Epiphany 4 • Luke 4:31–44 • January 31, 2016
By Paul R. Raabe
This gospel lesson records part of Jesus’s Galilean ministry, after he went down from Nazareth to Capernaum. Here we see Jesus teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. It is important when preaching on this text to put it into the right slot or category. Here the malady is not human guilt. Rather, the text displays two other maladies. One is physical death, of which physical sickness is a preliminary condition. Throughout the Scriptures sickness and death belong together. The second problem is demonic possession. The kingdom of Satan has usurped control of people. One gets the impression that when Jesus, the incarnate Son of God showed up and began his public ministry, the gates of hell were opened and many satanic angels attacked God’s human creatures.
In the Old Testament the defeat of death and Satan and the coming of the glorious kingdom of God were depicted as eschatological events, to happen at the end of days. Now with Jesus the end-time kingdom of God entered into Galilee. The noun “kingdom” (βασιλεία) denotes more activity than a sphere (v. 43). It refers to the kingly rule and reign of God the Father. And this is good news. The future end-time kingly reign of the holy God broke into human history ahead of time; it invaded the human world in advance. The actions of Jesus manifest and actualize its presence. Thus he casts out demons, heals the sick, and preaches the good news of the kingdom.
Notes on the Text
4:32: The “teaching/word” spoken by Jesus was “in authority.” This refers to the causative authority of his word. It is clarified in v. 36, that “with authority and power” Jesus gives a command to unclean spirits, and they come out. His two imperatives addressed to the demon, “Be muzzled and come out,” brought about what they said (v. 35). The demon promptly came out and did not injure the man.
4:33: The genitive “a spirit of an unclean demon” is epexegetical, a spirit which was an unclean demon. In the Old Testament “uncleanness” is the opposite of “holy.” The two were incompatible; persisting uncleanness would drive the holy God away from his dwelling with Israel (Lv 11‒15; note Lv 10:10; 15:31). Here by his authoritative word Jesus, “the Holy One of God” (Lk 4:34), drives the unclean demon away.
4:34: The unclean demon speaks for all the demons at that time, “Ah, what to us and to you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us?”
4:37: Word about Jesus “was continuously going out (imperfect) into every place of the neighborhood.” While Jesus attends to a specific matter at a specific place and time, the report about him spreads from place to place. The people could not contain themselves as they were so amazed and astounded (vv. 32, 36).
4:39: Jesus “rebuked” the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum (v. 35), and he “rebuked” the demons from many others (v. 41). Just as Jesus “rebuked” demons, so he also “rebuked” the fever that had seized Simon’s mother-in-law (vv. 38‒39). Both demons and sickness unto death are alien intrusions into God’s created world, and as such they need to be driven out. Jesus’s rebuke had causative power to do just that.
4:41: The text explains why Jesus silenced the demon in the synagogue of Capernaum and many other demons; they knew that he is “the Holy One of God” (v. 34), “the Son of God” and “the Christ” (v. 41). News about Jesus’s identity was not to be spread until what was written about him from Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms was fulfilled, and until the Spirit came mightily upon his disciples (24:44-49; Acts 1‒2).
4:43: Jesus says “it is necessary that I evangelize (ευ͗αγγελίζομαι) the kingdom of God to the other cities because for this purpose I was sent.” “The kingdom of God” is good news, and it was “necessary” for it to be preached to the other towns of Israel.
“The Future Has Begun”
One sermon idea is to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God. Through the first-century work of Jesus, climaxing in his death and resurrection, the end-time kingly reign of God has broken into history ahead of time. Through his word and sacraments we now by faith enjoy the benefits of God’s victorious rule. And we trust the promise that one day Jesus will come again in glory and remove far away from us Satan and sickness and death. The promise is sure. For that promised future has already begun.