Fr. John Barry                              Parable of the Strong Man

The Hanged Man’s House, Cézanne, 1873.

Mk. 3:29 “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit* will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”

The Parable of the strong man (also known as the parable of the burglar and the parable of the powerful man) is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, found in the three synoptic gospels, that is, Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matt 12:29, Mark 3:27, and Luke 11:21–22). We read Mark’s version today: “But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.”— Mark 3:27.

In Matthew chapter 12:29, the parable parallel is as follows: ”Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”: In Luke chapter 11:21-22, the parable is as follows: ”When the strong man, fully armed, guards his own dwelling, his goods are safe. But when someone stronger attacks him and overcomes him, he takes from him his whole armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.”

What’s the interpretation?

In the gospels, this parable forms part of what is called the Beelzebul controversy, where Jesus’s opponents accuse him of gaining his power to exorcise demons by his being in league with Satan. In a common interpretation of the parable, the strong man represents Satan, and the attacker represents Jesus. Satan has control over the earth (the house), but Jesus defeats Satan with his earthly ministry (tying Satan up). Beelzebul is a name for Satan. In exorcism rites in 2024, he is often found and named as foully messing with people’s souls.  It’s a real thing, not some fantasy. Exorcists know this!

But the false notion posed by the original opponents of Jesus was that he had borrowed from Satan’s power. It is an interpretation that Jesus is mere man, not Son of God, and thus he is subject to the angels’ realm.  This would be speaking of a godly realm of angels and a demonic one, it wrongly suggests, from Jesus’ enemies, that his miracles and such were nothing but a borrowing of Satan’s tools and of dark angelic means.

It is a most foul charge, and it is so much the way the evil one operates—the attack the Authority of God and try to upend the holy persons of God. “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit (and the Real Identity and Authority of the Son of Man, Jesus” will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” Mark 3:29

Jesus thus says to that false Beelzebul charge: How He could not perform exorcisms (represented by stealing the strong man’s possessions) unless He was opposed to – and had defeated – Satan (represented by tying up the strong man)? So think upon this: What if He were Lord over the spirit realm already?! This is what Jesus says of Himself.  It is a claim of His deity.

Jesus is Lord God.

Elsewhere in the Bible, the Book of Isaiah has a related verse: “Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. (as being from the prophecies of Isaiah 49:24–25). Conclusion: The Messiah will come and contend with evil. This is the forecast of the ministry of The Christ, The Lord’s Anointed One.

It has been suggested that Beelzebul here in this passage means “house of Baal”, and that the image of the strong man’s house was originally a wordplay on this. If you know your Old Testament Bible, then you know how many followed the god of Baal, rather than the God of Israel, the One True God.  Elijah the prophet had a showdown against all the prophets of Baal, showing them to be false.  He tied them up, and then let the true God and Spirit of Israel do His amazing work of fire to prove Elijah’s God as the only true one. This greatly upset King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who were leading people greatly astray to Baal worship. That story is in 2nd Kings 1.

So we go to Jesus.  It really is quite insane that the charges versus Jesus is that He is in league with Satan.  You got to have things really upside down and cockeyed to make such a charge on The Lord. But that’s where Jesus enemies were camped, men who were religious but far-off-the-mark Jews. These men were all so compromised against the True Faith, and they were making their opposition to Jesus’ ministry.

I think that today there are many good morals and good Church teachings of Jesus that are opposed by people in the world, and in all their high mindedness and self-rule, they do want to charge the Lord and His Church as the ones being extreme, radical and unaccepting of people. Not themselves—but that is who they are.  They are the ones in league with darkness!

So it is actually these accusers of the Church that are actually extreme, far off the mark, and unaccepting. They accuse the Church of actually being what they themselves happen to be.  The teaching of this Markan gospel says that “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is the unpardonable sin. This is what many of the Church’s enemies today happen to practice. They oppose God, but veil it is some boastful self-assurance, and God independence, all so full of conceit and boastful superciliousness. They contend that they are better, smarter, and more clever in the ways of the world—and that you are a dope for trusting and following The Lord Jesus.

But here’s the thing: The devil is called the “accuser of the brethren” and that is who this crowd is—followers of the devil themselves. People duped to follow the father of lies.

There are lots of accusers of the brethren today.  The Church is assailed, and as she is, it is Christ Who is opposed in all of this. Jesus is the Truth. He is the Head of the Body, the Church.

It is absurb that these persons in this gospel portion do dare call Jesus a partner with Beelzebub.  Yet indeed we know how it was they who were plotting against the Son of Man to put him to death.  The devil is a killer.  Jesus said it so: John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus once said to them—this accusing crowd: “Actually: You are acting like your father, who is the devil. Not me.”  Full quote: John 8. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks alone of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof of lies.”

Here in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is indeed making a challenge versus Satan’s ‘reign.’ In the parable, the strong man that Jesus speaks of is the devil. He has kept humankind under his control since Adam and Eve’s fall. He has had nothing to worry about up to now because he has been the strong man able to defend from all comers his prize of corrupted human nature. But Jesus is stronger, and He has come to attack the devil and win back from him what he has taken. He takes away his armor of evil, hate, anger, lust and egoism. He redeems humankind from the clutches of the evil one.

So do we stand with Jesus for this triumph?

Do we stand with Jesus for this triumph? Or with the world?

Do you support Jesus’ mission and the work of His Church here?  Is it obvious? Where do you spend your first portion of monies or efforts—after your basic bills and responsibilities? Do you sacrificially give—towards His triumph, as the Church is His chosen main vehicle of His work for good and holiness?

In general: Can I truly say that I set my faith in God and that He truly brings about good despite the natural calamities or bad intentions and actions of others, including the devil himself?

Here is a prayer-conversation to have with Christ: “Lord, help me to accept your miracles in my life so that my life will give you glory in my actions, words and thoughts. Do not let me be blind to the force of your love in the world. I know you are stronger than Satan. I want to be in your camp. I want to be rescued from the clutches of sin by the omnipotence of your love.  I don’t want to be duped by all that’s in the realm of sin. I want to be in the kingdom of God, the realm of grace.”

Resolution: When I am faced with a temptation, may it be so now how I will call to mind that Jesus is stronger than Satan and that He can give me the strength to reject the temptation. When I listen to the worldly, the proud crowd under the evil one, who have gained control over much what leads humankind, will I be wise to their lies?  Isn’t there an absoloute truth that I am to follow?

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