A Moment With The Bible
Even though this text gives us some interesting information about demon possession, Jesus’ main point has to do with the condition of the Israel nation. But it is not just the condition of the nation, it is the condition of all who follow the same path as Israel.
First, a few things about unclean spirits. What made it possible for a demon to possess a person, we cannot know for certain. We would assume that an individual practicing wickedness opened the door for the possession. However, since there were also children that were possessed (Mark 14:17-21), there may be other factors involved.
It is also apparent that demons did not have “rest” when they were unable to inhabit a living being. Many of the demons pleaded with Jesus not to “torment them before the time” (Mt. 8:29). Others pleaded with Jesus to allow them to inhabit swine (Luke 8:31-33).
The key to this text is that when this demon could not find rest he went back to the person he had formerly inhabited and found it “empty, swept, and put in order.” Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? The key word is “empty.” This man had not filled his house with spiritual things, which left him vulnerable to return to his sin. Paul repeatedly speaks of the importance of “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new man (Col. 3:5-16). The primary reason we often have trouble ridding ourselves of a particular sin is because we are only trying to stop the sin without replacing the activity with godly works. The result is that when this man is re-inhabited, that is, goes back to his sin, he becomes seven times worse than before, just as this evil spirit returned with seven spirits worse than himself. Peter also speaks of this principle (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
This was the condition of Israel. God had made them a great nation. But they rejected Him and turned to idolatry. When He cleansed them of this “evil spirit” and brought them out of captivity, they left themselves “empty” with a ritualistic worship void of spirituality. And now, seven demons worse than the first had inhabited them so that they would actually murder their own Messiah, the Son of God.
A Moment With The Bible
It seems peculiar that the scribes and Pharisees would ask Jesus to show them a sign. After all, He has been performing a variety of miracles in their presence. So how is it that they ask this question? Mark 8:11 records the incident this way: “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” The phrase “from heaven” is critical in the Pharisees’ mind. As 12:24 indicates, they believed that Satan could also perform miracles. Thus, they are saying, “show us a sign that is unmistakably from heaven.” It is obvious that they have no intention of believing any miracle Jesus would perform. Jesus embarrassed them when He said they were evil trees with evil fruit. Therefore they are trying to save face by their challenge. How dishonest! Healing a man with a withered hand and casting out a demon from a blind and mute man is not enough?
Thus Jesus’ answer is that there is only one sign He will give them that could possibly meet their criteria: He will rise from the dead after three days. But amazingly, even this would not change them. Therefore, because of their disbelief, the men of Nineveh will condemn them in the judgment. Nineveh was a wicked, Gentile city, capital of the Assyrian Empire. But when the prophet Jonah entered that city after spending three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, the city repented on the first day of his preaching, from the king to the pauper. From the Jewish point of view, these Gentiles were despised, and yet they would be saved while the pious Pharisees were condemned because a greater than Jonah was in their midst.
Jesus adds one more comparison that would sting these self-righteous men. The queen of Sheba (a Gentile nation) had traveled about 1500 miles to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and yet these Jews had the Son of God in their midst, and they would not listen.
We in America are in a similar circumstance. Our opportunities are abundant and the opportunity to learn about the God is sitting on our coffee tables. But who seeks it? Who hungers and thirsts to study the scriptures in order to know more about Him? Indeed, the queen of the South will also rise up and condemn this generation!