A Tough Crowd

Luke 11:14-16 “Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.”

When Jesus helps people, it produces some strange reactions. Some of those who saw him deliver a man from demon possession decided that Jesus wasn’t cute or entertaining. He wasn’t even good. He was evil. He posed a problem for society. This miracle, all his miracles, were only possible because he was in league with the devil. They had to stop him before he deceived the nation. You know that they didn’t stop until they had nailed him to the cross.

I leave it to the historians to debate whether the U.S.A. is or ever was a Christian nation. Historically, at least, Christianity had a major influence on this country, and Jesus was respected, if not embraced. In my lifetime approaching 60 years, many people have been critical of Christians, and critical of the church. The truth is, we have given them plenty of reason to be critical. Financial scandals and moral scandals have involved clergy of all kinds of Christian flavors. Christians are often known more for what they are against than how much they serve and love. At least Jesus himself has seemed to enjoy the respect of most. Rarely are people critical of him, whether or not they particularly choose to follow him.

Yet that is becoming less and less the case. One blogger says this about him: “Jesus a nice guy?  Not in my book.  Nor in any other person’s who is capable of compassion and rationality.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation does not consider Jesus one of the good guys of history. The big names in the so-called Sexual Revolution don’t generally like him. I could go on. This isn’t so much your problem and my problem, except to realize that a growing number of people we meet will not even agree that Jesus was good, much less the Savior of the world. They would rather see his movement die than let us make it grow.

The group criticizing Jesus’ exorcism were still skeptics, even after the miracle. “Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.” Do you find their request mind-boggling in its audacity? What kind of sign could Jesus give to prove himself? Let’s see. I don’t know, maybe throw a demon out of a man? If that wasn’t enough, what miracle would be?

That’s the problem with people who ask for that kind of “proof.” No proof will ever be enough. No miracle will be so clearly divine that the skeptic won’t try to explain it away. As Jesus said to the rich man who ignored poor Lazarus at his gate and wound up in hell, “If they (your brothers) do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” The skeptic often fancies himself a man with an open mind. “Free thinkers” they call themselves. The truth is, no one’s mind is closed and sealed more tightly.

Christian apologist Frank Turek tried to answer a man who said he wanted proof. “If I could prove that Jesus rose from the dead…” Dr. Turek kept beginning. And though he always began with “if,” the man wouldn’t even give him that much. He kept cutting Dr. Turek off and saying that people don’t rise from the dead. So much for the open mind. No “proof” is great enough for those who don’t want to believe.

Jesus doesn’t let the opposition stop him. He knows that many, often the majority, don’t want what he is offering. He keeps on with his mission of setting people free from sin and Satan anyway. We who know his freedom may be few, but Jesus didn’t come to be the most popular. He came to save any he could. We are enough for him, no matter how much grief the haters and skeptics give him.

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