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*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Luke 4:33-37 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Luke 4:33
  • Luke 4:34
  • Luke 4:35
  • Luke 4:36
  • Luke 4:37

While Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum synagogue, a man with an unclean demon begins crying out and identifying Jesus as the Holy One of God. Jesus swiftly rebukes the demon to keep quiet and come out of the man. It does. The crowd’s amazement at Jesus’s authority increases because He not only teaches with authority, He even commands unclean demons and they obey Him. News of this amazing event spread all throughout the district of Galilee. This is the first specific miracle performed by Jesus that is explained in Luke’s gospel. 

The parallel gospel account for this passage is Mark 1:23-28.

The previous verses (Luke 1:21-22) serve as Luke’s introduction to this event. The Gospel writer tells us that on the Sabbath, Jesus taught in the synagogue of Capernaum and the Jews in attendance were amazed at the authority with which He taught. 

As Jesus was teaching and the people were amazed, Luke explains a startling disturbance:

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice (v 33).

A person with an unclean demon would be a disturbing sight to behold at any time and any place. But for Jews seeing such a possessed man in their synagogue on the Sabbath likely brought on an extra level of distress. Many Jews at that time believed that some places and/or times were more or less prone to the presence of unclean spirits

The Sabbath was believed to offer some protection from demons. So would a synagogue. And yet here was a man in their synagogue on the Sabbath who was clearly disturbed by an unclean demon. If a man could be plagued by an unclean demon in a synagogue, he presumably could be plagued by one just about anywhere or any time. Troubling indeed. 

Either as Jesus was teaching, or just as He finished teaching, a man with an unclean demon cried out with a loud voice. This man was demon-possessed. The things he cried out were from his mouth, but it does not appear that it was the man who was speaking, but rather it was the unclean demon who was speaking through his body. The demon-possessed man cried out

“Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us?” (v 34a).

The man with an unclean demon cried out two questions and one declaration.

The first question was: What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?

The evil spirit also referred to Jesus by His human title: Jesus of Nazareth. It is not exactly clear why the unclean demon addressed Jesus this way. It may have been trying to minimize, or insult, or blaspheme God by speaking to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, a mortal human instead of almighty and eternal God. In any case the unclean demon was clearly speaking to Jesus.

The question he asked appears to be rhetorical. The expected response was that Jesus and the unclean demon have nothing to do with each other. God is holy. The unclean demon was evil. This demon instantly (and correctly) perceived the total contrast of Jesus’s righteousness and its own unrighteousness. 

Consequently, this unclean demon immediately recognized Jesus for who He was—the Holy One of God. The unclean demon was a member of the kingdom of darkness and was probably a fallen angel who rebelled with Satan before the earth was formed. As God, Jesus “is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The unclean demon’s first question highlighted the contrast between it and Jesus

The unclean demon’s first question also appears to have a sense of fear and surprise. What business do we have with each other could be a way of saying: “What are YOU doing here?” 

The demon’s fear and surprise carry over to his second question. The unclean spirit’s second question was: Have You come to destroy us? (v 34).

This question appears to be genuine (and not rhetorical). The unclean demon recognized the power and purity of Jesus. The demon appears to have been startled to see the Holy One of God on earth. 

Since Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, when he abdicated his divinely assigned authority over creation, the physical world has been under the usurped rule of Satan and his legions (Psalm 8). That is why the devil and his demons are described as the rulers of this age (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). Satan’s rule as a usurping tyrant will one day come to an end. When the Holy One of God returns and destroys him and his demons (Revelation 19:11-21). 

This unclean demon may have understood this. And the unclean demon may have been terrified that the Holy One of God had come now to destroy him

The Holy One of God had indeed come. And the unclean demon correctly recognized Jesus for who He was as God’s Holy One. But Jesus did not come to earth the first time to destroy Satan once and for all. God sent His Son to reclaim and redeem His creation (John 3:16-17). The business He came to do was to first defeat sin and death and to invite all mankind unto Himself (John 12:31). 

Had the Jews recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God and accepted Him and His kingdom when He first came, perhaps Jesus would also have come to destroy the unclean demon and its ilk. However, Jesus was rejected by His own (Matthew 27:22-25; John 1:11) and He did not fully inaugurate His kingdom at the end of His first coming. 

The next time Jesus comes, His business will be to destroy Satan and his legions (Revelation 20:10). This unclean demon now seems to fear that this is that time. 

After asking these two questions, the unclean demon made a bold declaration: I know who You are—the Holy One of God! (v 34).

Once again, the demon instantly recognized Jesus’s identity as the Messiah and God, even if men were slow or unable to see this truth.

After the demon possessed man cried out with a loud voice in the synagogue, Luke reports how Jesus responded.

When the unclean demon said this, Jesus rebuked the demon by saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” (v 35).

There were two parts to Jesus’s stern rebuke of the unclean demon

The first part of His rebuke was: Be quiet

Jesus did not want the unclean demon revealing His identity to others for several reasons. He wanted to give people the opportunity to come to Him and know Him by faith. Jesus also likely did not want evil spirits vouching for Him because it falsely gave the impression that they were working together. They were absolute enemies. They had NO business with each other. If Jesus allowed the demons to speak for Him people might draw the wrong conclusions.  

The second part of Jesus’s rebuke of the unclean demon was: and come out of him! This part of the rebuke was to command the unclean demon to leave and depart the troubled man he was controlling. 

The spirit of the unclean demon instantly obeyed Jesus’s command:

And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm (v 35b).

The demon left him violently. It was “throwing him into convulsions” (Mark 1:26). But with a physician’s concern, Luke adds how the unclean demon came out of him without doing him any harm.

The man was healed and free. 

The casting out of unclean spirits at that time was typically left for religious professionals who specialized in exorcisms. Jewish exorcists used elaborate rituals and formulaic incantations to offer protections against evil spirits and exorcize demons. 

Jesus, remarkably, neither performs a ritual nor speaks an incantation in this case. He simply issues a command and the unclean demon instantly surrenders. Such authority and power impressed all who witnessed this astounding scene unfold:

And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out” (v 36).

The people in the synagogue were all amazed at His authority again.

First, they were all “amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22; see also Luke 4:32).

Now they were all in amazement over the authority and power with which He commands the unclean spirits who “obey Him” (Mark 1:27).

Luke tells us that after they witnessed this amazing sight, they began talking with one another about what they just seen. Luke also points out how all who were in attendance that day in the synagogue connected the message of Jesus’s authoritative teaching (Luke 4:32) with the authoritative power He displayed as Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man

Luke concludes his record of this amazing encounter about the rapid and immediate response it had among the people of that area.

The people who witnessed this event were so amazed that they continued talking about it after they left the synagogue. Word spread fast throughout not only the city of Capernaum, but also throughout the wider district

And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district (v 37).

The surrounding district was the Roman district of Galilee, located in the northern portion of Rome’s province of Judea. All the towns within the district of Galilee—every locality—quickly heard reports of this amazing event. (See map.)

Though Luke has already told us that Jesus has been performing miracles, Jesus’s exorcism of the demon in the Capernaum synagogue is the first specific miracle that Luke records in his Gospel account.

Biblical Text

33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, 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 quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. 36 And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” 37 And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.




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