Luke 4:31–44 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
Departures of Demons, Jesus, and Sickness
Might an evil, impure demon live inside you? Probably not. However, Luke's pointed passage today contains a number of valuable application lessons that you ought not to take lightly; it's relevant to us because demons do exist today and still possess people; it's also relevant to us for a number of other points of application.
Recalling the context of last week's study, the people of Nazareth (the Nazarethites) drove Jesus from their synagogue and sought to kill him. Today's text starts with indwelling demons and ends with the people of Capernaum (the Capernaumites) begging Jesus not to leave them.
Jesus' Ministry at Capernaum
Leaving Nazareth, Jesus arrived at the small Jewish town of Capernaum, about 25 miles away. He moved there upon hearing of John the Baptist's arrest (Matthew 4:12–13). Capernaum became known as Jesus' home (Mark 2:1); it's where Simon and Andrew, and James and John lived (Mark 1:21, 29).
Jesus at the Synagogue on the Sabbath (31–32) Here we find a summary of Jesus' teaching ministry in the synagogue on Sabbath days. His teaching amazed his audience, not unlike the initial response of the people of Nazareth. Luke sums up the cause for their amazement: ". . . his words had authority," which was a similar statement that Matthew's gospel recounts, immediately after Jesus delivered his "Sermon on the Mount." The gospels don't tell us what it was about Jesus' teaching that stood apart and was vastly superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees. Scholars believe that Jesus' teaching was simple and straightforward, while that of scribes and Pharisees was academic, scholarly, and obscure. Moreover, Jesus taught as "the author of Scripture," while the scribes and Pharisees taught as mere students of it.
The Demon's Disruption (33–37) Luke moves to a specific incident. On one particular Sabbath, Jesus, perhaps in the midst of his teaching, was rudely interrupted by the piercing scream of a demoniac. The satanic and demonic evil of a man, controlled by a demon, would have been frightening. The demon likely wanted to create chaos and confusion. However, the incident served to demonstrate the power of our Lord's words and further his reputation throughout the region. This is the first instance of demonic possession in Luke's gospel and the first report of a miracle being performed on the Sabbath, receiving no protest — surely all were glad to have the demoniac cured.
The demon who so fully controlled the man was unclean, in contrast to the Lord, who the demon recognized as "the Holy One of God" (v. 34). The demon was loud and disruptive, crying out with a loud voice, likely trying to interrupt and disrupt Jesus' teaching. Jesus wouldn't dignify the demon by conversing with him. Instead, Jesus rebuked the demon, commanding it to be silent and come out of the man. The demon obeyed, but only after one final rebellious act, casting the man to the ground. Doctor Luke informs us further of our Lord's great power by indicating that the man incurred no injury from this final fit.
The man was utterly overshadowed, dominated, and controlled by this unclean and evil spirit; the rebellious-to-the-end demon attempted to resist the purposes of the Messiah, but our Lord was in complete control. While exorcisms typically were long, drawn-out processes, Jesus had cast out the demon with one short sentence, forcing him to immediately obey and not cause injury to the man. Jesus' words were powerful, whether in teaching or in commanding the demon to be silent and depart from the demoniac. The authority of our Lord was seen by the power of his words.
The Healing of Peter's Mother-in-law and Many Others (38–41) Leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon (apparently Peter), where his mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever. On her behalf, "they" (possibly Peter and other family members) appealed to Jesus to heal her. While the other gospel-writer accounts (Matt. 8:14–15; Mark 1:29–31) focus on the physical "touching" or "taking the hand of" this woman, Luke emphasizes the "rebuke spoken to the fever." Once again, it's the word of the Lord that's powerful. Instantly, the high fever leaves the woman and its residual consequences were remedied; she immediately got up and began to minister to the Lord.
Still being the Sabbath day, activity wasn't normal. At sunset, the Sabbath ended, immediately bringing many to the door of Simon's house, appealing for healing. These weren't people with minor ailments, various aches, and pains; they came bringing those with a variety of serious maladies. Until the Sabbath ended, people weren't permitted to laboriously carry the ill to Jesus; but at sunset, people arrived en masse. Every type of illness was healed, instantly and completely. Demons, too, were being cast out, similar to the exorcism that Luke reported happening in the synagogue earlier that day. Here, too, the demons identified Jesus as the "Son of God," but he rebuked and silenced them, commanding them to come out (v. 41). Jesus didn't want or permit praise of him by these unclean enemies.
The Priority of Jesus' Ministry (vv. 42–44) With people having begun to arrive at sundown, Jesus apparently performed healings throughout the night. Jesus is now said to have thereafter gone "out to a solitary place" at daybreak, probably to pray.
It wasn't long before the crowds found the Lord Jesus. When they realized that he was leaving them, they, unlike the Nazarethites, sought to keep him in their midst. After all, who'd want such a healer and teacher to leave? Jesus responded to their appeals that he stay by referring to his calling: "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." Jesus knew what he'd been called to do. As he did with Isaiah's prophecy, read by our Lord in the synagogue at Nazareth, emphasizing the importance of proclamation, so Jesus now stresses the priority of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, rather than practicing miraculous healings.
(1) The text gives us insight into the realm of the demonic. A demoniac was so controlled by the impure demon spirit that it utterly lost its personhood. What a pathetic picture we see of a man filled with the spirit of Satan. How great the contrast of the Christian filled with the Spirit of God.
(2) Our text also provides us with insight into the priorities that guided our Lord, namely prayer and the preaching of the Word. Miracles played a minor role in Christ's ministry, while prayer and preaching were his priority. Thus, he knew that he had to leave Capernaum to preach elsewhere, even though the people begged him to stay.
(3) Finally, this passage points out a very sad reality — the hardness of the heart of man. In one sense the people of Capernaum seem to stand head and shoulders above the people of Nazareth. The Nazarethites drove Jesus from their synagogue, and would have killed him if they could, while the Capernaumites begged Jesus not to leave their presence. Both groups of people initially responded to Jesus' teaching with awe and wonder. The only thing different in Nazareth from Capernaum was what Jesus did and said. The people were the same: the Capernaumites were really no better than the Nazarethites; both wanted a miracle-working Messiah who'd do their bidding; neither sensed their own sin nor the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, which is the primary reason that our Lord came to Earth — that's God's primary gift to men, which we're to receive. To receive God's other gifts while rejecting his gift of salvation is a damnable offense. Let's not be like the Nazarethites, the Capernaumites, or the demonized. Instead, let's repent and fully believe in Jesus as our Savior.
- Q. 1 How does Jesus' driving out an evil spirit relate to last week's Nazareth passage, especially vv. 18–19?
- Q. 2 Why does Jesus feel it necessary to retreat, as he does in vv. 42–44? What pressure is he facing? What are his priorities?
New International Version (NIV)
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Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit
31Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34"Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!"
35"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!" 37And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
Jesus Heals Many
38Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
40At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
42At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43But he said, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." 44And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.