After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studied the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals a Blind, Mute Demoniac
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
This is at least the second time Jesus heals a deaf mute man. Consider Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #23 – Jesus Heals a Deaf and Dumb Man. This is not the same miracle, for He is in a different region and the response provided to this miracle is much different. In the previous miracle, the response of those who witnessed the healing was
Mark 7:38 “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
This miracle has a different response, with some of the crowd (can we guess who it may be?) claiming His power is from the devil! Let’s begin looking at this mighty work of Jesus!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
I think we can assume the disciples were present, along with a general crowd, and of course there were “some” who just couldn’t handle what was going on. Though Luke calls the protagonists “some in the crowd”, Matthew identifies them as Pharisees. That group of religious guardians, protecting the nation from heretics and charlatans. What saviors!
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
The miracle of exorcising the demon in order for a deaf mute man’s healing seems to sometimes get lost in the reading of the passages above due to the Pharisee’s claim of Jesus working with the devil. Yet this miracle pushes a group of religionists into voicing a claim that they could not resist. Jesus worked for the devil. They had no alternative argument, for it was obvious that Jesus had powerful “friends”. Yet they could not admit Jesus was a true prophet (little lone the Messiah), for He did not fit into their preconceived notions/beliefs of the Messiah.
Preconceived notions and hardened beliefs of their Messiah!
So why did the Lord perform this miracle?
Did He perform the miracle to release a poor man from suffering? Obviously His compassion led Him to free some from bondage in very specific ways, and though nothing is stated in the text, His care for those suffering must have been a motivator. After all, He is on a mission to provide healing and freedom to all.
Or did He deliver this man from the demon to initiate this discussion? Possibly, for we see the Lord providing other situations where He performed a miracle to make a larger point. Consider healing on the Sabbath. He definitely could wait a few hours to keep from “working on the sabbath”, but He didn’t – He healed on the sabbath, and out of multiple sabbath healings, opinions were expressed and teaching of His person came to light.
What was the message for the original audience?
The message to the original audience concerning the miracle is the response Jesus gives to the Pharisees claim that He worked for the devil. This claim, though ridiculous, brought to the Godhead an ultimate defamation of the character of God. Certainly this charge by the religious guardians was not to go unchallenged. Yet Jesus argued logically, and not (as far as I can tell) emotionally. He knew their thoughts, and entered into a discussion with them. These men that stated such a ridiculous claim were “dyed in the wool” religionists, committed to their stance and belief in their view of God. Committed and willing to make claims that were extreme, in order to protect their world.
Jesus responded to the Pharisee’s claim with a three part message.
“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? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.
Jesus began addressing the Pharisee’s claim by a general precept no one can argue against. No kingdom can be united and strong by being divided. A kingdom cannot fight against itself. Jesus reiterated the Pharisee’s belief in the dark world, in Beelzeeb, speaking of Satan (the accuser) as the one who typifies the dark kingdom, the leader of the kingdom of darkness. In speaking of Satan’s kingdom, Jesus did not shy away from admitting of the enemy, but also spoke of the staying power of a kingdom. Satan, or any king, will not orchestrate a condition where He intentionally weakens his own kingdom, for that would be foolish and lead to the kingdom becoming waste. Thankfully, Jesus will actually perform this destruction of Satan’s kingdom, but His argument for this discussion is internally based. Satan would not hurt his own reign!
And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
The Pharisee’s must have had men in the ministry who also cast out demons, and Jesus turns their claim back on them. They surely did not think this out, but then again, they had no other option at this point if they were going to continue to resist the mounting evidence of proof that He was the Messiah!
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Who is the strong man? When I first read this passage years ago, I automatically assumed the strong man was Jesus. (Jesus was the answer for every question, just like in a 3 yr old sunday school class! How silly!)
The strong man was obviously not Jesus. Jesus is describing the condition He entered into, a situation where Satan guarded his own house (or kingdom), and yet was able to strip Satan’s authority over the deaf mute. Jesus openly overcame the one who had authority over the deaf man, providing on going proof of His greater strength and ability to overcome the strong man (Satan).
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Jesus last statement is telling, and I often think of this statement out of context. Yet He does not speak this statement in a vacuum. You Pharisee’s, you are against me. You are not with Me, and your actions are proving that you are actively against me.
You Pharisees are scattering!
Remember, that during the Messiah controversy, the Pharisees motivation for arguing against the Messiahship of Jesus was that He would destroy the kingdom of Israel, that His teaching would divide and destroy the nation.
What is the message for us today?
Preconceived notions. I spoke of this earlier and the path it led the Pharisee’s down when they encountered a Messiah unlike they expected.
For myself, I have been a believer for over forty years, and the Lord has been very kind to me in my understanding of His nature. Do not get me wrong, I do not think I ever claimed His workings to be sourced from the devil, yet I have made comments and statements that were surely as foolish as the Pharisees did after this miracle.
My concern is that any preconceived notions of the Master have to be pliable, based on His teachings! No, I am not saying we need to accept any and all thoughts on Who He is, what He is like and how He relates to us. Not at all. Yet we all fall into a religious thinking process that can become a trap, an opportunity to become stuck in an opinion that needs to be shook up.
His life and teachings, found in the New Testament, are a blinding revelation of God’s nature. Though the Old Testament provided glimpses of light, as a candle in a dark cave, His appearance fully revealed God’s character, nature, love and mercy. To go back to an Old Testament passage to build a picture of God may not be the wisest of choices, if we are not firmly settled in the picture of God given by our Suffering Servant Savior.
As I grew into my Christianity, I sometimes veered into teachings that could be supported by obscure texts, passages in the Old Testament, or logical extrapolations of texts that seemed to make sense. One example was my commitment to a literal Bible. (See my A Literal Bible – Part 1 & A Literal Bible – Part 2 for my current understanding.) I often would claim that the Bible is to be read literally, and the Old Testament, since it was provided first, should interpret the New Testament. I elevated the Old Testament to a level above the revelation of the Son of God, and it made sense to me. I struggled for years with seeming contradictions and passages I had to make excuses for. Some of these excuses were surely to defend the honor of God, yet as I look back, I find I may have had my own interest in heart as opposed to the truth.
It is an act and a process to turn from religion to Jesus. The disciples struggled with it. Surely Peter thought Jesus was honored by the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount. His disciples (ancient and current) sometimes completely misunderstand who He is!
And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
Jesus is not on the same level as Moses and Elijah. Listen to Jesus. Let the revelation of Jesus change your preconceived notions and begin to gather with Jesus, and not to scatter from Him.
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