Matthew 9:32-34. “The prince of demons”
Matthew 9:32-34 . The people Jesus ministered to near Peter’s house in Capernaum enter and exit the Gospel narrative at a dizzying rate of speed. After the healing of the two blind men, a mute man whose illness had a spiritual root to it is brought to him. Interestingly, the word “mute” in Greek is kophon, and refers to blunted or dulled speech or hearing. However, he is not simply a man who is unable to speak or hear – Matthew tells us that he is daimonizomenon, or vexed by an evil spirit. The afflicted in the Gospels are not all the same. Here in chapter nine, Matthew has given us three quite different case studies in Jesus’ ministry to the sick. Some are simply sick or disabled, as the blind men were in the previous passage. Some sick people had an illness which was connected to their sins in some way, as the paralytic was at the beginning of chapter nine. In this passage, demonic activity was involved. People’s life situations are as varied as they are, and most of us are not as wise or as discerning as the Master in knowing what lies at the root of someone’s problems. Not everything is demonic possession or oppression, though in the superstition of the time there was an evil spirit at the root of practically everything. Nor is it always a hidden sin which has disabled the sick. Often, as Jesus Himself tells us in John 9:3, a person’s disability is no one’s fault. In this man’s case, Jesus performed an exorcism, and when the man was released from his oppression, he was able to speak, amazing the crowds.
In verse 34, the Pharisees – likely the same Pharisees who had criticized Jesus for spending time with tax collectors and sinners in verse 11 – accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler or archonti of demons. The notion that demons, just like angels, have ranks of authority or power isn’t unusual, and during the time of Jesus, a thoroughly fictional work called The Testament of Solomon was written that reflects various ancient Jewish beliefs about demons. In the book, Solomon discovers a way to command demons to do his bidding and build the temple of the Lord. At one point, he conjures up Beelzeboul, the exarch of the demons. The name comes from Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, as mentioned in 2 Kings 1:2. Is it possible that the Pharisees were sarcastically referring to a contemporary work of fiction in which Solomon, the son of David, was commanding demons? At any rate, they were indeed claiming that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messianic son of David, was doing this. Their accusation sets the scene for Matthew 12:24, in which they directly accuse Jesus of working through Beelzebub, the demon king, the lord of the flies – Satan. Here in chapter nine, Jesus ignores them for the moment, choosing rather to continue to do good and heal people.