Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.
[In my first article on the parables, I explained the steps we need to follow to understand the Lord's parables. In this article, you should be able to see how I keep using the same steps to interpret this parable.]
Firdt, Read The Parable(s)
And he called them to himself and was speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan expel Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom is not able to stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand, but is at an end! 27 But no one is able to enter into the house of a strong man and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man, and then he can thoroughly plunder his house. (Mark 3:23-27, LEB)
The Kingdom and The House
The Lord introduces this parable with a rhetorical question: how can Satan exorcise Satan? The answer, of course, is that Satan cannot exorcise Satan. Why?
Satan cannot exorcise Satan because a kingdom at war with itself cannot stand. In other words, think of Satan as the king of a kingdom: if he were to make decisions detrimental to his kingdom, his kingdom would crumble and he would lose power.
Satan cannot exorcise Satan because a house at war with itself cannot stand. In other words, think of Satan as a patriarch (like Abraham): if the patriarch were to make decisions detrimental to his tribe, then the patriarch's tribe would fall apart and the patriarch would lose his power.
The reason Jesus told this parable is that the scribes said that he was possessed by Beelzebub (the ruler of the demons, Satan) and that he was exorcising demons by the power and authority of that demon. According to Jesus's response, the claim of the scribes is illogical (and blasphemous).
What the Lord is saying is that Satan would not act in a way that reduces his kingdom, or tribe, because Satan wants to grow his power, not reduce it. By having demons possess people, Satan is adding territory to his kingdom/tribe. If he were to cast out demons, Satan would be attacking his own followers (the demons), and undoing what he has been trying to build.
The Strong Man
According to Jesus, Satan is also like a strong man protecting his house. No one would be able to plunder the strong man's house without first overcoming the strong man, for the strong man will fight to protect his house.
To peform an exorcism is to plunder Satan's house: it is to go into Satan's territory to rescue the soul that Satan was holding captive. Unless Satan is first bound, one can expect Satan to fight and not allow anyone to plunder his house.
The Implications of The Parable
The Lord's parables on exorcism were meant to show that the scribe's assessment of his ministry was wrong: Jesus was not using demonic power to exorcise demons, for exorcisms were reducing Satan's kingdom, and those from whom Jesus exorcised demons were finding physical, mental, and spiritual relief.
Thus, the great implication of Jesus's parable is that Jesus was working, not for Satan, but for God: God had sent Jesus to reduce Satan's territory and to deliver souls from Satan.
The parable, then, is not a set of instructions for how to perform exorcisms (first, bind Satan; then, rescue the soul), but an explanation of the divine nature and purpose of Jesus's ministry.
There is no need for us to bind Satan and then plunder his house today: Jesus did that already, and he continues to do that for everyone who believes in him (Acts 26:18). All we need to do is proclaim the gospel.
What do you think?
© 2022 Marcelo Carcach