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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. – Luke 4:31-37 [ESV]
“Shock and Awe.” That was the term Norman Schwarzkopf used to describe the manner in which United States forces were going to engage enemy troops in the first Persian Gulf War. War is an ugly business. I’m not in favor of it, but if you are going to go to war, you must go to win. And as far as the military battles were concerned Coalition forces totally owned that war. This is not an endorsement of war, but a comment on the nature of overwhelming an enemy and winning a battle.
Jesus shows the surpassing power and complete dominance over his enemy in these few verses. It’s as though Jesus is showing up in a shock and awe manner to overwhelm and subjugate the devil and his evil angels. He is making a statement here. Establishing his complete dominance over the forces of evil, sickness, and the powers of darkness. Letting Satan know he was moving into the neighborhood and claiming that which was rightfully his. Reclaiming those who had been stolen from him. Bringing back life, health, and faith. This is like a western movie when the new sheriff shows up and kicks out the bad guys.
Except it’s not.
Jesus doesn’t use guns, bombs, tanks, or any implement of war. He uses simply his word. I love this. Jesus rebukes the demons and they flee. Jesus speaks and they’re history. He exercises authority and they obey. He commands the fever to leave and the patient suddenly recovers.
I’ve experienced that one time in my life. I was very ill. I felt miserable. I had fever and chills. I had an upper respiratory infection. Sneezing, coughing, and congestion defined my existence. I asked Diane to pray for me. She did. Ten minutes later the fever broke. It was a delightful relief! She didn’t rebuke the fever. But you would have to say that she went to war for me. And I’m thankful for it!
Jesus lived this every day. And for now as he makes his presence known he is large and in charge. But this is not for his sake. And although it is a great blessing for those he heals, it’s not even just for them. He is doing these things as testimony against Satan and his reign of terror, and as a public display of what God’s reign and rule looks like (more on that tomorrow).
But there will come a time when God’s reign and rule looks very much different. The King of kings will be enthroned on a cross. He will be hailed by mockery. He will triumph by dying. It will look nothing like Jesus’ glorious moments of power and authority does here. But that is the secret of Jesus’ true power. His outward success doesn’t establish it. Jesus’ true power is the power of faith. His unwavering commitment to God’s ways no matter what gave him the moral authority to triumph over the demons.
That same commitment would lead him to the cross three years later. But it won’t stop there. It will go from the cross to the grave and from the grave to the glory and splendor of majesty at God’s right hand once again. And just as we have to believe that Jesus was reigning when he was being crucified, we must now believe he is reigning in the face of war, violence, injustice, disease, and even death. His is a word of life and grace for which I am deeply thankful. It’s very obvious when fever is lifted and evil is vanquished. I must remember that also in the dark times. How about you?