What follows is the transcript I preached from at Park Community Church, Edgebrook this Sunday. The passage was Mark 3:22-30. Please excuse any typos.
Are you trying to win a war that’s already been won?
Once upon a time (there are children worshiping with us this morning, so I thought that was a good way to start my opening story).
Once upon a time, there was a man named Hiroo Onodo. Hiroo was a general in the Japanese army during World War II. His commanding officers put him in charge of defending the Philippines. And Hirooo took his job very seriously.
In fact, he took his job super seriously. When the American forces invaded the Philippines in 1945, Hiroo and his soldiers ran to the hills.
Japan surrendered later that year. The war was over. To let Hiroo know, the islanders dropped leaflets out of an airplane, which read, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” Hiroo and his soldiers looked carefully at the paper, and decided… it was a fake! They didn’t believe it!
So Hiroo and his men stayed up in the mountains. Over the years, people sent more leaflets their way, and even search parties. But Hiroo stayed in the mountains. From time to time he would come out and attack fishermen and police. He was still fighting–as though the war wasn’t already declared over.
It wasn’t until 1974–almost 30 years after the war had ended, when Hiroo’s old commanding officer (who had become a bookseller) flew back the area and met with Hiroo, that Hiroo was convinced that the war really was over. He came down from the mountains and returned to civilian life.
See, Hiroo kept fighting, even after the war was over. Now, the Christian life, is sometimes compared to a battle, in the Bible. But what we’re going to see this morning is this: that Jesus has won the victory. So in an important sense, the war is already decided. God has won.
Because of this, we don’t fight in the same way, as though the war is undecided–as though either side could win.
This passage is going to address two big problems we have.
Many of us see the battle between good and evil as a war between two equally matched forces. It’s as though Good and Evil are locked in a wrestling match, and we feel caught in between.
When we think that way, we think that the devil’s side is more powerful than it actually is. That evil could possibly win the battle. Some days it feels like evil really is winning! And we feel powerless against it!
This passage is going to show us that Jesus has become victorious!
That Jesus and the devil are not equally matched.
Jesus created everything! He is infinitely greater than all forces–including the devil and his agents. There is no contest.
Now the second problem this passage solves is this: those of us who have been following Jesus for a long time, we may get complacent and forget what a dramatic rescue we’ve experienced. We may forget how bad our former state was. And we may forget that Jesus alone won the battle for us.
When we minimize the darkness of sin, we don’t see it as dramatically opposed to good as it really is, we forget how great the canyon is between good and evil. Then we think, you know what, it wasn’t that bad, was it? And we get tempted to wander back into sin.
We think that, if things get too bad, we could just jump back over to the good side. But we forget that we didn’t jump over the first time. We didn’t set ourselves free. Jesus rescued us, and we had nothing to do with it. So this passage will remind us of our need for a rescue, and the danger of living like sin really isn’t that bad.
Here’s the Big Idea this morning: It was Jesus who has defeated what held us captive, and He sets His people completely free.
Read Text: Mark 3:22-30.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “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 has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Tell the Story:
(22) Scribes’ accusation
They were the religious teachers of the day
Mark tells us they had come down from Jerusalem
Because Jerusalem was situated on a hill, then to travel away from the city, you were heading “down.”
Why were they coming? They came down on a fault-finding mission. They wanted to stop people from believing in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was claiming that He was equal to God. And He was doing miracles to back it up! He was claiming to be able to forgive people’s sins. But the scribes wanted people to follow them, and think that they were important. The scribes knew that, if people started kept following Jesus, then people would stop following them. They wouldn’t listen to the scribe’s rules anymore.
So they get to Jesus and they said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
Beelzebul means “Lord of the House. It comes from the word “Baal.” Baal was a false god that other nations had worshiped in the old days.
By the time of Jesus, the word Beelzebul came to be associated with the prince of evil spirits. Satan himself.
In other words, the religious teachers were accusing Jesus of working with the devil.
The scribes and the people all believed in the spiritual world. They believed in angels and demons–evil spirits.
And they believed that demons could attack people and take control of them.
They also recognized that Jesus was casting demons out of people.
Mark doesn’t mention it, but in Matthew 12:22-23, we learn that Jesus has just healed a man who couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, and was paralyzed–he couldn’t move.
The man had been controlled by a demon, and Jesus made the demon leave the man.
The scribes could clearly see that the man had been healed, and that the demon had been there, and that Jesus forced the demon to leave the man alone.
For some of us here, this all seems very strange.
We don’t tend to see things like angels and demons in our everyday life. So it can be easy, sometimes, to think that they aren’t real. Or if they are real, they don’t have anything to do with us.
And yet the Bible clearly teaches that the spiritual realm is real. And there are plenty of people who could tell you that these forces are very real.
On the other hand, many people go the other direction and get super scared when they think about the devil and evil spirits. They think that everything that goes wrong in life is due to the devil.
But God’s word teaches us that, while the devil is very real, he is defeated. When Jesus rescues a person from the devil, the devil cannot keep us from Jesus or from God’s love. We see that in Romans chapter 8, verses 38-39. So the question is, have you been rescued? Do you need to be rescued? We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.
If you believe the Bible is from God, then you have to accept what it says about the spiritual realm.
And there is every good reason to believe the Bible is true. That’s for another time; talk to me after the service if you want to know more.
In saying that Jesus was working for the devil, this was the meanest thing the scribes could say about Jesus.
Really, they are out of arguments. They are just slandering Jesus–just saying the worst thing they can think of.
But they haven’t thought it through. As it turns out, by accusing Jesus of working for the devil, they have actually opened themselves up to an incredible attack from Jesus. Jesus is about to give one of the most stunning counterarguments in the entire Bible. Watch what He does.
(23-26) Jesus is going to demonstrate for us how to do apologetics–giving an explanation to show why what God says is true:
(23a) Look with me at verse 23. “And he called them to him and said to them in parables…”
A parable means to “place one thing beside another,” for comparison. Jesus often taught this way.
Sometimes He did it to make things clearer, other times He did it to hide His meaning… to make sure only certain people understood.
Jesus is going to show the scribes why they are wrong, and then He’s going to tell them the truth–and He’s going to do it in a way that they can’t possibly argue with. Watch this!
(23b) He begins by asking, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”
He’s not asking, “Can Satan do this?” He is asking “Why would Satan do this?”
Let’s think about this logically, Jesus says.
See Jesus is not afraid of logic, of wisdom. Logic is His friend. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, logic is your friend too. We should not be afraid of it; we can use it.
Jesus tells them two proverbs–two wise sayings–that He knows everyone will agree with. He says in verse 24,
(24) “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand.”
And then in verse 25:
(25) “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Remember Jesus’ word picture of a house. That’s going to come back later.
Jesus lays out these two sayings, knowing they will agree with them. He’s setting them up.
Then He goes on to say in verse 26:
(26) “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end”.
Literally it says “he has an end.”
Another translation says, His end has come!
In other words, “Satan is done for!”
Jesus is showing them their own argument contradicts with itself
An argument that contradicts itself has to be false.
Jesus is proving them wrong.
He is saying,
“If I’m possessed by Beelzebu;, then I’m working for Satan.
If I’m driving out demons, then I’m working against Satan with the same action.
I can’t be working for and against Satan! It makes no sense!
Satan isn’t going to work against himself. They knew Satan is evil, but that he’s not stupid.
So why did the Scribes insult Jesus like this? It had nothing to do with the evidence or what actually made sense. They didn’t WANT to believe in Jesus. So they were grasping at explanations. They were desperate to believe anything except that Jesus really was who He was clearly proving Himself to be: the Son of God. And now, Jesus has shown everybody the condition of the scribes’ heart.
Next, Jesus is about to explain explains what really did happen. Because remember, everyone agreed that Jesus had cast out demons from people who had been oppressed by them. Not even the scribes disputed that. So just how was Jesus able to do that?
(27) In verse 27, Jesus gives them the answer. He says,
“But no one can enter a strong man’s house…
Okay, now we are back to the house metaphor. What’s going on?
The house symbolizes control. A house is a place of safety. Think about your own house, about your own room. It’s where you are comfortable. It’s where you know what to expect. If it’s your home, you get to make the rules. Kids, remember: obey your parents’ rules, because it’s their house. So when Jesus describes a strong man’s house, He’s painting a picture with His words to make us see a house where the strong man feels comfortable and in control. He feels safe there.
Because someone might attack a man on the street, but it’s entirely different to break into his house and try to steal his stuff.
In this parable–this comparison–the strong man is the devil. His house is the control he has over sinners.
So How does salvation–being saved from our sins and from the devil–happen according to the Bible? According to Jesus’ own words in this story, it happens like this (go with me on this):
Weak and pitiful sinners like you and I are trapped by the devil–like we are in a strong man’s house.
When people sin, when they do wrong things, they are really sinning against God–and the Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The Bible talks about how, when you let sins, like anger, for example, get into your life, you are giving the devil an opportunity to move in and take control (Ephesians 4:27).
When someone makes a practice of sinning, Jesus says they become a slave to sin (John 8:34).
When you sin, it’s like you’re picking sides. You’re saying, “I don’t want God to be my Lord, my leader. I want to be His enemy. Well, God does have an enemy, and that’s the devil. So sinning is picking the devil’s side. It’s saying that the devil is right. It’s like saying you want to serve the devil as master instead of God. And Jesus says that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
So the devil has bound them by their sin. Because they rebelled against God, they rightfully belong to the devil.
And here’s the sad fact: we all start out as sinners like this. We are all bad!
While he has us captive, the strong man is gloating over us and tormenting us. The prisoners hate the strong man, but they hate God and each other too. It’s miserable and seems hopeless.
Is there any hope for sinners like us? The only hope would be if there were someone who was not under the control of the devil, and free from His control. Thank God, there is someone like that. And His name is Jesus!
Right after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. Out there, Jesus fasted–He ate no food–and the devil came and tempted Him; he tried to get Jesus to sin (Mark 1:12-13).
But Jesus fought back. He used the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). He quoted BIble verses to the devil, and the devil was powerless against them.
Hebrew 4:15 says Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.” The devil failed in his mission to get Jesus to sin. Jesus would not join the devil’s side.
So Jesus is the one and only human being who resisted Satan’s temptation.
That means that Jesus is free from Satan’s control.
The devil can’t stop Jesus. And because Jesus is God, He has the power of the Holy Spirit. And He, the Holy Spirit, works with Jesus to set people free from the control of the devil.
Isaiah 49:24-25, in the Old Testament, says something that the scribes would have known very well: “Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely, thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.”
This is being fulfilled here in the life of Jesus.
Jesus is here to save His people from the “tyrant,” the devil.
In Luke 11:21-22, which tells the same story as this one here in Mark’s Gospel, but with a few more details, Jesus says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil”
So the parable continues: Jesus has come to “plunder his goods”–to take from the Strong Man what belonged to him.
Picture this: Jesus smashes down the front door and charges into the strong man’s house. He marches over to the strong man, grips him by the back of the neck, and before he can say “Boo” Jesus slams his face into the table. Then, while the strong man is dazed, Jesus binds up the strong man with a chain, rendering him powerless.
In full view of the strong man, Jesus strolls from room to room in the house with a pair of bolt cutters. The prisoners of the house are so wretched that they actually mock Jesus as He does this. They can’t possibly understand just what a good thing is happening to them–but they are about to find out. Undeterred, Jesus snaps the shackles off of the prisoners and hoists them up onto his shoulders.
Jesus fireman-carries the prisoners out the front door–He’s going to feed them, restore them to health and give them an awesome new life with Himself. After kicking over a lamp on the way out, just to show who’s boss, He turns over His shoulder, points two fingers at the strong man like a gun, and says to him, “I’m gonna come back. And when I do, I’m going to finish you off.” And the devil can’t do anything. Because Jesus has bound him up with that chain.
That chain that Jesus bound the devil with is Jesus’ own death and resurrection. When Jesus died, He took the punishment for the sins of all His people. See, [Slide] Jesus actually rescued people from the devil’s control when He died on the cross.
Since Jesus took the punishment, there’s nothing more the devil can do.
The devil can’t accuse us before God, and say, “they’re a bunch of no-good sinners!” Because Jesus took our sin and and died for it. He dealt with our sin and wiped away our guilt–Colossians 2:14 says Jesus nailed the record of debt that stood against us, to the cross. It’s gone!
And the devil can’t force us to sin, because we aren’t slaves to sin anymore. Jesus has set us completely free!
The devil is so powerless against Jesus’ people now. It’s like the devil has been bound with a chain. We don’t have to listen to him or his lies anymore!
The Bible says, “the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And one day soon, He is going to come back and take us to be with Him forever. And He’ll throw the devil into the fiery lake. Scoreboard: the devil, zero. Jesus: infinity.
Jesus has now clearly shown the scribes, and everyone watching, that the only possibly correct explanation is that He is more powerful than Satan.
Well, the only one more powerful than Satan is God.
The scribes believed this.
So Jesus is forcing them, by what they already believe–by their own worldview–to accept that He is God.
What other options do they have?
They could deny that Jesus really did cast out demons. But these it was way too obvious that He actually did, that to deny them they would have to deny everything supernatural, spiritual and invisible. These Scribes were Pharisees, and Pharisees had to believe in the spiritual world. So if they said that, they would be disqualified from being scribes.
Their only option was to bow the knee to Jesus. But did they?
No. Their hearts remained hard toward HIm.
So Jesus gives them a warning. Look at verse 28. Jesus says,
(28) “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
Jesus knows their hearts are still hard.
But he also knows he has a crowd watching.
For the crowd’s sake and theirs, Jesus announces that God’s rescue plan won’t just be for people who have become oppressed by demons. It’s going to be for every kind of sin people commit. Because Jesus is going to die for all His people, all their sins will be forgiven. Our sins will be forgiven when we realize that we need Jesus, when we truly say that Jesus is Lord and believe that He died and came back to life to save us.”
But, Jesus says, there is one sin that will keep people out of the people of God, from belonging to Him forever. He continues,
(29-30) “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” –for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
In Matthew 12:31-32, which tells this same story with a few more details, Jesus says, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Alright now, we are all probably wondering, “What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and how do I keep from doing it?” right?
The scribes saw with their own eyes, exactly what Jesus was doing. He was setting people free from the devil and restoring God in their lives. [Slide] Jesus rescued us through the power of the Holy Spirit, not through any other power. And the scribes, instead of glorifying God, they said it was all the work of Satan. They didn’t love God. They hated God. They said that God was Satan, and that God’s rescue plan, carried out by Jesus, and applied to the lives of His people by the Holy Spirit, was all one big Satanic scheme.
There is no coming back from that, because there is never any repentance. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings people to Jesus. If you are speaking against the Holy Spirit, then you aren’t submitting to Him. And you aren’t coming to Jesus–the only one who saves sinners.
Now if you are nervous and asking, “Have I committed the unforgivable sin? I don’t want to commit that sin!” Let me reassure you.
If you are worried about having committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then you haven’t done it.
The Scribes weren’t worried about that. They didn’t repent–their hearts and minds didn’t soften toward God. They got worse. They weren’t sorry. They hated Jesus more and more, until they killed Him.
What this meant to the original audience:
It meant that, in short, Jesus is the Boss.
The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, had been working hard to make sure people believe that there were only two sides to the spiritual battle of life: people could either be on the devil’s side, or they were on the Pharisees’ side (supposedly, they were the good guys). They had built this whole system, like a tall stack of Jenga blocks. It was tall, it was impressive. And it made sense.
But Jesus comes in, and He undercuts the whole thing at their most basic belief. It’s like he takes the bottom block out of the Jenga stack. The whole system comes crashing down.
Jesus says, “No, the Pharisees, unless they believe in Me, are actually on the Devil’s side.
Jesus frees people from demonic control and brings them to God’s side.
Then He smacks down the religious leaders and says they are committing sins that will lead them beyond the possibility of ever being made right with God.
Jesus is the boss.
What does this mean for us today?
It means that, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then Satan is totally defeated in your life. He’s bound. He’s powerless because of what Jesus has done for you.
As a culture, we often don’t understand this at all. We think that God and the devil are somehow equally matched. Like either one could win the war. Like it’s the World Series (GO CUBS GO) and the winner hasn’t already decided in advance. Sometimes in our culture that takes on silly examples.
For example, the Washington Times recently reported that an organization is trying to start Satanist clubs in schools. The article reads, “They [the Satanists] point out that Christian evangelical groups already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.”
See how Jesus and Satan are portrayed as equal opposites.
Let’s make it abundantly clear. Jesus isn’t on Satan’s level. Jesus is God. Satan is a fallen angel (Isaiah 14:12-15). Jesus created the angels (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is infinitely stronger than the devil.
In our own lives, we might not be in a Satanist club. But don’t we sometimes forget how much stronger God is than the devil? Do you ever sometimes feel as though sin is so powerful, that it just might win in your life? In reality, for the Christ-follower, sin doesn’t stand a chance.
Sin seems strong. The devil seems strong. Like if you’re a fourth grader, and some high school Freshmen come over and start messing with you. That’s scary, right?
You can’t deal with those guys on your own.
But then Jesus comes in like the Incredible Hulk.
In one of the coolest Bible passages of all time, Isaiah 22, the Lord says this to His enemy–a man named Shebna, who historians think betrayed Israel and was proud, arrogant and incredibly wicked: “Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die….” Are you serious? That’s terrifying! God is going to ball him up and whirl him around and around and just whip him out into a field to die.
THAT is what God does to sin, and to the devil. He utterly deals with them! The truth is that,
Jesus has defeated the power of the devil and the power of sin. And He loves you. And He is helping you even now, and when you pray. You will be with Him forever, and your sin will one day be a distant memory–if you can remember it at all, it will only be to give God glory for His incredible rescue of you
If you are a follower of Jesus here this morning, you don’t have to be a prisoner to sin, because Jesus has set you free from the power of the devil.
Here’s why this matters when you walk out those doors:
You’re going to be tempted to forget that you were ever trapped. You’re going to forget how bad it was in there. Sin is going to look very attractive to you, and you’ll to be tempted to slip back into Satan’s house. Into sin. Under his control. Into some of those old habits again.
You’re going to be tempted to forget that it was Jesus who brought you out and who sustains you to this day.
But truth of the Gospel–God’s Good News–is this: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). And “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
We are free to walk in liberty and follow Jesus. Even the guilt of our past sin, has been decisively dealt with by the Son of God.
We have been bought with a high price–that of God’s own blood.
So we’re free; but we are not free to wander back into Satan’s house. As though we had never been rescued.
We must not forget what Jesus has done to rescue us. Don’t go back to sin like it isn’t that bad.
If you’re struggling with sin, and feeling trapped,
God has given you a weapon to use against the devil. God’s Word, the Bible, is a weapon to use against the devil.
Remember the devil is already beaten and bound. His threats against you are lies.
You can fight the devil by proclaiming and believing the promises God makes in the Bible, because those promises are truth. And the truth has incredible power.
Now maybe you’re here and you aren’t yet a follower of Jesus. Maybe you’ve gone to church for a long time, or this could be your first time. Maybe you don’t consider yourself spiritual, or maybe you are still evaluating your options. There seem to be many ways to God–many paths up the mountain, so to speak.
The truth is, what Jesus says is, there are only two ways to live: under the control of the devil, or in the freedom found in Jesus.
Jesus alone can save you and has already done what it takes.
Without Him, you are still trapped in your slavery to sin. But God is offering you His rescue today. Are you ready for that?
You can be set free from your sin and from the enemy’s control once and for all this morning. God is still working, still setting His people free, and He can and will do it for you.
Believe in Him. Come to Him and embrace Him as Lord and Savior, Who died and rose again to forgive you and make you right with God.. You can do that right now sitting there listening to me. God will without a doubt rescue you and set you free!!
Jesus is the only one who can beat our enemy–the one who held us captive–and liberate us. And He did.
As His followers, we do have a battle to fight, and we do pick up our sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We wrestle against our the devil every day, who would love to regain control over us. However, we fight against the devil knowing Jesus has already won the war.
The Son has set us free.
And if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.