Jesus’ life, works, and teaching demand a decision about who He is. Do we accept Him as Lord and Savior or foolishly try to explain away the things He taught by word and deed? There is no middle ground.
Now as we set sail on our Wisdom Journey here in Luke chapter 11, Jesus is about six months away from His crucifixion. While His ministry continues in Judea, He is slowly making His way to Jerusalem for the final time. He is fully aware that the Jewish leaders are watching His every move, hoping for a chance to end the threat to their power that they perceive Him to be.
Verse 14 informs us, “He was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.” They marveled because they knew that only God had the power to command the demonic world. And Jesus is not using any special incense or incantations like the rabbis did. But instead of marveling—and rejoicing—the religious leaders are infuriated. Frankly, they are being shown up here by the authentic, divine power of Jesus.
It is one thing to argue with Jesus’ teaching—they are still trying to figure out how to do that—but it is another thing entirely to ignore His power.
So, Jesus’ opponents are left with one option—here it is, in verse 15: “But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons.’” They cannot deny what He’s doing, so they attempt to discredit how He is doing it. They say it is by Satan’s (Beelzebul’s) power, and not God’s. Beelzebul means “lord of the house,” a reference to Satan’s dark kingdom power.
Verse 16 tells us that others in the crowd begin demanding that Jesus give “a sign from heaven” to prove He is not in league with the devil. This, of course, is ridiculous, because He has just given them a sign from heaven by casting out a demon. As one author stated, they now want signs that those signs were signs.
Instead of giving them yet another sign, Jesus makes them think. He enrolls them in a crash course in logic, as if to say, “Why don’t you use your minds for a change?” Here is what He says:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” (verses 17-18)
In other words, if Satan is casting out his own demons, then the demonic world is divided against itself. Jesus continues in verse 19:
“If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.”
Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words here: “If Satan is the one empowering Me, who is empowering your religious leaders when they cast out demons?”
Jesus now lands the final blow on their twisted logic; He says in verse 20, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Again, paraphrasing, Jesus says, “If Satan’s kingdom is powerless against Me, isn’t it obvious that I am the king of a greater kingdom and that my kingdom is empowered by the finger of God?”
These religious leaders would immediately understand this allusion back to Exodus, where Pharaoh’s magicians finally yielded to the supremacy of the God of Moses and told Pharaoh “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).
Jesus’ further allusion in Luke 11:21-22 about the strong man (Satan) and the stronger man (Jesus) illustrates the fatal flaw in His critics’ logic. Jesus is effectively saying, “I am the physical, tangible incarnation of the finger of God. And because of who I am, and the superior power of my kingdom, isn’t it time you decided whether are you My follower or not? I am drawing a line in the sand; you need to make a decision.”
Here is the direct challenge in verse 23: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Satan is scattering and destroying; Jesus is gathering and building. Whose side are you on? You have to choose. Warren Wiersbe writes, “We must make a choice, and if we choose to make no choice, we are really choosing against Him.”
There is no such thing as neutrality in true Christianity. You cannot sit on the fence. Neutrality is unbelief. You cannot take Jesus as your example but not your Leader; you cannot take Him as your Savior but not your Sovereign. I believe that is why Jesus goes on here to distinguish between moral reformation and spiritual regeneration:
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (verses 24-26)
The point is that a moral reformation without spiritual regeneration is worthless in combating the kingdom of darkness. Here is someone Jesus describes as morally upright. He has swept out the more obvious sins, so to speak; he has turned over a new leaf in life; but the spiritual vacuum still exists.
He is deceived by his own sense of morality and spirituality, and this only opens the door to allow even more evil to sweep in and lead him farther and farther from the kingdom of light and into the clutches of the kingdom of darkness. “It is not enough to empty out what’s wrong,” one author wrote; we need to be filled with all that is right as we follow Jesus Christ.
Immediately after this, there is another response from the crowd. This one is closer to the truth, but it still misses the point. Verse 27:
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”
This is actually a compliment. It was common in these days, both in Roman culture and Jewish culture, to praise someone by congratulating his or her mother. This woman is saying to Jesus, “Your mother was so blessed to have a son like You.” I can assure you, that is something my mother never heard when I was growing up!
Jesus does not rebuke her. He does not scold the woman for this compliment; He just tells her she is missing the point. He says to her here in verse 28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” The original construction could be translated, “Yes, but blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Jesus does not want to be complimented, admired, or applauded. He is demanding worship and obedience to His word. In these events, Jesus is revealing the power of His word.
- His word frees the demonized man.
- His word overpowers the kingdom of Satan.
- His word fills the emptiness of your soul.
And His word is like a line drawn in the sand, inviting you to cross over it and follow Him into the kingdom of heaven. Make your decision to follow Jesus now.
A research project of Columbia University from a few years ago found that the average person consciously makes around 70 decisions a day, from what to wear to what to eat for lunch. That adds up to around 25,000 decisions a year. Over an average lifetime of 75 to 80 years, a person will make some 2 million decisions.
But of those two million decisions, none will ever be as important as your decision to claim Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. I made that decision when I was seventeen years old—I decided whose side I was on.
What about you today? Whose side are you on? Listen, a hundred years from now, you will still be grateful that you decided to follow Jesus.
 Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1984), 270.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Compassionate: Luke 1–13 (Victor Books, 1989), 126.
 Bruce B. Barton, Dave Veerman, and Linda K. Taylor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale, 1997), 298.
 David E. Garland, “Luke” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, vol. 1, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Zondervan, 2002). 42.
 Cited in John Ortberg, All the Places to Go (Tyndale House, 2015), 8.