They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.
The incident in today’s sripture happens at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. After the temptation in the wilderness He returns home to Nazareth, where His interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy was not well received in the Synagogue, being met by violence resulting in Him leaving town. From the Nazareth hill country he walked north east (16 miles approx.) to the Galilean coast and Capernaum (now Kfar Nahum) which was a city on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. With a population of over 1500 people it was once the main trading centre of the region, and would become Jesus’s home. The Synagogue of that city was a gift from a devout Centurion who we encounter later in Luke 7, whose servant our Lord heals.
Synagogues were not large buildings, built by the congregation (or a generous benefactor) mostly of rectangular form facing towards Jerusalem. The lintels of the Synagogue at Capernaum depicted the manna provided in the wilderness and also flowing grapevines with ample fruit.The internal space was similar to the plan of the Temple, with the outer courts being for women and the inner courts for men. The scrolls of the Law were stored in the holiest space furthest from the entrance.
I must highlight the importance that our Lord attaches to Sabbath attendance to the House of God; “immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue.” This is an example to all believers then and now of the importance of fellowship, reading scriptures and worship. As He taught the congregation was aghast at the authority with which He spoke, it was as if He knew the Author of these scriptures. He had their full attention. Then suddenly an unholy cry shattered the air, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” To the shock of the congregation the voice came from one of their own, uncertain murmuring began but was instantly silenced by the sharp rebuke from the rabbi at the lectern; “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Heads turned from one to the other then back again as their brother fell to the floor writhing convulsively, with loud shrieks he became limp as the evil spirit left him. Can you imagine the embarrassment of this poor man awakening on the floor of the Synagogue amidst his brethren? Then there would be excited gratitude for the visitor, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, who had healed him. The excited debate amongst the congregation lit a flame which became a fire spreading into the town and the regions beyond.
There are many who discount this and other such accounts as myth or fiction, choosing not to believe in the existence of evil spirits. Such dismissal cheers the heart of Satan and his servants; if people don’t believe in them they won’t be on their guard against them! Believe me when I tell you demons are real, I have seen a similar incident as described above happen in a mission tent many years ago.
Dear reader, “be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter5:8). Guard yourselves (and your loved ones) by clinging tightly to your Father God, and your Saviour Jesus Christ. Fill your days with His Holy Word and constant prayer, then there will be no room for any unholy squatters.