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Demons and Division
Friday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I come before you this morning, renewing my gratitude at the privilege I have to address you, listen to your words, and hear you speak into my life. Help me to understand the Scriptures you give me today and draw from them an unmistakable message by which to live.
- The Power of God: The crowd in this Scripture passage obviously recognized in Jesus an incredible power. They had witnessed him driving out a demon. What they couldn’t see, however, was the origin of this power. They attributed Jesus’s power to the devil. And they followed up by asking for a sign—as if expulsion of devils wasn’t enough. What caused their blindness? Were they hungry for truth or just anxious about preserving the status quo? Therein is a lesson for us. When we find ourselves afraid of change or confused by circumstances let us not “test” Jesus by asking for a sign. Rather, let us proclaim our faith in God Almighty and trust, like children of the King, that he has our best interest at heart.
- He Meets Us Where We Are: Jesus responded to the crowd’s challenges, not with complex theological language, but by drawing on their own experience to make his point. “If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?” His goal was not to insult or belittle. He wanted them to step away from the emotion of the moment and use their reason to come to the conclusion that “the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Strong emotion or fear can prevent us from receiving from Jesus the truth that offers us the ultimate consolation: Jesus is always present, near us, loving and supporting us, suffering with us. This truth is not a complex reality. When we take the time to quiet our hearts, read and reflect on the Scriptures, and pray, we can have very personal, intimate experiences confirming that Jesus knows and loves us.
- God Is Bigger: Jesus encountered and conquered evil in the person of Beelzebul and he continues to do so today. Where Satan is concerned, we do well to take this advice from C.S. Lewis: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” We know Satan is powerful, but we are assured that “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church” (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, we pray for delivery from evil, and for the grace to remain peaceful and secure in the love of God if and when we feel its presence in our lives. And we continue to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), gathering on his behalf the souls he places in on our hearts.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, may I never doubt your power to conquer evil in the world or in my heart. Equip me with the armor I need to be your foot-soldier. I declare my confidence in you, even in the midst of the world’s chaos. Knowing you love me personally strengthens my resolve to do your will in all things.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a moment to renounce Satan and renew my desire to do your will in all circumstances.
For Further Reflection: Any books by C. S. Lewis.
Written by Maribeth Harper.