‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Romans 16:20). That’s a solid promise of the power we have in Jesus. Worship him!
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.’
Jesus defeats Satan every time because he has all authority over everything, and always has had (Luke 10:18)! But by disarming Satan through dying on the cross for our sins, he made it possible for us to know freedom from and victory over Satan’s influence (Colossians 2:15).
What is your belief about supernatural power? The two responses here are: ‘He’s supernatural so he’s the Messiah’ (the open-hearted crowd, v 23); and ‘He’s supernatural, and because we refuse to believe he’s the Messiah, he must be satanic’ (the closed-minded Pharisees, v 24). Jesus shows how illogical the Pharisees are. How and why would Satan defeat Satan (vs 25–29)? Michael Green writes: ‘There is a danger of falling under demonic influence if you deliberately shut your eyes to good and call it evil as some of the Pharisees were doing.’* Their determined rejection of the Spirit’s work was blasphemous (vs 31,32). If you’re concerned about having committed this sin, don’t worry – your concern shows you haven’t!
Jesus also operates supernaturally: he ‘knew their thoughts’ (v 25). Occasionally, sickness can be a manifestation of the demonic, but we must be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, so as not to hurt people. Whether from sickness or demon, Jesus’ power can set people free: free people, free people!
*Michael Green, The Message of Matthew, IVP, 2000
Our words can judge us (vs 33–37). How are you speaking godly things into other people’s lives?
Deeper Bible study
‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord’.1 How pleasing to God have your words been recently?
Most people recognise that the old saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is untrue: we have all been hurt by others’ words. In today’s reading the Pharisees have some shockingly malicious things to say about Jesus, which he takes extremely seriously.
The Pharisees had witnessed Jesus perform an exorcism that amazed the crowd, yet they would not accept this was of God. Instead they tried to explain it away by claiming that Jesus was in league with the devil (Beelzebul, v 24). They could not bring themselves to admit that this miracle was done in God’s power, because that would have meant accepting that Jesus really was the Messiah – something they did not want to do. This is why Jesus calls out their behaviour as sin against the Holy Spirit, unforgivable because they denied that God’s Spirit was at work through Jesus even though they could clearly see that it was.
Jesus goes on to warn that their false words will have serious consequences, for what comes from the mouth reflects what a person is really like inside and they will have to give an account before God about everything they have said. There is a warning for us here, too, that it is not just our actions that count but our words as well. However, this is not something we can change simply by trying hard to control our tongue. Despite our best efforts, the real us will be revealed through the words that slip out of our mouths in unguarded moments. We need, instead, to get to the root of the problem and ask God for help with the insecurity, jealousy, bitterness, fear etc that lie at the heart of our unpleasant comments and angry retorts. Only God can cleanse us from within.
What have you said recently that has not been pleasing to God? What lies at the heart of those words? Do you need God’s help and healing with those issues?
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Job 7,8; Psalms 81,82
Pray for Scripture Union
Livewires is a technology holiday for 11- to 14-year-olds, and their online activities start today. Pray for good relationships and an openness to be established so that young people feel confident to explore faith and ask questions.