Posted by: gbake783 | March 7, 2011

Luke 4:31-37

As our Savior was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, a man with an unclean spirit cried out, “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.”

I’ve  always interepreted the demons’ question “Have you come here to destroy us?” as an act of fear, if not contrition. I considered their response something akin to the proverbial dog running away with its tail between its legs. After a closer examination of OT passages describing “The Holy One,” however, I changed my mind.

First, it’s possible to submit without being submissive. People all the time do what they’re told while harboring evil intentions. They submit because because temporary contrition furthers their rebellious cause; they are simply waiting for the most opportune time to rebel.

And second, it’s possible to make a statement with a question. Although the question has a whiff of contrition, it’s meant only to question the authority. For example, the high school geometry student who asks his teacher, “When are we going to learn something useful?” is neither inquisitive nor teachable. The question is a pointed message to both teacher and classmates: This is a waste of my time.

That said, let’s consider the demons’ question: Are you going to destroy us? The verb they chose, apollumi, means to destroy by ruining. The noun form of the verb, readers of Pilgrim’s Progress know, is a title for Satan, Apollyon (Rev. 9:11). It’s also important to consider some OT passages with the phrase “Holy One.” The phrase (usually Holy One of Israel) is used in the OT over forty times and most extensively in Isaiah. Isaiah 54:5 well summarizes the most common theme associated with the Holy One: redemption – “the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called.”

In fact, Hosea 11:9 most clearly articulates that the first advent of the Holy One is not for judgment, but for mercy: “I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”

The demons, in my opinion, were not meekly begging for mercy. I believe they were attempting to poison the public perception of Jesus’ ministry: “Beware folks, this guy is a destroyer.” They were associating the Holy One with judgment and ruinous destruction, not mercy. Yet, Jesus’ earthly ministry was gracious and salvific: “for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47). It is no wonder, then, that Jesus responded so aburptly to their question, “Silence!” 

Charles de Gaul, leader of the French Free Army in World War II said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Although the demons attempted to sway the synagogue against our Lord, nothing demonstrated our Savior’s authority more that day than their silent, reluctant obedience: “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out” (4:36). The Jews’ amazement begs the question: Does Jesus rule over me? He certainly posseses the authority. But does my life deny that authority exists? Do I lock away certain areas? Do I harbor safe-havens for sin? Jesus and his words possess true authority. Does my life show that I believe it?

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