Now Jesus encounters severe opposition. Those who are against him begin to oppose him by slander. They are so bold as to tell people that Jesus’ power over demons comes from his alliance with the prince of demons, the devil (Beelzebul). But Jesus raises serious objections. There were other exorcists in Palestine in that day and time, “your sons.” Therefore Jesus asks by what power do they cast out demons? Are they in alliance with the prince of devils? If they are not then Jesus is not. If Jesus is condemned then they must condemn their own sons. Furthermore, no kingdom divided against itself or in civil war with itself can stand. But in fact, Jesus casts out demons, heals, and teaches because the Kingdom of God is in their midst. God is acting for good in and through Jesus, but there are those who call what God is doing, evil, of the devil. It’s a serious thing to slander the work of God. We do well not to pass hasty judgment on the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ in the world through his people. Sometimes, it is very easy for us to pass judgement upon other churches and Christians who launch out into ministry that is much different from what we might have envisioned. May we ask God to give us eyes of faith to truly see what God is doing in the world.
William Barclay calls verses 24-28 “The Peril of the Empty Soul.” He cautions that we cannot leave a person’s soul empty and expect good things. It’s is not enough to banish evil thoughts or impure spirits. We cannot build a life of faith on negatives. Christianity is not a catalog of what not to do. The best way to avoid evil is to do good, to love, and to live the life of faith in Christ Jesus. What will we do today to move life toward the kingdom of God, to move closer to the will and way of Jesus?
Foreign people, in fact the enemies of Israel, heard the message of Jonah and repented. In Jonah, the people of Nineveh heard and recognized the voice and will of God and responded in faith. The Queen of Sheba recognized the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Jonah or Solomon is in their midst. The greatest sign God could send is Jesus, his only Son. The people wanted Jesus to do something sensational to prove that he was from God. Just as Jonah himself was a sign to Nineveh so Jesus himself, in his person, was the sign from God. He would not do sensational signs to satisfy their curiosity or demands. The privilege of seeing Jesus was so great and such a privilege that the generation who saw Jesus would be severely condemned for failing to recognize him. Refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, when life is all spent and done, is to condemn oneself.
No one hides the light; lights a lamp and then places it underneath a bowl to be hidden. We are to see that the light of Christ shines in and through our lives. Hiding the light is rebellious and next we read of those who hide and extinguish the light.
The Pharisees gave their deepest allegiance to minute details of the law; outward details and external matters that in the final analysis were not what was most important. They ignored love, mercy, justice, and generosity that made a difference in peoples lives. Over and over again Jesus says woe. Woe to that kind of existence; woe to that type of life, and woe to everything that is against the life and light and love of God. May we know what matters to Jesus and be about those things.
This is certainly a challenging passage.