14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marvelled. 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 armour 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.
Jesus and Beelzebul
Jesus is challenged because he is breaking the mountain of rules that Jewish culture has developed from their interpretation of the law. He wants to bring freedom and relationship, but the Jewish authorities start spreading rumours about where his primary allegiance lies. Rather than accepting that Jesus is working under the authority of God the Father, they put him in the opposite camp. They acknowledge that Satan has power and so they use the derogatory and contemptuous name of Beelzebul (Lord of the Flies) to refer to Jesus’ master. Although Jesus actually is the master of Satan, Satan is deemed to be the master of Jesus.
Jesus logically and rationally lays out a counter argument. We should note his argument as the result of an astute mind. Jesus had studied with teachers and had a developed mind (Luke 2). Of course, the time came when he excelled and the role of other teachers diminished, but Jesus had had an education, which he uses to good effect. He first of all establishes common ground which everyone present would agree upon, Kingdoms that are divided beak down from inside. Nations are not strengthened by civil war. Secondly, the onlookers agree that Jesus is driving out demons. In other words he is defeating them in battle and systematically cleansing the land. Why would a ruler, even Satan, send a general into battle to slaughter his own troops? The defeat of Satan in Jesus’ ministry should be evidence that Beelzebul is not behind this offensive. Jesus points out that he has equipped Jewish people (his disciples), the Pharisees own ‘children’, to drive out demons across the country. Is Satan really so stupid that he would commission a group of people to spread across Israel and exile his minions completely? Arguably, if it were just the one man Jesus it could be a ruse, but Jesus has been mobilizing a nationwide cleansing.
Jesus values logic. He values the construction of a good argument. He reasons. He debates. Christians need to cultivate the life of the mind and love God with all their mind. We are transformed by the renewing of the mind and we are called to have the mind of Christ. As C.S. Lewis once said, God wants the heart of a child but the head of an adult. Ignorance is not a virtue. The Holy Spirit did not come to excuse us from all study. There is not a valid secular set of knowledge and a valid sacred set of knowledge. All knowledge is given by God and right understanding starts with the fear of the Lord.
Jesus finishes by saying that there is a dividing line. Their is an inside and there is an outside. Those who work against Jesus are on the outside. Those who are not for Jesus are on the outside. Those who accept that Jesus is who he says he is and give their lives to him are his allies.
When all is said and done, may it be said that I was on Your side. May I develop my mind for your glory so that in studying Creation I might see more clearly the reality of who You are.
- What does Jesus do that elicits a negative response?
- Summarize Jesus’ argument.
- How is Jesus divisive here?
- To what do you attribute the report of Jesus’ miracles?
- How do you develop your mind to be able to argue more like Jesus?