Life is all about stories and every person has a story. God, too, has a story – the grand metanarrative – that makes sense of every human story; for the sacred Scriptures make known two kinds of wisdom so that every human being can make sense of, and interpret properly, his or her story in light of His story:
+. a soteriological wisdom: to make us wise unto salvation which is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
+. a hermeneutical wisdom: to help us make sense of life’s story in light of His story and the many stories recorded in Scripture (Matthew 13:11, 16-17, 51-52; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the parable of the Stronger Man, what essential teaching does Jesus share with us about God’s response to the human condition so that we might benefit from its wisdom and grow in our discipleship as “a wise scribe, trained for the kingdom” (Matthew 13:52)
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
What did the parable mean “then and there?”
People were astonished at the power seen in the ministry of Jesus, especially in His healing of the sick and the casting out of demons. The religious leaders viewed the ministry of Jesus as demonic and suggested that Jesus was Himself in league with Beelzebub, the prince of demons.
In response, Jesus rejected the idea that His exorcisms could be the work of Satan since that would be a case of Satan warring against himself; for a kingdom or city or house divided against itself cannot stand.
Instead, it was by the Spirit of God that Jesus was able to cast out demons and this delivering work of Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God had come. His exorcisms were the ransacking of the house of a supremely strong man (Satan) so that prisoners could be set free.
What does the parable mean “here and now?”
+. one of the most impactful lessons from The Bethel Series is study three that deals with the theme of disharmony, especially that section of the lesson that deals with the several ways that people deal with sin in their livess…here are just two of them:
+. there is the comparative method in which I am tempted to compare myself to someone who is a much greater “sinner” than I am…and since my “righteousness” is greater than his or hers, “I get in”
+. there is the ledger method in which my evil deeds fill one side of the ledger and my good deeds fill the other side of the ledger…and hopefully the “good deed” side of the ledger has a greater sum balance than the “evil deed” side of the ledger so that “I get in”
+. in my judgment, one of the most comforting announcements recorded in Scripture was made by John when he said this about Jesus: “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
+. Luther described this saving work of Jesus as the “great exchange”: Jesus gets my sin and I get His righteousness…”for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
+. the parabolic actions of Jesus that proved that He was the Messiah and that the kingdom of God was present in the coming of the Stronger Man
+. early in His ministry, in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus announced that He was the promised Messiah and that they could clearly see evidence that He was the One as He fulfilled this ancient Messianic prophecy of Isaiah: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor…He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind…to set at liberty those who are oppressed…to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19)
+. or a little while later, when the disciples of John were sent to Jesus to ask Him if He was the One or should they look for another, Jesus encouraged them to judge His ministry in light of this Messianic prophecy: “…the blind receive their sight (Luke 18:35-43), the lame walk (Luke 5:17-26), lepers are cleansed (Luke 5:12-16; 17:11-19), the deaf hear (Mark 7:31-37), the dead are raised up (Luke 7:11-17; 8:49-56), the poor have good news preached to them…” (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6, 61:1; Luke 7:22)
+. in bringing back to life his friend Lazarus (John 11:1-44)) or the son of the widow in Nain (Luke 7:11-17) or Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-29)…Jesus was revealing Himself to be “the resurrection and the life”
+. in His table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners, or when He visited the home of Zacchaeus, Jesus was living out “the parable of the gracious Father” (Luke 15:11-32)
+. one of the great hymns is “A Mighty Fortress” and, in one of the stanzas, Luther wrote about the Stronger Man in this way: “No strength of ours can match his might (Satan who is the strong man), we would be lost, rejected…but now a champion (Jesus, the Stronger Man) comes to fight, whom God Himself elected…you ask who this may be? the Lord of hosts is He – Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son, adored…He holds the field victorious”
In closing, let us impress these words from Scripture upon our hearts that address the need of every person to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness through the saving work of the Stronger Man:
“I am the Good Shepherd…the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:11, 27-28)
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live…and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25)
“He (the Father) has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14)
“…the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b)
Beelzebul seems to derive from an ancient Canaanite title for the pagan fertility god Baal