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“And He was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting Him, sought of Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto Him, Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked. But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it”—Luke 11:14-28.
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There are five sections to this portion of Scripture. First, in verses 14-16, we have the Lord casting out demons, the wonder of the people and evil thoughts running through the minds of His enemies—certain of the Pharisees who were looking on. Second, in verses 17-20 our Lord is talking with the Pharisees. Third, in verses 21-23, the parable of the stronger one who takes away the armour of the strong. In verses 24-26 we have the parable of the unclean spirit cast out, and the empty house. Then in verses 27 and 28 we have our Lord’s words to the woman who had ascribed special honor and glory to the mother of Jesus. He refused anything of the kind, because it is not the will of God that we should put the mother in the place of the Son.
In the first part, then, we find the Lord Jesus, as usual, ministering mercy and grace to needy souls; and among others, there was one who was demon-possessed. The demon had such control of the man that he was unable to speak. But when the Lord cast out the evil spirit the man spoke freely, and the people wondered. But while they marveled at what was done, they did not recognize the fact that a great prophet had arisen among them, nor that One stood in their midst to show them the way to God. So they found fault with Him. They were continually misunderstanding Him, mainly because they did not desire to know the truth. How many people there are in our own day who will find fault with the Bible, with Christianity, with the Lord Jesus Christ, but who never make any effort to discover the truth. They seldom look into the pages of the Bible; they do not seem to want to find out what God has to say. They do not attend meetings where they might hear the Word preached, or observe what is taking place; and yet they are insistent on finding fault with the teachings of the Book they never open. I think one of the best ways to silence people like that is to challenge them to search the Bible for themselves and find the truth. Often we hear something like this: “I hear the preacher teaches so and so,” or “The Bible teaches so and so.” We should ask them, “Do you ever read the Bible?” You will find that they do not know the Scriptures with which they are finding fault. And so it was when our Lord was here. They had no desire to understand Him; they had no thought of taking His messages seriously. They had made up their minds that He could not be the Messiah, and so everything He did and said they misinterpreted. Even when He manifested His mighty power by casting out demons, some said, “He casteth out demons in the name of Beelzebub, the chief of the demons.” It was as much as to say that the demons are subject to a leader, which of course is absolutely true. They called that leader “Beelzebub,” which is another name for Satan. The name of one of the Phoenician gods was Beelzebub, which means “the lord of flies.” Such pagan nations had gods over everything. These Jews were really saying that the Lord Jesus was able to cast out demons because He was in league with the prince of the demons, and that the prince of the demons gave Him authority, and that the demons obeyed. There was no proof of this. They had never investigated. They never so much as talked it over with Him. They never looked into the matter, but they just jumped at that conclusion. And so men jump at conclusions today. Jesus has always been misunderstood. These people were hypocrites. They were trying to cover up their sins with a cloak of pretended righteousness, and when Jesus exposed their hypocrisy they hated Him for it.
You remember the story of the African chieftainess in the days of Robert Moffat. He had notice one day that he was to be visited by this chieftainess, and so he dressed up in his best clothes in order to meet her. She came attired in barbaric splendor. As she talked with him she happened to see a mirror hanging from a tree outside his cabin door. She had never seen anything like it before. She went up to examine it, and what she saw startled her. She beheld the ugliest face she had ever seen. She looked on the other side but saw nothing. Then she asked for an explanation. Whose was that awful face she saw in the glass? He explained that it was her own face. When at last she was convinced it was true, she demanded the mirror. He did not want to part with it; he needed it to shave, to trim and comb his hair. But she was insistent and offered to buy it from him, giving in trade elephant-tusks, or something else of value. He thought it would be better to be on good terms with her and so he sold it to her. And when she received it she took one last look at herself in it and dashed it to pieces on the ground, declaring that it would never tell on her again. That suggests why these hypocrites were always finding fault with our Lord. We read in John’s Gospel that the True Light gives light to, or, literally, casts light upon every man that cometh into the world. Their wickedness was manifested in the light of His purity and holiness, and so they charged Him with being in league with the prince of the demons. They tempted Him by asking for a sign from heaven: “If You are what You claim to be, then do what Elijah did — command fire to come down from heaven.” But our Lord never performed any miracle to gratify curiosity, but only to meet the needs of poor, suffering humanity. So He told them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” If what they insisted upon was true, then Satan was trying to destroy his own kingdom. The Lord Jesus said, “You say I cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub; what about your own sons? Here are Peter, James, and John and the other apostles, who also cast out demons. You say I cast them out by the power of the devil, then you are saying this of your own sons.”
“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.” It is easy to see who the strong man is, even Satan himself, who has held mankind in bondage for centuries, yes, thousands of years; but when Jesus came into the world He bound the strong man. When Satan came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness our Lord met him every time with the Holy Scripture. He broke the power of Satan in the lives of people who had been his poor slaves. Now it becomes us to take sides with Him against Satan. “He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.” You know what Jesus has done for you: He has delivered you from the power of sin. You know He has broken the chains of habit that bound you; but do you fully yield to Him? Have you taken your place in association with Him, owning Him before the world not only as your Saviour but as your Lord?
Next comes the parable of the unclean spirit to show the danger of professing outward allegiance to Him and having nothing in the heart. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest: and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Jesus likens the body and soul of a man to a house in which the evil spirit has dwelt. After the demon has been driven out, the house is empty, for the Spirit of God does not come into the man who has not accepted Christ. He pictures the demon as one going out into the wilderness seeking an abode, wandering through desolate places and finding no home. At last he says, “I will return to my house from whence I came.” When he returns he finds it swept and garnished. There is no one living in it. There may be no evil habits in the life, but Christ has not found lodgment in that heart; so the evil spirit says, “I will take me seven other evil spirits, and we will take up our abode in him.” Thus the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
This has a special application to Israel. The unclean spirit of idolatry had been cast out of Israel, as a result of the Babylonian captivity. God sent them into Babylon to cure them of idolatry. Whatever else they failed in, they were never again an idolatrous nation. All down through the centuries since, Israel has maintained its confession, “The Lord our God is One.” The house was empty, swept and garnished when God sent His blessed Son to bring salvation to all who would trust Him. He was not received, so the religion of Israel has remained in the same empty condition ever since. The day is coming when the evil spirit of idolatry will return to the nation, with seven other spirits more evil than itself. In the great tribulation Israel will be given over to worse corruption than they have ever known before, when they accept the antichrist instead of the Christ of God. What a dangerous thing it is when the house has been delivered from evil habits and not given to Christ! Unless He does come in and take possession it is not enough to be freed from certain evil habits. We say, “Nature abhors a vacuum;” and it is just as true in the spiritual realm.
“And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto Him, Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked. But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” This woman’s cry meant, “Blessed be Your mother;” and Jesus immediately answered, “Blessed, rather, are they that hear the “Word of God and keep it.” All down through the centuries there has been a tendency to put the mother in the place of the Saviour, to make Mary the mediator, giving her the place that belongs alone to Christ. “There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Our Lord would not for a moment have us adore His mother, blessed as she is; but He pronounces a special blessing on those who honor and obey the Word of God. May we take His messages to heart and walk in subjection to the Holy Scriptures, not substituting human tradition for His revealed will.