Since my sophomore year of high school, I have been into lifting weights. In fact, just a little later today I will be hitting the gym to workout. Suppose I were to come to you and tell you that I could bench press 400 lbs. What would be your the first thing you would ask me to do? “Prove it.” Right? You want proof that I can indeed bench press 400 lbs. And if I could not then you can know whether or not I can do what I claim to be able to do.
Well, in all honest, I cannot bench press 400 lbs. While I can probably max out at 230 or 240, that is not 400 lbs. But this serves to illustrate what is happening in Luke 4.31-44 (and even into chapter 5). Jesus is making some very bold claims: as we saw in verses 18-21, he is claiming to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. God has made some claims about Jesus as well: Luke 3.22b, God says that Jesus is his Son. Even the devil knows who Jesus is when he tempted him: “since you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4.3, 9). So Jesus is claiming to be able to spiritually bench press not just 400 lbs., but and entire world of sin. After all, that is his mission – to die for the sins of the world. Only the Son of God can offer a sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father that will enable God to forgive the sins of mankind.
But it is not enough for Jesus to claim this. He, being human, understands the mind of man and knows what man will ask him to do: prove it. The cry of every man and woman is for proof that Jesus is the Son of God and is able to do what he claims he can, namely redeem us from a world of sin, forgive us all our sins, and grant us eternity with the Father. So Jesus, prove it.
Authority over demons
Verses 31-32 gives us the context for the following miracles. Jesus is teaching (v.31) as he travels throughout Galilee and the people are amazed at his teaching. But they are not amazed because of his eloquence or deep booming voice or because he was some kind of a showman. Certainly Jesus could have been all these but the reason the people are amazed at his teaching is because “his message had authority.” There was power behind. What kind of power are we talking about?
Verses 33-37 gives us the first demonstration of the authority behind his message. Jesus exercises authority over demons. A man with a demon in the synagogue has a confrontation with Jesus and acknowledges who Jesus is: the Holy One of God. Notice the spirit realm knows and acknowledges the second person of the Godhead. Jesus, vested with divine authority to back the message preached, rebukes the demon and causes it to come out of the man. The people are amazed and the news about Jesus spreads. The have heard his teaching (v.36) and recognize the power and authority behind it.
Authority over sickness
Now we see Jesus as the master over human disease and sickness. Peter’s (Luke calls him Simon in this context) mother-in-law is sick. Jesus heals her. Many people come as the sun is setting. There are sick people and also more demon possessed people. Jesus heals the sick and still has the power to drive out demons. He is not just a one shot guy who can only perform a miracle when it is convenient or by slight of hand when no one is looking; his power is constant. Notice also there is more confirmation from the spirit realm as to the identity of Jesus: he is the Son of God and the Messiah.
Jesus does not allow his power or fame to distract him. Very early he wakes up and goes out spend some time in a solitary place no doubt praying (see Mark 1.35). Luke is highlighting Jesus’ dependence upon the Father as the power source and the one who enables him to do what he is doing. Jesus is constantly mindful of the fact that God is at work through him. We would all do well to note the humility of Jesus in acknowledge the Father as the source of all power. We should not become so busy that we cannot take time out of our day (even if it is early in the morning) to have some quiet time with the Father in prayer.
I believe the temptation is always in front of Jesus to remain popular. The people want him to stay (as perhaps his hometown did) and be their miracle worker – clear the hospitals, cleanse the town, etc. But because Jesus has had time to refocus and realign himself with the will of God, he recognizes that he must move on and keep preaching elsewhere. And that is what he does in the synagogues of Judea.
We see Jesus traveling about preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God. But his message is not merely word; there is action, power behind it. Jesus is confirming the word spoken by the miracles he is working thereby giving authority to his message. And we have this same confirmed word today. Christ and his apostles have done the dirty work of confirming the word for us, thus proving it and the power behind it. We do not have a dead letter religion, Catholicism notwithstanding. We have a living word and with authority. We have eyewitness testimony and confirmation of the word. And we “will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts” (2 Peter 1.19).