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And he 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. – Luke 4:31-44 [ESV]
A delightful little lady (all of 5 feet tall…maybe) introduced herself to me recently at the church I was visiting. I was there to preach and to perform an official duty for the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Sadly, I do not recall her name. But she confessed to me that she would likely call me Honey. I was not offended. Apparently she calls everyone Honey. At least everyone there at that church. Knowing and using someone’s name leverages our relationship. If I call you by name, and claim to know you, I can claim something from you. To the extent that I am persistent I can hound you for help, or favor.
That’s all well and good, and even in regard to calling on Jesus’ name. When we call on Jesus’ name, we can claim certain things. And to some extent it is because we have Jesus’ name. We know who he is. We know what he has promised. We can even call him out if he doesn’t deliver. But careful now! It’s not like we can order Jesus around. That’s what the demon tries to do when Jesus comes into the synagogue.
A man who had the spirit of an unclean demon 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.” He wanted to call Jesus out and undercut Jesus’ work. Maybe he was being sarcastic, perhaps even defiant. This could have been a challenge to Jesus’ power and authority – as though Jesus really couldn’t do what he was about to do.
But Jesus will have none of it. He rebuked the demon, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” He didn’t even call the demon by name. But he had authority and power over this unclean demon, and exercised it.
But let’s go back to the idea of calling Jesus out on his promises. Using his name to demand that God would act in accord with his will. Moses did this:
And Moses said to the LORD, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16)
Others have done it as well. It is still a dangerous thing to do – even if you are certain that you are demanding that God keep his clear word and promise. You don’t put God’s arm up behind his back and perp walk him into submission. But we can rely on Jesus’ word and promise. We can call upon God’s name and expect him to be true to his word.
We may have to come as dogs getting the scraps from the master’s table. (Matthew 15:27) We may need to call out, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) But we must never be defiant. We dare not use Jesus’ name in vain. We know who he is and what he has done. And we look forward to seeing him again at the end of all days. We know who he is. He is the One who answers our prayers, died for our sins, rose for our justification. He deserves always to have his name used in prayer, praise, thanks, and blessing.