14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
Today we begin a daily devotion series based on the readings at church from the previous weekend. There will be a devotion 5 days/week.
The context of our passage for this week is that Jesus has just undergone baptism at the hands of the Baptist (Luke 3:21-23) and been through the temptations in the wilderness (Luke 4:12-13). Notice how Luke describes it in 3:23 as Jesus beginning his ministry. It begins with the glory of the baptism and God the Father proclaiming Jesus’ sonship and the Spirit descending like a dove. What a moment! This is immediately followed by an attack from the evil one as Jesus fasts and prays for 40 days to prepare for his public ministry. That is life in service of the Father! The battle is never far away. The Christian walk will never be an easy one. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) It is so easy to forget that!
It is interesting that Luke concludes the temptation incident with the words “13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13), and then the very next thing we read is that everyone is praising Jesus. (Luke 4:14) Luke repeats that in verse 22 where he says “everyone spoke well of him”, then in verses 32 and 36 “they were amazed at his teaching”. In verse 40 people are flocking to him and in verse 41 even evil spirits are acknowledging him. For God’s people that can be a far more dangerous temptation than the frontal attacks of the evil one. How easy it is to drop our commitment to the father in order to gain people’s approval! How tempting it is to soften our stand in order not to be seen as fanatics in a culture that is increasingly intolerant to anyone who stands up for uncomfortable biblical truths!
Yet, as we’ll see in the coming days’ devotions, Jesus was not swayed by the frontal attack in the wilderness and he wasn’t swayed from his mission by fame and popularity (verses 42-43)
When are you most tempted to go with the crowd rather than stand with Jesus?
Father lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Amen
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
Firstly notice that it was Jesus’ custom to attend the synagogue every Sabbath.
I talked with someone just recently who said that they were a Christian but that they had given up on church because “It did nothing for me.” It makes me wonder why Jesus, who in many ways is the only person who ever lived who might legitimately say, “It does nothing for me”, made it his custom to attend. It’s a good question. Why not chat about it this week around the dinner table, or at Growth Group or church this week?
We often use this this passage to talk of Jesus’ love for the poor and the downtrodden. That is most definitely true of Him, but this passage is really not talking about his (or our) need to be involved with social justice. Jesus was talking about his work on the cross – that it was the centre-piece of his mission. When Jesus said “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” he could only mean that in him salvation had come. The passage he quoted from Isaiah was looking forward to the coming Messiah and the rescue he would bring to a nation that had strayed from God. They were in captivity in Babylon for their rebellion and Isaiah was looking forward to the day when God would bring them home again – something that happened when Jesus came and provided the way back to God through the cross. The “prisoners” referred to here are those held in rebellion and sin; the “blind” are the spiritually blind; the “poor” are the poor in spirit and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the “oppressed” are those who mourn over our lost state. Sound familiar? Check out the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. The Day of the Lord’s favour and his vengeance is talking about the final day – the day that Jesus has come to prepare us for by his death on the cross. Read Isaiah 61 and the surrounding chapters to get a feel for who the poor the blind the and prisoners are.
It’s all about his death for us – that was his mission. That was his purpose.
He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) and he sets that out here right at the beginning of his public ministry.
What a great saviour he is! What a blessing that he stayed focussed and never once strayed from his mission! What a glory that he didn’t succumb to temptation!
LORD of Heaven and Earth, in your Son you rescued us for yourself. I cannot thank you enough. Amen
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’
24 ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
The change in crowd’s attitude seems abrupt but Mark gives us a fuller explanation. He tells us that they “took offence” at Jesus. Here was the local carpenter claiming to be the promised Messiah. He ought to prove his outlandish claim by performing some miracles for them. Familiarity breeds contempt.
Jesus’ words here are surprising. This is no “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, but a man willing to confront people with the truth. We see the same thing in many other passages in the gospels – Jesus confronting the woman at the well in John 4, his hard words to the pharisees, his rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16, his words to the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:25. Jesus displays firmness, courage and strength as well as love and grace. Sometimes our view of Him is more a product of our own preconceived ideas than what the scriptures reveal. I can remember looking up images of how Jesus has been portrayed in art across different cultures and seeing a really wide range of representations that differed widely from the pictures in my mind. We must not let our preconceptions govern the truth. It is all too common for our view of one part of Jesus’ character to dominate the other aspects. I talked to a woman once about a Bible passage and she said, “I don’t care what the Bible says, the Jesus I believe in wouldn’t behave like that.” Her view of Jesus’ love would not allow her to see a Jesus who would judge the world.
Does your “picture” of Jesus allow , for instance, for his righteous anger [Matthew 21:12], his exclusivity [John 14:6], his punishment of sin [Rev 20:15], his humour [Mark 3;17] or his judgment [Acts 10:42].
It’s worth thinking about our own image of Jesus and questioning whether or not it aligns with the truth.
We need to let the Bible speak for itself. Our views need to be those revealed by God himself in the Scriptures. We need to know the Word.
We also need to be prepared for people to strongly object to the truth.
Loving God, you have revealed yourself in your Son, Jesus. Help us to see you clearly so that we can love you more dearly. Amen
31 Then he 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.
Remember that this all occurs right at the beginning of Luke’s account of Jesus’ public ministry. His very first public act produces the two reactions: wonder/amazement and strong rejection. This will characterise Jesus’ ministry from here on in.
Notice too that Luke emphasises Jesus’ authority here – he teaches with authority [v 32] and he speaks with authority [v 36]. Not only that, but his words have power. Earlier in the chapter the devil had tempted Jesus by offering him “all authority”, but that was something Jesus already had. Yet Jesus’ power and authority seem to be a different kind from what the evil one was offering. Jesus’ authority was because he spoke from God. [John 7:17] The evil one was offering power and authority that were in essence in opposition to God’s purposes.
So maybe to emphasise Jesus’ authority here Luke immediately records the incident where Jesus casts out an evil spirit. The onlookers exclaim, “with authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”
There are powers and authorities in this world that are aligned against God and his people. They are real and they can be powerful. We aren’t necessarily spared from their influence either, just as Jesus was not spared – after all, his death was at the hands of evil people [Acts 2:23]. Yet Jesus speaks and the demon is terrified of him. There is no sense of a dialogue between equal but opposite forces – no rituals, no magic words or religious rites, just six unadorned words and evil is totally defeated. Jesus came to defeat the power of the evil one. Paul tells us that Jesus disarmed the devil and his minions and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them at the cross [Col 2:15].
As God’s people we are covered by his power and authority even though at times it may not feel like it. It didn’t look like it to those who engineered Jesus’ death either, but God was in control.
What fears and anxieties do you face at the moment? Hand them over the one who has adopted you into his family for he is in control. All power and authority are his.
Mighty creator, help me to trust your power and authority over the circumstances of my life. Amen
38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of illness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Again Luke helps us to see Jesus’ authority. Not only does Jesus speak with authority, and have authority over evil spirits but he also speaks and illness is gone. Just as God speaks creation into being, so Jesus speaks and creation itself is affected.
Why does Jesus forbid the demonic spirits from proclaiming who he is? Well we’re not actually told other than that they knew he was the Messiah. Any answer we give is conjecture. Maybe he didn’t want any “character reference” from the devil, or he wanted to keep things quiet to stop people starting a political movement to install him as a political messiah.
What we do have in this incident is an incredible outpouring of healing power. At this point Jesus could have started the most incredible healing ministry the world has ever seen. Surely the temptation must have been there to do just that. There were then, as there are today, endless needs. He could have set up his disciples as his interns (after all he did empower them to heal) and set up a network to wipe out sickness completely. His compassion for those in pain was never in doubt.
What does he do? Luke tells us he withdraws to a solitary place. Again we’re not told why but it was his custom to do that in order to pray. [Luke 5:16]. In the midst of great need and business and demands on him, Jesus takes to time to pray. Luke says that the people come looking for him and try to keep him from leaving. Why is he leaving? He’s needed right there. There are so many needs he can meet. “But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’
44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”
Jesus leaves the needy in order to meet our greatest need. He didn’t come to heal. He came to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Healing was the evidence of his messiahship, but not the goal of his mission. He healed whenever the need presented itself because he was the source of compassion and love, but there was a greater need to be met, people’s rescue from judgement. Recall the incident with the paralysed man let down through the roof and how Jesus forgives his sins as the most important thing to be done before he heals him?
Is your world view a biblical one? Do you see that our world’s greatest need is for salvation from sin and judgment? Do you see that our greatest problem is the sin in the heart of every person?
We’re told that when Jesus saw the crowds his heart went out to them because he saw them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and as result he sent out his disciples to preach.
God of all compassion, help me to see people the way you see them and to be part of your rescue plan for them. Amen