This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Yaya Toure accuses CSKA supporters of racist chants
New English Translation (NET)
Jesus and Beelzebul
22 Then they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus healed him so that he could speak and see. 23 All the crowds were amazed and said, “Could this one be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this they said, “He does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons!” 25 Now when Jesus realized what they were thinking, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and no town or house divided against itself will stand. 26 So if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you. 29 How else can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can thoroughly plunder the house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
This passage plays with the idea of a “house” meaning both building and household. In Greek this is OIKOS which gives us the English words economy, ecology and ecumenism. I have written at length about this concept as an important motif in the theology of the Bible. Readers can find this material at emmock.com/ bible blog oikos
Jesus told a parable where he compared a human being to a house which could be tenanted either by evil spirits or God’s spirit. There’s no way the human house can remain void; it either accepts the indwelling spirit of God, or it gets occupied by evil squatters. Did Jesus think of illness as the work of evil spirits? It is certain that he did not accept it as God’s will but rather as a provocation to God’s goodness. Anything that diminished human life was wrong in Jesus’ eyes, and especially the isolation of the ill person in his society where he might be feared more than pitied. There was no distinction made in Jesus’ society between physical and mental illness.
So Jesus heals a man whose human house has been occupied by evil spirits, whom he evicts so the man can become well. His opponents decry him, saying he heals by the supernatural power of the prince of evil spirits. Jesus mocks them by saying it would be a daft dynasty that made war on its own members. But if in fact Jesus is acting in the power of God’s spirit, then God has come to rule the house of Israel. Then Jesus pictures himself as a spirit-filled thief who enters Satan’s palace, ties up the mighty spirit of Evil, and ransacks his property, namely, by setting free the human beings in his power.
The solemn warning that Jesus issues about the unforgivable sin, is to those who can see the liberating work of God’s spirit and call it evil. If they continue to do this they will put themselves in thrall to the power of evil that will not let them seek forgiveness.
I have to say that those who see the liberation of homosexual people from prejudice, inequality and enforced promiscuity into dignity, equality and stable relationships, and call it evil, may be risking damnation. It will no excuse for them to plead scripture, any more than the scripture-loving pharisees were excused by Jesus. If by the spirit of God, the demons of disgrace and shame are banished, then God has come to rule our house, I speak as one who once shared the prevailing prejudice of my church and society.
And what are we to say of the section of US society which so hates the liberation of black citizens that it abuses their own president? They are no better, if no worse. than the racist thugs of Moscow who made monkey chants at a black footballer the other night.
It’s easy to see that Jesus’ remarks would not endear him to people imprisoned in their own prejudices, then or now.