“And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! 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.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’ And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 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!’ And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.” Luke 4:31-37
It has long struck me as odd that a demon-possessed man was right there in the synagogue. It’s surprising, because a synagogue was where the Bible was studied. It was a place of devotion to God. It was where Jesus wanted to go. What on earth was a demon-possessed man doing there, of all places? Moreover, the people weren’t alarmed by his presence. What amazed them was the teaching of Jesus.
I suppose they had gotten used to this poor man. Their reading of the Bible was so covered over with layers of tradition, the power was suppressed. Their thinking had become unclear, their alertness dulled. Over time, they probably made allowances for this man and his weirdness. They had to. They had no power to help him.
But the presence and teaching of Jesus aroused the intensity of this man’s true condition. He flew into a rage. It became a dramatic power encounter. The visit of Jesus to that synagogue made the crisis inevitable, and the power of Jesus made the outcome beautifully redemptive: “. . . having done him no harm.”
Three take-aways for church leaders:
One, let’s guard the spiritual integrity of our membership. Unregenerate church members will import not just their problems but actual opposition to Jesus. There is a difference.
Two, let’s call sin sin. We need wisdom here, so that we don’t inadvertently create an environment of ungracious accusation. But it is spiritually costly to build allowances around blatant sin among our members. Unresisted sin will resist the presence of Jesus. It will even presume to define the character of the church. The demoniac did not say to Jesus, “What have you to do with me?” He shouted, “What have you to do with us?”
Three, the remedy for spiritual mixture is the undiluted authority of the teaching of Jesus. He did not lean on previous rabbis for validation but declared his own authority as “the Holy One of God.” For us, that translates into reverent preaching and hearing of the biblical gospel with complete openness to whatever challenges it brings and changes it demands. We do not need Calvin, Edwards and Spurgeon for validation. Illustration, yes. Validation, no. They bring no power. The Bible, with the Holy Spirit, brings all the power we need. Let it speak. And let nothing get in the way. Jesus is among us.