Parable or Practicality? – (Luke 11)

Verses 24-26 come on the heels of Jesus casting out a demon from a man. Nevertheless, this passage, taken as it is, seems completely out-of-place here. One might even wonder why it was even included. Really, how could such information be useful, even to one who had been possessed? The verses speak of an unclean spirit that “goes out” of the subject, and then returns with seven more that are even more evil after the house is swept and placed in order, leaving the subject worse than before. Undoubtedly, the things he speaks of were true of certain demons that afflicted people in the first century. But still, what is the point?

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As is always the case with scripture, context is everything. But let’s first look at the same content, as told in Matthew 12:43-45. Much of Matthew’s gospel was written topically, but that only serves to make context more relevant. In Matthew 12:41-42, Jesus speaks of how Nineveh will rise up on the day of judgment condemning “this generation” (meaning the Jews of His time). Then He says the same about the queen of the south (an obvious reference to the queen of Sheba) who came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, “and behold, one greater than Solomon is here.”

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cros...

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cross – the Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon , Detail. (c. 1452-66, Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then at the end of the passage in Matthew about the 8 spirits, Jesus said So also will it be with this evil generation.” So clearly, the story of the unclean spirits is intended as a parable. And we see the same thing looking closely at Luke. He has already made it clear that “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (verse 20). And after telling the Pharisees in verses 21-22 (in so many words) that He is mightier than Satan, He says “whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Burton Coffman made an analysis of the parable of the unclean spirits that we feel is pretty close to the mark. We will close with that analysis below, with our own comments in bold:

“The man in whom the evil spirit was = Israel.” Agreed
“The going out of the demon = the rebirth of the nation under the preaching of John the Baptist.” Partly agree – could refer also to Israel since the time after Ezra and Nehemiah, when idolatry finally was under control.
“The swept and garnished period = the emptiness of Israel’s inadequate regeneration. No meaningful change in the people occurred.” Agreed
“The restlessness of the demon = the relentless and unresting hostility against Jesus of the evil powers.” Agreed – hostility and rejection
“His repossession of the victim = total repossession of national Israel by Satan’s evil forces. This refers to the judicial hardening of Israel.” Leaving him in worse condition than before would also seem to refer to the coming judgment of A.D. 70 that looms over them after the crucifixion (Hence, the “Oh Jerusalem” lament of Matthew 23:37-39)

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at  

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