Jesus tells a story about an unclean spirit that leaves a person. Good news, right?
Unable to find rest, the spirit returns to find it empty, swept, and put in order. Still good, right?
It brings with it seven other spirits even more evil than itself to dwell there, leaving the state of the person even worse than the first. Wait, what?
And Jesus goes on to say so also it will be with this evil generation.
Isn’t it a good thing to get rid of evil? Isn’t it good to have a clean “house”…empty, swept, and put in order? We spent a lot of time breaking these habits and cleaning up our mistakes, after all. Shouldn’t that count for something? Or at least not be an invitation for more evil?
The truth is, when we leave something empty it becomes ripe territory to be filled. And if we don’t fill it with Jesus, the devil is happily waiting to find some temporary things to take His place.
Earlier in the chapter, the Pharisees exert an awful lot of effort to catch Jesus doing something unlawful on the Sabbath. They can’t wait to find fault in anything He might be doing. “He is a threat, and He must be put in His place,” they think.
Here the religious leaders are on the Sabbath – a day meant for rest and time with God – waiting to catch Jesus breaking one of the man-made laws they established to make sure their fellow Jews did Sabbath right in their eyes. They have spent generations emptying themselves, but instead of filling the emptying with God and His truths, they become filled with judgment, self-righteousness, and a slew of man-made rules impossible for anyone to follow.
Without Jesus, emptying is futile. We try to do better and be better and love better, but we fall short. Anything we empty out gets quickly filled with something else if we don’t consciously fill it with Jesus. We break one bad habit, only to pick up an even worse one. We exhaust ourselves in service and religious activity. The emptying is good and important, but the filling is where it's at.
Do we do as much filling? Deep abiding in God. Prayer. Meditation on His Word.
Jesus spent His days emptying Himself, always teaching, healing, mentoring. But He also constantly fills Himself. Jesus -- God in the flesh -- regularly gets quiet time alone to pray and talk to His Father. No mission could be more important than His, and He always found time to get filled.
We were created by God, in His image and likeness. Only He can fill that space created specifically for Him. And as we are filled with Him, the filling takes care of the emptying. Our fullness in Jesus makes us able to do things we weren’t able to do on our own, to resist temptations, and to serve without exhaustion that comes from doing it all on our own.
Lord, empty me of me…but don’t leave me empty. Fill me with Your power, Your peace, Your wisdom, Your discernment, Your love, Your will.
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