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The Man with an Unclean Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he 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.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus Heals Many at Simon’s House

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

A Preaching Tour in Galilee

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

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The Opening of Christ's Ministry.

14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,   15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.   16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.   17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.   18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.   19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.   20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.   21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.   22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

Here is, I. A general account of Christ's preaching in Galilee. John gives an account of his preaching in Judea, before this (ch. ii. and iii.), which the other evangelists had omitted, who chiefly relate what occurred in Galilee, because that was least known at Jerusalem. Observe,

1. When Jesus began to preach in Galilee; After that John was put in prison. When he had finished his testimony, then Jesus began his. Note, The silencing of Christ's ministers shall not be the suppressing of Christ's gospel; if some be laid aside, others shall be raised up, perhaps mightier than they, to carry on the same work.

2. What he preached; The gospel of the kingdom of God. Christ came to set up the kingdom of God among men, that they might be brought into subjection to it, and might obtain salvation in it; and he set it up by the preaching of his gospel, and a power going along with it.

Observe, (1.) The great truths Christ preached; The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. This refers to the Old Testament, in which the kingdom of the Messiah was promised, and the time fixed for the introducing of it. They were not so well versed in those prophecies, nor did they so well observe the signs of the times, as to understand it themselves, and therefore Christ gives them notice of it; "The time prefixed is now at hand; glorious discoveries of divine light, life, and love, are now to be made; a new dispensation far more spiritual and heavenly than that which you have hitherto been under, is now to commence." Note, God keeps time; when the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, for the vision is for an appointed time, which will be punctually observed, though it tarry past our time.

(2.) The great duties inferred from thence. Christ gave them to understand the times, that they might know what Israel ought to do; they fondly expected the Messiah to appear in external pomp and power, not only to free the Jewish nation from the Roman yoke, but to make it have dominion over all its neighbours, and therefore thought, when that kingdom of God was at hand, they must prepare for war, and for victory and preferment, and great things in the world; but Christ tells them, in the prospect of that kingdom approaching, they must repent, and believe the gospel. They had broken the moral law, and could not be saved by a covenant of innocency, for both Jew and Gentile are concluded under guilt. They must therefore take the benefit of a covenant of grace, must submit to a remedial law, and this is it—repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. They had not made use of the prescribed preservatives, and therefore must have recourse to the prescribed restoratives. By repentance we must lament and forsake our sins, and by faith we must receive the forgiveness of them. By repentance we must give glory to our Creator whom we have offended; by faith we must give glory to our Redeemer who came to save us from our sins. Both these must go together; we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without the reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ hath joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder. They will mutually assist and befriend each other. Repentance will quicken faith, and faith will make repentance evangelical; and the sincerity of both together must be evidenced by a diligent conscientious obedience to all God's commandments. Thus the preaching of the gospel began, and thus it continues; still the call is, Repent, and believe, and live a life of repentance and a life of faith.

II. Christ appearing as a teacher, here is next his calling of disciples, v. 16-20. Observe, 1. Christ will have followers. If he set up a school, he will have scholars; if he set up his standard, he will have soldiers; if he preach, he will have hearers. He has taken an effectual course to secure this; for all that the Father has given him, shall, without fail, come to him. 2. The instruments Christ chose to employ in setting up his kingdom, were the weak and foolish things of the world; not called from the great sanhedrim, or the schools of the rabbin, but picked up from among the tarpaulins by the sea-side, that the excellency of the power might appear to be wholly of God, and not at all of them. 3. Though Christ needs not the help of man, yet he is pleased to make use of it in setting up his kingdom, that he might deal with us not in a formidable but in a familiar way, and that in his kingdom the nobles and governors may be of ourselves, Jer. xxxi. 21. 4. Christ puts honour upon those who, though mean in the world, are diligent in their business, and loving to one another; so those were, whom Christ called. He found them employed, and employed together. Industry and unity are good and pleasant, and there the Lord Jesus commands the blessing, even this blessing, Follow me. 5. The business of ministers is to fish for souls, and win them to Christ. The children of men, in their natural condition, are lost, wander endlessly in the great ocean of this world, and are carried down the stream of its course and way; they are unprofitable. Like leviathan in the waters, they play therein; and often, like the fishes of the sea, they devour one another. Ministers, in preaching the gospel, cast the net into the waters, Matt. xiii. 47. Some are enclosed and brought to shore, but far the greater number escape. Fishermen take great pains, and expose themselves to great perils, so do ministers; and they have need of wisdom. If many a draught brings home nothing, yet they must go on. 6. Those whom Christ called, must leave all, to follow him; and by his grace he inclines them to do so. Not that we must needs go out of the world immediately, but we must sit loose to the world, and forsake every thing that is inconsistent with our duty to Christ, and that cannot be kept without prejudice to our souls. Mark takes notice of James and John, that they left not only their father (which we had in Matthew), but the hired servants, whom perhaps they loved as their own brethren, being their fellow-labourers and pleasant comrades; not only relations, but companions, must be left for Christ, and old acquaintance. Perhaps it is an intimation of their care for their father; they did not leave him without assistance, they left the hired servants with him. Grotius thinks it is mentioned as an evidence that their calling was gainful to them, for it was worth while to keep servants in pay, to help them in it, and their hands would be much missed, and yet they left it.

III. Here is a particular account of his preaching in Capernaum, one of the cities of Galilee; for though John Baptist chose to preach in a wilderness, and did well, and did good, yet it doth not therefore follow, that Jesus must do so too; the inclinations and opportunities of ministers may very much differ, and yet both be in the way of their duty, and both useful. Observe, 1. When Christ came into Capernaum, he straightway applied himself to his work there, and took the first opportunity of preaching the gospel. Those will think themselves concerned not to lose time, who consider what a deal of work they have to do, and what a little time to do it in. 2. Christ religiously observed the sabbath day, though not by tying himself up to the tradition of the elders, in all the niceties of the sabbath-rest, yet (which was far better) by applying himself to, and abounding in, the sabbath-work, in order to which the sabbath-rest was instituted. 3. Sabbaths are to be sanctified in religious assemblies, if we have opportunity; it is a holy day, and must be honoured with a holy convocation; this was the good old way, Acts xiii. 27; xv. 21. On the sabbath-day, pois sabbasinon the sabbath-days; every sabbath-day, as duly as it returned, he went into the synagogue. 4. In religious assemblies on sabbath-days, the gospel is to be preached, and those to be taught, who are willing to learn the truth as it is in Jesus. 5. Christ was a non-such preacher; he did not preach as the scribes, who expounded the law of Moses by rote, as a school-boy says his lesson, but were neither acquainted with it (Paul himself, when a Pharisee, was ignorant of the law), nor affected with it; it came not from the heart, and therefore came not with authority. But Christ taught as one that had authority, as one that knew the mind of God, and was commissioned to declare it. 6. There is much in the doctrine of Christ, that is astonishing; the more we hear it, the more cause we shall see to admire it.

The Expulsion of Evil Spirits.

23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,   24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.   25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.   26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.   27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.   28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

As soon as Christ began to preach, he began to work miracles for the confirmation of his doctrine; and they were such as intimated the design and tendency of his doctrine, which were to conquer Satan, and cure sick souls.

In these verses, we have,

I. Christ's casting the devil out of a man that was possessed, in the synagogue at Capernaum. This passage was not related in Matthew, but is afterward in Luke iv. 33. There was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, en pneumati akathartoin an unclean spirit; for the spirit had the man in his possession, and led him captive at his will. So the whole world is said to lie en to poneroin the wicked one. And some have thought it more proper to say, The body is in the soul, because it is governed by it, than the soul in the body. He was in the unclean spirit, as a man is said to be in a fever, or in a frenzy, quite overcome by it. Observe, The devil is here called an unclean spirit, because he has lost all the purity of his nature, because he acts in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit of God, and because with his suggestions he pollutes the spirits of men. This man was in the synagogue; he did not come either to be taught or to be healed, but, as some think, to confront Christ and oppose him, and hinder people from believing on him. Now here we have,

1. The rage which the unclean spirit expressed at Christ; He cried out, as one in an agony, at the presence of Christ, and afraid of being dislodged; thus the devils believe and tremble, have a horror of Christ, but no hope in him, nor reverence for him. We are told what he said, v. 24, where he doth not go about to capitulate with him, or make terms (so far was he from being in league or compact with him), but speaks as one that knew his doom. (1.) He calls him Jesus of Nazareth; for aught that appears, he was the first that called him so, and he did it with design to possess the minds of the people with low thoughts of him, because no good thing was expected out of Nazareth; and with prejudices against him as a Deceiver, because every body knew the Messiah must be of Bethlehem. (2.) Yet a confession is extorted from him—that he is the holy One of God, as was from the damsel that had the spirit of divination concerning the apostles—that they were the servants of the most high God, Acts xvi. 16, 17. Those who have only a notion of Christ—that he is the holy One of God, and have no faith in him, or love to him, go no further than the devil doth. (3.) He in effect acknowledgeth that Christ was too hard for him, and that he could not stand before the power of Christ; "Let us alone; for if thou take us to task, we are undone, thou canst destroy us." This is the misery of those wicked spirits, that they persist in their rebellion, and yet know it will end in their destruction. (4.) He desires to have nothing to do with Jesus Christ; for he despairs of being saved by him, and dreads being destroyed by him. "What have we to do with thee? If thou wilt let us alone, we will let thee alone." See whose language they speak, that say to the Almighty, Depart from us. This, being an unclean spirit, therefore hated and dreaded Christ, because he knew him to be a holy One; for the carnal mind is enmity against God, especially against his holiness.

2. The victory which Jesus Christ obtained over the unclean spirit; for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil, and so he makes it to appear; nor will he be turned back from prosecuting this war, either by his flatteries or by his menaces. It is in vain for Satan to beg and pray, Let us alone; his power must be broken, and the poor man must be relieved; and therefore, (1.) Jesus commands. As he taught, so he healed, with authority. Jesus rebuked him; he chid him and threatened him, imposed silence upon him; Hold thy peace; phimothetibe muzzled. Christ has a muzzle for that unclean spirit when he fawns as well as when he barks; such acknowledgments of him as this was, Christ disdains, so far is he from accepting them. Some confess Christ to be the holy One of God, that under the cloak of that profession they may carry on malicious mischievous designs; but their confession is doubly an abomination to the Lord Jesus, as it sues in his name for a license to sin, and shall therefore be put to silence and shame. But this is not all, he must not only hold his peace, but he must come out of the man; this was it he dreaded—his being restrained from doing further mischief. But, (2.) The unclean spirit yields, for there is no remedy (v. 26); He tore him, put him into a strong convulsion; that one could have thought he had been pulled in pieces; when he would not touch Christ, in fury at him he grievously disturbed this poor creature. Thus, when Christ by his grace delivers poor souls out of the hands of Satan, it is not without a grievous toss and tumult in the soul; for that spiteful enemy will disquiet those whom he cannot destroy. He cried with a loud voice, to frighten the spectators, and make himself seem terrible, as if he would have it thought that though he was conquered, he was but just conquered, and that he hopes to rally again, and recover his ground.

II. The impression which this miracle made upon the minds of the people, v. 27, 28.

1. It astonished them that saw it; They were all amazed. It was evident, beyond contradiction, that the man was possessed—witness the tearing of him, and the loud voice with which the spirit cried; it was evident that he was forced out by the authority of Christ; this was surprising to them, and put them upon considering with themselves, and enquiring of one another, "What is this new doctrine? For it must certainly be of God, which is thus confirmed. He hath certainly an authority to command us, who hath ability to command even the unclean spirits, and they cannot resist him, but are forced to obey him." The Jewish exorcists pretended by charm or invocation to drive away evil spirits; but this was quite another thing, with authority he commands them. Surely it is our interest to make him our Friend, who has the control of infernal spirits.

2. It raised his reputation among all that heard it; Immediately his fame spread abroad into the whole adjacent region of Galilee, which was a third part of the land of Canaan. The story was presently got into every one's mouth, and people wrote it to their friends all the country over, together with the remark made upon it, What new doctrine is this? So that it was universally concluded, that he was a Teacher come from God, and under that character he shone more bright than if he had appeared in all the external pomp and power which the Jews expected their Messiah to appear in; and thus he prepared his own way, now that John, who was his harbinger, was clapped up; and the fame of this miracle spread the further, because as yet the Pharisees, who envied his fame, and laboured to eclipse it, had not advanced their blasphemous suggestion, that he cast out devils by compact with the prince of the devils.

Christ Healing Many Patients.

29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.   30 But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.   31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.   32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.   33 And all the city was gathered together at the door.   34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.   35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.   36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.   37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.   38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.   39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

In these verses, we have,

I. A particular account of one miracle that Christ wrought, in the cure of Peter's wife's mother, who was ill of a fever. This passage we had before, in Matthew. Observe,

1. When Christ had done that which spread his fame throughout all parts, he did not then sit still, as some think that they may lie in bed when their name is up. No, he continued to do good, for that was it he aimed at, and not his own honour. Nay, those who are in reputation, had need be busy and careful to keep it up.

2. When he came out of the synagogue, where he had taught and healed with a divine authority, yet he conversed familiarly with the poor fishermen that attended him, and did not think it below him. Let the same mind, the same lowly mind, be in us, that was in him.

3. He went into Peter's house, probably invited thither to such entertainment as a poor fisherman could give him, and he accepted of it. The apostles left all for Christ; so far as that what they had should not hinder them from him, yet not so, but that they might use it for him.

4. He cured his mother-in-law, who was sick. Wherever Christ comes, he comes to do good, and will be sure to pay richly for his entertainment. Observe, How complete the cure was; when the fever left her, it did not, as usual, leave her weak, but the same hand that healed her, strengthened her, so that she was able to minister to them; the cure is in order to that, to fit for action, that we may minister to Christ, and to those that are his for his sake.

II. A general account of many cures he wrought—diseases healed, devils expelled. It was on the evening of the sabbath, when the sun did set, or was set; perhaps many scrupled bringing their sick to him, till the sabbath was over, but their weakness therein was no prejudice to them in applying to Christ. Though he proved it lawful to heal on the sabbath days, yet, if any stumbled at it, they were welcome at another time. Now observe,

1. How numerous the patients were; All the city was gathered at the door, as beggars for a dole. That one cure in the synagogue occasioned this crowding after him. Others speeding well with Christ should quicken us in our enquiries after him. Now the Sun of righteousness rises with healing under his wings; to him shall the gathering of the people be. Observe, How Christ was flocked after in a private house, as well as in the synagogue; wherever he is, there let his servants, his patients, be. And in the evening of the sabbath, when the public worship is over, we must continue our attendance upon Jesus Christ; he healed, as Paul preached, publicly, and from house to house.

2. How powerful the Physician was; he healed all that were brought to him, though ever so many. Nor was it some one particular disease, that Christ set up for the cure of, but he healed those that were sick of divers diseases, for his word was a panpharmacon—a salve for every sore. And that miracle particularly which he wrought in the synagogue, he repeated in the house at night; for he cast out many devils, and suffered not the devils to speak, for he made them know who he was, and that silenced them. Or, He suffered them not to say that they knew him (so it may be read); he would not permit any more of them to say, as they did (v. 24), I know thee, who thou art.

III. His retirement to his private devotion (v. 35); He prayed, prayed alone; to set us an example of secret prayer. Though as God he was prayed to, as man he prayed. Though he was glorifying God, and doing good, in his public work, yet he found time to be alone with his Father; and thus it became him to fulfil all righteousness. Now observe,

1. The time when Christ prayed. (1.) It was in the morning, the morning after the sabbath day. Note, When a sabbath day is over and past, we must not think that we may intermit our devotion till the next sabbath: no, though we go not to the synagogue, we must go to the throne of grace, every day in the week; and the morning after the sabbath particularly, that we may preserve the good impressions of the day. This morning was the morning of the first day of the week, which afterward he sanctified, and made remarkable, by another sort of rising early. (2.) It was early, a great while before day. When others were asleep in their beds, he was praying, as a genuine Son of David, who seeks God early, and directs his prayer in the morning; nay, and at midnight will rise to give thanks. It has been said, The morning is a friend to the Muses—Aurora Musis amica; and it is no less so to the Graces. When our spirits are most fresh and lively, then we should take time for devout exercises. He that is the first and best, ought to have the first and best.

2. The place where he prayed; He departed into a solitary place, either out of town, or some remote garden or out-building. Though he was in no danger of distraction, or of temptation to vain-glory, yet he retired, to set us an example to his own rule, When thou prayest enter into thy closet. Secret prayer must be made secretly. Those that have the most business in public, and of the best kind, must sometimes be alone with God; must retire into solitude, there to converse with God, and keep up communion with him.

IV. His return to his public work. The disciples thought they were up early, but found their Master was up before them, and they enquired which way he went, followed him to his solitary place, and there found him at prayer, v. 36, 37. They told him that he was much wanted, that there were a great many patients waiting for him; All men seek for thee. They were proud that their Master was become so popular already, and would have him appear in public, yet more in that place, because it was their own city; and we are apt to be partial to the places we know and are interested in. "No," saith Christ, "Capernaum must not have the monopoly of the Messiah's preaching and miracles. Let us go into the next towns, the villages that lie about here, that I may preach there also, and work miracles there, for therefore came I forth, not to be constantly resident in one place, but to go about doing good." Even the inhabitants of the villages in Israel shall rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, Judg. v. 11. Observe, Christ had still an eye to the end wherefore he came forth, and closely pursued that; nor will he be drawn by importunity, or the persuasions of his friends, to decline from that; for (v. 39) he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and, to illustrate and confirm his doctrine, he cast out devils. Note, Christ's doctrine is Satan's destruction.