A short time later, a few days at most, and we see Jesus and his disciples going from Peter’s house by the seashore to the fine new synagogue which had been built for the Jews by a Roman centurion.
Many are coming this morning, for they know that “the great Rabbi” will be there.
The lessons are read and the prayers repeated, and it may be that Jesus himself is about to speak when a voice calls out:
“Let us alone: what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thous come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.”
Who was it that had so harshly broken into the service? It was a harmless lunatic. The Authorized Version speaks of him as a “man which had a spirit of an unclean devil”. It would have been better translated by the words, “a man which had a spirit of an unclean demon,” for whereas the word devil means “a false accuser”, the word demon was used to express the idea common in the East that diseases were due to the working of evil spirits. When, therefore, they spoke of a man being possessed of a demon they meant that he had an infirmity.
We follow the same manner of speaking today when we refer to a person as a lunatic. The word lunar means “relating to the moon”, and a man was called a lunatic because it was thought that the changes of the moon had some effect on his mental illness. We may even sometimes say when a person says or does a very foolish thing that he must be “moonstruck”. We do not really believe this, however, though we use the term; it is merely a manner of speaking common in our midst, the meaning of which is well understood.
In Luke 8:27, and then verse 35, we notice a case of this character in which, after being healed, a man is spoken of as being in his “right mind”. Before healing took place he was therefore “mentally ill”, and this was spoken of in verse 27 as being possessed of “devils a long time”.
In just the same way we shall often read of Jesus “rebuking” the devils, “casting out” the devils, “commanding” the devils. We shall be able to understand what is meant if we make two columns and put side by side similar phrases:
Jesus “rebuked the devils”
Jesus “rebuked the fever”, “rebuked the wind and the sea.
He healed the disease: he quieted the storm.
Jesus “cast out devils”, “commanded the devils.”
God “cast out their sorrows”, “commanded the ravens to feed Elijah”
As God caused the sorrows to cease and the ravens to bring food, so Jesus caused the illness to be cured.
The second sentence explains the first.
Let us now go back to the scene in the synagogue.
Jesus rebukes the lunatic, and then heals him, and the astonished congregation see one whom they probably knew to have been for some time mentally ill, now cured of his insanity. “And they were all amazed.”
“And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.”
Excerpt from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell
Read what happens next on this memorable Sabbath in Luke 4:38-44.
Painting by Francesco di Antonio di Bartolomeo, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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