14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters
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 11:14-28 (ESV)
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
This is Jesus responding to an exuberant woman, amazed at both the miracles that Christ performs and his teaching. She praises Mary for having brought Jesus into the world, and nourishing him, this man who has blessed the world with his miracles, with his teaching, with his salvation. The woman gets it. Jesus has cast out demons by the finger of God. With him, the kingdom of God has broken into this world. It has come upon you. It comes upon you in God’s word, through hearing as Paul says in Romans. This is the blessing, and it is a blessing that ought to be kept, guarded, and protected, and in those who do this, the demons never find refuge from their travels through the waterless places, never find a home for their seven friends to crash in, because the stronger man has taken residence, in them Jesus Christ dwells.
It isn’t something that can be ignored, keeping God’s word. I think we often have misconceptions about this. Our Old Adam, the sin that has taken over our lives, is a creature bent to interpret everything as law. It is natural for us to hear, keep God’s word, and without even giving it a second thought assume that what Jesus here means is to follow the Ten Commandments, and live our life as best we can according to God’s law, and generally speaking we then narrow that down to those by which our neighbors judge us, the second table. But keeping the word of God means so much more than that. It’s not really a question of his law. Mary didn’t have to give birth to God and let him nurse upon her breasts for that. This law was written upon our hearts of stone long before Moses ever etched them into tablets, or recorded them in scripture. We instinctively know right from wrong, instinctively know what we shouldn’t be doing even as we do it, or should be doing even as we neglect it. But that is our mind, our will, and it is so preoccupied with law, even God’s law that it often neglects to even think of God’s word, much less cherish it, safeguard it or keep it.
This is what Jesus is talking about when he talks of demons being thrown from a house, for the house to only be left empty. It’s self-improvement without repentance. People do this all the time. They clean up their act. They find that habits they have had are having adverse effects on family, on work, or just on them alone. Drunks get sober, thieves stop stealing, adulterers stop cheating, porn addicts quit. They clean up the house, but it remains empty because they neglect the word of God even as they try to follow the Ten Commandments better. Perhaps they even start to go to church for a while, but when they think they have whatever problem licked, Football becomes better, church was a crutch to get them over the hump. The house stands empty, unoccupied by the stronger man, the demons come back. The condition is worse. Oh from human perspective it might not seem so. They will be better off by worldly standards but the demons come back stronger anyway. The heart of stone hardens even more against the word of God, and all those “lesser” sins dig in deeper, dragging you to hell.
This is why Jesus says “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Because where the word of God is, there is Jesus. Where one keeps the word of God there is the kingdom of God, throwing back the demons one by one with his little finger. Here is repentance at work. An acknowledgement that it can’t be done on our own, but that God does it for us on the cross, and keeps us in the faith, keeps our house clean through the hearing of the word, and through the eating and drinking of the gospel, the body and blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. That perhaps we can and should rule over certain sins in our lives, but that sin, one way or another rules over all of our lives when we are without the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ the stronger man who has overcome Beelzebul in death and resurrection. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.
How do we keep it? We keep it by cherishing the Gospel the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ when we attend church and go to communion. We keep it when we baptize our children, even just after they are born. We keep it when we go to Bible study and teach Sunday school. We keep it when we donate to the church recognizing how important it is in our lives to have this place not only for ourselves but for the entire community in which we live. That all have opportunity to be blessed by the hearing of the word of God as we are. We keep it when we bless others with the word of God, through organizations like the LWML, who have been supporting missionary work for over a hundred years sending men to preach the gospel to every land, and even supporting the work of the church at home. Because here we have something the world won’t give, won’t hear, and won’t keep. Here we have Jesus Christ himself, born of the blessed virgin, God, who for us men and our salvation became man, was crucified died and buried for your sins, that after driving the demons out of you, your house wouldn’t stand empty, but would be occupied by grace, ruled with forgiveness and cared for with mercy.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.