By now this is no longer a new story: Jesus drives out a demon, the man who had been possessed recovers completely, and the crowd is dazzled; why shouldn’t they be? Then something different takes place when some in the crowd say that Jesus is driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons. Matthew identifies these people as Pharisees…
By this time, Jesus is very popular with a significant block of the public and as such, He is a threat to the established order of things. The “establishment” is concerned, and desperate to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the public so that they can do away with Him entirely to protect their positions. Consequently, there is nothing too ridiculous to accuse Him of in public; they will stoop to any lie no matter how obviously wrong, for it is their strategy to put doubt in the minds of His supporters with the sheer volume of accusations.
If you follow the news, this tactic will seem quite familiar to you.
So, they accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of darkness… Show us a sign!
Some of the Pharisees’ followers, establishment types, have also driven out demons, and Jesus goes on the offensive:
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (11:17-20)
Those Pharisees are looking a bit stupid, but Jesus isn’t quite finished with them…
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (11:21-23)
To drive out the forces of Satan, you have to be a lot stronger than Satan, and if you aren’t on the side of Jesus in this battle, you are on the other side.
In 11:24-26 Jesus says something that might explain why the followers of the Pharisees haven’t had the kind of success with demons that Jesus has had, for they might run off a demon, but the demon comes back with a bunch of his buddies and the person is worse off than before, because they aren’t the “strong man”, Jesus is. At this point a woman shouts from the crowd:
“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (11:27-28)
His opponents who will say anything to discredit Him have just heard the Word of God. Will they obey it?
I wouldn’t hold my breath.