A House Divided
One of the characteristic markers of the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s gospel is his power to cast out evil spirits. I think phrase "cast out" sounds archaic, but that is used in newer versions like ESV and NLT. The NCV uses "force demons out." Some people would use the word "exorcize," but that leaves a faulty impression. "Exorcize" implies a ritual incantation’ it is defined as "to drive out an evil spirit from a person, place or thing, especially by an incantation or prayer." Jesus didn't do that; he simply told them to come out and they did. In fact, sometimes He didn't even tell them to come out; they saw him and left, pausing only to acknowledge him as the Song of God (Mark 3:11-12). The question that is often asked is "Do demons still possess people today?" All I know is that if we stay near to Jesus, we will stay safe!
What did Jesus enemies do when they saw Jesus exercising exorcisms (groan)? They already had decided that they would kill him (Mark 3:6). When faced with such obvious demonstrations of power, Jesus’ enemies had to say something. So they accused him of working for the other side, “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons" (Mark 3:22). They had to come up with something, so they brought some experts down from the home office. But all they could come up with was saying that Jesus had demonic power, and he was using His demonic power to drive out demons! (Did any of them ever consider the fact that if Jesus did have demonic power, ticking him off would have been less than an intelligent thing to do? I guess they never saw the Exorcist!).
Jesus points out the rather obvious truth—Satan wouldn’t use power to defeat his own minions. No army succeeds by declaring war on itself! Jesus put it this way in Mark 3:24-26—
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
OK, so Abraham Lincoln often gets credit for that line, which he quoted when running for the Senate in 1858. But the line is from Jesus. Satan would not threaten his own empire by casting out his own demons. No, Jesus had himself come to earth to destroy Satan's empire and rescue Satan’s victims. If Satan attacked himself like that… well, he would be acting just like the church! Doesn't the church on earth look like a house divided against itself? Doesn’t the church often look like a kingdom attacking itself as one faction, denomination or congregation attacks another? And what did Jesus saw about a house divided?
So Satan is smarter than God’s people! It’s time to cease all our in-house, intramural battling and fix our eyes on Jesus and follow His example. Churches don't have to be just alike to work together. And even when we can't work close together, we can at least avoid battling each other. When we stay close to Jesus, the demons get out of the way!