Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

2nd Sunday after Shunoyo - the Festival of Assumption

Devotional Thoughts on Luke 11:14-26

by Rev. Fr. K. K. John, Philadelphia

Gospel: Luke 11:14-26.

Today’s gospel deals with what happened after Jesus healed a mute demon possessed man. When the man started speaking, the multitude reacted in three ways,

(1) began marveling at the miracle. Gentlemen in the multitude would have surely appreciated the good deed of Jesus, but not all were happy.
(2) Some of them alleged; Jesus performed the miracle employing the medium of Beelzebub, chief of devils.
(3) Some others sought him to perform a more spectacular miracle from heaven, as if it were not enough, the man possessed by dumb evil spirit was free from his infirmity, became normal and started speaking.

It was surely a slander against Jesus because they were jealous of the increasing popularity of Jesus. Wicked people resort to slandering the righteous due to insecurity feeling and inferiority complex. Jesus pointed out the contradiction in their thought; Jesus employs three parables to elucidate his point:

(1) A country with internal strife,
(2) a house divided by internal conflicts, and
(3) subduing and plundering a strong one.

Jesus explained; casting out a demon by another demon tantamount to Satan working against his own house and that would fall. Satan would not cause his own peril. If I am working signs, in league with Satan as you allege, it means that the rule of Satan has been subdued, his domain has come to an end and the kingdom of God is established. “Surely, kingdom of God has come upon you,” v20 is a statement Jesus repeated very often. In fact, Jesus heralded his ministry by saying, “Time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel,” Mark 1:15. Thus it has eschatological ramification. Bultmann says, “This verse, can in my view, claim the highest degree of authenticity which we can make for any saying of Jesus.”

Here, Satan is the strong man fully armed. Satan’s armor is craftiness to keep the souls away from good influences (virtues). Satan usurped the whole world, which he made his realm of activity. His goods are the souls he holds captive. St John says, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world,” 1John 2:16. These were the armor Satan used against Adam and Eve; they failed and came under the dominion of Satan. Satan employed the same armor to tempt Jesus; Jesus won and Satan failed. Thus stronger one is none other than Christ who casts out demons. The spoil is the souls Jesus rescue from the power of Satan. And “Finger of God” stands for Holy Spirit.

Exorcism was part of the Jewish tradition and therefore a Jew doubting its validity is contradicting his own practice that was unreasonable. Some of the Jews held that Solomon with his skill with herbs invented a special kind of exorcism, which was popular, even in the first century AD, says Jewish historian Josephus. Mathew (12:22-30) and Mark (3:20-27) add, that it is a sin against Holy Spirit to say that Jesus was performing miracles with the help of Beelzebub. Luke says it in a different context. Holy Scriptures, the apostles and the Church fathers taught us that there are two kinds of sin, (1) forgivable sins, say, sins that cause injury to the soul and (2) unforgivable sins; that is, sins that kill the soul. “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray for that. All unrighteousness is sin and there is sin not leading to death,”1John 5:16-17, Jer 7:16. Forgivable sins could be absolved through repentance, confession and absolution, so that it would not affect the life of soul. Unforgivable sin on the other hand is that which leads the soul to eternal condemnation.

Sins are differentiated according to their degree or severity as follows:

(a) Seven sins are categorized as deadly sins;

(1) pride,
(2) greed,
(3) lust,
(4) anger,
(5) gluttony,
(6) jealousy, and
(7) laziness.

(b) Another six sins are deemed to be “Sins against Holy Spirit” or unforgivable sins;

(1) thinking that God is merciful and forgives all sins, no matter what,
(2) hopelessness or utter despair,
(3) denial of truth,
(4) jealousy against the spiritual growth of others,
(5) deliberately living in sinful state,
(6) unwillingness to repent.

Sin against Holy Spirit is unforgivable because it is Satanic in origin and any effort to interpret things pertaining to good and virtuous with the impersonation of evil implies a moral wreck which is beyond the scope of redemption.

(c) Yet another four sins are said to be, “Sins that cry to heaven for revenge,” which is also unforgivable,

(1) preplanned murder,
(2) sin of Sodom or unnatural/forbidden sexual contacts which in the recent years the western world accepted as normal. Western affluence and influence have driven many countries and states in the U.S. to redefine the concept of marriage, which is debauchery and spiritual suicide,
(3) Persecuting the poor and the weak,
(4) Exploiting and depriving the laborer’s wages.

(d) Again, “certain sins drive others into sin and become self-victims of sin,”

(1) evil/wicked/immoral thoughts/discussions,
(2) Instructing/ordering to commission evil deeds,
(3) permitting to commit evil things,
(4) instigating and stubbornness,
(5) praising for wrong doings and flattering for wrong reasons,
(6) Hiding/suppressing the truth,
(7) keeping silence/failing to tell the truth when needed,
(8) evil company/friendship with wicked people,
(9) swearing the wrong doings as correct,
(From appendix of the Book of Holy Quorbono).

Shortly, "Persistence in consummate and obdurate opposition to the influence of Holy Spirit is sin," Jerome commentary.

Jesus insists that Holy Spirit is working through him which is a sign that Kingdom of God has come. Satan is strong and only a stronger one (God) can overcome Satan. This is an evidence of Jesus claiming Deity, v20-23. He who does not join Jesus in building up the Kingdom of God is against him and he shall eventually be lost. Indispensability of believing in the Gospel and confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior for the sake of salvation is explained in various other places in the bible. “He who does not believe in Jesus is condemned already,” John 3:18. Jesus himself said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. “Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Phil 2:11. A true Christian cannot be neutral, he must be on the side of truth, God and virtues or he must be full of vices; he cannot remain lukewarm. Many Christians are unaware that Jesus hates lukewarm attitude, “You are neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth,” Rev 3:16. He who keeps aloof from virtues is inadvertently helping the wicked. However, the great tragedy is that people disregard or twist the Scriptures saying that one can believe and practice in any manner he/she likes, religion or faith does not matter, all roads leads to same destination, all religions ultimately culminates in one and the same point, etc. Scriptures, especially sayings of Jesus need be taken in the figurative sense, not in actual sense, for instance, ‘Jesus said, “I am the door,” but he was not a wooden pole or a plank so make a door and hence cannot be taken in the practical sense,’ so said Princess Ann of England defending her Protestant faith before her execution (from an interview with her). Those who insist in the validity of the Scriptures are branded as fundamentalists, traditionalists, conservatives and so on. This is the true apostasy.

Verses 24-26 are a parable, warnings against apostasy. An unclean spirit went out of a man. Evil spirits are restless until they find safe havens. This verse reflects the contemporary belief of the Jews that the evil spirits live in deserts/empty places and roam around looking for preys. Demons workout their wicked designs using human beings as the medium. Satan is at perennial war with God; he has avowed to revenge and defeat God by destroying family life, which God instituted. The man from whom the evil spirit went out was lazy. His heart was empty, which is not natural. Heart and mind should not be empty but full with either good or evil. When one fails to fill the mind with good thoughts, Satan occupies the empty space and fills it with all sorts of wickedness, converting him still worse. It was not enough to drive out evil but also had to fill the heart with virtuous thoughts. Be steadfast to avoid gossip, slandering others especially in the presence of children. Instead of finding fault with others introspect and see if there is anything wrong with “me.” Let correction start with me, not with ‘he or she’ first. The demon brings in demons more wickedly than itself so that the man’s predicament was worse than before; means the man started doing still worse wickedness than before. The old saying goes true, “An idle mind is the workshop of Satan.”

The best way to avoid evil is to involve in good, namely, spend the leisure time by reading good books such as biographies and autobiographies of great men like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhiji; travel, devotional and scriptural books. One will be influenced by what he/she reads. Read the Holy Bible regularly and meditate on it at least briefly and pray to God to help in our weakness, “Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered,” Rom 8:26.

God Bless you.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 2nd sunday after Shunoyo

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