This article was originally written for Christ Hold Fast.
There is an unsung verse in Mark’s Gospel which deserves more attention. In Mark 3, a group of highfalutin scribes “come down from Jerusalem” to lay on Jesus a brazen albeit illogical charge: that he is, in fact, a servant of Satan. Specifically, they accuse him of being “possessed by Beelzebul” and driving out demons “by the ruler of the demons.” (Mk 3:22) It’s a curious indictment. They certainly understood that this Jesus possessed uncanny power, for which, until now, they could not rightly account. The scribes cannot deny Jesus’s paranormal influence. It has already been proven in several instances to this point that when Jesus is around, even demons shiver. But they just cannot accept that he is divine. That would not do. That could not do.
Therefore, in pretentious fashion, the scribes assert that he must be satanic. The one casting out demons is in league with “the ruler of the demons.” Even writing it out doesn’t make sense. It is evidence, of course, that these supposed religious authorities did not understand Jesus’s ministry or message. Neither were they looking to. Jesus must have given them the most curious look, replying, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mk 3:23) Why would one of Satan’s agents work against Satan himself? That line of reasoning is absurd and would surely spell Satan’s own demise. (Mk 3:24–26)
Further, though, Jesus presses into the fallacy in logic of the scribes’ accusation with verse 27, where he declares:
No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. (Mk 3:27)
This verse, despite being one of, perhaps, the most uncelebrated and overlooked of all the “religious catchphrases” that make it onto tee-shirts and bumper stickers, is, in fact, suggestive of Jesus’s entire mission here on earth. He tells a miniature parable about a “strong man’s house” being invaded and the equally absurd notion of success if said invader doesn’t first tie up the “strong man.” It would be impossible for the intruder to prevail without first suppressing the “strong man,” putting him in shackles, and confining him. A curious analogy in response to a curious accusation.
But by this, Jesus aims to affirm that he not only is not working for or with Satan, but rather, he has invaded Satan’s domain. The “strong man” in Jesus’s scenario is Satan. The plunderer is Jesus. He is the intruder. The invader. Jesus is the Stronger Man who binds up the “strong man” and “plunders his possessions.” Through his ministry of preaching the good news of his Father’s kingdom and tending to those with all manner of ailments and afflictions, he was spoiling the “strong man’s house.” Reclaiming what was rightfully his. We, then, are his “plundered possessions.” We are the spoils of his gracious conquest over the “strong man.” And we are made to share in his victory.
Where the devil spoiled humanity through lust and deceit, Jesus spoils the devil’s scheme by being spoiled himself. He erases Satan’s masterstroke by taking the strokes in his own self. (1 Pt 2:24) God comes to fix what is broken by himself being broken. He abolishes death by himself dying. (Heb 2:9; 1 Cor 15:25–27) He subsumes sin by being made sin itself. (2 Cor 5:21) And there is coming a day when the “strong man” will be bound forever and tossed into the abyss. (Rv 20:2, 10)
Jesus isn’t in league with Satan. He’s the one who has come to bind Satan up. The serpent may do some bruising but the Seed will crush his head. (Gn 3:15) He has dominion over everything. He can take whatever he wants, reclaim and redeem whoever he wants. He can use whatever situation and whichever person to accomplish his purposes. Jesus is the Stronger Man, the world’s strongest man, who bore the weight of sin, death, and hell for all mankind because he was divine. The fullness of God in the form of flesh.