“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
I don’t get football. I really don’t. To me it’s just a group of [x] men (I don’t even know how many are in a team! Eleven? Twelve?) kicking round a sphere of leather. I can’t get excited about that. I’m aware that millions of people do get excited about football, though. I’ve even heard it described as a new religion.
At my last school, a huge number of the kids used to support Arsenal. When I was driving to the station on Monday mornings to catch the train to work, I used to memorise the snippet on the radio sports news about the weekend’s Arsenal game. I would then start every lesson that day with something along the lines of, “did you see Thierry Henry’s goal in the 38th minute on Saturday? What a goal!” in a desperate attempt to court popularity with my students.
Imagine what would happen, though, if in a draw for the FA Cup, by some bizarre mishap Arsenal was drawn against… Arsenal. Who would lose? Well, Arsenal obviously! And what would happen to Arsenal’s chances of winning the FA Cup? They’d be dashed at a stroke!
In Matthew’s gospel immediately preceding today’s verses, as in our current Mark passage, Jesus has healed a demon-possessed man. The Pharisees claimed that it was only because Jesus was allied with the devil that he could cast out demons. Our passage is Jesus’ response. He tells them that if he was in alliance with the devil, he would not be casting out the devil’s minions. If he did, he would be destroying his own kingdom, and, like Arsenal v Arsenal, the devil’s kingdom would crumble as it would be fighting itself. No, Jesus says. He draws out demons by the Spirit of God. In doing so, he has brought the kingdom of God upon the pharisees that very day – exactly what they had been waiting for for hundreds of years. Yet here they were, in blissful ignorance.
Not for the first time, we see people confused and challenged by Jesus, his actions and his words. They are amazed at what he does, try to rationalise how he is achieving these incredible accomplishments, and fail to understand the significance of what they’re seeing.
Are we challenged and confused by Jesus? Have we decided who we think he is? Do we really understand the significance of Christ? Perhaps we should give that some thought today.