Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:16a “When the even was come, . . .”
Our days last from midnight to midnight, but Jews reckon days from sunset to sunset. Our text refers to the end of a remarkable Sabbath Day (MK 1:21) in the city of Capernaum. At a worship service in the synagogue, Jesus had taught and then healed a demoniac (LK 4:35). At Peter’s house, Jesus healed a mother-in-law.
As this amazing Sabbath Day wore on, news of Jesus’ presence and power spread like wildfire through Capernaum. Unfortunately, its citizens were frustrated and restrained. In Jewish law, healing on a Sabbath was illegal, for it was a day of rest, and healing made God work. Thus, the sick who lived near Peter’s house waited. It was illegal to travel more than some two-thirds of a mile on a Sabbath. Thus, the sick who lived on the outskirts of town waited. It was unlawful to carry a load on a Sabbath; people were not allowed to carry a sick person on a stretcher or in their arms or on their shoulder. Thus, caregivers sat by sick loved ones and waited.
There were no clocks in Jesus’ day. To make sure no one fudged and thereby infringed on the end of a Sabbath Day, Jewish law had ruled that the Sabbath was not officially over until three stars could be seen in the sky. As Saturday evening drew to a close, all over Capernaum, people were whispering, “Do you see a star yet?” “Are there two?” “Tell me when you see a third.” Then suddenly it happened, a third star was seen, and the greatest day in Capernaum’s history began.
A wife took her blind husband by the hand, and they started walking. A father motioned to his deaf daughter, beckoning her to follow. A mother picked up her crippled son, and straining under the load, began running with all her might to Peter’s house. Once star number three appeared, there was no restraining people’s desperation. An eerie impulse directed a tidal wave of sickness toward Peter’s house.
Had Herod or Caesar been there, only nobility, the rich, and the strong would have dared come, but since Jesus was present, the sick, hurting, and weak came. On this Hospital Sunday, Peter’s house became an emergency room, streets became hospital hallways, sidewalks were hospital wards, and pallets became hospital beds.
I guess no one realized how many sick people there were in Capernaum. If there is no hope for a cure or help, it is easy to try to protect one’s own sanity by ignoring or denying the full weight of human suffering nearby. I often feel we do not have a clue as to the vast amount of needs lurking within closed doors all around us.
Behind the happy, seemingly secure, plastic faces we see daily is a mountain of hurt waiting and wanting to be helped, yet wondering if any real help is available. These people need somebody to tell them of–no, better yet–to bring them to Jesus. This is what the people of Capernaum did with their hurting acquaintances.
Matt. 8:16b “. . .they brought unto him many that were possessed with
devils: . . .”
Publicly healing a demoniac in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day brought our Great Physician many more patients with spiritual disorders. They sensed He could help them in their struggles against evil spiritual beings.
In the troubles we face in our own lives, we often cannot tell what part, if any, of our suffering is from the devil. Be wise. Defer to God. Ask Him to remove from our suffering any element of the demonic.
We have every right to do this. Jesus came to disarm and destroy the devil. He broke Satan’s power, and gives us authority over evil in any form in our lives.
The Satanic part of suffering is at times the easiest aspect of our troubles to deal with. It can be rebuked and renounced due to Jesus’ blood shed in our behalf.
Often the hardest part of suffering is the pain God causes, the part which He allows to linger to test us and to strengthen us. Pray with authority about our difficulties and suffering, but whatever pain remains, we must yield to with submission.
Matt. 8:16c “. . .and he cast out the spirits with his word,. . .”
The people came with their vast assortment of spiritual disorders, and Jesus fixed them all. The concept is so simple that we are in danger of stumbling over it.
I fear we sometimes spend too much time talking about spiritual warfare, and not enough time claiming spiritual victory. We argue about the differences between demon possession, demon oppression, demon obsession, and demon whatever else.
Good grief, brothers and sisters, wake up and look around. While we split theological hairs, the world around us is being engulfed in a demonic tidal wave. Call it whatever you want, the devil has been let loose in our society. Sin and its accompanying miseries have ripped through restraint and are running with free rein.
Let’s slice through the muddle, and get to the bottom line. The bad news is, Satan the roaring lion is seeking to run rampant over everybody everywhere. The good news is, Jesus the Lion of Judah is still throwing Satan out of human beings.
Jesus fought and humiliated the devil on this day in Capernaum, and will do the same again today for us in Springfield, Missouri. What happened then and there can happen here and now. Jesus is just as much with us as He was with them.
We even have the same medicine Jesus used in Capernaum. He healed with His word, and His word is still with us. He utilized no magic, no charms, no razzmatazz. He simply used His word because He knew it would be the one thing His people in all generations would be able to have. He beat Satan then the way He would do it forevermore in order to encourage His followers in every age to come.
As a mathematician by training, I enjoy finding foolproof logic. I believe I have found it in the premise that what happened at Peter’s house can happen in our Common House. Follow the logic–today we have the same spiritually needy people as then, the same devil, the same Jesus, the same word–the only reasonable conclusion is to complete the equation by saying, expect the same results today.
In your life, what is the stronghold whereby Satan holds you by the throat–alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, anger, gluttony, meanness, pride, bigotry, sex sins, lust, pornography, a cold heart toward Jesus, a forgetfulness of God? This list could go on and on. In this very room, the warfare is engaged on scores of fronts.
Our crying need is for Jesus to cast these demonic influences out of our lives. This is not to say an experience or a single event will end all our troubles, but it can begin a process of undoing our shackles. A powerful, dramatic encounter with Jesus can unlock prison doors. It can be the opening salvo in a process which will entail ongoing accountability, small groups, daily prayer and Bible time, church attendance, etc. Paul, after his overwhelming Damascus Road experience, had to find Ananias, and felt a need to get away for three years of processing in Arabia.
Event and process have to go hand in hand. For the prechristian, process must be preceded by the event of being born again; and the born again experience must be followed by process. For the Christian, a moment of deeper brokenness and more yielded surrender must be followed by process; and often the process has to be marked by events of deep surrender.
It is not our place to put God in a box and determine how He will work in our lives. Our role is to come to Jesus with our needs, to let Him do in us whatever needs to be done, the way He wants to do it, whether it be event or process, or both.