Casting Out the Demon at Capernaum
Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37
Do you know what happens when you get behind on your payments to your exorcist? You get repossessed. Unless, of course, your exorcist was Jesus, who never charged anyone for His services.
When Jesus was rejected by the people of His hometown of Nazareth which was 1,200 feet above sea level, He “went down to Capernaum” which as some 686 feet below sea level. There Jesus set up his base of operations in the region of Galilee. Capernaum was located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. It was an important fishing town where Jesus had called Peter, Andrew, James and John from their boats and nets to permanently follow Him. The town was located on a major road called the Via Maris. This made it an important commercial town. A centurion with his troops were stationed here and where Jesus found Matthew sitting at his table collecting taxes when He called this publican to full-time discipleship. The name Capernaum means “village of Nahum.” Perhaps, named after the minor prophet. The meaning of “Nahum” is “compassion.” Jesus showed compassion in the Sabbath to the demon-possessed man in the synagogue where Jesus was in the habit of teaching.
The synagogue was open to teaching by visiting Rabbi’s. Jesus had a habit of teaching there every Sabbath. Very few people owned a complete copy of the Old Testament, so the synagogue served as a place where the poorest to the richest could come and hear God’s Word read and explained.
▸ Taught an Amazed Audience
The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching as they were His power and authority (1:22,27). The term “amazed” is from the Greek term ekplesso meaning “to be struck out of one’s self with awe and wonder.” The common man was shocked or “thunderstuck” (Barclay) at Jesus’ teachings and His miracles. Matthew reported the close of the Sermon on the Mount in almost these exact reactions (Matt. 7:29)
▸ Taught with Authority
In Matthew chapter five Jesus explained the difference between the righteousness of the Pharisees to His kingdom righteousness. Several times He began a teaching with “You have heard that it was said..But I will you.” The word “authority” speaks of rule, dominion, jurisdiction, full right, power, privilege, and prerogative.
▸ Taught Differently from Scribes
The scribes taught differently in that they often would quote various rabbis. The scribes were in bondage to quotation marks. When they taught, they would quote: “Rabbi Hillel says…But on the other hand Gamaleil says…Then there is Rabbi Eleazar’s testimony…” One rabbinical writing reads: “Rabbi Zeira says, on the authority of Rabbi Jose bar Rabbi Chanina, and Rabbi Ba or Rabbi Chija on the authority of Rabbi Jochanan,” etc. Thus, they were often bound by the traditional beliefs and interpretations of mere men. Jesus spoke as if He were the only authority from God they needed to heed.
Only Jesus’ had power to cast out demons. In How to Meet the Enemy, John MacArthur wrote, that the Bible “never instruct[ed] believers to cast out demons, whether from a believer or unbeliever Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance the demon-possessed people were unbelievers.” Instead of exorcizing the demons, Christians were to evangelize the damned.
Challenged the Demons
Before He began His ministry Jesus defeated Satan and his temptations in the desert by quoting God’s Word. It was the mission of Jesus to demonstrate His power over the Devil. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Demon possession was never confused with insanity. The demon-possessed did not merely have diseases as lunacy or epilepsy. Jesus distinguished between them and diseases, and so did His disciples (Matthew 10:8 Luke 10:17-20). “As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed” (Matt. 9:32).
The demons knew who Jesus was and were terrified of Him. Yet they did not even attempt to attack Jesus even though they had power over their host and could physically control and harm mere men. Instead, Jesus by His power and authority challenged them.
The demons did question Jesus. “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us?” (Luke 4:34a). They did not want Jesus to meddle with them knowing that one day He did have the authority to judge them. Yet they did not know they were serving a particular important role in the ministry of Jesus. The Son of God had power over the Devil.
Recognized by Demons
Consistently the demon-possessed had supernatural knowledge of who Jesus was. A disciple accepted Jesus as the Son of God by faith. When the seven sons of Sceva attempted to cast out a demon. The demon said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
This demon recognized His humanity in calling Him “Jesus of Nazareth”. Furthermore, they recognized His Deity when they identified Him as “the Holy One of God.” It was one of the Messiah’s proper scriptural names (Psalms 16:10; Acts 3:14). This was quite often the case when a demon encountered Jesus. “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God’” (Mark 3:11). Demons “believe…and shudder” (James 2:19). Men are to believe the evidence and repent.
Judgment On Demons
The fate of the demons was already determined. Jesus had been their judge and will secure the final judgment against them. They were destined to the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Their time was limited. They said to Jesus, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29). Although they had a knowledge of who Jesus was and believed they could not be saved, they could not help but confess who Jesus was even though it would not help being saved from eternal condemnation. Ironically, they could be terrified and confess without hope of salvation. Many of the people who heard Jesus had the hope of salvation but refused to confess Him.
Jesus’ power and authority over demons was such that all He had to do was issue a verbal command and the demons had to obey. They did not obey out of choice. Unlike the false exorcist who used formulas and rituals, Jesus spoke, and His Word always prevailed.
When they confessed their knowledge of Him, Jesus would command demons to “be quite” or “be muzzled!” Jesus would use the same words when stilling the storm (Mark 4:39). Jesus did not want or need to be identified by the enemy. The evidence of who He was came from purer sources than the Devil. The faith of the saved should not rest on the testimony of demons who were damned. Heaven was the witness of God’s Son, not Hell.
Paul permitted for a time a demon-possessed girl to bear witness to his preaching: “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-18). But, in time silenced her by casting out the demon. Demonstrating his authority to teach by the power to perform such a miracle.
The demons may have obeyed Jesus, but not out of a willingness to submit to His Will. They would often cry out when cast out. The verb used means to emotionally shriek in agony. The demons would also violently thrash their victim on the way out (Mark 9:25-27). Forced obedience upon the demons was compelled by the authority of Christ’s command. The demons remain in spirit defiant to God’s Will.
Like demons, sinners need to be terrified at His authority as well as amazed. Jesus’ teaching had the same power and authority as His command over demons. The choice is ours on how we respond.
– Daniel R. Vess