Jesus' statement comes in response to some accusations being made against him:
"How can the adversary cast out the adversary? And if a kingdom is divided against itself – that kingdom will not survive. And if a house is divided against itself – that house cannot survive. And if the adversary rises up against himself and becomes divided, he cannot survive – but must be finished. No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his stuff unless he first ties up the strong man – only then can he rob his house." (Mark 3:23-27)
And the scribes from Jerusalem said, “He has an impure spirit, and by the prince of wickedness is he able to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:22)So what does Jesus mean by his response?
The rhetorical questionMany Biblical translations translate the Greek word Σατανᾶς to "Satan" - as in, "How can satan drive out satan?"
But such a rhetorical question lacks the logical thrust. Jesus is debating the scribes' illogical statement (Mark 3:22 above).
Rather, the Greek word Σατανᾶς means, according to the lexicon, "adversary - one who opposes another in purpose or act." Young's Literal Translation (YLT) utilizes "adversary" - as does the Gospels of Jesus as quoted above.
Jesus is speaking of "the adversary" - someone who opposes - because it is illogical for someone who opposes something to oppose someone else who opposes the same thing. This is illogical because they are on the same team - they couldn't logically oppose each other because of their common stance of opposition.
Does God have a challenger?Sectarian institutions and their teachers like to focus upon "satan" - as if God has a challenger.
But does the Supreme Being really have any kind of challenger? One may be adverse to the Supreme Being - and oppose God's principles - but the Supreme Being is never challenged by anyone. He is the Controller of everything and therefore cannot be challenged by anyone unless it is part of one of His pastimes, and in that case, it is still being authorized by God, and God is still in control.
But many sectarian teachers take this element of satan further. They will claim that all of the suffering within the physical world is caused by the Supreme Being somehow losing control over this "satan" person and satan has produced all the suffering of the world.
As if we have no responsibility for our suffering.
In addition, many sectarian teachers will proclaim that sins are caused by this satan person. Others say that suffering is caused by the "original sin" of Adam and Eve, and we are all suffering for their sin.
Which is it - is Adam and Eve to blame for suffering or is satan?
As if we have no responsibility for our sins. This is the classic scapegoat or victim scenario: We want to blame our decisions and errors upon someone else in order to evade responsibility. For this reason, sectarian teachers have promoted one or both scenarios to attract followers: Removing the blame and putting the blame on someone other than ourselves.
Yet this does not remove the responsibility. The fact is, the physical world is designed in such a way that our physical body suffers as a result of the suffering we have caused others. Thus our current sufferings are consequences of our prior activities. This has also been described as "as you sow, so shall you reap."
The law of consequencesThe physical world was designed with consequences. For every activity borne of self-centeredness there is a consequence - good or bad.
And most of us have lived within multiple physical lifetimes with different physical bodies - so we've had a chance to create the consequences that we are experiencing in this lifetime. This is how our DNA is determined: The DNA is a recording of the consequences of our past activities.
And Jesus taught this as well. This is confirmed by this question from Jesus' disciples:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)In order to have sinned before the man was born - since he was born blind - the man would have had to have lived within another physical lifetime. Thus we can know from this statement (and others) that Jesus accepted the transmigration of the soul - the spirit-person can live within multiple physical bodies.
In fact, this concept is poorly understood because of misidentification. The reality is that we are not these physical bodies. We are each the spirit-person within our physical body. This spirit-person - each of us - can transmigrate from one body to the next.
This scenario also explains how demoniac spirit-persons can occupy one's body, and how Jesus was able to "drive out" these demons. The physical body is a shell. It is a vehicle through which a spirit-person can enter and drive it or steer it. An individual spirit-person typically drives each body, but a person not being guided by God can allow a demoniac spirit-person into the body as well. Today, we term these as multiple personality disorders.
The reality is that the spirit-person is a personality. If there is more than one personality occupying the body, that means that multiple spirit-persons have gained access to the body.
The difference is that those demons were not assigned to those physical bodies - they were breaking and entering - just as a thief might break into a house. This is precisely why Jesus is speaking of breaking into a house:
The analogy of the strong manSo what does Jesus mean with his analogy about the strong man?
"No one can enter into a strong man’s house and steal his stuff unless he first ties up the strong man – only then can he rob his house."Jesus is speaking of how a demon is able to break into someone else's physical body.
The "house" symbolizes the physical body and the "strong man" symbolizes the spirit-person who is occupying the physical body.
Since Jesus is referring to a "strong man" - he refers to someone who should be able to maintain control over their physical body and not let anyone in. Unless of course he is "tied up."
How can the spirit-person within the physical body become "tied up" as Jesus describes? This can take place if the person becomes addicted to intoxication (alcohol or drugs) or otherwise becomes weakened with regard to their grip on the body - through unconsciousness, sickness or otherwise.
These are in addition to a basic weakness inherent for many, related to the influence of illusion - the illusory nature of the physical world.
And it is this illusory nature that Jesus is referring to as "prince of wickedness." Why? Because the illusion of the physical world tricks us into thinking that we are these physical bodies and that there is no Supreme Being, and we can find happiness within the temporary physical world. Therefore, the illusion of the physical world is adversarial to being devoted to the Supreme Being.
Certainly, we can understand that Jesus is not referring to a single person - because how can a single person become divided? Obviously, Jesus' reference is metaphorical.
Jesus' reference to "the adversary" is allegorical - referring in general to the spell of illusion for those whose self-centered stance opposes the existence and control of the Supreme Being.
Once we come under the spell of illusion that we are these physical bodies and we can find happiness here, we are stuck within this illusion.
And a person who is stuck within the illusory nature of the physical world has no opportunity to defeat it alone: Because they are confined within it.
It might be compared to a person being stuck in jail. A person who is stuck in jail cannot work with the courts to try to get himself absolved and freed. He will have to find a lawyer who is not in jail, who can file petitions and visit a judge or call for a new trial and so on.
In the same way, a person who is under the spell of the illusory nature of the physical world cannot free themselves or others from this illusion. This is Jesus' message.
Jesus is communicating through this allegorical discussion that because he is free from the illusion of the physical world - and empowered by the Supreme Being - he can free others from the illusory nature of the physical world.
And this authority, given by the Supreme Being, also gives Jesus the ability to expel demons. Jesus confirms this in Matthew's version of this statement:
"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, the sanctuary of God has come to you." (Matt. 12:28)Jesus also confirms that God has given him this authority elsewhere:
“You know me and know where I am from; but I have not come by myself, for He who sent me is real – He whom you do not know. I know Him because I am from Him and He sent me.” (John 7:28-29)