#60: Beelzebub

Luke 11:14–23

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

He is on the road to Jerusalem. The clouds are gathering, enemies are circling, there is going to be some sort of climactic showdown. You can almost hear the driving, drumming music in the background as kingdoms are in collision.

With Beelzebub and demons, exorcists and Satan, Kingdom and castles, this story reads like an excerpt from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Jesus is on a military type campaign breaking in to an evil fortress and setting captives free.

I’ve never actually penetrated a castle, got past the armed guards and looked through the bars of a dark prison to see chained up prisoners. I did however once know a man who was utterly in the grip of a gambling addiction. He was a good, hard-working Christian man. He provided for his family and was a committed member of his church. But he was chained to gambling, especially to the machines (aptly called one armed bandits, because that is exactly what they are). His addiction almost destroyed him, his marriage, his relationship to his children and his faith.

I once knew a woman possessed by lust and a young man haunted by inner anger, which wasn’t all that ‘inner’. And as for drink and drugs, well suddenly we are into something of plague proportions.

Who is there to set these people free? Whether you see Beelzebub and the demons as real, actual characters or as metaphors for human weaknesses and problems, what is abundantly clear is that thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people in our own country are held in some sort of human captivity.

There are lots of varied agencies, charities, health workers and therapies etc. that can all help in a range of ways. Many of them were actually first set up by followers of Jesus who were part of the anti-Beelzebub struggle. To my mind however we will always need something beyond the efforts of human helpers because the ultimate enemy is stronger than human flesh and blood.

Light overcomes darkness, form and shape and gives order to chaos, goodness defeats badness and Jesus sets people free from Beelzebub.

Every one of us has got some sort of captivity issue. Some are bigger and more severe than others. Perhaps you have a persistent gossip problem or maybe a deeply hidden pornography struggle. Maybe you are filled with hatred or just with hurting. Who is going to set us free? Then there are the people we work with, are married to or have given birth to. Who is going to set them free?

For some fortunate souls the freedom comes quickly and immediately with a single act of prayer. For some of us, it is taking a lifetime to get us out of the prison.

Freddie Mercury famously sang ‘I want to break free’ but I think Charles Wesley put it better:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Lord Jesus,
Where are the demons in my life?
Where are the chains biting into me?
How long have I been in prison?
How I long to see my prison door opened,
And my chains to fall off.
May you be my liberator.