Sunday, February 12, 2012

Luke 4:31-44 - Jesus' Authority

The Deranged Man in the Capernaum Synagogue by James Tissot
Pray and Read:  Luke 4:31-44
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 4:31-44 to show that Jesus has authority to help those in spiritual need, physical need, and gospel need.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the authority of Jesus.

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus has authority to help those in spiritual need (Luke 4:31-37)
2.   Jesus has authority to help those in physical need (Luke 4:38-41)
3.   Jesus has authority to help those in gospel need (Luke 4:42-44)

Contextual Notes:
At his birth, Luke calls us to trust in Jesus as the Coming Messiah who fulfills God’s promises to Abraham and David (Luke 1-2). Trusting Him begins with repentance, declared Messiah’s Forerunner John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-20). At Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-23a), Luke calls Jesus the promised Messiah, God’s suffering Servant through his sacrificial death. With Mary’s genealogy, Luke reminds us that Jesus fulfills not only the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants, but unlike fallen and sinful Adam, he is a completely obedient Son of God (Luke 3:23b-38). So clearly is Jesus the Perfect Man, that he defeats Satan himself in a test of every sphere of human temptation: body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:1-13).

With Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Luke 4:14-9:50), Luke will present the essence of the Good News,[1] culminating at Luke 9:20 with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in the power of the Spirit, Jesus encounters unbelief in the rejection in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30).[2] But in today’s passage he finds believing faith in the Capernaum synagogue and victory over the devil (Luke 4:31-44).

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   At Nazareth in the last passage (Luke 4:14-30), Jesus announced from Isaiah 61:1-3 that his mission was to declare the good news to the poor and to release the prisoners. Now in Luke 4:31-44 he demonstrates that calling. The primary focus remains on Jesus’ teaching and preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom as seen in the bookends to the section (Luke 4:31-32, 43-44), and the miracles confirm the message that God’s Kingdom is breaking into human history (cf. Mark 1:21-28).
b.   Luke 4:31 – He went down to Capernaum: Luke is describing the geography. Jesus walks from the high valley at Nazareth down to Capernaum at the edge of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum will become his base of operations in the Galilee region. The chief ruler of synagogue in Capernaum is Jairus, whose daughter Jesus would raise from the dead.
c.   At Capernaum, in contrast with the unbelieving Nazareth synagogue, the congregation was not just enamored at the way he spoke, but they were “amazed at his teaching because his message had authority” (Luke 4:32). First they were amazed at the content. He spoke the word of God plainly from the text. He was able to unfold the Scriptures in an understandable way and brings forth truth that no other teacher had revealed. But second they were amazed at the authority with which he spoke. Jesus did not rely on centuries of rabbinical opinion to back up everything he said. He simply stated the truth and let it stand for itself with his own authority backing it up.
d.   Luke 4:32 – Amazed at his teaching: The rabbis of Jesus’ day based everything they said on hundreds of years of historic rabbinic interpretation of Scripture. What stunned Jesus’ listeners at Capernaum was that Jesus spoke as if He had authority Himself (for Luke, through the Holy Spirit, Luke 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18) and did not need to quote another rabbi for his authority. What amazed them even more was Jesus’ power which was demonstrated in casting out a demon. The Jewish and pagan exorcists used long incantations and magical liturgies to do their work, trying to scare the spirits away, and their secret was invoking the name of a spirit with higher authority to get rid of the lower one. Jesus simply commanded and the spirits obeyed, amazing the people.
e.   Luke 4:33-34 – literally, A man “having a spirit of an unclean demon.” The demon speaks in the plural (us). The Ha! Is an interjection of surprise and displeasure or may be the imperative of the verb eao, meaning “let us alone!” “I know who you are!” Knowing the spirit’s name was a way of gaining power over it, and the spirit may have been making a futile attempt to express authority over Jesus. The spirit knew that before the beginning of the Millennium Kingdom that Satan and those serving him would be bound and that Christ would reign over an earth delivered of Satan’s power and influence (Rev. 20:1-3). Jesus commanded silence for two reasons. First, he did not want a demon’s testimony of his authority. Second, he wanted to preserve the human dignity of the man who had been victimized by the demon.
f.    The title here, “Holy One of God” is not a traditional title for the Messiah, but it has been used to describe Aaron (Psalm 106:16), the first High Priest of God whose misspent intercession and sin brought him failure with regard to the Golden Calf. Jesus, our Great High Priest who lives forever to save completely those who call on him, ever living to intercede  for us at the right hand of the Father. (Heb 7:23-28). Samson (Judges 13:7; 16:7), the mighty man of God and the first called to a life-long Nazirite vow, whose weakness and selfishness brought him to failure. Jesus is the Mighty Man of God and not only the fulfillment of the Nazirite vow, but indeed the Nazarene whose authority, power, and eventual selflessness would bring hope and healing to the entire world through the Cross. Elisha (2 Kings 4:9) was a prophet of Israel who raised the widow’s son from the dead. His name has the same Hebrew verb root, ysh, (Eli-yesha, “God saves” as Jesus (Yeshua, “Yah saves”). Jesus came as a Prophet, raising the dead and being raised from the dead Himself to defeat the devil’s works. We see Jesus fulfilling perfectly the roles of High Priest, Jesus the Nazirite, and Jesus the Prophet.
g.   Luke 4:35-36 – So in a dramatic display of the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 in their hearing, a demon cried out, “Ha, What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” (the very town where his authority was not honored). Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34). Jesus’ first public miracle was deliverance from a demon, what Isaiah 61 calls releasing the oppressed. In swift, short, sharp authority, Jesus silenced the evil spirit and commanded it come out of the man. No incantations, no prolonged magic, no pleading. Only a severe, “Be muzzled. Come out.” His authority demonstrated itself by coming out of the man without harming him (Luke 4:35).
h.   Luke 4:35-36 – All the people were amazed. In Nazareth they were amazed at his teaching (Luke 4:22). In Capernaum they were amazed at his power (Luke 4:36). We are so familiar with the NT’s telling of Jesus’ domination of demons that we can hardly imagine how stunning this encounter was to a first-century Jew. No elaborate rituals or incantations like the professional exorcists who were around. And the congregation’s response to this display in the middle of their worship service? Amazement. Recognition of his authority. Spreading the word about Jesus Christ all over the region.
i.     APPLICATION: Perhaps you find yourself in spiritual need today. You have done all you know to do, but there is some controlling sin, something you cannot overcome, some addiction, something that plagues your spirit. Jesus has authority to help you in your spiritual need. You need only to ask Him to rescue you. There may be some who have lost control in some area of your life, and you feel that something else controls you in that area. Jesus overcomes the works of the devil. Confess and repent of your sin; forgive those who have hurt you; command the spirit to leave you in Jesus’ Name. If you are in Christ, you have His authority to do that.
j.    APPLICATION: We have another application from the synagogue. Our congregations thrive when they submit to Christ’s authority. Now I doubt that anyone expected to see a demon come out of an otherwise normal synagogue member when the parishioners arrived that Sabbath morning in Capernaum. But Jesus’ presence brought miraculous deliverance. The submission of God’s people to Christ’s authority brought about Christ’s cleansing, Christ’s power, Christ’s healing, and Christ’s peace.
k.   APPLICATION: And one more thing. Submission to Christ’s authority also brought about evangelism. The text says that news about him spread throughout the surrounding area (4:37). How did that happen? It happened because that congregation, amazed and submitted to Christ’s authority, talked about that Jesus. They told their neighbors and their coworkers about Jesus. They told their families about Jesus. They spread his fame and made his name great in that region.
Bringing the sick to Jesus at Capernaum
a.   Jesus’ authority is further demonstrated in healing and deliverance with others in Capernaum.
b.   Luke 4:38-39 – Though Simon Peter and Andrew were probably born and reared in Bethsaida (John 1:44), Simon owned a home in Capernaum, and it has been discovered and excavated. Christian symbols have been found on its walls, suggesting that it was used as a house church in the first and second centuries AD. Paul mentions Simon Peter’s marriage in 1 Cor. 9:5. Simon’s father-in-law had probably passed away, and Simon and his wife had taken her widowed mother into their home. It was common to care for one’s family.
c.   Ancient medical writers distinguished between small fevers and great fevers. The clarification provides evidence for Luke the physician’s authorship. Now Jesus rebukes a fever as he did the demon, demonstrating his authority over physical illness. It does not mean Luke thought the fever had a demonic connection. He distinguishes between physical and spiritual ailments (Luke 4:40-41; 7:21; 13:32), though he makes a connection with some illnesses (Luke 8:29; 9:39; 11:14; 13:11). Disease, like demonic oppression, is part of the fallen world in which we live, and which Jesus came to save.
d.   Normally a fever, especially a major one, leaves us weak and nearly helpless. But Jesus’ rebuke not only heals, it restores! Peter’s mother-in-law began to show hospitality, a high value in that culture, and the senior woman of the house had responsibility to make sure hospitality was given. She is completely healed.
e.   APPLICATION: Luke invites us to see that whatever the ruin of our life, at Jesus’ rebuke of sin, we are saved and healed from the consequences of sin, and spiritual health and vitality will be most surely restored. Not only that, we are saved from the power of sin in our daily lives.
f.    Luke 4:40-41 – Sickness: And Isaiah 61’s very words begin to be fulfilled. One of Luke’s themes is Jesus’ concern for the sick and the poor, and we see it here (and Luke 7:22; 14:12-14, 21; 16:19-31). People in biblical times did not blame all disease on demons as some liberal commentators and professors would have you believe. Luke is a physician, and he distinguishes here between the two, as he does elsewhere in his Gospel and Acts. Jesus has power over both natural and supernatural ills. Note that they brought them when the sun was setting at the end of Sabbath, when they could do the work necessary to carry their sick without violating the Sabbath commandment. Demons identified Jesus as the Son of God when they departed (2 Sam 7:14; Psalm 2:7; 89:26).
g.   APPLICATION: You came here today scared because of a physical need. Jesus has authority to help you in your physical need. It could be a health need, a financial need, a transportation need, a grocery need, a work-related need, an unemployment need, all physical needs. Cry out to Jesus. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask him to supply your need. Ask him to heal or provide. Tell a pastor or deacon privately about what is happening so that this church can help.
a.   Luke 4:42 – We see in Mark 1:35 that Jesus withdrew to a solitary place where he could pray. It was nearly impossible to be alone in ancient towns, with their narrow streets and sometimes twenty people living in common one-room houses. In archaeological excavations in Capernaum, researchers have found that most blocks in Capernaum consisted of four homes facing a common courtyard. Capernaum, like many villages, were often built close together, and in order to find a place alone, one had to arise early in the morning.
b.   Luke 4:43 – The good news of the Kingdom: Luke has already made reference to David’s Kingdom (Luke 1:32-33), but here he makes his first explicit reference to the Kingdom of God, a theme Luke will develop throughout his Gospel and Acts (Luke 9:2; 10:9, 11; 11:1-4, 18-20; 12:31-31; 13:18-21; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 28:23, 31). The kingdom of God meant both God’s sovereign reign over the universe and the establishment of his righteous kingdom on earth. Saying God’s kingdom is near (Luke 10:9, 11) is to say that God is about to intervene in human history to deliver the righteous and judge the wicked and establish peace, justice, and righteousness. The onset of God’s Kingdom is an open challenge to Satan’s power and control. In the wilderness, Satan was on offense (Luke 4:1-13), but since Jesus’ defeat of the devil there, now Jesus and the Kingdom are on offense, moving in and liberating captives. Luke will end the sequel to his Gospel, the book of Acts noting that Paul was preaching the Kingdom in Rome, the center of the Roman Empire (Acts 28:23, 31).
c.   Now here we are sitting with one another. Will we submit to Christ’s authority? Will we celebrate Christ’s Word, even though it offends our personal, religious prejudice? Will we spread His fame throughout our region? May Christ grant it by His authority.
Jesus has authority to help you in your gospel need. We all have done wrong things and fallen short of God’s plan for us, and though the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life found in asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and submitting your life to him.  Would you do that today?

[1] As Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 gives his thesis there for Acts.

[2] The incident parallels the beginning of the birth narrative, in which the priest Zechariah responds in unbelief to the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Capernaum synagogue’s faith parallels the believing faith of the Virgin Mary.