14. And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.
Now we are told of another incident in which He was casting out a demon from a man. It seems that this man was possessed by a spirit who didn’t know how to speak, and this trait rubbed off on him so that he was unable to speak as well! This tells us a little more about spirits, and informs us that they can carry infirmities. Whether there was something wrong with this spirit, or this was a punishment upon the spirit, or whether the spirit simply did not know how to work the vocal cords of a human body we cannot say for certain. We just do not know enough about spirits. At any rate, when the spirit was gone the man could talk again. This was an amazing thing, and caused the multitudes to marvel. We can only imagine today what it would have been like to witness the powerful works that the Lord performed.
15. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
Some of them apparently thought themselves above being impressed by this. They tried to pass this off by suggesting that He cast out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons. It could be that they had picked this idea up from the religious leaders who were rejecting Him, and who were perhaps trying to promote this idea and spread this rumor around. This name is Beelzeboul in Greek, coming from the words “lord” and “filth” or “dung.” Most think that Beelzebub was the name of a god called the “lord of flies,” but the Israelites called Satan this name, and changed it to Beelzeboul, the “lord of the dunghill,” out of contempt. Thus what they were claiming was that the Lord was using Satan’s power to cast out this demon. This was a ridiculous claim, and would easily be refuted by the Lord.
16. Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.
Others sought to test Him by asking for a sign from heaven. Why would they need to test Him when He had already shown them a great sign in the casting out of this demon? Yet the fact was that they had disregarded the sign. The Lord had been casting out demons for so long that some, it seems, were no longer impressed by it. These people wanted an even more spectacular show! Yet the Lord was not an entertainer, and His goal was not just to provide some new and more amazing spectacle to impress His audience.
17. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.
A kingdom is a government, as we have discussed many times in the past. The Lord speaks of a kingdom divided against itself. If a government was spending all its energies in battling itself, it would ultimately be brought to desolation, for it would cancel itself out. It would have no strength, but its infighting would cause it to fall to whoever might come along and seek to defeat it. The same would be true for a house or a family that divided against itself.
18. “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.
Of course Satan would be foolish if he fought himself. Satan apparently wanted men to be demon-possessed, so for him to cast demons out of men would be contrary to his own plans. If he divided against himself this way, even his government would not stand. Make no mistake, Satan has governmental power in this world. It is this power against which we fight and struggle, as Ephesians 6:12 tells us.
12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Yet if Satan would divide against himself, he could not maintain his power. Thus it would make no sense for the Lord to cast out demons by Beelzebub.
19. “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
The Lord asks if He casts out demons by Beelzebub, then by whom did their representatives cast them out? As I explained in my message on “Sonship,” a son is a representative, not necessarily a male child. Here the sons of the religious leaders, the very leaders who were instigating this questioning of the source of the Lord’s power, are their own disciples who were themselves casting out demons. There is no doubt but that there were what we call exorcists in Israel. The Lord probably did give them some measure of power or authority over the demons, for these were His people, and they had a right to ask Him for such things. What amazed the people was not just that the Lord was casting out demons, but the ease and absolute authority with which He was doing it, which went far beyond anything these representatives of Israel could do.
Thus, the Lord tells them that their own sons will be their judges. By whom are they casting out demons? This will testify to them of the source of the Lord’s power to cast out demons, for the power of both came from the same source.
20. “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
This miracle could clearly only come from the finger, (that is, the power,) of God, and so it revealed to them suddenly and unexpectedly that the Kingdom of God was before them. Now many have tried to build a theology upon this and to support their teaching that the kingdom of God is something that is currently present, and has been present since the time of Christ. Yet this is not the case. As I have said many times, the kingdom of God is the government of God, and that government is clearly not present upon the earth at this time. We are under human governments, and this world is not controlled by God.
The truth of this passage is that it has been poorly translated. The Greek word for “come” is not in any way the normal word used for coming, which is erchomai. Instead, this is a form of the Greek word phthano (in this case ephthasen). This word is not just a coming, but means “to come before, precede, anticipate,” according to Thayer’s Lexicon. It is the word used in I Thessalonians 4:15 to tell us that the living will not “precede” (phthano) the dead in ascending to meet Christ as He comes in His parousia.
What does it mean if the kingdom of God had “preceded,” “come before,” or “anticipated” upon them? The Greek is simple here, but this seems confusing in English. It would have been plain enough to them in Greek. The idea is that the kingdom of God had taken a step in advance in regards to them. This is similar to if a store had an advance sale for all its most loyal customers. This sale was eventually going to be open to everyone, but for these certain customers the sale had taken a step in advance. This is also similar to what we call previews of a new movie that is going to come out. The movie is not yet released, yet there are sometimes previews or pre-screenings of it. In the same way, the kingdom of God was being previewed before these men. We might put it that they had had a foretaste of the kingdom of God.
This reveals to us an important truth that will help us in understanding the significance of all the Lord’s miracles. All the wonders the Lord Jesus worked were an advance notice, a preview, or a sample of what was to occur in the Kingdom of God. This is what the Lord was revealing to these men. In this case, we can be sure that when the kingdom of God comes, the power of Satan and of demons will not be allowed to run rampant and unchecked within it. When God’s kingdom comes, it will cast out Satan. So, when Christ cast out demons with the finger of God, they had seen a preview or sampled a foretaste of the kingdom of God.
Being met with such a sign of the Kingdom, these men were placed under great responsibility to respond to the miracle properly. That they responded with rejection, however, made them worthy of great condemnation. That they would thus reject such an obvious sign of God’s kingdom was a great mark against them indeed.
21. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.
The Lord now makes a parallel between what was happening here and a strong man, fully armed, who was guarding his own palace. As long as he maintains the superior power over any who come against him, all his goods are in peace. In other words, there is no danger of them being looted and stolen.
22. “But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.
Now a stronger man than this strong man comes upon him and overcomes him. Now, his armor in which he trusted is all removed from him. This is his panoply or complete suit of armor. The only other place the panoply is mentioned is in Ephesians 6:11, 13, when it speaks of the full armor or panoply of God that the believer is to put on. This man’s armor failed him, however, and it is stripped off of him. Now, all his goods that he thought were safe are divided up as spoil.
The Lord is comparing Satan to the strong man guarding his house, and Himself to the stronger one who came in and overcame him. Satan was holding much spoil for himself, like this poor, demon-possessed man. Yet the Lord had entered his house and overcome all his resistance. Then, He had taken this unfortunate man back from the devil for Himself. That is the true picture of what was going on, not the false one these blasphemers suggested. This is clearly what the Lord was doing to Satan, if these men would only have been willing to admit it.
23. “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
There were two possibilities for these men…to be for the Lord or against Him. It was no longer possible for them to sit on the fence. Unfortunately, they had made the wrong choice, and had chosen to be against Him. I pray that every one of my readers has made the right choice and is counted with Christ.
24. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’
The Lord relates here what to us is a strange story of an unclean spirit going out of a man. Here an unclean spirit is spoken of as seeking “rest” as he had when he was possessing a man, and speaks of his return to that man as returning to his “house.” It seems that these spirits, beings who have no body of their own, enjoy taking control of the body of a man, and wish to return to it if they can. These interesting words give us more insight into how this mysterious thing called “possession” worked, although we still know very little about it.
25. “And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.
The spirit returns to the man he formerly possessed, and to his delight finds him as a swept and decorated house, all ready for him to move back in. The Lord is probably referring to a spirit whom the sons of the religious leaders had cast out, which He referred to in verse 19 above. Such a man has no defense against the spirit and thus the spirit returns when the one who cast him out leaves. When the Lord cast a demon out, however, we can be sure he stayed out.
26. “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
The spirit goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself. Apparently, there are levels of wickedness among spirits. Some are worse than others, just like wicked men. Then, he takes these with him and enters back into the man to dwell there. Again we learn that multiple spirits can possess a man. Apparently this spirit takes these others along for help and protection against being cast out again, which again indicates that the one who had cast him out in the first place was not the Lord. Thus the end result is that the man is worse off than he was before.
The word for “last” here is the Greek eschatos. This is the same word that is used in the phrase “last days” in the New Testament. We see here that this word also takes on the meaning of “resulting” rather than just “last.” We do not know that this is the last state of this man. Certainly, being demon possessed was not the first state he was ever in from the time he was conceived. This clearly means that the resultant state of that man is worse than the original state. Thus I teach that this word eschatos can mean resultant rather than strictly what we think of as “last” in English.
Otis Q. Sellers suggests that this is referring to the nation of Israel. He thinks that it refers to the fact that when they returned from captivity, they had given up on idolatry. However, they did not follow this up by giving God the proper place that they should have given to Him. This was true of men like the Pharisees and scribes and religious leaders of the land. Therefore, they were no better off than when they were in idolatry, but rather were in an even worse condition, since now they seemed to worship God outwardly, when really they were as far from Him as ever they were in their hearts.
27. And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
A certain woman from the crowd is hearing the words of Christ, and seems to become overwhelmed by them. She is apparently one of these excitable people who cannot seem to help but to burst out with less than sensible things when she is in a highly emotional state. Thus she raised her voice and began to give glory to Mary His mother, declaring her to be a blessed (how happy) person. This, of course, is what she meant by the womb that bore Him and the breasts which nursed Him: His mother.
28. But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
The Lord did not let this slide, but immediately corrected her. He did not deny that Miriam His mother is blessed, for the angel had declared it so. Yet He shifted the emphasis, giving the designation of “blessed” far more to those who exercise faith. Indeed, that is what Miriam herself also had done when she exercised faith in the message from God given to her by the angel. She had to have faith as well before she could be considered blessed by God, just as is required of all other sinners.
This verse is a solemn warning to all who would give an improperly high place to Mary just because she was the Lord’s mother. It puts to rest any thoughts of Mary being the “Blessed Virgin” that many make her out to be. That some can still worship Mary in the light of this verse shows that their practice is based on their traditions and their own, human will, not on the Word of the Living God.
29. And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
The Lord is being surrounded by a crowd here, yet He is not deceived by His apparent popularity. He knew what was in their hearts, and that they really were gathering around Him hoping that He would do some grand miracle as a sign so they could watch it. Perhaps they were being instigated to this kind of attitude by His enemies, against which He had already been speaking. Whatever the cause, He rebukes them and refuses to show them any such thing. Instead, He points to the only sign they will be given: that of Jonah the prophet.
30. “For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.
Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites of their coming destruction, even when he worked no miracle or wonder among them. Moreover, we know that he was a sufficient sign, for at his proclaiming the Ninevites submitted to God to the extent that He turned from His anger against them. When they saw Jonah, they believed and were spared the destruction of their city. In the same way, just the Lord’s presence was a sign, and should have been sufficient for these people.
It is interesting that not long after Jonah, but rather some hundred years or so in the future, the Ninevites returned to their evil ways, and their city was destroyed regardless. These people too would have their land and their city destroyed not long in the future from the time when the Lord was speaking.
The Lord by this statement puts His stamp of approval upon the book of Jonah, and upon the miracles that are recorded within it. Those who lack faith in the book of Jonah must also lack faith in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
31. “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
The queen of the South is the one we know of from I Kings 10, called there the queen of Sheba. Sheba was not her name, but the name of the people over which she ruled, for “Sheba” is a man’s name, not a woman’s. Here we learn that this woman will rise up in the judgment. The “judgment” here is another name for the kingdom of God. We can call a time period by that which characterizes it. For example, we call a certain time of the year “fall” because of the falling of the leaves during that season. In the same way, the kingdom of God will be characterized by God’s judgments, which will set in order all things upon this earth, including those who are raised from the dead.
We learn here that this ancient queen will rise from the dead along with the men of the generation whom Christ was condemning. The Scriptures teach that all Israel, every last one of them, will be raised at the beginning of the kingdom of God. Some, however, will only be raised to be condemned and returned to death. That is the way it will be with the enemies of the Lord who rejected Him.
So the queen of the South will condemn this generation in the resurrection. The reason will be that she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. These men, however, were unwilling to hear the words of one greater than Solomon, the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was teaching in their streets and in the very place where they lived! Thus this queen of the Gentiles would prove to be far more honorable than they.
The religious leaders liked to teach that anyone who was descended from Abraham was automatically guaranteed a better place in the resurrection than anyone who was not, but the Lord utterly rejected that idea, declaring that these men would be condemned in the judgment by this Gentile queen who would receive the eternal life that they would be denied. Even for Israelites, it is faith, not lineal descent, that will decide their place in the judgment to come.
32. “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
Again the Lord returns to the example of Jonah and the Ninevites. The men of Ninevah repented at Jonah’s words, whereas these men would not repent at the words of the Lord Jesus, One Who was far greater than Jonah! Thus the Lord Jesus Christ indeed became a sign to them of their coming destruction.
The word “repent” here is the familiar Greek word metanoeo, which means to have the after-mind or to submit. The Ninevites had submitted to Jonah’s words, but these men would not. Thus, the Ninevites will be given a place in God’s kingdom, whereas these men will not. These are the kind of men God wants in His kingdom: men who when they hear the words of God given to them by a messenger of God are willing to listen to those words and to act upon them. Thus the queen of the South and the men of Ninevah will have a place in His kingdom, whereas those who rejected the Lord will not.