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Jesus’ Three Arguments

04 Jul
Casting out demons

from Google Images

When his enemies had accused him of being in league with the Devil, because he was able to do the impossible, Jesus exposes the feebleness of their accusation by presenting three arguments, by offering his adversaries three possible scenarios. The first is an illogical argument on their part that Jesus used demonic power to advance his goals. Jesus second argument left his antagonists without an argument to support their own activities in the realm of spiritual warfare. Finally, Jesus showed in the parable of the Strong Man that Jesus was stronger than Satan, and was dismantling his kingdom, showing that Jesus was the Messiah.

The first argument Jesus used to defend his position was that of a divided kingdom. It is simply illogical that Beelzebub would use his own power to defeat himself (Luke 11:17-18). In other words, it would be of no advantage for the rebels to give back territory to the lawful government. If, for example, George Washington, John Adam and Thomas Jefferson swore allegiance to the King of England, how long would the American Revolution be able to continue? How could it have been successful? The logic of Jesus’ critics simply doesn’t hold up to real scrutiny. It makes no sense that Jesus would use the power of Beelzebub to destroy Beelzebub’s kingdom.

Jesus’ second argument also exposed the faulty logic of his critics, and is even more damning to Jesus’ enemies than his first argument. Jesus asked, if he casts out demons by using demonic power, in whose name or in whose power do his enemies’ disciples cast them out?[1] Jesus’ antagonists were Jewish authorities and would have been unwilling to admit that their disciples cast out demons through the power of Satan. Nevertheless, if they tried to say they cast out demons through the power of God, then Jesus’ enemies would have made the power of God inferior to that of Satan, because Jesus was always successful when casting out demons, but Jewish exorcists were not (cf. Acts 19:14-18), and the authorities placed Jesus in league with Satan.

On the other hand, if they admitted that they didn’t work in the power of God, they placed themselves in the same position in which they tried to put Jesus. From where did they get their power to cast out demons when they were successful, if it didn’t come from God? The fact is that the crowd was astonished with Jesus power or authority (Luke 11:14). Their astonishment implies one of two things. First, the crowd may have already witnessed an unsuccessful attempt by Jesus’ critics to exorcise the demon from the mute man, and when all hope seemed to have been gone, Jesus cast out the demon. Secondly, the crowd may have been aware of the dubious methods used by Jewish exorcists and simply recognized Jesus straightforward exorcism as far superior to what at least some in the crowd had seen for themselves, while witnessing other Jewish exorcisms.

Josephus tells us that Jewish exorcists extrapolated their own methods from a tradition supposed to have come down to them from King Solomon.[2] Moreover, a similar incantation used by Jewish exorcists can be found in the Apocrypha in Tobit 6:6-7.[3] Their methods seem to have more to do with magic than with real authority.

On the other hand, if Jesus didn’t receive his authority from Beelzebub, then by the “finger of God” he casts out demons, and, if so, Jesus’ power over demons shows the Kingdom of God has come upon them, i.e. Jesus’ adversaries. This means that, if they rejected Jesus, they would be rejecting God, and they would incur God’s judgment, if they didn’t repent. Moreover, Jesus allusion to the finger of God (Luke 11:20), points to miracles performed by God through Moses in Exodus 8:19. There, Pharaoh’s magicians were unable to do what Moses had done and declared to Pharaoh that what Moses did was done by the finger of God. Jesus’ allusion to the unsuccessful attempt by Pharaoh’s magicians to duplicate Moses’ miracle may imply that Jesus’ antagonists tried and failed to cast out the demon from the mute man in Luke 11:14. If this is so, Jesus’ use of the phrase finger of God was doubly damning in the case of his enemies, because he placed them in the position of Pharaoh’s magicians who worked against the will of God.

Jesus’ final argument was put forward in the parable of the Strong Man (Luke 11:21-22). Jesus claimed that his casting out of demons represented the defeat of Satan (Luke 10:17-18), and the Kingdom of God was already present (cf. Luke 11:20). As the one stronger that Satan, Jesus was the agent or Messiah of that Kingdom. In other words God was beginning to reign in the hearts of men, directing what they said and did (Matthew 16:16-17; Luke 10:17, 21; cf. Luke 17:20-21).

Jesus concluded his debate with his enemies by drawing, as it were, a line in the sand, saying “he who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23),[4] Either the Jewish authorities were for Jesus or they were against him. Those who don’t gather with Jesus would be scattered, which is a statement predicting Jesus’ judgment upon the Jewish nation in 70 AD.

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[1] This is another indication that the people in the crowd who opposed Jesus were people of authority, not the common people. If Jesus’ antagonists had disciples, they were authorities in Jerusalem, possibly the chief priests (Sadducees), whom Luke doesn’t want to place in a bad light in his narrative, because this would work against his purpose to have Theophilus, the then reigning high priest, cease the Jewish persecution of Hellenist believers.

[2] Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2.5

[3] See my earlier studies in Luke: Jesus Spoke with Authority and Jesus and Demons.

[4] This is not a contradiction of Jesus’ earlier statement in Luke 9:49-50. Those who were using Jesus’ name to cast out demons could hardly speak against Jesus. However, Jesus’ antagonists in Luke 11 openly opposed him. Therefore, there is no neutral ground in the context Luke offers us in chapter 11.

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Posted by on July 4, 2017 in Gospel of Luke

 

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