Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Tom Hanks starred in Angels and Demons in 2009. Several sports teams at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina are named the Deacon Demons. Perhaps you had an older aunt or grandparent who may have affectionately referred to you as a cute little demon. Well, the Anglican lectionary for this day schedules a Gospel reading from Luke 4: 31-37 that sees Jesus, while teaching in the synagogue, encountering a man possessed by a demon.
Such a story was not unusual for Luke to record. Michael Patella noted in his 2005 commentary The Gospel According to Luke, “Every good story needs an antagonist and Luke elevates Satan to this position. Consequently, Christ’s miracles and cures are more than kind deeds, they are attacks on the Evil One and his diabolical force. In other words, Christ is in a relentless pursuit of redeeming the world from Satan’s clutches.”
Today’s passage is referred to as The Ministry in Galilee – the fourth part of an eight-fold narrative in Luke’s overall gospel account depicting the full life of Jesus on earth. Our Lord had left the threatening environment of Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, a small city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There He was teaching on the sabbath in a synagogue. Luke notes that those present there that day “were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.” (v. 32) The Rev. Robert Deffinbaugh noted two sources of this authoritative voice. He stated that Jesus spoke in a simple and straightforward manner as opposed to the scholarly and obscure narratives of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus also relied on earthly stories and parables that were familiar to his audience. People heard Him and grasped His words in reference to the teachings of the Bible. Rev. Deffinbaugh further stated, “Jesus taught as the author of Scripture, while the scribes and Pharisees taught as mere students, and not good students at that! The difference between Jesus’ teaching and the rest was the same as hearing the author of a book speak about his book and hearing another person speak about the same book.” (2012)
On this particular sabbath occasion, “there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon.” (v. 33). Patella noted that demons and the devil, while representing the same Evil Force were not the same entities. So, in today’s story, this minion of Satan has taken possession of the man who confronts Jesus in a loud voice. The intention of this “shout out” was likely to disrupt Christ’s teaching. Deffinbaugh suggests here we see a “spirit v. spirit” clash, a “good v. evil confrontation” where the demon recognized who Jesus really was, “I know who you are, ‘the Holy One of God’.” (v. 34), in a manner revealing a frightened, cornered evil entity fearing ultimate destruction at the hands of God.
In Luke’s noted crisp writing style, he does not prolong this confrontation, but rather describes the immediate reaction of Jesus in rebuking the demon saying, “Be silent, and come out of him.” (v. 35) Some versions of Luke’s gospel depict a violent convulsive exit of the demon from the man, while others avoid any such description. No matter, the beneficiary of this exorcism in one of Jesus’s early miracles is left unharmed. Biblical scholars suggest a number of reasons for the swift response by Jesus against the demon in this story, First, the demon created a scene in the synagogue interrupting, and drawing attention away from Jesus’ teaching, thus taking away from His purpose and ministry here on earth. Secondly, this account appears in the early ministry period of Jesus. It was not yet time to declare the divinity and messiahship of Christ. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson wrote the term “Messiah” had strong political connotations in 1st century Palestine and to so proclaim Jesus prematurely would keep people from hearing Jesus’ essential teaching. Jesus also seldom spoke of Himself as the “Son of God,” but rather the “Son of Man.” Using the term “Son of God” would cause Him to be accused of blasphemy and sidetrack His ministry. The demons at Capernaum were wittingly or unwittingly involved in subverting Jesus’ own timetable for His ministry and self-disclosure; explaining His swift and unequivocal action in dealing with the man with the unclean spirit.
Today’s gospel story tells of those in the Capernaum synagogue who witnessed the confrontation between Jesus and the demon as being amazed and left wondering who this Jesus was and by what authority and power could He command unclean spirits to come out from those so possessed. You and I have the benefit of knowing who Jesus is and are also amazed at how He interacts with us in our lives. For me, and perhaps for you too, Luke’s account is made relevant today in the words of the Irish Jesuit daily prayer website, Sacred Space,
“Jesus seems to live within a world of hostility; political and family divisions as well as if the conflict of good and evil were the context of His life. Somehow, He transcends but is involved in the conflicts. He seems to face conflict head-on. He does so, not only with the power of His own personality, but with the power of his Father so that He can command evil and it flees. Some of our evils can be dealt with only through prayer in the power of the risen Lord.”
The Light of God – surround us.
The Love of God – enfold us.
The Power of God – protect us.
The Presence of God – watch over us.
The Mind of God – guide us.
The Law of God – direct us.
Wherever we are – God, be our strength and harbour.
from: PrayRay.com – Prayer for Protection