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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Luke 11:14-28: Jesus versus the demons

Oh no. Another terrorist atrocity. IS have murdered 31 innocent people in Belgium, to make up for some of the thousands of innocents who have died at the hands of the West in the Muslim world. Today we are rudely reminded that there is a war on.

And in Luke's gospel, after yesterday's nice, encouraging. wholesome talk about prayer, today we are plunged into a sour controversy.

Jesus spends a lot of time arguing with people in the gospels. John's gospel in particular. I think this is the first of the bad-tempered disputes that we've encountered in Luke, but there will be more, I'm sure of it. Looking ahead, the rest of chapter 11 is going to be pretty adversarial, I think.

So what's it all about? Today, demons are the subject under discussion. Jesus' opponents have made a pretty outrageous accusation - that Jesus is only able to cast out demons with the help of their chief. In other words, he's one of them - he may look amazing, but he's an enemy in disguise.

Wild accusations like this seem ridiculous, but they can be very damaging. It reminds me of the tactics of Barack Obama's opponents - insinuating that he is a Muslim and not born in America.

So what if he's a Muslim, so what if he's not born in America? That's my first reaction.

My second is, that's ridiculous, as far as I know he's a Christian, and I'm pretty certain he was born in America, although he has roots in Kenya.

And that's the whole point. I've got distracted, thinking about who he is and where he comes from, not thinking about what he's doing or saying.

Enough! Concentrate!

Jesus deploys ridicule against this argument: if I'm destroying demons with the help of their leader, it's not looking very good for their team, is it? Not exactly Demons United, are they? More Demons Disunited.

Whose side are you on? Is it the side of the angels? "Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me." You think you're all spick and span, got your houses in order? If you don't fill yourself up with goodness, you could end up with a worse infestation of evil than you began.

Then a fan in the crowd speaks up: Oh Jesus! I wish I was your mother! How blessed she is to have a son like you! And he retorts: "Even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice."

Don't argue. Do something right.

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