13 June 2013

Luke 11:24-26

“Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (v. 26)


Before Jesus tells this parable he has been accused of casting out demons by the power of the Devil (Luke 11:14-23). The devil is called Beelzebul which means 'the Lord of The Flies'; Satan, which means 'the accuser'; and we can also assume that Jesus' reference to the "strong man" is another title for the Devil. Jesus refutes their accusation and then draws a link between his casting out of demons and the coming of the kingdom of God.

In the verses after this passage (Luke 11:27-32) Jesus speaks about the blessedness of those who hear and obey the word of God and the judgement coming on those who refuse to see the signs that Jesus is performing and then go on to ask for proofs.

On leaving the house in the first place we notice that the unclean spirit wanders in waterless places looking for somewhere to rest. This image of a desert reminds us of Jesus own temptation in the desert by the devil (Luke 4:1-13) and the long association with unclean spirits with deserts.

In Jesus' description of the person who has been exorcised of an unclean spirit, he describes the unclean spirit as seeing the person it once occupied as a house. In other words it is a dwelling place. We can assume that in being able to re-enter into that house, it has not been re-occupied by anything else since the unclean spirit's departure. However, on returning Jesus describes seven other spirits who fill the house. The number seven is significant in Jewish thinking as it always denotes completion, suggesting therefore that the house is now full up of unclean spirits. As the parable says the last state of the person is worse than the first. We are left to ask ourselves what could have filled the house instead of the unclean spirits. Perhaps a clue to the answer is found in verses 27-29 in which a woman speaks of the womb that carried Christ (a dwelling place?) and Jesus' response.

To Ponder

  • What could have filled the house before the unclean spirits returned?
  • What place is there for exorcism in the Church and world today?
  • Many people have seen parable as being applicable to post war Iraq. What lessons might this parable teach us about the events of today? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..