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12 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 11.14-23

In these violent times, it is hard for us to think of conflict as good news. And yet that is what surfaces in today’s reading. ‘If Satan is divided against Satan, how will Satan’s kingdom stand?’

The healing of the person who had been mute was undoubtedly good news for him and for his family – but the critics wanted to make it into an issue to fight over. Was Jesus demonstrating the compassion and power of God, or was this a bad and harmful conjuring trick from the under-world?  It should have been obvious – but Jesus plays along with their idea – even if it were not from a wholesome source, then it would be a matter of unwholesomeness fighting itself by releasing a mute held in its captivity -  which surely makes wholeness win in the end! And so, ‘If by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the Kingdom of God has come to you.’

They wanted to silence Jesus, just as the man had been reduced to silence by demonic powers. But God speaks and his speaking gives people a voice. The truth will out, in the end, no matter what efforts are made to silence those who in the name of Jesus speak the truth in love. And when God calls and invites us, his call can never be silenced – not even by death as the resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals to us.

In our debates, today, about freedom of speech, we need to remember this: God gives us voice, but God also gives us the responsibility to use that voice well. Surely it cannot be a cacophony of contradictory babel voices. Sometimes the responsibility of using our God-given voice involves subtlety, and gentle satire.  Here that is certainly the case, for Jesus teases his hearers with the implications of their challenge – that if Jesus gets his power from the chief of all evil (Beelzebul), then Satan’s powers simply cannot win. Jesus’ power and authority is not outsourced to the headquarters of evil. It is in himself as the Son of God and Saviour of the World. Let us rejoice and be glad.

And by illustration Jesus tells us the parable of the need to bind the strong man first.  Two strong men vie for the ownership of a castle. In the end the strongest man wins, and the loser has to remove the useless weapons and armour he trusted in, and divide his plunder. It is not hard to see – Jesus is the stronger man who overpowers and disarms all the powers of sin, the world and the devil; he led the captivity itself captive (Ephesians 4.8). Weapons prove useless against him. Such is the power of divine love and justice.

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 11.14-23

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.