Luke 4:31-37 (Mark 1:21-28)31Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. 32And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. 33Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”35But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. 36Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” 37And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
Once again, although Mark”s account of this healing in Capernaum is virtually identical to Luke’s, Mark reports it following Jesus’ calling of Simon, Andrew, John, and James. While Luke reports their calling a little later. Since none of the apostles are mentioned in this story, its timing in relation to their calling isn’t essential. We know from Mark’s report of Jesus’ teaching in Nazareth that we just studied (Mark 6:6) that during this time Jesus was teaching in a circuit around Galilee. Nazareth and Capernaum are about a day’s walk apart. Jesus could have visited them in any order along with the other Galilean villages along His circuit, and of course He no doubt visited them all multiple times, whenever He was in Galilee.
The town of Capernaum was the home of Simon (Peter), Andrew his brother, and of the sons of Zebedee – James and John – all fishermen. It lies on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee just west of the inflow of the Jordan River. The river stirs up sediments upon which the fish feed, so Capernaum is a perfect location for fishing. The ruins of the ancient synagogue where Jesus cast out this evil spirit in Capernaum may be still be visited today, and is one of a handful of sites in modern Israel where it may definitively be said that a particular Bible story took place.
Once again, we see Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He so frequently did. Also, Luke is careful to point out once again that the people learning under Him found Jesus’ teaching strikingly unusual, because of the unmistakable authority with which He taught – as one with first-hand wisdom of His own, rather than the secondary hearsay, and boring repetition with which the Scribes and Pharisees taught the law. Any salesperson can confirm that convincing people to accept something is far more successful if one believes himself in the product or principal one is espousing. Clearly Jesus’ own authority over the Word (of which He is, after all, the original author) was striking enough for the people to take note and listen. This wasn’t just another boring Sabbath sermon. This teaching was something new, and of a radically different nature.
The story of healing we read here is fairly straightforward, but there are some points of particular interest. First, notice that the confrontation with the demon(s) who possessed the man took place during Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue. Our enemy’s strategy since he first tempted Eve to sin has been to question God’s Word, and try to keep it from accomplishing its purpose. So we see the demon(s) interrupting Jesus’ teaching of His Word. Thankfully, we know (although the enemy apparently does not) that God is already victorious in this struggle.
Isaiah 55:10-1110“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,And do not return there,But water the earth,And make it bring forth and bud,That it may give seed to the sowerAnd bread to the eater,11So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;It shall not return to Me void,But it shall accomplish what I please,And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
It isn’t entirely clear from this passage, whether a single demon possessed this poor man, or many as in the case of the man of Gadara from whom Jesus cast out the multi-demon named Legion. We see the demon(s) referring to itself (themselves) using both singular and plural pronouns – “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” Then Luke refers to the demon in the singular – But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Regardless of whether one or multiple demons possessed this man, it is clear that they knew exactly who Jesus is.
Here we see another of those profound mysteries of the Bible. It is clear from this passage that these demons clearly know Jesus, and that He has the power to destroy them. Most certainly their master – Satan – is also aware of this. In fact, the enemy’s agenda from the time of his own fall from Heaven has been to forestall the coming of the Savior to lost mankind, and failing that to disrupt the preaching of the Gospel to us. Yet Satan and his fallen angels know clearly that God is sovereign over all, having previously dwelt in the very presence of the Holy Trinity in Heaven, and having been driven out when Satan tried to exalt himself over God (Revelation 12, Isaiah 14:12-15). Why is it that Satan, and his demons, knowing full well their battle is already lost, continue to struggle? Does misery really love company that much? Does sin, rebellion, and pride really make someone that blind to the Truth, and that incapable of repentance? Apparently so! It is a dire warning indeed to sinful, prideful, rebellious mankind.
James 2:19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
Finally, I find it fascinating that Jesus allowed the demon(s) to disrupt His teaching, and proclaim who He is, then commanded the demon to be silent. There is a striking similarity with Jesus’ healing of the leper which we’ll look at, God willing, in a future study.
Matthew 8:1-41When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”3Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.4And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
We’ll look into this more thoroughly when we look at this specific miracle of Jesus, but for now, we need to recognize these “gag orders” from Jesus raise important questions. The answer to these questions reveals the real miracle of Jesus’ ministry. Why did Jesus command those He healed to remain silent about it? Why did Jesus command this demon who proclaimed “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” to be quiet?
Clearly the healings were mighty signs that Jesus is exactly who He claims to be – God in the flesh. Certainly, the declaration of the demon (albeit from a minion of the enemy) was straightforward and true. Many might have come to belief through the stories of these miracles, and even from the words of the demon. The answer to this conundrum is a conundrum in itself, and lies at the very root of God’s plan of salvation.
There was a real danger that the people might try to make Jesus into some kind of earthly king in response to His obvious displays of power. Jesus had to prevent that from happening. He couldn’t be the Savior of all mankind (including those who believed in Him at the time of these miracles) without going to the cross. He had to die in squalor and shame, not be crowned an earthly king, in order to be resurrected by the power of His own Spirit.
John 12:23-3323But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.27“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify Your name.”Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”29Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”30Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
The purpose of the miracles wasn’t to draw people to belief, but to bring unbelievers to call for His crucifixion so that He could save those who did believe. Imagine the temptation that Jesus felt to accept the accolades of the people in response to His miracles, and thereby condemn them all to Hell in their sin!
Luke 4:38-39 (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31)38Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her. 39So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.
It is difficult for modern Americans to understand the fear caused by a besetting fever. Before the discovery of modern antibiotics, a sudden sever fever frequently left people dead or severely disabled within a matter of hours. There were no scientific diagnostic tools and techniques in ancient Galilee. Nor were there facilities available for treating the fever symptoms. Even things we take for granted like refrigeration and ice were of course out of the question. The patient simply had to tough it out until the fever passed, or not. The miracle of Jesus we see in this passage might not seem to us noteworthy, but to the ancient mind, and to the minds of the vast majority of modern people who live outside the reach of even the most rudimentary medical treatment, this healing is extraordinary – that Jesus has the power to “rebuke” a threatening illness.
Furthermore, note that Jesus performed this miracle only after the disciples brought the need before Him. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from bringing your needs humbly before the Lord. Yes, without doubt God knows all things from before the beginning, and can do all things without limit in accordance with His holy will. Of course, Jesus already knew about the fever under which Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering. Nevertheless, God desires that we seek His aid in all things, both small and great, because through prayer, we enter into a deeper fellowship with our great Abba, Father whose love for us is beyond measure…
Matthew 7:7-117“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
James 5:13-1613Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Luke 4:40-41 (Matthew 8:16-17, Mark 1:32-34)40When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. 41And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!”And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.
Matthew’s narrative of these healings also points out that Jesus’ healing miracles were also a part of His fulfillment of prophecy concerning Him.
Matthew 8:16-1716When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:“He Himself took our infirmitiesAnd bore our sicknesses.”
Matthew is quoting here from Isaiah 53:4. Most English translations of this verse follow fairly closely with the NKJV which reads…
Isaiah 53:4[NKJV]Surely He has borne our griefsAnd carried our sorrows;Yet we esteemed Him stricken,Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Some English translations (e.g the Holman) more closely track Matthew’s rendering.
Isaiah 53:4 [HCSB]Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses [חֳלִי choliy],and He carried our pains [מַכְאֹב mak’ob];but we in turn regarded Him stricken,struck down by God, and afflicted.
The salient Hebrew words are חֳלִי choliy which can mean sickness or grief, and מַכְאֹב mak’ob which can mean pain or sorrow. Matthew translates them into Greek as ἀσθένεια astheneia and νόσος nosos respectively. Both of them refer to bodily sickness and physical weakness. Once again, the Holman translation probably comes closest to the mark in the English translation of Matthew’s Greek text.
Matthew 8:17[HCSB]so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:He Himself took our weaknessesand carried our diseases.
Most interestingly, though, Matthew makes the observation that Jesus’ healings came at the cost of His taking the pain, sorrow, disease, and weakness upon Himself. In this, Jesus paints a picture for us of His own suffering on our behalf for the remission of our sins. We’ll get another glimpse of this concept when we study the healing of the woman with the flow of blood when she simply touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.
Mark 5:29-3029Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”
Luke 4:42-44 (Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39)42Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; 43but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” 44And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.
Jesus made it His habit to rise very early and pray in solitude each day. Mark clarifies this in his version of this passage.
Mark 1:35-3935Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”38But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”39And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.
By this example, Jesus not only models the idea of seeking God’s direction first, in conducting our day-to-day lives, but also answers for us a very important question – “Why should we pray?” Clearly our prayers are precious to God. Yet we know that God already knows what we will pray.
Matthew 7:7-87And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.8“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Furthermore, we know that God’s will reigns supreme. Certainly, our meager prayers will not change God’s will or plan in any way. Yet we see the call to prayer time and again throughout the Word of God. Clearly our prayers are vitally important. We have already seen that God desires for us to draw close, seeking His fellowship in prayer. Jesus also taught us to pray, and how we should pray as we’ll see in more detail at a later time. But most importantly, here in this passage and throughout His earthly ministry, we find Jesus Himself praying to His Father. This is yet another aspect of the great mystery we’ve discussed previously of God’s incarnation in the flesh of the man Jesus of Nazareth. In a sense, we see Him praying to Himself. The life Jesus led as Immanuel – God with us – provides for us the model which we must seek to imitate in our own earthly lives. A habit of continual prayer which Jesus modeled for us is an important facet of our following Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-1816Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Before we move on, there is one other important aspect of this brief passage that we need to note. Jesus’ final admonition before He ascended to His place at the right hand of the Father was…
Matthew 28:18-2018And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Clearly Jesus intends that His Gospel must be proclaimed to all people. He shows no favoritism in this. As with prayer, He modeled evangelism Himself for us. Jesus didn’t just hang out in His home town (where they had rejected Him) or in Capernaum where they received Him gladly, and desired for Him to remain. He took His Gospel throughout Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, and His followers continue to proclaim it throughout the world, sometimes at the cost of their personal safety and even their lives. This is the Great Commission to which we are called. Few of us will go out to share the Gospel with hostile heathen tribes in remote jungles. That’s okay. All of us have unsaved neighbors right next door, colleagues in the next cubicle at our workplaces, or fellow students at the next desk in our classrooms who need to hear the truth of salvation in Jesus, too.