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Luke 11:14-28

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Lent 3
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Mar 7, 2021 

First off, who is this “beelzebul”?  The name originally came from an idol worshiped in the city of Zebul.  This was the beel or ba-al of Zebul.  As many false gods were demons, behind this idol was the chief ruler of the demons, satan. 

The name was later slightly changed to “beelzebub”, ending with a B instead of an L.  beelzebub literally means “the lord of flies” which may have been a name used to mock him.  Yet flies may harass and bite.  The fourth plague in Egypt, swarms of flies, was noting to laugh at.  They befouled the whole land.

The evil spirits of beelzebub’s kingdom, like swarms of flies, are an evil, disgusting, unclean host.  That army holds much territory.  When they lose any territory, they want to retake it.

You are the territory they have lost.  They had you, but Christ now has rescued you from them.  They desperately want you back.  As flies can be found where there is a dead body, so swarms of demons are found where the spiritually dead are.  Yet they also plague the living, which is you.  By biting and buzzing at you, they hope to panic you into being driven back into their kingdom.

As our text says, when a demon is driven out of a man, the unclean spirit goes and finds seven other spirits worse than him, and they go back to retake the soul they lost.

This is scary, yet there is comfort in the fact that we have on our side something that Christ calls the Finger of God.  What is this Finger of God?  In the Old Testament Reading, the magicians of Pharaoh were able to reproduce some of the plagues that God created.  Probably, the magicians were using trickery, or else it was demonic power.  Regardless, when they tried to produce gnats as God did for the third plague, they were unable.  So they said to Pharaoh, “This is the Finger of God.” In other words, a power was there that exceeded that of man or so-called gods, which are demons.

In the Evangelist Luke’s account in our bulletin, Christ says, “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.” In the Evangelist Matthew’s account, it is exactly word for word the same as Luke’s except for one word that is changed.  In Matthew, the word “Finger” is replaced with “Spirit”.  Matthew says, “By the Spirit of God I cast our demons.” Since the holy writers, by inspiration of the same Spirit, used these two words interchangeably, then we can trust their judgment.  The Finger of God IS the Spirit of God.

We know that the kingdom of God is where the Spirit works.  In other words, the kingdom is where the Spirit’s power comes in and with the Word.  Christ, the incarnate Word, used the Spirit to drive out demons.  He seems to always have done this with the spoken Word from His mouth.  So the Spirit always accompanies the Word.  He drives back beelzebul’s demons.  The kingdom of darkness is no match for the Finger of God.

So beelzebul, who is no dummy realizes that he needs to separate you from the Finger of God.  If you can be driven by the devil’s buzzing and stinging, then you might avoid the Spirit and the spoken Word.  To achieve this, beelzebul tries to get you to focus on preserving your life, or to focus on avoiding persecution, or to focus on contempt for other Christians.  He has other tools to help these goals, like stimulating pride in your heart, or even its opposite, shame.

beelzebul is very good at this, a master at his craft.  But it is all trickery.  If you faithfully hold to the Word, then the Finger of God will protect you from the worst that demons or the sinful world can dish out.

The Lord help us, since we may soon face days when we must stand against the biting swarm of persecution.

So guard yourself that you do not sin against the Holy Spirit.  This means to slander or blaspheme the Spirit even when you have received convincing proof of His power.  This is what we see when the Pharisees essentially called the Holy Spirit “beelzebul”, and as Pharaoh hardened himself to ignore the power of God’s plagues.  In a very broad sense, to sin against the Spirit means rejecting the Word and faith, and thus the Spirit who gives them.

Since we have received the most powerful works of the Spirit through Word, water, and bread and wine, we must take care that we do not treat these works lightly.  If we blaspheme the Finger of God by acting as if our Baptism is nothing, then woe to us.  If we treat the Supper of Christ as nothing significant, then woe to us.  If we fail to treat the preaching of the Word as sacred and gladly hear and learn it, then woe to us.  Particularly when we have once tasted the good Word of God and become partakers of the Holy Spirit and tasted the heavenly gift, if we fall away from these treasures, we place ourselves in severe danger of eternal death.

So Christ says, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me.” This is said against those who hear the Gospel yet dismiss it, saying, “Christ is great, but He is not my only hope.” or “Christ is a wise Teacher, but not the Son of God who alone beats satan.” Other foolish reactions to the Gospel are likewise destructive.

This Church is a kingdom.  You are either a subject of the King through faith, which is complete trust in Christ and Him alone, or else you are still with beelzebul, whatever you may think of yourself.

Of yourself you could never beat beelzebul.  But Christ our Savior has.  When our powerful hero met the roaring lion, He tore him apart, just as Samson, by the power of the Spirit, ripped apart a lion with his bear hands.  The roaring lion that Christ mortally wounded is beelzebul.  Our spiritual enemy held the human race captive.  But when Christ freed us, we were like a sweet treasure to him.  In the same way, Samson later found bees and honey in the corpse of the lion he slew.

The whole reason Samson was traveling that road was because he was seeking a bride.  So also our Samson, Christ, was seeking a holy bride for Himself.  His victory over beelzebul created a Church, Christ’s beloved bride. 

The exorcism of demons that we hear about in the holy Gospel were some of the skirmishes between Christ and the prowling lion’s forces.  Later would come the climactic battle, when the dark sky was over the Cross, and the kingdom of darkness was defeated by holy Blood, and the serpent’s head was crushed, and Christ won the sweet reward His labor: us.

He suffered so much to win the victory.  He wrestled hard and was deeply wounded in the battle.  Could anyone think that He was not motivated strongly by His love?  Of course He was, and still is.  He does not desire to see you snatched back again by the lion’s servants.  So He has provided His mighty Finger in this place so that the demons can be driven away.  They hate the sound of this holy Word.  The bites and stings they inflict are soothed by the healing medicine here.  The schemes of beelzebul are thwarted here.

This is how Christ our dear Lord, our mighty hero, saves us and keeps us safe.  All praise be to Him forever.  Amen.

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