Luke is in the midst of teaching his readers about the discipleship Jesus demands. In this section of scriptures, Luke is going to address the skeptics and uncommitted. Luke wants to ask you a very important question: What will you do with Jesus?
Setting The Scene (11:14-16)
A great event occurs. There was a man who was mute which was caused by a demon. Jesus casts out the demon and the man is now able to speak. This, of course, is a great crowd pleaser as the people marvel and are amazed. Rather than being excited for the man who now is able to speak and rather than learn about Jesus who has cast out this demon there is a sad reaction that happens. Some of the people say that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Essentially, some of the people are saying that Jesus is using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Their claim is that Jesus is not using the power of God. Here is one group of people who outright reject Jesus in the face of the signs. There is a second group who refused to make a decision and continue to want to see more signs.
There is an important point that cannot be overlooked at this moment. Notice that no one is denying the miracle. No one is saying that he did not really cast out a demon. No one is claiming that Jesus did not do a miracle. No one is suggesting that this man was not healed. No one can doubt the miracle. The issue is that some people wanted to see more miracles and some people said that Jesus was deriving his power from Satan. No one ever denied the miracles of Jesus. So Jesus is going to make a four-fold argument to disprove their arguments.
Jesus’ Argument For Himself (11:17-22)
- “I cannot be casting out demons by demonic power because Satan would be fighting against himself and his kingdom would not survive” (11:17-18). Jesus’ first point is that their argument is absurd. How can Jesus be using the power of Satan to break the power of Satan? What sense does that make? Every kingdom that is divided against itself is laid waste. Why would Satan try to undo his own work? It is unreasonable for people to say that this miracle came from Satan’s power. You know this unreasonable thinking has not changed. Rather than accepting the power of God in the world around us, people will attribute the power in this world to random chance. Rather than look around and accept the power of God people accept an unreasonable argument that life came from nothing. Think about how unreasonable this argument for the origin of the universe is. When is the last time you saw something come from nothing? When is the last time you saw an explosion bring order and life to the world? Explosions bring disorder and death! Rather than accept the power of God people will believe in unreasonable arguments for the power we see in this world.
- “Since I am not driving out demons by the power of Satan, then it must be by God’s power” (11:19). Verse 19 is an interesting argument. Jesus asks, “By whom do your sons cast them [the demons] out?” There are a couple of ways to understand the point Jesus is making. We know historically that there were Jewish exorcists. We do not know if they were effective or not. If this is what Jesus is talking about, then Jesus point is simply that they do not claim these exorcists to be from Satan. Therefore it is inconsistent to say that Jesus casts out demons by Satan’s power. But I do not think this is the point. Remember in Luke 10:17 we saw Jesus appoint the 72 to go to the villages proclaiming the kingdom and casting out demons. I think Jesus has the 72 including the apostles in view. Your own people are casting out demons and you do not claim that they are casting demons by Satan’s power. How can you claim that I am casting out demons by Satan’s power? When the New Testament speaks of “your sons” it does not always refer to actually children by birth but can also refer to the whole generation. Jesus’ 72 disciples are Jews just like them but they do not say that they are casting out demons by Satan. The 72 are casting out demons by the power of God and so is Jesus.
- “If I am driving out demons by God’s power, then the kingdom of God has come” (11:20). The prophets declared that when the unclean spirits were cast out of the land that this would be a sign of the arrival of God’s kingdom. “It will come about in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.” (Zechariah 13:2 NASB) Jesus uses a very vivid image to describe the work he is doing. He calls it, “the finger of God.” Jesus claims to be casting out demons by the finger of God. This has a powerful reference to the exodus. During the miracle of the plagues, listen to what the Egyptians had to say about those powerful miracles. “Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” (Exodus 8:19 ESV) This is a bold statement. Jesus is operating by the finger of God, that is, the very power of God. The only other time we read the phrase, “the finger of God,” is when God wrote the ten commandments on two stone tablets. The power of God is on display in Jesus showing the arrival of the promised kingdom.
- “If the kingdom has come because I have come, then I must be the promised Messiah King” (11:21-23). The implication is that if the kingdom has come because of his arrival, then Jesus is the king of this kingdom. The story that Jesus tells proves this point. Jesus describes himself as one stronger than the strong man. Satan is the strong man. Jesus is the stronger one who attacks him and overcomes him. He takes away his armor and divides his spoil. This is an explanation of what Jesus is doing. By casting out demons, Jesus is showing that he is the stronger man who is attacking Satan, overcoming him, and dividing the spoil. Jesus is stripping Satan of his power. He is the king who has arrived in his kingdom. He is the promised Messiah.
Jesus wants his audience to understand that Satan’s strength has been overcome. Paul could joyfully proclaim, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV). Praise God that there is someone stronger than Satan. We are not stronger than Satan. We are enslaved to sin. We are in bondage to Satan.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, 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. (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV)
When Paul recounts his conversion experience to King Agrippa, listen to what Paul says the Lord told him.
“And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:15–18 ESV) Satan has been utterly overwhelmed by the power of Jesus.
There Is No Middle Ground (11:23-28)
Now, we need to come back and find the point of Jesus speaking about these things. Remember the scene. There are people who are claiming that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus has dealt with this foolish and unreasonable thinking. But do not forget that there was a second group. The second group wants to see another sign. They are unwilling to make a commitment. They do not say that Jesus is working by Satan’s power. But they want to keep testing Jesus and want to see more miracles. Notice how Jesus turns on this group in verse 23.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
It is popular today to sit on the fence and be non-committal. The world wants us to be accepting of all opinions. Jesus wants us to understand something. If you are not with him completely, then you are against him. You cannot sit on the fence when it comes to Jesus. You cannot say you want to wait longer before you make a decision. You are in a dangerous position. You are not with the Messiah. You are not with the king. You are still spending time with the strong man who has already been overcome and subdued Jesus. You are choosing the losing side. Jesus now tells a parable to reveal the danger of the person who sits on the fence in verses 24-26.
I do not believe that Jesus is teaching random information about demons. We must consider that there is an important point being made when Jesus speaks about this demon who is cast out and then returns with seven more spirits. The point is that there is no neutrality with Jesus. Bock states the image well: “The picture is of a person who has experienced a great act of God, but has not responded to it, since the occupied house is left empty. The person has learned nothing and is still subject to the same demonic influence. The tragedy is that, by not responding, the opportunity for a permanent reversal is lost. Failure to have God enter in has left he person in peril” (Baker Exegetical Commentary, 1093). If you continue to sit on the fence and not fully commit your life to him, then you are being given over to Satan and his power and your condition is worse than the first. If you are not committed to Jesus your life is going to be a spiritual wreck. There is a void in your life and if it is not filled by Jesus, then it is going to be filled with all kinds of evil and wickedness. We are not with Christ if there has been no life change. We are still stubborn and resistant to becoming his disciple. We may think that we are with him. But we are just like these people in the text who are sitting around testing Jesus, looking for another sign. If our lives are not guided by the Spirit then our lives are guided by Satan. We must be completely regenerated to Jesus otherwise we are degenerating back into the ways of Satan.
Notice how Luke ties this picture together. A woman in the crowd shouts, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” (11:27). Look at Jesus’ response in verse 28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” These people were seeing the miracles and hearing the teachings of Jesus. Blessed are those who do not sit on the fence. Blessed are those who look at the life of Jesus, hear his teachings, and keep his words. Jesus is looking for people who will give their lives fully to Jesus. If you do not wholeheartedly follow the Lord, the end is worse than the first. You are going to fall back into sin and you are going to have a stubborn heart develop. If you are sitting on the fence you must recognize that you are not sitting where you think you are sitting. If you are not fully with Jesus, then you are against him. Sitting on the fence means that you are still sitting with the defeated Satan. You have chosen to play for the losing team. The longer you sit on the fence in Satan’s camp, the more likely you are going to stay there and never give your life completely to Jesus. You will be like these people who see the miracles and never follow. You will hear God’s word but never obey. Your soul is lost and your doom is sealed. Jesus has conquered sin and Satan. Jesus has proven through his miracles, which could not be denied, that he is the Lord. No longer sit with Satan. Stop sitting on the fence and obey your Lord today. What will you do with Jesus?