Luke 11: "The Finger of God"
I’M FASCINATED WITH THIS TEXT
This text Luke 11:20 has fascinated me since 1990. I wrote a 30 page paper on the text in seminary for Dr. Richard Oster. I wrote about themes in Luke that connect, such as healing, exorcism, and the Kingdom of God. What’s not to be interested in there?! Many religious people are engrossed with healing, casting out evil, faith, and power of God that impacts our world today.
This one verse, Luke 11:20, combines all these concepts about power, exorcism, and the Kingdom of God. One phrase in the verse that has caught my eye and fascination for thirty years is “finger of God.” The phrase reminds us of the way Moses and the prophets experienced and wrote about God, often in anthropomorphic references to a body part such as the “arm” of God that is powerful.
All of this is important for many reasons, and one is because Luke is bringing all this together to show us the purpose or mission of Jesus in the world. We should care deeply as Luke does to uncover, deeply understand, and learn to live out the mission of Jesus as he has called his disciples to also live it.
When Jesus throws out a demon from a man, some people said he made a deal with the devil to get this power. Jesus addresses with an analogy (17-19). Jesus addresses with a connection of exorcism to inauguration of the kingdom of God (v. 20). Jesus addresses with two stories about threats to the household of Israel and how casting out evil is necessary for the future kingdom (21-26).
If the purpose of Jesus was to heal everyone, he failed.
But Jesus did say he came to heal, but did these healings serve some larger purpose?
Luke seems to connect preaching and healing repeatedly . . . sometimes these healings were in form of exorcism. Seeing the connection is easiest with exorcism and the examples Jesus gives: get the strongman out of the house is not the purpose but it’s a prelude and necessary for the healthy life of Israel.
3. Preaching the Kingdom of God
If the Kingdom of God is what Jesus is preaching, what is it and why is it important?
The Kingdom is the rule and reign of God . . . is it a present reality when Jesus enters the scene? Jesus comes to inaugurate it in power, and each action moves to both show and literally establish the kingdom over the kingdoms of this world. “If I by the power of God cast out demons. . .” and the work of Jesus on the cross, resurrection, reign, and return all are part of the kingdom.
4. Next Steps: Sending Fighters and Lovers
Jackson-McCartney song Lover not a fighter sets up false dichotomy . . .
Story of two lovers and intruder.
It matters because we need to know we’re in the house that is bringing healing, joy, love, goodness, compassion into the world, not the one bringing disease, devastation, hate, evil, and corruption.
Greg Taylor, M.Div.
Greg Taylor is the preacher for The Journey. He holds degrees in Print Journalism from Harding University and a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology. Greg is working on his Doctor of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where The Journey is located. Greg is married to Jill, who is a math teacher at Broken Arrow High School. They have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob, and of course they are very proud of each of what God has done in each one of their lives. Greg is author of several books you can order from your favorite bookseller.