Lesson 26: Jesus Cast Out an Unclean Spirit in a Synagogue at Capernaum
Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:33-37
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome again! This is lesson # 26. Luke 4:31, in our last lesson said that Jesus came down to Capernaum and taught on the sabbath days. They were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. Let's begin this lesson by reading some more in Luke ch. 4. Beginning in Luke 4:33 and we'll read through v.37. Are you ready? 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, 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. 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. 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. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about."
First, take the time to notice that everything recorded in the rest of Luke ch. 4 happened that same sabbath day (Saturday) and Jesus left the area of Capernaum the next morning, i.e. on a Sunday morning. But, for discussion purposes, we're going to break that Saturday's activity into three main parts. First, a man was healed IN the synagogue, possibly in the morning. We just read that. (#2) V.38 affirms that Jesus went from the synagogue to Simon Peter's house there in Capernaum where he healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law. (#3) Late in the afternoon, that same Saturday, after the synagogue crowd had dispersed and published these things all over the city; masses of people began to congregate at Peter's house. They brought sick people from all directions to be healed. The next morning, i.e. on Sunday morning, Jesus left Capernaum and went to other cities of Galilee (v.42-43-44). But, like I said, we won't get into that in this lesson. Right now let's read Mark's sequel to this account. Beginning in Mark 1:21. Mark also records about Peter's mother-in-law, etc; that we'll get to later. Mark 1:21-28 are you ready? "And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean sprit; and he cried out, 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. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean sprit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad through all the region round about Galilee."
O.K. Matthew recorded part of that day's activity; but he did NOT record the activity at the synagogue that we are discussing here. This is the first time that Luke makes reference to Jesus' miracles. You will remember, John told us about Jesus turning the water into wine in Cana of Galilee and the healing of the nobleman's son; which John labeled the first and second miracles of Jesus in Galilee. Also, near the end of John's second chapter, he told us about a few miracles that Jesus did at the passover feast in Judea; we have assumed this was AD 30. And Mark said in 6:5, that Jesus "laid his hand upon a few sick folk and healed them...", i.e. at Nazareth. But one of the things that make's Luke's account (here) especially interesting to us is that Luke, himself, was a physician, according to Colossians 4:14. And many of Jesus' miracles had to do with healing, i.e. a miraculous altering of the human body to over come disease. That word literally means DIS-EASE; or simply NOT at EASE; thus implying some abnormality. On this occasion Jesus was teaching in a Capernaum synagogue that Saturday. They were impressed with his teaching. And I can understand from Jesus' speech at Nazareth, that they would be highly impressed, from the standpoint of authority that these writers mention. You will notice in all of Jesus' teaching he did not make statements like: it has been the tradition of our father; thus, we ought to do so-and-so. But, Jesus' statements were more like, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." and "I say unto you." He spake with authority. He could speak with authority. This was highly noticeable in his style or manner of teaching as compared to the scribes and teachers that they were used to. Possibly it was while Jesus was speaking there in the synagogue, Mark said, "there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out." i.e. the unclean spirit cried out. Now, look at this close! Mark said, "an unclean spirit." (v.23). Luke said the man "had a spirit of an unclean devil." (v.33). In the NIV, Luke is rendered to say, "there was a man possessed by a demon." Now, the question is: What is a demon? What is the spirit of an unclean devil? This is one of those TIMES that I wish I could turn this study over to some one else with more answers than I have. For I cannot teach you something I DO NOT know. Much is said about unclean spirits in these four books, that we call gospels. We don't want to panic just because we don't understand something. But, let's try to draw NO conclusions other than that which is said clearly and absolutely. However, I believe there are a number of conclusion we can draw and should draw from this account in the light of similar texts: (#1) This was NOT a disease. Many make that common mistake in trying to interpret this. But these writers are careful, (very careful) on every occasion, to list diseases and unclean spirits separately, e.g. look at Matt. 10:8. So, don't make the mistake of THINKING this has reference to a physical disease of some kind. Mark, in dealing with the happenings later that same evening clearly lists diseases and unclean spirits separately. (Mark 1:32). Do you see that? Then to clinch the argument, Luke at that same point in his account, v.40-41, talks about the sick and then says "devils ALSO." So draw your own conclusion. Give it your undivided attention. But, I'm forced to conclude that unclean devils and physical disease are two different things. AND as a first step, we must separate the two in our mind. (#2) The second point I would call your attention to is: unclean spirits are treated here as a person. Now, I'm talking about a person, separate and apart FROM, the person that was possessed or inhabited. Look at Mark 1:25! Jesus said: "Hold thy peace, and come out of him." i.e. YOU come out of HIM. Two separate persons! Do you see that? Other examples will establish this same point. These spirits were disembodied, i.e. they had the attributes of a person; but they didn't have a body. Today, this shakes our scientific community simply because they have never experienced and observed this phenomenon. But that (in itself) does NOT discredit the Biblical account here. Dinosaurs are strange to me, but that doesn't discredit dinosaurs. (#3) These unclean spirits possessed supernatural and superhuman knowledge. V.24 in Mark's account make this point. The spirit that came out of the man knew who Jesus was; the Holy One of God. (#4) Evil spirits could communicate and they expressed passion, desire and unpleasantness. See Mark 5:7 to illustrate this point. Both, Mark and Luke here emphasize the LOUD VOICE of this spirit, i.e. the volume by which he spake. And they were capable of holding their peace, as Jesus commanded in v.25. Now, speaking from a scientific point of view; how could this spirit create sound waves if they were not a material thing. This we can't explain, I admit. And this makes it clear that such spirits possessed attributes that go beyond our five senses. (#5) This was something with by that, I mean: turn the tape player off. Read and re-read this and look for this point: both Luke and Mark use these words: "they were all amazed." i.e. the people in the synagogue were amazed. NOT because there were unclean spirits; but, BECAUSE Jesus had AUTHORITY over this which the people of Jesus' day and before that time were familiar. Take the time to analyze v.27 in Mark's account and v.36 in Luke's account. Now, unclean spirit. Thus, it was NOT something they were unfamiliar with. It was just a different slant, i.e. the CONTROL of the unclean spirit was the miracle here, NOT the unclean spirit as such. As a matter of fact this phenomenon of unclean spirits was so familiar to them; that Jesus gave a parable once bases upon this strange curiosity of unclean spirits. I'm talking about Luke 11:24-26. And finally, point (#6): the fact that this spirit was identified as "an unclean spirit" (Mark 1:23 & v.26) implies, or at least leaves the possibility, that there were CLEAN DISEMBODIED SPIRITS as well as UNCLEAN DISEMBODIED SPIRITS The word demon or devils are always associated with evil and wicked spirits, of course; those that were at enmity with Jesus.
Now, let's go back to the beginning. I said, that I don't understand this. I make NO pretenses. I don't believe anybody today does. Because, in my opinion, for whatever that's worth; this phenomenon is NOW extinct. That is, it has been DONE AWAY WITH. Now, the magicians and the false prophets of our day use this to play upon people's curiosity, i.e. to get their attention AND especially to get their money. Perhaps you've seen the movie called The Exorcist. It's a bunch of bologna. Now, I believe unclean spirits, i.e. evil spirits (a tool of the devil) did exist at the time of Jesus. So-called FAMILIAR SPIRITS are spoken of throughout the O.T. It is NOT something familiar to everybody today, as it was to them. NOBODY is familiar with it today. Because, as I said: this phenomenon is extinct today. Now,.the reason I say that is, the Bible teaches that. Zechariah is a book in the O.T., next to the last book. The writer of that book was a prophet named Zechariah. Zechariah is known as the messianic prophet. In ch. 13 (there) Zechariah said this, "IN THAT DAY there shall be a fountain opened...And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, saith the Lord of hosts, that Iwill cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; AND [are you listening?] ALSO I will cause the prophets AND the UNCLEAN SPIRITS to pass out of the land." Did you get it? After the time of Jesus unclean spirits passed out of the land. So, there's a good reason why we DON'T understand it. We have never experienced it and we're not likely to!
Did you notice in Luke 4:34 the spirit of the unclean devil said, "Let us alone: what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to DESTROY us?" Did YOU get the impression there were several spirits when you read that? It sounds that way in v.34, "Let us alone..." But, v.35 clears this up: "Jesus rebuked him", i.e. the unclean spirit, singular. Then the last of v.35 says, "HE came out of HIM, and hurt him NOT." Thus the unclean spirit in v.34 was speaking of himself AND the one he inhabited as two persons when he said: "Let US alone!" So, it didn't really say there were multiple spirits in spite of the fact that v.34 sounded that way at first. Then in v. 35 did you notice that "Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him." It's easy to miss those words "Hold thy peace." What did Jesus mean? The point is that Jesus did not permit the demon to speak. The unclean spirit had already said that he knew who Jesus was, v.34, AND addressed Jesus as the Holy One of God. So, why did Jesus NOT permit this unclean spirit to speak? It's just this simple, Jesus did not do business with the devil. We covered the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness back up at the beginning of this chapter (Luke ch. 4). We discovered a principle there: DON'T DO BUSINESS WITH THE DEVIL. Jesus DID NOT need the testimony of these evil spirits and thus would NOT let them speak. And v.36 makes it clear that Jesus has power and authority OVER unclean spirits. The language of v.34 makes it clear that the unclean devil or unclean spirit (discussed here) feared Jesus and asked the question: "art thou come to destroy us?" On this point James 2:19 says, "the devils also believe, and tremble." But, Jesus would not permit unclean spirits to speak. Later that same day at Capernaum (in the evening) Jesus cast out devils it says down in Luke 4:41, and "he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ." So, if Jesus would not permit the spirits to speak then; because, they were wicked and evil, it seems reasonable TO ME he would not want us to go about seeking a conversation with evil spirits today; even if it were possible. But, in spite of that implication, some today dabble in seances I understand and claim to be mediums by which supposedly they can contact the dead through the spirit world. Ifyou want to know more about this you can look up SPIRITUALISTS or SEANCES in a good encyclopedia and you will be amazed.
Now, why was it in Luke 4:37 that the fame of Jesus went out into every place? Take a look at that! V.36 said the people of the synagogue were all AMAZED that "with AUTHORITY and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out." You see, this miracle, like every miracle, established the credentials of Jesus. It's easy for us to get all curious about unclean spirits and then miss the point of our writers. If you'll notice they present these things, i.e. unclean spirits, as if they were just common knowledge. And of course, that's hard for us to grasp because it's new to us AS we've already talked about. And many people get all tangled up in this today and miss the purpose of the book altogether. And you'll find this is the explanation for many of the enemies of the Bible who try to make a lot of hay about the Bible teaching DEMONOLOGY as they call it. And they try to use this as a way of destroying your faith in the Bible. But Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote these things for the very purpose of establishing faith, you see. They told it like it was. Some miss that point. I would quote John 20:30-31 again if I thought I could get by with it. But, you're probably already flinching and thinking to yourself, OH! NO! Not again! So, I'll try to stifle that temptation. But, we must see and study these things as the writers presented them and not off in some separate, mysterious and fantasy context.
This is just the beginning of healing and miracles covered in these books. We'll come across the demon possession idea again many times in our study before we finish. There is so much said we'll be forced to bring it into our discussion again from time to time. But, since we have spent so much time on it here I'd like to hold our future discussions of unclean demons and evil spirits to just a few necessary observations. But, YOU need to keep a keen eye peeled on the subject and especially to distinguish unclean spirits from diseases. There are some interesting references to unclean spirits in Rev. 16:13-14. But, we will not discuss that here.
REMEMBER, our next lesson, the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, is a continuation of these scriptures and took place on the same sabbath day we have discussed in this lesson. Until then, have a good day.