How would you answer someone who said to you: What makes Jesus unique from the other gurus and spiritual guides that are in the world today? What makes His words worth more than those of Mohammed, Confucius, Joseph Smith, Dr. Phil, the Pope or the President of the United States? Why do many Christians (those who believe the Bible) have the audacity to say that following Jesus is the only true way when there are so many different religions in the world?
It is a key question. In fact, to even raise such a question may offend some of you. You may be quite comfortable with a Christianity that celebrates Jesus as our personal Savior “of choice”. However, when we start using terms such as the “only way” you may feel we have become narrow minded and have taken things too far. We live at a time when it is fine to believe in Jesus as long as you keep that belief to yourself.
In our text this morning we are going to see why the people who lived at the time of Jesus believed Him to be unique and the only way of salvation and new life. We are going to see that Jesus is the one with the power to make a real difference in life in the areas where we need a real difference to be made. The word and idea we will see as a common theme in this passage is “authority”.
Authority in His Word
In Luke 4:14-19 Jesus read from Isaiah 61 telling how the Messiah would transform the lives of people. In these verses Luke shows us by the actions of Jesus that He does indeed fulfill this prophecy. The first thing we are told is “Then he went down to Capernaum, a town inGalilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.”
The teachers of the day, much like the teachers of our day used to draw their authority by quoting various sources (much like we would use footnotes or quotes). Jesus didn’t need to quote anyone. He did not rely on the understanding of others. Jesus had a wisdom that was more profound than any of His peers or those who have gone before Him.
Think about this, 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth His words are the most studied words of history. Throughout the world today people are poring over His words. On any given day there are millions who are studying and memorizing His words! People still debate his ideas and even the most hardened cynic marvels at His wisdom. His words have an uncanny relevance to our contemporary situation. They have the ability to speak to the deepest needs of our soul. They penetrate our defenses and see us as we are. They cut to the heart of the problem.
The words of Jesus are used to bring comfort to the hurting; calm to the troubled; direction to the lost; hope for the hopeless; and insight to the searching. You can read His words, teach His words and memorize His words and you will not finish mining their depth and richness..
Authority over the Demons
Sometime during the time when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath a man who was possessed by a demon apparently started screaming, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” (v.34)
Put yourself in this scene. If someone started screaming during a sermon it would freak us all out. We are told that the reason the man was screaming was because he was possessed by a demon. Let’s be honest, the idea of demon possession is something pretty foreign to most of us. The Bible never tries to explain the supernatural world of Angels and Demons. I suspect this is because there is no way to explain that does not trivialize the supernatural. So I do not understand (much less explain) this supernatural phenomena. However, I can share the little I have concluded from reading the Bible.
- Demons are agents of Satan that can take control of an individual and even speak coherently
- Demon possession is not simply another name for insanity.
- The Bible does not equate every disease with demon possession
- Though there is resemblance, it is not true that demon-possession is simply another name for multiple personalities or dissociation. Demons are spiritual beings who on occasion leave one being and enter another (the Bible tells of a time they left a person and entered a herd of pigs). Demons are always evil (sometimes one of the personalities in a person are good). Demons cannot be driven out or controlled by psychological treatments or medicine.
I do not believe followers of Christ can be inhabited by demons because a true believer is already inhabited by the Holy Spirit. We can still be influenced and assaulted by demons. It would seem that non-believers can still be demon-possessed even though I cannot say that I have ever met a demon-possessed person or that I would recognize someone who was so possessed.
There are lots of other questions that I don’t have answers for. Let’s just say this: When it comes to the Devil and demons we must avoid two extremes: First, we should not demonize everything (that is, we must avoid the extreme of using the Devil as a scapegoat to avoid taking personal responsibility for our lives). That is to give the Devil too much credit. On the other hand we must not dismiss the reality of the Devil’s power. That is to underestimate his power and influence. Toying with the occult and black magic is a dangerous and stupid practice. When you ask for trouble you usually find it.
What is confusing about the passage is that the Devil sounds like he is helping Jesus. However, by announcing Jesus as the Messiah the demons are trying to either cause the people to condemn Jesus of blasphemy or incite the people to follow Jesus for the wrong reasons (since they didn’t really understand that He was not coming as a political leader but as a spiritual leader. He did not come to overthrow the power over us by political force but by His sacrifice on the cross.) By pushing the issue, the demons hoped to derail God’s plan.
The thing to see is that the demonic powers had to submit to the authority of Jesus. Jesus had supernatural power. When He commanded even the demons had to obey. When a substitute teacher walks into a classroom they are sometimes met with disrespect and indifference by the students. However that all changes if the regular teacher happens to poke their head into the room and says, “Just let me know if anyone gives you a hard time and I will take care of them.” Why? It is because the regular teacher has real authority over the students. The demons had to submit to Jesus because He had real authority over them.
Authority over Brokenness
After this unique meeting in the synagogue had ended, Simon (who we know better as Peter), invited Jesus over for dinner at his home. When they arrived they found Peter’s mother-in-law suffering from a high fever. Since Luke was a physician, when he adds details like “a high fever” it is significant.
I suspect this woman was so miserable she probably wanted to die. She may have been weak, dehydrated and had no energy whatsoever. We are told that Jesus “bent over her and rebuked the fever (like he rebuked the demon), and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.” One minute this woman was on death’s door and the next she is getting up and fixing lunch! If you have ever had the flu, you know that even after you feel better it takes a number of hours or days before your energy returns. This woman’s healing was complete and sudden. In fact the thing you will notice about the healings of Jesus is the fact that there was never any doubt that the people had been healed. The healings were always instantaneous and complete!
It didn’t take long for word to travel throughout the town. As soon as the Sabbath had ended at sundown (you were forbidden to do anything kind of “work” or travel on the Sabbath) the people carried their sick to the home of Simon. We read that Jesus laid “his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ but he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.’”
Imagine this. Jesus was worn out from a long day and yet He took time to touch each person. He treated each person individually and healed every disease. Whatever the problem Jesus made it right. Jesus is a personal Savior. His involvement with people is not detached, it is real and intimate. He is the one who has the power and has love and compassion to go with that power. He is worth following.
The Source of His Power
We can only guess that the healing of these people went on late into the night. Giving yourself to others is exhausting. When that last person was healed and everyone finally went home or had fallen asleep I bet it was quite late. When morning dawned the crowds started to gather once again at Simon’s home. The people wanted to learn more about this man. They wanted to be taught by Him. I suspect many had gone and gathered sick friends from surrounding communities in the hope that they too would be healed (wouldn’t you do the same?)
However, when the people arrived at Simon’s home to look for Jesus they couldn’t find Him. Luke tells us that Jesus had gone to a solitary place. Instead of sleeping late (or perhaps at all) Jesus escaped to be alone with God. Jesus knew His strength came from His communion with the Father. He sought to do His will and His will alone. The adulation of the crowd could be intoxicating. Jesus maintained balance through prayer. His power was a derived power . . . he gained his power from the Lord.
The people wanted Jesus to stay. But Jesus said God told him it was time to move on. Jesus possessed authority but it was an authority that was subject to a higher authority. He didn’t come to be a celebrity; He came to be a Savior. He didn’t come to draw crowds; He came to deliver a message from God. He didn’t even come to solve all the health care problems in Israel; He came to point people to the answer to their spiritual problems.
Do you remember our initial question? What is it that makes Jesus worth following? Why is He unique among all the teachers in the world? Why is He is ONLY Savior? It is because Jesus has the power to make a real difference in life where we need a real difference to be made.
Sadly, we hear of too many who draw crowds with their teaching but upon closer examination reveal that their lives do not match their profession. They make great claims that lack any supporting evidence. Jesus is worth following because He has power backed up by an incorruptible life! He spoke with authority, He had authority over the demons and over disease and brokenness, and He has a compassion that is unequalled. Jesus claimed to be God in human form and behaved like God in human form.
Yet, what we read this morning is only part of the Jesus story. As you read further you discover that Jesus was
- Arrested without a fight and even predicted what was going to happen
- He was Crucified (the most torturous death invented) without ever cursing
- He Prayed for His torturers, asking God to forgive them
- When He died He did not do so in defeat but with a cry of victory
- Three days later he rose from the dead
- His resurrection and the time he spent with His disciples was so compelling that these men were changed forever. They served in His power and died proclaiming Him without fear.
- He Ascended in front of his friends gloriously into Heaven
- He promised to send the Holy Spirit and the Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost
As you talk with people in the world today they may question why we claim that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. They will wonder how we can be so close-minded as to claim that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. But the answer is simple: it is because He is the One who alone has the credentials!
Our job is not to argue people into the Kingdom of Heaven. Our job is to point people to Him. Our job is to say: “Look at this man. Look at His life, look at His death, look at the fact of His resurrection. Is He not who He says He is?” We may not be able to explain how it all works. We don’t have to. It is not our understanding that saves us . . . it is Jesus who saves us! If you are a skeptic today here’s the question: How do you account for Jesus? How do you explain Him? Yes, His claims were bold. The question is: did He back up those claims?
I think there are two conclusions we should draw. First, since Jesus is the one who has power and authority over demons and diseases, then He also has the power needed to help you. In the midst of all that healing going on at Simon’s house I wonder if there were people who stood in the background who wondered, “I wonder if He can help me?”
Your problem may not be a physical one. Your issue may be a stained past. It may be a ruined marriage, a history of abuse, or a rage that is out of control. You may be involved in some kind of illegal or immoral activity. You may be a person who has a sterling reputation on the outside but on the inside your life contains secrets you are afraid to disclose to anyone. Your life may be so hectic that you don’t even know which way is up. You may be pulled in so many different directions that you have completely lost any sense of balance. In short, you may feel your situation is hopeless.
Perhaps you have come here today because you knew you had to do something. You came to church “just in case” there was something to this “god-thing”. You have come to the right place. Even more importantly, you have come to the right person. The Jesus who set the demon possessed people free can set you free. The one who healed those who were sick can heal you. The one who brought life back into Simon’s mother in law can give new life to you. He can heal your body, your heart, your memories, your mind and He can heal your soul. He alone can make you right with God.
Like the people in the story, you must come to Him. You must come to Him confident that He can do what no one else can do. You must come to Him looking for that new beginning. He is here and through His sacrifice on your behalf He can help you begin again. Reach out to Him today. Become His follower. Put your life in His hands.
Even those of us who belong to Him need to be reminded that the Lord is sufficient for our needs. Whether it is a nagging addiction or an anxiety that keeps you awake at night; whether it is a deep bitterness or a feeling of being lost; whether it is a sense of failure or inadequacy; Jesus is the One to turn to. Stop looking to other things to do what you know only Jesus can do! He who has changed your life in the past is sufficient to help and sustain that life now. Keep trusting Him.
Second, note that if Jesus needed to draw strength from time alone with God, how much more do we. Sometimes I feel like I am always harping about the fact that we need to read and memorize Scripture, pray, and worship more genuinely. It sometimes feels like a commercial that keeps playing that you eventually just ignore.
These are not just words designed to get people to be more “churchy”. This advice is the key to living a fulfilled life. It is kind of like the instruction in the owners’ manual of your vehicle that tells you to fill the tank with gas and regularly change the oil if you want the vehicle to perform as designed. You could go to the service station every day and park your car and go inside and sit around (and I know this is what some of you do) but doing just this isn’t going to help you extend the life of your vehicle. You can actually memorize the owner’s manual and become friend with the mechanic. You can purchase cases of oil and store them in your garage. However if you never actually fill the car with gas and never change the oil, the car will break down.
In the same way, reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, and truly giving yourself to heartfelt worship is valuable because it is how we refuel our spirit. It is how we connect with this incredible Savior. You can come to church each week and you can do churchlike stuff but if you never connect with the Lord, you will run out of gas and break down. It is His power that fuels our lives. It is His authority that gives us wise direction. He has provided the resources we need to keep our tanks full but we must take advantage of them.
People spend their lives looking for what Jesus alone can do. He is the only one who can cleanse and truly change a human heart. He is the only one who change our direction and our destiny. He alone has the power to make a difference in our life where we most need a difference to be made. And that make Him alone worth following.