Thursday 11 March 2010

Bible Book:

"But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you." (v.20)

Luke 11:14-23 Thursday 11 March 2010


In the verse immediately before this passage, Jesus has promisedthat the heavenly father will give the Holy Spirit to whoeversincerely asks. By contrast to that offer, this passage reflects onthe fact that some people are under the control of, or at leastsignificantly affected by, evil spirits, also called demons.

To set the scene for a discussion of this issue we read of Jesussetting a person free from a demon that prevented speech, with asuccess that was therefore immediately obvious. In the Gospels,people with a variety of illnesses attribute these to demons, andJesus similarly orders the demons to leave the person concerned. Inother cases, similar symptoms are not said to be so caused and thehealings are accomplished in other ways than by addressing ademon.

Today we can distinguish various forms of mental illness, and maybe able to offer an explanation in terms of particular brainmalfunctions for the kinds of behaviour that used to be attributedto evil spirits. Whether that scientific diagnosis is the wholestory is probably impossible to tell, although for those who haveno belief in a spiritual dimension it has to suffice.

The name Beelzebul had long been a popular name for the chief demon(you can find it in 2Kings 1). Jesus regards it as equivalent to "Satan" (verse 18)which means 'opponent' and is more commonly used both in the NewTestament and by Christians today. Jesus is accused of usingdemonic power to overcome demons, but he argues that that wouldimply a divided kingdom among the demons, always a symptom ofdemise. Instead he claims that it is "the finger of God" by whichhe overthrows demons and that it is a proof that God is present ina special way. The 'hand of God' is a related but more commonbiblical symbol of God's power (eg Exodus7:5).

The final verse of today's passage suggests it is time to firmlytake sides. It implies that those who do not deliberately side withJesus in the battle for truth are by default on the side ofevil.

To Ponder

Do you find it helps or hinders to think of evilin the world as, as least in part, due to the influence on humanbeings of evil spiritual powers? Why?

To what extent should those who follow Christexpect to be able to follow his example in casting out or banishingdemons? Is there any place for a ministry of exorcism in the Churchof today?

Compare verse 23 ("Whoever is not with me isagainst me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters") withLuke 9:50 ("Whoever is not against you is for you"). These seem, atfirst sight, to say the opposite. In what senses may people whoappear neutral or undecided be said to be with Jesus in the battleof good and evil?

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