A Man with an Evil Spirit
31Jesus went to the town of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people on the Sabbath. 32 His teaching amazed them because he spoke with power. 33There in the synagogue was a man with an evil spirit. He yelled out, 34“Hey, Jesus of Nazareth, what do you want with us? Are you here to get rid of us? I know who you are! You are God's Holy One.”
35Jesus ordered the evil spirit to be quiet and come out. The demon threw the man to the ground in front of everyone and left without harming him.
36They all were amazed and kept saying to each other, “What kind of teaching is this? He has power to order evil spirits out of people!” 37News about Jesus spread all over that part of the country.
Jesus Heals Many People
(Matthew 8.14-17; Mark 1.29-34)
38Jesus left the synagogue and went to Simon's home. When Jesus got there, he was told that Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a high fever. 39So Jesus went over to her and ordered the fever to go away. Right then she was able to get up and serve them a meal.
40After the sun had set, people with all kinds of diseases were brought to Jesus. He put his hands on each one of them and healed them. 41Demons went out of many people and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus ordered the demons not to speak because they knew he was the Messiah.
42The next morning Jesus went out to a place where he could be alone, and crowds came looking for him. When they found him, they tried to stop him from leaving. 43But Jesus said, “People in other towns must hear the good news about God's kingdom. This is why I was sent.” 44So he kept on preaching in the synagogues in Judea.
“’I know who you are! You are God’s Holy One. . . . You are the Son of God!’ . . . the demons . . . knew he was the Messiah” (v 41).
One thing you can’t fault the devil for is his orthodoxy. He is one sharp dogmatist. His favourite subject is theology. We see this repeatedly in Scripture, from the opening pages of the Old Testament where the serpent engages Eve in theological debate, to the opening pages of the New Testament, where the devil spars with Jesus over points of doctrine.
We can establish this repeatedly, the devil’s orthodoxy. Legion, a tomb dweller who played host to a whole mob of demons, runs to Jesus and, falling to his knees, cries out, “Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me?” (Luke 8:28). A slave girl, exploited by her owners and afflicted by a spirit, follows Paul and Silas around Philippi shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved” (Acts 16:17).
Doctrinally, this is precise and exact. There is not one word amiss. There is not a single hint of liberal drift or secular taint. From a creedal point of view, these demonic outbursts are pitch perfect. Indeed, it’s worth reflecting that the story right before the account of Legion has the disciples asking, with genuine bewilderment, a question about Jesus: “Who is this?” (Luke 8:25). Demons can answer unhesitatingly what disciples still puzzle over.
It’s no wonder James, Jesus’ half-brother, later says, “You surely believe there is only one God. That’s fine. Even demons believe this, and it makes them shake with fear” (James 2:19).
It would, in other words, be hard to make the argument that what distinguishes the friends of God from the enemies of God – what distinguishes a disciple from a demon – is theological acumen. Most demons could beat us hands down on that score.
What distinguishes God’s friends from his foes is this: the presence of Jesus is torment to his foes, healing to friends. Every demon who ever meets Jesus is filled with terror. They fear his power, because they know its source. They know he can deal decisively with them – get rid of them, torture them, cast them into the pit. And so they shake with fear in his presence.
And then there are those who meet Jesus and are filled with amazement. They are in awe of his power, though not always understanding it. They sense he can deal decisively with them – get rid of their illnesses, make them whole, lead them to God. And so they tremble with joy in his presence.
It’s our willingness to stand fully in the presence of Christ that makes us disciples.
I acknowledge that you are the Holy one of God, Son of God, Messiah. But even the demons know and say such things. I ask, not just for deepening knowledge of you, but for a growing desire to stand fully in your presence.
In the name of the Jesus. Amen.