A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Monday, September 14, 2020
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Growing up the middle child of three, and the elder of two brothers, I never had a good excuse to be bored. When we grew too big for our older sister to carry us around as real-life baby dolls, my younger brother and I shared what I like to think of as a relatively stereotypical big brother-little brother relationship. When we weren’t racing through the woods and digging six foot deep pits in an attempt to catch a pet deer (Swiss Family Robinson-style), we were playing one-on-one versions of our favorite team sports. Whether it was baseball, basketball, hockey, or tackle football, as the bigger, stronger brother I always had the size advantage and, combined with my lack of compassion and common sense, never allowed him any more than a sniff of victory. Of course this meant that our games rarely lasted more than a few minutes before someone would get hurt (usually him) or lash out in anger (also him). Naturally, he grew up to be both bigger and stronger than me and I have long since learned my lesson to not poke the angry bear.
While Jesus’ family suspected that He might be going crazy, the Pharisees believed something far more nefarious was happening. After repeatedly witnessing His power to cast out demons, the religious elite fell on the other side of the trilemma and accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon Himself. This line of thinking, however, comes from a faulty line of logic that Jesus quickly exposed. How, or better yet, why, would Satan go to work against himself? If Jesus was really possessed by a demon, would He be casting demons out of people? Wouldn’t He instead be seeking to inflict them with more suffering and work together with the evil spirits to strengthen their position? Jesus’ famous refutation, “a house divided,” is perhaps better known from Abraham Lincoln’s prophetic speech on the deteriorating condition of the state of the Union in 1858 or, in our context, the split UA/AU license plates adorning the front bumper of automobiles throughout Northern Alabama. One of these things is not like the other; just as abolitionists and slave-traders cannot peacefully coexist in the land of the free, the Son of God and spawn of Satan are also diametrically opposed.
As Jesus said in His inaugural sermon, He had come to “proclaim liberty to the captives” and “set at liberty those who are oppressed.” While Jesus immediately went to work literally and physically exorcising individual evil spirits from the unfortunate souls they possessed, His work did not stop there. By far the greatest and most significant battle Jesus waged was against the prince of demons himself, although the outcome of the contest was never in question. Jesus explained to His hostile audience, “no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.” Just as the heavens are the dwelling place of God, sin and Satan were believed to have dominion over the earth from the very first sin in the Garden of Eden, evidenced by the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But through His words and actions, Jesus was declaring not only had God not forgotten the plight of His people, He had never ceased to be sovereign over the totality of creation. The reason that Jesus was able to perform these incredible deeds, in enemy territory no less, was that the universe always belonged to Him, and now the appointed time had finally come for the strong man to be bound and his ransomed prisoners set free.
The method by which God secured ultimate victory over the enemy made as little human-sense to Jesus’ opposition as did their own accusations of satanic self-sabotage. According to the foreordained plan of divine redemption, set in place before the foundation of the world, death leads to life, bondage to freedom. The only acceptable substitute for the eternal condemnation of the soul of sinful man is the spotless blood of the sinless Lamb. By His wounds, we are healed, on His cross we find freedom, and in His grave, we find life.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the all-powerful, sovereign, perfect Son of God. You alone are worthy of our praise and You alone are strong enough to save. We are forever undeserving of the grace that You so lavishly pour out to us, for the forgiveness that we could never afford but so desperately needed. Help us Lord to be Your messengers of truth and love to our dazed and confused world. Empower us to wage war against all the sin that lingers within our very own hearts and lives and not rest until You call us home. Every day we receive is a gift from You, may we receive it and live it for Your glory. We pray in Your mighty name, Amen.