When Demons Afflict
The 4th Sunday after the Epiphany February 3, 2019
31 And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. 38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
In the Name of Jesus.
The angels, they are servants to us. They were created for that. The word “Angel” means “messenger”—messenger from God to humans.
Man and woman, that is the Image of God. When God created all things, the Earth and the stars, the land and the water, the plants and the animals, he created also the spirits, that is, the angels.
Then, as the culmination, what-it-was-all about, he created Man and Woman, his holy Image for all creation.
Some of the angels—was it envy, was it pride, was it just unexplained malice? we don’t know—but some of the angels, not wanting to be servants bearing gifts to Man and Woman, fell.
The unclean spirits, the demons, Satan and his devils, the Scriptures name them. Not created that way, but having taken themselves into it by their rebellion.
But, when God creates something, and that thing goes bad, it doesn’t lose being what it was created as, it just does what it was created to do badly.
Maybe we can think of a dog—a dog made for being a pet, to be with its master, to help his master hunt, to play with a ball, to lay at the feet, to do all the wonderful things a dog is given to do. But when that dog is made malicious, when it is beat and starved and put into dog fights, so that it becomes a snarling companion, a pet whose bites are no longer for playing with a rope or stick, but end up dangerous, the dog doesn’t cease being the dog it was created as. It’s just that it now goes badly. He still does all the dog-stuff, but it’s done not for the good, but the bad.
It’s also like you and me. God created us to be honorable men and women, he gave us certain vocations, such as husband or wife, son or daughter, student or teacher, carpenter, doctor, farmer, neighbor, friend, or whatever else, but when we do our offices in our sinful flesh, we still have the office, we just now do it badly.
The abusive husband is still a husband, he’s just doing it badly. The mean neighbor is still a neighbor, he doesn’t lose his office, his being a neighbor just goes badly.
So it is with the fallen angels. When they fell, they didn’t lose who they were created to be or what they were created to do. It just now goes very badly.
They were created as servants, to bring us messages of God. The fallen angels still do that. But they do it badly, toward evil. They still bring to us God’s Law, but instead of bringing it to build us up in God’s gifts of being creatures of holy God, in God’s gifts of being mother or father, husband or wife, son or daughter, neighbor or friend, they bring us God’s Law to accuse us, to bind us in guilt, to cover us in shame, even to turn us against one another, so that instead of speaking to one another in the encouragement and grace of God’s Word, we, tempted by the unclean spirits, speak to one another to accuse.
The fallen angels still have their placement. When they fell, they didn’t lose their office of angel, they are still messengers created to be our servants, they just now do it badly. Evilly. Bringing us messages, but for the lie. Giving us messages not to build-up and encourage, not extol gifts, but to tear at people and accuse, not to be thankful for gifts, but to control others according to our own power.
This is their evil. Not that they bring us messages, but that they bring them to us for the purpose of the lie, not the truth, of death, not life, of accusation, not of comfort and encouragement. They tempt us to live before God and one another, not by gift and grace, but by coercion.
But they still, until our Lord comes again to judge the living and the dead, until the day of the resurrection of the body in eternal holiness, they still have their office as angels, and they afflict us.
So when Jesus shows up in Galilee of the Gentiles, he proclaims the Gospel. He is forgiving sins. He is freeing those in bondage to guilt, he is cleansing those covered in shame. This he was given to do by his Father. It is his authority.
To have authority is to be given an office, to be given words to speak on behalf of another. It is Jesus speaking not his own words, but the words of his Father who sent him. [John 14:24] Luke 4:31:
And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.
Then Jesus runs across a man with an unclean spirit. We notice that the text says nothing of the man himself being unclean. This was no matter of the man be a greater sinner than anyone else, of the man somehow bringing the demons upon himself, it was simply, he had an unclean spirit—he was afflicted. Luke 4:33:
And in the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
The unclean spirits do not give up their position! They are messengers to humans, and they claim their office: “What do you have to do us, Jesus of Nazareth?” It’s as if they are saying to the Lord, We are only doing what you created us to do. We’re bringing messages to this man, testifying to his spirit. So why are you bothering us?
Yes, they are messengers. They are doing their messenger job. They are bringing messages to this man. But they are doing it badly. Evilly. Toward putting the man under Law, not grace, toward accusing him, locking him in guilt, afflicting him.
Jesus shows no concern for the demons. His concern is with the man. He came to redeem mankind, to save men and women created in the Image of God, and who now need restoration to the Image of God. He came not as a spirit to save spirits, but as a human to save humans.
Jesus is concerned with the man. He will free him. Luke 4:35:
But Jesus rebuked [the demon], saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”
Jesus commands with power and authority. His power is that he, along with his Father, is the creator of all things, including the angels and including this man.
His authority is that he is given the office by his Father to become a man, to take the sin of all humans upon himself, to die the death for that sin in place of all those who have sinned, and to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil with his own holy blood.
That authority is given him by his Father. By that authority he saves the man from the demons.
And by that authority Jesus saves us, too, from the Satan and all his demons. From the accusation and guilt they bring to our consciences, from the shame they cover us with, from the fear of condemnation and eternal death they sting us with.
As the unclean spirits torment us in our consciences with the word of our guilt, Jesus comes to us with the clear word, I forgive you, and “you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” [John 15:3]
As the unclean spirits tempt us to malice against neighbor, tempt us to torment each other with the accusation, tempt us with covetousness, stinginess, theft, murder, tempting some even to suicide, Jesus comes to us with the clear word, “Drink of it all of you, this is my blood of the New Testament poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” [Matthew 26:28]
As the unclean spirits tempt us with doubt and despair, Jesus has his Gospel proclaimed, and he comes to us with the comfort that when we do sin and we are afflicted by the accusation of the Law, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [1 John 2:2]
In the Name of Jesus