Teachings to a Crowd: The Gospel Accounts: A Chronological Harmony

Teachings to a Crowd

Could Satan be Behind the Miracles? (Matthew 12:22-37; Luke 11:14-26)

            Jesus cast out a demon from a blind and mute person. The crowds marveled as the person spoke and saw after the demon left, yet this didn’t hinder the detractors in the crowd. People wondered if Jesus might be the long awaited Son of David. But the Pharisees sought to keep the people’s thoughts from going in that direction. So some claimed that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan – a rumor started quite a will ago by some scribes from Jerusalem (Mark 3:20-30; Matthew 9:34). Others wanted to see some sign, as if this miracle wasn’t a sign in itself.

            Satan here is referred to by the name Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies,” which comes from the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians believed that the thoughts of their gods (whom many were called demons) could be determined by watching how the flies swarmed on their sacrifices. Thus the Babylonian’s chief idol became a symbol of Satan to the Jews.

            Even though Jesus didn’t hear the complaints directly, he knew what people in the crowd was thinking. He pointed out that their claim was not logical. If Satan’s power was being used to cast out Satan’s demons, then his dominion could not stand because of the in-fighting. Besides if Jesus is able to cast out demons by Satan’s power, then by what power were the Jewish exorcists using to cast out demons? This is not to say that people among the Jews actually were able to cast out demons, but they did have people who claimed to have the ability (Acts 19:13). Jesus’ question was whether they were willing to condemn the fakes whom they had accepted along with him who has proven that his power was real.

            The only logical conclusion is that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of God. The finger of God refers to the power of God (Psalm 8:3; Exodus 8:19). Such being the case, then they should know that the kingdom of God is here (Daniel 2:44) – the very thing the crowd had begun to suspect.

            If a person wished to rob a strong man, he must first tie him up. It requires someone stronger (Isaiah 49:24-25). The kingdom of God is being established to pull people out of Satan’s kingdom (Matthew 16:18). Thus, Jesus is working against Satan, being stronger than Satan, undermining Satan’s power, and robbing Satan of his own (Colossians 2:15)

            In this battle there can be no neutrality. Either you are for Christ or against him. Those attributing Christ’s miraculous powers to Satan are blaspheming the power of God. Blasphemy is defined in Numbers 15:30-31. Opposing the Father or the Son can be forgiven, but when a person opposes the Spirit then he will not be forgiven. The problem isn’t that God will refuse to forgive him (II Peter 3:9). The problem is that a person who willfully defies the Spirit of God won’t repent. It is by the Spirit of God that the Word of God comes to mankind and it was by the Spirit of God that it was proven to be from God. If this was willfully rejected, then there is nothing to bring such a man to God. Jesus is warning the Jews that they were dangerously close to going too far.

            They needed to be consistent with their labeling. Good doesn’t come from evil. If restoring of a man’s speech and vision was good, then it must come from a good source. If it was evil, then they could claim it came from an evil source. But the Jews were claiming that good was coming from evil – something that cannot be true (James 3).

            God is not going to overlook the Jews’ attempt to undermine Jesus and to cast the miracles that he did in an evil light. God will judge men by every word they speak – even the idle words they said without much thought. But the words they have said reveal the nature of their hearts.

            Nor can a person go part way. Jesus tells a parable of a man from whom an unclean spirit is cast out. The man tried to approach righteousness as many people do. They only try to remove the sin out of their life, but they don’t commit themselves to righteousness. The result is a hole waiting to be filled, but when it is filled by sin the situation becomes worse than it was before (Hebrews 6:4-6; II Peter 2:20). In essence, trying only to purge sin from your life is trying to be neutral. You’re staying away from Satan, but you are also avoiding Christ. It just will not work.

A Praise for Jesus’ Mother (Luke 11:27-29)

            A woman cries out from the crowd giving praise to the woman who bore and raised Jesus. Perhaps she was impressed by the wisdom of Jesus and wished to praise the woman who raised such a wonderful son. But what she missed is that Jesus’ power and wisdom did not come because of who raised him.

            Jesus agrees that Mary is happy with her son, but happier than this are those who listen and obey God’s word (James 1:21-25).

Signs (Matthew 12:38-45; Luke 11:29-36)

            Jesus then addresses the demand for a sign. This has happened before (Matthew 16:1-4). A sign had been given in the form of the healing of the mute, but it was ignored. Thus Jesus stated that no sign would be given – that is, no additional sign would be given – except for the sign of Jonah. By this he was referring to Jonah’s spending three days in the belly of a great fish as a type of his death and resurrection. Jonah became a sign to those in Nineveh and Jesus would be a sign to the Jews.

            Their unwillingness to see what was in front of them spoke loudly against them. He pointed out that the Queen of Sheba came a long distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But they had someone greater than Solomon in their midst and they rejected him. He pointed out that the people of Nineveh had repented at Jonah’s teaching – a man who wasn’t their fellow countryman and who hated them. Yet they had a greater teacher in their midst and they refused to heed his warning.

            Using an illustration from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus remarked that people don’t hid a lamp but make use of it. Jesus, in this case is that lamp (John 8:12; 9:5). The Jews refused to make use of him while he was here. Instead they actively tried to suppress Jesus and his teachings.

            Using another illustration from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that the eye – where a person focused and on what he made his goal – influences the rest of the body. If a person focuses on light (righteousness) he would become righteous. But if a person focuses on darkness (sin) he would become sinful. The Jews were rejecting the light and focusing on darkness (John 1:4-5; 3:19).