Jesus At Capernaum
“But he passing through the midst of them went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean DEMON, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And DEMONS also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.”—Luke 4:30–44
The greater portion of this section consists of one day’s work on the part of our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, in the city of Capernaum, at the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. It is called elsewhere “his own city.” After He gave up His work in the carpenter shop, [He] went out on His great mission to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom to a waiting people, a people who had been expecting that kingdom for so long. He removed from Nazareth to Capernaum, and made that the center from which He traveled back and forth to the various parts of the land. So on this occasion He returned to Capernaum, and He taught them, we are told, on the Sabbath days. By the term Sabbath day, we are not to understand our Sunday, but the Jewish Sabbath, the seventh day. That was the day on which the people laid aside their usual employment and gathered together in their synagogues to hear the Word of God and to offer prayer. Our Lord took advantage of that day and joined with them. It had been His custom always to do this, and there in the synagogue on the Sabbath days He ministered the Word of God. We are told that the people were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power. There was a divine energy about Him that appealed to them. They had never heard another like Him. You remember sometime afterward they sent officers to arrest Him. They returned without Him and they were asked, “Why have you not brought Him?” There answer was, “Never man spake like this man.” There was something so compelling about the messages of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it moved the hearts even of His enemies. His word was with power.
It was not only the power of His deity, but it was the power of the Holy Spirit, for our Lord Jesus chose as man on Earth not to act according to His own deity, but to be led, and guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit He preached the Gospel of the kingdom.
On one particular occasion we read that in the synagogue there was a man that had a spirit of an unclean demon, and cried out with a loud voice. We should change the word DEVIL in the Authorized Version to DEMON, because of the well-recognized fact that according to Scripture there is only one devil, Satan, who is called “that old serpent, the devil”; but there are a great many demons. These demons, evidently, were spirits led by Satan in his great rebellion, and he is called the prince of the power of the air. So we gather that these demons are not yet confined in hell, but with their master, Satan, they have access to men, and on certain occasions they can actually indwell and dominate men. Even where they do not indwell, they are able to impress them for evil, and lead them into ways contrary to the will of God. Here was a case of a man who was actually possessed with a demon. Just as in our dispensation of grace, Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and so act under His control as they yield obedience to Him; so it was possible for men to be indwelt by one of these evil spirits and act as under that control. When this man, in whom the evil spirit was, saw the Lord Jesus Christ there in the synagogue he cried out, “Let us alone. What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth. Art thou come to destroy us? I know whom thou art—the holy one of God.” There is something very striking here. Men, ordinarily speaking, did not know Him. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Those who should have known Him—those who should have recognized Him as having been sent by the Father failed to understand who He was. The demon knew because Jesus has absolute authority over the unseen world. This is the only world in which anyone dares to flaunt His will or deny His deity. Everybody does His will in heaven. Everyone knows Him there, and all the lost have to be subject to Him in the underworld. Even demons have to recognize His authority. So this evil spirit called out, “We know who thou art—the holy one of God.” But Jesus did not desire a testimony of that kind; so He rebuked Him, saying, “Hold thy peace and come out of him,” and immediately in response to the word of the Lord Jesus, the evil spirit dominating the man threw him in convulsions on the ground, and then came out of him and no longer hurt him.
All this took place in the synagogue at Capernaum. When I was visiting Palestine some years ago, I think the greatest thrill I had next to visiting the place called Calvary, and the garden tomb just outside the Damascus gate of Jerusalem, was when standing on that very platform of the synagogue in Capernaum where this event and other events recorded in the Gospel took place. It was at Capernaum, we are told, that a Roman centurion built the Jews a synagogue, and for many, many centuries Capernaum had been entirely hidden from view. Archaeologists were unable to identify its site, until some years before the last World War a group of German monks built a monastery on a hill north of the Sea of Galilee, and when the World War broke out they were interned within the monastery grounds and were not permitted to leave until the war was over. While interned, in order that they might keep physically fit, they began to dig about on the hill where their monastery stood and soon they began uncovering great blocks of limestone. The work went on with great interest, and by and by they uncovered an ancient synagogue. There was the entire floor and the great stones of the side walls and the platform and pillars that had once upheld the roof. Now they have restored a great part of that synagogue, set up those pillars in place again, and though, of course, the roof isn’t on you can enter the building, can look out over that vast floor capable of seating several hundred people, and you can stand on the platform back of the stone reading desk. As I stood there with one of the monks by my side and my wife and daughter on the other side, what a sacred spot it seemed to be! I knew that my feet were standing on the very place where my blessed Lord had stood so long ago. They were able to identify it as the synagogue of Capernaum by this: They found on the great stones of the foundation all kinds of Hebrew signs. For instance, you can see cut in the stone Aaron’s rod, and the golden bowl that was placed in the ark, the five pointed star of Solomon and the six pointed star of David, the olive, the fig, and vine leaves which are used as symbols of Israel and a great many other signs that were distinctly Jewish and yet the synagogue itself is definitely Roman in architecture. But there is only one Roman sign to be seen. That is the great eagle. Evidently some Jew who revolted at this had chiseled off most of the eagle. They didn’t like the sign of the eagle on a synagogue devoted to Jehovah. There is little question but that it is the synagogue built by the Roman centurion, that the Jews might have a suitable place of worship. There it is, bearing silent testimony to the Word of God. As I stood there at the reading desk I could look down and I said to the monks, “Somewhere near there was that man with the unclean spirit. I can almost imagine I see him rising to his feet, and hear him screaming, ‘let us alone, what have we to do with thee’ Jesus of Nazareth, art thou come to destroy us?” The monk said, “And Jesus rebuked him.” I said, “Yes.” So we went on, mentioning one thing after another that had taken place in that synagogue.
It is a very real thing when you read the Bible in the light of what you can see, even in present day Palestine. You realize how wonderfully accurate everything is. When this man, then, was delivered from the power of the evil spirit the people assembled there were stirred greatly. They were all amazed and spake among themselves, saying, “What a word is this! For with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.” You notice one thing about the miracles of our Lord. He never wrought a miracle for self-aggrandizement. He never exercised His marvelous power just in order to draw attention to Himself. In other words, He was not like the so-called magicians among the heathen who do all sorts of wonders to amaze and dazzle people. Jesus never wrought a miracle of any kind except for the benefit of others.
So it was so in delivering this man from the power of the unclean spirit. It was so great a miracle that the audience was stirred and they began to spread His fame abroad. But He went out of the synagogue on the same day and went down into the city. He entered into the house of Simon Peter, the fisherman, who lived there also. Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever, and they besought Him for her. Some people have forgotten that Simon Peter ever had a wife. He was not a celibate clergyman! His mother-in-law lived with them. He was doubtless deeply concerned because she had taken ill and they called to Jesus, and they besought Him for her. Oh, how often in these records we find people going to the Lord Jesus about others. And He invites us to do the same and to bring to Him those who are sick, and who are needy, and those who are distressed. He loves to answer prayer today as He did so long ago. They pleaded with Him to do something for Simon’s wife’s mother, and He went into the sick room. He stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. There is an added word in one of the other Gospels I like so much. It says, “He touched her hand and the fever left her.” He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and He put His hand upon that hot fevered hand of the patient, and immediately there came a calmness, a sense of quietness and coolness. In the same wonderful way the Lord Jesus loves to minister to our fevered, restless hearts today. Oh, how many of us, in a certain sense, are like this poor woman. We are all distracted and upset and disturbed by existing conditions. What a blessed thing it is when Jesus comes to the bedside, when Jesus draws near, and when He rebukes the fever, when He touches the hand and the fever dies away.
We are told that immediately she arose and ministered unto them. This is quite natural when one has experienced the delivering power of our Lord Jesus Christ. How the heart delights then to do something for Him and for others. This good woman no sooner is healed, no sooner realizes that she is well, than she says, “Now, I want to serve Him who has done this thing for me, and I want to serve those who are dear to Him and to me.” So she ministered unto them.
Have you felt a touch of His healing hand? Has His voice rebuked the fever of sin that once raged in your very being? Is it your delight now to serve Him? Are you among those who are glad not only to avail yourself of His delivering power, but are now concerned about giving Him the service of a grateful heart? Are you putting yourself out for the blessing of other people? This is the test of real conversion. You can tell a person who has experienced the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ by the manifestation of a desire to please Him, a desire to do His will, to glorify Him, to make Him known to others, and to bring them into contact with Him.
Every time the Lord wrought a work of power like this upon the body of some dear needy soul the word of it went abroad to encourage others to come to Him. It is the same today. When the Lord Jesus works in great grace, saving one from the life of sin, bringing him to know God and giving him the power to live a new life to His glory, how it appeals to other people! I do not think there is anything that has such a tendency to draw folks to any place where the Word of God is preached as the word going forth that people are being saved, that men and women are being delivered from their sins, that God is working miracles among them. Oh, that we might see more of that here—the saving power of our Lord Jesus thus manifested.
In this instance we are told that as the sun was setting, and the day drew to a close, a day in which He had been so busily engaged in alleviating woes, that multitudes were brought to Him and He laid His hands on them and healed them. Nobody ever came to Him in the days of His flesh, seeking deliverance from any ailment, but He met them in grace and delivered them. Somebody might say, “Well, how is it that now sometimes when we are sick, we come to Him, and we do not receive that for which we ask?” We need to remember that those mighty signs and wonders that He wrought when He was here on Earth were the witnesses given to Israel to His Messiahship. He did them not only to help those who came to Him, but to bear testimony to those who saw and heard that He was indeed the promised Saviour. You will remember that the prophet of old declared that in His day the tongue of the dumb should be made to sing. The lame should leap as a hart, the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, and that sorrow and sickness should flee before him. These were the outward evidences that He was what He professed to be, the Messiah of Israel. Now that He has gone back to glory He has not given the definite promise that He will always heal diseased bodies, but He has promised that He will always deliver sin sick people that will come to Him. He says, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no way cast out.”
Every miracle that He wrought was in some way a picture of what sin does to men and women and how they are delivered. Take, for instance, the man who was possessed with a demon. He is just a picture of people all about us controlled and dominated by satanic power, driven by habits and passions from which they can not deliver themselves. This woman, with a fever raging in her veins, is a picture of the feverishness of sin, from which the Lord gives complete freedom.
They came to Him from all quarters and He healed them. We are told that demons also came out of many crying out and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God.” They knew Him. They recognized Him. They understood who He was. Men might deny Him, but they could not. He rebuked them because He did not want their testimony. “And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ.” Then we are told that when it was day, He departed. When the morning dawned He left Capernaum and went out into a desert place and people sought Him there and came to Him and begged Him not to depart from them. It is beautiful to see this. At this time, at least, He was appreciated and the people wanted Him to remain. There may have been some selfishness in that. But they recognized His power and they desired Him to stay in their city. He said, “I can not confine myself to one place. I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also.” He went on from place to place and preached in the synagogues of Galilee. Thus He was being accredited to the people of Israel as the promised One for whom they had waited so long. Oh, what a joy it is to realize that although now He is hidden from the eyes of men, yet His power is just the same, and if I am addressing any who are in trouble, or sorrow, or distress, who are bound by chains of sin, or controlled by the power of habit, if you will only come to Jesus, though He is now in heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, you can reach out the hand of faith and feel the touch of His hand of healing. He will give deliverance to all who call upon Him in faith.