Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
How's Your Reception?
There were plenty of questions about Jesus of Nazareth when He walked the earth. One thing was not in question, and that He was powerful. No one could deny His ability to heal, raise from the dead, and even take control of the uncontrollable—the demons who possessed people. The two main questions that remained unanswered to many Jews were: where does Jesus get this power, and if He is powerful enough to be the Messiah, Shouldn’t He prove Himself beyond a shadow of a doubt?
You see, Jesus went about talking about God’s kingdom in story form—He didn’t out and out claim to be God’s Messiah. And He went about demonstrating God’s kingdom in action—simply speaking to the creation, which had to obey Him.
People were really starting to take Him seriously, but that raised in their minds a dilemma. Especially among the Jewish leadership who either had to disprove His bone fides as coming from God, or they needed to bow down and worship Him. So right after Jesus declares that those who shamelessly seek God will from God receive His Holy Spirit, certain people begin to question the source of the Spirit that Jesus operated through—and demanded that He prove who He was to their satisfaction. At issue is Jesus’ authority. Let’s see how it unfolds:
14 – 16
It’s interesting to me the matter of fact way in which Luke presents this miracle. Here a demon has hold of a person so much so that he is prevented from speaking. Jesus drives the demon out and the man speaks and the crowds are amazed. But the amazement is also polarizing. For some, they begin to question the source of Jesus’ power—and thus can avoid making a decision about Him. For others, they want more—though the reference is vague here, it appears that they were looking for some sign in the heavens.
Not ready to acknowledge that Jesus is acting from God, they cannot deny the miracle so they deny its source. Beelzebub means “The Lord of the Flies” and is derived from Ba’al, a Canaanite fertility god who had become associated with Satan.
So Jesus answers both assertions. First he takes on those who believe the power He wields comes from Satan and then really this sets up the battle of the superpowers.
17 – 23
Jesus challenges those that think His power is coming from Satan to really think about what that would mean. Satan will not work at cross-purposes to himself. Throwing out a demon is coming against Satan’s work directly. Secondly, Jesus challenges them to think about not only Him but others who also are driving out demons. Jesus probably has in view here His disciples, who were given power over demons in Chapter 10. They will judge the Jewish leaders because they heard and understood that Jesus had come from God, not Satan.
So if the power is from God then they had better pay attention. Jesus says two things we can conclude. 1) This is the “finger of God” which is a reference to Exodus 8:19 when God caused gnats to break out on man and beast in Egypt. The Egyptian magicians could not counterfeit this miracle and so they said it was the “finger of God.” Satan is allowed so much power, but there are limits, and ultimately Jesus is stronger by far. 2) Jesus says they’ve got to realize that the kingdom of God is here.
The struggle between light and darkness, the forces of God and the forces of Satan is at hand—and Jesus, like the stronger superhero, can come in, bind up Satan and steal people he has enslaved to a mind that is opposed to God. So if you are not getting in line with Jesus’ mission—if you are holding back and saying He isn’t from God, you are in effect scattering instead of gathering.
So then Jesus goes on to speak of the dangers of not making a decision.
24 – 26
In essence Jesus is saying that if presented with the way out of slavery to Satan a person then decides to not put their allegiance onto the Messiah—the forces that blinded them in the first place will come back with a vengeance and it will be that much more difficult for the person to respond to the gospel. Hearing the gospel and rejecting it is far worse than never having heard it at all!
27 – 28
I guess perhaps this woman was trying to reframe the debate about who Jesus was by focusing on His birth and His family of origin. But Jesus provided it as another opportunity to talk about the importance not of being born into a certain family, but having open ears to what Jesus is saying.
So now Jesus moves to the second major opposition—that of demanding a sign from heaven.
29 – 32
The people wanted Jesus to do something miraculous and big—like call down fire from heaven or show some big heavenly sign. Jesus points them back to history and how people who were not Jewish responded to God’s messengers. Jonah was called by God to preach to the Assyrians in Nineveh. He refused, so got swallowed by a big fish and barfed up on the beach three days later. He then wisely went and preached judgment to the Ninevites. They repented (at least for a while). The Queen of Sheba had heard of the wisdom of David’s son Solomon and so she came to see if it was true. It so blew her away that she said “I was not told even half” (1 Kings 10:7). In both of these incidents the non-Jewish person responded to the word of God in its wisdom and judgment. But among them now someone greater than Jonah or Solomon was present, and yet even the Jews were rejecting Him. He came preaching with great wisdom and speaking of God’s judgment against sin, but their ears were more deaf than the Gentiles!
Jesus then finishes by warning how you hear His words.
33 – 36
Two things are at play here. 1) Jesus’ words are light that is designed to be shown, and heard. It wasn’t God’s intent to hide what Jesus did or said. But 2) that light must also be received. If a person refuses to consider Jesus it is like closing your eyes to the light. What you end up with without the light of Jesus is darkness because, as God said of mankind, (Genesis 6:5) “every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time.” We are “evil” as Jesus Himself said in verse 13 of Chapter 11. There is no “inner light” that shines in us. There is no good in the heart of mankind. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Without the light of the gospel we will move steadfastly away from God’s value system into more and more evil.
I’m struck by something in this section—in verses 21 and 22 Jesus talks about a strong man who has captives and a stronger man who sets them free. As I mentioned, that is a reference to the ruler of this age, Satan, and the ruler of the universe, Jesus, who comes as a stronger man to steal us away. He does that directly here with the demon-possessed man by literally reaching in and yanking the demon out of the man—then encouraging him to fill that void with the light of the gospel. But notice what Jesus says in verse 22. The rescuer’s act is to attack, overpower, strip him of his weapons, and divide the plunder. The weapon of Jesus is the gospel and the act of placing Himself on the cross to pay for our sins.
Jesus takes from Satan “all his weapons that he trusted in.” So what are the weapons of the enemy that he uses to hold us captive? Let’s look back at one of the few sections of Scripture that gives us some clues as to what happened to Lucifer that took him from blessed servant to arch enemy.
We find it in Ezekiel 28:11-19. The section is specifically a judgment against the city of Tyre and its king, but when you read it, there is much to apply to Lucifer as well.
Verses 11 – 15a tell us that Lucifer was sinless, wise, and beautiful (vs 12). That he had a place (Eden) and a prominent position (guardian cherub) and had access to God (“you were on the holy mountain of God”). So what happened?
- Vs 16: Radical focus on the self above all others. Greed took over completely. (this caused him to lose his position)
- Vs 17: Radical worship of the self above God (caused him to lose his place)
- Vs 17: Radical departure from the truth (light became darkness – did God really say?)
- Vs 18: Radical opposition to the Father, which will consume him and his followers forever (weeping and gnashing of teeth)
What are the weapons of the gospel? How is Jesus so much more powerful?
- Radical focus on others, a self-sacrificing love that led to His own death
- Radical commitment to humility (I am gentle and humble at heart)
- Radical commitment to the truth (I am the way the truth and the life)
- Radical trust in the Father, which consumed Him on the cross, but led to His victory
Though Jesus’ weapons seem weak, know that He is indeed a super hero who can reach in and throttle the enemy whenever and wherever He wants.
So what else do we learn from this section? 4 more things.
- Don’t rely on a sign to prove who Jesus is (forcing God to prove Himself to your satisfaction is like tempting the Lord)
- Don’t rely on earthly relationships to understand who Jesus is (vs 27). Instead:
- Rely on what He says–that’s how you understand Him (vs :28).
- Rely on what He’s done—that’s how you become related to Him. Know for certain that not only do you need to listen, but you need to act on what He says (vs 28, and the story of a demon leaving with nothing taking its place)