says He casts out demons by the “finger of God” (Lk. 11:20), He seems to be alluding to the Egyptian magicians giving up after the third plague, telling Pharaoh “this is the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19). God proved Himself to be the “one stronger” by attacking Pharaoh, overcoming him in the plagues and in the sea, taking away his armor and plundering him (Ex. 12:36). But God did not merely strike down their oppressor and leave them with a clean and empty house waiting for a new oppressor to arise. Rather, he brought them to Himself, so He might be their Lord, so they might open their mouths in praise, build His house, that He might live in their midst and restore them to life (Ex. 15:26). This is what Jesus has come to do: to turn us from death to life, from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18), to build His house instead of another.
Sin is not just making bad choices; sin is allowing evil powers into your life. There is a reason we refer to particularly difficult sins as our “demons.” Or sometimes people experience various seasons of darkness that seem overwhelming and hopeless. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus has disarmed all evil powers (Col. 2:14-15), and yet we still struggle against them (Eph. 6:14). Jesus disarmed all the evil powers by canceling the record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14-15). Paul says that we were “dead” in our trespasses, and that God made us alive by forgiving us all our trespasses. The forgiveness of Jesus is deliverance from death and all our demons because Jesus died for our sins, that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14). Satan shuts our mouths with the guilt of sin, but by the cross, Jesus opens every mouth in praise.
If your mouth has been opened and you have been delivered from death to life, from the power of Satan to God, then you have received the Holy Spirit who is at work in your house filling it with the fruit of repentance: putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:22ff). Repentance is the work of Jesus dwelling in our hearts through faith; He is the power at work within us (Eph. 3:17-21). This means you can’t stop it, and it means that He is granting you power to gladly obey Him. This is why you let in the Light of God’s Word. This is also why you invite the Body of Christ to walk with you. The Holy Spirit indwells the people of God, and therefore, when you invite them into your life, to know you, to speak into your life, you are inviting the power of Christ into your life, and together we are being built up into a new temple, a house of mouths that speak, filled with prayer and praise.