Luke 11:14-20 (CEV)
14 Jesus forced a demon out of a man who could not talk. And after the demon had gone out, the man started speaking, and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some people said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”
16 Others wanted to put Jesus to the test. So they asked him to show them a sign from God. 17 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said:
A kingdom where people fight each other will end up in ruin. And a family that fights will break up. 18 If Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? Yet you say that I force out demons by the power of Beelzebul. 19 If I use his power to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? They are the ones who will judge you. 20 But if I use God’s power to force out demons, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you.
There is an old hymn that many of the folks in the church I grew up in liked to sing. It was called ‘I’ll Fly Away’, and it went like this:
Some bright morning when this life is o’er
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away …
And so on.
The song gets excited about leaving here to go to the place where God is, and as such it was very popular. Who wouldn’t want to be with God? Who wouldn’t want to escape the heartache and the pain and the brokenness that is our world? Given the option, wouldn’t that be better, really?
As someone who has lost people who matter to me and as someone who lives with multiple levels of disability, I have to be honest, this seemed like a really good story when I first heard it.
But it turns out that it has some flaws.
For one thing, if the only possible hope we have is death, then what’s the point in living?
For another thing, if the only point at which hope is to be found is in the afterlife, then we lose our sense of responsibility in the here and now … for each other, for God’s creatures, for creation.
Our passage today is this argument between ‘some people’ (probably the different religious leaders … they tended to be behind these arguments) about whether Jesus was driving out demons through the power of Satan, juxtaposed over others asking for ‘a sign’.
So there’s tension brewing around Jesus. He’s doing things that are making people uncomfortable. He’s pushing the limits and pushing the boundaries, and he’s getting flack for it. This is nothing new. And for some this question about how Jesus is driving out the demons is really important. Because it turns out that, according to Jesus at least, it wouldn’t make any sense for Satan to driving out demons – what would he gain from that?
But for me, reading through this story, this phrase ‘already come’ struck me. Because the hope that we have in Jesus is not some far-off, afterlife fantasy. It’s not some RRSP we have to put money into month-on-month in the hope of getting even a little return on our investment in twenty or thirty or forty years’ time.
No, Jesus says that the kingdom has already come. That hope arrived with Jesus. That it is present and active and working in our world already, and we get to taste it and experience it and then join in to it in the here and now, as well as the here-after.
Not ‘Some bright morning when this life is o’er’, but ‘today’.
Not ‘I’ll fly away’, but ‘I’ll dig in’.
Not ‘Hallelujah by-and-by’, but simply ‘Hurray’!Journal Questions:
- What does it mean to you that the Kingdom has already come?
- What does it mean that we are invited to join in with the Kingdom’s coming right here, right now?
- How do you find yourself digging in to the Kingdom work of caring for each other?
- For God’s creatures?
- For God’s creation?