A technique that has been employed over the millennia to cast a horrid aspersion upon someone is to identify them with the most terrible person or thing imaginable. We will sometimes hear a person referred to as a Nazi or a modern-day Hitler. A traitorous person is referenced as a Benedict Arnold. And in our over-heated political climate now, all sides are throwing accusations against the other by saying their opponents are in collusion with the Russians.
Once again in our text today we see that Jesus performs an undeniable miracle. Something powerful is happening that cannot be denied. For the opponents of Jesus to take away from the awe of the display (and the possibilities that more people will believe and follow Christ), they make the claim that this power comes not from God but from Satan. The reference is to Beelzebul, a well-known name for a dark figure associated with the Devil, originally the name of a Philistine god. This was slander at its finest.
Jesus answers it logically by essentially saying, “So you’re arguing that Satan is casting himself out? Folks, that doesn’t make sense, does it?” No, it doesn’t – the old “kingdom divided against itself” thing. Beyond that, others who were witnessing all of this remained unimpressed – desiring to see some sort of sign from heaven. Really? What was seen was plenty impressive and clearly the work of God. They simply were hard-hearted and did not want to believe.
This entire passage – one with details that are difficult to explain simply – has the major idea that Jesus is stronger than Satan, and the evidence of that power is such as to prove that Christ is indeed from God. He is the Promised One who should be believed and trusted and followed. The people could not remain undecided, the time of accounting was quickly approaching.
The paragraph in verses 24-26 is believed to be referencing the man who just had the demon driven out – picturing his life as a house. The description is of that demon finding seven other demons to return to the reconstructed person/house, making his condition far worse. This would be because the man did not make the choice to follow Jesus, remaining neutral. In Matthew’s account of this same incident, he records one additional statement of Jesus – “That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” Indeed, the nation would not receive Christ in spite of all the evidence, and this generation would be worse off for their rebellion.
The final verses are one of several times in Jesus’ life where his teaching creates an awkward situation, and then someone blurts out a loud and sanctimonious statement to break the mood. On this occasion it is a woman who says, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” But Christ one-ups her by answering, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
We live in a wonderful time. We have the entire history of the work of Christ recorded for us in the word of God. Along with that we have countless resources at our fingertips such as has never before been available. For example, just from this passage today, any one of you reading this could, within seconds on your computer or phone, research the background to the meaning of the name “Beelzebul.” There is no reason for us to not believe the word of God and obey it.
Luke 11:14 – 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 armor 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.”