31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And 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.” 35 But 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. 36 And 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!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. – Luke 4:31-37ESV
After having escaped the wrath of his disbelieving neighbors in Nazareth, Jesus made His way to Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. As before, Jesus was invited to address the congregation at the local synagogue on the Sabbath. And, once again, those who heard Him speak “were astonished at his teaching” (Luke 4:32 ESV). Evidently, Jesus spoke with a sense of power and authority that was like nothing they had ever heard before. Luke does not divulge the content of Jesus’ teaching, but it seems likely that it would have been similar to what He had shared in Nazareth. It would have been natural for Jesus to read from the Torah, which contained the first five books of the Old Testament. But in most synagogues in the 1st-Century, it was also a common practice to read from the books of the Law and the Prophets. That’s why Jesus read from the book of Isaiah in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth. This practice is mentioned in the book of Acts.
Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” – Acts 13:13-15 ESV
Later on in his gospel, Luke records the interaction between the recently resurrected Jesus and two of His followers, who were traveling on the road to Emmaus. These two dejected disciples had been discussing the crucifixion of Jesus when He suddenly appeared by their side as they walked. They did not immediately recognize Him, but as Jesus walked alongside them, He “took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 NLT). And later on, when they realized that they had been talking with the risen Lord, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 NLT).
So, as Jesus opened up the Scriptures on that Sabbath day in Capernaum, He may have used the Word of God to reveal His identity to them. But whatever Jesus said, Luke reports that “his word possessed authority” (Luke 4:32 ESV). The Greek word he used to describe the teaching of Jesus is exousia, which can also be translated as “one who possesses authority.” Jesus didn’t simply read Scripture and then share His opinion, He spoke with a sense of right and privilege, as the Son of God who was Himself the incarnate Word of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:1-3 ESV
While the majority of His audience were amazed by His teaching, there was one individual who made the connection between His words and His identity. Luke reports that “there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon” (Luke 4:33 ESV). And in the midst of Jesus’ teaching, the demon within this man suddenly interrupted the proceedings by causing him to shout, “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” (Luke 4:34 ESV).
One of the first questions we should ask is why this man was in the synagogue, to begin with? If the people of Capernaum knew He was demon-possessed, he would have been considered unclean and unfit for entrance into this place of worship. Perhaps they were unaware of his condition, or it could that he entered the room unexpectedly while everyone was listening to Jesus speak. But regardless of how the man got there, the demon within him immediately recognized who Jesus was and revealed an awareness of why He had come. Evidently, the demon spoke on behalf of his companions, who had also taken up residence within this poor man.
While the rest of the audience recognized that Jesus spoke with authority, the demons understood the exact nature of that authority, and they feared the worst. The primary demon expressed their concern that Jesus had come to destroy them. They understood Him to be “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34 ESV), the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel. And the demons seemed to be aware that Jesus possessed a power and authority that was greater than their own. Not only could He dispossess them, but He could also destroy them.
But before the demon could say anything more, Jesus shouted, “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 4:35 ESV). And at the word of Jesus, the demons were cast out, causing the man to collapse on the floor, exhausted but completely unharmed. And all those who witnessed this encounter were left slack-jawed and amazed. They whispered among themselves, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” (Luke 4:36 ESV).
They had just witnessed the authority of Jesus on full display and were left thoroughly blown away by the experience. They had never seen anything like this before. But what they didn’t fully realize was that Jesus had just demonstrated His Messianic power and proven His right to rule and reign. He had authority over both the natural and spiritual realms. Even the demons were subject to His word.
And with this miracle, Jesus gave evidence that His claim to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy was true. When He had read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, He had boldly proclaimed, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV). And one of the things Jesus had claimed He had been anointed by the Spirit of God to do was to “proclaim liberty to the captives” and “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 ESV). And the man who stood in the synagogue that day was now demon-free thanks to the Holy One of God.
And, as one would expect, “The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region” (Luke 4:37 NLT). The rumors spread. His reputation grew. And the interest in this rabbi from Nazareth increased with each passing day. But apart from the confession of the demon, most people were still unsure of just who Jesus was and what He had come to do. They were impressed with His power, amazed by His words, and curious about His identity, but not quite ready to deem Him the Holy One of God.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.