24 April 2020

Luke 4:31-44 What Happened in Capernaum?

Luke 4:31-44

In the previous passage, Jesus rebuked his hometown for saying that he would perform miracles and do good works in Capernaum instead of in Nazareth. Understanding this passage really hinges on understanding geography and history.

Nazareth in AD 30 was a village of around 400 people. It was based inland and at that time would not have been well connected to the surrounding region. Capernaum was a town of around 1,500 people and was situated on the Sea of Galilee, a lake separated from the Dead Sea by the Jordan River. Most of the three years of Jesus' ministry was spent crossing this lake by boat visiting its coastal towns. Until Jesus departs for Jerusalem in Luke 19, all of the named locations he visits are situated along this one lake. Had he chosen to remain in Nazareth, he would not have been able to visit all the places God called him to.

Now that we know why Jesus set up in Capernaum, what did he do there that would have made the people of Nazareth so covetous? First, he begins to teach in the synagogue, and the people are amazed because he speaks with authority (31-32). Then he begins performing miracles, healing people (38-40), and driving out demons (33-35, 41). He is so successful in Capernaum that the people would not even let him leave. They search for him, but he tells them that he must go to the other towns also (42-43). In contrast with Nazareth, it seems the people of Capernaum, though zealous, are reluctantly willing to share (44).

Many interpret the miracles in this passage literally. But Luke goes from talking about Jesus teaching with authority, to performing miracles, and then back to teaching. What could these miracles tell us about Jesus' teaching? These miracles give us a clear illustration of Jesus' authority as he rebukes the demons and causes them to come out, and rebukes the fever and causes it to come out. Luke is showing us with these miracles that what Jesus says is true. When he says something will happen, it does. It also illustrates the nature of what Jesus is telling us. When Jesus speaks, it is to improve our lives, to heal our sick and banish our torments.

In the next chapter, we'll see how what happens in Capernaum does not stay in Capernaum.

Peace be with you.

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