Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-28; Luke 4:31b-37
Imagine watching a man stand when he could not walk before. Imagine someone weak and shivering suddenly strong and shining. What would you say to the Man who brought these beautiful things about? What would you do to be near Him?
In the early days of Christ’s ministry, He spent His days preaching and teaching in the northern region of the nation of Israel around the Sea of Galilee. One day while Jesus was in Capernaum, He went for a walk along the edge of the water. The sea was surrounded by beautiful rolling hills. All along the shore there were clusters of little buildings showing where the towns and villages huddled up to the water. Even in our time a light breeze usually flows along the surface of the Galilee, fresh and clean. Only for Jesus, the air probably lingered with the smell of fish as well. As Jesus walked along, He saw Simon, who was called Peter, and His brother Andrew. They were fishermen, and they were standing on the shore casting their nets into the sea, working to get their catch for the day. Jesus called out to them, “‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!’”
Andrew and Peter had already met Jesus at the Jordan River. John the Baptist, the great prophet and preacher of their time, told Andrew that Jesus was the One. Andrew went to get his brother and they went to meet Jesus. They walked with Jesus on the road from the Jordan up to Galilee together. They saw the power of God’s Word in Samaria when Jesus spoke with the woman at the well. The whole village believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. When Jesus said He would make them fishers of men, they knew what He meant. Jesus was inviting them to rescue the lost people of the world from the mire of sin and death and capture them for the Kingdom of God.
When they heard the words of the Lord, Peter and Andrew stopped what they were doing immediately. They left their nets on the sand and followed after Him. The three men continued on their way along the shore. Imagine the glistening, calm water. As they went, they came upon another fishing crew. They were out on their boats mending their nets. It was James and John. Their dad was Zebedee, and they ran his fishing business with him. They were also Jesus’ cousins. Jesus called out to them, too. Immediately, they left their father and the hired servants on the boat and followed after Jesus.
It is important to realize that these guys didn’t understand this as a temporary decision. These men were not leaving their jobs to spend time with Jesus for the day. They were choosing to become the disciples of the Lord. They were committing to a new life with a new purpose. How exciting it must have been to be chosen. Were they a little nervous, too? Where was this path going to lead?
The men went into the town of Capernaum. This was where Jesus stayed now that Nazareth had rejected Him so completely. They tried to throw Him off a cliff after He preached in their synagogue! (See Story 34.) Consider the bravery of Jesus that He went to Capernaum’s synagogue on the next Sabbath and began to teach. But the people of Capernaum were different. They listened and were amazed. He spoke with such authority! He wasn’t like the scribes who taught everything based on what other humans said. He spoke directly from the wisdom of God and it was full of rich, textured truth that resounded in their souls.
On that particular day, there was a man in the synagogue that was possessed by an evil spirit. An evil spirit is what we would also call a demon, and though a lot of people in the world don’t believe they exist, the reality is that they do, and they are vicious creatures. They are fallen angels who rebelled against the goodness of the Most High God in Heaven. They are the followers of Satan, and they long to destroy anything that God loves.
In the modern world, people often scoff at the idea of evil spirits or angels. But they also can’t explain why every religion in the world talks about dark spirits that go around tormenting and possessing humans. From the spirit houses in Thailand, the djinns of India and the Middle East, to the worship of Satan and the occult in the West, there is a consistent phenomenon that science cannot explain away. Some have tried to chalk these things up to mental or physical disorders, and sometimes that is true. But sometimes there is much more to the problem than that. The pervasiveness of it across the world is evidence that something exists that science has yet to fully understand. In fact, when Christians tell people in many countries of the world stories from the Bible about demons, they don’t have to explain what they are…the people already know. Their cultures are well aware of their presence. It is the arrogance of the West (and its ignorance of its arrogance) that assumes it can discount their experiences and knowledge as mere superstition and ignorance.
The Bible makes it clear that demons are real beings with real power…and they do real damage. Jesus could take them on directly because He was alive with the power and authority of the Most High God.
As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue, one of these malicious demonic spirits had power over one of the men who was listening to Him. The demon understood exactly who Jesus was, and he didn’t like it at all. He used the man’s voice to cry out against the Son of the Living God:
“‘Ha!’” he yelled out. “‘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!’” The evil spirit knew exactly who Jesus was and why He came. It knew that with the coming of the Messiah, the power of all demonic forces would be brought to an end. But it wasn’t going to go without a fight. With these words, the demon was trying to wield power over the Son of God who had become a man. These evil beings work through dark powers with strange rules they feel they have to obey to get them to work. By proclaiming Jesus’ name and exalted rank, it was trying to claim control over Him. In order for this to work, it had to state an accurate description of who Jesus was, but to do that, it had to reveal Christ’s status as God himself!
Jesus had no fear of the nasty being. Magical incantations and manipulation are nothing against the immensity of the all powerful, Most High God. He rebuked the demon with a strong, stern voice, “‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’” He demanded.
The demon threw the man into a convulsive fit and cast his body to the floor. When he was gone, they took care of the man and found that he hadn’t been injured.
Imagine the silent tension in the room as everyone watched the dramatic scene! Imagine how chaotic the world would have felt as the demon disrupted everything with his strange, evil voice? Imagine how the strength of Christ’s power and authority would have filled the room as He cast the evil spirit out. Imagine the relief and freedom of the man who had been taken over by it’s power!
The rest of the people in the synagogue were stunned and amazed. They murmured to each other questions like, “‘What is this teaching? With authority and power He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’” The murmurings in the synagogue spread like wildfire to excited discussions in the homes and villages all around Galilee. What was happening to the order of the world?
The people of Jesus’ time understood the power of these evil forces. Evil spirits were able to curse their victims with terrible diseases. They could bring confusion and even insanity to the mind, and they could provoke a person to violent acts of rage. But worst of all, they worked to deceive people into rebellion against the Most High God. The people of Jesus’ time understood when they or their loved ones were being oppressed by evil spirits. Who was this man that had no fear of them? What did it mean that He could command them with a word? And could He bring them freedom, too?
When Jesus left the synagogue, He headed for Peter’s home. James and John were with Him. When they arrived, they learned that Peter’s mother-in-law was very sick. She had a high fever. When Jesus arrived, they asked if He could help. The Lord went bent over her and took her hand. He rebuked the fever and raised her up. Immediately the fever left her. She got up from her bed and began to serve them. Jesus hadn’t just taken away the disease, He had restored her strength! He gave her life and energy so that she could do what she loved. How delighted she must have been to be able to serve her guests, especially the One that healed her.
Meanwhile, more and more people were hearing the story of Christ’s power in the synagogue. By nightfall, they were coming in droves to the door of Simon Peter’s home. It was the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, so they waited for the sun to go down. Everyone who had loved ones suffering from diseases or demonic possession wanted to bring them to this new hope for healing.
Pretty soon, the whole city was standing at Peter’s door. Jesus went out to them and began to heal them one by one. Some came with terrible diseases, but when they spoke with Christ, they felt their pain disappearing, their weakness go away, and their sores clear up. Imagine their relief! Imagine how grateful you would feel if you watched the suffering of someone you love change to health and strength! It must have been awesome to behold! What a wholeheartedly joyful assembly that must have turned into on the doorstep of Peter’s home…what wonder and outrageous delight.
The authors of Scripture explained that as Jesus healed, He also caste out many demons. As they left their victims, they would scream, “‘You are the Son of God!’” just like they had in the synagogue. These demons knew who Jesus was, too.
Sometimes it is important to ponder these things for a little while because they are so grand, strange, and profound that our minds can’t quite wrap around it all. Before the beginning of human time, demonic creatures had once been holy angels. They had been given the unimaginable gift of living in Heaven and serving God in perfect peace. They recognized the Son of God because they knew Him before the creation of the world. They knew Him as the One exalted on the throne of Heaven!
When Adam and Eve turned away from God and gave their allegiance to Satan, they gave the Evil One and all of his demonic followers great power over the human race. This had gone on for thousands of years. But something new was afoot. The Son of God was the power behind the whole universe and now he had become a man (See Colossians 1:15-20). The evil spirits didn’t even try to pretend that they could ignore the commands of Christ. As He demanded that they leave their victims, the only damage they could do was declare Him to the people and reveal His true identity before His time had come. Perhaps they could even destroy His credibility by making it look like they were His heralds. Perhaps they could confuse the people by linking Him as a partner with Satan!
Jesus would have none of it. He ordered them not to speak, and they had to obey. And all of this showed, once again, how Jesus was indeed the coming Messiah. Not because of what the demons declared, but because of what His works of compassions showed. For Isaiah the prophet had written: “He himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases” (Isaiah 53:4). God had promised through the prophet Isaiah that He would send an Anointed One who would come to change the world (Isaiah 61)…and eight hundred years later, that time had come.