Lives are Changed by Jesus
Have you ever heard the saying "better the devil you know than the devil you don’t"? It’s really a warning about change. Your current situation may well not be ideal but watch out a different situation may turn out to be worse.
As with most of our familiar idioms or proverbs there is an element of truth in this saying. Yet we would be foolish to follow its advice if that meant refusing any change at all. Not only would we avoid the bad changes but we would also deprive ourselves of the very changes we most need, those changes which will do us the most good.
If you are determined to refuse change in your life then you’d better steer clear of Jesus because he is an expert in the business of changing people. But who in their right mind would want to avoid this remarkable man?
In this section we are once more going to consider this extraordinary man and we will see that as he brings about change he does so with power, with knowledge and in love and that sounds like a wonderful mix to me.
A Man in Need
How simple the account is that Luke records for us but what a wealth of information it contains! Let me show you some of it.
The details are straightforward: there is a man who has a great problem and a serious symptom. The problem is that this man is possessed by a demon. The symptom is the muteness that the presence of the demon has caused – the possessed man can’t speak.
Now there are times when get so caught up with the symptoms that we don’t give a lot of thought to the underlying causes. If we’re in pain all our thoughts may be focused on getting the pain to stop. And yet we ought to know that simply increasing the amount of painkillers is not really the best way of tackling things – we really need to get to the root of the problem and not content ourselves with masking the symptoms. We only resort to palliative care when there is no further hope of any deliverance.
Jesus meets this man and sets him free by casting out the demon – how simply Luke mentions this, so matter-of-fact – it’s no big deal really because it is Jesus at work and Jesus works with power! And his power is stunningly effective – the dumb man has been changed and can do what he couldn’t before, he can speak. To emphasise this Luke puts it very starkly:
v.14 "When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke."
The symptom of muteness is removed as the underlying problem of demon possession is resolved.
Let me highlight some matters for you:
Satanic evil is real and it always has a negative influence. Demonic powers when they operate do so in a way that is destructive of human life as it is meant to be. The Bible distinguishes between sickness and demon possession and we must too. We will not attribute all sickness to the direct intervention of evil spirits but neither will we go the opposite extreme of attributing everything to materialistic causes.
Jesus had (and has) the power to deliver men and women from every kind of satanic influence.
Jesus knew that this particular man’s speech impediment had a spiritual cause and was not merely a mechanical or physical health problem. With that knowledge he dealt with the cause by casting out the demon that brought about the man’s muteness.
Jesus acted in love towards this man. He did so by the exercise of his miraculous power which was informed by a true and deep understanding of the man’s fundamental problem. Jesus demonstrated his love by bringing about two important changes in his life: he permitted him to speak again but he effected a far greater change by delivering him from the negative polluting presence of the evil, unclean spirit.
Your needs may not be as dramatic as was the case of this man. It is unlikely that you are possessed by a demon. But just because the exact details of your life are different from this man’s doesn’t mean that this incident has nothing to say to you. Your life has been and is being spoiled by the evils of sin.
Oh yes, this story is relevant to us all. We all need to know that Jesus has power to bring about those changes that are necessary in our lives. We need to know that Jesus understands what our problems really are even if others can’t see past that respectable facade we often erect. We need to know that Jesus loves and is willing to transform lives just like ours.
Isn’t that news worth taking on board?
Reactions to what Jesus did
The demon left – it couldn’t resist the Saviour’s power – what an encouragement for those of us who believe already! Our Saviour is our King and he is well able to restrain and conquer all his and all our enemies. What an incentive to you to become a Christian when you realise the strength – he will prove well able to save you too!
The dumb man spoke! Change took place in his life as Jesus became involved with him. Some folk like to put around the idea that Jesus will bring an end to our enjoyment of life – do you really think that former mute would agree with such a ridiculous idea? I for one don’t think he would for one moment want to return to his life before Christ.
But there were others who were present and who also reacted in a variety of ways and it is time for us to turn and think about them. As we do so we will find that the same three truths that we’ve already considered concerning Jesus namely his power, his knowledge and his love are also clearly underlined.
When Jesus cast out the demon he had acted in the public domain. Those who saw what he did could not and did not deny what he had done. However they didn’t all universally rejoice – men and women were divided by Jesus then as they still are today.
The first thing we’re told is that the general effect of what Jesus did was to cause people to marvel – do you see that at the end of v.14? I do hope that some who marvelled at the mighty works of Jesus went on to place their faith and trust in him but sadly an admirer of Jesus is not necessarily a follower of Jesus. You who are listening to me this morning might be impressed with Jesus and you may even admire him being impressed by his teaching and by the miracles he carried out but that is not going to save your never-dying soul – you must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ if you would be saved by him.
The next thing we discover is that miracles don’t automatically bring people to faith. The next group of people we’re told about didn’t deny what Jesus had done but they insulted him by attributing the good work which he had done to the diabolical power of Beelzebul, the Prince of demons.
It is interesting to note that on another occasion an evil spirit recognised Jesus: he was the Holy One of God (Lk.4:34) but here men say he’s in league with the devil.
What is your assessment of Jesus?
Others didn’t go that far and pretended to sit on the fence – they wanted more evidence before they would make up their minds, or so they said. Show us s sign from heaven and then we’ll believe was their mantra.
Did you know that people still react like that today? "I won’t believe until..." and then they add their own personal conditions and consider themselves oh so clever as they do so. But we’ve seen all this before – there really is nothing new under the sun.
I hope you’re not like the members of this group. They’d seen a miracle but they weren’t satisfied. And what about you? You’ve heard about Jesus; you’ve heard what he did and in particular you’ve heard that he came to die for sinners on the cross of Calvary; you’ve heard too that he rose from the dead on the third day – are you still unprepared to commit yourself as a follower of this tremendous man? More than that, you’ve seen that others are quite prepared to commit themselves to Christ on the grounds of exactly the same evidence that is available to you – and will you persist in your refusal to believe? And you’ve seen even more than this – you’ve seen the reality of the changes Jesus has brought about in the lives of others that you know who have decided to follow Jesus. I know as well as you do that none of them are perfect but it’s undeniable that they’re now headed in a new direction in their lives. And will you continue to hold back?
Jesus’ response to such reactions
Jesus didn’t give up on these people. He spoke to them and reasoned with them and appealed to them – how generous and compassionate our Lord Jesus is!
How do you react when your best efforts are deliberately called into question, when your integrity is challenged and when you are openly insulted?
Jesus reacted to all – to those who had criticised him under their breath and behind his back and to those who challenged him openly to prove himself. He responded not just to their spoken words but to thoughts of their hearts as well. He could do so because he knew what was in their hearts, in fact he knew everything about them – he knew their emptiness, their rebellion, their cynicism and their foolish animosity – and he spoke to them because he loved them and wanted to bring them to a right understanding.
This Jesus hasn’t changed, he still knows all there is to know about men and women, about you and me. We live in a world where knowledge is often abused and so we are suspicious of scams and the risks of identity theft and the destruction of our lives – but Jesus knows all about us and does not abuse his knowledge. He isn’t out to cheat us or to rob us but he has come that we might life in all its fullness.
He knows which of us here today trust in him and he knows those who don’t and won’t but he continues to speak to them. He does so through the Bible, he does so through preachers he does so through the witness and testimony of the ordinary believer too. He could give up on you but he hasn’t yet because today is still the day of salvation and you can still come – oh do come and don’t go on and on putting him off. The time will come when our last opportunity will have passed and passed forever. Come to Christ while you may!
As Jesus spoke to these folk who were hesitant and suspicious of him he sort to inform their minds, to challenge their preconceptions and their misconceptions, and to call them to discipleship. What a man and what a Saviour! He is ready to save even those who have been highly critical of him – we all therefore have reason to hope.
He began by confronting the whispered accusation that he acted in league with the devil. He didn’t meet the charges with a plea of innocence – the accusation was too outrageous to be taken seriously – instead he asked a number of questions designed to lead them to think more clearly themselves.
We don’t know whether these folk were prepared to do some careful thinking or not – but we can take steps to make sure that we do! Will you think seriously about this man Jesus and his claims? What glorious prospects await you if only you will for as Luke has only recently reminded us Jesus teaches that:
"everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened" Lk.11:10.
Jesus Describes his Mission with a Story
The story that Jesus told to illustrate his mission is simple and easy to understand.
A strong man carefully arms himself so that he might guard his possessions – his palace and possessions are thus kept safe. Safe, that is, until someone stronger comes along who is able to disarm and overcome him. When this happens the goods of the former are ready to be plundered.
Jesus had just performed a mighty miracle and cast out an evil spirit who had taken possession of his prey whose life he was destroying. This fact was not contested by anyone and Jesus had explained that he had done this mighty work not by trickery or by dubious allegiances but by the "finger of God" – it was proof that the Kingdom of God had drawn near to them all.
Now with that context it is not difficult to identify the characters in Jesus’ story.
The strong man who carefully guards his possessions is Satan – he won’t let go of what he has got until forced to do so and uses any and every weapon at his disposal.
In this instance he used demon possession but his armoury is varied: he aims to keep a grip on what is in his possession. Satan is not pictured as going on the offensive – the world already lies under his sway and he simply wants to keep it that way. So he tries to maintain quiet in his own house: he doesn’t want his captives to be stirred by thoughts of the danger they might be in due to sin, he doesn’t want them to start thinking about the judgement of God’s law and he certainly doesn’t want them to think about eternal damnation: so he has preachers proclaim "peace, peace" where there is no peace.
The stronger man in the story is the one who comes to break Satan’s grip and to plunder what Satan is holding onto – this stronger man is none other than Jesus himself. It is Jesus who is on the move taking the offensive and setting captives free - he has just done this very thing in freeing the mute and loosing his tongue as he forced the demon to leave. Even the gates of hell cannot withstand the gospel progress of the strong man Jesus. When Jesus comes knocking there is no door that will keep him out!
There is no place for sitting on some imaginary fence, or hedging one’s bets as it were. Jesus declares that there is no neutral ground upon which to take a stand – everyone is divided into one of two camps. Simply put you are either for or against Jesus, there is no other possibility.
Which camp are you in?
Are you for Christ? Have you decided to put your trust in him and follow him? If you have then know that even if the battle rages and life is tough at times you are on the victory side, Jesus is the stronger man remember.
But what if you haven’t decided to become one of Jesus’ disciples? Well don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re not really hostile towards Jesus for he says you are!
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you are finding things pretty comfortable at the moment that it doesn’t matter what you do with Jesus. Don’t listen to those suggestions that say that just because you’re finding life as it is undemanding you must be OK as you are. Don’t imagine that because you know many other fellow travellers who are not taking Jesus and his claims seriously that you don’t need to either. Jesus says otherwise.
Jesus words are at one and the same time an invitation and a warning. Heed the warning and accept the invitation – Jesus welcomes sinners and he will welcome you too if only you will repent of your sin and call to him for mercy. Remember that Jesus died for sinners and to do them good but if you think you don’t need him you will not have him.
But why would you not want him? After all, as we have seen, he has power, he has knowledge and he acts in love. I commend the Lord Jesus Christ to you this morning – he is the Saviour you need and you won’t regret coming to him.
May the Lord have mercy on us all.