18 August 2015

Luke 11:14-28

“Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (v. 28)

Psalm: Psalm 69:30-36


For most urban Westerners, the language of spiritual warfare is alien and unsettling, but for Jesus' audience - and for large numbers of people in today's world - it is a natural way of describing how things are. Behind the strange and unsettling language about Beelzebul and demons lies the stark contrast between two kingdoms, each with its own aims and its own methods. On one side is the kingdom of spiritual and social chaos, with forces that seek destruction and mischief. The name 'Beelzebul' probably comes from the Canaanite God 'Baal', but here it represents Satan, God's spiritual opponent. On the other side is the kingdom of God - a kingdom of wholeness, order and flourishing. As Jesus points out to his critics, you cannot be on two sides at once; you have to choose where your allegiance lies. Jesus serves and represents the kingdom of God so his action is God's action. The reference to the "finger of God" (v. 20) is based on Exodus 8:19 and the conflict between Moses and Aaron and the magicians of Egypt.

The final verses in today's passage might seem a puzzling addition. A well-meaning heckler cries out a blessing on the mother of Jesus. Jesus' reply, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it", may seem like a put-down. But if we think about it, Jesus is describing precisely what Mary, his mother, did. Mary, according to Luke 1:26-38, hears the word of God from her angelic messenger and responds by saying, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord" (Luke 1:38). That is why, in the verses that follow the annunciation, Elizabeth greets her with "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42). So Mary, in effect, is a prime example of what it means to be on the side of the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of Satan.

To Ponder

  • Where do you see the contrast between the two kingdoms? What kind of choices does this present you with in your situation?
  • Are there ways of taking Mary, the mother of Jesus, more seriously? How can she act as an example of a 'kingdom person'? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.