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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 28, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 12:22–32

Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 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. (NRSV)

So, here is Jesus, casting out yet another demon, like he was prone to do. And the religious authorities, not real happy with Jesus for infringing on their turf, hit on the bright idea that he can do this because he’s the head demon himself. Aha! What do you say to that, Jesus?

And Jesus basically says, “Are you listening to the words coming out of your mouth? You have guys doing the same thing. If I can do it because I’m a demon, what does that say about your guys?”

Another “Jesus Foils the Pharisees” story. Gotta love ’em.

And then Jesus says something important, something that can get lost in all the exorcism and blasphemy talk surrounding it. Something vital about things that sustain us and the people who try to undercut them. It’s about a strong man and his house and those who would bind him and plunder the house. Because of its proximity to the exorcism stuff, one might think that it was about binding evil and destroying its work, but when you look at it that way, God is the plunderer. Not a good description of the work of God, plunder.

Nope, the strong man? That’s the Spirit of God. And the strong man’s house, that’s the kingdom of God. And the authorities who are trying to deny the work of the Spirit, saying it’s the work of the devil? They’re the ones trying to bind the strong man so the house can be plundered.

The Holy Spirit nurtures and sustains the kingdom of God, and our choice is to either stand with the institutions that sustain and protect or with the plunderers. In a world of foggy choices, that’s a clear one.

Lord, you have given your sustaining spirit, nurtured in us a love of that which is good and just, and commanded us to hold to the good and honor all of your children. Give us the strength to resist the plunderers, so that your gifts may be for all people. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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