Return of an Unclean Spirit
24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” 27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Observations and Reflections
Some of Jesus’ teachings in the gospels are more closely related to Jewish folk-lore than others. This is one such saying of Jesus that is linked more with Jewish demonology than others. It was believed since ancient times that demons were cursed to live on the earth and resided in the desert places. Hence Jesus’ words “it passes through waterless places“. From these evil spirits come the many evils and sicknesses of the world.
This idea is also present in the rituals performed on the Day of Atonement, where the sins of the nation are laid upon the scape-goat (Azazel) and it is sent, with the sins, back to where it came from. The Azazel was also the name of a fall angel in Jewish folk-lore who was believed to be the cause of much mischief in the world.
The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin. (Book of Enoch 8:12)
While this book of Enoch was written some time after the Atonement rituals were created, it’s fair to say that these legends were firmly cemented in Jewish thought by the time of the common era.
But what does this mention of demons have to do with the passage? Recall that Jesus just got accused of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul. He then tells the parable of the strong-man which Jesus has bound. He last states “he who is not with me is against me”, and then goes on to declare that demons will re-posses a person even after they have been cast out. The reason for this warning is because it is not enough to simply cast out the demons but the person must also bind the strong man (already done by Jesus) and take control over his or her house (metaphorically). A person that turns to Jesus but only temporarily will not have the end result they were looking for.
Jesus makes a strong point about what takes place when we do not guard ourselves against sin. The example of an unclean spirit can be applied to indwelling sin that is stays in our hearts and grows rampant. When we do not deal with sin properly, we allow for Satan to get a foot hold of our lives and that results in corrupting our mindset and the way we view sin.
With time, that sin will continue to grow and lead us down a path that is so far from Jesus Christ. Jesus wants for us to understand the severity of sin and the negative harmful effects it can have on our lives. At first dabbling in something may not be “harmless”. However, sooner or later if we do not pump the breaks, that sin will continue to rule our lives.
At the end of this passage, Jesus reminds us with the promise that if we choose to listen to His word and keep it at the forefront of our hearts, we will experience the true blessing of growing closer to God and having our hearts change from following sin to pursuing a life that honors and pleases God.
If there is a festering and unconfessed sin that is weighing on your heart, do not wait for it to grow and take over. Take the time to recall God’s promises in that if we “confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9. Use that as an anchor to ward off any sin that Satan may try to hold over you and fight it with the truth of God’s word.