Binding the Strong Man
“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 3:27
Contrary to the popular proverb, seeing is not always believing. This is evident in the encounter between Jesus and “the scribes who came down from Jerusalem” that is recorded for us in Mark 3:22–30. Seeing Jesus cast out demons has not moved them to faith; rather, they have charged the Lord with operating under the power and authority of Satan as He exorcises evil spirits and heals the oppressed. This evidences a spiritual problem in the hearts of these scribes, one that we all share apart from divine grace. No matter how much evidence we are given for the work of God and the identity of Christ, we will not believe unless we are granted new hearts to submit to the Lord’s revelation (see Ezek. 36:26–27; John 3:1–8).
Jesus’ response to the scribes indicates that His work is unlike that work performed by other Jewish exorcists in His day. Satan’s kingdom is crumbling under the attack of Christ against its very foundations, so there is no way that He can be operating under the devil’s auspices. Our Lord’s victories are so thorough that if He were an agent of Satan, the devil would be destroying himself (Mark 3:22–26). Even Satan is not that foolish, so Christ is clearly against him.
In today’s passage, Jesus furthers His argument against the charges of the scribes, noting that His success is due to His binding of the “strong man”—Satan—and the plundering of the devil’s house (v. 27). First-century Jews expected the Messiah to bind the devil, as is testified in several places in other Jewish literature of the time. More importantly, God promises in Isaiah 49:24–26 to capture the prey of the enemies of His people. In other words, Isaiah foresaw a day in which the Lord would act decisively to redeem His children and take back what their foes had taken. Isaiah 49 is about the Servant of the Lord, so we see that this recapturing of what had been lost was to be the work of the Servant, the same individual who atones for the sins of His people (Isa. 53). So, in binding the strong man—Satan—and taking back what this vile enemy has claimed for himself, Jesus proves His messianic vocation and demonstrates that He is indeed the one through whom God brings salvation.
The scribes are wrong: Jesus’ exorcisms are not acts of Satan but are part of a divine rescue mission wherein the Lord liberates men and women from evil’s grasp. Today, this work continues every time a person is saved from sin by the power of the gospel.
We dare not underestimate the power and influence of Satan. Yet, we need not fear him either. He is the strong man whom Jesus has bound, and he is unable to hold on to what rightfully belongs to God and His people. We can preach the gospel with confidence, knowing that the Lord will use it to liberate sinners from the devil’s snare. If we trust in Christ, we are on His side, and He will give us victory over the devil and all his minions.
Passages for Further Study