Jesus often used simple, relatable stories called parables while teaching to illustrate a point or answer a question. We are currently in the midst of an extensive study called “The Parables of Jesus” dealing with these stories. The past several messages in this series have focused upon particular parables that highlight certain characteristics of God and/or His Son Jesus. Before we begin today, let’s briefly review some of the godly attributes we’ve touched on already.
It is God’s deepest desire for all people to be saved, though He foreknows that many will not. That said, He rejoices along with all of Heaven whenever any sinner is redeemed. Furthermore, He both seeks the lost and receives the surrendered prodigal. The LORD exhibits neighborly love and compassion for those who are suffering, and calls His children to likewise. He forgives the transgressions of repentant sinners completely, and forgives the ongoing sins of believers as they forgive others. He graciously offers salvation equally to all who will accept it, no matter how early or late in life they do so.
In today’s message we will consider a brief parable that spotlights the power of Jesus over Satan. Specifically, this parable features the Lord’s ability to cast out demons. As He traveled about with His disciples, Jesus frequently encountered those who were demon-possessed. Time and time again He cast out these evils spirits, leading to the healing and restoration of the one who’d been afflicted. His power over demons caused wonder and awe among many, but it also led some to become suspicious.
“The Parable of the Strong Man” is found in all three synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There are subtle differences in each rendition of the story, which will will discover in today’s message. However, the primary meaning of each is the same. Jesus received His power over Satan and demons from His Father God.
I. THE BEELZEBUB CONTROVERSY - Matthew 12:22-24, Mark 3:20-22, Luke 11:14-16
Jesus told “The Parable of the Strong Man” as a defense against the false accusation of His enemies. In Matthew’s account, the Lord had just healed a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Luke only mentioned that the man was mute. Mark did not mention any specific healing immediately prior to the parable, but generally described several such healings in the preceding passages. In all three variations of the story, the while the crowds were amazed by Jesus’ power over demons the scribes and Pharisees had doubts.
They accused Jesus of casting out demons by the authority of Beelzebub. Beelzebub was an ancient pagan god of the Philistines who was also called “The Lord of the Flies”. Over time, he became known as the god of dung or filth, and was completely detestable. The Jews used the name Beelzebub as an epithet for or descriptor of Satan. He was considered to be the prince of the demons. Therefore, the accusation against Jesus was that His authority over demons had been given to Him by Beelzebub. In other words, they claimed that Jesus was an agent of Satan who had been granted charge over the demons.
This episode in the life of Jesus has become known as “The Beelzebub Controversy”. Think about what was happening. Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the only begotten Son of God was being publicly cast as a minion of the Devil by those who hated Him. This same phenomenon persists today. There are still people even now who see God as the Devil and hate Him, along with all of His Christian followers. Didn’t the Bible tell us this would happen?
II. A HOUSE DIVIDED - Matthew 12:25-28, Mark 3:23-26, Luke 11:17-20
Hearing their accusations and knowing their thoughts, Jesus responded to the scribes and Pharisees with good old logic. He answered that a kingdom divided against itself would be laid to waste and that a house divided against itself would fall. In other words, it was foolish to believe that Satan would be rebuking and casting out his own demons. Such behavior would be self-destructive and complete nonsense. The notion that Jesus was of the Devil, yet was openly disarming and rebuffing him at every turn, was simply ridiculous.
Jesus’ words “A house divided against itself cannot stand” were famously used by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 while he was still a senator in Illinois. In a speech by this title, Lincoln argued that the United States could never perpetually continue as half free and half slave. He insisted that the nation must become either all of one or the other, but could not remain both. It was a divided house. A few years after giving this speech, Lincoln became president and the Civil War followed. History records that words of his prophetic speech came true, and that our divided nation was unified with the complete abolition of slavery. Interesting, huh???
Returning to the Scriptures, Jesus had just exposed the folly of the scribes and Pharisees. But now He would go a step farther. His power over the demons did not derive from Beelzebub or Satan, but where did it come from? Could it be from God? Jesus used “The Parable of the Strong Man” to illustrate the true source of His authority over Satan.
III. BINDING THE STRONG MAN - Matthew 12:29, Mark 3:27, Luke 11:21-2213-16
By combining all three gospel accounts into one, we understand the parable as follows: There was a strong, formidable, and armored man who guarded over his house. An attacker came along and overpowered this strong man, disarmed him, bound him, and then plundered and distributed his property.
In this parable, the strong man represents Satan. His house is this world. The attacker represents Jesus. When Jesus came to the earth, He overpowered Satan and bound him, figuratively speaking. While the Devil was certainly a formidable foe, Jesus was even mightier. Thus, Satan was helpless to prevent Jesus from exorcising demons (among other things), which is represented in the parable by the plundering of the house. In other words, Jesus did not derive His authority from the Devil but rather had received it from a higher and even stronger source - God Almighty.
Jesus was not working in cahoots with Satan. On the contrary, He was in combat against him. The demons were not dutifully obeying Jesus as one of their own wicked leaders, but rather were cowering before the intimidating authority their righteous enemy - the divine Son of God! Though they may seem strong compared to you and me, the Devil and his demons are powerless before Christ. Whenever we confront them in the mighty name of Jesus, Satan and his forces have no other choice but to flee.
As we wrap up the message today, I want to make an additional observation. Most Christians tend to picture Satan as an attacker because he constantly assaults people and tries to destroy their lives. But in this parable, it is Jesus who is raids the house taking the fight directly to Satan. Perhaps we as God children should follow the Lord’s lead. The church is called to be on offense, beating back the gates of Hell.
God has granted Jesus with all authority over the heavens and the earth. He is all-powerful. Neither Satan nor his demons can stand withstand the unmatched strength of Jesus. He has the ability to bind the strong man and take that which He pleases. Perhaps right now you are captured in the Devil’s evil clutches. If so, call upon the name of mighty name of Jesus, our powerful Savior, to come and set you free!