In this post we will consider verses 31-44. Please take the time to read over the passage in order to prepare your mind for the comments which follow.
In order to benefit from this particular narrative, it would be helpful to consider the….
The Backdrop for this Narrative (vv. 14-30)
This passage must be understood in light of the previous context provided by Luke.
In verses 14-30 Luke showed:
Jesus travelled throughout the province of Galilee in order to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God – that He was the Messiah and was offering the Kingdom to God’s people Israel.
Being in Galilee, Jesus came to and entered the city of Nazareth, His home town.
In the synagogue, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2. This passage was a Messianic passage which Jesus used to apply to Himself as the One who would restore the fortunes of Israel. This restoration of Israel necessitated the spiritual cleansing of Israel first – they needed to be born again. Through this spiritual cleansing Israel would be qualified to enter Messiah’s Kingdom (see John 3:1-6) where they would experience the kingdom blessings, which, according to the OT prophets, involved the restoration of the nation to favour, prosperity, liberty, and freedom from oppression.
Today’s passage continues the theme of Jesus’ teaching ministry.
However, we will find that in addition to His teaching, Jesus also performed various miracles. These miracles demonstrated that He was the one who could lead the nation of Israel into the Messianic age.
In verses 31-32 we find then the…
Setting for Jesus’ Miracles (vv. 31-32).
Jesus continued to minister in the province of “Galilee.” More specifically, this section describes His ministry in a “city of Galilee” called “Capernaum.”
While He was there, Jesus again engaged in His ministry priorities – he “was teaching them on the Sabbaths.”
Verse 32 records the general response to His teachings: “they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” So we see that the focus is upon Jesus’ “teaching,” which is also referred to as “His word.” This was a highly important aspect of His ministry. As God’s Messiah, He was God’s messenger. Through His teaching He informed people about Himself and His ministry.
In response to His teaching, the people were “astonished.” This astonishment had little to do with the content of His teaching. It had to do with the “authority” by which He taught. While the scribes of the day taught from oral and written traditions and rarely directly from the OT text, Jesus handled the OT text directly and independently, without any examination of what previous teachers said.
After Jesus taught in the synagogue, He demonstrated that He was the Messiah through a miraculous deed.
The Messiah Silences and Overcomes a Demon (vv. 31-37).
Casting out a demon (vv. 33-35).
Verse 33 says that “in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon.” This demon used the man’s vocal chords and expressed 4 ideas. First, in verse 34, the demon cried out “Let us alone!” Clearly the demon felt opposed and threatened – by Jesus! He wanted Jesus to leave him alone. The word “us” could refer to the demon and his cohorts, but it is probably more likely that the word “us” refers to the demon and the man.
Secondly, the demon said, “What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?” This was an idiomatic expression. Its meaning was close to: “we have nothing to do with one another,” or “don’t bother us,” or “leave us alone.”
Thirdly, the demon also asked, “Did You come to destroy us?” The demon was, in effect, saying that if Jesus wanted to destroy the demon, he would have to destroy the man. This exorcism not only involved the casting out of the demon, but also the delivering of the man. That is why verse 35 says the demon came out but “did not hurt” the man.
Lastly, the demon said, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” The term “holy one of God” refers back to the OT where those who had a special anointing from God were called God’s holy ones. However, here there is added emphasis from prior passages in Luke. In Luke 1:31-35 there is a connection between the holy one and the Davidic Messiah. In 4:41 He is called the Son of God (holy one) and the Christ (Messiah). The demon knew Jesus to be God’s Messiah and was rightly very nervous. (It is debateable whether the demon understood Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, which He is.)
In verse 35, Jesus overcame the demon simply by His word. He did not use incantations or rituals or formulas: “Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’” Before Jesus cast out the demon, he rebuked him for advertising His identity. He probably was concerned about a misguided messianic comprehension.
After the demon “had thrown” the man, he “came out…and did not hurt him.” Jesus overpowered the devil. Furthermore, Jesus delivered the man unharmed – with his powerful word.
Response of the people (vv. 36-37).
Verse 36 says that those who observed “were all amazed.” They said, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” Their amazement was due to the fact that Jesus, overcame the demon with a simple “word.” While this may seem to simply be a description of Jesus’ power over evil, it also incorporates an important theme in Luke’s gospel – that of Jesus’ powerful words. By His word He overcame the demon. By His word He teaches and by His word He draws people to salvation.
Verse 37 says that those who witnessed the miracle proclaimed the news abroad. A “report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.” However, while they were amazed – their amazement was only superficial. Most did not contemplate the miracles deeply and turn in faith to Jesus.
This is the first miracle in Luke’s Gospel. As such, this miracle demonstrates Jesus’ power over evil, because in order to save Israel and establish them in His earthly kingdom, He must be able to redeem them from evil.
Later that day, Jesus performed another miracle which demonstrated…
The Messiah’s Power over Sickness (vv. 38-39).
In verse 38 Jesus “arose” and left the “synagogue.” He then “entered Simon’s house” – that is, the house of Simon Peter.
While in the home, Jesus noticed that “Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever.” This passage clearly states that Peter was married – he had a wife, and also a mother-in-law, and probably even children. This is also confirmed 1 Corinthians 9:5. This is significant because of some of the harmful doctrines which have come from the Roman Catholic Church. Here is the supposed first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church – and he is married! Since Peter, the RCC has developed ungodly doctrines, such as the celibacy of priests.
This passage describes how Peter’s mother-in-law had a “high fever.” Therefore, according to the end of verse 38, “they made request of Him concerning her.”
In verse 39 He “stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.” Jesus again demonstrated His power over the physical realm simply by speaking. Jesus healed completely and immediately – she got up to serve (v. 39).
The phrase, “Immediately she arose and served them” (v. 39), not only describes the completeness of the miracle, but it also provides a description of the proper response to Jesus, which is service. Many in Israel did not believe Jesus to be Messiah. Some had a superficial belief that he was Messiah – they tried to force Jesus to do their will. However, those who exercise genuine saving faith in Christ, respond to Him in an attitude of submission to His authority (Lordship salvation). Those who recognize Jesus for who He is ought to humble themselves and serve Him.
According to verses 40-41, Jesus performed various miracles throughout the day, which demonstrated…
The Messiah’s Power over Various Maladies (vv. 40-41).
Verse 40 states that “all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him.” Many people with various sicknesses came to Him at the end of the day. These people may have flocked to Jesus as a result of hearing how Jesus had cast out the demon in the morning.
Luke tells us at the end of verse 40, “He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.” Some people try to make a big deal about how Jesus healed using his hands – some even go to the extreme of saying all people possess healing properties in their hands. However, there is nothing in this text that would indicate such a notion. Furthermore, Jesus did not need to use his hands to heal – we saw how previously, He merely spoke and people were healed (one time He healed a blind person by making clay by spitting in dirt and smearing that clay on the person’s eyes; Jn 9:6).
Not only did Jesus heal people’s physical afflictions, he also cast out more demons. In verse 41, we find a similar situation as the previous encounter. Jesus cast out many demons: “demons also came out of many.” These demons testified regarding Jesus’ Messianic credentials: “crying out and saying, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God!’”
While it is attractive to think that the demons were claiming Jesus to be God, Luke’s following explanation prevents us from making such an assumption. Like before, Jesus rebuked them and “did not allow them to speak.” They were forbidden to speak because: “they knew that He was the Christ.” The demons were not testifying of Jesus’ divine nature; they were testifying that He was the Messiah (“Christ”)– the Messianic Son of God.
Luke’s description shows us that Jesus was just as busy the following day.
The Messiah’s Departure (vv. 42-43).
In verse 42 Jesus “went into a deserted place.” However, by this time Jesus’ fame had spread throughout the region and we are told that “the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them.” Unlike Nazareth, the people were more responsive. However, their conception, of who Jesus was, was woefully lacking as demonstrated by the fact that they demanded Him to stay in their region.
Interestingly, Jesus was not swayed by their superficial enthusiasm. We are told in verse 43 that Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” His mission was to go to other regions to announce the kingdom – Israel’s release and relief. Notice that Jesus did not say anything about His miracles. His miracles were important because they demonstrated His authority. However, miracles can be misunderstood and resisted (as demonstrated clearly in Jesus’ ministry).
Verse 44 tells us that Jesus “was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.” Luke’s emphasis again falls upon Jesus’ teaching, even though Luke did not record the content of Jesus’ teaching. In verses 43-44 we have Jesus’ short mission statement – to declare the kingdom. We already read a longer mission statement in 4:16-30. His primary mission was to announce the offer of the kingdom – His miracles were secondary because they only reinforced His message.
Jesus’ priority was His authoritative teaching – through His teaching He could reveal Himself, declare His mission, and call people to respond in faith.
Luke presents a number of important themes in this passage.
First, the primary focus of this passage is Jesus’ authority. His authority is demonstrated in His teaching and His words. His authority is demonstrated in His power over disease and the spirit-world. This demonstration of authority reinforces Jesus’ claim from vv. 14-30 that He, as the Messiah, could liberate Israel from its spiritual bondage and lead them into the blessings of the Kingdom.
Secondly, the confession of the demons further substantiates Jesus’ credentials as the promised Messiah. The demons had no doubt that Jesus is, in fact, Israel’s Messiah. However, Jesus would not allow the demons to testify of Him because misguided messianic expectations would hinder His ministry.
Thirdly, the Sabbath also looms large in this narrative. The Sabbath refers to Saturday, which was the Jewish day of worship. (Christians worship on the first day of the week, Sunday, which is not technically a Sabbath.) This is first of five Sabbath healings mentioned in Luke (4:31-37, 38-39; 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6). However, there were many Sabbaths in the OT – Sabbath was a time of rest. Saturday was a Sabbath day – a day of rest. Holy days were Sabbath days – days of rest. Every seventh year was a Sabbath year – a year of rest. Every fiftieth year was a Sabbath year.
All of these Sabbath’s were to remind Israel of a future Sabbath in the Kingdom of God. Israel’s initial entrance into the Promised Land was called a rest for Israel – in Exodus 33:14 God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” However, Israel knew that true and lasting rest would only come about when Messiah came – Hebrews 4:8–9 says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” The future rest for Israel will be fulfilled in the millennial Kingdom – Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” It is therefore, very significant that after Jesus announced the release and relief of Israel (vv. 16-19) He entered the Synagogue (on the day of rest) to speak about the future day of rest in His Kingdom. These Sabbath teachings and miracles alert the nation to the future time of rest being offered by Jesus. They present to Israel God’s new way and warn them about not heeding these new hopes.
Fourthly, there is an emphasis upon teachings of Jesus. That seems like a strange statement since very little is said regarding what He actually taught. Nevertheless, Jesus authority, as demonstrated through His teachings forms a key feature in this passage. In verse 15 Jesus taught in their synagogues – emphasis upon habitual practice. In verses 16-17 Jesus went into synagogue of Nazareth as was His custom and read and taught. Verses 18-30 demonstrate that when people understood what He was saying it generally resulted in hostility. Verse 31 says that Jesus taught the people on the Sabbaths – emphasis upon habitual nature. Then in verses 42-43 Jesus said He had a mission to teach in other regions – Jesus’ mission statement at the end reminds us of Jesus’ priority in offering the Kingdom to Israel and of Jesus’ role as the Messiah and Messenger of that good news.
The point regarding Jesus’ mission statement is that Jesus did not say He needed to go into other regions to perform miracles (though He did). His miracles were often ignored or misunderstood.
So even though Luke doesn’t record what Jesus said, the response of the people following His teaching is significant – people weren’t listening to His teaching, they were simply responding to His miracles in a superficial manner. However, Luke shows us that Jesus used His powerful word to reveal Himself, announce His Kingdom, and bring people to faith.
Fifthly, this passage emphasizes Jesus’ miraculous healings. But Jesus healed very deliberately – not simply to wow the people and not simply to show compassion. Jesus healed to demonstrate that He is Messiah – but He did not heal everyone. Jesus can heal today – however, that does not necessarily mean He will heal today. When Christ establishes His kingdom he will restore the earth to its former glory and there will be no disease or illness.