A Jesus Who Is Strong
Pastor Duane Smets
October 15, 2017
I. Superior Power
III. Superior Grace
Good morning. It’s good to be with everyone this mid-October Sunday. Are you guys settling in? September always kinda feels like a rush and getting used to the regular year rhythms and then you just kind of settle in. Summer is over, school is in, businesses are in their fall push and Christmas and the new year is on the horizon.
It’s a good time of year. I don’t know about you but I love the consistency and regularity fall brings in after relaxing and vacationing in the summer. Consistency is good. We here at The Resolved believe God works through that…that in being a part of a church and consistently coming on Sunday and hearing the Word and receiving the sacraments God works, teaching us and forming us and shaping us into the people He wants us to be.
It’s for that reason that each week we devote a special and significant portion of our time to reading the Bible, thinking about it and attempting to apply it to our lives. In this season of our church, we’re doing that with the book of Luke in the Bible.
The last couple weeks have been all about listening, first how Jesus is worth listening to and then last week about how He listens to us. This week somewhat continues that theme with a negative example about a group of people who didn’t really want to listen to Jesus and acknowledge that His actions and His words were a demonstration of God’s presence and power.
It’s kind of a weird story dealing with demons and stuff but the theme in it is that in Jesus we see and hear the raw perfection, power, and presence of God. And pretty cool, I got in touch with Lucas Films and got them to release the new Star Wars movie trailer this week just so it would fit in perfectly with my sermon this week. Check it out.
With that, let’s go ahead and read our story for today where we see in Jesus…raw, tamed power and someone who is truly, truly special in a sermon I’ve titled “A Jesus Who Is Strong.” Why don’t you stand with me in honor of the Bible being God’s Word He instructed men like Luke to write for our good.
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits eviler than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
A Jesus Who Is Strong. When you think about someone who is strong what comes to mind?
Do you think about someone who is physically strong. At the gym where I work out there are some huge dudes that can bench more than four plates. This is the world’s strongest man this year, 2017, Eddie Hall. He can deadlift over 1,000 pounds and bench more than 600. That’s insane.
When you think about someone who is strong do you think about someone in a place of power? Maybe like this guy who maybe makes you scared that he has access to the nuclear codes?
Or maybe you don’t think of someone who is physically strong or politically powerful but someone who has supernatural magical powers. Maybe like this guy?
In our story for today we encounter a person who is truly strong. He is stronger than any evil force or work. His mind is strong, not only knowing all things but a master of reason with a crisp grasp on truth and wilely attempts to subvert it. And He is spiritually strong, gracious and compassionate to all who turn to Him.
In Jesus we see true strength and when we see that and believe it, it enables us to let go and entrust ourselves to His care. So let’s get into this story and see how He shows us this. I’ve got three points from our text today, “Superior Power”, “Superior Logic” and “Superior Grace.” And if there’s one thing I hope you end up walking away thinking about today it’s this line, “He’s strong, so I don’t have to be.” “He’s strong, so I don’t have to be.”
I. Superior Power
Okay, let’s jump into this first point, “Superior Power.” With this first point I want to simply acknowledge what happens in this story and then talk about what I think are some of the natural questions we probably have looking in on the story from a completely different culture and time period.
At base level what we have here is a story about Jesus casting a demon out of person who was mute and then afterward is able to speak. What ensues is a discussion not about whether demons really exist, can be cast out of person, or what in the world that has to do with muteness, but instead what results is a discussion about what this action of Jesus means about who He is.
The challenge for us looking in on this story in the 21st century is that we have natural questions people of the first century wouldn’t have even been asking. So I think it’d be helpful for us to talk about that and then talk about the discussion Jesus has with these dudes, because to be really honest when I first read this story and began studying this week, my first reaction was like…wha——-at??? Craziness.
When it comes to demons, Satan, evil, whatever term you want to use it seems to be that what people think about it falls within two main perspectives. On one hand you’ve got people who don’t believe there is such thing as actual evil. There’s no such thing as Satan or demons. And on the other hand you’ve got people who are fascinated with it either as weird Christians who like to try and cast demons out of things and people or just people who love movies like the Exorcist and what not.
Funny story…I had never seen the Exorcist or any of the whole Satan demon horror movies until I was working on my second grad degree and I had a class called, “Biblical Demonology and the Occult” and no joke one of the things we our professor had us do for homework was to watch the original Exorcist and write down everything that was potentially biblical and everything that wasn’t. Ever since I’ve been hooked and love evil films.
But I’m not too into people casting demons out of people and things. Mostly because I remember crying as a kid and having my dad yell at me trying to cast demons out of me. Which was weird because I was just having a hard time with my homework. No joke.
So here’s what I’ll say. The story of the Bible does throughout its pages talk about a being called Satan or the devil. He used to be an angel, who rebelled against God wanting God’s power, so God cast him out of heaven and when he did he took a third of the angels with him who ever since have been his demons. Just like with angels, there are classes of demons, arranged somewhat like military battalions.
Now, Satan and his demons’ main goal is to try and get people to not follow and love God and will use whatever the best means are with a given person or place to accomplish that.
The way that works itself out typically today is that in animistic cultures where there is a high belief in things like witchdoctors, spirits and what not, you tend to see a lot of things that look a lot more like the demon possession stuff we read about in the Bible. In more developed countries and people groups you tend not to see it as much because it’s just not as effective of a tool for enticing people away from God with things like sex, money and power. We rationalize it away purely as some form of psychosis and prescribe meds.
Which leads to my other big question…just because someone is mute or has some physical or psychological malady does that mean it’s a demon? To which my answer is, who knows?
I do know this though, all sickness and disease and destruction and death and crime…all of it is evil. Human beings were not made and designed for it and the Bible’s story is that all of it entered the world and the human race as a result of Satan tempting and deceiving the first man and woman, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. So regardless of whether or not there’s actually the presence of a demon we can say that certain things are evil and a result of that fall in the garden.
Does that mean we should go around praying for people who are sick and try and cast demons out of them? Probably not. I would never say never but the only surefire way you can know someone actually has a demon in them is if they exhibit something that verifiably demonstrates the presence of another person in them. For example, a three year old speaking perfect Latin who has never been exposed to the language. Make sense? There is a documented case like that and a pastor calmly directed the demon to leave in the name of Jesus and it did.
Okay, you may have other questions but hopefully that answers some of our biggest 21st century America knee jerk reactions. Now, let’s look at the reactions of the people in the story.
First, look at verses 14-15 with me. “14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”
It says that when Jesus cast the demon out people “marveled” and then some of them concluded he must have the power of this Beelzebul guy. Beelzebul was a name that had come to be used and associated with one of Satan’s chief lieutenants, the counterpart to God’s archangel, Michael.
So the people are reacting to the manner in which Jesus cast out this demon. In other passages where we’ve seen Jesus cast out demons He does so very simply and very calmly, usually with just a single word and they obey. This was very different than what anyone of that day and age was used to seeing.
If people were sick or exhibiting demon-like activity, the witchdoctors of the day would perform these long drawn out ceremonies, with all kinds of magical incantations, objects and displays. For example, Josephus, a Jewish historian writing around 75 AD recorded this,
“A certain man of my own country whose name was Eleazar, was releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root (attached)…by which he drew out the demon through his nostrils. He abjured him to return into him no more, reciting incantations. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon as he went out of the man to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know he had left the man.”
Jesus didn’t do any of that. He just spoke a word and the demon left the man and immediately he went from mute to being able to talk. The response from the crowd is marveling and then saying Jesus must have the power of one of Satan’s prince’s, Beelzebul.
We’ll talk about the inconsistency of that explanation in our next point, but for now look where Jesus says His power comes from. It’s in verse 20 where He says it’s “by the finger of God” and means that the “kingdom of God has come.”
This is a not so subtle claim from Jesus that He is God the King, come in the flesh executing justice and mercy with the finger of God. There’s no fanfare or spectacle. Jesus barely has to lift a finger. He just speaks a word and demons obey and people are healed. Jesus holds all the power of God, the same power that spoke the universe into existence.
What is going on here is wrapped up with the entire story of the Bible. When Satan was first successful in getting the first man and woman to sin against God, his power was unleashed in the world. But he’s never really been able to rule over anything.
Ephesians 2:2 says that his kingdom has been a kingdom of air. He rules over nothing, just causing a lot of destruction in people’s lives.
The promises the Bible is that God would come as king, defeat him and do away with all the sin, sorrow and suffering that has resulted from Satan and his demons work. When Jesus came to earth He initiated and began that work. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil and emerged successful, resisting the attack. Once Jesus started His ministry He went on the offensive, ushering in the Kingdom of God.
This is exactly what 1 John 3:8 in the Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
So what we have with Jesus is an in-breaking of the future Kingdom of God to come, plundering the kingdom of the air. For us we live in this time between the time, this now and not yet, where the rule and reign of Christ has begun in our hearts and lives for those who submit to it, and when Jesus returns His Kingdom will take physical residence on earth doing away with disease, death and darkness forevermore.
Jesus power is superior and supreme. In the story Jesus says we are meant to see His work, recognize it as the finger of God and then believe that through Him the Kingdom of God has come. This is our challenge.
I think all of us long for evil to be vanquished forevermore. No more killing, no more hate, no more abuse, no more disease and death, no more sorrow and suffering, no more tears, no more fear…wouldn’t we all like it to be gone? What Jesus asks us to believe is that it can come only from Him.
We’ll either trust in ourselves, in our own personal kingdom or the kingdoms of the air, the temporary governments that come and go and think that some sort of societal evolution or medical discoveries will solve things or we can look to Jesus, trusting in Him and His power to deliver us.
Today are you looking to Jesus and trusting in Him and His power or are you trying to solve your own problems? Trusting in our own power never works. We’re too weak. But Jesus isn’t. He’s strong, so we don’t have to be.”
Is there something today Jesus wants you to trust Him with? An area where you’ve been trying to be strong, but the truth is you just feel weak and incapable? Jesus is strong. He’s strong, so you don’t have to be. You can entrust yourself to Him.
Well, this first points been a long one. This second point’s kind of a short one, but an important one. So let’s talk about Jesus’ Logic, He not only has supreme power but supreme logic.
II. Superior Logic
Just a couple things here. One, look at verse 17. Before Jesus responds to their charge that He is a demon lord, look what Luke says, “He, knowing their thoughts, said to them…” Knowing their thoughts.
On a simple level, Jesus could see straight through their thinking and what they were trying to do, trying to turn people against him. Jesus was a keen observer of people’s reactions and responses, very adept at listening to and understanding where people where coming from. He understood the way people thought, even when they didn’t think well of Him, He understood their objections.
But not only did He get where people where coming from in knowing their thoughts but I think Luke is hinting here at something even deeper, that Jesus knew their hearts underneath that gave rise to their thoughts. I think Luke here is hinting at the all-knowing attribute of God that is present in Jesus.
One of the core attributes of God is that He knows all things.
Psalms 139:2,4 says this, “2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar…4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”
Jesus as God, knows all things and He knows our thoughts. He knows what you are thinking right now. That can be comforting or it can be scary. It’s comforting when we’re trying to pray and don’t quite have the words. It’s scary when we’re contemplating sin, ignoring Him or refusing Him.
Now, the second thing I wanted to point out here is how smart Jesus is. Jesus is a master logician here. Jesus frequently uses the powers of logic and reasoning in His ministry. Last week, we didn’t talk about it but He used a form of reasoning called a “qal va-homer” or “a fortiori” an argument from lesser to greater. Here in our text for today he uses a form of reasoning called “non sequitur.”
I had to take a class on logic in grad school and we learned all those fancy terms. A non sequitur is when the conclusion you propose is refuted by the statement you propose. Basically it’s self-refuting or self-contradictory.
So here’s what Jesus says, “If He’s a prince of demons” then one, Satan is defeating himself by casting his own demons out and two, all their guys who try to cast demons out must be doing Satan’s work as well. You see what Jesus is pointing out is their logical inconsistency.
I think it’s kind of ironic that in the midst of this seemingly fantastic story about demons Jesus is bringing up logic and reason. And I think that’s important for us because God reveals Himself to us as a God who cares about our minds and calls us to have sound reason in our beliefs.
God is a God of order and Christianity present itself in the Bible as a logically consistent and coherent belief system. Being a Christian is not meant to just this spiritually experience thing. We’re called to use our minds and to have reasons for what we believe.
Isaiah 1:8 in the Bible says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.”
1 Peter 3:15 in the Bible says, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
So reason matters. Our Lord Jesus revealed Himself as a person who understood how the human mind works and used it’s powers to point to the truth and goodness of God for which there are good reasons to believe in.
I think that means two things for us. One, we ought to think well. Believing something without having consistent and coherent reasons is foolish. Two, we can respond to God’s invitation to reason and go to Him with our questions seeking answers.
God doesn’t expect us to have it all figured out. Jesus is the smartest person who has ever lived. Because of that we can go to Him. He is strong in His mind, so we don’t have to be. We can go to Him with our questions and study Him and I believe He will give us the answers we need.
Are there questions you have today? Are you believing things that just don’t make sense? Are there things God is inviting you to ask about Him? What is it that God is trying to teach you right now in this season of your life?
Jesus is strong, He doesn’t expect us to be, we can go to Him with our questions.
Alright, let’s move on to our final point for today, “Superior Grace."
III. Superior Grace
In the midst of this healing of a mute man and this argument that ensues between Jesus and these detractors, Jesus offers a compassionate plea to hear His message believe and be gathered into His safe arms.
First, in verses 24-26 what we basically have is Jesus saying, Jesus getting rid of a demon, or we could even say sinful things in our lives is not enough. The human person is made for relationship, it’s meant to bond with others. And the most important bond it can make is with God. If God doesn’t come and abide in a person, ultimately, sin and Satan will take up residence and ruin a person’s life.
That’s why Jesus says in verse 26 that “the last state of that person is worse than the first.” What Jesus is calling for is people hearing His message and having it come home to their hearts.
Ephesians 3:17 in the Bible says it this way “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith.”
This is what Jesus is after. And for that receive Him, what they experience is being gathered into His flock and into His arms. That’s what verse 23 is about in our story from today when He says, “whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Satan scatters, Jesus gathers.
Jesus heart is to gather. Later in Luke He laments with tears toward a group of people in Jerusalem who reject Him and says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Luke 13:34).”
Jesus longs to gather people into His arms. For those that are gathered up into His arms, they are welcomed into His family and His flock.
Isaiah 40:11 speaking of Jesus says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead (them),”
In life we will either be scattered or gathered. What Satan and his demons do is scatter. They confuse, giving contradictory logic and lies causing people to run away from God. What Jesus does is gather. He gives answers and gives grace to all who will hear and have it.
Which is where the story from our passage for today ends up. Verses 27-28 say that there was a woman there who saw and heard all of this thing with the demon and the discussion about it go down and she speaks up and says, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”
Now, she’s obviously stoked on Jesus but her praise is a bit misdirected. There have been many a people throughout Christian history who have become over-infatuated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus very clearly here says his mother Mary is not meant to be a focus, she was great not because she gave birth to Jesus and nursed Him as a baby but because she believed in Him as her savior.
Mary is actually the first person ever recorded believing in Jesus as savior. And she believes from the time He is born and stays believing all the way to the end at the foot of the cross.
Instead of focusing on Jesus’ miracles and Jesus’ mother He says in verse 28 that the point is that people would “hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus’ person and works pointed to a message, the word of God He spoke which says there is grace for all who have been scattered. They can be gathered up into the arms of God , be saved and kept in Him.
You see, the truth is we’ve all run away from God. We’ve all been scattered. That’s why Isaiah 53:6 says “we all like sheep have gone astray.” But in Jesus Christ, God has come after us to reach down, gather us into His arms and save us.
His grace is superior to all other graces because it’s a grace that can truly save us and bring us to a place of safety in Him. None of us are strong enough to find or figure out God on our own. None of us are strong enough to make ourselves better. None of us are strong enough to save ourselves. But Jesus is. His grace is superior. He is strong so we don’t have to be.
That’s the good thing about God. He doesn’t call us to fix ourselves or find ourselves. He comes and finds us and gathers us into His arms. When we turn to Him we are freed to be weak and to rest in His strong arms.
I’ll conclude this point with one final passage from the Bible. It’s from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 where God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [to which we reply] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Is there an area in your life today where you’ve been trying so hard to be strong and God is simply calling you to let go? To be weak and to rest in His arms?
I want you to know that His grace is sufficient. God will be good to us. He is a good Father and will care for you well and has proven it to us by giving us His Son Jesus. We can rest in His arms.
Well, we started out today talking about Star Wars, body builders, presidents and wizards. We end today talking about Jesus. A Jesus who is truly strong.
He beholds the raw power of God. He barely has to lift a finger. Unlike earthly rulers He doesn’t abuse His power but uses it to heal and to administer justice. And the secret to His power is not some source of magic, but one of grace that welcomes sinners home into the arms of God.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He did it in His life and ministry and He won the battle in decisive victory on the cross rising again three days later as the victorious Lord.
Colossians 2:14-15 says Jesus stripped the Satan the enemy of all his power, disarming him and triumphing over him, nailing all sin to the cross. Because of that, today we can be free from the destructive works of the the devil in our hearts and lives.
Freedom is our in Christ. We’re going to respond in a minute by coming to one of the tables throughout the room where we take a piece of bread as Jesus’ perfect life and dip it in the wine or the juice as His blood shed on the cross. When we do this, what we are saying is, “Jesus you won on the cross. You rose victorious. And I trust in You.”
Friends, what we need in our lives today is not our own strength but the strength of Christ in us. The man in our story today had his mouth freed to proclaim the praises of God. That’s what God wants to do in us, open our mouths to sing His praise.
I conclude today with some the words from the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” that we sang last week,
Though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
Would you stand with me as we prepare our hearts to respond by reading some words of confession, followed by some words of pardon and assurance.
Lord, we confess we have trusted in our own strength and wisdom, been plagued by the work of the devil and have run away from you.
Christ the Lord, has come, defeated the devil, reached out to us and gathered us into His strong and safe arms.