The Point of Decision (Luke 11)

 

key choice.jpg

The Greek word for “judgement” is krisis. It carries the meaning of “deciding point.” If you decide, for example, to drive north, then you cannot also drive south. The one excludes the other. The moment you decide is a “crisis” of judgement and commits you to action.

And when people met Jesus, they found themselves forced to make a decision -a judgement- about him. Jesus  asked “Who do people say I am?”  by way of encouraging that decision. They had to decide who they thought he was. The thing was, you couldn’t stay neutral.It was like a war zone and you had to choose which side you were on. He claimed -at the very least- to speak for God; and so you had to decide whether that was true or false. If it was true, then they really needed to listen and obey!

The same choice exists today.

In Luke 11, we see some people coming to that very crisis point, but choosing wrongly:

“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.”

Do you see it? Jesus is displaying power, -astonishing, authoritative action- and so a response is forced upon the audience. They are forced to ask: “Where does this power come from?” But is it the power, say, of Martin Luther King, swaying the people with passionate eloquence as he calls for justice? Or is it the power of Hitler, awakening a dark racism that calls for blood?

The distinction is not always so pure and simple, you know. Sometimes you can’t easily distinguish between the two. At least at first.

Luke continues:

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Jesus opens out this point of decision into the description of a war zone. And, as I said, there are no neutral zones, no non-combatants. It’s a war in which you are forced to choose sides. Good and Evil are locked into combat.When Jesus broke the chains of oppression over this man, he made a decisive attack from one side against the other.

But it’s vital now that you make the choice: Is this Hitler or MLK in action? To make the choice, you  have to understand what’s happening. The demonised are being set free. Even John the Baptist became uncertain, and sought reassurance that Jesus was who he said he was; and Jesus encouraged him to look at the fruit of what he was doing: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:22)

So the next verses describe with crystal clarity just what Jesus is doing:

21 ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.”

The forces against which Jesus contends are personnified as “Beelzebul” (a term deriving from “Baal” (in 2 Kings 1:2-3, 6, 16) with a suffix variously understood to mean “Lord of the Flies” or “Master of the House.” This last phrase certainly fits the context here. But Jesus, whilst admitting the strength of the enemy, claims that his present actions prove his own greater strength.

The enemy’s armour is being stripped away and his plunder divided every time an oppressed person is set free! And again, it is no different today.

So, now, make your choice:

” ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” You are either on the side of the gatherers or the scatterers. 

Either we are building, organizing, teaching, discipling … or  we are destroying. Either we are repairing, restoring… or we areallowing the certainty of entropy, decay and loss to have its full effect. Either we are advancing the kingdom, hastening the day… or we are delaying it.

Either we are part of the solution or part of the problem.

It’s interesting that the opposite is not spoken.  It is not, if you are not against me, that is okay with me, or some such construct. Further, we are not the judge of our condition, for it is Jesus who is the judge and arbiter.  In similar fashion Paul reminds us if God is for us, who can stand against us?

But, if we are not gathering with him, Jesus is not for us, but rather implies that he stands against us. In that case, it does not matter who else might be for us!

However, the paradox is that you and I do not work for God to be accepted by Him. That is religion. Rather it is, I am accepted by God, therefore I obey.  That is relationship.

But Jesus has more to say about the meaning of being a gatherer:

‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.’

Again we see the image of a house, now lacking its previous occupant. The obvious truth is outlined, that a house needs an occupant who will care for it, or it will fall into disrepair. It is not enough to have the bad tenant evicted: the true Owner must be re-installed

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11: 14-28)

Luke concludes the passage the way he began it, on the issue of choice and decision. If you acknowledge that Jesus is who he claims to be, then you take your stand with him. You examine the evidence of the newly liberated people around him, and you conclude that this is it! War has been declared and you have been called up! And you are a gatherer, restoring, collecting, fishing, harvesting – Jesus was never short of images! And you are part of that “someone stronger” who “attacks and overpowers” Satan divesting him of  his “armour” and dividing “up his plunder.”

When Peter saw, in a rare moment of spiritual insight, just who Jesus was, Jesus replied in words that we must understand for ourselves (as part of his body, his church):

 “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock  I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

And all this waits on your choice. You are called into combat and the battle is on.

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