Summary: The story of Jesus casting out a demon in Luke 11 teaches us that Jesus has the power to release us from the power of Satan and indeed from everything that enslaves us. The story also shows us how Jesus deals with reproach and the necessity of positively choosing Jesus.
We are continuing our series in Luke. Today, we have the story of Jesus casting out a demon. I suspect that this story might not be the first choice of many preachers. Casting out demons probably seems very alien to many of us. But this story appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke and that alone is reason to think that it must be important.
In this talk I’m going to review what happens. Then I’m going to suggest three ways we can respond:
• LET’S RECOGNIZE THAT THE KINGDOM OF SATAN IS A REALITY
• LET’S RESPOND LIKE JESUS
• LET’S CHOOSE THE KINGDOM OF GOD
REVIEW OF THE STORY
The story starts with Jesus casting out a demon. By this stage in Luke’s gospel the fact of casting out a demon is no longer remarkable. Jesus cast out demons, his disciples cast out demons, and now there’s even someone who isn’t one of Jesus’ disciples casting out demons in Jesus’ name!
On this occasion, however, there is something new. Some of the people who see Jesus casting the demon out suggest that he’s doing so by the power of ‘Beelzebul’ – Satan, in other words.
Jesus shows why this explanation can’t possibly be right, he presents the real explanation, and he tells the crowd that they need to make a response.
Why is it impossible that Jesus could be casting the demon out by the power of Beelzebul? Jesus explains that if Jesus us driving out demons by the power of Satan then Satan is driving out his own agents! If Satan is doing that, then Satan’s house is divided. Jesus then asks: ‘And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?’ Jesus leaves the question hanging. He leaves the crowd to think it through for themselves.
So, if Jesus isn’t casting the demon out by the power of Beelzebul then how is he doing so? Can human power drive a demon out? Probably not. What’s left? In verse 20 Jesus declares: ‘But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then THE KINGDOM OF GOD has come upon you.’ Jesus is saying that this is the only possible explanation.
It’s interesting that Jesus uses the phrase ‘the finger of God.’ There are only two mentions of ‘the finger of God’ in the Old Testament. One is when God wrote the ten commandments on two stone tablets. The other is when Moses went to Pharaoh to demand that he release the Hebrews. After that God sent the first two plagues on the Egyptians. The Egyptian magicians then reproduced those plagues themselves. Because the Egyptian magicians were able to do that they saw no reason to think that God had sent the plagues. God then sent a third plague. This time, the Egyptian magicians couldn’t reproduce it. So, they concluded, ‘This is the finger of God.’ In their view, no other explanation was possible: it must be God. Jesus is arguing the same way. He’s saying, ‘Your explanation, that I am casting the demon out by the power of ‘Beelzebul,’ doesn’t work. There is only one explanation that works: that I am casting the demon out by the finger of God. Draw your conclusion.’
Jesus has now shown that the explanation that he cast the demon out by the power of ‘Beelzebul’ must be false. And he's given the only possible explanation, that he drove the demon out by God’s power. He then goes a bit deeper and generalises the situation. How does God’s power operate when someone has come under the power and influence of Satan?
The gospels often describe a person as being ‘demon-possessed.’ Luke doesn’t use that phrase in our passage today but it’s helpful to have it in the backs of our minds. It shows that a person can be ‘possessed’ in some way by a demon. Or, we could put it another way and say that a person is THE POSSESSION OF A DEMON. The demon has got him and doesn’t want to let go.
When a person is owned by another person, that is slavery. Jesus has the idea of possession very much in mind when he explains the situation when a demon takes up residence in a person. Look at verses 21-22 again:
When a STRONG MAN, fully armed, guards his own palace, his GOODS are safe; but when ONE STRONGER than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his spoil.
The STRONG MAN is a demon. His ‘GOODS’ – what he possesses, is a person. The ‘ONE STRONGER’, who overcomes the strong man and releases his goods – who frees the man from his slavery – is Jesus.
I once met the pastor of the largest Protestant church in Serbia, a man called Dusan Beredi. I knew that he’d set up a drug prevention programme. I had been wondering whether there is a connection between drug addiction and interest in Satanism or the occult so I asked Dusan about this. He said that 95% of the addicts who they meet in their programme have had some involvement in Satanism or the occult! I don’t know if that is also true in other places but it would make sense to me if it was true. A person goes down the road towards drug addiction without ever intending to become addicted. He wants to try it out, to have a magical, mystical experience. But before very long, he finds he has an intense craving for the drug. He can’t chuck it out. It ‘possesses’ him. I suppose that the logic that leads a person to try out drugs is similar to the logic that leads a person to try out the world of the occult – and the result doesn’t seem very dissimilar. The demon isn’t easy to get rid of. Our passage today is not about drugs, but we absolutely believe that Jesus has the strength to deliver us from ANYTHING that binds us.