Jesus encountered conflict on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem. The conflict that Luke described in Luke 11:14-26 is about the source of Jesus’ power. People wondered whether Jesus was working by the power of God or by the power of Satan.
Let’s read about Jesus and Beelzebul in Luke 11:14-26:
14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:14-26)
Pastor Tim Keller once said that in 1970 a Sunday school teacher changed his life with a simple illustration.
The teacher said, “Let’s assume the distance between the earth and the sun (92 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper. If that were the case, then the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. And the diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high.”
Then the teacher added, “The galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe, yet Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power.”
Finally, the teacher asked her students, “Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?”
Obviously, the answer is, “Of course not!” Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power. He is supremely powerful and he demonstrated that power in his life by the miracles that he did.
People knew that Jesus had astonishing power over diseases, demons, nature, and even death. But, even in Jesus’ day people questioned the source of his power.
The analysis of the source of Jesus’ power in Luke 11:14-26 teaches us that Jesus works by God’s authority.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Accusation Against Jesus (11:14-16)
2. The Answer of Jesus (11:17-26)
I. The Accusation Against Jesus (11:14-16)
First, let’s look at the accusation against Jesus.
Luke said in verse 14 that Jesus was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.
This is one of the shortest miracle stories recorded in the entire Bible. By now it seems that Luke did not think it necessary to give many details to show how Jesus performed these wonderful miracles.
This poor man had been silenced by a demon. He was unable to speak, either to other people or even to God. This was the work of Satan in his life, as commentator David Gooding eloquently states:
This is self-evidently the work of the enemy. . . . If it is God’s desire and design, and man’s chief glory, that he should be the priest of creation and articulate creation’s response to the Creator, that he should talk with God as a son with a father, then it is obvious why it should be of prime strategic importance to the enemy to cripple man’s ability to speak with God, to lock up man’s spirit within himself, and as far as God is concerned to turn this earth into a silent planet.
Satan’s goal is to keep us from communicating meaningfully with each other and especially with God. But, thankfully, Jesus has power to overrule Satan and his goals, which is what he did with the mute man.
The people obviously saw the astonishing miracle. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven (11:15-16).
One group of people attributed the source Jesus’ power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. In Jesus’ day Beelzebul had become another name for Satan. This came from 2 Kings 1:2, where the name is rendered as Baal-zebub, which literally means, “Lord of the flies.” The Septuagint translates it as, “Baal, the fly-God.” So, Beelzebul was, and is, an appropriate name for Satan, but it was a blasphemous slander when used for Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, some people were attributing the source of Jesus’ power to Satan, and the implication was that he was a tool of Satan. Since they denied that Jesus was the Son of God, they had to come up with some explanation as to the source of his power, and the only other explanation was that Jesus was doing miracles by Satan’s authority and power.
People blaspheme Jesus today when they attribute a life that is transformed by the gospel of grace to the work of personal reformation or something other than the power of God.
A different group of people was not quite so brazenly blasphemous. They kept seeking from Jesus a sign from heaven. They were willing to concede that the source of Jesus’ power may have been from God, but they wanted proof. All of Jesus’ astonishing miracles, such as healing the sick, casting out demons, exercising power over nature, and even raising the dead back to life, were not enough for them. They wanted something more. Here is how commentator Norval Geldenhuys describes their attitude:
Others, who did not go so far as to suggest that he acted through the power of Satan, would nevertheless not see and acknowledge in his power over the evil spirits and in all his other words and deeds evidence that he was the Messiah. Without showing any signs of true desire for salvation, they demand that, if he were to be acknowledged as Messiah, he should cause an indisputable, divine miracle to take place which might prove openly the fact of his Messiahship. Otherwise, they reasoned in their unbelief and pride, they could not be sure whether the accusation of his acting through the power of Satan was not perhaps true.
This attitude is very common today. Most people do not think that they are hostile to Jesus. They are willing to consider the claim that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of sinners, but they just need some sign to show them that his claim is true.
II. The Answer of Jesus (11:17-26)
And second, let’s look at the answer of Jesus.
Jesus answers by accusing his accusers, correcting his accusers, and warning his accusers. Let’s look at each in turn.
A. Jesus Accuses His Accusers (11:17-19)
First, Jesus accuses his accusers.
Jesus presents two accusations against his accusers.
1. Jesus Accuses His Accusers of Making an Irrational Charge (11:17-18)
First, Jesus accuses his accusers of making an irrational charge.
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul” (11:17-18). It was utterly irrational to think that Satan would undo the very work he had been doing. Satan had bound the man’s tongue so that he could not praise God. Why would Satan then undo the man’s tongue so that he could now speak and praise God? That did not make sense at all.
2. Jesus Accuses His Accusers of Making an Inconsistent Charge (11:19)
And second, Jesus accuses his accusers of making an inconsistent charge.
Furthermore, Jesus said in verse 19, “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.”
There were others in Jesus’ day who also were able to cast demons out of people. It was generally acknowledged that God was at work when demons were cast out of people. But that is not what the people were saying about Jesus. They were saying that he was casting demons out of people by the power of Satan. That, of course, was inconsistent. If Jesus was casting demons out of people by the power of Satan, then they should be saying the same thing about their own exorcists. Yet the people believed that God was the source of casting demons out of people. So, Jesus showed them that they were inconsistent.
B. Jesus Corrects His Accusers (11:20-22)
Second, Jesus corrects his accusers.
Jesus corrects his accusers in two ways.
1. Jesus Corrects His Accusers By Saying That Casting Out Demons Means That the Kingdom Has Arrived (11:20)
First, Jesus corrects his accusers by saying that casting out demons means that the kingdom has arrived.
Jesus said in verse 20, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Jesus was doing his work “by the finger of God.” What did he mean by that? Jesus was pointing the people back to the court of Pharaoh in Egypt. When the Pharaoh’s magicians saw the miracles that were being done by God through Moses, they said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). Jesus wanted the people to understand that the source of his power was the same as the source of Moses’ power: God.
Because God was the source of his power, the inevitable conclusion was that the kingdom of God had arrived.
2. Jesus Corrects His Accusers By Saying That Casting Out Demons Means That Satan Has Been Overpowered (11:21-22)
And second, Jesus corrects his accusers by saying that casting out demons means that Satan has been overpowered.
Jesus gave an illustration to explain what he was doing. He said in verses 21-22, “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 armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Satan is the strong man. Jesus portrays him as a wealthy man sitting in his own palace, believing that all his treasures are safe. The one stronger is none other than Jesus. He overpowers Satan. The very fact that Jesus was able to deliver the mute man from the power of the demon is clear evidence of his power over Satan.
C. Jesus Warns His Accusers (11:23-26)
And third, Jesus warns his accusers.
Jesus presents two warnings to his accusers.
1. Jesus Warns His Accusers Not to Oppose His Work (11:23)
First, Jesus warns his accusers not to oppose his work.
Jesus says in verse 23, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
What Jesus says here in verse 23 sounds contradictory to what he said earlier in Luke 9:50. There Jesus said to his disciples, “The one who is not against you is for you.” However, that was a different context. This is how Bishop J. C. Ryle explains the difference:
In the former case, our Lord was speaking of one who was really working for Christ, and against the devil, and was doing good, though perhaps not in the wisest way. . . . He works against the same enemy that we work against, and therefore he is on our side. In the case before us, our Lord is speaking of men who refused to join and become his disciples.
Jesus is pressing people to make a choice. The source of Jesus’ power is either from God or it is from Satan.
Even today people must make a choice regarding Jesus. Either we believe that his power is from God or it is from Satan. And if Jesus’ power is from God, as it most certainly is, then do we submit to him as our Lord and Savior. Or, if we do not believe that Jesus’ power is from God, are we going to going to continue siding with Satan.
There is no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. We are either for him or we are against him. Some people think that if they are indifferent to Jesus, it does not really matter. But it does. We must submit to Jesus and follow him wholeheartedly, as Bishop Ryle said, “Let it be the settled determination of our minds that we will serve Christ with all our hearts, if we serve him at all. Let there be no reserve, no compromise, no half-heartedness.”
2. Jesus Warns His Accusers That Opposition to His Work Results in a Worse Spiritual State (11:24-26)
And second, Jesus warns his accusers that opposition to his work results in a worse spiritual state.
That is the point of Jesus’ closing illustration in verses 24-26, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
Dr. Philip Ryken makes the following comment on these verses:
This mysterious passage lifts the veil on the spiritual realities of the unseen world. It tells us that demons can enter people, leave people, and later return. It says that demons are restless creatures who sometimes wander in the wilderness, but are always seeking to find a home. It says further that they are seeking to find this home in the soul of a human person, and that in some cases a person may be possessed by many demons.
Why does Jesus use this illustration? Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man and he wants people to understand the reality of demon possession. However, Jesus also wants us to understand “that we are safe from Satan only when we have the Spirit of Christ living within us. Indeed, if all we ever have is a self-made attempt at personal reformation, without a saving work of God’s Spirit, we will end up worse off than ever.”
Jesus describes a person who had experienced the departure of a demon but who never submitted himself to Jesus. There was some kind of relief for a time, but after a while, the demons returned and things were worse than before. Here is a man, said Charles Spurgeon, who was “for a time reformed, but eventually subjected to the worst forms of evil.”
Therefore, having analyzed the source of Jesus’ power in Luke 11:14-26, we must make a choice to join with Jesus.
We are either for Jesus or we are against Jesus. There is no neutral ground with Jesus. If we are for Jesus, then his Spirit lives in us, and our soul is secure. But if we are not for Jesus, then some day Satan will come and take possession. This is how Bishop Ryle put it:
There is no safety except in thorough Christianity. . . . The house must not only be swept. . .; a new tenant must be introduced. . . . The outward life must not only be decorated with the formal trappings of religion; the power of vital religion must be experienced in the inner man. The Devil must not only be cast out; the Holy Spirit must take his place. Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith.
It is either Jesus or Beelzebul. Will you be all for Jesus?