Series: The Ministry of Jesus in Galilee (4:14–9:50)
Three times in this passage we see the reaction of the people to Jesus’s ministry. In verse 32, they are “astonished.” In verse 36, they are “amazed.” In verse 42, they beg him to stay in their region.
What made Jesus’s ministry so astonishing? And what can we do today to make our ministries astonishing to people?
JESUS CAST OUT DEMONS
Luke 4:33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
Demon possession was a common problem during the ministry of Jesus, and to a lesser extent, during the time of the Apostles.
This makes perfect sense if you think of it as a spiritual war, which it is. When the top general—Jesus—entered the arena, of course, Satan is going to send in the troops in a greater force than ever before or since.
Demon possession is when a demon actually dwells within a person. This man “had a spirit of an unclean devil.” Luke piles up the descriptive words to show us just how bad the situation was for this man.
Demon possession is distinguished by such features as unusual physical strength and strange behavior. Luke, the doctor, reports about the man in Gadarenes [Gad-A-Renes] possessed with demons—
29 …For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) (Luke 8:29)
Demon possession can also involve what appear to be medical problems, such as being mute (Luke 11:14), foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39), or physical infirmity (Luke 13:11).
This is not to say that every medical condition is an issue of demon possession, only that some demon possession cases involve physical or mental symptoms.
At any rate, the demon spoke:
Luke 4:34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
Notice that the demon recognizes who Jesus is. That’s more than what we can say about most human beings! And what’s more, the demon is afraid of Jesus. It knows that Jesus is capable of destroying all of them.
One day, that’s exactly what Jesus will do (Revelation 20:7-10), but the demon is apparently thinking that Jesus will destroy it right then (cf. Luke 8:31; Matthew 8:29)
Why does the demon call out Jesus’s name and who Jesus is—“the Holy One of God”? Wouldn’t that just be helping confirm who Jesus was to everyone listening? This also happens in verse 41—
Luke 4:41 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
It’s possible that they were being forced by the holy presence of God to declare his name and call him holy. In the Bible, God’s presence causes fear and dread in humans:
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5)
If that is what God’s presence does to humans, you can only imagine what it would do to demons!
In any case, Jesus doesn’t appreciate the demons mentioning his name. He tells them to be silent.
Luke 4:35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.
Why wouldn’t Jesus want more advertising or proof that he is God? We’re not told specifically, but one thing is clear: Jesus would not want the testimony of demons for help. Paul states this important principle in 2 Corinthians 6—
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial [B Lie El, i.e., the Devil]? …(2 Corinthians 6:14–15)
Jesus did not want someone to come later and have reason to accuse him of being supported by demonic powers.
In fact, he would be accused of that very thing, and he would be able to defend himself because he never encouraged it. He could say—
26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:26)
Well, to move on, we see that Jesus’s casting out of the demon has an electric effect on the crowds—
Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
Luke 4:37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.
Everything about Jesus was amazing…he captivated a generation of people.
One of the astonishing characteristics of Jesus’s ministry was that he cast out demons. Another is that…
JESUS HEALED DISEASES
Luke 4:38 And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her.
Luke 4:39 And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
Luke 4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
Peter’s mother-in-law has a fever, apparently a very severe one. Jesus comes, and rebukes the fever as if it were a demon (which it wasn’t, but the same word is used). She is healed completely. In fact, she gets up and serves them (perhaps a meal). She doesn’t need a few days of recovery.
He continues through the rest of the day—a Sabbath day, notably—healing the sick.
There are some things to notice about Jesus’s healing ministry as compared to the so-called faith healers of today.
1) Jesus healed instantly—“immediately she arose.” He did not do gradual healings. We see another example of healing in the next chapter that is instantaneous (see also Matthew 8:13; Mark 5:29; Luke 17:14; John 5:8-9):
13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. (Luke 5:13)
(Some might point to the healing of a blind man in Mark 8:22-25 as an example of gradual or progressive healing, but the man was healed in less than 30 seconds.)
2) Jesus healed any ailment—“any sick with divers diseases…he laid his hands on every one of them” Faith healing fakes are well-known for healing vague ailments that are prone to temporary psychosomatic cures—backaches, headaches, and the like.
Jesus healed any problem that people had. He brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, cleansed the skin of lepers, and made paralyzed people walk again.
3) Jesus did these healings completely. Peter’s mother-in-law got up and went to work serving them. No one required bed-rest for a few days after being healed.
Also, unlike modern fake faith healers, who sometimes have actors with false injuries play a part, Jesus healed people who were known by others in the community to be afflicted.
For instance, people knew the man blind from birth in John 9 was actually blind from birth. His parents even testified—
20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: (John 9:20)
So when he received sight, they knew it was a real healing.
4) Jesus healed everyone at no cost—“he laid his hands on every one of them.”
He healed everyone, and he did it without donations to “prove” their faith. In fact, Jesus never required anyone to repent of their sin and show their faith. He simply healed all people at no cost.
If there had been hospitals in those days, you can be sure that Jesus would have done walk throughs, healing everyone. Let’s see a modern faith healer do that!
A second astonishing characteristic of Jesus’s ministry is that he healed people.
Before we move on to the third astonishing characteristic of Jesus’s ministry, let’s go back to a question I asked at the beginning: what can we do today to make our ministries astonishing to people?
Jesus cast out demons and healed people with a touch. We can’t do that. But was that really what was so astonishing about Jesus’s ministry? I want to argue that it really wasn’t.
And the reason is this—what if Jesus had only cast out demons and healed the diseases of a few select people? If he had only focused on a few, good, religious and rich elites, would his ministry had been astonishing to people?
I want to say no, it wouldn’t have been so astonishing. I want say that what made Jesus’s demon exorcisms and healing ministry so astonishing to people was that he did it for everyone he met.
It was his compassion for all kinds of people that made Jesus’s ministry so astonishing. And that, folks, is something that we can do to make our ministries today astonishing to people.
We’re in a cultural war these days, and we often have an “us versus them” mentality. We see them as bad and immoral people, immoral. They see us as bigots and hateful people.
What we need to do is astonish them with compassion. Shake them up with love. Show them Christ in our lives.
Am I saying not to preach the Gospel? Absolutely not. That brings us to the third astonishing characteristic about Jesus’s ministry. That is…
JESUS PREACHED WITH POWER
Look at the first two verses and the last three verses of our passage here—
Luke 4:31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
Luke 4:32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power [i.e., authority, not trival].
Luke 4:42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.
Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
Luke 4:44 And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
Jesus never required people to repent when he cast demons out or healed them, but he did preach the gospel to them wherever he went.
The gospel is more than actions, it is words. It is the words of eternal life, and it must be preached so that people come to faith in Jesus (Romans 10:17).
Ultimately, faith in Jesus is what really matters.
Faith in Jesus Christ is what will deliver us completely from Satan and his demons.
Faith in Jesus Christ is what will give us resurrection bodies that never become ill or broken.
Why can faith in Jesus give us those things? Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And sin is the root of all the problems we have in this world.
Jesus showed compassion by going around healing and casting demons out, but he knew that he would have to cut the power demons and disease off at the source. He knew he would have to die for our sins.
Have you come to faith in Jesus Christ? Have you been astonished by the Good News of the forgiveness of your sins?