Binding the Strong Man Matthew 12:24-29


Did anybody happen to see the wonderful science fiction comedy “Men in Black” on TV this week? The Men in Black are a fictional organisation responsible for defending the earth from aliens from outer space. At one point in the middle of pursuing a particularly nasty space insect, Agent K from the Men in Black says this to his new partner Agent J:
There’s always an Alien Battle Cruiser…or a Korlian Death Ray, or…an intergalactic plague about to wipe out life on this planet, and the only thing that lets people get on with their hopeful little lives is that they don’t know about it.
Agent K is right. If we knew that there really was some alien force threatening to destroy all human life then everything would change. Things which seem so important to us would become trivial: money, possessions, success – even things like films and science fiction. So many things just wouldn’t matter any more in the face of the prospect of destruction.

Well I have some good news and some bad news this morning. There is a force in the world which threatens all human life. It is a force more dangerous than and Alien Battle Cruiser or a Korlian Death Ray or global warming or the risk of nuclear war. It is more lethal than an intergalactic plague, or HIV Aids. And I am not talking science fiction here but Biblical fact. That threat to human life is what the Bible calls the devil, or satan, or Beelzebub. “and the only thing that lets people get on with their hopeful little lives is that they don’t know about it.”

The BAD NEWS this morning is that everything the Bible says about the devil is true – and the devil is real. The devil isn’t a little comic character with horns and a forked tail and a trident. The devil is the prince of demons. Here are some of the things the Bible says about the devil.
The devil appeared to Adam and Eve disguised as a serpent and tempted them to disobey God.
The devil was originally an angel but he rebelled against God and was thrown out of heaven.
The devil tempted even people like David and afflicted Job and even tried to tempt Jesus to sin.
The devil tempted Judas to betray Jesus and he continues to tempt people today.
The devil is also known as Satan, The Adversary, the enemy and the evil one and the deceiver.
The devil blinds people spiritually. Jesus calls him a liar and the “father of lies”.

The Bible makes clear that the devil exists – the devil is real. In our reading this morning it is clear that Jesus recognised and taught that the devil is a real enemy – a real threat to human beings.

And there is more BAD NEWS. The devil is not alone. He has his allies – more fallen angels which the Bible refers to as evil spirits, or unclean spirits, or demons. The Bible speaks about demons or evil spirits more than 100 times. In different places it refers to demons as rulers, authorities, powers, dominions, thrones, leaders and “kosmokrats” world rulers.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

“The powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” The devil and all his minions controlling the world and keeping people away from God.
Ephesians 2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts
Here is the bad news. The devil and the demons exist but most people don’t know it. I say most people don’t realise the devil exists, but that is only true in the scientific west. Talk to Christians in Africa or India or South America, where witchdoctors or shamens practise and voodoo and magic are common, and they know that demons exist and have power to harm people! They know demons or evil spirits are everywhere. There is only one devil, and he can only be in one place at one time. But there are so many demons who serve the devil and they spread his power everywhere. practically universal. They can influence people to do evil, and in extreme cases demons can so invade a person’s life that they can speak and act through their human victim.

Here in the West we don’t have witchdoctors or voodoo so much. So the main ways in which people come into contact with demons is through dabbling in the Occult. They may play with magic, casting spells, or witchcraft. Some might call it “The Craft”, or “Wicca”, ancient British magic. Others dabble in fortune telling – tarot, astrology, crystal balls. Others try to contact the dead, in spiritualism or spiritism, through clairvoyance, mediums or séances. All of these practices are very dangerous because they can bring people into contact with the demonic.

Deuteronomy 18:9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no-one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.

This may sound weird and science fiction to you – but it is all terribly real. I heard of a school recently hosting an evening of clairvoyance. Psychic fayres are still popular. Many people on the stalls of the Body Mind and Soul exhibition at the Brentwood Centre at the end of this month will be trapped in different aspects of the Occult. Only last week I was talking to a man whose life has been ruined by his parents’ deep involvement in witchcraft.

There’s the bad news. The devil is real. Demons are real. They are dangerous and powerful enemies whose only aim is to lead people into sin and keep them away from God. There’s the bad news.
But here is the GOOD NEWS. Jesus has overcome the devil! And the proof of that is in his miracles of deliverance!

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

One third of Jesus’s miracles were healings. But another third were specifically miracles of deliverance, of driving out demons. And Jesus’s disciples were also given His authority to cast out demons. To set people free from evil which had a grip on their lives. This ministry of deliverance continued into the early church and continues in the church today.

Jesus’s opponents the Pharisees accused Him of driving demons out by the power of Beelzebub, another name for the devil. But Jesus rejected their arguments and said two separate things which are very important for us to understand. The first was this.
28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
In other words Jesus was saying that his power to drive out demons was in some way the work of God the Holy Spirit inside Him. And all the miracles of deliverance were expressions of the Kingdom of God, God’s Kingly Rule, God acting as King to bring salvation to his people. Casting out demons was not something which only Jesus could do because He was the Son of God. His followers would cast out demons too because the Holy Spirit is at work in them and because that is part of the work of God’s Kingdom.

Then Jesus went on to tell a little parable, the parable of binding the strong man.
29 “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 rob his house.

The strong man in the parable is the devil. His possessions are the people held in the grip of evil by demons. How was is that Jesus could drive out demons, take the strong man’s possessions away from him? Because Jesus had already tied up the strong man. Jesus has already bound the devil. So he can easily cast out the demons and rescue people from the devil’s clutches.

Miracles of deliverance are relatively rare in churches in England today. We need to realise that in Jesus’s time one of the most important reasons people followed Him was his visible power over the demonic.
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Jesus drove out demons. One of the major reasons for the growth of the early church was their miracles of deliverance. And outside of the scientific west, even today, one of the chief reasons people turn to Christ is that they see His power defeating the devil and setting people free from demons. I know all these things are true because I have seen people delivered from demons!

29 “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 rob his house.
Here is the GOOD NEWS – Jesus has bound the strong man. But how did that happen. Remember what happened immediately after Jesus’s baptism and before He began His public ministry.
Luke 4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’
12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

In the wilderness Jesus was tempted. But He did not give in to temptation. Jesus was the first human being ever who did not give in to the devil’s temptations. He proved there that He was stronger than the devil. Many believe that it was there in the wilderness that Jesus “bound the strong man”. Demons would have to obey Jesus!
The Bible tells us that Jesus had bound the strong man before he began his ministry. But it also tells us that Jesus had an even greater victory over the devil in his death on the cross.
JOHN 12:31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross more than bound the devil – it was God’s supreme victory over the devil and his demons.
HEBREWS 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Christ’s death on the cross defeated the devil and sets everybody free who puts their trust in Christ.
So Jesus “bound the strong man” in his time of temptation. And Jesus defeated the devil on the cross. So here’s the good news. Christians don’t need to be afraid of the devil or his demons. Christ’s victory is our victory!
And Jesus sends his church out to continue his ministry of deliverance. To confront the devil and drive out demons. To plunder hell and populate heaven. To set the captives free!
29 “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 rob his house.

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