The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Graeme English. Graeme likes mountains and coffee. He is married to Fiona and works with businesses that put purpose before profit. 

Matthew 12: 22-37

Jesus and Beelzebul

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?'

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, 'It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.'

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 'Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 'Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.'


Reflection

It's really hard to consider demons in a way that makes sense to us in 21st century London. The idea of demonic possession conjures up images from movies: spinning heads and awkward levitation. But the people of Galilee were used to seeing this sort of spiritual affliction, with exorcisms performed by Jews and Gentiles alike.

The Pharisees - outspoken, legalistic, holy-men - are trying to catch Jesus out. Annoyed at the impact he's making on people, the only way they can recognise his power is to put it down as something from the "dark side".

Perhaps this is a concept our modern-day minds can relate to: many of our stories rely on the narrative of good versus evil, from the Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, the Avengers to the Lion King.

Jesus explains that the healing and freedom he has brought the blind and mute man could only come from the source of goodness that is God, and shows that it is against the nature of evil to provide hope and liberation to people. He's clear that it's the power of God working in him and how out of touch they are by not recognising his spirit. The Pharisees are so certain of themselves and their traditions that they are missing God's work in front of them.

Jesus gives them the choice, saying "whoever is not with me is against me" echoed a few thousand years later by Bob Dylan's: "You're gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you're gonna have to serve somebody".

While none of us is fully good or evil, we have to choose in every moment to seek love, joy and peace in all we do.

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