The Finger of God

MP3 Audio: The-Finger-of-God.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 23, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Sdn. Ambrose.

~

Gospel Reading: Luke 11:14-28

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils,
no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen

It wasn’t the first time that he’d climbed a mountain. The day had started off kind of sunny, but as he began to climb, the clouds started to roll in, and it obscured the peak from view. But as he was climbing, he was thinking about his life. His mind started to drift back across his life. He’d climbed another mountain not far from here and it had changed his life forever. And as he thought about it, God had been acting in his life from the beginning, when he was spared during the holocaust that his people had had to suffer. Later on, God had directed his life, when out of what could have been seen as sheer coincidence, he was adopted by the daughter of the most powerful man in the nation. It seemed, though, that a period of time God had been absent, when he nearly escaped prison and death. He had to flee to another country. But this too was directed by God, because it was in this foreign country where he met his wife. This is where his son had been born. This is where he had learned to be a leader. And this is where he first directly experienced God – had, in fact, spoken to him – on another mountain. So now as he’s climbing the second mountain a little less than a year later, this time over a million people are standing behind him, watching and waiting for his return.

The fact that this large group of people was following him was itself a miracle. Against all odds, against the wishes of the Pharaoh, they were now far away from Egypt. And they had left their slavery behind them. Fifty days ago – to the day – the Nation of Israel had experienced the first dreadful Passover as the Angel of Death swept through Egypt, killing the first-born child in every family, both of human and of animals. But Israel was spared because of their obedience – their obedience to God – and was not only allowed to leave, but in the end was begged to leave. And following them through the parted waters of the Red Sea, Egypt’s army was utterly decimated by the power of God. And with that recent memory firmly implanted into his mind, when he came down from the second mountain, Moses carried with him two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, written directly by the finger of God.

During my homily a couple of weeks ago, we discussed a particular idea, that because God the Father is a Spirit, He does not possess humanly physical characteristics like eyes and ears and hands or a nose as we do. But we also concluded, because we are made in His image, that we are not the original; we are the copy. Therefore, we should not be attempting to place our idea of a sense of sight or smell or hearing upon Him. Rather, we should see our own senses and physical characteristics as a kind-of earthy or fleshly example of much higher, Divine characteristics.

So when the Bible discusses God’s eyes, it is HIS eyes that are the “true” eyes – since He is the original seer – and it is our eyes which are kind-of a loose representation of His eyes. And that gives us a glimpse of what it is like, kind of, to see as God truly sees. And when the Bible discusses God’s ears, it is HIS ears that are the “true” ears – because He is the original hearer – and it is our ears which are a kind-of loose representation of His, which gives us kind of a slight understanding of what it is like to truly hear as He hears.

So when we read that the Ten Commandments were written on stone by the finger of God, how do we understand this?

In today’s Gospel reading, we find that a man is possessed by a demon, and not just any ol’ demon. He’s a mute and a blind demon. I kind of get a kick out of it because it calls him “dumb”, but it doesn’t mean “stupid”. In fact, St. Cyril says that mute demons, for most Saints, are typically the hardest to cast out. But Jesus casts out the demon because nothing is too difficult for Christ. And once the demon had left the man, now the man begins to speak, and he can see! So it is the demon who has clouded his senses of vision and speaking. And immediately we read that the people who were around who witnessed this event had three separate responses to it.

Working for Satan

There were those who watched the miracle unfold as it happened, who saw the results of what was going on, but they were not only unimpressed, they turned it around and they attributed that power as coming from Satan! Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, “You can’t win for losing”. And that’s the position that they were trying to put Jesus in.  Matthew’s Gospel tells us who they were, too. There’s a parallel passage to this Luke Gospel in Matthew, and it should be no surprise of who was making these accusations at him – it was the Pharisees. And instead of this miracle leading them to more faith and leading them to believe in him, they found fuel for their illness of unbelief. They did not praise God for this miraculous work. Instead, they went to the opposite extreme and assigned Satan with almighty power and made Beelzebub the source of Christ’s strength.

Demons don’t leave on their own. Once they’re in possession of someone’s life, they stay until they’re forced to leave, because once they are forced to leave, they have nowhere to go. It tells us that they go looking for somewhere, and if they can’t find somewhere, often they come back to the same location to try to see if it is more habitable now. But Jesus gave an excellent analogy and he said that a house or a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, or is brought to desolation. So basically what he is saying is, “This is not even possible that I’m casting out demons by the power of Satan.” Jesus says, “He that is not with me is against me, the one who doesn’t gather with me, is actually scattering.”  He says, “I have come to save every man from the hands of the devil and to deliver those whom he has ensnared by his deceit. I came to set the prisoners free, I came to give light to those who are in darkness, to raise up those who have fallen, to heal the broken-spirited, and to gather together the children of God who have been scattered abroad. This was the reason and the object for my coming.”

“Satan is not with me; on the contrary he is against me. He ventures to scatter those whom I have gathered and those whom I have saved. How then can he, who wars against me and sets his wickedness against my purposes, give me power against himself? How is it not foolish even barely to imagine that that’s a possibility?”

And so what he does is he leaves them to understand the logical implications.  He says, “(A) Satan would not fight against his own kingdom. And yet, (B) I cast out a demon.  Therefore (C) the demon was cast out by the power of God. It had to be.” He says, “I crush Satan by Divine Power!”

The specific words he uses in Luke’s Gospel says, “the finger of God.”  He says, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you.”  In the Gospel of Matthew it tells us, it uses different words, it says “the Spirit of God” – “If I cast out demons with the Spirit of God.”  So when Jesus says “the finger of God”, Jesus is really talking about “The Holy Spirit”.  And he told the Pharisees that the demon was cast out by the power of the Holy Spirit.

David tells us in the Psalms, “I will behold thy heavens, the work of thy fingers.” (Ps. 8:4)  Does God have fingers? Apparently he does. They don’t look like this, but God has a finger – he writes on stones, he writes on a wall in Belshazzar’s palace, and he writes on our hearts and things like that. So we can see that God does have fingers.

Now I want you to do something – hold out your arm, hold out your right hand, okay?  Look at it. The Son of God is said to sit at the right hand of God the Father. So when the Father acts, it is by means of the Son, His right hand. Okay? And since God the Father is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body like men, He may not have a right hand like you and I do.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a right hand. Okay? When the Bible discusses God’s right hand, it is HIS right hand which is the “true” right hand – and since He is the original mover – and it is our right hand which is a kind-of loose representation of His right hand, it gives us a glimpse, but not what it actually is like to have and to move like God does. We kind of have an idea of how God interacts with us, by having a right hand that does this. God’s right hand is Christ. And when the Son is in action, such as when He writes the Ten Commandments or casts out a mute and blind demon, it is with His finger, an extension of that right hand, that those actions are performed, the Spirit of God. So God operates by moving his right hand, which is Christ, with the finger of God, which is the Holy Spirit. And when you see that happening, you’re watching the Trinity in action.  You’re watching the Holy Trinity move in action.

Right in front of these people, these Pharisees and Scribes, God had acted in Trinity. The Father moved His right hand who, with the finger of God (the Spirit) cast out this demon.  And then the Pharisees turned around and attributed to Satan what was an act of the Holy Spirit! How blasphemous is that!?!?

In Matthew’s Gospel right after this is said – have you ever heard of the “unpardonable sin”? Right after they do that, that’s where the “unpardonable sin” is mentioned. He mentions a sin that WILL not be forgiven. It’s not that it CAN not, it’s it WILL not. He says, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus), it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”

So when we see the finger of God writing on tablets of stone and writing on Belshazzar’s palace, and writing. . . actually the Holy Spirit is said, with his hands, to have created Adam. Everything else was done with God speaking. This one was done with his hands.  And now the Pharisees take this “finger of God” action by casting out a demon and attribute that miracle to Satan.

And Jesus says, “So if I do this by the Divine power of God, and you are at odds with this power, attributing it instead to Satan, because, frankly, you’re unfamiliar with the Divine power of God, then by whom do you cast them out? Or are you even able to do it at all, you brood of vipers!” He says that in the same passage in Matthew. He calls them a brood of vipers. “Do you know what you’ve just done?”

He says, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” And the Pharisees, by attributing that miracle of the finger of God, the Spirit of God, to Satan, have just condemned themselves with idle words simply because they were trying . . . they were angry, they were mad at Jesus and trying to find fault with him and they condemned themselves in that.

Seeking a Sign

There was a second group of people after Jesus went through this whole explanation.  Have you ever heard a “Yeah, but…” a “Yeah, but…”?  Did we talk about this a week ago or so? You give a great answer to a person who is in a debate or in a discussion with you, and they’re not listening. You can see it in their eyes; they’re looking past you because they’re already forming their next argument. They’re not listening to a word you say, and as soon as you shut up they go, “Yeah, but…” and they go on with their argument. Basically they’re saying, “Everything you just said is of no importance to me. You may have formed a very coherent argument and I might have been swayed . . . BUT I really didn’t listen to you and I’m not even going to interact with your statements. I would, however, like for you to continue to listen to me again.” That’s a “Yeah, but…”.

Jesus goes and says, “The power of God, the Spirit of God, the finger of God, is how I cast this out. You brood of vipers, you’re in danger of condemnation for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. You’re in danger with your idle talk.” And they go, “Yeah, but . . . could you show us a sign? Could you make sure? We want to know for sure that you’re from heaven; that you are acting by the Divine Power of God.” They weren’t impressed by his miracle. They weren’t impressed by his description. And the text says that they were trying to tempt him in order to get him to give them a sign. “Yeah, but . . . we need you to show us more. Look, if you’re not working for Beelzebub or Satan as you say, then PROVE to us that your power is from heaven; show us something.” As if the miracle of casting out the demon wasn’t enough, and helping this man who was mute and blind wasn’t enough, they say, “You know, what you’ve done up until now, well, that’s not very impressive, we need some proof. We need some real proof.”

And it’s important to remember: It’s never the righteous people, never the God-fearing people who look for a sign, but only those who oppose the Kingdom of God. In Matthew, Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous nation or generation seeks after a sign . . .”

And don’t we see folks who do that? They run from teacher to teacher or from denomination to denomination looking for a particular miracle, looking for some proof, looking for a sign? And these fools are promised the wealth of the world if they’ll only send all their wealth to the evangelist. . . .

Do we need a sign to believe? Hasn’t the sign already been given to us? Like Jonah, Christ was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. And he arose from the heart of the earth for you and me. What more do we need to know? What more signs do we need to be given than that; than the man who is in control of death commanding death to release him? Do you need any more proof? Are we not an evil and adulterous generation if there ever was one?

Marveling

There’s a third response. Luke, from the Gospel reading today, says, “The multitudes marveled.” In Matthew 12 it says, “The multitudes were amazed and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’”

Just as fifty days had elapsed between Passover, where the Angel of Death came through Egypt, to the day when God – with his finger – wrote the Ten Commandments, fifty days also elapsed between the death and resurrection of our Passover Lamb, and his sending of the Holy Spirit (the finger of God) upon the Apostles and upon the world at Pentecost, who now, instead of writing the Law on tablets of stone, writes the law on our fleshly hearts.

And the Pharisees and the Scribes watched Jesus perform a miracle, and chose to blaspheme the Holy Spirit and to seek even more signs as to who He was. Let’s not be like them. We should pray, as Deacon Joseph read today in the Collect, the prayer for today says, “We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defense against all of our enemies.” Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit be our helper and our defender.

God wants us to be amazed at the works of His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In John 5:20 it says, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” Being amazed at the works of Christ is what leads us to have greater faith and belief. And our correct response to “the finger of God” in our lives should not be to blaspheme or look for signs, but should be amazement and obedience.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen.

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 23, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Sdn. Ambrose.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Luke 11:14-28, Other Homilies. Bookmark the permalink.

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