Summary: A message proclaiming the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
¡§No Middle Ground¡¨
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
Preached at St. Andrew¡¦s Episcopal Church, Fort Worth
March 3, 2002
I. THE ACTION (v. 14)
a) Jesus exorcises a demon from a mute man and the man speaks.
b) The crowd responds in amazement.
II. THE ACCUSATION (vv. 15-16)
a) The religious crowd attributes Jesus’ miracle to Satan.
b) The religious crowd demands more miraculous signs to validate Jesus’ divine claims.
III. THE ANSWER (vv. 17-28).
a) Jesus rebuts His opponents’ charge
1. By reason (17-20).
2. By revelation of His superiority (21-22).
b) Jesus removes the option of spiritually neutral ground
1. By proclomation (23).
2. By parable (24-26).
c) Jesus reveals the recipients of God’s favor (27-28).
Several years ago Christian speaker and writer Josh McDowell authored an apologetic book, or a book making a reasonable and rational case for the Christian faith, entitled Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Evidence That Demands a Verdict was a very successful book which went through multiple printings and in fact is still in print today.
The title of McDowell¡¦s book is a little misleading, however. As any attorney will tell you, evidence alone cannot demand a verdict. In a trial, several matters of great importance surround the issue of evidence. What kind of evidence does the plaintiff or defendant have? Is it compelling evidence or circumstantial evidence? How much evidence does the attorney have, and in what order should it be presented? And just as important as any evidence, the lawyer must anticipate the bias of the members of the jury; for it is the jury which will ultimately decide the coherence and value of the evidence presented, and they who will decide the case.
And so it is with evidence and juries and verdicts in mind that we examine the Gospel lesson for today in Luke chapter 11 verses 14 through 28.
It is clear from the text and the context that Jesus here is again about to enter another of what in the Gospels will prove to be a series of running engagements with religious leaders of Israel. As the Gospels portray it, as Jesus begins His ministry, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadduccess follow Him on the periphery of the crowds with an attitude of reluctant curiosity. But as Jesus¡¦ popularity with the people grows, and His miracles incite more excitement and commitment, the religious crowd begins to feel their own popularity with and authority over the people decline. Their curiosity changes into hatred and malice, and these religious leaders of Israel commit themselves to a course of action involving active opposition to Jesus which will finally culminate in handing Him over to the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.
The incident relayed to us in Luke 11:14-28 presses three important questions upon us. The first is, Is this Jesus who He claims Himself to be; namely, the Son of God? The second is, How do I know? And the third is, If He is, what must I then do? All three questions will have answers, as we shall see. And all three involve compelling evidence, reasoned arguments, and the bias of the jury.
The spark that lighted this confrontational powder-keg between Jesus and members of the religious establishment in Luke chapter 11 was a miraculous action by our Lord in verse 14.
14And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.
We don¡¦t much about the poor demon-possessed man. Luke doesn¡¦t tell us his name, where he came from, or how long he had been tormented. All we do know is that a certain man was demon possessed, that the demon squelched speech in the man so that he was unable to speak, and that when Jesus exorcised the demon the formerly-possessed man was able to speak. Moreover, we hear from Luke that the crowd witnessing this exorcism responded with amazement. As we shall see, this exorcism becomes ¡§exhibit A¡¨ in the case for the identity of Jesus Christ.
Apparently, there were some religious leaders in the crowd at the time of this exorcism. Luke does not name those who respond to this miraculous action on the part of Jesus with an accusation that it was accomplished by the power of the devil; he only calls them ¡§some people.¡¨ Matthew and Mark, however, who also record this incident in their gospels, call Jesus¡¦ opponents ¡§Pharisees¡¨ and ¡§scribes¡¨ respectively.
This exorcism¡Xthis miraculous action¡Xwrought by Jesus is met with amazement from the crowd, and an accusation that is accomplished by the power of Satan, and a demand for more evidence of Christ¡¦s divinity, by the religious establishment. Verses 15-16:
15But some of them said, ¡§He casts out demons by „TBeelzebub, the ruler of the demons.¡¨ 16Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.