Have you ever been to a conference, seminar or convention with endless speakers in plenary and breakout sessions? On and on they go, and you feel almost like you need to go fake your own death to get away from it? But then one person speaks that suddenly catches everyone’s attention – a presenter with a commanding presence and content that makes more sense than everyone else combined. You are amazed.
That is how it was for the people who heard Jesus speak in the synagogues of Galilee. Years of speakers had droned on and on about biblical themes of Israel and the Messiah, maybe much of it even being the truth. But Jesus had a special presence and genuine authority about this speaking that left the people “amazed” – a very colorful Greek word that means to be essentially knocked out of your senses. We might say “blown away.” Or use something like that great British word – “gobsmacked.”
The text today that speaks of this experience occurs in the city of Capernaum. This essentially became Jesus’ hometown and center of operation, having been rejected entirely in Nazareth. Capernaum was also the home of Peter and Andrew.
But to demonstrate that Jesus was more than just a great talker whose words had a ring of authority, miracles gave additional proof that he was the Christ, the Son of God. This miracle of casting out a demon is the first extraordinary event recorded by Luke. In total, it is the third of Jesus’ recorded miracles, the first two (water to wine / healing an official’s son) were recorded only in the book of John.
The demon knows exactly who Jesus is. Again, speaking of his “authority,” Luke records how Jesus drove the demon out of this man who was clearly possessed.
Throughout all of the gospel accounts, Jesus encountered many demons that he commanded to leave various people. The presence of demonically possessed people was apparently not rare in Israel at the time. That might strike we who live in the modern, western world as rather odd. In fact, it is not rare or unusual. Much of the rest of the world lives today in the midst of such oppression. I know more than a few missionaries who experience this on a regular basis, but who don’t talk that much about it on furloughs, knowing that the folks back here at home won’t understand their ministry context and receive these stories without skepticism.
It is not that there is less Satanic activity in our context and culture, it is rather that the Evil One is able to accomplish more in our modern day by subtle means than by overt operations. One of the primary descriptors of Satan is that he is the great deceiver. He operates often with the appearance of an angel of light, rather than of his true realm of darkness. Paul says we should not be surprised or unaware of his schemes.
This is all to say that we need Christ’s authority. We have that primarily in the completed Word of God. We have it through the resource of the Holy Spirit living within us and the authority that brings. Our need is to remain plugged into this power source and to not trust our own resources. In this way, our words and actions are not empty and vain, they are the stuff of authority from the kingdom of light.
Luke 4:31 – Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.