31 And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, 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 quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. 36 And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” 37 And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.
From Nazareth, Jesus travels about 20 miles to Capernaum, which He makes His adopted hometown. Capernaum was the home of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. With so many of His disciples having homes there, it would be a natural base of operations and would allow the disciples to enjoy some of the comforts of home and family.
Jesus, per His usual routine, teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. For the third time, we’re told by Luke that the people were amazed at His instruction. He taught was one having authority rather than appealing to the authority of those teachers who came before. This was a significant enough difference that people were surprised by it and intrigued.
Jesus is interrupted by a man that Luke describes as demon possessed. We’ve dealt with demons before, and it’s certainly plausible that quite a few ancient diagnosis of demon possession were simply persons afflicted with mental illness, but in this instance, Luke quotes the words of the man that identify him as a demoniac. The creature sees Jesus as its enemy and acknowledges Him as the Holy One of God.
Jesus tells the demon to be silent. He did not need its testimony of Him, and certainly not while it was tormenting a man.
Christ commands the demon to let the man go, which it does. The man is restored without physical harm in the midst of the synagogue. Christ has set the man free.
If Jesus teaching with authority amazed the crowd, this act of assuming authority over demons and healing a man from their affliction with a simple command, stuns the crowd. Jesus of Nazareth is not like any rabbi they have seen.
It’s interesting that this entire scene takes place in a synagogue.
We normally associate places of worship as holy places. Places where you wouldn’t expect to find evil sitting comfortably within its pews. Though, these days, with the seemingly constant stream of revelations of evil coming out of various churches, perhaps that view is too naïve on my part. But it’s interesting to realize that devil presented here is quite comfortable in a religious setting. Unlike the demoniacs on the other side of the Sea of Galilee who broke chains and attacked passersby, there’s no indication that anyone here even realizes this man is different until he interrupts the service.
The takeaway being that evil can hide within our midst. It can hide in the places we least expect it. And it’s not always external. And it is rarely supernatural. Sometimes it is within us. Sometimes we carry it with us right into our Sunday services: grudges that we harbor, negative thoughts about others, anger, impatience, bitterness, gossip, addictions.
And the people we claim are brothers and sisters don’t know it and most of the time will not see it. And we don’t see their struggles, their secrets, and their baggage; because we’re too afraid to look too deeply for fear that they’ll see the things we carry.
It’s an interesting thought anyway. I’m not sure what to do with it, beyond seeking to be an authentic person. An authentic person is someone who lives without wearing a mask in public. Living without a mask makes it much more difficult to hide things. And it can inspire others with confidence that they can live without one as well.