Thursday, February 7, 2013

Luke 4:31-37

And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,  “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

After rejection in his hometown of Nazareth Jesus goes down from the hill country to Capernaum, a town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. When he begins teaching in the synagogue, people are immediately astonished. He continues to teach with authority and explain Scripture in a new way. Rather than teaching what the rabbis have said, Jesus teaches "but I say" and "the Lord says". That is a huge distinction.

In the synagogue was a demon controlled man, clearly able to hide it from the other religious people. The demon instantly realizes the presence of the Messiah, is threatened, and uses the mans voice to call out at the threat to its power. Jesus will not allow the demon to speak the words that he is the Son of God, even though the words are true. The demon's words stir up dissension, division, and distraction. As we have noted, Jesus is not interested in winning followers through some grand show of power but through a changing of hearts and minds.

The passage from Isaiah that Jesus had read in Nazareth indicated that as the Messiah he would "set free the oppressed." Certainly anyone under the influence of a demon is oppressed! (Demon possession is covered well here.) When the crowds see that Jesus is able to command spirits, the word gets out that something exciting and unusual is going on in Capernaum.

Although few in the world are in need of an exorcism, many are controlled to some extent by evil forces. Each sin gives evil a foothold in our life. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26-27, "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). The deeper we fall into sin, the further we drift away from God and towards Satan. The deeper we deceive ourselves that we are "good people", the more barriers we allow between our spiritual ears and the pleading voice of the Holy Spirit. Do not think that simply because there are no demons cast out in your Sunday morning service that the devil is no longer at work around us.

For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 
 - Ephesians 6:12

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