Welcome home, unclean spirit
The conflicts of Jesus
40 Blogs of Lent: Day 24
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
Matthew 12:43–45 ESVUK
We are still on the subject of the Pharisees here, Jesus hasn’t finished with them yet. This is more than some stand-alone “compact and eerie little parable about a haunted house” as William Barclay but the last part in a whole series of conflicts between the Pharisees and Jesus that Matthew conveniently collated together in his gospel.
- The whole of Jesus’ preaching was about repentance.
- Before Jesus started his ministry John the Baptist said, “Repent.”
- Jesus started his ministry by preaching. “Repent.”
- Jesus sent the disciples out to preach, “Repent.”
- After the Holy Spirit had come at Pentecost, Peter preached, “Repent.”
Repentance is the core of the gospel message. It is central to the message of Christianity, Anyone preaching a message that does not contain repentance is not preaching the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus came to die for our sins and rise again, that was the purpose of him coming, but the centre of his message was we need to repent.
Repentance is not about feeling sorry, It is possible in theory to repent and feel nothing, though I’ve never done that myself. Repentance is not sorrow, it is the turning away from what we did and start doing something else. Repentance shows itself in action.
The Pharisees did exorcisms, that was mentioned earlier in the chapter, but they left the people as they were, cleaned out. Jesus message here is aimed straight at the Pharisees. Jesus is saying that their way of relating to God is leaving people worse than they were before. They were not turning from what they were doing and turning to God.
There is a tendency in religion to separate yourself from evil in order to be pure demanding that we divide and separate the world into black/white, clean/unclean, pure/impure, right/wrong, which of course translates in the Philistines case into the good being their own legalistic interpretations and the bad being anyone who disagrees with them.
But they had it wrong, it is no good separating yourself from evil if the evil is still there, evil has to be overcome. Which is where faith in Jesus comes in: Jesus came to overcome evil.
This blog is bad news, but the Gospel is good news. There is always a good side to things, But that side is in the next blog, due on Tuesday.