Luke 11:14-26 - The Parable of the Unclean Spirit
Read Luke 11:14-26
Who Drives Out Demons?
During the days when Jesus was here on this earth He met many people who were demon possessed. It is rather strange that that phenomenon should occur just at that time. We do not often read of it in the Old Testament; in the days of the Apostles though there was still some of it, most of it seems to have departed. It appears as though the devil is seeking to imitate the incarnation! The Son of God comes in the flesh – the devil will too. This was a state of affairs for which there was no cure, and therefore every time our Lord cast out a demon, the observers were surprised.
In this chapter, there had been a discussion concerning the casting out of such spirits (v. 14 ff.). That Jesus had cured such a man was beyond question. The one who was dumb while demon-possessed, was now able to speak. At other times those who were demon-possessed were raving and dangerous and when the demon had been cast out such a person was rational and behaved normally. But, by what power does He cast out the unclean spirits? The religious leaders have come to the conclusion that He is in league with the evil one and casts out spirits by the prince of demons. This, says Jesus, does not even make sense. It would mean that Satan was divided against himself (v. 17). It would mean that he was consciously seeking his own overthrow. Besides, by whom do the sons of these leaders cast out demons? This is a strange saying which suggests that there were also some among the leaders of the Jews who cast out demons. But, if this is so, by whom do they then cast them out? Also by the prince of demons? They would then accuse their own sons of being in league with the devil!
This argumentation on the part of these leaders makes no sense. It is also an accusation which is an unpardonable sin. They are ascribing the work of God to the devil! Christ warns them. This is blasphemy. He makes it clear to them that He casts out evil spirits by the "finger of God." Let them realize that they are seeing an exhibition of the power of God! He is the strong Man who has come to rob the evil one of his possessions. They must realize that those who are not positively with the Christ are against Him. There is no middle road. Those who do not gather with Him, scatter! Christ is throwing down the gauntlet to these so-called religious leaders! Let them see clearly what is going on before their very eyes. They have not listened to His words; and they will also stare themselves blind at His deeds. The kingdom has come to them. It is before them. They who wanted to be as God, now, as a result of sin, do not recognize the works of God and will cry out: "Crucify Him," in a little while.
It is against this background that Jesus utters this parable. The context must, therefore, be kept in mind very clearly. He is going to picture the state of affairs in religious Israel. He is going to take the illustration of what they have just seen Him do and show them how their interpretation of His works will lead them to ruin. It is a parable of deep consequence for the people of His day as well as for the church of all future ages. Let him that has ears, hear.
A Demon Driven Out
Jesus pictures a man who has been cured of demon possession. Having been cured, a decent life is again possible for this individual. It is a healing in which, no doubt, everyone who knew him rejoiced. He is now able to go about his labors and can again have the usual relations with others. Now our Lord speaks of the evil spirit which had gone out of this man. What is the history of this spirit? He can find no rest because he can only do his work in a human being. Those evil spirits which were at another time sent into a herd of swine simply slay the animals into which they have entered. That was not the proper place for them. This spirit passes through dry places seeking that rest but doesn't find it. It is a dry and thirsty land for him when he can no longer operate in a human being.
Return to A Vacant House
The spirit then decides to return into the man from whom he had been cast out. Not in all the teachings of Christ have we ever met up with this kind of situation. It should have been impossible for the evil spirit to return there from whence he had been cast out! Is this real healing if a spirit has been cast out and the danger persists that he might return? The man himself should have made it impossible. But, he didn't.
When the evil spirit returns to the man out of whom he had been cast, he finds this former home swept and garnished. It has been all cleaned out and it has also been beautified. But, it is empty! That is the point of this whole parable! This man was now able to lead a decent life — and he did! There were no longer gross sins and evil deeds which had characterized his life while he was demon possessed, and his conduct is greatly improved. He is now a respected citizen of his community and can take his place with those who are well-thought of in his time. Neither is he aware of any danger. He has been healed and that period of life is now behind him. Forget it! He can now build a new life.
But, the evil spirit has decided to return! He can do this because despite the respectable and decent life which the man now lives, the house out of which the evil spirit had been cast is essentially EMPTY! He is rid of the demon, but has no Christ! He is neutral! His is a half-way conversion. He has experienced the mortification of the old man but not the quickening of the new man! He is, therefore, a prime candidate for the evil spirit's return. It seemed as though everything which belonged to his former life had been cleaned up, but the most important thing had not been taken care of.
The "neutrality" which this man exhibited is an impossible way of life; it is condemned by the word of God. Jesus had referred to it in the immediate context of this parable. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (v. 23). Neutrality, or the attempt at neutrality, had been one of the greatest sins of Israel and is one of the greatest sins of people of our time. Take no stand: no demon — no Christ. Stay in the middle zone. If no stand is taken, they believe, they will be friends of all men, not realizing that no one has any respect for such people. The words of Jesus have a real "bite" when he speaks so to the people of His day. Those who took the stand which He here describes were indeed "broadminded." They did not wish to fall into the errors which had characterized their own fathers. But, what is worse, the idolatry at the time of Ahab or their own "dead orthodoxy?"
A Worse Condition
Not only is the position taken by the religious leaders of Jesus' day an untenable one, it is also one which stands condemned because it lulls the people to sleep and does not warn them against approaching evil. When the evil spirit decides to return to the house from whence he had been driven, he does not go alone. He takes with him seven other spirits who are even more evil than he himself and they now enter this man together. In their numbers is safety. They will now seek to make it impossible to be driven out again. This man does not experience a return of all the ills which possessed him formerly; his condition has now become much worse! The last state of that man, says Jesus, becomes worse than the first! If there had been reason for pity in his former possessed state, that pity must now be at least eight times as great. He is now completely possessed. Here is now a man in whom there is virtually nothing left of humanity. It has almost become the devil incarnate. The last state is indeed much worse. Ahab had led Israel astray, but these scribes and Pharisees had not only led the people astray; they made it almost impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom. Besides, they would even destroy the One who came to save.
Israel had had many prophets and preachers between the times of Ahab and Jesus. These had called them to repent. However, the history of Israel is filled with the idea on the part of the people that all is well. No repentance seems necessary. These are the ones who become the prime candidates for a complete demon possession so that the devil has taken over completely.
When the demon had originally been cast out, this individual, knowing the awful reality of the demon's power and desires, should have made it impossible for this demon to return. He, however, really invited the demon to return into this unoccupied house. If he doesn't fill it, the devil will! Demon possession is real!
A Warning against "Neutrality"
In this parable our Lord has warned very strongly against the spirit of neutrality which is so common in the world in every age. How could He make a more dramatic appeal than He does in this parable? Christ has stated time and again that He demands the whole-hearted commitment of those who pay Him lip service. He is not satisfied with a part, He wants everything! He wants this so that the house is not left empty but is fully occupied. He wants sole possession. This is also the highest good for His people. Their only comfort is that with body and soul, for time and eternity, they belong to Him. If Christ does not have possession, the evil one will take it. One cannot be neutral.
In this brief parable our Lord has given us an unforgettable teaching. It is also a teaching which everyone must heed. Our age is no better than those which have gone before. Where is that spirit of a Daniel which dares to stand alone? Where is the spirit of the Reformers? Neutrality is in the air and it is slaying its ten thousands. Let men listen to the words spoken by our God and see the deeds which He has performed. Let them give Him their hearts lest greater evils come than those of the past. So only can they receive His blessing.
Questions for Discussion:
- Was demon possession the same illness as insanity? What, if any, are the differences?
- Is the modern emphasis on "demons" biblical, or is it a reaction to the view held for many years that demons belonged to mythology?
- Is the state of a person worse if more than one demon inhabits him? How can it be worse than being demon possessed, regardless of number?
- Is a spirit of neutrality still a problem? Can we be neutral regarding such things as Christian schools?
- Why is it more difficult to deal with a spirit of neutrality than with direct opposition? Or isn't it?