1. The same account is found at Mk. 1:21-28 which should be studied too. On this occasion Jesus made His first appearance in a synagogue in the north, just as in Jn. 5 He made His first appearance in a synagogue in the south. On this occasion Jesus drove out a demon. In Jn. 5 He healed a lame man.
2. Twice our text tells us (vss. 32 and 36) that the people were amazed at Jesus' teaching which was authoritative. Mk. 1:22 states that His teaching was with authority and not like that of the scribes. The scribe teaching was flowery, empty and vain. Jesus' teaching was simple, full of grace and truth and carried His Father's authority.
3. Jesus had defeated Satan in the desert (Mk. 1:12-13; Mt. 4:1-11). But Satan tried his best during Jesus' ministry to wreck His work. Therefore cases of devil-possession occurred with higher frequency during Jesus' days on earth. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I Jn. 3:8) and to overcome the one who had the power of death, the devil (Heb. 2:14). In the book of Acts there are very few cases of devil-possession. In Jesus' day the people could recognize devil- possession. See vs. 36 of our text. Furthermore, it is clear from Lk. 10:17-20 that the seventy knew that they were dealing with demons. We cannot deny the possibility of miracles and devil-possession in our time. But it is difficult to prove an occurrence. This writer thinks that miracles and cases of devil-possession have practically ceased.
4. At Mk. 5 and Lk. 8 in the account of the devil-possessed man, we read that many devils possessed one man. But in our text only one demon is said to have been in one man. The demon said: " know who You are." Therefore, when he says: "What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?" the demon-possessed means the other people and himself. "We" and "us" does not mean "we demons" but "we people." The demon possessed the man and spoke through the man but the demon-possessed identified himself with the other people.
5. Some scholars think that the question "Have you come to destroy us" should be read as a statement: "You have come to destroy." Either way the demon-possessed is portraying Jesus as a destroyer of mankind, not the Savior of mankind. Satan uses the demon-possessed as a missionary. Does Satan do that today? Yes. For example, he comes to us and whispers in our ear: "Did Jesus really save you or is He phony?" or he may say: "Jesus does not really care about you. Don't believe those preachers."
6. Very likely this demon-possessed man came to the synagogue every week. The unauthoritative teaching of the scribes did not excite the demon. But when Jesus spoke in the synagogue the devil struck back and cried out in the synagogue.
7. The devil and his demons are always unclean, obscene, with no truth in them. This demon overpowered this man so that he had to do the demon's will. When Jesus said: "Be quiet and come out of him" the demon did not obey the first command but had to obey the second command.
8. Jesus said at Lk. 10:19: "Nothing at all will hurt you." Vs. 35 of our text says that the demon came out violently but did not harm him. The devil left very reluctantly but had to do Jesus' will and not do harm.
9. Jesus forbade the demon to speak because the demon was accusing Jesus of being a destroyer of mankind, not the Savior of mankind.
10. The demons confessed that Jesus was the Holy One of God, the Son of God. That is more than the Jews admitted. James 2:19 says: "The demons believe but tremble." Their faith is only knowledge. They do not agree to the Truth, nor do they put their confidence in it.
11. This miracle proved Jesus' divinity (cf. Mt. 11:5). That's why news about Jesus went into the surrounding district of Galilee.
12. Jesus did not come saying: "I am the Holy One of God. I am the Son of God." He taught the people and did miracles so that they came to the conclusion that He was the Holy One of God and His Son. For example, Jn. 4:25.26 and Lk. 24:31.
THEME: Who Is This Holy One Of God?
The sentence "You are the Holy One of God" occurs only twice in the N.T., at Jn. 6:69 in the mouth of Peter and here (and its parallel, Mk. 1:24) in the mouth of a demon. There is a similarity and yet there is a great difference. This reminds us of what James 2:19 says "You believe that there is a God but their belief in the purpose of His coming is quite different. That's what this sermon is about.
I. THE DEMONS BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS ONLY A DESTROYER
A. The character of these demons. Vs. 33 tells us that this spirit was an unclean spirit. From the description in the text we know that this indicates a perverse and incorrigible character. In Jesus' presence he shrieked. He threw the boy to the ground. He wanted to harm and destroy the boy and would have if Jesus had not prohibited him from doing this. At Jn. 8:44 Jesus tells us that the devil is a murderer, that there is no truth in him and that he is the father of lies. I Pet. 5:8 tells us that the devil is our adversary and that, like a lion, he goes about seeking to devour someone. Think of what the devil did to Job. Think of what the devil did to Judas when he entered Judas' heart.
B. The belief of these demons. Js. 2:19 says that the demons believe that there is a God but it only causes them to tremble. To the devil God is only a destroyer. The demon said: "You have come to destroy us" or, if it is a question: "Have you come to destroy us?" The word "us" can be taken in two ways. It could mean "us demons" or it could mean "us people." The victim was possessed by an unclean spirit. He identified both with the people and with the demons. If the demon meant "us demons" he was thinking only of judgment day. If he meant "us people" he was thinking of Jesus only as a destroyer. In either case the thought of Jesus as Savior was foreign to his thinking. It is true, of course, that Jesus will destroy the unbeliever but His purpose in coming was not to destroy but to save.
II. THE DISCIPLES BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS ONLY THE SAVIOR
A. The character of the disciples. Jn. 6 is the account of the feeding of the 5000 and what happened the next day. Many of the 5000 returned the next day to get more bread. In fact they wanted to make Jesus their "bread-king". But Jesus used the occasion to tell them why He had come to earth. He pleaded with these people to accept Him as their Savior. Four times He promised to raise them up on the last day, but they did not want Him. All except the twelve disciples left Him. And so Jesus asked them: "Do you also want to go away?" And Peter answered: "Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the Words of eternal life. And therefore we have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Then John mentions that one of the twelve, Judas, was a devil. Even then already, a year before Jesus' death, Satan was working in Judas' heart.
B. The belief of these disciples. The devils believed and trembled. Jesus' disciples believed and were comforted. When Jesus turned the water into wine, His disciples believed in Him. Jn. 2:11. When He raised Lazarus from the dead the disciples and many of the Jews believed in Him. The miracles of Jesus caused His enemies among the Jews and the demons to turn against Jesus. The record of the many miracles of Jesus cause us to believe that He is the Son of God and that He came to seek and save the lost. The report about Jesus spread in the country around where Jesus was working and preaching. We too should spread the report about Jesus in our country.