Luke 11:14-36 Sermon
Luke 11:14-36
Sermon on Luke 11:14-36
Published June 28th, 2021
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Luke 11:14-36
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,
Negative #1
“He casts out demons
by Beelzebul,
the prince
of demons,”
while others, ... kept seeking from him a sign
Negative #2
from heaven.
to test him,
But he, ... said to them,
knowing their thoughts,
“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 ... that I cast out demons,
by the finger
of God
then the kingdom ... has come upon you.
of God
When a strong man, ... guards his own palace,
fully armed,
his goods are safe;
but when one ... attacks him and overcomes him,
stronger than he
he takes away his armor
in which he trusted
and divides his spoil.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
Explanation Summary
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“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 ... is worse than the first.”
of that person
As he said these things,
a woman ... raised her voice and said
in the crowd
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!”
When the crowds were increasing,
he began to say,
“This generation is an evil generation.
It seeks for a sign,
but no sign will be given to it
except the sign
of Jonah.
For as Jonah became a sign to the people
of Nineveh,
so will the Son of Man be
to this generation.
The queen ... will rise up
of the South
at the judgment
with the men
of this generation
and condemn them,
for she came ... to hear the wisdom
of Solomon,
from the ends
of the earth
and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
The men ... will rise up
of Nineveh
at the judgment
with this generation
and condemn it,
for they repented at the preaching
of Jonah,
and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
after lighting a lamp
“No one ... puts it in a cellar or under a basket,
but on a stand,
so that those ... may see the light.
who enter
Your eye is the lamp
of your body.
When your eye is healthy,
your whole body is full
of light,
but when it is bad,
your body is full
of darkness.
Therefore be careful
lest the light in you be darkness.
If then your whole body is full
of light,
having no part dark,
it will be wholly bright,
as when a lamp ... gives you light.”
with its rays
1 Kings 10:1-10 where the Queen of Sheeba comes to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
How was Jonah a sign to Ninevah?
Why is it evil to seek a sign?
Luke recap We have been in Luke since February, and I want to start with a bit of a recap of where we've been and some themes that I believe continue in this section today. Of course, we want to keep in mind the entire purpose that Luke gave us for writing this account: namely, that Theophilus, and by extension, we, "may have certainty concerning the things that we have been taught" ( 1:4 ). A major theme therefore, up to this point has been the question: Who is Jesus? This is by no means the only theme in the book, but it is a major one and I think continues into today's passage, so let's recap this theme. The birth story tells us right up front that Jesus is the Savior who was to come, the Messiah of God. This is affirmed in the angel's message to Mary, also when the angels speaking to the shepherds and also in the genealogy at the end of chapter 3 . Jesus was then tempted in the wilderness, and this is followed by the beginning of his ministry, where he preaches in Nazarath. The sermon he gives is the key to understanding Jesus' mission and his identity as the anointed one: Luke 4:16-21 [16] And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. [17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, [18] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, [19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [20] And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. [21] And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This declaration of his mission is then followed by a repeated demonstration of his mission. Jesus heals those with demons, he preaches in synagogues, he cleanses lepers, heals paralytics, and raises the dead. Even his preaching of the sermon on the plain is a fulfilment of this mission -- he was sent to proclaim good news to the poor, and his sermon's first words are "Blessed are you who are poor". This question of Who Jesus Is comes up again when John the Baptist begins to question Jesus' identity. John sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus' answer is a report of all that Jesus has been doing in Luke: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. These evidences Jesus gives for his identity as the savior again reflect his stated mission. This question is raised again in chapter 9:7-9 when even Herod begins to wonder who this Jesus is. Luke 9:7-9 [7] Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, [8] by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. [9] Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. All of this questioning and demonstration leads up to the two major revelations of who Jesus is, both in chapter 9 . After he has fed the 5000, we come to the first major revelation: Luke 9:18-20 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” [19] And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” [20] Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Here we see the repetition of the three guesses that people made about Jesus' identity which had reached Herod. We can imagine the conversations that would have been taking place, rumors spreading, new ideas popping up. Well, here Peter in effect rebukes all the rumors with the truth of the matter: Jesus is the Christ of God. The second major revelation of Jesus' identity is the Transfiguration, where Jesus' very appearance demonstrates his glory, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, and the very voice of the Lord coming from a cloud proclaims Jesus as the Son of God, the Chosen One. It is after these two revelations that Jesus begins to speak openly about his death and to speak about the cost of following him. A major shift occurs at 9:51 where we read: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." Up till this point he has ministered in Galilee, but the time has come for him to journey to Jerusalem for what he knows will be, and what we know today as, the most significant event in world history. Introduction to 11:14-36 So we come to today's section. There are several narratives in this section, and each communicate more of who Jesus is. And that's how I will structure this message, based on the qualities of Jesus that Luke teaches. First, Jesus is Stronger than Satan Second, Jesus is Greater than Jonah Third, Jesus is the light. (say them again) Additionally, let me share what I think is the overall main point of this passage: Through Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven is destroying the kingdom of darkness. Those who refuse to believe will not recognize him for who he is and will be judged for their failure. Those who see and believe will invite him in and obey his words. Jesus is Stronger than Satan First: Jesus is stronger than Satan. This whole section begins with another exorcism. Jesus casts out a demon from a man that was making the man mute. The exorcism itself is hardly mentioned, especially compared with previous episodes of Jesus’ encounters with demons. Rather, in this narrative, the response to the exorcism is emphasized. Three different responses are noted: one positive response and two negative. It’s briefly mentioned that many people marveled, as would seem natural. However, there are others who are not so enthusiastic about this event. Another group of people, apparently unimpressed with this exorcism continue to seek a sign from Jesus to give them even more confirmation of his divinity -- we'll come back to this group. The third group acknowledges the power needed for this act but are suspicious of its source. Verse 15 says "But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,”" We actually know from the parallel account in Matthew, that those who do this accusing are the Pharisees. However, I think Luke leaves out this detail in order to demonstrate that this response to Jesus is not only a Pharisee problem, but a human heart problem. Beelzebul was another name for Satan, most likely a combination of the words Ba'al, which was the name of a Caananite fertility god, but also just means lord, and zebul meaning exulted dwelling. So, the accusation is that Jesus is not, as he claims, casting out demons by God's power, but rather by the head of the demons. This first section shows us Jesus' response to this accusation. His first rebuttal is well known, re-popularized by Abraham Lincoln. “...Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” Simply put, if Jesus really were casting out demons by demons, this would undermine the entire demonic kingdom and is self-evidently unsustainable. Ponzi schemes always collapse because they are inherently unsustainable, even though it may look like it's working for some time. A soccer team that tries to win by scoring own goals to confuse the opposition will lose, even if you think for a moment that it's a sneaky strategy. Jesus' second response is one that calls out the hypocrisy of his accusers. We don't know exactly who these exorcists were, though we read about others casting out demons in chapter 9 . Jesus calls them, "your sons" and essentially claims that their own followers casting out demons undermines their argument about Jesus being empowered by Satan. It is a hypocritical accusation, and Jesus is happy to leave it up to his accusers’ followers to be the judge. We come to Jesus' final defense: if this is not being done according to Satan's power, but rather by God's power, then this demonstrates the infiltration of the Kingdom of God through Jesus to destroy the kingdom of darkness. The phrase he uses here "The finger of God" is used in two other places in the Old Testament, both in Exodus. During the exodus narrative, Pharaoh's magicians finally gave up trying to replicate the plagues, and conceded that the gnats were sent by the finger of God. We also see that the stone tablets that contained the 10 commandments were written with 'the finger of God'. In other words, something done by the finger of God is self-evident to the point that even Pharaoh's magicians admit it, and it is revelatory in that it demonstrates who God is and what he calls us to. He then uses the example of this strong man defending his home, and that it is only when someone stronger comes that the armor and possessions of the strong man are taken away. If you see someone you know to be strong beaten down (in this case an exorcism) you can be sure that the one who brought the beat down was stronger. If you find Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson lying on the side of the road unconscious, you should probably be concerned about the person who did that to him. To paraphrase, Jesus is saying "you are currently watching the strong man's armor being removed and his spoil divided when you watch these exorcisms -- therefore, there must be someone stronger than Satan who is doing this to him. I am that man, and you can make your decision of whose side you want to be on." We see Jesus is stronger than Satan, and that his Kingdom has come upon us. And yet we still see demonic activity, and evil happening all around us. I don't have the space to get into this completely, but think of Jesus' first coming as the beginning of the end. He came to demonstrate his power, and most of all to release those who trust in him from the fear of death, which is Satan's greatest weapon. I think Colossians 2:13-15 gives us a pretty clear summation: "[13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." Satan is not an imaginary enemy. He and his fellow workers are at odds with the Kingdom of God. But brothers and sisters, he has been defeated by means of our savior's sin-bearing death on a cross. And we can have certainty that in the end, the devil will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Ok, so we’re still in the first point, about Jesus being stronger than Satan. Jesus wraps this up by describing the activity of an unclean spirit and discussing the blessedness of Mary. Jesus has just finished saying that those who are not with Jesus are against Jesus. And both of these next sections contribute to an understanding of what it means to be "with Jesus". The description of the unclean spirit warns his hearers against complacency about God's redemptive work. This could very possibly, even likely, be describing a spiritual reality of how demonic spirits behave. Demonic activity is indeed happening in this world and we would do well to be sensitive to it. I believe the main point of Jesus description is to say that simply experiencing healing is insufficient for being a part of the Kingdom of God. In Luke 17 , we read of 10 lepers being healed, but only one returns to praise Jesus and demonstrate true faith. It is possible to experience healing from God and to then forget that there is further call on our life to be his followers. I wonder if this is true of any of us today. Perhaps you had a spiritual experience years ago, maybe at a camp, or a church service, maybe even a miraculous healing. But beyond doing the regular upkeep of going to church and maybe reading your Bible now and then, there is no true faith expression in your life. We would do well to heed Jesus' warning that such a person risks a state worse than the first. By contrast, Jesus then explains what it looks like to "gather with Jesus". Rather than simply experiencing healing (though this is absolutely critical!) those who have true faith will hear God's word and obey it. Jesus is not saying that Mary is not blessed. In fact some others translate the beginning of Jesus’ response as “Yes, but blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” As if to say – yes, she is blessed, but not for the reason you think. We read in 1:41-42 "... And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and called Mary blessed! For Luke, Mary was indeed blessed. However, she was not blessed primarily because of a biological relationship to Jesus, or because of who her son turned out to be. She is blessed because she believed God's word! When the angel told her what was to come, Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” At the risk of speaking outside of my lane here, as a single, unmarried man, I think this speaks powerfully, especially to the women here. Perhaps there can be a temptation to find blessedness in either the ability to have children or in who your children turn out to be. God's word releases us from this lie. Even Mary, whose miraculously born son, Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, even her blessedness was not in her having given birth to and raising him. It is rather in her soft-hearted and obedient response to God's word that she, like all of us, find true blessedness. This is what it means to be gathered with Jesus and to avoid the return of the unclean spirits -- hear the word of God and keep it. This of course means more than simply allowing words to hit your ear drum. It means a spirit-filled adoration of God's word and his commands such that we live out of what Thomas Chalmers called the Expulsive power of a new affection. It is not enough to say no to this world or experience healing, we must affirmatively love and embrace this Jesus and his word. This first section can perhaps be paraphrased like this: Jesus is saying: "You have accused me of casting out demons by the power of Satan, a claim that is full of fallacies and hypocrisies. No, my work is self-evidently by the finger of God, demonstrating the coming of the Kingdom of God upon the Kingdom of Darkness. I am the stronger man binding the strong man, and rather than submit to my Kingdom by hearing and obeying the word of God, you demonstrate your opposition by developing foolish excuses and demanding more evidence." Jesus is the Greater Jonah We come now to point number 2: Jesus is Greater than Jonah. In this saying, Jesus condemns his generation, especially for their continual seeking after signs from heaven. This picks up from earlier where we saw that one of the responses to Jesus casting out the demon of muteness was to keep seeking from him a sign. He refuses their demands to do magic tricks for them and instead demonstrates that everything they need to believe is in front of them, and they simply refuse to believe. His argument is quite simple, using two historic examples from the old testament, and both follow the same logic. a. Generations past (gentiles, no less) responded properly to the wisdom of Solomon and to the preaching of Jonah b. I, Jesus, am greater than both Solomon and Jonah c. Therefore, you have no excuse for not responding to me in faith and no need for additional signs. The first comparison refers to the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10 , where she hears of Solomon's fame and comes to see his wisdom for herself. The second of course to Jonah who, after being called to preach repentance to the wicked city of Ninevah, refused, is swallowed by a whale for three days and nights, and spit back up. He then goes to Ninevah and the entire town responds to his preaching and receives mercy from God. There is some ambiguity to what 'the sign of Jonah' means here in Luke. Some argue that it only refers to Jesus' preaching, just as Jonah preached, since his time in the whale is not explicitly mentioned. While I certainly think Jesus' preaching is included, I take the 'sign of Jonah' as referring to Jesus being buried for three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the whale. This is explicitly drawn out in the parallel account of this interaction in Matthew: Matthew 12:39-41 ESV ...“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. [40] For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [41] The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. I want to explore a little this idea of the wickedness of seeking a sign. It's clear that Jesus here connects the generation's evilness with their seeking after a sign. Why is that? This is an extremely common reason given to this day for not trusting in Jesus. "If he's really God, can't he just write it in in big cloud letters in the sky? Then I would believe!" I think Jesus would answer such an argument by saying: No, you wouldn't. Part of the basis for this answer relates to the response to Jesus casting out demons up to this point. He has just cast out a demon: a man who was mute now speaks. And this in addition to previous miracles of healing paralytics and lepers, exorcisms, feeding 5000, calming a storm, and even raising dead people to life. And still they seek for more signs, and even attribute his work to wicked sources. No, a hard, unbelieving heart will always seek to self-justify even in the face of miracles. In fact, Luke presents miracles in exactly the opposite order. Rather than a sign or miracle producing faith in someone, time and time again, we hear Jesus say these words after a miraculous healing: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace". In other words, it is faith in the person, words and work of Jesus that brings us into relationship with him and brings miraculous healing. Miraculous signs do not in and of themselves break through to change a persons heart. This aligns quite well with what will come later in Luke in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There Jesus tells of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus who is at the rich man's gate. When they both die, Lazarus is taken to heaven, and the unnamed rich man to hades. After some interaction between the rich man and Abraham, the rich man accepts his fate, but asks for Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family so that they may repent. Luke 16:27-31 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— [28] for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ [29] But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ [30] And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [31] He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” These are hard teachings! But let us allow the hard teaching to soften our hearts. This is not only for those who are in unbelief and continually seek for a sign. Christians too can be guilty of putting God to the test. Demanding that he meet our expectations of what he should be doing before we submit to the next hard thing that he is calling us to, rather than remembering that he has already done everything for us, sent his own son to die in our place, and has drawn near to us as a father to a child. May we all repent of our evil and adulterous tendencies. Jesus is the Light This brings me to my final point. Point number 3: Jesus is the Light. This passage has pretty close parallels elsewhere in Luke and in the other gospels, and in those others I think it's clear that Jesus is saying that believers and the message of the gospel that we bear is the light. Here, however, given the context, I think Jesus is claiming that he himself, and the message he preaches, is the light. The reason I think that is that the emphasis here is placed more on our response to the light. In other words, Jesus and his message have been unveiled for all to see. There is nothing hidden, unclear, or diminished about the message of the gospel. No, those who have healthy eyes, gather with Jesus, while those who have evil eyes are against Jesus. I think this quite nicely summarizes and explains the other sections. Jesus is not accused of working under Beelzebul because Jesus had been unclear to his hearers about the source of his power. Likewise, those who continue to ask for signs do not do so because Jesus has given insufficient evidence of his authority and divinity. They do those things because they have bad eyes, and because they have bad eyes, they are filled only with darkness. And lest we think that we are the ones who cleaned out our own eyes by our own will-power such that we now see clearly, we should think again. Listen carefully to 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 [1] Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. [2] But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer today, you did not prescribe yourself new contacts or give yourself laser eye surgery. Praise be to the Great Optometrist who, just as in creation, has penetrated the darkness and the chaos of our own hearts to grant us understanding of the gospel. If you are here today and are not fully trusting in Jesus as your savior, I pray that these words are sobering for you. Do not deceive yourself, thinking that 'when God really does something amazing, then I'll believe'. Do not think that Jesus has to make his message more clear in order to believe. I trust that everything you need to believe has been made available to you, if you are open to receiving him. If you want to know more, start by reading God's word. Talk to someone here, I'm sure they would be happy to explain more.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.