Lent 2017 - The Strong Man and the Thief

The religious authorities, afraid of Jesus’ power, accuse him of being in league with the demons themselves. Jesus pretty much tells them that they are making no sense—why would evil cast out evil? He is acting by power of the Holy Spirit; for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17)—liberation from the oppression of sickness, sin, and demons. 

Among other things, this challenges us to see what forces—whose are actually at work in the Church, his house. Where are we divided and fearful, and where are we united and free? This is not to point fingers at groups and persons but to be discerning about the secret patterns and powers that operate behind the scenes: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Ignatius actually had rules for being of “one mind” in the Church. They are extensive, but are centered around staying connected to the life of the whole Body through practices like worship, confession, Communion, devotion, prayer, and trusting the judgment of the Church throughout history more than one’s own personal opinions. This is important to practice, because the power and wisdom of the Spirit is not some special spark in an individual but God’s presence with his united people.

  1. Read Mark 3:20–31.
  2. Ask God for discernment to see the powers at work in your life and world.
  3. Listen to the accusation and Jesus’ response. How do you imagine the crowds reacting to it all? What does Jesus mean when he talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
  4. Repeat the meditation on the Two Standards (March 11), this time imagining the world as a house under the dominion of a "strong man" (Satan). His house is filled with precious treasures and goods (humanity and all creatures), which he hoards and neglects. This is the standard of evil: vanity, enslavement, greed, waste, abuse, and control—all with the illusion of wealth and power. Now a thief comes in the night (Christ), ties up the strong man, and plunders his house, rescuing everything that was held captive. This is the standard of Christ: liberation, healing, wholeness, purpose, and value. Where do you see these forces playing out in your life, community, and society?
  5. Ask Jesus for the presence and power of the Spirit in our church, so that we can be a force for freedom.

About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC