EVIDENCE AND UNBELIEF

LUKE 11:14-54

When meeting Jesus, one is always confronted with a decision. You cannot meet Him and remain neutral. Once you meet Him, you will either decide that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, or else you will decide that He is either a legend, a liar, or a lunatic on the level with a poached egg.

What you cannot do is to merely pass Him off as a good man. He will not allow that. No man can do and say the things that Jesus said and merely be a good man.

 

THE RESPONSE OF UNBELIEF

And He was casting out a demon, and it was dumb; and it came about that when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." And others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. (Luke 11:14-16).

Our story opens when Jesus healed a man. The man had physical ailments - he was unable to speak. But the cause of his physical problems was because of an underlying spiritual problem. He was demon-possessed.

One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that He did not just talk. He was more than a mere teacher. We are living in a world where everyone seems to be promising something. Jesus didnít just talk; He delivered. That tells me something about Christianity. It is not just talk; it is life-changing. If your life has not changed, then you have no business talking.

What has happened in your life that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural? When people look at you, do they see a supernatural love at work? Are people amazed by your supernatural patience? Are you characterized by supernatural compassion?

When Jesus acted, the result was amazement. He healed this man by going to the root of his problem. Jesus cast out the demon. The healing was apparent to all who were present. The man who had been unable to talk was now speaking.

Such a miracle demanded a response from the people and the response was soon in coming. It was a twofold response.

Some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons."

Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven

These were responses to an obvious miracle. A man had just been healed. There was a very obvious supernatural agent at work. The miracle could not be denied and there seems to have been no attempt to do so.

People who have been lame are throwing away their crutches. People who have been deaf can now hear a pin drop. See-eye dogs are being put out of work. People are asking for refunds from funeral homes. And then Jesus comes and does still another obvious miracle in their presence.

Even the most die-hard skeptic canít laugh off that kind of power. They cannot deny that the supernatural is taking place. Thus when people responded to the miracles of Jesus, one thing they did NOT do was to say that a miracle had not taken place. What they did do was to question the source and the significance of the miracle.

The name "Beelzebub" refers to an old Canaanite deity. "Baal" is the Canaanite word for "lord." "Zebub" was a reference to "flies." He was known as Baal-zebub, the "Lord of the Flies" in 2 Kings 1:2-6. He was the god of diseases.

The Jews had taken this name and changed it to Baal-zebel which meant "Lord of the Dung." It was a term of derision. And they eventually came to use it as a title for Satan.

Do you see what they are doing? They are pointing to Jesus and they are saying, "He is Satan in the flesh! He is only able to cure diseases because he is the demon of diseases!"

They have seen the power of Godís Holy Spirit at work and they deliberately and knowingly reject that Spirit.

This was an unreasonable request in light of the fact that Jesus had only just given them a sign from heaven. Jesus will address this request in verse 29 when He speaks of this generation being a wicked generation that seeks for a sign.

Response of People

"He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons."

Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven

Answer of Jesus

Satan does not fight Satan; you have to bind Satan before you can rob him (Luke 12:17-26).

This evil generation looks for a sign, but no sign shall be given except the sign of Jonah (Luke 12:29-36)

Both of these responses were responses of unbelief. It might be argued that one was not as rebellious as the other, but they were both enough to elicit the condemnation of Jesus. The rest of this chapter will consist of Jesus addressing these two responses.

 

JESUS ANSWERS HIS CRITICS

But He knew their thoughts, and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder.

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

"When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ĎI will return to my house from which I came.í And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first." (Luke 11:17-26).

Jesus proceeds to give a number of reasons whereby it can be demonstrated that the charge of being in league with Satan is unwarranted.

  1. Division is Detrimental: "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? (11:17-18).
  2. When there is civil war in a nation, that nation does not prosper. When a husband and wife set themselves against one another, it is not long before their marriage begins to collapse.

    By the way, the same is true of the church. The quickest way to destroy the church is to allow division to exist in our midst.

    Now we come to the application. Jesus has been casting out demons. He has been in a war against Satan. If he is fighting Satan, then He is obviously not on Satan's side and not receiving His power from Satan.

  3. The Devil has been Defeated: For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul (11:18b).
  4. These critics have already conceded this point. They could not deny the obvious outward miraculous power that Jesus manifested. Satan has plainly been cast out. And they have observed and agreed that there are supernatural forces at work. The only question that they have raised are the identity of these forces. If it can be demonstrated that Jesus is not in league with Satan, then the obvious conclusion is that He must be sent from God.

  5. Sons are Determinative: And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges (11:19).
  6. Apparently attempts at exorcism were not a new thing. Others had attempted to cure such cases of demon possession, probably with varying degrees of results. Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes the methods used by one well-known exorcist in attempting to cast out demons.

    He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he adjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. (Antiquities 8:2:5).

    The book of Acts tells us about a similar though unsuccessful attempt to remove a demon from an afflicted person (Acts 19:13-16).

    What made the ministry of Jesus so significant was that He never failed. We read of instances where His disciples attempted to cast out demons and failed, but that was never the case with Jesus.

    This is an argument from the less to the greater. If the accusation against Jesus is true and He is a false healer, then how can it be said that anyone else is a true healer since Jesus has demonstrated so much greater effectiveness in battling the forces of darkness? The very fact that others have attempted to cast out demons and have met with less than perfect results is an indictment to all those others who attempted exorcism.

  7. The Kingdom has Come: But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (11:20).
  8. The fact that Godís power has been manifested in such a mighty way in defeating the devil and his minions is a sign that God is doing something that He has never done before. He is establishing His reign upon the earth. The kingdom has come.

    Do you know where the Bible first mentions the finger of God? It is in the book of Exodus where the magicians of Egypt were confronting Moses. He had performed a very obvious miracle and they had duplicated it. He turned the waters of the Nile River into blood and they duplicated it by making more blood. He brought up a plague of frogs and they were able to produce more frogs. But there was a limit to their power and when they came face to face with that limitation, they reported to the Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19).

    What was recognized by the pagans priests of Egypt had been missed by these people of Israel. Those who should have recognized the finger of God did not.

  9. Delegation is Limited: "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder" (11:21-22).
  10. You cannot delegate more than you already have. Satan cannot delegate more power than he already has. If the power that is being used against Satan is greater that what Satan has himself, then he cannot be the source of that power.

    This is illustrated by a strong man who is about to be robbed. If you want to rob a strong man, you do not go into his house and ask him to help you. He will throw you out on your ear. You must first tie him up.

    Here is what Jesus is saying. He has been tying up Satan. He has been robbing the kingdom of Satan. We all once were the property of Satan. We used to belong to his kingdom.

    For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Colossians 1:13).

    When we came to Christ, we were taken from Satanís domain. We have now become a prized possession of the Son.

    Jesus is in the business of tying up Satan. When He cast a demon out of a man and Satan was powerless to do anything about it, that was a demonstration of the fact that Satan had been bound. Every time that you see a man or a woman turn from their sin and come to Christ, you are seeing an example of Satan being bound.

  11. Neutrality is Not Possible: "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters" (11:23).
  12. It is impossible to remain spiritually neutral. You are either on Godís side or you are against Him. You will always be moving in one of these two directions.

    A preacher was once asked how many people in his church were active. He replied, "All of them. Half of them are active for me and the other half are active against me." There is a spiritual war going on and you are an active participant. The only question is one whose side you are.

    Here is the point. Jesus has already noted that He and Satan are on opposite sides of the spiritual struggle. He has been fighting Satan and binding Satan and robbing Satan. Now we see that if you are not with Jesus, then you must be on the other side. And we know what side that is. It is Satanís side.

  13. Emptiness is Inviting: "When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ĎI will return to my house from which I came.í And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first" (Luke 11:24-26).

Jesus is continuing the thought that was begun in verse 23. There we saw Him say that "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters." Now we see why this is the case. It is because there is no such thing as spiritual neutrality.

That is why you can never be spiritual merely by avoiding certain sins. If spirituality were to be determined upon avoiding certain things, then your dog would be the most spiritual person in your household.

When someone is delivered from a demon or a temptation or a sin, the danger has not immediately been removed. When you take away something from your life, it leaves a vacuum. It is a fundamental law that nature abhors a vacuum. And so, when there is a vacuum in your life, you cannot help but to fill it. If you fill it with anything other than the Spirit of God, the results will be a return to sin.

Iíve seen this process take place time and again. Someone wrestles with a particular sin and for a time, they are delivered from that sin. This is the point of greatest danger. It is the point at which the vacuum in their life demands to be filled. With what shall you fill it? Will it be with the Spirit of God? Anything else is an idolatrous substitute.

 

A MISGUIDED BLESSING

And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed."

But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it." (Luke 11:27-28).

A woman from the crowd calls out words of blessing. It is a blessing directed toward Mary, the mother of Jesus. The words of the blessing are true as far as they go. They are an echo of the blessings that Luke has already recorded regarding Mary.

Jesus is not denying that Mary has been blessed. What He is doing is shifting the focus. He is saying if effect, "Donít be so caught up in Maryís blessing that you miss out on your own."

Have you ever thought that you would like God to bless you and work through you and in you the way He blessed and worked in and through some of the great saints in the Bible? The point that Jesus is making is that the same God who worked in Mary will also work in you if you hear the word of God, and observe it.

This brings us to another point. It is that, while Jesus came as a baby, He didnít stay that way. Christmas is a popular holiday. And even the image of a baby in a manger is well-received by the world because nearly everyone loves a baby. But if you come to Christ and only see the baby and never seen the Sovereign Savior who sacrificed Himself, then you have missed the whole meaning of Christmas.

 

THE SIGN OF JONAH

And as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so shall the Son of Man be to this generation.

"The Queen of the South shall rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

"The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32).

Back in verses 14-16 we saw two reactions to the healing ministry of Jesus. First there were those who accused Jesus of being in league with Satan. Then there were those who wanted to see another sign. Jesus has already addressed the first group in verses 17-26. Now He addresses those who are requesting a sign.

11:14

11:17

11:29

Jesus casts out a demon

Two reactions:

  • Charge of being in league with Satan
  • Request for a sign

Jesus answers those who think He is in league with Satan

Jesus answers those who want to see a sign

This section began when Jesus healed a man who was demon possessed and who was unable to speak. He performed an obvious miracle. It was a miracle that could not be explained away. There were no mirrors or strings. It was not a trick. It was an obvious supernatural miracle.

Iíve heard people say, "If only God would do a miraculous sign before me, then I would believe." Others say, "If I lived in the time of Jesus and saw the things that He did, then I would be able to believe." Maybe that is true. And maybe it is not.

These people had seen signs. They had seen discarded crutches. They has seen the blind watching sunsets. They had seen the dead raised. And in this context they are seeking after a sign. Jesus refuses.

Do you remember Jonah? He was the prophet who took a short ride in a long fish. God told him to go to Nineveh and he instead took a boat in the opposite direction. God sent a storm and then a submarine to turn him around.

What is the sign of Jonah? It is the sign of death and burial and resurrection. Jonah is a type of Christ. He can be seen in comparison to Jesus.

Jonah

Jesus

He was swallowed by a great fish

He was buried in the earth

He was in the fish for three days and three nights

He was dead and buried for three days and three nights

He was vomited up onto dry land

He rose from the dead

The resurrection is the ultimate apologetic. A man who was dead came back to life and was seen by eye witnesses who gave their own lives to testify of the reality of what they had seen.

Nineveh was the city to which Jonah was sent. It was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The people of Nineveh had been pagan idol worshipers.

What kind of sign was Jonah to the people of Nineveh? He was a sign that God has power over nature. He was also a sign of Godís love to men and His offer of forgiveness through faith and repentance.

The story of the Queen of Sheba is told in 1 Kings 10. She was incredibly rich. Her country was on the southern end of the Arabian peninsula. Her ships brought trade from India and Egypt. He country was protected by the impenetrable desert. She came from the farthest parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

Here is the point. The people of Israel did not have to travel very far at all to hear the preaching of Jesus. But they would not recognize Him even though He was in their very midst.

This is an argument from the lesser to the greater. Both the Queen of Sheba and the men of Nineveh responded in a positive manner when hearing from someone who was considerably less than the Son of God.

Queen of Sheba

Men of Nineveh

This Generation

Actively came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon

Heard the preaching of Jonah

Heard someone greater than either Solomon or Jonah

Repentance and faith

Unbelief

Here is the point. How much more responsible will those be of this generation who rejected One who was of considerably greater import than either Solomon or Jonah?

 

LESSONS FROM LIGHT

"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar, nor under a peck-measure, but on the lampstand, in order that those who enter may see the light.

"The lamp of your body is your eye; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you may not be darkness.

"If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it shall be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays." (Luke 11:33-36).

Jesus now turns to the illustration of light. We normally think of these verses in sort of a "stand alone" manner, but they should not be divorced from the context of this passage. The point has already been made that Jesus is speaking to a generation who is being condemned for its unbelief, even though they have had great exposure to the light.

This first point is rather obvious. Light is being used as an analogy for the truth of the gospel; the message that God has sent to earth that men might see and believe and live. Light is not only meant to be seen, it is that which enables sight, for without light, there is no sight.

Iíve had the opportunity to go into some caves and caverns that were deep enough so that when you turned out the light, there was total darkness. At such times, it does not matter if your vision is 20-20 of if it is blurry, in both cases you cannot see. Light exists in order that you might be able to see.

Light by itself does not cause sight. If you are to see, then you must have eyes that are able to take in that light.

Jesus is the light. He has come to a people who have been living in darkness. Now the question is whether they will be able to see. The point being made here is that they WILL be able to see as long as they have spiritual eyes with which to see.

These people are in the presence of Jesus. They are in the presence of the light. If they hear the gospel and then do not believe the gospel, it is not the fault of the gospel. The fault lies in their own spiritual blindness.

Quite a number of years ago, Josh McDowell wrote a book entitled, "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." It is replete with evidences demonstrating that the Bible is authoritative and that Jesus is who He said He was and that He is indeed risen from the dead. Given that great weight of evidence, why donít people believe? The fault lies, not in the evidence, but in the eyes. They donít see because they have been spiritually blinded.

God has already provided the light. You go to Him and ask Him for the spiritual vision and He will supply that, too.

Are you having problems seeing?
Are you having problems understanding?
Are you having problems with doubt?
Are you having problems believing?

You go to the One who is known as the Father of lights and you ask Him for spiritual vision and that He will remove the blinders and that He will work faith in you.

 

INWARD AND OUTWARD CLEANLINESS

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.

But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you." (Luke 11:37-41).

Jesus accepted all sorts of dinner invitations. I cannot think of a single time when He was invited to someoneís home where He did not accept the invitation.

In this case, the home belonged to a Pharisee. The term "Pharisee" has come to gave negative connotations in recent times. But this was not the case in the days of Jesus. The Pharisees were the evangelicals of Judaism.

The problems they had were not so much in what they believed but in the attitude with which the held to those beliefs. They were a people who prided themselves on their great spiritual insights, but who were spiritually blind.

There is an important principle here. It is that there are none so blind and those who think that they can see and are therefore unaware of their blindness.

The issue here was one of cleanliness: The Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal (11:38). Jesus responds by pointing out that real cleanliness must begin on the inside.

Luke 11:33-36

Luke 11:37-41

The issue of Vision

The issue of Cleanliness

The problem with vision is that you cannot see the light if your internal eyes are not working

The problem with cleanliness is that you are not really clean unless you are clean on the inside

Real vision begins on the inside

Real cleanliness begins of the inside

It can be seen from this table that the issue has not changed. Only the elements of the analogy have changed. The point is that true spiritual life must begin on the inside. It begins at the point of faith.

 

SIX WOES AGAINST UNBELIEF

This entire chapter has been dealing with the issue of faith versus unbelief. We have already seen that there is no other position. Neutrality is merely another word for unbelief.

The Pharisees were known for their meticulous law-keeping. When they paid their tithes, they made sure that nothing was left out. They gave attention to the smallest detail. Jesus does not condemn them for this. But there was something missing. They had overlooked justice and the love of God. Love and justice is what the Law was all about. To ignore love and justice was to ignore that which was at the very heart of the Law.

I donít think that they started out that way. They had started out real. They had started out with a desire to separate themselves from sin and devote themselves to the service of the Lord. But somewhere along the line they began taking more interest in what people thought than what God thought.

I make this point because it is possible for us to lose the reality of our relationship. We can get so involved in the ritual of our Christianity that we can lose sight of the reality behind the ritual.

There is nothing wrong with ritual. Jesus isnít putting down the Law or tithing or ritual. But ritual without reality makes for empty religion.

The Pharisees had an inordinate fondness for their own status. They loved it when people looked at them and said, "Isnít he wonderful?"

The problem with receiving compliments and honors from men is that you begin to think that you deserve them. After a while, you begin looking for them.

To understand this figure of speech, you need to remember the Jewish customs regarding cleanliness. One of the things that would make you ceremonially unclean was physical contact with a dead body. For this reason, the Jews in general and the Pharisees in particular took great pains to avoid walking over tombs. You never knew whether an old cover stone might crack and you would inadvertently break through and step onto an old decaying carcass.

Jesus likens the Pharisees to concealed tombs. They look very nice on the outside. But inside there is rot and decay and it is just waiting to infect the one who with whom it comes into contact.

The lawyer here is not a legal litigator. Rather he is one who was an expert in the Mosaic law. He was a seminary professor. And he must have felt a bit of the sting in the words of Jesus, for he took them personally. As far as he was concerned, Jesus had gone from preaching to meddling.

Does Jesus apologize and back off? To the contrary, Jesus addresses Himself to those who were experts in the Law of God in such a way as to give the harshest condemnation.

When David spoke of the Law of God in Psalm 119, it was a blessing, a delight. When the experts of the Law were done with it the law was a burden. They had turned the Law inside-out. What God had graciously given they had perverted by their teaching to be an unbearable code of conduct, one which was so complicated they could not even understand it, let alone obey it.

There is a sense of irony in the words of Jesus. He says, "You guys take pride in building great tombs to honor the prophets when it was your selfsame ancestors who put them to death." The implication is that if those same prophets were alive today, these same Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses would be putting them to death again.

There were three different ways in which these religious legalists were guilty of the blood of prophets whom their forefathers had slain.

They had rejected the teaching of the prophets, just as their forefathers had done.

They were presently rejecting Jesusí teaching, which was consistent with the teaching of those prophets. They would soon put Jesus to death in fulfillment of the teaching of those same prophets.

Those prophets and apostles who are yet to come after the death and resurrection of Christ, will be rejected, persecuted and killed by them.

What is this "key of knowledge" that these legalists had taken away? It is the Old Testament Scriptures that bore witness to Jesus as the Messiah of God. These experts in the Law had the key to seeing Jesus as the Messiah and they were attempting to use that same key to reject Jesus and even to put Him to death. They took away the Law of God and substituted it with laws of their own making and, in doing so, they took away and hid the gospel.

 

THE RESPONSE OF UNBELIEF

And when He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him, to catch Him in something He might say. (Luke 11:53-54).

This was a turning point in the opposition of the Pharisees. They had already demonstrated unbelief and now they show that the reaction of unbelief to the gospel is hostility.

How about you? What is your response to the gospel? One thing is for certain, it will not be neutral. You are either for Christ or you are against Him. Which is it?


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