Jesus, The Strong Man
Those who observed Jesus’s actions of healing saw them as ‘signs’ - signs of God’s power. The poor and the sick praised and thanked God because of this, but the Jewish establishment did not. The scribes and the Pharisees, the learned people of the day, refused to accept these actions as signs from God, but alleged that Jesus was in league with the devil.
Why were the scribes and Pharisees so hostile to what Jesus did? Largely because he didn’t fit in with their assumptions. For them, religion was a matter of show and pretence, not of the compassionate heart. Jesus saw through them.
The Pharisees were annoyed that he helped the poor and ordinary folk so easily, but refused to concede them the spectacular sign they wanted.
Jesus bolsters his arguments with a peculiar metaphor. The world is in the thrall of the evil one, he says, just like an armed man who keeps watch over his house and property. But supposing one even stronger attacks him and takes possession of his house? Jesus says “I am that one even stronger and when I exorcize demons from the bodies of the sick, it shows that the reign of God is now present among you, bringing relationships of justice, compassion, generosity and good health.”
The metaphor continues: there’s no sense in expelling the demon from one’s soul, if the spirit of holiness doesn’t take its place. It’s like a well-furnished house – neat, clean, but empty. It almost begs to be broken into and occupied.
So too, a man’s soul. After the soul has been cleansed of its ways of sin, God’s spirit must be present and active in it. It can’t remain empty, without purpose, for long. It’s only the good spirit of Jesus, the Strong One of God, who has the force to keep us from being dominated by the evil one.
So here’s a point to ponder: is my soul like that? Neat and clean, but empty?
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