DOMINION OVER THE REALM OF SATAN REQUIRES THE SUPERIOR POWER OF JESUS CHRIST THAT TRANSFORMS THOSE WHO HEAR AND OBEY HIM
As opposition to Jesus intensifies, the arguments posed by the Jewish religious leaders become more irrational and inconsistent. There can be no question about the reality of the supernatural power being demonstrated in the healing miracles of Jesus and in His power over demons. How can one interpret these events apart from acknowledging the prophetic fulfilment of all the OT speaks regarding the Promised Messiah? The kingdom of God has arrived in the reality of the dominion of Jesus. There can be no neutrality in terms of how one responds to His claims of deity and supremacy. Will you listen to Jesus and respond in faith and obedience as a genuine disciple of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
I. (:14-16) DOMINION OVER THE REALM OF SATAN DEMONSTRATES SUPERNATURAL POWER
A. (:14a) Reality of the Miracle
1. Power of Exercising Dominion Over the Demon
“And He was casting out a demon, and it was dumb;”
Matthew says the man was blind as well – but was this the same incident or a different one??
2. Proof of Healing
“and it came about that when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke;”
B. (:14b-16) Reaction of the People
1. (:14b) Positive Reaction = Awe
“and the multitudes marveled.”
2. (:15-16) Negative Reaction – No Denying the Power of the Miracle
a. (:15) Attributing the Power to Beelzebul
“But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”
MacArthur: Get this, here was their response. They called the highest and holiest one the lowest and most evil. They called the one who was pure good, pure evil. They called God the devil. They called perfect holiness wickedness. They called incarnate truth a liar. This is the extreme opposite and if you’re there, you can’t be redeemed because when you’ve had all the revelation and you’ve concluded the opposite of the truth, you’re irredeemable and that’s Hebrews 6:4 to 6. You can’t be renewed again to repentance because you’ve rejected the full truth after all of Christ’s manifest glory in the world. You might understand if they said, “Well, we’re not really sure yet,” but this? And then this mocking, sneering, slanderous taunting that went all the way to the cross where they taunted Him as He was hanging there. And they were religious and their hatred and their hostility shows the reality of their apostasy, the ugliness of spiritual pride. Is there anything more ugly than spiritual pride? Is there anything more cruel than religion, the wrong religion, satanic religion? They had nothing but self-righteousness and ceremonial virtue, outside white, inside full of stinking dead men’s bones. The holy Lord of heaven receives from their lips the vilest possible slander and blasphemy and they use the worst name they can think of to identify Satan, the lord of the dung.
J Vernon McGee: The convincing nature of Jesus’ miracles forced the Pharisees to offer some explanation for them. They could not deny the existence of miracles when they were happening before their eyes. They resorted to the basest and most blasphemous explanation for the miracles of Jesus. They did not deny that they took place but claimed that they were done by the power of the Devil.
b. (:16) Demanding Additional Demonstrations of Power
“And others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.”
II. (:17-20) DOMINION OVER THE REALM OF SATAN CANNOT COME FROM SATAN
A. (:17-18a) Conviction – General Principle = Powerful Kingdoms Are Not Divided –
Argument of Absurdity
1. (:17) Statement of the General Principle Twice
“But He knew their thoughts, and said to them,
‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste;
and a house divided against itself falls.’”
2. (:18a) Application to the Powerful Kingdom of Satan –
Shows the Absurdity of Their Reasoning
“And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?”
Morris: The forces of evil are destructive of good, not of one another.
Lenski: The conclusion is inescapable; and the very thought of Satan’s destroying his own kingdom shows its absurdity – no man believes such a thing. So the Lord’s syllogism is a reduction ad absurdum.
B. (:18b-19) Charge of a Double Standard –
Argument of Consistency
1. (:18b) How Do You Judge Me?
“For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.”
2. (:19) How Do You Judge Your Fellow Jews?
“And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons,
by whom do your sons cast them out?”
Geldenhuys: After exposing the absurdity of the accusation of His enemies, the Lord now reveals their willful falseness by showing that they measure by two standards. It was at that time the general idea among the Jews that when a rabbi or other Jew delivered anyone from possession of the devil, it was a sign that God worked through him. But now that they see that Jesus (indeed in a far more signal manner) releases unhappy possessed people from demoniacal powers, they ascribe this in the wickedness of their hearts to the powerful workings of Satan. Thereby they declare, as it were, that their fellow-Jews also who in God’s power freed people form demon-possession, did so through Satan. So they will be judged by their fellow-countrymen.
Lenski: Identical effects prove an identical cause.
3. (:19b) Your Double Standard Judges You
“Consequently they shall be your judges.”
C. (:20) Claim of Dominion by the Arrival of the Kingdom of God –
Argument of Prophetic Fulfilment
“But if I cast out demons by the finger of God,
then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Donald Miller: “finger of God” – see Exod. 8:19; 31:18; Ps. 8:3
Matthew has “Spirit of God” here
Morris: The presence of the kingdom is to be seen, not in good advice nor in pious practices, but in the power that expels the forces of evil.
Lenski: the royal, divine, saving rule of God as King, is present as having arrived for you, and you can see it in the abject defeat of Satan and his demons in every demoniac’s deliverance. Jesus means: you should welcome this rule and open your hearts to its grace. Only devilish minds could deny what was so evident and would attempt to oppose that rule.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: on the Kingdom of God has come – The exorcisms performed by Jesus provided strong evidence that God’s Kingdom, long anticipated and hoped for, had at last entered history in a transforming way. In fact, the words and works of Jesus as a whole revealed the fact that the Kingdom of God had actually arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist’s questions in Lk 7:22+; Mt 11:5). Yet, there was still the future time when the purposes of God would be fully realized and consummated, and so the disciples were taught to pray, “May your Kingdom come soon” (Lk 11:2; Matt 6:10). The Kingdom’s nearness and imminence (Mark 1:14-15+) called for repentance in preparation for its final realization, when the Son of Man would come in power (Mark 14:62; Matt 26:64; cf. Luke 21:36; 22:69). Both the “already” and the “not yet” dimensions of the Kingdom must be affirmed and kept in careful balance to do justice to the present and future dimensions of the Kingdom theme.
Ryle: The kingdom of God is come upon you. The argument here appears to be this,—“If these miracles which I work are really worked by the finger of God, and I am clearly proved by them to be one sent from God, then, whether you will allow it or not, the times of Messiah have evidently arrived. The kingdom of God has come down upon you unawares, and these miracles are signs that it is so.”—This argument reduced the enemies of our Lord to a dilemma. Either they must deny that our Lord cast out devils,—this they could not do;—or else they must admit that their own sons cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub;—this they would not do.—The nature of the argument appears to show that when our Lord spake of “your sons casting out devils,” He could not have meant His own disciples.
III. (:21-23) DOMINION OVER THE REALM OF SATAN REQUIRES A SUPERIOR SUPERNATURAL POWER
A. (:21-22) Illustration of Protecting a Homestead
1. (:21) Power Protects
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead,
his possessions are undisturbed;”
2. (:22) Superior Power Plunders
“but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him,
he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied,
and distributes his plunder.”
B. (:23) Invitation to Align with the Superior Power – No Possibility of Neutrality
“He who is not with Me is against Me;
and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.”
IV. (:24-26) DOMINION OVER THE REALM OF SATAN MUST BE DIVINELY TRANSFORMATIVE –
ATTEMPTS AT MORALITY OR SELF-REFORMATION FAIL MISERABLY
A. (:24) Demonic Spirits Look for a Home = Opportunities to Possess and Afflict
“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’”
B. (:25) Demonic Spirits Land Where They Find a Void of Supernatural Power
“And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.”
Genuine conversion involves embracing the authority of the kingdom of God; much more than any type of external moral renovation of one’s life
J. Ligon Duncan: What does Paul pray for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-19? “That the Father would grant you power by His Spirit so that Christ would dwell in your hearts by faith.” That is a picture of the renovation of a life that only comes by the occupation of our hearts by the Lord Jesus Christ and that is by the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and conversion and it is received by faith. But Christ is to dwell in our hearts by faith. This is a picture of a person who has tried to sweep up and clean up his or her life but Christ is not dwelling in that heart.
C. (:26) Demonic Spirits Love to Return in Greater Force to Wreak Greater Havoc
“Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
Geldenhuys: Here the Lord uses the simile of a person from whom the demon has been cast out but who has not let the Spirit of God take possession of his vacated heart – in other words, one who desires to remain neutral. Such neutrality is, however, impossible – the human heart is inhabited either by Christ or by Satan, and cannot remain empty. The result is that, when the man does not set his life open to the Spirit of God, he practically invites the exorcised spirit to come back. Now he is more helpless under the sway of the Evil One, so that the unclean spirit goes to fetch seven other demons as well, more wicked than himself, to dwell in their victim. And thus the state of that foolish person is worse than before.
MacArthur: Danger of morality – In other words, the person is more infested with the agents of hell when morally reformed than when immoral. What a statement. Listen to what the Lord said in Matthew 23:15, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” listen to this, “for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte and when he is made you make him twice the child of hell than yourselves.” Why? Because the proselyte becomes more fanatical for self-righteous works than the teacher, because he sees somehow this…this move from immorality to morality as some elevation of himself and he sees the change and he relishes the change and he gets temporarily sort of cleaned from the pollution of his iniquity and he becomes even more an advocate for that than the old Pharisees who have cultivated their hypocrisy and know the truth of their own wretchedness. . .
It was never the immoral people, by the way, that blasphemed Jesus. You just need to know that. As you go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you’re never going to find the immoral people blaspheming Jesus. It was always the moral ones. It’s never the harlots, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the riff-raff, the criminal element. It was the religious people. It was the self-righteous people. Moral people, religious people are…are self-congratulatory, they are self-righteous, they’re confident in their own holiness, in their own morality. They are utterly deceived into believing that they have been delivered from the powers of Satan because they live moral lives. And the truth of the matter is they may be more infested with demons than a prostitute or a criminal. Moral people tend to have no vigilance and therefore no protection.
(:27-28) EPILOGUE – HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND OBEY IT
A. (:27) Blessing Directed Towards Human Source of Jesus
“And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him,
‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.’”
B. (:28) Blessing Redirected Towards Those Who Obey the Revealed Word of God
“But He said, ‘On the contrary,
blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.’”
Donald Miller: Discernment of the meaning of Jesus for men does not lie in any superficial, external approval of his teaching or his human personality. Personal compliments are not in order! (vs. 28). No other relationship to him is important, not even that of his mother. This verse should have sufficed to prevent Mariolatry in the Roman Church.
J. Ligon Duncan: Now Jesus is saying that that is the mark, that is the evidence of every heart that has been converted. The heart that has been converted hears the Word of God and shows its loyalty to the Word of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ and then does what the Word says. That’s the evidence of conversion that we hear and obey God’s Word, that we trust and obey. That we trust and obey is not a way that we earn our way to conversion. It’s not the way that we earn our way into the presence of God. Remember Jesus is saying that conversion is far more than some human attempt at personal, moral, self-reformation. No, it takes Jesus coming in and removing the strong man and taking up residence in our life and giving us a new heart and a new spirit and new life, eternal life, and then we hear and we obey. And so this is the evidence of conversion that Jesus is talking about.
Deffinbaugh: Obedience to Jesus is one of the central themes of the Gospels, one of the fundamental elements of discipleship. The Father said it at the mount of transfiguration: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). In John’s gospel, the issue of obedience (or of not wanting to obey) is clearly linked with the accusation that Jesus was demon-possessed: “At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”” (John 10:19-21). The real problem for those who rejected Jesus and who attributed His power to Satan was that of obeying Him. In seeing this as the issue, they were correct. In rejecting Jesus as Messiah, as the Son of God, they were wrong. The woman was wrong, too. She did not interpret the evidence correctly. She saw Jesus as great and His mother as blessed, but she did not see that Jesus was the One to receive and to follow by obeying His commands. How often we view Jesus through the grid of our own needs and desires and our own narrow view of significance.