The Miracle of the Healing of the Possessed Man in the Synagogue
How many of us spend our days trying to live up to another person's expectation for us? We act like all kinds of other people rather than ourselves. We argue, "But I was taught by my Dad to make sure people respect me or I'll be trampled on. And my mom taught me that I must present myself like this. You know I won't be accepted in the workplace if I don't..." The fact is that as Christians we will never be accepted by the world if we follow Christ. We will always be rejected just like he was. The only expectation we need to live up to is Jesus' and he already knows who we are. He knows we are sinners.
|Cause||Healing of the Possessed Man in the Synagogue|
|Efficient:||Obedience - “With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”|
|Aristotle's Four Causes|
Now God has high expectations for us. He does not dumb-down for us sinners. We are called to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." And we really can hit this high-bar, but only by living in Jesus. It's really simple to be in Jesus. Each time we spend time in prayer, we are in him. When we read his word, we are in him. In the sacraments of the Church we are in him. Being among our brothers and sisters, we are in him, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
But we must never forget that it is only Jesus, the Holy One of God, who can live up to God's expectation for us. God says about his Son, "This is my son with whom I am well pleased." When we are in Jesus, God is well pleased with us as well. Now he doesn't expect that we should keep on being self-absorbed sinners. In fact, we can't sin when we are in Jesus. The world's expectation for us is sin. So thankfully, when we take refuge in him, we cannot fulfill this expectation.
Jesus fulfills the expectation of the Father. So from the beginning of his ministry he was rejected, starting of all places in his own hometown.
In Nazareth, his friends saw only the grown-up boy named Jesus. The community had their plans written for him which didn't include King of Kings. He lived with those simple folks down the lane, Joseph and Mary. He was just the carpenter's son who had played in their streets. So, when he entered their synagogue and opened up the scroll of Isaiah and explained that Isaiah was talking about himself, in their jealousy they fumed. "Today this scripture is fulfilled," Jesus told them. In their fury, the crowd even tried to kill him, "but he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." He did not meet their expectation. The Nazarenes wanted their story for him to come true. But rather, God's story was unfolding instead. What is God's story for you? How does it compare to the story others have written about you?
Ultimately, Jesus would be rejected so fully, that even his disciples would turn their backs. He would even be forsaken by God himself. The greatest of all ironies is that God rejected Jesus on the cross because we rejected him. Jesus took the wrath that we deserved.
So, Jesus left Nazareth, and by Luke's account, he ended up in Capernaum teaching in the synagogue. However, the reactions there were quite different than in Nazareth. He had previously been "teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him." The people around the Sea of Galilee had totally different expectations. This time, Jesus was clearly recognized as "the Holy One of God," and not by any man, woman or child. He was immediately identified by a demon living within a man.
Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “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!”
“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.
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!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
The demon-possessed man screamed at Jesus, "I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" Jesus didn't need to reveal himself to the impure spirit. Jesus didn't need to pull out a scroll and point to a sentence and say, "See, it's written about me here." The demon knew exactly who he was. The demon's expectation was that one day he would be see Jesus and he had been plagued by the fact. He knew exactly who to expect and that day had come.
Now the honest truth is that in the depths of our hearts, we all expect God just like the demons do and we know what to expect out of his character. It's written in our core. For me as an adult, when I first read the Beatitudes, I knew Jesus was that long expected savior. Reading further through the Sermon on the Mount, I knew without a doubt that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the Holy One of God. The average person you find walking around just doesn't preach, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Even the exceptional person doesn't just go about raising the dead. Jesus is more than different. He is the Son of God. What is your expectation of God? How will you know when you see him? Will you reject him because you want him to fulfill your expectation of who he should be? Or will you embrace him because he fulfills all of your wildest expectations?
If the gospel account is true, then we, in the depths of our hearts, we should also know the purposes of Jesus. The demon knew one of Jesus' primary purposes—at least the one that pertained to him—was to destroy evil. So the demon burst out, "Have you come to destroy us?" That was a rhetorical question, of course. He knew his time was very short. The demons know full well that they are doomed. This demon didn't even plea with Jesus like others did. By revealing with certainty who Jesus is, the demon was getting his last jab at God. Jesus knew that this phase of his earthly ministry was short as well. There was much work to do. The demon was attempting to make Jesus the next best roadside attraction. But Jesus intended to keep his ministry quiet and teach humility to his disciples. More often than not Jesus would tell the people he healed to "not tell anyone." It was not yet his time to be glorified. This demon knew that and exploited his final moment by letting everyone near know exactly who he knew Jesus to be.
But with authority, Jesus sternly called out the demon and the man was healed. The people said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” Where have we seen people astounded by Christ's authority before? When he taught in the synagogue, the people were in awe by his authoritative teaching. When he calmed the waters of the Sea of Galilee, his disciples said, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
The wrath of God is real. In the end, he will cast out all the impure spirits, all who hate, all that is not part of his beloved creation into Hell. This time will come and it is only from within Jesus that we have safe harbor. The demons take shelter in God's people because they know God loves his beloved dearly. But as we have learned, God will root out those demons. God also gives his children the authority to root out the hiding demons as well. But we had better be very careful how we do so, because the demon is hiding out in one of God's children.
How do we approach the person who is infected with the diseases of hate, anger, pride and lust? We love them. We also say "No" to them. We are merciful to them as God is gracious to us. How we react to others who are sick in this way is not a formula. We must first learn to know the Spirit who lives in us because it is the Spirit of God who teaches us how to love others. We can't do it on our own. We learn by praying, because while we are inside Jesus Christ we are transformed into his likeness. Then when we encounter a particularly strange situation, which all of us will, we will be equipped and have the confidence to let the Spirit have the reigns of our being. He will do the work for the Glory of God.
Having selfish expectations for others is one sure way to help perpetuate the disease of hate, anger, pride or lust hiding within them. "Oh, he'll always be like that. No, she'll never learn." But when Jesus called out the impure spirit, he didn't call out the man, he called out the spirit. We must do the same. We must learn love the beloved of God and call out the infection. You will certainly want others to do the same for you.