Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” 25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? …28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.-Matthew 12:22-28
These words are the most blasphemous, awful words thrown by his critics against Jesus. The people marveled at his miracle and wondered openly whether he could be the Son of God. But the Pharisees, the leading power within Judaism in that day, credited Jesus’ undeniable power to the power of Beelzebub- a slang title for Satan.
Jesus easily destroyed the hellish claim.”Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? …But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Abraham Lincoln famously borrowed Jesus’ words in June 1858 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. It was a campaign speech. Lincoln had been nominated by the Illinois Republican Party as that state’s US senator. Lincoln’s point was that the nation had become deeply divided over the issue of slavery. The Republican North was solidly against the spread of slavery into the new states forming in the western frontier. The Democratic south was intent on preserving its tradition of slavery. The opening words of Lincoln’s speech:
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the states, old as well as new – North as well as South.”
Lincoln hit upon the general truth first explained by Jesus. No institution, whether kingdom, city, or even a house and home, can stand for long divided. It will be dissolved. Jesus’ kingdom was not divided, it was going about demolishing Satan’s kingdom. The US did not dissolve but emancipated the slaves and arose a new and united nation following the Civil War.
We are wise to remember Jesus’ dictum and, as Lincoln did, apply it to our own circumstance. Whether our nation, our city, our homes, our church, we cannot long stand if divided. Division is an evil imagined and employed by Satan. Unity is a gift from God, worked by his grace through Word and Sacrament in renewing human hearts. Through Christ’s sacrificial redemption we have been reunited with God and united with each other. United we confess our sins. United we confess our Faith. United we stand shoulder to shoulder to receive the Lord’s Supper. United we worship together and support one another. God, grant us your grace to avoid the traps and ploys Satan would use to divide us. Grant us Grace to cling to the one thing needful- the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the storms of life swirl around us, grant us your Spirit to unify us and bind us together with Your unbreakable bond. Amen.