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The Example of Christ

Luke 4:31-44

We often seek for deep meaning in the Scriptures. Sometimes the meaning is right in front of us; the best method of teaching is still by example:

And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, "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!" 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. 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." And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district. Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them. While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ. When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. But He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose." So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

(Luke 4:31-44 NASB)

God’s Worker

We may begin by examining this passage carefully, looking at Jesus as God’s worker – as one of us might be.


The first thing we note is the authority in which God’s worker moves and acts. In our day all authority seems to come from the government; we forget that all authority belongs to Christ. What can we see here?

  • Authority comes from responsibility; they walk hand in hand in the kingdom of God. If you have authority to cast out demons, you are obliged to use it. God is the perfect leader, and in his work authority and responsibility match. So, ultimately, will reward.
  • Authority is carried personally. There is no sense in which we can see Jesus acting as if, “Today I will assume the role of exorcist.” The president does not cease to be the president because he goes upstairs and puts on his pajamas. God’s worker does not cease to be God’s just because he’s on his secular job. Authority is personal.
  • All authority now descends from Christ, to whom all authority is given. If you cannot trace your authority back to him – usually through the responsibility you are given – then you don’t have it.
Uncompromising righteousness

It sometimes puzzles readers why Jesus commanded the demons to be silent – when they were telling the truth in their terror. But is it not obvious that the legions of light can have nothing to do with the darkness? The example is not limited to ancient times:

  • We now hear the pantheist chant: “all religions are equally true.” Which is to say, they are all equally false. Does anything else in this world have such a characteristic? To use the obvious example, are all presidential candidates equal? If so, why an election? Why not just flip a coin, or take turns?
  • Such righteousness is not just proclaimed – it is practiced. You cannot teach righteousness on Sunday and live wickedly throughout the week – and expect God to honor your Sundays.
  • Note well: this is not the self-righteousness that condemns the sinner, but the God-righteousness that condemns the sin.
“While the sun was setting”

Note that Jesus works while there is opportunity to work. God gives opportunity for us to work, and expects us to use it.

  • Such an opportunity, by definition, has a starting time. It also has an ending time. He will not be pleased if we spend the time in between debating what to do, waiting to be sure or engaging in analysis paralysis.
  • Such work must continue “until sunset.” We are not privileged to decide that we can retire from God’s work. Such retirement is death – one way or another.
  • Is this hard? If you think so, please remember that what you love to do defines who you are. Duty will eventually be cast aside in age; love will not.
“A secluded place”

No soldier can stay on the front lines indefinitely. There must be a time when they are relieved of this duty – and go to prepare and repair. To prepare? To prepare for whatever might come next; to repair whatever has been damaged in the fight.

  • Christ sets us the example: he frequently and regularly goes out into a secluded place to seek the Father in prayer.
  • He does so even as there are those pressing him to remain and continue healing; so his inner life precedes his outer life.;

One thing I have noticed: this is easy to do in time of pain. It is much more difficult in time of triumph – when it is often needed the most.

God’s Fellow Workers

We may also take a lesson from those around Jesus, particularly Peter’s mother-in-law.

They invite him in

Our homes are our fortresses. It is there we feel we can hide our failings and quirks from the rest of the world. We put a roof on to keep the rain out; we put a door on to keep the world out.

  • But the worker of God opens the door of his home – spiritual or physical – to the Lord. If you want to be effective for him, there can be no fortress held against him.
  • It is not a grudging entry; it is the invitation of hospitality. For our guests we sacrifice the present, the pleasant and the private; do we do the same for our Lord?
  • We invite him in. Christ is the perfect gentleman; he stands at the door and knocks. We must bid him welcome.
They bring him to their troubles

Note, not “they bring their troubles to him.” There is a difference. When you bring your troubles to Jesus, you are asking him to fix them – and nothing else. When you bring him to your troubles, you are asking him to do what he knows to be the best for you.

That, of course, is a risk. A very large risk indeed. For Jesus may decide that what you thought needed a coat of paint really needs to be torn down and rebuilt. You should expect him to do more than solve the problem; you should expect him to reward such faith with his blessing. He will – if you will trust him completely in this.

They are saved to serve

It is a mercy that we have no record that this woman stood up and began to shout “Glory, Hallelujah.” Some of us are blessed – and won’t let the rest of the world forget it.

This woman, however, understands what to do with a blessing. She is saved to serve. She knows she cannot repay the blessing given – but she can pass it on to the next person. Being blessed does not make you a plaster saint. We are servants of God, not icons.

Reaction: the people around

Fair warning should be given: acting like a committed Christian does not necessarily produce the reactions you might expect.

Amazed, astounded

It is not just the healing that astounds them; it is the authority in which it is done. It is completely new to them.

  • Well, it’s not normal. Healing isn’t normal. Neither is the degree of charity we are called to have. Nor is the degree of devotion. We’re not normal. Get used to it. This can either be a barrier (look at the weirdoes) or a bridge (God loves even me?).
  • Remember, this is the church – not the Rotary club. We are not a human organization, but Christ’s own creation. We should walk in his power and authority.
  • This walk can also provoke resentment. The unrighteous will find us unreasonably uncompromising. The ordinary man will find us marching to the different drummer, and therefore unpredictable. Either way, we will be very uncomfortable to them.
Spread the news

It is a dependable part of the human mind: if it’s news, it will spread fast. It’s different, noteworthy, weird, odd, quirky – whatever, we will spread it.

Humans, you see, are not only insatiably curious, they love to be in the position of the story teller. We sometimes forget that “gospel” means “good news.” When people see it in our lives, the word spreads.

But that has its edge, too. When such news arrives, it obliges the hearer to make a decision. Even the sound of good works causes the reflection, “I wish I was like that.” The light comes; the darkness flees.

Seek Him

Ultimately, for those outside the faith, our desire is the same as always: that they might indeed hear the Good News. We often see classes that tell us that we can learn the secrets of spreading the Good News. There is no secret. But there is a guiding principle: lift Him up. If your life exalts Christ, others will know – and know why.

Ultimately, however, we also seek Him. It is a search which draws us ever closer to him, a search which cannot end in this life. But someday – may it be soon, Lord – we shall see him face to face.

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