The greater global pandemic is not COVID-19. It is satan and sin. While there seems to be no vaccine in sight for the pandemic there is a cure for sin. When God looked at this world in awesome mercy and love he decided that he would not let us die from this disease of sin injected by satan into the world and so he gave his only son Jesus as our saviour. Sin and Satan are the greatest pandemic and yet we do so little to fight it.
Jesus took on Satan and sin head on. The Gospel of today narrates a miracle in one verse (11:1) but the response to it takes on the next twenty six verses. Scripture notes that the adversaries of Jesus are mentioned in Luke’s Gospel with the word “some” but we know that Matthew calls them Pharisees and Mark mentions scribes. (Mt 12:24-30 Mk 3:22-30)
This exorcism, this miraculous act of mercy causes two very different reactions; amazement from the crowd and accusations from the so-called religious men who claim that it was accomplished by the power of Beelzebub. Beelzebub is the name given to the prince of demons, satan. The name probably originated from “Baalzebub” literally meaning lord of the flies or lord of dung; a Philistine god, Baal. This wicked accusation was equivalent to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Jn 12:10).
It has become evident that the convincing nature of Jesus’ miracles have made a deep impact on the masses forcing the Pharisees to come up with some explanation for them. They could not deny the existence of the miracles when they were happening before their eyes. Hence they choose to discredit Jesus.
Note the irony; In verse sixteen, the religious establishment accuse Jesus of performing a miracle by the power of satan, yet they follow up with the classic line, “Now show us more miracles.” If the miracle is of satan, then why do they want more? Again they say, ‘you gave us an earthly miracle now give us a heavenly one’. Jesus knew that their motives were to trick and condemn him and so he refused.
Jesus answers their accusations with three arguments.
Firstly, their accusation was illogical. Would satan fight against himself and divide his own kingdom? No general wanting to win the war would send his soldiers to the front lines with orders to shoot their own comrades. Hence to suggest that Jesus is winning battles against Satan by Satan’s power is absurd.
Secondly, their charges are self-incriminating. Jesus reminds them that he wasn’t the only one who exorcised demons. They themselves performed exorcism (vs 19).We are not told if they were successful or not; and so rivalry and jealousy may be fuelling the religious leaders argument. By their logic, If they condemned Jesus then they were also condemning themselves! Because they were doing exactly the same activity that Jesus was doing? So by their own reasoning they too would be in league with satan.
Finally, their accusation is actually an admission of Jesus’ power. So Jesus illustrates his argument with a story that everyone would know; His point is simple, he could not defeat Satan unless he was stronger than Satan. The “strong man armed” in the example is Satan. The demon-possessed man was evidence of his power. But, you see, Jesus is stronger than Satan, which is the reason he could cast out the demon. The point is obvious, since Jesus is spoiling the devil’s kingdom he can’t be Satan’s lesser minion, he must be stronger than the devil. After the strong man (Jesus) conquers, he distributes the goods which were formally Satan’s; the spoils. The spoils become gifts to men
What is our takeaway from the Gospel?
When we talk about spiritual warfare most people tune out. They don’t want to think that someone would want to hold us down and destroy us spiritually. It is much easier to think that God loves us and won’t let anything happen to us. But as the faithful, we know that we need to get spiritually smart about the things going on in our lives.
Ironically we strive to make our future secure; education for the children, EMI for a home, savings in the bank; what about securing our lives from satan and sin? What about securing a path to heaven?
Jesus came to destroy the devil, to give us the freedom from the enslavement the devil has over us. And this is not exaggerating. Pope Francis called on the faithful to reflect on whether they guard their hearts feelings, graces and presence of the Holy Spirit or “do I let go, feeling secure, believing that all is going well? If you do not guard yourself, he who is stronger than you will come.”
Finally, How could anyone say that Jesus was casting out demons through the power of the prince of demons? The hardness of heart, so evident all around us, and within us, remains a great mystery. How can we resist the truth, goodness, justice and simply seek empty excuses to justify our hardness of heart? Ask the Lord for an open heart, and for light to see the hardness in each one of us.