14 One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed, 15 but some of them said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” 16 Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
17 He knew their thoughts, so he said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 18 You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive? 19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 20 But if I am casting out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 21 For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe — 22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings. 23 Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. 24 When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ 25 So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. 26 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.”
27 As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!”
28 Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
Since we began reading Luke, I have been pointing out the intricate ways one passage ties into the next, because I think a great deal of meaning is waiting to be found there, and yet is often overlooked in a cursory reading. The whole point of this Red Letter Year exercise is to read the Gospels – the very heart of Christian Scripture – carefully and deeply. Today is one of those days that makes such effort obviously worthwhile.
Though elements are drawn from Matthew and Mark, a good deal of today’s reading is unique to Luke and nearly all of it serves as a deepening counterpoint to Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (see yesterday’s reading). Jesus told them to ask for the Holy Spirit of heaven, instead they ask for a sign from heaven. Jesus told them to ask for no testing, instead they test Jesus. Jesus told them to ask for forgiveness of sin, instead they accuse Jesus of sin. Jesus told them to pray to the Father, instead they accuse him of being in league with Satan.
All of this culminates in an illuminating word picture of the nature of human spirituality. Jesus describes delivering someone of demonic influence like cleaning up a wrecked room. The bad tenet is evicted, everything in cleaned and set in order, and the room stands empty. Significantly, Luke attributes this work to the “finger of God” (I had to make a small alteration to the NLT to reflect what the Greek has), not the Spirit or the power of God, as he so often does (“power of God” is what the NLT uses, favoring continuity over accuracy here). I think this is because Luke wanted his readers to make the connection to this empty room, which still stands under threat of squatters, and the last thing from the previous reading – the Father gives the Holy Spirit to all those who ask. What keeps the squatters out is the presence of the only legitimate tenet of the human soul – the Holy Spirit. Luke is the first Gospel writer to give us an understanding of the Spirit indwelling people. God enters the house, drives out the enemy and takes up residence. This action is at the root of all prayer. This action is how the kingdom of God breaks in and defeats the kingdom of Satan. This is what we are to hear and put into practice – that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to dwell in all who ask. Ask for the Holy Spirit. Not once. Not once in a while. Continuously. Be filled with the Holy Spirit today. And everyday.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.