A House Divided
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Mark 3:22-27
When I am teaching, I tell the folks that repetition is important, especially in short passages. In Jesus’ statement, he uses two words three times each. The first is μερισθῇ (mer-isth-ey) which means to divide into parts. The second is σταθῆναι (stath-ey-nai) which means to stand.
Jesus challenges the scribes because they have accused him of being the “Lord of the Flies” or Beelzebul, and their “logic” is that he is attacking his own demon infestation. This would not make sense, be it a kingdom, household, or Satan himself, because the division would prevent him/them from standing, thus vulnerable for attack and defeat. This “logic” also means an opposite recipe for strength: In unity, you will stand strong.
Approximately six hundred years before Jesus said these words. a Greek writer named Aesop wrote a fable called “Four Oxen and a Lion.” In it, the four oxen protected each other from the prowling lion, that is until they quarreled and went to different parts of the pasture. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. The last words and moral of the fable, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Over seventeen hundred years after Jesus said these words, in his last speech in March 1799, Patrick Henry said, “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” Prophetic words about the arguments about states’ rights versus the union that would drive a war some sixty years later, killing over 600,000 souls. And on June 16, 1858, the man who would lead the Union as president in said war would echo these words in a speech, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Be it a fable, a nation, a family, or a church, this is excellent advice;
“United we stand, divided we fall.”
God of life, the universe, and everything,
We live in very troubled times where we divide ourselves in seemingly endless ways. I know that we are foolish, broken, and sinful. We go to our own sections of the pasture, making ourselves vulnerable to that ravenous one who prowls around the earth seeking to devour.
Great Shepherd, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.
Division, hatred, tribalism, and selfishness are the enemies. Love is the remedy!
I pray this in the name of my Lord, Jesus. Amen!