22. Satan versus Satan?

Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 22.  Satan versus Satan?

Mt 12:25,26   Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?

We have seen the folly of the hard-hearted and callous Pharisees who were willing to sacrifice care and compassion as the cost of bringing Jesus down. The present debate about origins of deliverance power, starts off with a healing: Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (v.22,23) This in turn followed verses we’ve already seen: “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick.” (v.14,15) The Pharisees had gone off in high dudgeon to plot Jesus’ death, but the crowds kept following Jesus and presenting him with their sick, who he healed.

One such individual was this blind mute. It was almost as if the Father was presenting His Son with a particularly extreme case – blind AND mute. Now there is no way that this man could participate in his own healing.  Anyway, Jesus heals him and so spectacular is this that the crowd goes wild and the word about him spreads like wildfire and, yes, gets back to the Pharisees! They are not a happy bunch and soon turn up to challenge Jesus yet again. If healing the man with the shriveled hand had not been enough, healing a deaf mute really ought to have sent a message to these foolish men – guys, you are on a losing wicket here! Go home!

But they persevere: “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (v.24) What a crazy charge – he’s a demoniac, having power like this! Now it is possible that we may have read this passage so many times that we have lost the simple clarity of it. It’s almost as if Jesus today might say, “Hey, hang on guys, stop and think about what you are saying and you will realise how crazy it is.” Observe.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” (v.25,26) See the picture language and the pictures being created here. Imagine a country, a kingdom and there is civil war, one half against the other. The only outcome is ruin. Or imagine a city or, if you like, a big family and a squabble occurs, one group against another.

It’s the sort of thing that writers of epic story fiction write – ‘The Downfall of ….” Whether it is a country, a city or a family, the same thing will apply; where there is division there will be downfall.  OK? We’re all agreed on that, it is stuff that history is made of. So if that is how it is in the material world, the physical world, what would it be like in the spirit world? There is Satan ruling over his dominion, creating sickness, causing upset, leading people into deception and deeper into more deception that opens the door to the occult, and from that comes oppression and then possession. And then, you say, Satan sends one of his chief minions to set free the demon possessed. Hold on, how does that work? It would mean he’s against his own rule. That would mean he’s tearing down his own dominion! I don’t think so! And you say I am Satan’s representative tearing down his own dominion? I think we need some basic lessons on logic here?

Er, let’s think on this a bit more. I note that some of your people are involved in deliverance ministry, so, “if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.” (v.27)  The Message Version puts it, If you’re slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil kicking out devils, doesn’t the same mud stick to your own exorcists?” The JBP Versions puts it, “if I expel devils because I am an ally of Beelzebub, what alliance do your sons make when they do the same thing? They can settle that question for you!” Summarising it we might say, “Your own people will have to tell you the truth, who we are both appealing to, for this deliverance ministry” i.e. God!

So he concludes, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (v.28) A few verses on Jesus challenges them, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (v.32). His challenge might be put like this: look deliverance ministry is clearly the power of God working, the working of the Holy Spirit. You can say what you like against me, but don’t you attribute wrong things to Him! You may not like me, but face the truth, this is God delivering people! Your illogical alternative just doesn’t fit! Start being honest!

Now we may think this story is just good intellectual reading but the fact is that there is a truth here that I have seen more than once in my lifetime. Moves of God are so often misunderstood because He doesn’t always work in the ways of the past and that upsets some of us, even as it upset the Pharisees here. The classic instance of this was at the end of the last century with the coming of the so-called Toronto Blessing in which I was an unwilling participant (but that is another story). Yet it was of God despite the fears and criticisms of parts of the Church. How do I know? I know because my congregation was set on fire for God – they prayed more, worshipped more, read their Bibles more, shared God’s love more. The fruits and the gifts of the Spirit increased.  Would Satan do this? Would Satan glorify Jesus?  Would Satan strengthen and set on fire God’s people? I don’t think so. The message is simple: when we don’t understand what is happening, be careful not to attribute it to the enemy. What was the earlier message? “By their fruits you will know them.” Enough said.

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