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Jesus 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.’
In the context of Jesus’ ministry of healing, we often read of ‘demons’. Such language may seem archaic and unscientific to our twenty-first century ears. But, what do you make of this? A patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body … This is a definition of the condition known as Locked In Syndrome. How would someone suffering from this sort of paralysis have been diagnosed in less medically enlightened times? It is not difficult to imagine people viewing these symptoms before 1966 (the year in which this syndrome was first named) as something that could only be explained in the vaguest of terms. As we go back in time we can also imagine sufferers of this, and many, many other unidentified and unnamed syndromes, being described as possessed by demons. Thanks to medical science we look for other language to use, but that does not negate the power of Jesus’ healing ministry.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth with the power to ‘put things right’ for humanity. He did that because of the divine power that was in him. Many people saw his wondrous power to heal, a wondrous power that made no sense to them. For some it was God at work in the world, for others it was the Devil’s work. But, as we read today, a kingdom cannot succeed if it is divided against itself … not even the kingdom of the Devil. Such good comes from God alone.
We might not use the language of Satan, Beelzebul or even the Devil, in our everyday lives, but we do apply illogical and condemning words to describe the wonder of God working in this world. We are set in the midst of a creation that is beyond our wildest imaginings. We may invent fictional realities for our amusement, but this world is real and its logic and harmony is way beyond our comprehension. Into this mysterious and amazing world, some two thousand years ago, there stepped a man who was to show the power of God through every word that he uttered and through every action that he performed. That man was Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God’s kingdom is not divided against itself. This small part of God’s creation creates divisions but God, through Jesus, has given us the way to overcome all that negativity and pain. Jesus calls us to follow him and to be with him, lest we are scattered to the winds that we will never fully understand.
Let us pray for the strength to embrace the unknowable as manifestations of the power of God. Let us set aside our human desire to label that which is beyond our comprehension. Let us move forward in faith rejoicing that God journeys with us, shielding us from the harm that would otherwise destroy us.