Day 116: Matthew 12: 25-28

Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart.  So if one group is fighting another in Satan’s kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart!

You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. Well then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out?  What your own followers do proves that you are wrong!  No, it is not Beelzebul, but God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.

Jesus has just healed a man who had a demon.  When the Pharisees hear about it they say that Jesus’ ability to drive out demons has been given to him by Beelzebul (the devil).  This is the second time the Pharisees have brought this up (Matthew 9:34).

This time Jesus defends himself with logic and reasoning.  In the first paragraph he describes how social systems collapse when there is a lack of unity.  This scripture is the basis of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech:

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other.

Jesus asserts that the devil would not be able to accomplish much if he gave people the power to driving demons out.  That would be counterproductive.  The devil wants demons to put demons into people.  Why would he want to give people the power to drive them out?  He says that if the devil is resorting to this kind of tactic he must be pretty desperate because it makes no sense. Logical, Jesus, logical.

In the second paragraph there is something interesting that I never noticed before.  Jesus says, “Well then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out?  What your own followers do proves that you are wrong!”   Apparently there were a lot of people driving out demons at that time, people who were in the Pharisees’ own movement.   The ministry of driving out demons is apparently another thing Jesus has in common with the Pharisees!  This is interesting because the there are no references to driving out demons in the Old Testament.  The only reference is in the Apocrypha in the Book of Tobit.

Anyway, Jesus continues with his logic.  He asserts that the power to drive out demons can only come from one single source – either if comes from the devil, or it comes from God.  He says that deliverance comes from the same place whenever it occurs, and he asserts that the single source must be God because the devil wouldn’t sabotage his own agenda.

Finally, Jesus says that the fact that demons are being driven out is a sign that the Kingdom of God is upon them.  He says, “No, it is not Beelzebul, but God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.”

This is a definitive statement that the Kingdom of God isn’t something in the sky that happens after you die.  Jesus says it “comes upon” people here on earth.  He says that the fact that demons are being defeated means that God is in control!  If God is in control of a demon, then he is Lord of the situation, and whenever he is in control of anything, then his Kingdom has come upon that situation. It’s a manifestation of his Kingdom being established here on earth!

I don’t know what this means, exactly, but it implies that the Kingdom pops up here and there, now and then.  Here it is, and there it is.  Whenever the power of good overcomes evil, whenever there is a miracle, whenever there is a healing, whenever there is reconciliation.  There it is!  The Kingdom of God is manifested in those situations.

I really enjoyed a book I read about the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley called This Beautiful Mess.  In the first part of the book he talks about going to the junkyard with his dad, and how to him it was both beautiful and messy, just like the Kingdom of God:

Looking back, though, I find beauty in the experience.  Not in the dump itself – I’m mostly beyond the “gross is cool” stage – but in the whole “going there with Dad” experience.  I was with him.  I was being beautiful messuseful.  Dad and I were working and sweating, doing men’s work together.  I see now that going to the dump was beautiful, and it was gross and messy.

So why would I use “beautiful mess” to define the Kingdom of God?  God is perfect.  God is not messy.  Why would hid kingdom be messy?

Perhaps in this way: Think of mess as real and apparent complexity, as absolute resistance against the tidy, easy, or manageable.  Think of mysterious new life growing inexplicably out of loss and decay.  Think of richness in what the world casts off.  Think of a boy finding family and purpose and goodness in a desolate place – right smack in the overwhelming stink of it.

Jesus receives an insult.  They accuse him of being in cahoots with the devil.  Instead of getting angry Jesus strikes back with the power of logic.  Snap. He uses it as a springboard to proclaim the reality of the Kingdom of God in their midst.  The Kingdom of God revealed in the midst of the stink of demons.  Pretty awesome.

What does this scripture say to you?

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