The following is a summary of my sermon preached at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, March 12, 2017.
Part 3 of Jesus-Style. Luke 4:31-37
March 12, 2017. The Cornerstone Church.
PRAYER and BIBLE READING - LUKE 4:31-37
It’s now over a year into Jesus’ public ministry. He’s walked from the south of Israel near Jericho and Jerusalem to north of Israel - the region of Galilee near his home in Nazareth. Jesus has been on a ministry tour to the towns and villages around the huge lake called the Sea of Galilee. Everywhere he went, Jesus healed the sick and preached the Good News. In our episode, Jesus has walked DOWN from Nazareth where he grew up - around 1500 above sea-level - to Capernaum where his HQ (Matthew 4:13; Mark 2:1) was located - around 600 feet below sea-level.
He taught in the synagogue in his unique style and with unique authority - verse 32. He didn't do what that other rabbis did. Jesus did not quote teachers and traditions and ancient writings. He read the written Word of God, then - in his explanation and application - he proclaimed the verbal/oral Word of God - the Good News - verses 18-19. Those who heard him were blown away by his authority - verse 32 astonished - there’s a perfect expression from England: "gob-smacked; gob is a slang word for mouth." Jesus unleashed jaw-dropping power - even in his teaching.
This passage makes three bold claims for us to consider:
Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel - savior, ruler of the world, forever.
Jesus has all power and authority.
Jesus can set us free from the power and authority of Satan.
In today’s sermon I'm going to ask two questions I believe we all need to answer:
QUESTION 1: HAVE YOU SURRENDERED YOUR LIFE TO MESSIAH JESUS? - verse 31-32.
Messiah is a Hebrew term describing a promised, future King who will possess supernatural power, rule over an everlasting kingdom, and rescue Israel from her enemies. Passages such as Daniel 7:13-14 provide stunning descriptions of the Messiah. As I read it, listen for every reference to the power and authority of God's King:
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven (divine sign). He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given AUTHORITY, GLORY, AND SOVEREIGN POWER; all nations and peoples of every language WORSHIPPED him. His DOMINION is an everlasting dominion that will NOT pass away, and his KINGDOM is one that will NEVER be destroyed.” - Daniel 7:13-14 NIV
(In the Bible, there is a connection between clouds and the appearance of God and Jesus: Exodus 24:15-16; 40:34-35; Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1; Jeremiah 4:13; Zechariah 12:10-12; Matthew 24:64; Revelation 1:7; Acts 1:11)
Daniel 7's vision confirms that Messiah possesses unprecedented (divine) power and authority. So, when we read in Luke 4 about Jesus' irresistible authority in his teaching and in his power over a demon, what do you think Luke want us to believe about Jesus? 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!" - verse 36 Luke wants us to have an AHA moment: "Jesus is the promised Messiah. Therefore, Jesus has dominion over me. Jesus is worthy of my worship."
Have you considered that the correct response to Jesus is to bow your whole life to him in submission and worship? We are being called to be more than simply amazed at the miracles and the teaching. We are being called to crown him Lord of our lives - to recognize his authority to lead us and to command us however he wills.
QUESTION 2: HAS JESUS SET YOU FREE FROM THE POWER OF SATAN? - verses 33-35
For this to make sense, I need to give you some biblical background on Satan and his demons:
Before God made humans, he made angels. He designed them to serve him. He made angels glorious and powerful. And perhaps the most powerful of all was Lucifer - the Angel of Light. Lucifer grew proud and he decided to challenge God for supremacy. He gathered an army of rebellious angels and he went to war with God. And he lost. The Lord cast him down to earth and he became the prince of this world. The first time we meet him in the pages of the Bible, he is tempting Eve to go to war with God. We know how that turned out.
Satan and his angels (demons) are both evil and powerful. There are ranks and hierarchies of demons with authority over regions of the world. For example, Daniel wrote about the powerful Prince of Persia who fought against God's archangel, Michael. The Apostle Paul wrote about angel government:
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the RULERS, against the AUTHORITIES, against the POWERS of this dark world and against the spiritual FORCES of evil in the heavenly realms.” - Eph. 6:12 NIV
Satan and his demons are still waging war against God. They do it indirectly by fighting his image on earth - you and me - using two primary tactics: He attacks our minds and our bodies because he is a liar and a murderer. His goal is to kill, steal, and destroy. Until we turn to Christ as Savior, we stay in bondage to Satan. He blinds us to the truth of Christ and his Gospel. If he can't kill us physically, he keeps us in the dark spiritually.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the RULER of the kingdom of the air, the SPIRIT who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” - Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV
Most of us have experienced demon oppression, but some unfortunate folks experience demon possession. On very rare occasions, a demon or demons, will take total control of a person's life. During the ministry of Jesus, the rate of possession increased - as the war against the Savior and God’s rescue plan intensified.
Now look at our passage again:
While Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, proclaiming the Good News (see Luke 4:18-19) - a man started shouting at Jesus. But it wasn't the man who was shouting. A demon possessed his body and controlled his mouth - an evil, filthy, unclean spirit (no body, invisible) of a demon. Normally, demons stay quiet. They don't want us to know when they are doing their nasty deeds. But this demon can't help itself. It's an involuntary yell: "Ha!" literally, “eeyah." It’s an outburst of either indignation (now you just wait a moment!) or fear (Oh no!). When Jesus preached the Gospel, his power and authority were on full display and they drove the demon to distraction. It couldn’t help it: it shouted out loud.
Next, we learn why the demon reacted:
"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.” - verse 34
Demons know their time is limited and their destiny is destruction in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10; 2 Peter 2:4). And now their destroyer is right there in the room. Demons know who Jesus is - God in the flesh - God's Holy One. Demons know that Jesus came to destroy the devil's work (1 John 2:8) and so they live in constant fear of their destruction.
I once heard the California preacher, John MacArthur, talk about a time after he had preached and was standing at the front of his auditorium. A man with glassed-over eyes broke through the security detail guarding MacArthur, and got right up in his face and said, "Why are you trying to hurt me?" MacArthur says that when he preaches the Bible and when he makes known the Good News, it drives the demons crazy and they manifest in people. The Word of God is a direct threat to the demonic world. It's a notice that there's a new sheriff in town and he's gonna clean things up. As James 2 says, "The demons believe and they tremble (or shudder)" - with fear.
I don't know whether this man had ever shown signs of possession before this moment. Some people do show very obvious signs; for example, the Gaderene demoniac (Luke 8:26-39); the boy who was repeatedly thrown into seizures and into the fire (Mark 9:17-19). Often times, it’s very difficult to know if someone is controlled by a demon. This time it was obvious.
Jesus stopped teaching and directed his full attention to this man - actually to the demon who was controlling the man. And this is where we're all supposed to gasp in amazement. Because Jesus simply speaks a word of command - "Be silent and come out of him!” - verse 35. And the demon obeyed - at once, in full:
"When the demon had thrown him down in their midst (a last act of defiance), he came out of him, having done him no harm.” - verse 35.
Movie versions of exorcisms are usually all about spraying holy water, waving a crucifix, shouting prayers or incantations. And they seem to take forever and the demons usually look like they're winning. But when Jesus takes control of a demon, all that is required is a word of command. And when we encounter demons, all that is required is the Word of Christ. The Gospel is the Good News of freedom for the prisoners and the oppressed. It is a promise of sight for the spiritually blind. Satan flees at the sound of the Gospel of Christ.
It’s very important for us to understand what’s going on here. Verse 36 makes it clear:
"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!"" - verse 36
Jesus was demonstrating his Gospel promises - putting them on full display for all to see. It was his Word in action. The all-powerful, irresistible, Word of Jesus. Jesus has total dominion. His Kingdom never ends. So, he simply speaks a command. No demon can stand against him! This is very good news to everyone who turns to Jesus as God and Savior. He sets the prisoners free from bondage to Satan. Only Jesus has that kind of power.
Let me be very direct: if you have not turned to Jesus as your God and Savior, you are as open to demonic oppression and possession as this poor man in Capernaum. The God of this world has blinded you to Christ. He is your ruler and you are his prisoner. You are in spiritual bondage and you may even be in physical and mental bondage to him.
But here is the good news: Jesus has total dominion over the demons. They answer to him. They cower with terror in his presence. They obey. They flee. Nothing can stand against the powerful name of Jesus. What a powerful name it is! God wants you to look to Jesus for rescue. To bow to him as your God. To trust him as your Savior (life, death, resurrection), and to follow him as your powerful King. Only then will you be truly free.
And here’s a word for the faithful followers of Jesus. Don’t be afraid of Satan and his demons. They are helpless in the face of the Word of God and the Gospel. They must obey Jesus and his Word. Stand firm. Martin Luther may have been thinking of Luke 4 when he wrote his iconic hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Here's an updated version of part of verse 3 that captures the idea that we are safe in Christ: "Let this world's tyrant rage, in battle we'll engage. His might is doomed to fail. God's judgment must prevail. One little word subdues him"