The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 4:31-37 (CEV)

31 Jesus 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. 33 There in the Jewish meeting place 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.”

35 Jesus 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.

36 They 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!” 37 News about Jesus spread all over that part of the country.

“He’s Got The Power”

We talk a lot about brokenness at Vox. We talk about the kind of brokenness that makes us less the people that God made us to be. We talk about the kind of brokenness that hurts us and those around us; the kind of brokenness that is systemic in our culture and our institutions; the kind of brokenness that is present even at a cellular level.

All of this brokenness is real and is painful. But people the world over and people through all the ages have also understood that there is another level of brokenness that goes even deeper. That in some very difficult-to-prove way, there is a level of brokenness that actually seems to come from some darker – many would say evil – place. Every culture tells a different story about where this evil comes from, and every culture has had different assumptions about how this evil should be dealt with. Up until very recently, however, it was kind of a universally accepted truth that while we were operating in the physical world, there was another, spiritual world where forces of light and forces of darkness, forces of good and forces of evil, seemed to be at work.

As with any good scapegoat, all sorts of things have gotten pinned on these forces of darkness. Maybe you’ve heard the expression “the devil made me do it”? And the idea of someone having an evil spirit in them, or being demon possessed shows up in pop culture from time to time, usually as a rather unbelievable plot device to increase the “scare” factor in the show.

But we’re also getting skeptical these days. We’ve got lots of great, rational explanations for all sorts of things that we used to have no idea how they were caused, and that often comes along with nice, safe, rational ways of fixing them. We’re no longer dependent on simply going to a bronze-age village priest in the hope that some foul-tasting concoction will fix our child’s epileptic seizures or our partner’s violent mood disorder, to give a few examples. Because of this, however, we’ve gotten to the point where, when we meet these ‘evil spirits’ in the book of Luke, we’re likely going to think they’re a little weird and a lot crazy! In spite of that, I think we can get three things out of this first passage about someone who’s demon possessed that are going to be helpful for us as we find more of these incidents throughout the book of Luke.

The first is that there does seem to be a spiritual world that we can’t see, but that nevertheless has forces of good and evil at work in it. The Bible references this “other world” numerous times throughout it’s pages, and even if we haven’t read the Bible, I think most of us kind of instinctively know that there’s something deeper at work sometimes, and that sometimes that “deeper” is at work in other people – whether for good or for evil.

The second is that Jesus has the power to take care of this evil. And this power isn’t a “surprise” gift he’s got, or a “sometimes present” skill that is there on a whim and then not again the next time. No, it seems that Jesus’ very presence is enough to make this evil spirit respond in terror. Why? Because it knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ coming means the gig is up – the game is over. Whatever else is happening when Jesus shows up in this synagogue, his very presence is announcing to the evil in that place that they’re done for. Because that’s the point of Jesus: to give notice to the evil and brokenness in this world that they don’t actually get to be in charge. That evil doesn’t win – love wins. That brokenness doesn’t get the final say – wholeness does. That oppression and judgment and captivity and pain might be the beginning of the story, but the Kingdom will break in with Shalom and everything will change.

And finally, because we know that evil is out there, it doesn’t have to surprise us when we run into it; and because we know that Jesus wins, we don’t have to be afraid. What happens to the evil spirit who calls Jesus out? Jesus orders the evil spirit to be quiet and come out, and the demon “left [the man] without harming him.” Jesus’ power is big enough to conquer evil. Jesus’ love is big enough to overcome our fear. Jesus’ presence is big enough to give us peace.

Journal Questions:

  1. We won’t really be able to believe these things about Jesus until we’ve experienced them for ourselves, so today, I want to challenge you to be honest and identify something you’re afraid of.
  2. Then I encourage you to take some time on your own and tell Jesus about your fear. Whether in a journal or while you create a piece of art; while you go for a walk, or while you sit in a comfy chair – whatever makes it easiest for you to talk to Jesus. Then finish your time with Jesus by asking him to overcome that fear with his love.