And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And in the synagogue.—See Notes on Mark 1:23-27. The narrative, as being common to these two Gospels, and not found in St. Matthew, may be looked on as having probably been communicated by one Evangelist to the other when they met at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Colossians 4:14). See Introduction to St. Mark.
A SABBATH IN CAPERNAUM
Luke 4:33 - Luke 4:44.
There are seven references to Christ’s preaching in the synagogues in this chapter, and only two in the rest of this Gospel. Probably our Lord somewhat changed His method, and Luke, as the Evangelist of the gospel for Gentile as well as Jew, emphasises the change, as foreshadowing and warranting the similar procedure in Paul’s preaching. This lesson takes us down from the synagogue at Nazareth, among its hills, to that at Capernaum, on the lakeside, where Jesus was already known as a worker of miracles. The two Sabbaths are in sharp contrast. The issue of the one is a tumult of fury and hate; that of the other, a crowd of suppliants and an eager desire to keep Him with them. The story is in four paragraphs, each showing a new phase of Christ’s power and pity.
I. Luke 4:33 - Luke 4:37 present Christ as the Lord of that dark world of evil.
The hushed silence of the synagogue, listening to His gentle voice, was suddenly broken by shrieks of rage and fear, coming from a man who had been sitting quietly among the others. Possibly his condition had not been suspected until Christ’s presence roused his dreadful tyrant. The man’s voice is at the demon’s service, and only Jesus recognises who speaks through the wretched victim. We take for granted the reality of demoniacal possession, as certified for all who believe Jesus, by His words and acts in reference to it, as well as forced on us, by the phenomena themselves, which are clearly distinguishable from disease, madness, or sin. The modern aversion to the supernatural is quite as much an unreasonable prejudice as any old woman’s belief in witchcraft and Professor Huxley, making clumsy fun of the ‘pigs at Gadara,’ is holding opinions in the same sublime indifference to evidence of facts as the most superstitious object of his narrow-visioned scorn.
Napoleon called ‘impossible’ a ‘beast of a word.’ So it is in practical life,-and no less so when glibly used to discredit well-attested facts. We neither aspire to the omniscience which pronounces that there can be no possession by evil spirits, nor venture to brush aside the testimony of the Gospels and the words of Christ, in order to make out such a contention.
Note the rage and terror of the demon. The presence of purity is a sharp pain to impurity, and an evil spirit is stirred to its depths when in contact with Jesus. Monstrous growths that love the dark shrivel and die in sunshine. The same presence which is joy to some may be a very hell to others. We may approach even here that state of feeling which broke out in these shrieks of malignity, hatred, and dread. It is an awful thing when the only relief is to get away from Jesus, and when the clearest recognition of His holiness only makes us the more eager to disclaim any connection with Him. That is the hell of hells. In its completeness, it makes the anguish of the demon; in its rudiments, it is the misery of some men.
Observe too, the unclean spirit’s knowledge, not only of the birthplace and name, but of the character and divine relationship of Jesus. That is one of the features of demoniacal possession which distinguish it from disease or insanity, and is quite incapable of explanation on any other ground. It gives a glimpse into a dim region, and suggests that the counsels of Heaven, as effected on earth, are keenly watched and understood by eyes whose gleam is unsoftened by any touch of pity or submission. It is most natural, if there are such spirits, that they should know Jesus while men knew Him not, and that their hatred should keep pace with their knowledge, even while by the knowledge the hatred was seen to be vain.
Observe Christ’s tone of authority and sternness. He had pity for men, who were capable of redemption, but His words and demeanour to the spirits are always severe. He accepts the most imperfect recognition from men, and often seems as if labouring to evoke it, but He silences the spirits’ clear recognition. The confession which is ‘unto salvation’ comes from a heart that loves, not merely from a head that perceives; and Jesus accepts nothing else. He will not have His name soiled by such lips.
Note, still further, Christ’s absolute control of the demon. His bare word is sovereign, and secures outward obedience, though from an unsubdued and disobedient will. He cannot make the foul creature love, but He can make him act. Surely Omnipotence speaks, if demons hear and obey. Their king had been conquered, and they knew their Master. The strong man had been bound, and this is the spoiling of his house. The question of the wondering worshippers in the synagogue goes to the root of the matter, when they ask what they must think of the whole message of One whose word gives law to the unclean spirits; for the command to them is a revelation to us, and we learn His Godhead by the power of His simple word, which is but the forth-putting of His will.
We cannot but notice the lurid light thrown by the existence of such spirits on the possibility of undying and responsible beings reaching, by continued alienation of heart and will from God, a stage in which they are beyond the capacity of improvement, and outside the sweep of Christ’s pity.
II. Luke 4:38 - Luke 4:39 show us Christ in the gentleness of His healing power, and the immediate service of gratitude to Him.
The scene in the synagogue manifested ‘authority and power,’ and was prompted by abhorrence of the demon even more than by pity for his victim; but now the Lord’s tenderness shines unmingled with sternness. Mark gives details of this cure, which, no doubt, came from Peter-such as his joint ownership of the house with his brother, the names of the companions of Jesus, and the infinitely tender action of taking the sick woman by the hand and helping her to rise. But Luke, the physician, is more precise in his description of the case: ‘holden by a great fever.’ He traces the cure to the word of rebuke, which, no doubt, accompanied the clasp of the hand.
Here again Christ puts forth divine power in producing effects in the material sphere by His naked word. ‘He spake and it was done.’ That truly divine prerogative was put forth at the bidding of His own pity, and that pity which wielded Omnipotence was kindled by the beseechings of sorrowing hearts. Is not this miracle, which shines so lustrously by the side of that terrible scene with the demon, a picture in one case, and that the sickness of one poor and probably aged woman, of the great truth that heartens all our appeals to Him? He who moves the forces of Deity still from His throne lets us move His heart by our cry.
Luke is especially struck with one feature in the case-the immediate return of usual strength. The woman is lying, the one minute, pinned down and helpless with ‘great fever,’ and the next is bustling about her domestic duties. No wonder that a physician should think so abnormal a case worthy of note. When Christ heals, He heals thoroughly, and gives strength as well as healing. What could a woman, with no house of her own, and probably a poor dependant on her son-in-law, do for her healer? Not much. But she did what she could, and that without delay. The natural impulse of gratitude is to give its best, and the proper use of healing and new strength is to minister to Him. Such a guest made humble household cares worship; and all our poor powers or tasks, consecrated to His praise and become the offerings of grateful hearts, are lifted into greatness and dignity. He did not despise the modest fare hastily dressed for Him; and He still delights in our gifts, though the cattle on a thousand hills are His. ‘I will sup with him,’ says He, and therein promises to become, as it were, a guest at our humble tables.
III. Luke 4:40 f11 - Luke 4:41 show us the all-sufficiency of Christ’s pity and power.
The synagogue worship would be in the early morning, and the healing of the woman immediately after, and the meal she prepared the midday repast. The news had time to spread; and as soon as the sinking sun relaxed the Sabbatical restrictions, a motley crowd came flocking round the house, carrying all the sick that could be lifted, all eager to share in His healing. The same kind of thing may be seen yet round many a traveller’s tent. It did not argue real faith in Him, but it was genuine sense of need, and expectation of blessing from His hand; and the measure of faith was the measure of blessing. They got what they believed He could give. If their faith had been larger, the answers would have been greater.
But men are quite sure that they want to be well when they are ill, and bodily healing will be sought with far more earnestness and trouble than soul-healing. Crowds came to Jesus as Physician who never cared to come to Him as Redeemer. Offer men the smaller gifts, and they will run over one another in their scramble for them; but offer them the highest, and they will scarcely hold out a languid hand to take them.
But the point made prominent by Luke is the inexhaustible fullness of pity and power, which met and satisfied all the petitioners. The misery spoke to Christ’s heart; and so as the level rays of the setting sun cast a lengthening shadow among the sad groups, He moved amidst them, and with gentle touch healed them all. To-day, as then, the fountain of His pity and healing power is full, after thousands have drawn from it, and no crowd of suppliants bars our way to His heart or His hands. He has ‘enough for all, enough for each, enough for ever more.’
The reference to demoniacs adds nothing to the particulars in the earlier verses except the evidence it gives of the frequency of possession then.
IV. Luke 4:42 - Luke 4:44 show us Jesus seeking seclusion, but willingly sacrificing it at men’s call.
He withdraws in early morning, not because His store of power was exhausted, or His pity had tired, but to renew His communion with the Father. He needed solitude and silence, and we need it still more. No work worth doing will ever be done for Him unless we are familiar with some quiet place, where we and God alone together can hold converse, and new strength be poured into our hearts. Our Lord is here our pattern, also, of willingly leaving the place of communion when duty calls and men implore. We must not stay on the Mount of Transfiguration when demoniac boys are writhing on the plain below, and heart-broken fathers wearying for our coming. A great, solemn ‘must’ ruled His life, as it should do ours, and the fulfilment of that for which He ‘was sent’ ever was His aim, rather than even the blessedness of solitary communion or repose of the silent hour of prayer.Luke 4:33-37. See this paragraph explained at large in the notes on Mark 1:23-28. What have we to do with thee — Thy present business is with men, not with devils. I know thee who thou art — But did he, did even the prince of devils know Jesus, some time before, when he dared to say to him, Luke 4:6, All this power is delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it? The Holy One of God — Either this confession was extorted from him by terror, (for the devils believe and tremble,) or, he made it with a design to render the character of Christ suspected. And Jesus rebuked him — The Holy One of God was a title of the Messiah, Psalm 16:10; but Jesus did not allow the devils to give it him, for the reason mentioned in the notes on Mark 1:25; Mark 1:34. Possibly, however, it was from hence the Pharisees took occasion to say, He casteth out devils by the prince of devils. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst — That is, had cast him down on the ground, the effect of this possession being an epilepsy.Mark 1:21-39.
33. unclean—The frequency with which this character of impurity is applied to evil spirits is worthy of notice.
cried out, &c.—(See Mt 8:29; Mr 3:11).See Poole on "Mark 1:21". See Poole on "Mark 1:22", &c.
which had a spirit of an unclean devil: who was possessed with the devil, who is by nature and practice unclean; and was filled with the spirit of the devil, with a spirit of divination, and was acted by him, to impose upon the people; he influenced his mind as an enthusiast, as well as possessed his body: and this was on the sabbath day; whereas the Jews say (y), that
"Satan and the evil demon flee on the sabbath day to the mountains of darkness, and do not appear all the sabbath day, because that day is holy, and they are "unclean"; but in the evening of the sabbath they prepare themselves, and meet the children of men, and hurt them.''
And cried out with a loud voice; See Gill on Mark 1:23.And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 4:33. φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, added by Lk.: in Lk.’s narratives of cures two tendencies appear—(1) to magnify the power displayed, and (2) to emphasise the benevolence. Neither of these is conspicuous in this narrative, though this phrase and ῥίψαν, and μηδὲν βλάψαν αὐτόν in Luke 4:35, look in the direction of (1).33. a spirit of an unclean devil] The word ‘unclean’ is peculiar to St Luke, who writes for Gentiles. The word for devil is not diabolos, which is confined to Satan, or human beings like him (John 6:70); but daimonion, which in Greek was also capable of a good sense. The Jews believed daimonia to be the spirits of the wicked (Jos. B. J. vii. 6, § 3). Here begins that description of one complete Sabbath-day in the life of Jesus, from morning till night, which is also preserved for us in Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:21-31. It is the best illustration of the life of ‘the Good Physician’ of which the rarest originality was that “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Into the question of the reality or unreality of ‘demoniac possession,’ about which theologians have held different opinions, we cannot enter. On the one hand, it is argued that the Jews attributed nearly all diseases, and especially all mental and cerebral diseases, to the immediate action of evil spirits, and that these ‘possessions’ are ranged with cases of ordinary madness, and that the common belief would lead those thus afflicted to speak as if possessed; on the other hand, the literal interpretation of the Gospels points the other way, and in unenlightened ages, as still in dark and heathen countries, the powers of evil seem to have an exceptional range of influence over the mind of man. The student will see the whole question fully and reverently discussed in Jahn, Archaeologia Biblica, E. T. pp. 200–216.Luke 4:33. Πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου, a spirit of an unclean demon) A peculiar phrase. The word Spirit denotes its operation or mode of working; demon, its nature. The Vulg. simply renders it, dæmonium immundum.—ἀνέκραζε, commenced to cry out) It does not seem to have become known to the people until now, that this man was one possessed.
 So abcd. These and Vulg. evidently omit πνεῦμα and read, with D, δαιμόνιον ἀκάθαρτον. Comp. Mark 1:26.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 33. - And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil. After the general picture of Jesus' life and work in Capenaum, St. Luke proceeds to give a detailed account of the way in which one sabbath day was spent, no doubt intending us to understand it as a specimen of the ordinary sabbath-day work of the Master. We meet with here, for the first time in our Gospel, one of those unhappy persons described as either "having a spirit of an unclean devil," or as "possessed with a devil" or "devils," or in similar terms, generally signifying "demoniacs," men or women - apparently a class by themselves, directly under the influence of some evil spirit. Who, now, were these unhappy beings with whom Jesus in his ministry of mercy seems often to have come in contact? Many of these "demoniacs" mentioned in the Gospels would nowadays certainly be classed under the ordinary category of the "sick." They seem to have been simply afflicted with disease of one kind or other; for instance, the epileptic child mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 9:39), or dumbness again (Matthew 9:32), blindness (Matthew 12:22), and insanity, among other instances, are ascribed to demoniac agency. Are we, then, simply to regard these cases, not as exceptional displays of diabolical power, but as instances of sickness and disease which still exist among us? and to suppose that our Lord, in speaking of devils possessing these sick ones, accommodated himself to the popular belief, and spoke of these afflicted persons in the way men were able to understand? for it is disputable that Judaism in the days of Jesus of Nazareth ascribed to "demons," or "devils," much of the suffering and woe with which men are afflicted under the common name of disease. The Talmud, which well represents the Jewish teaching of that time, has endless allusions to evil spirits, or devils, who were permitted to work evil and mischief on the bodies and even on the souls of men. Josephus, the contemporary historian, narrates that a lamb grew at Machaerus, the wool of which had the power of expelling devils; and he toils how he was the eye-witness of the cure of a man possessed of a devil by means of a ring containing a root which had similar properties; this, he says, took place in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian ('Ant.,' 8:02, 5; 'Bell. Jud.,' 7:06, 3). Many believed that these demons, or devils, were the souls of the wicked who returned to earth after death, and sought a new home for themselves in the bodies of the living. This popular belief in demoniacal agency is mentioned by Justin Martyr ('Apol.,' 1.), and even seems to have lingered in some parts as late as Chrysostom. But such a theory - which represents Jesus in his miraculous cures accommodating himself to popular belief, and speaking of the sufferers as possessed by devils which really had no existence save in imagination - is not only quite foreign to the transparently truthful character of all the Master's words and works, but is perfectly incompatible with the narratives given us by the evangelists of the cures in question. In these, in several instances, the devils are not only spoken to, but they speak themselves - they answer questions, they even prefer requests. Jesus, too, gives his own power to cast out devils (Luke 9:1), and to tread on all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). He even, in St. Mark (Mark 9:29), is represented as distinguishing a special class of devils over whom a mastery could be obtained alone through prayer and fasting. Evidently the Holy Spirit, who guided the writers of those memoirs of the apostles we call the Gospels, intended that a marked distinction should be impressed upon the readers of the apostolic memoirs as existing between ordinary maladies of the flesh and those terrible and various scourges which the presence of devils inflicted upon those hapless beings in whose bodies, for some mysterious reason, they had been permitted to take up their habitation. The whole question is fraught with difficulties. Dean Plumptre suggests that perhaps we possess not the data for an absolutely certain and exhaustive answer. It seems, on the whole - while not denying the possible presence of these evil spirits at different times of the world's history occupying the bodies and distracting the souls of men - best to assume that these devils possessed special and peculiar power over men at that period when Jesus walked among us. By this means, as Godet well says, Jesus could be proclaimed externally and visibly as the Conqueror of the enemy of men (and of his legions of evil messengers). That period, when the Lord taught among us, was a time when, it is generally conceded, moral and social evil had reached its highest point of development. Since that age the power of these unhappy spirits of evil has been, if not destroyed, at least restrained by the influence - greater, perhaps, than men choose to acknowledge - of the Master's religion or by the direct command of the Master himself.
Where the rendering should be demon. This is the only case in which Luke adds to that word the epithet unclean.
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