Beating the strong man

Beating the strong man

What do you think about Jesus?

That is a very important question. Yet it’s surprising how few people have thought that much about Jesus. Which is surprising because when we open the New Testament, we find that people who meet Jesus seem to have a very strong opinion about him. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but never neutral. A little passage from Mark chapter three is a great example of this.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:20-22)

People hear that Jesus has come into town and gather round him in a huge crown. But the crowd weren’t the only ones to hear about Jesus getting home. Word also gets to Jesus’ family – his mother Mary and his half-brothers. And they, we are told, “went to take charge of him, for they said: ‘He is out of his mind.’” There’s some family support for you! And a very strong opinion about Jesus.

Another group who were there were the teachers of the law. These were the theological scholars and the religious elite. They had a problem though: they had been around Jesus enough to realise that his miracles were true. So what are they to make of Jesus? They recognise his power, but claim his power is demonic. His family think him mad, but the establishment think him bad – from Satan himself.

Jesus, as usual, reacts calmly and wisely to these strong opinions about himself. And his answers are worth our time to consider.

First, Jesus points out the absurdity of the religious leaders’ claim that he’s in league with the devil.

“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. (Mark 3:23-26)

The teachers of the law say that Jesus’ power comes from Satan but Jesus’ agenda is completely opposite to that of the devil. Jesus acts to heal the sick, give sight to the blind and release the oppressed. The devil works to do the exact opposite of these things. It’s crazy to think that Jesus would be working for the devil when he does the reverse of what the devil might do!

Jesus says “if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” You can’t have one person pulling in one direction, and another pulling in an opposite direction, and expect things to work out. It doesn’t work in politics, it doesn’t work in business, it doesn’t work in families.

Put it this way: imagine a football team. The aim of the team is to defend their goal and try and get the ball into the opponent’s goal. But suppose there is someone on the team with the opposite agenda. Every time he gets the ball he turns around and sends the ball back towards his own goal. What will happen? Probably a very quick substitution! Because otherwise the team will certainly lose.

That is what Jesus is saying here. You can believe that Jesus is God or working for the devil, but the outcome is the same: the devil is going to lose. Regardless of your view of Jesus, the devil is on the losing team. The devil is a defeated enemy of a losing kingdom. That is a truth that shines a light into our dark world.

Jesus goes on to speak more truth into our fears. In verse 27 he says:

In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.

Our fears that surround us can not only seem dark, but also seem strong.

Back when I was a kid, I remember watching ‘The world’s strongest man’. I don’t know if they still do that competition and whether it’s still on TV, but it certainly was when I was younger. A bunch of these incredibly muscular guys would compete against each other in various tasks. They would lift immense objects, carry amazingly heavy things and do unbelievable stunts like dragging a truck using their teeth. These were very, very strong men.

The main guy in my childhood was Geoff Capes. He regularly won the title ‘World’s Strongest Man. Now imagine you were going to rob Geoff Cape’s house. While he was at home. And awake. You couldn’t do it could you? I certainly couldn’t. Every scenario would end up with me being held and trapped in Geoff Cape’s hands until the police arrived.

So Jesus says, you will never enter a strong man’s house and take his stuff unless you get the better of him. Unless you tie the strong man up and trap him, rather than being trapped by him.

You will never take what belongs to the strong man unless you defeat the strong man. And you will never defeat the strong man unless you are stronger.

There is no way I would defeat Geoff Capes. It’s not even a fair fight. One of his competitors for World’s Strongest Man might best him, but it’s not a sure thing. But what is a sure thing is that Jesus has come to defeat the devil.

It’s not a close match or an uncertain outcome. It’s not even a fair fight. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, to plunder the devil’s house, to release the devil’s captives. It might seem like Satan is strong, but Jesus is stronger. It might seem like the devil is fierce, but Jesus is fiercer. The powers of darkness might seem frightening and formidable, but Jesus has beaten each and every one of them. The strong man has been beaten and bound, and we have nothing to fear from him.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash