Bible ancient-futurenetToday’s post continues a study of passages from the Gospel of St Luke which have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

It becomes part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 4:33-37

33And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34“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.” 35But 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. 36And 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!” 37And(G) reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

—————————————————————————————

Luke 4 recounts what happened at the start of Jesus’s public ministry. After His baptism He — ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 4:1) — spent 40 days in the wilderness where the Devil tempted Him. Jesus rebuked him and the Devil left.

When Jesus began His ministry, he started in Galilee. Word quickly spread of His powerful teachings and He was well received by all.

Some might wonder why Jesus’s ministry was three and a half years long. Matthew Henry explains the scriptural precedents for this period of time:

Three years and a half, the time of Christ’s ministry, is a period of time very remarkable in scripture. Three years and six months the heavens were shut up in Elijah’s time, Lu. 4:25; Jam. 5:17. This was the half week in which the Messiah was to confirm the covenant, Dan. 9:27. This period is expressed in the prophetical writings by a time, times, and half a time (Dan. 12:7; Rev. 12:14); and by forty-two months, and a thousand two hundred and threescore days, Rev. 11:2, 3. It is the time fixed for the witnesses’ prophesying in sackcloth, in conformity to Christ’s preaching in his humiliation just so long.

Jesus referred to Elijah’s story when He went home to Nazareth to preach to His townspeople. He read a scroll with verses from Isaiah and announced that He was their fulfilment. The Nazarenes asked each other, ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ They were unsettled by His words. Here is Luke 4:24:

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

He then related the story of Elijah to illustrate that just as the prophet cleansed the Syrian leper — an enemy and a foreigner — so He would minister elsewhere. His townspeople became angry with Him, chased him out of town and attempted to throw Him from a cliff. Luke 4:30 says:

But passing through their midst, he went away.

Nazareth would neither know or experience His miracles and His teaching.

He chose to base His ministry in Capernaum (Luke 4:31) and the rest of Galilee. The people there were deeply moved by His preaching on the Sabbath.

Today’s reading describes what took place in the synagogue in Capernaum. There, a demon inhabiting a man cried out to Jesus (verse 33). The demon was angry and fearful at the same time when he proclaimed Him as the ‘Holy One of God’ (verse 34).

Jesus immediately commanded the demon to be quiet and exit the man (verse 35). The demon came out without harming the man he had inhabited.

The people in the synagogue who witnessed this were awestruck that Jesus had the power to drive demons out of people (verse 36). Afterward, they told others what happened and Jesus’s reputation grew among the Galileans (verse 37).

Time and time again in the New Testament we find that the demons feared Christ and His Apostles. John MacArthur said that demons normally work undercover and like being hidden. However, he surmises that such was the power of Jesus’s teaching that they began emerging out of ‘trauma’.

As for our era, MacArthur says that demons do their work disguised in seemingly nice people who undermine the Word of God (emphases mine):

They would rather operate in a person who is teaching in a liberal seminary. They would rather be a Methodist…they would be in a Methodist pastor who advocates homosexuality. They can get a lot more done subtly. It appears to be high church, it appears to be sophisticated, it appears to be even elitist in terms of its academics. But these people who are the ‘human instruments’ of these disguised demons sound the same as Satan. If you listen to them, these liberal people, they tell you you can’t believe the Bible. Isn’t that what Satan said in the Garden, you can’t believe God, He’s not trustworthy? They tell you the God of the Bible is not good. Isn’t that what Satan implied? God isn’t good, if He was good He wouldn’t tell you you couldn’t eat of that good tree over there. You can’t trust God. You can’t believe God. God isn’t going to look out for your best.

See, Satan from the very beginning did one particular thing, and that is to undermine the character of God and then along with that undermine the Word of God. And when anybody comes along today and undermines the nature of God and undermines the Word of God, you can be sure they’re plying the trade of the kingdom of darkness. Whether they are actually indwelt by demons or not, we can’t know unless there would be some point at which that manifestation occurred. But it’s not usual that they would manifest themselves. I suppose that’s maybe a commentary on the weakness of human preachers, but when Jesus preached, they couldn’t keep themselves hidden because in their sheer panic they gave themselves away.

As for demons talking through people today, he says:

… in my whole lifetime and I’ve been pretty much at the cutting edge, at the front edge of the battle for the gospel, I’ve only perhaps three times actually engaged in verbalization with a demon speaking through a person. They don’t like to do that. They don’t like to manifest themselves. So …demon manifestation in a possessed person is a very rare phenomena.

Back to the Galileans who witnessed Jesus’s driving out the demon. Matthew Henry says they were not simpletons or lightweights:

This instance of his power, which many now-a-days make light of, was then, by them that were eye-witnesses of it (and those no fools either, but men of penetration), magnified, and was looked upon as greatly magnifying him (v. 37); upon the account of this, the fame of him went out, more than ever, into every place of the country round about. Our Lord Jesus, when he set out at first in his public ministry, was greatly talked of, more than afterwards, when people’s admiration wore off with the novelty of the thing.

It’s interesting to note that, then as now, human nature is fickle.

Next time: Luke 4:38-39