A Meditation on Luke 11:9-20
(Text for Second Sunday after Ascension of Mary
Delivered at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur).
I find two important themes in this passage for us to consider today:
One: Search and will be found.
Two: A talks about the disintegration of communities.
Parallel to the first story is seen in Matthew 7:7. This saying is not connected in Matthew to the second saying seen in Luke (11:14-23). The gift of God is said to be just ‘good things’ according to Matthew (7:11) where as according to Luke it is the Holy Spirit (11:13). Of course Holy Spirit is some thing good that comes from God. But I doubt that is what Matthew means here. It should be just some thing good in general. This saying is not seen in Mark. So it is from common source to Matthew and Luke.
Regarding the meaning of the saying, I do not think that it is a talk about our hard labour to get some thing good in our lives. Rather it reminds us of knowing what really want and what we need to do to get it in terms of doing our part of the job.
In Matt. 6:26, Jesus talks about the birds of the air that do not sow or reap, but are fed by God. But the birds have to look for where God has kept the food for them and also they have to eat it for themselves. No one else can do these things for them.
Yes you have to do your part of the job to get the blessing. The door is waiting to be knocked to open and the thing is waiting to be searched for you to have it. There was a call from God the Father saying, “Here is my beloved Son ... listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). It was for the people to behold him. God can not make them listen. There is a saying, ‘you can only lead the horse to the water, but can not make it drink’. You can explain to your students what they need to learn. You can not make them taught. We need to do our job and no one can do it for us.
The second incident in Luke is a talk about the possible disintegration of communities and societies. This is given in the backdrop of Jew’s accusation of Jesus casting out demons with the help of demons.
Parallel texts can be seen in Matthew ch. 12 and Mark ch. 3. There are few differences between these three records. Mark records the story in an entirely different context. Jesus was with a large multitude and he had no time even to eat. Seeing this, his own people called him crazy. Matthew has blind and mute person healed by Jesus. The people called Jesus, ‘Son of David’ which is not seen in either Mark or Luke. This is quite understandable considering the audience of Matthew which was primarily Jews. According to Matthew it was the Pharisees who accused Jesus. For Mark it was the Scribes who did so. Luke has only ‘some of them’ implying part of the crowd. To Mark the statement about division comes as a parable from Jesus.
Luke v. 16 seems to be an interpolation which says, ‘some others asked for a sign from Jesus’. While some accused Jesus of casting out demons by demons some others asked for a sign. We can already see a division on this matter among the people.
Luke 11: 23 and Matthew 12:30 end with a statement “He who is not with me is against me and will be scattered”. Actually this is where the second passage ends. For some reason the lectionary did not consider this important to be included.
Matthew and Mark conclude the passage with a statement regarding ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’. Luke omitted it for unknown reason.
Let me today focus on the second part of the passage that talk about Jesus being accused of casting out demons by demons.
A Divided House
Division can be of two types.
I. One that is inevitable and positive:
There was division among the people and among the Jews regarding who Jesus was and what was he doing (John 7:43; 9:16 and in 10:19).
As a matter of fact Jesus came to this world to create a division according to Luke 12:51-53. (‘I have not come to set peace on earth rather division’)
This division is between good and evil, between those who accepted Jesus as God and those who did not.
Elimination and removal of evil from what is essentially good is the work of salvation.
It is elimination or burning out of impurities or parasites that were attached to some thing fundamentally good. This is what we see all through the history of humans with God.
Abraham leaving Haran was a division; the burning bush Moses witnessed was another division (the bush in flame was not consumed. But there was some thing symbolically being consumed, which is slavery in Egypt); Israel leaving Egypt yet another division; accepting Jesus for sure was another.
Those were means of re-instatement of the creation and hence some thing positive and good.
II. There is a second kind of division.
This division is seen as something negative and destructive.
This is what Jesus was talking about in this event under consideration.
A situation where things can not be sorted out and a consensus or perfect understanding can not be achieved becomes a reason for division.
Such a situation will put confusion and chaos in the community and will eventually lead to breaking down and perishing of it.
No caring person can allow this to happen. That will be self destructive.
We in India today are facing such a situation.
The big question before our nation today is how to deal with the escalating corruption in our society?
All-party meetings, parties and Team Anna, government and civil society representatives all stand at different corners not agreeing on ways and means of sorting it out and trying to cast out this demon.
We are divided.
This unhealthy and destructive division prevail in all sections of our society, our families and even in every single person today.
People are becoming more and more confused that leads them to depression and further to breaking down of the self.
Integrity of personality, of family, of communities becomes a big challenge for us.
Look at our Church for example.
A Church divided in to two groups, the Jacobite and the Orthodox.
Both worship the same God, profess same faith, follow same tradition, share the same heritage, teach the same theology and worship using the same liturgy. There is absolutely nothing that divides us. Still we are divided. We have become a laughing stock in the midst of other people. Our financial and other resources are wasted on this division. Our young are going away from the fellowship; we are loosing members to unhealthy new generation 'so called spiritual' groups mushrooming in and around us.
We need to stand together, work together and march forward for the welfare and progress of the people.
Wedded husbands and wives are now standing in the veranda of court rooms waiting for them to be called to present their reasons for them to be separated or divided. Daily about a hundred divorce petitions are filed in family courts in Kerala with mutual consent. When they are separated, where will the children go and how healthy will they be emotionally in future? How will they experience God’s loving care through the parents and will learn to love others? Families are getting split away at an alarming rate. Still we claim that we are a developed community and are progressing.
No community, family or individual can stand when it is divided for the wrong reasons.
Yes we need to distinguish between good and evil.
Since evil has no essence and eternal existence, it has to go and a division with that goal will help world become a better place and will progress.
But we should not be divided to cast out demonic forces that parasite and sickens us. Also we should not use demonic forces to cast out demonic tendencies. That will be a matter for another sermon.
Be divided and take a definite stand for right and noble cause. But do not be divided in casting out demons and never use demonic forces to eliminate what is bad and unhealthy in us and around us.
Jesus who cast out demons with the power of God will help us to be united to eliminate bad influences and tendencies in and among us.
Cast out demons with the ‘figure of God’ and we will see the kingdom of God in our midst! Amen.