We often read episodes in the gospel as instances of how Jesus helps us. Often that is what they are. But always there is more going on as well. Jesus achieves a victory over the evil one and evil itself, such that the whole world can change. And does change, under the governance of God through the everyday lives of its citizens. So, here …
The evil one had so gripped his life that the man was on total sensory shutdown—his eyes dark, his ears muted and his tongue frozen. Then friends brought him to Jesus who drove the demon out of the man, and sent him home totally restored, seeing, hearing and speaking. As Mathew tells the story, what Jesus did generated a number of responses and opportunities:
- The crowd was amazed and exclaimed: Could this Jesus be the Messiah, the Son of David (Matt. 12:23)?
- The Pharisees were annoyed and declared: No, he gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons, (Matt. 12:24 NLT).
- The Lord Jesus counters: Not possible! Kingdoms divided against themselves collapse; homes whose members oppose one another will implode; and both kingdoms and homes emptied of evil will be filled again, for better or worse (see Matt. 12:25-26).
- If I am rescuing and restoring people by the Holy Spirit, then the Kingdom-of-God has finally arrived (Matt. 12:28)!
- If I am rescuing and restoring people by the Holy Spirit, then the “strong man” who terrorized and occupied their lives and the world has been bound and banished (see Matt. 12:29).
Typically, we read this story and think of the many individuals, even ourselves, who live impaired by the evil one. If not literally blind, deaf or mute, they/we are otherwise under the sway of an enemy who intends nothing but harm. They/we need Jesus who is indeed the Messiah, the promised successor of Israel’s great King David. That Jesus has come as our Royal Messiah is good news indeed. But there is more here than good news for us and others as individual persons.
Within the story of the gospel, the rescue and restoration Jesus brought to the demon-assailed and possessed signaled that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Just as a kingdom or a home or a single human heart at war against itself cannot stand and will eventually fall, so it is with a world, its nations, tribes and families, and its individuals. They/we live at the intersection of competing powers and contested loyalties. They/we are subject to those powers and torn by those loyalties, under the sway of a “strong man” who is hell-bent on the demise of all. Individuals, families, tribes, nations and world all beset by enemy occupation.
But then Jesus enters in, embeds behind enemy lines, and announces, “Kingdom-come!” From within he marshals the weapons of God’s realm against the “strong man.” Eyes open, ears unstop, and tongues shout. Crowds gather and Jesus announces the arrival of God’s good governance. Outcasts draw near, contagion comes clean, sinners confess and turn. In Jesus what it means to be right and good and true takes on flesh and blood, even as wrong, evil and deceit musters for battle. Light braces for night’s assault. Love confronts anger, bitterness, and rage. Life itself lays siege to death, but then shockingly surrenders in the dust. Thus, “Kingdom-come” apparently went. And that was that—it was finished!
Yet, on the first day of the week, in third-day light, the “Stronger Man” stood. And, the Stronger Man stands. It is finished—as in “accomplished” and “very good!”
Now, individuals, families, tribes, nations and world may claim their ancient-future heritage. The Stronger Man stands! The powers pose no final threat and can claim no legitimate loyalty.
So now, royal heirs everywhere follow their King’s lead, entering in, embedding themselves; learning and practicing the ways of the King’s household. They count as blessing what the King blesses; they excel in the King’s right ways; they are free from anger, lust, deceit, vengeance, and self-centeredness; they delight in the care of the King and thus live care-free; they are generous to a fault; they refuse to condemn others, (even if “they’re wrong”); they treat others as the King treats them; and they base their lives on the King’s words, deeds and practices. They are not perfect in their performance, but they are single-minded and laser-focused on the King’s heart.
The Stronger Man brings a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. It brings what is right and good, and it generates joy. It is for individuals, families, tribes, nations and the world.
This is the Kingdom God has promised and given. The “government of God” offers us and our world the deepest remedies for what ails us and all. And those remedies work to restore and renew a besieged world as its citizens pursue the way of life that flows from the heart of the King.