Text: Luke 4:31-44
Date: Sunday October 22, 2023
As we continue through our study of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus arrives in the city of Capernaum. Last week, we saw Jesus in his hometown, begin his ministry with a sermon that nearly got him killed. Today he boldly continues his ministry in a new city.
Interestingly, among the ruins of Capernaum today exist a synagogue which was around in the first century. Undoubtedly this is the exact synagogue where Jesus performed the exorcism shown in this passage. It is remarkable to consider that you can visit the Holy Land and walk in the very places where Jesus ministered. Second, that synagogue was actually built by a man whom we meet in Luke chapter 7 named Jairus. Jairus is a God fearing centurion who we are told was a wealthy benefactor who built the Capernaum synagogue (Luke 7:5). In Capernaum, Jesus’ ministry begins to take full shape as to what it would entail over the coming years. Interestingly in this passage, the word rebuke is used three times. And so, we are going to examine the three rebukes of Jesus in capernaum
Meaning & Application
I JESUS REBUKES DEMONS
The first rebuke we see in this passage is that Jesus rebukes demons.Luke 4:31–37 ESV
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.
A The Skeptic: The first implication of Christ’s Capernaum Ministry is in regards to his power ofverdemons and unclean spirits. With a single word, Jesus cleanses the demonically possessed. Whenever I teach on demons, I feel it necessary to provide a brief word to the skeptic in the room, who feels that stories like these of demonic possession belong in the world of fairy tales, not in the world of practical religion. And as I have said many times before, that is simply put not a worldview the Bible permits us to hold. The Bible very clearly and overwhelmingly affirms a spiritual unseen realm active all around us. I believe that Christians have shied away from discussing these passages at great harm to themselves, because we still live in a world with a very complex unseen realm. The Bible provides clear and compelling instruction for how to live accordingly. And throughout the Gospel of Luke, I am going to take every story that we engage with demons, to instruct us accordingly. When we finish Luke, we ought to be trained in how to handle spiritual warfare.
B The First Demonic Encounter: There are two demonic encounters in our passage. The first happens inside the synagogue. Jesus is teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God, and as he does so a demon possessed man who was standing in the synagogue cries out with a loud voice,
Luke 4:34 ESV “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.”
Now we don’t know particularly what kind of demon this was. Here’s what we do know, the demon was able to control the man’s speech and body. The demon speaks through the man. And then in verse 35, he throws the man’s body on the ground. Demons are bodiless spiritual beings who very often inhabit physical bodies in order to wreak havoc on God’s creation and purposes. When a person is being controlled by a demonic spirit, we call that possession. Sometimes, that can look much like the movies. Other times it can be far more subtle. I have had encounters with those who are clearly demonically possessed. And I have seen behavior from many that signals to me there is strong demonic influence, even though on the outside the person sane and normal.
C This Demonically Possessed Man Was Among Them: Now consider this demon possessed man in the Capernaum synanogue. It seems to me that the bulk of people in that synagogue were unaware that the man had demons inside of him. I don’t get the sense from this passage that everyone knew the demon possessed guy in the crowd. That’s important. The demon possessed do not always manifest strange behavior. But what caused the strange behavior in this man. It was the preaching of God’s Word and the clear power of the work of Christ on display. As soon as the demon possessed man is confronted by the real power of God, he shrieks in terror.
Luke 4:34 ESV “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.”
D The Demon Knows: Notice, the demon knows exactly who Jesus even though the crowds don’t. The same thing happens later in our passage in verse 41, where the demons come out of a man and cry out “You are the Son of God!” Why do demons recognize Jesus. Well demons are spirit beings who have been around for a long time. They’ve been in the presence of God before, and they recognize the presence of God in Christ.
E What Will Demons Try To Do: With this man they controlled his body. They spoke through his mouth and through his body on the floor. The great aim of every demon is to rob God of glory, to steal glory for themselves, and to destroy the Kingdom of God. A few weeks I highlighted three primary times that Christians ought to expect increased demonic activity in their life. First, was in seasons of weakness (sick, tired, overworked). Second, was in seasons of ministry success. Third, was in seasons where you have unrepentant ongoing sin which serves as a foothold for Satan to grasp onto you. Today, I’d like to further equip you with five strategies of the evil one that you should be aware of.
#1 To Doubt Your Election (Peter on the night of Christ’s arrest): Suppose you have been walking with Christ for some season but suddenly find yourself in some kind of sin or some season of doubt. The devil pounces and he says, “See you were never really part of them. You were never one of His elect. You deceived yourself and you deceived others. Better to go your own way and leave them behind. I think this is what Satan did to Peter. Oh Church, do not give Satan such a foothold. Have you confessed as Lord and made a public declaration of your faith? Have you believed on Jesus, His blood spilled for the forgiveness of sins. Then do not be taken captive by such empty deceiful words.
#2 To Shield the Christian from God’s Means of Grace: Second, the Devil will do all he can to shield the Christian from participating in God’s apointed means of grace. The devil will work in your busy seasons and whisper, “Ah Christian, what need do you have of the Church this Sunday morning. You’ve worked hard all week. You have an early meeting in the morning. Better to rest at home.” The means of grace are those things that Christ has ordained for the building up and encouragement of our faith. The study of Scripture, pleading prayer with the almighty, Biblical community and friendshiph, the preaching of God’s Word, the taking of the Sacraments. What can you do against such demonic efforts. For the glory of God discipline yourself. The gathering of the Church is not optional in the life of a believer. You don’t come, you’re under attack and unprepared.
#3 To Drown the Christian in the Cares of This World: Ananias & Saphira who loved the appearance of generosity more than Christ. Third, the Devil will do all he can to drown the Christian in the cares of this world. He will whisper, “Just a little more and you’ll be satisfied. You can balance jsut a little more and your love of God. Besides nobody is telling you otherwise.” Inside of every follower of Jesus our own flesh often wages war against us for carnal pleasures. The Devil capitalize on this weakness of ours by adding fuel to that fire. He will cause you to see the success of others and the seeming happiness they have accumulated for themselves and make you wonder if all your commitment to Christ was really worth it. Just as the Israelites wanted a King just like the other nations, so do often desire the worldly gain of our nonChristian friends.
#4 To Inundate the Christian with Worry & Fear: Fourth, the Devil will try to inundate the Christian with worry and fear. The Devil will whisper, “God’s promises are not enough. You are out of control. Who knows tomorrow will bring. Here is a list of possible outcomes, dwell on these.” This consumes your mind with worry about tomorrow, worry about what others think, worry about how things will turn out. In all this he is aiming to take your mind off of the sovereignty of God. Worry and fear can be crippling. It can keep you up at night. It can ruin your marrriage. It can cause all sorts of other behavior. And he relishes in it all. Like Martha who was “anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41) while her sister Mary had found the good thing, sitting at feet of Christ.
#5 He Will Make Repentance Seem Easy & Sin Seem Light: Fifth, the Devil will make repentance seem easy and sin seem light. He will try to convince you, often through the voice of others, that the sin in your life is only a small thing. That every Christian has their own struggles and therefore you need not worry about them. In fact you can rest as you feed those sins gasoline. No! Repentance is a mighty work! It is a turning away from a thing, and turning towards God. The Prodigal Son repented when he stopped eating the slop from the pigs sty and walked towards his father with humble confession and no expectation of forgiveness. If we knew the holiness of God we would never think repentance a light thing. But the Devil would have you believe it.
“Every sin strikes at the honor of God, the being of God, the glory of God, the heart of Christ, the joy of the Spirit, and the peace of a man’s conscience; and therefore a soul truly penitent strikes at all, hates all, conflicts with all, and will labor to draw strength from a crucified Christ to crucify all sins.”Thomas Boston
As you can plainly see, the Devil has many tricks, and many ways of causing pain and angst in a believer’s life. His aim is to draw you away from God, to draw away from the Church. But look at Jesus.
Luke 4:35 ESV 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.
With a word, the man is set free. With a word, the demon flees. This is not a competition of power, this is domination by a superior authority over a weaker authority. This is the power that every follower of Christ has at their disposal. When you accept Christ, you are granted the authority of Christ to speak into the unseen realm on Christ’s behalf. This is remarkable. This does not mean that demons do not attack, do not deceive, do not twist, and do not do all they can do hinder your work as a Christian. But the Demons know they have absolutely no real authority over someone who comes in the name of Christ. He is a greater authority. So are you hindered by demonic attacks or demonic temptations. Proclaim the name of Christ, the Holy One of God.
II JESUS REBUKES SICKNESS
Second, Jesus rebukes sickness. In the very next scene Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon Peter’s house. We read,
Luke 4:38–39 “And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.”
I find it interesting the language that is used here of Christ. It does not say he heals Peter’s mother in law, or that he makes the fever leave. The language is that he rebukes the fever. The language is so strong that many commentators actually believe the fever was a result of demonic activity, and that the word rebuke is being used to speak of casting a demon out. But I don’t see that. The text does not say he rebukes a demon, it says he rebukes the fever.
A All Sickness Part of the Fall: First, let’s make sure our theology is in order. Sickness, fevers, even death, are not part of the original creation, they are consequences of sin’s invasion into our world. If Adam had never sinned, there would never be any fevers, any cancer, any broken bones, and heart ache. In Jesus ministry, wherever he went he brought the Kingdom of Heaven and its power with him. This is what the Apostle John meant when he wrote,
John 3:19 ESV And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Jesus was restoring that which had fallen by restoring that which was broken, at least in part. So, does Jesus have authority over demons? Yes. Does Jesus have authority over blindness? Yes. Does Jesus have authority over death itself? Yes. And so, does Jesus have authority over fevers? You better believe it.
B The Gospel Restoration:There are two parts to this conversation I want to make sure we understand very well. First, is how this relates to the Gospel. When a person believes in Jesus, the Scriptures that God takes their heart of stone, and he replaces it with a heart of flesh. Colossians 1 says it so beautifully,
Colossians 1:13 ESV He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
In Christ, you who were in the darkness of the consequences of sin, are transferred out of that kingdom, and into a new kingdom, a Kingdom fueled by the light of God who is in heaven. But rather than remove you, and plce you in what would be a much more natural environment for the believer, heaven which is our home, Christ leaves us in the darkness. For what reason? In order to be lights to others. And so where the Christian goes, they bring the fulness of heaven with them, because Christ is in them. Everything that a Christian touches, and every person that a Christian engages with, is experiencing this new invasion of light into the darkness.
C Already & Not Yet: We now live in what theologians like to call the already not yet. Already, the Kingdom of Heaven has burst forth in power into real history. Jesus established it through his life, secured it through his resurrection, and empowers it by the Holy Spirit. Already we live the days of the Kingdom of God. And yet, we know there is coming day when darkness will be done away in full. When there will be no more fevers at all. Our final real healing will always come for certain! Heaven awaits those who wait preciously on Christ.,
D What Does This Mean For Us: Now let me answer a question. Does Jesus still heal sickness and fevers? Yes, we certainly believe he can and does. The Lord can use medicine and doctors, and he can also heal supernaturally. But what should believers expect when they are someone else they love fall sick, or get injured, of any kind of hardship. Some sects of Christianity I believe have abused the healing ministry of the Church, and so its important we get this right. It is a beautiful thing to pray for healing. And to have faith that should God choose to heal, he can heal. But we must always do so with humility. Our prayers for healing should always begin, “Lord, if it be your will, would you magnify the name of Jesus by healing this person.” Our prayers should not be, “I declare you are healed in the name of Jesus.” This is a mistake that many so called healers make. And they are assuming that because Jesus behaved in a certain way, or his Apostles in a certain way, that we too ought to behave in that way. We are neither Jesus nor the Apostles. But we do have the Holy Spirit. Pray boldly for healing. Spurgeon!
E Closing: So, can Jesus heal? Yes. Does he always heal in this life? No. Why does he choose to heal sometimes and not others? We don’t know. But He is God, and He is good, and we trust him whether he heals or not. In Christ, will all sickness ultimately be healed? Yes, what we see in this passages is a foretaste of the glory that is to come, when Christ finally does away with every enemy, and heaven is secured.
III JESUS’ REBUKES AGENDAS
Finally, Jesus rebukes personal agendas.. There are two separate little stories here and we can look at them both.
A Rebukes the Demons
Luke 4:40–41 ESV Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
In this account, Jesus continues to cast demons out of individuals and here the demons cry out his identity. “Your are the Son of God.” Notice that Christ rebukes these demons for saying this. Why? It seems to me that the answer to this question is because the Jesus had a particular path to go down. And that path did not involve shouting that he was the Son of God from day one. That would have had a particular affect on the public and other religious leaders. There was a winding course to his crucifixion, and the demons were threatening to change the path.
B Rebukes the Crowds
Then in the very next scene, Jesus has a similar but different rebuke.
Luke 4:42–44 ESV And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
While the word “rebuke” is not used here, we can see that Jesus is giving them a loving correction. They wanted Jesus to follow a certain path, to bend to their vision for what he should do. But Jesus would not be swayed. He knew the path that he was to go down, and it required him going from town to town. And so here he lovingly corrects the crowds that would have him adjust his plans.
C We Often Come With an Agenda: We often, like these individuals in Capernaum, come to Jesus with an agenda. We might not realize that we’re doing it, and thats the danger of agendas, they are so subliminal, so deeply rooted in our psyche, that we don’t realize we’re using Jesus, not serving Jesus. Sometimes its like the crowds, where we can convince ourselves that what we are asking for is reasonable and maybe even good, but in the end, it serves our own purpose, our own agenda, not Christs. Having Christ stay in their town served their own agenda, not Christs. I have seen this wickedness in my own life over the years.
Example 2: Second, an example from my own life. In pastoring this Church I find that I constantly am confronted by the question, “Is this for my agenda or for Christs?” And I struggle at times to answer it. I pray regularly that God would sweep through this place in a powerful movement of the Spirit. That we would see countless people believe in Christ, get baptized, live on mission. I believe in my heart I want that all for the glory of God. But there is also a part of me that at times sees other pastors, younger pastors than me, leading huge Churches with amazing ministries, and sometimes that causes me to be jealous. And when I get alone with Christ, he often confronts me by saying, “That jealousy is revealing something I am still forming in your heart.” Oh thank God for the grace of Jesus that forgives petty hearts like mine.
D Questions for Examination: Now let us examine our own hearts in this room. Let me start by saying, that most people whom I ask about whether they have considered God’s will and God’s desire, they’re undestanding of God’s will, they’ll assume they have, but it always seems that God’s will perfectly aligns with whatever they want to do. I want to expose in our own hearts how deep this sin might run.
Praying for Decision: When you make bigger decisions in your life about, do you truly and honestly seek the Lord’s will in prayer. Perhaps even fasting over it. Sometimes I know we can give lip service to prayer with our decisions, where we essentially have already made up our mind, and we know we’re supposed to pray about it, so we say a few words in prayer. I’m not talking about that. I mean, “God what would you have me do?” And fervently depending on him.
Confession: Have you ever confessed about decisions you have made in the past that were more driven by personal agenda, than by seeking God’s will? If you’ve never confessed to this, it could be because you’ve never really thought about it before.
Last Time: When was the last time you thought you knew what you were going to do. But after fervently praying to the Lord, He led you in a different path than you what you were initially expecting.
Uncomfortable: When was the last time you were led by God to do something radically uncomfortable, something that you wouldn’t normally do, but it was part of God’s mission and you followed. Maybe it was sharing the gospel with someone you work with. Maybe it was visiting a ministry and serving in a difficult place.
These are the kinds of questions Christians need to meditate on, and probe their own soul a bit. How much of our own agenda do we drag into our faith. But Christian, all of this is sin. It is not wrong to be ambitious, to be bold, to work hard, to succeed. None of that is necessarily sinful. But from time to we need to pause ask ourselves, whose agenda is running my life? How much am I really seeking Christ and his wisdom? Jesus rebukes false agendas. Jesus will not tolerate being used. our role is to prayerfully discern what God is doing, and put ourselves in alignment with that path.
Let me close by looking at verse 43. Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well.” Christ began this ministry, and the Holy Spirit is continuing it right now. The Gospel must go forth to every town, to every home. And you are a part of that. Your voice, your life, is bearing witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Live as those who have been overwhelmed by glory, who have been changed completely by his grace.