EXCEPTional Bible Verse, Part 9

deliveranceMatthew 12:29

Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. (Matthew 12:29 KJV)

How many times have you gone to the doctor with a sore throat, headache, and stuffy nose only to have him tell you, “You have a headcold”? Well, we know that doctor is a genius! He named your condition, just in case you grew up in a sterile environment and never had a cold before. When you have a sore throat, headache, and stuffy nose, you probably already suspect you have a headcold; what you want from your doctor is not a diagnosis of your condition but relief from your condition, or better yet, a cure!

In life – spiritual life and moral life – there is a lot of diagnosing but not enough curing. It’s one thing to know what ails your life, but it’s another thing to cure it. It’s one thing to know what your spiritual problems are, but it’s something else entirely to cure them. It’s one thing to know your sin problem, but it’s thing to cure it.

Both believers and unbelievers have the exact same issue. A lot of unbelievers have heard the Gospel, they may even know the “Romans Road to Salvation” by heart, but until they actually walk the “Roman’s Road,” they don’t have salvation. A lot of Christians may have walked the “Roman’s Road,” found Jesus as the end of it and accepted His gracious gift of salvation, but they still struggle with their sin sickness, even though the cure is right in front of them. It doesn’t matter what you know; it matters what you do.

The story behind our final EXCEPTional Bible verse really begins back in verse 22, so we’ll start there.

1. The setting

Matthew 12:22 – 45 is a section of this Gospel that shows the contempt and cruelty the Pharisees had in their opposition to Jesus. Here we see the worldliness of their hearts on full display; a dazzling example of how their legalistic religion had failed miserably, as legalism always does.

Then a demon-possessed man—he was both blind and unable to talk—was brought to Jesus, and Jesus healed him so that he could both speak and see. (Matthew 12:22 TLB)

Luke records this miracle in Luke 11, but he doesn’t mention the man’s blindness, only the fact of his inability to talk. Both accounts indicate that this man was demon possessed. Luke, a physician, would know the difference between a physically and mentally disabled man and a demon possessed man. We can be sure, then, that this man was possessed by a Satanic spirit, bent on destroying him.

It’s a remarkable miracle, and yet it’s told with such matter-of-fact brevity. We can only imagine the sense of relief the man must have felt when our Lord healed him! No longer held in a Satanic prison, but set gloriously free. No longer deaf and dumb, but now able to hear and express himself and, we may be sure, able to give praise to God for his amazing healing. Of course, all of this is supposition because the Gospel writers devote a mere verse to this miracle.

Both Matthew and Luke writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, want their readers – and us – to focus, not so much on the deliverance and healing of the demon possessed man, but on the confrontation that follows it.

The crowd was amazed. “Maybe Jesus is the Messiah!” they exclaimed.

But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “He can cast out demons because he is Satan, king of devils.” (Matthew 12:23 – 24 TLB)

The NIV translates verse 23 a little differently:

All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23 NIV)

Taylor’s paraphrase captures the sense of the people’s reaction. This miraculous deliverance and healing was so spectacular, some people thought that this Jesus might just be the Messiah, who they knew would be a descendant of David. The people were literally “blown away” by what they had just seen.

Now, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: What kind of Messiah were these people looking for? We know that, generally speaking, the Jewish people of the day were looking for their “rider on a white horse,” a political savior, to swoop down and rescue them from their present difficulties: Roman domination, poverty and misery. In other words, they wanted – and they thought Jesus could be – the MAN with a plan, sent from God to save them; to deliver them from all their earthly problems. People haven’t really changed much since the days of Jesus. People are as clueless as they ever have been. They seriously think life would be “prefect” if only this problem or that problem could be solved. People today are NO different than this man:

…oh, that there were someone who would listen to me and try to see my side of this argument. (Job 31:35 TLB)

That was the cry of Job’s broken heart: if only somebody would listen to his prayers! If only he could get some relief from his problems in life. That’s what these Jews were looking for, that’s what a lot of people today are looking for, and some think that’s all Jesus is good for: a little relief from their problems. Nobody wants to minimize anybody’s problems, but if a person doesn’t have Jesus in their hearts, they don’t know serious their problems really are.

So, the people thought that maybe, just maybe, this Jesus could very well be the Messiah. But what the Pharisees thought was something else again. They actually thought that Jesus had used Satanic powers to work His miracles! They were jealous; they were envious, and they resorted to ridiculous accusations to oppose Jesus’ work. They could feel their power over the people ebbing away as more and more of them began to support Jesus. Their influence was on the wane and they hated Jesus for this. How very different these religious men were from John the Baptist:

So they came to John and said, “Master, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River—the one you said was the Messiah—he is baptizing too, and everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.”

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:26, 30 TLB)

We can see the sad states of their hearts with accusation. Imagine accusing the Son of God of Himself being possessed by Satan! That’s in essence what these Pharisees had just done.

Our Lord, with wisdom and aplomb, answers them in a startling way:

Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “A divided kingdom ends in ruin. A city or home divided against itself cannot stand. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is fighting himself and destroying his own kingdom. (Mathew 12:25, 26 TLB)

This is a startling response to the Pharisees because Jesus actually “read their minds!” They didn’t say a word to Him Jesus responded to their thoughts. If that’s not a scary proposition, nothing is. You truly can’t hide anything from Jesus, even in your mind.

Jesus’ comments highlight just how ridiculous their thoughts were. The idea that Jesus was possessed by Satan and that He used Satan’s power to fight against Satan was, well, just plain stupid. It would be like a divided kingdom or a city or a home that is divided trying to stand together. It can’t be done.

Then, as if to twist the knife, our Lord ads this:

And if, as you claim, I am casting out demons by invoking the powers of Satan, then what power do your own people use when they cast them out? Let them answer your accusation! (Matthew 12:27 TLB)

Exorcism was not uncommon in Jesus’ day; it was practiced by some Jews, even by Jesus’ disciples on occasion. If Jesus was using Satan’s power to cast out Satan, then what power were they using? He was insulting them, as surely as He Himself was insulted. But He was also pointing out that other Jews were driving out demons and they, the Pharisees, never accused them of being possessed by Satan.

So far, Jesus has really put these Pharisees in their place! He basically accused them of being silly and absurd in their thinking about Him and His power. They saw the same things that the crowd of Jews saw, yet these educated Pharisees drew the completely wrong conclusion about Jesus. The conclusion they reached was absurd; it was the product, not of an educated mind, but of a warped and immature mind.

2. The crux of the matter

But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. (Matthew 12:28 TLB)

Luke’s version of this statement is curious:

But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20 NIV)

A “finger” is but a tiny part of the body. If Jesus is able to drive out demons by just the smallest part of God’s power, how can the kingdom of Satan possibly stand? This statement is really a statement of fact: Satan’s kingdom is crumbling before the onslaught of the Kingdom of God. In Satan’s kingdom, sin, sickness, confusion all are the norm. But the Kingdom of God has arrived in the Person of its King; sin has been dealt a death blow, the sick have been and are being healed, and in Jesus Christ there is clarity of thought and of purpose. No wonder Satanic activity is on the rise in our day! He knows his time is coming to an end; that his domination of Earth if almost over.

And all this gets us to our EXCEPTional Bible verse:

Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. (Matthew 12:29 KJV)

In one short verse, a tiny parable really, Jesus sheds a little light on the dark world of supernatural evil, allowing us a glimpse at how Satan works. The “strong man” is none other than Satan himself, and the house is really two things: this world of ours and the unregenerate heart.

The world belongs to Satan, temporarily

Many people, Christians included, are under the impression that Satan is in Hell. This isn’t even remotely true. Note carefully Ephesians 6:11 and 12 –

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. (TLB)

It wasn’t always this way, though. Before the Fall, the crown was on Adam’s head. But after man sinned, Satan became the ruler of the Earth. This is his domain and will remain so until the Lord returns to claim it as His Kingdom on Earth. Yes, Satan is “the strong man,” but the One who is infinitely stronger defeated Him on the Cross and Satan’s days are numbered!

The human heart belongs to Satan, conditionally

Man without Christ is pitiful; he is owned lock, stock, and barrel by Satan. The unredeemed soul is his palace – he owns it outright. Man, through sin, has become the dwelling place for Satan. He may not possess every unsaved soul, but he owns them, and will claim those souls one day.

We know that we are children of God and that all the rest of the world around us is under Satan’s power and control. (1 John 5:19 TLB)

As surely as born again believers are under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit, so the unsaved are held captive and under the sway of Satan and demonic influences.

Once you were under God’s curse, doomed forever for your sins. You went along with the crowd and were just like all the others, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air, who is at work right now in the hearts of those who are against the Lord. (Ephesians 2:1, 2 TLB)

Until the sinner’s condition changes, that sinner will remain Satan’s stooge through all eternity. But this EXCEPTional Bible verse tells us in no uncertain terms that though Satan be strong, Jesus is stronger! Jesus is the One who has come into the strong man’s house to take back what is rightfully His: you and me.

And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the Last Day. For it is my Father’s will that everyone who sees his Son and believes on him should have eternal life—that I should raise him at the Last Day. (John 6:39, 40 TLB)

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