Tuesday 19 June 2018

Bible Book:

“The kingdom of God has come to you” (v. 20)

Luke 11:14-26 Tuesday 19 June 2018

Psalm: Psalm 87


Today’s passage comes from the long central section of Luke’s Gospel, which details Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (chapters 9 to 19). As he travels, Jesus encounters increasing opposition to his ministry, which will culminate in his trial and crucifixion. We see evidence of this gathering tide of antagonism in today’s verses, with people questioning the power by which Jesus heals a man unable to speak (verse 14).

It is a difficult passage for many modern readers to understand fully. It reflects not only a belief in demons being the source of illness but also a complicated system of demonology – of how demons related to one another and to the power of evil more generally. Part of the conflict in today’s passage may represent different contemporary understandings of this subject within Jewish society – in particular, differences between those who lived in Galilee (where Jesus came from) and Judea (the area around Jerusalem).

However we wish to approach this complicated issue, there is no denying the importance of exorcism in the ministry of Jesus (eg Luke 4:33, 39). Contemporaries clearly did the same (verse 19) but we know that Jesus’ exorcisms were distinctive in that he used no incantations or ‘magical’ equipment (such as a ring). He simply spoke (eg Luke 5:13). On this occasion, though, people argue that he has this power not from God but Beelzebul, an alternative name for Satan probably derived from that of a Syrian god. In response, Jesus asserts that he acts only through the power of God alone (verse 20), just as Moses did when he defied Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19).

The passage concludes with another strange tale relating to demons (verses 24-26). It too reflects contemporary beliefs about evil spirits, such as the fact that they dwell in desert places (see Luke 8:29). However, some commentators have suggested that Jesus is possibly criticising the belief in exorcism alone as a cure for those afflicted by evil. Instead, it must be accompanied by a genuine change of heart and lifestyle, as we see happening with many of the other people Jesus encounters.

To Ponder

  • How do you think today’s reader is meant to engage with today’s passage and its talk about demons and Beelzebul?
  • Why do you think that some contemporaries of Jesus thought that he was acting under the power of evil?
  • What interpretation would you offer of those curious last three verses (verses 24-26)?
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