Doubting a Demon: Luke 4:31-37

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As Jesus’ public ministry was beginning, we read about an interesting miracle where it appeared as though Satan wanted to publicly declare who Jesus was, while Jesus wanted this information to remain hidden. This is interesting because it is the reverse of what we might expect the situation to be. However, when we look at what happened, and what could have happened, we discover why Satan may have wanted to reveal Jesus to the people.

Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, Luke tells us that:

31 Then he [referring to Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

33 In 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.

36 All 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!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

As our passage concludes, it isn’t surprising that word would spread about Jesus throughout the surrounding area. It was one thing to cast evil spirits out of people, but it is unlikely that any evil spirit would call anyone out as the Holy One of God.

This small detail jumps off the page at me when I read this, because Jesus wants this information to remain secret. However, why might this have been?

In my mind, as I think about this event, one place where there would be “questionably reliable” information would be from a demon. A demon does not have to lie, but a demon is fully capable and willing to lie and deceive. In an interesting move, this demon seeks to proclaim who Jesus is by sharing truthful information, but because this information is from a not-so-reliable source, the validity of the claim then falls into question.

If Satan wanted the people to know who Jesus was, openly declaring Jesus wouldn’t serve his goals of deceiving people away from God – unless Satan already knows he isn’t a trusted source of information, and then he is free to share truth and almost truth with people because it would make those present immediately doubt simply because of its source.

This is one big reason why I see this demon wanting to out Jesus as God’s Holy One, and it is also a great reason for Jesus to command the demon to stay silent.

However, another reason we can uncover when we look at this event is that since this is early in Jesus’ ministry, He doesn’t want to attract the wrong type of people. If Satan can flood Jesus with people who are eagerly awaiting a military-messiah to lead them to victory over Rome, Satan could possibly derail Jesus’ ministry away from helping hurting individuals and onto military, political conquest. If enough people assembled with a military motive, then it would attract the attention of the Roman army, and Jesus’ ministry would be crushed before He could face the cross.

Satan’s entire play in this declaration was one of doubt and distraction, and one that wanted to cause confusion among the people regarding who Jesus was.

However, Jesus commands the demon to stay silent because Jesus knows that nothing coming out of the demon’s mouth is within God’s plan for Jesus’ life and ministry.

But even before the demon-possessed man showed up, we discover that the people were already taking notice. Early on in our passage, in verse 32 specifically, Luke tells us that those in the Capernaum synagogue were “amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority”. This was before the demon-possessed man showed up, and the presence of this demon-possessed man only amplified the authority of Jesus’ words.

Everything in this passage teaches us that Jesus, as the Holy One of God, is stronger than Satan and his force of evil angels. If Satan was stronger, than the demon’s command for Jesus to go away would have prompted Jesus to go away. In an ironic twist, the demon is commanded to do what it wanted Jesus to do. Jesus counter-commands the demon to be quiet and to leave the man, which is equivalent to being commanded to go away.

The demon obeyed Jesus, and this detail proves that Jesus is stronger than the devil.

While this all could be a great trick that Satan played to deceive people, the last person Satan would want us to pay attention to would be Jesus. Jesus spent His entire ministry pointing people towards God, Jesus helped everyone who was hurting, and Jesus caused God to receive more praise than He had received in generations. Satan is in it for his own glory, so prompting people to pay attention to someone who is openly giving glory to God is both illogical and counter-intuitive.

Jesus knew the devil’s tricks and He knew why it was not productive to let the demon speak, even if what the demon said was the truth. Jesus came to give glory to God and not to seek glory for Himself, and when we come to Jesus and let Him transform our lives, we will be more interested in giving Jesus and God the glory, and not on accepting any glory for ourselves.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place Him first in your life. Intentionally choose to grow towards Him because the closer we are to Jesus, and the more we are living within His will for our lives, the clearer we will see the devil’s tricks and traps.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn first-hand from God’s Word. While other people can give you great things to think about, always take what you hear, read, and learn and test it against what you see written within the pages of the scripture. The Bible is given as a timeless revelation of God and His character, and through its pages, we can learn the truth about life.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or give up on the ideal God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 6: When a demon-possessed man shows up while Jesus is preaching to declare that Jesus is the Holy One that God sent, would that be reliable information for us to pay attention to? Discover why Jesus commands the demon to stay silent before commanding it to leave the man it had possessed.

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