It’s an unbelievable accusation: “He’s of the devil.” Here’s my take on it. First, Jesus obviously had spiritual power. That was unarguable. Now, acknowledging that, what are the choices? If they attributed his power to God, they would have to acknowledge that Jesus was sent from God, and then they would have to give credence to his teaching about himself. Hmmm… the only other choice is to say Satan. SO THAT’S THE ONE THEY PICK?? Yes, because the other choice, in their mind, is worse. God doesn’t have a Son. God doesn’t appear in the flesh, so to them it’s a no-brainer.
Others tested him for a sign. If the power of Jesus was from God, then they wanted substantiation in the form of signs. What they have seen and heard wasn’t enough. They wanted more. But their requests weren’t from faith; it was a test.
Jesus comes right at them, as usual: Division brings ruin. If you fight against yourself-duh! This is a pretty obvious point, not Jesus’ usual style. So here it is:
If Jesus is from Satan
Satan is fighting against himself
Satan has become powerless.
But since Jesus just showed power
Their accusation is impossible.
Then he zings them—he’s BAAAAAACK!
“So if I drive them out by Satan, by whom do your followers drive them out?” If they say, “By Satan,” they’re stupid. If they say, “By God,” then they have no room to accuse him, since that’s what he’s claiming, and their accusation was that that was impossible. Bingo.
“But if I drive them out by God’s power, then God’s power is here in front of you.” Oh, snap. Dude, their argument is decimated and over. But Jesus isn’t done yet.
v. 21-22: Power has its merits and its successes. Power can achieve what power claims to achieve. It can intimidate, overpower, accomplish, and protect. So the wise man isn’t interested in power: instead he trusts what is real and ultimate, and what you can never lose.
Now Jesus pushes them over the edge (23): So stand with me. I don’t do power plays. I AM power.
(Just a sidelight on v. 24: Yeah, Jesus is still talking about the demon situation, but this sounds like a need to possess. It sounds like a symbiotic relationship between spiritual beings. Spirit needs spirit. That would explain why people feel a spiritual emptiness that other things can’t fill. Spirit needs spirit, just as physical needs physical [food, touch, sex, etc.]).
So, his little story is powerful: Spirit needs spirit, and it’s all about power until you rest in the arms of the ultimate one. So stand with me. I don’t DO power plays. I AM power.
A woman still misunderstands: ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ Sheesh. People. In the previous story they attributed his power to Satanic forces, acknowledging a spiritual power, but denying God. Here another is attributing his power to human genetics and the influence of human upbringing, acknowledging his superiority above other humans, but denying God.
He has just finished explaining that not only is his spiritual power from God and not from Satan, but that it works the same way for us. We have a choice about from where we get our spiritual power. Spirit seeks spirit. The choices, according to the context, are Satan, human secularism, or God.
Jesus, as is typical for him, is grabbing onto something that has just happened in real life and using it to reinforce the point he is trying to make. He is stating in as clear terms as possible that the choice that brings the blessing is regard for the Word of God and obedience to it.
Listening doesn’t make you a Christian, and people who listen with interest but never become disciples are not the “blessed” ones. Words are cheap.
Lots of people say things like, “I go to church!” or “I went to youth group,” but it doesn’t mean a thing. “I do my devotions every day.” But it doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t live it. Just because you know it is worthless if you don’t do it. People think because they know it, it’s good enough. And part of the problem is when it comes to salvation, people say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus.” But just believing—what does that mean? No, you have to live it.
A sentence we often said to our children was, “If you know it, do it.” When we were confused by the disparity between what they said and their behavior, they would often respond to our questioning with, “Yeah, I know.” “Well,” we would reply, “if you know it, do it.” The Bible wasn’t given to increase our knowledge, but to change lives.