What Jesus accomplished in His Incarnation, Life, Death on the Cross, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, is so profound, so mysterious and so multi-faceted, that the biblical authors struggle to find words to describe it.
They are forced instead towards the use of images and metaphors, by which they illustrate this or that aspect of what Jesus achieved.
Perhaps one of the most startling of these metaphors is one used by Jesus Himself to describe the nature of his mission.
Jesus was opposed by the Jewish religious hierarchy, who failed to see Him as the fulfillment of the Jewish Messianic hope and instead saw Him as a heretic and a threat to themselves and the ‘true’ faith.
However, Jesus was very popular amongst the masses, He was a man of evident charisma and He performed miracles of healing and deliverance and accomplished prodigious signs.
How can you oppose a man who does stuff like that?
Well, they very cleverly realised that if they couldn’t deny the reality of His miraculous powers, they could at least cast doubt on the origin of His powers.
Being Jews their theology told them that there exists only one source of power in the universe – God. However, one of God’s powerful angelic creatures rebelled against him and stands in opposition to all that God is and seeks to achieve. This opposition is revealed in his names and titles. Whereas God is revealed as ‘The Truth’, Satan is ‘The Father of Lies’. Whereas God is revealed as ‘The Merciful One’, Satan is ‘The Accuser’ etc.
So if they couldn’t admit that the source of Jesus’ undeniable power was divine, there was only one other possibility, that it was demonic.
‘But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul – the prince of demons – that this fellow drives out demons.”’ (Matthew 12:24 NIV)
Jesus called them over and showed them the fallacy of their argument.
‘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 Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.”’ (Matthew 12:24-29 NIV)
Jesus exposed the nonsensical nature of their claim, no kingdom wars against itself! To do so is to bring about your own downfall.
Secondly, he pointed to their own exorcists, what is the source of their power? Are they too using demonically sourced power to drive out demons – something they would never accept for an instant!
The only logical conclusion, in the face of the apparent nonsense of Satan giving Jesus power to defeat his own agents, and the ardent testimony of the Jewish exorcists that demonic deliverance is a sign of the power of God at work, is that Jesus is full of the Spirit of God and by His miraculous actions is establishing the promised Kingdom of God in their midst.
Jesus has overcome the Strong Man – Satan – He has tied up up, dumped him in a corner and is stealing his stuff! Releasing those lives blighted by Satan’s activity.
As Satan opposes God and as Mankind is the chief creation of God and God’s will for mankind is for his total flourishing, Satan’s activity is expressed in all that undermines, destroys, minimises, weakens, impoverishes human life.
Jesus’ rebel action consists therefore in bringing relief to the oppressed, healing to the sick, hope to the hopeless.
The Church is Jesus’ agent to continue His activity in the World.
Jesus has overcome Satan, He has tied him up.
Let’s steal his stuff!