Power Over Satan, Not From Him

Jesus vs Devil

Mark 3:22 “The teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’”

The teachers of the law were the Bible scholars of their day. They were the experts to whom people turned when they had a question about God. They had rejected the good news and already decided that Jesus was bad news. So when they saw Jesus loving his neighbors by freeing them of demon possession, they needed some way to explain Jesus’ power that didn’t make him look like a hero. Driving out demons was an act of love on Jesus part, but they said it was a trick to cover up the fact that he got his power from prince of demons himself. In essence, they said that Jesus was evil.

People say a lot of things about Jesus today, much of it false. But the circle of people willing to say that Jesus is evil is very small–at least those willing to say it in so many words. Still, there are more subtle ways in which the accusation gets thrown at him. When people call Bible believers mean and intolerant because they hold traditional moral positions, because they don’t approve of various perversions, because they insist Jesus is the only way to heaven, in an indirect way they are saying that Jesus is evil. Why? Because Bible believers haven’t come by their beliefs on their own. They are simply following their leader.

Neither you nor I would say that Jesus was possessed by a demon. We wouldn’t call him evil. But each sin we commit shows that we are not completely convinced of his goodness. When the devil tempted Adam and Eve to sin for the first time, he gave them the implication that God was not good. If God were good, would he set limits on them? Would he forbid them to eat from any tree they wanted? And when we sin, aren’t we suggesting that he is not good in this case, to set this sin off limits for us? We don’t say, “God is evil,” but our actions betray such an attitude lurking around inside of us. We are not immune from criticizing Christ in subtle and indirect ways, either.

When Jesus’ love inspired his enemies to call him evil, to say that he was possessed by a demon, Jesus dismissed the accusation easily enough. First he used a couple of similar illustrations or parables. “So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? (One) If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (Two) If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (And three, the interpretation) And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand. His end has come” Mark 3:23-26).

It’s just simple, easy to understand logic that Jesus uses here, isn’t it? Armies don’t win wars by killing their own troops, especially armies that are grossly undermanned and over-matched to start with. Families don’t stay together and prosper if they are constantly battling each other and don’t work together as a team. Satan, frankly, has no chance of winning, but he only makes his final defeat come faster by fighting his own allies and driving demons out of the people they have possessed.

Then Jesus shows them what his power to cast out demons really reveals about himself. “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house” (Mark 3:27). Satan is the strong man in this last little parable. You don’t march into Satan’s kingdom and start taking away the souls he has possessed unless you have first asserted your power over him. Long ago Christ threw Satan out of heaven. At the beginning of his ministry he defeated the devil’s temptations in the wilderness. At the cross he would do more than rob Satan of the souls he had tried to take. He would crush his head. Already Jesus’ power over the demons, his ability to drive them out and take back these people, showed that he is divine, that he is our Savior, and that through Jesus’ work God has broken the power of Satan to control us.

Satan hasn’t stopped trying to collect souls for himself, and he still tempts us to fall, but with Jesus our souls remain safe.

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