There are some passages in the Bible that we really like or seem to really grab our attention. Luke 11:14-23 is one of those passages:
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
We love it when Jesus takes people to school. When Jesus gets challenged and then owns the people who challenged him we cheer. This passage has a special in church lore because it was used by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. And now, in the middle of the “culture wars” people love it that Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me…”
The problem with all this is that it isn’t really getting to heart of what Jesus was trying to communicate. The headings in our Bible mess us up at this point. Because Jesus goes on to say,
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
So, there is something more going on here than we first realize. Jesus makes a point that the casting out of demons is evidence of the coming of the kingdom of God. Then he says, after a demon is driven out it comes back making the person worse than they began.
What is Jesus talking about? It’s a little confusing. Once again our Bible headings are not helpful. Here’s the way this scene ends,
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Did you catch what Jesus said? “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
This is the whole point of this story. It’s not really about devils and demons and exorcisms. It’s about the need to not only hear the word of God, but to keep it!
This is an action passage. We not only hear what God says to us but we must do something about it. We have to respond. If we just hear but do not act we miss out on the blessing that God has for us. The person who had the demon needed to move out and fill that empty space with something. She needed to step into what God had called her to do. She can do that because the kingdom of God has come.
In what ways do you need to respond to what you’ve heard? What is the Father calling you into?