All Swept and In Order

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings 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.”

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:24-28 ESV

The Jewish religious leaders, who greatly despised Jesus, had effectively spread the rumor that his power to cast out demons came from Satan himself. They couldn’t deny the fact that Jesus performed inexplicable miracles, so they attempted to cast doubt on their efficacy by raising concerns about their source. Not only had they accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan, but they had also regularly tried to expose Jesus as a violator of the Sabbath laws. Jesus had a habit of performing many of His miracles on the Sabbath, and this proclivity provided the Pharisees with plenty of evidence to accuse Him of being a law-breaker.

But Jesus had refuted their charges, stating, “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 ESV). The term, “son of man” was Jesus’ favorite appellation when referring to Himself and it is a direct reference to the prophecy found in Daniel 7.

As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 NLT

Every time Jesus referred to Himself by that moniker, He was declaring His identity as the Messiah of Israel, the long-awaited descendant of King David who would rule and reign in righteousness and for eternity. Jesus was the Son of Man and yet, the people of Israel were having a difficult time believing His claim. And the religious leaders were even attributing His miraculous powers to Satan. But Matthew records that Jesus refuted their accusation, claiming instead that His power came from the Spirit of God.

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. – Matthew 12:28 ESV

Jesus was about to use this important distinction to level a serious charge against the Pharisees and their fellow members of the Sanhedrin. Whether they realized it or not, they were actually committing blasphemy against the Spirit of God by attributing His works to Satan.

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. – Matthew 12:32 ESV

They could say what they wanted about Jesus. They could reject Him and spread all kinds of lied about Him. But when they boldly declared Jesus’ Spirit-empowered miracles to be the work of Satan, they were sealing their eternal fate.

These men had determined to oppose Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man. And, in doing so, they had become His adversaries and enemies of God Almighty.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. – Luke 11:23 ESV

What these self-righteous men failed to understand was that Jesus came to do far more than free those who suffered from demon possession. The many miracles Jesus performed, while profound in nature, were all short-term solutions to temporal problems. Those whom He healed from disease would still be capable of contracting yet another ailment. The lame who received the ability to walk would one day find themselves crippled by the ravages of old age. The eyes of the blind whose sight He restored would eventually develop cataracts. And Jesus even reveals that the formerly demon-possessed were far from out of the woods when it came to their former state.

“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order.” – Luke 11:24-25 NLT

In a sense, Jesus is saying that casting out a demon is the easy part. But creating an environment where the demon is no longer welcome is much more difficult. Notice that Jesus emphasizes a home that “is all swept and in order” (Luke 11:25 NLT). He paints a picture of someone doing all they can to put their life back together so that the demon finds their “home” an unwelcome place to occupy.

This seems to be a direct slam against the Pharisees and their legalistic devotion to law-keeping and outward displays of righteousness. In fact, just a few verses later, Jesus exposes their obsession with appearances.

“You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness!” – Luke 11:39 NLT

Casting out a demon does nothing to change the heart of a man, no more than washing the outside of a cup removes the dirt contained within it. When Jesus cast out demons, He was demonstrating His power and authenticating His identity as the Messiah. He was proving that He had God-given authority to oppose and depose Satan and His minions. But had Jesus cast out every demon In Israel and healed every individual suffering from sickness and disease, the fate of mankind would have remained unchanged. He had come to do far more than clean the outside of the cup. He came to provide cleansing from sin and deliverance from the condemnation of death.

Having their ability to walk restored was of no real benefit if the person refused to follow Jesus and have their sin-damaged heart made new. A blind person who had their eyes opened by Jesus would still find themselves living in darkness if they failed to recognize Him as the Son of God and their sole source of salvation from sin. And the individual who basked in the joy of being demon-free would soon discover that it was their unrepentant and unchanged heart that made their life the perfect habitat for evil spirits. If Jesus didn’t occupy their heart, something else would.

It’s likely that these comments from Jesus elicited a range of responses from the crowd who heard them. The Pharisees would have been enraged and offended by what they heard. They knew Jesus was accusing them of blasphemy. And they were more convinced than ever that He was a threat to their way of life and had to be eliminated. But Luke records that one anonymous woman spoke up and declared, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” (Luke 11:27 NLT). This unnamed woman, most likely a mother herself, expressed her deep admiration for Jesus by pronouncing a blessing on the woman who bore Him for nine months and then brought Him into this world. Had Mary, the mother of Jesus, not brought her son to full term, this woman would not have enjoyed the privilege of sitting under His teaching and benefiting from His wisdom.

But Jesus took the woman’s kind and gracious statement and used it to emphasize the need for belief.

“But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” – Luke 11:28 NLT

Yes, Mary was blessed for having brought Jesus into the world. But how more blessed are all those who invite Jesus into their hearts. As grateful as that woman may have been, she needed to hear what Jesus had to say and do what He was calling her to do: Believe.

This all goes back to the heart. The formerly demon-possessed needed to have their hearts cleansed. The formerly lame needed to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. The blind whose sight had been restored needed to see the glory of God’s grace made possible through the gift of His Son. And the apostle John records a conversation that took place between Jesus and the crowd whom He had just miraculously fed.

“I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” – John 6:26-27 NLT

Jesus told them to seek the eternal life that only He could give. Physical bread could only sustain physical life. But Jesus, as the bread that comes down from heaven, could provide them with eternal life. Yet the people failed to understand what Jesus was saying and expressed their desire to emulate His divine works.

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” – John 6:28 NLT

They were asking for the power to miraculously multiply bread and fish. In other words, they were looking for a spiritual power that they could use to meet physical needs. But Jesus was offering them so much more, and the only way they could access the gift He was offering was through belief. They didn’t need more bread, they needed the bread of life.

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:29 NLT

The woman in the crowd blessed Mary, but Jesus wanted to bless her with the gift of eternal life. And the only requirement was faith. The key to true life change was heart transformation and only faith in Jesus could leave a heart “all swept and in order.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson