Casting Out Demons
Friday of Epiphany 7
1 March 2019
Jesus has a defining moment in His ministry when He attends the synagogue of Capernaum (Lk 4:31-44). He had gone to Cana. He had gone to Nazareth, where He was rejected by His own hometown. He now comes to his base of operations in Capernaum to set up for His Galilean ministry. Here He is confronted by the demons who come out at his command, and in that moment, they cry out in recognition saying who Jesus is. It is remarkable that we do not hear these divine titles on the lips of any human until Luke 9; here we are in Luke 4. It's only later in Luke that Peter calls Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. In the meantime, only the demons are able to say who He is. They call Him the Holy One of God; they call him Son of God, and He silences them (Lk 4:35).

The demons know perfectly well who Jesus is. That is quite different from faith in Him. This is also true for us. Just because you can say that you know who Jesus is doesn't mean that He is your trusted Lord and God. That is quite a different thing. Our understanding is so darkened that we can speak and act as though there were no God! We act like we are in charge of our own lives. "Look what I've done, God!" We dream the delusion of our own free will to choose God or to reject Him as we see fit, when we cannot even count the hairs of our own head. How likely is it that we have the power to choose, given that?

Jesus moves on from Capernaum. Jesus has other places where He must preach (Lk 4:43-44). One of them is our own church. When we baptize Jesus casts out the demons, "Depart you unclean spirit in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Jesus himself has been on the lips of the preacher to give life through death, in drowning and being raised in newness of life with Him. The preachers are compelled to do this. They must proclaim as the Lord commands. God says to Jeremiah, "Go, preach!" What does Jeremiah say? "Uh, no thanks I'm too young to be doing this!" What does Scripture say? "Then I said, 'Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.' But the LORD said to me, 'Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.' Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth" (Jer 1:6-9). God sends the preacher. The preacher must go.

As we see Jesus preaching and acting, we see complete unity and harmony between what he says and what he does. And the people recognize this, they glorify him, for healing, for casting out demons, and for the wonderful things that he preaches to them. The fact is that preaching, and kingdom, and his miracles, are indistinguishable in the ministry of Jesus. What does that teach us? That believing and doing are inseparable. We can't act like pagans and believe like Christians. It's simply not possible. Faith and life are like husband and wife, inseparable, unable to be divorced from each other. Jesus speaks and lives harmoniously, we also must. And this is all the more important in our day and time. The demons know who Jesus is and they can say so. And yet they remain demonic. Knowing Christ is not the same as trusting Christ.

We hear in Jeremiah of God's personal creation and knowledge of children in the womb: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart" (Jer 1:5). We belong to God from the very moment of our conception. The Bible is perfectly clear about this. We are all created equal because we are equally created by God. The emergence of the barbarism of unrestricted abortion, which is really infanticide, in New York and Illinois are truly terrifying precedents, boding deeper darkness in these last days. Those who campaign for the death of infants, our smallest neighbors, might well know who Jesus is, just like the demons did in the Gospels, but they shatter the unity between act and confession, doing and speech. You cannot condone and certainly you may not encourage infanticide and claim to belong to Christ. Repentance is called for by us all.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Gregory Nazianzen
"Consider the mission of Christ to be the good pleasure of the Father, to which He refers all that concerns Himself, both that He may honor the eternal Father, and that He may avoid the appearance of being a rival God. For He is said on the one hand to have been betrayed, and on the other it is written that He gave Himself up; and so too that He was raised and taken up by the Father, and also that of His own power He rose and ascended. The former belongs to the good pleasure of God, the latter to His own authority. However, you dwell upon all that diminishes Him, while you ignore all that exalts Him. For instance, you point out that He suffered, but you do not add 'of His own accord' (Jn 10:18). Ah, what things has the Word even now to suffer (Heb 6:6)! By some He is honored as God but confused with the Father; by others He is dishonored as flesh and severed from God. With whom shall He be most angry-or rather which shall He forgive-those who falsely contract Him, or those who divide Him? For the former ought to have made a distinction, and the latter to have made a union, the one in number, the other in Godhead.

"Do you stumble at His flesh? So did the Jews. Do you call Him a Samaritan (Jn 8:48), and the rest which I will not utter? Even the demons did not say this, O man more unbelieving than demons. The Jews recognized the title Son as expressing equal rank with God. The demons knew that He who drove them out was God, for they were persuaded by their own experience. But you will not either admit the equality or confess the Godhead. It would have been better for you to have been circumcised and a demoniac-to reduce the matter to an absurdity-than in uncircumcision and robust health to be thus ill and ungodly disposed. But for our war with such men, let it be ended by their returning, however late, to a sound mind, if they will. Or else if they will not, let it be postponed to another occasion, if they continue as they are. Anyhow, we will have no fear when contending for the Trinity with the help of the Trinity."

Gregory Nazianzen,  
Oration, 45.27
Luke 4:31-44

And he 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. 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." 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. 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!" And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

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. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

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. 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.

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, 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." And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (ESV)
Dear Lord Jesus, You have come to preach in other towns like our own. Send us faithful preachers that will deliver your life-giving Word to us without stinting on Your pure gospel and unalloyed by the poison of human opinion. When we have heard them preach, allow us to confess that we have heard You from their lips; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For the family of William Fontenot, who passed away, that they would have the comfort of Christ's triumph over death

For Heather Walker, that the Lord of the church would grant strength and healing to her

Peter Demro, who is gravely ill, that the holy angels would surround his bed granting him the peace that surpasses all human understanding
Art: RAFFAELLO Sanzio  The Transfiguration (1518-20)

Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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