EXPELLING DEMONS BY “GOD’S FINGER”
SOURCE OF TRUE HAPPINESS
Jesus has just repeated his instructions about prayer, but that is not the only subject that comes up more than once during his ministry. When he was performing miracles in Galilee, Jesus faced the false charge that he did so by means of power from the ruler of the demons. Now in Judea this charge arises again.
When Jesus casts out of a man a demon that prevents him from speaking, the crowds are amazed. Not his critics, though. They bring up the same false accusation: “He expels the demons by means of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (Luke 11:15) Others, seeking more evidence as to Jesus’ identity, ask him for a sign from heaven.
Realizing that they are trying to test him, Jesus answers them as he did similar critics encountered in Galilee. He says that every kingdom divided against itself will fall, reasoning: “If Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” Then Jesus tells them directly: “If it is by means of God’s finger that I expel the demons, the Kingdom of God has really overtaken you.”
Jesus’ mention of “God’s finger” should call to his listeners’ minds what happened earlier in Israel’s history. Those in Pharaoh’s court who saw Moses perform a miracle exclaimed: “It is the finger of God!” It was also “God’s finger” that wrote the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets. (Exodus 8:19; 31:18) Similarly, “God’s finger”
Jesus’ ability to expel demons is evidence of his power over Satan, just as when a stronger man approaches and overpowers a well-armed man guarding a palace. Jesus also repeats his illustration about an unclean spirit that leaves a man. If the man does not fill the void with good things, that spirit will return with seven others, making the man’s final condition worse than at the first. (Matthew 12:22, 25-29, 43-45) So it is proving to be with the nation of Israel.
A woman listening to Jesus is moved to exclaim: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that nursed you!” Jewish women hoped to be the mother of a prophet, particularly of the Messiah. So this woman might think that Mary can be especially happy as the mother of such a teacher. Yet Jesus corrects the woman as to the true source of happiness: “No, rather, happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” (Luke 11:27, 28) Jesus has never suggested that Mary should be given special honor. Rather, true happiness for any man or woman is found in being a faithful servant of God, not in any physical ties or accomplishments.
As Jesus did in Galilee, he rebukes the people for demanding a sign from heaven. He says that no sign will be given them except “the sign of Jonah.” Jonah served as a sign both by his three days in the fish and by his bold preaching, which moved the Ninevites to repent. Jesus says: “But look! something more than Jonah is here.” (Luke 11:29-32) Jesus also is more than Solomon, whose wisdom the queen of Sheba came to hear.
“After lighting a lamp,” Jesus adds, “a person puts it, not in a hidden place nor under a basket, but on the lampstand.” (Luke 11:33) He may mean that teaching and performing miracles before these people is like hiding the light of a lamp. Because their eyes are not focused, they miss the purpose of his works.
Jesus has just expelled a demon and has caused a man who was speechless to speak. That should motivate people to glorify God and tell others what Jehovah is accomplishing. So Jesus has words of warning for his critics: “Be alert, therefore, that the light that is in you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is bright with no part of it dark, it will all be as bright as when a lamp gives you light by its rays.”
What does Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel reveal about her faith? What other valuable qualities did she display?