Now that the title has your attention, let’s get started. Up to this point we have only mentioned Satan in one study, The Temptation of Christ and The Temptation of Christ, Part 2. Now we see Jesus’ encounter with a demon. Let’s read:
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “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!”
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
It’s a short passage that holds a lot of good stuff for us to learn so let’s get started. Notice Jesus is still in Capernaum. “They” most likely refers to Jesus and his disciples. Notice that Jesus is once again in the synagogue teaching. It is the Sabbath so it’s Saturday. The fact that it is the Sabbath will become important later in other stories about Jesus as the Pharisees couldn’t stand that Jesus was doing miracles on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day set aside for resting and meditation on God. No work was to be done and the Pharisees were so concerned about keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest they made laws such as you couldn’t even touch a tool that could be used for work or you would be breaking the Sabbath laws. This is referred to as putting “a fence around the Torah.” That Jesus was performing miracles on the Sabbath sent the Pharisees into a tizzy. Forget that Jesus was doing God’s work! But it shows that with Jesus there is a new order that is established. The old way of doing things, like making and keeping ridiculous laws, is over but this would’ve put the Pharisees out of a job. They were in charge of enforcing religious laws after all. This is one reason they despised Jesus.
Anyway, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching and, once again, all the people are amazed at his authority. Up to this point when people taught they always quoted other Rabbis. The most notable schools of thought were the liberal teachings of Rabbi Hillel and the conservative school of Rabbi Shammai. Jesus didn’t need to quote what other great teachers thought about the Scripture; he taught on his own authority and spoke it in such a way that there was power in his words. Jesus had a deeper understanding of the Scriptures than any other teacher because he was the one Scriptures were written about. The entirety of Scripture points to our need of a Savior and the Savior itself. Jesus is that Savior! This is why he is able to preach in a way that “amazed” the people. Both times it is used in this passage, the word amazed here literally means, “struck to attention.” Note, it doesn’t say how the people were amazed- where they amazed in a good way, in a bad way, afraid way… Just something to keep in the back of your mind as we read this passage.
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “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!” (verses 23-24)
Let’s not split hairs over the words “impure spirit” the same story in Luke 4:33 flat out calls this entity a demon. In the New Testament we see demons as being able to cause mental disorders (John 10:20), involuntary violent action (Luke 8:26-29), bodily disease or impairment (Matthew 9:32-33), and rebellion against God (Revelation 16:14). Demons are not just some cute little guy on your shoulder trying to get you to do bad things. They are real. They have power. And they can have a stronghold over your spiritual and physical life.
The texts says the man cried out, but it was actually the demon using the voice of the man to speak. So here’s something else we can learn about demons, once they take possession of the body, they can use it for their purposes. Scary stuff, huh. The next line of the text says, “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!” (verse 24). I have several observations here, I would say when the demon uses the word “us” it is referring to itself and to the man who is possessed. There is another story of demon possession in which there are many demons in the body but the text makes a point to tell you that is the case (Luke 8:26-39). Here it clearly says “demon” and not “demons”. The second observation I would like to make is that the demon recognizes Jesus and it recognizes him as the promised Messiah at that. We know this because it says, “Have you come to destroy us?” The demon recognizes Jesus as the promised judge and destroyer of Satan- the only one who is able to defeat him. The other reason we know that the demon recognizes the Messiah is because it calls Jesus, “the Holy One of God!” This is a Messianic title used in the Old Testament. In short the demon knows exactly who it’s talking to. It just goes to show that even evil can recognize God when it sees him. It makes for a sad commentary for those who don’t believe that Jesus is God if even Satan knows it.
Jesus is “stern” in his reply to the demon. He doesn’t ask nicely if the demon would kindly leave the man. He is firm and speaks with power. There is nothing nice about dealing with the Devil. What I find interesting is that he doesn’t pray or lay hands on the man. His word is enough.Then if you notice, the demon “shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” The demon doesn’t leave quietly we can assume that from the violent shaking and shrieking that the demon didn’t want to leave the man but it was obligated to obey Jesus. After the demon comes out of the man, everyone is amazed again and they are amazed at his authority- his authority of teaching and over evil.
I want to point out one important observation before I go- Where did this demon manifest itself? The synagogue. The synagogue equates to our church of today. It shows that no where is safe from the wiles of Satan. Yes, Satan can even enter our church doors, and in possession of a person no less. It is foolish to think otherwise. Where God’s work is being done you can bet your bottom dollar Satan will be there trying to thwart the plan. I’m not trying to scare you, I am just apprising you of the situation. The more informed you are of the enemy and how he works, the more you can be diligent in stopping him or at least avoiding him.
Father, You alone are all powerful and you alone are worthy to be praised! Thank you for your power over Satan and for your ability to cast him out. Your word alone is enough to send Satan trembling. We praise you and worship you, Almighty God, forever and ever, Amen!