Mark 3:22-27

ALLIANCE OR CONQUEST?

Mk. 3:22-27

The experts in the law from Jerusalem came down. They said, “He has Beelzebub on his side.” They said, “It is by the ruler of the demons that he casts out the demons.” Jesus called them and spoke to them by way of analogy. “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan had risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand–he is finished. No one can go into the house of a strong man and plunder his gear unless he first binds the strong man–then he will plunder his house.”

The orthodox officials never questioned Jesus’ power to exorcise demons. They did not need to, for exorcism was a common phenomenon then, as it still is, in the East. What they did say was that Jesus’ power was due to the fact that he was in league with the king of the demons, that, as one commentator puts it, “it was by the great demon he cast out the little demons.” People have always believed in “black magic,” and that is what they claimed Jesus was practising.

Jesus had no difficulty in exploding that argument. The essence of exorcism has always been that the exorcist calls to his aid some stronger power to drive out the weaker demon. So Jesus says: “Just think! If there is internal dissension in a kingdom, that kingdom cannot last. If there are quarrels in a house, that house will not endure long. If Satan is actually making war with his own demons then he is finished as an effective power, because civil war has begun in the kingdom of Satan.” “Put it another way,” Jesus said. “Suppose you want to rob a strong man. You have no hope of doing so until you have got the strong man under subjection. Once you have got him tied up you can plunder his goods–but not until then.” The defeat of the demons did not show that Jesus was in alliance with Satan; it showed that Satan’s defences had been breached; a stronger name had arrived; the conquest of Satan had begun. Two things emerge here.

(i) Jesus accepts life as a struggle between the power of evil and the power of God. He did not waste his time in speculations about problems to which there is no answer. He did not stop to argue about where evil came from; but he did deal with it most effectively. One of the odd things is that we spend a good deal of time discussing the origin of evil; but we spend less time working out practical methods of tackling the problem. Someone put it this way–suppose a man wakes up to find his house on fire, he does not sit down in a chair and embark upon the reading of a treatise entitled “The Origin of Fires in Private Houses.” He grabs such defences as he can muster and deals with the fire. Jesus saw the essential struggle between good and evil which is at the heart of life and raging in the world. He did not speculate about it; he dealt with it and gave to others the power to overcome evil and do the right.

(ii) Jesus regarded the defeat of disease as part of the conquest of Satan. This is an essential part of Jesus’ thought. He desired, and was able, to save men’s bodies as well as men’s souls. The doctor and the scientist who meet the challenge of disease are sharing in the defeat of Satan as much as the preacher of the word. The doctor and the minister are not doing different work but the same work. They are not rivals but allies in God’s warfare against the power of evil.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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