Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 4:33 - 4:34

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 4:33 - 4:34


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DISCOURSE: 1488

AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT CAST OUT

Luk_4:33-34. And in the synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?

IF any doubt the existence and agency of devils, the history before us is well calculated to satisfy them upon that head. It is evident that though Satan spake by the mouth of the man whom he possessed, he spake in his own person, and in the name of those other spirits that were leagued with him. To represent this man as disordered with an epilepsy or falling sickness is to confound things which the evangelist was most careful to distinguish [Note: ver. 40, 41.]. Besides, we cannot conceive that a physician (for such was St. Luke) should mention it as a remarkable circumstance that a disorder “did not hurt” a man by leaving him [Note: ver. 35.]; whereas, if we suppose this to have been a demoniacal possession, the observation is just and proper; for we may be sure that when Satan threw down his poor vassal, he would have hurt, yea, killed him too, if Jesus, by an invisible but almighty agency, had not interposed to prevent it. There being many accounts of evil spirits cast out by our Lord, we shall not advert to every circumstance of this miracle, but endeavour to improve that particular incident mentioned in the text; viz. the request of Satan that Jesus would let him alone. In order to this we shall,

I.       State the grounds of Satan’s request—

In acknowledging Jesus to be “the Holy One of God,” Satan might be actuated by a desire to bring the character of Jesus into suspicion, as though they were in confederacy with each other; or perhaps he wished to impress the people with an idea that none but madmen and demoniacs would make such an acknowledgment: but in requesting Jesus to let him alone he was instigated rather by his own fears—

1.       He knew Jesus—

[Jesus was like any other poor man; his own Disciples, except on some extraordinary occasions, did not appear acquainted with his real character. But Satan knew him, notwithstanding the lowly habit in which he sojourned among men. He knew Jesus to be the Son of God, who had left the bosom of his Father, that he might take our nature, and dwell amongst us. He was well aware that this Holy One must of necessity feel an irreconcileable aversion to such an “unclean spirit,” such a wicked fiend as he was; while at the same time there was no hope of prevailing against him either by fraud or violence. Hence he wished to be left to himself, and to be freed as much as possible from his interposition.]

2.       He dreaded Jesus—

[It is not impossible but that Satan’s expulsion from heaven might have arisen from his refusal to do homage to the Son of God. However this be, he well knew that Jesus was “the promised seed,” who should ultimately “bruise his head.” He had already been foiled in a conflict with this despised Nazarene, and had learned by experience the impossibility of resisting his command. Nor could he be ignorant that Jesus was to be his judge in the last day, when the full measure of his sins should be meted out to him, and his present miseries be greatly augmented. Hence, while he “believed, he trembled.” Hence those requests which he offered on other occasions, “Torment me not;” “send me not into the deep,” that is, the depths of hell. Hence also that question, in the passage before us, “Art thou come to destroy us?” No wonder that, under such circumstances, he should be filled with terror, and ask, as the consummation of his highest wishes, to have a respite granted him.]

That such desires were not peculiar to Satan will appear, while we,

II.      Inquire whether similar requests be not offered by many amongst us—

It is certain that many hate the declarations of Christ in his Gospel—

[Men will endure to hear those sins, from which they themselves are free, exposed and condemned; but when the light is brought to discover their besetting sins, they hate it, and wish to have it removed from them. This is found to be the case even in the public ministration of the word. But it obtains in a still higher degree in private and personal admonition. Let a servant of Christ come in his master’s name to a man that is proud or covetous, lewd or dissipated, or under the dominion of any particular lust, and let him set before that man the enormity of his besetting sin, and the judgments denounced against it; will he find a welcome? will not the sinner wish to change the conversation? will he not say in his heart, perhaps too with his lips, ‘Let me alone; what hast thou to do with me?’ Will not he regard such a monitor as an enemy to his peace, and be ready to ask, “Art thou come to destroy” all my hope and comfort? Yes; nor is this aversion to the light peculiar to the sensual and profane: it is rather found to be more inveterate among those, whose regularity in outward things has afforded them a ground for self-admiration and self-complacency.]

Such persons accord with Satan both in sentiment and inclination—

[To hate the authority of Christ in his word is exactly the same as to hate his personal authority when he was upon earth: and to wish to have the light of his truth withheld from us, is the same as to desire the restraint of his personal interposition. Nor is this a mere fallible deduction of man’s reason; it is the express declaration of God. They, who would not hear the law of the Lord, are represented by the prophet as saying to him, “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us [Note: Isa_30:9-11.].” Job speaks yet more plainly to the same effect: he represents those who spent their days in wealth and pleasure, as saying to the Almighty, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways: what is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him [Note: Job_21:13-15.]? It is evident, that not only the sentiments of these sinners, but also their very expressions, are almost the same with those of Satan in the text.]

To evince the folly of harbouring such dispositions, we shall,

III.     Shew the inefficacy of such requests, by whomsoever they may be offered—

It was in vain that Satan pleaded for a temporary liberty to indulge his malice—

[Jesus would not even receive his acknowledgments, but peremptorily enjoined him silence. Nor would he suffer Satan to retain possession of his wretched slave: he would not even permit this cruel enemy to “hurt” him; so little were the wishes of Satan consulted by our Lord and Saviour.]

In vain also will be all our wishes to retain with impunity our beloved lusts—

[God may indeed forbear to counteract us for a season, and say, “Let him alone [Note: Hos_4:17.].” When he sees that we “will none of him,” he may justly give us up to our own hearts’ lusts [Note: Psa_81:11-12.]. But this would be the heaviest curse that he could inflict upon us. It would be even worse than immediate death, and immediate damnation; because it would afford us further opportunities of “treasuring up wrath” without any hope of obtaining deliverance from it: besides, it would be only for a little time, and then “wrath would come upon us to the uttermost.” When we stand before the judgment-seat we shall in vain say, ‘Let us alone; What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?’ Our doom will then be fixed, and our sentence executed with irresistible power and inexorable firmness. When once we are “fallen into the hands of the living God,” all hope of impunity or compassion will have ceased for ever.]

This subject affords us occasion to suggest a word or two of advice—

1.       Rest not in a speculative knowledge of Christ—

[We observe that Satan was well acquainted with the person and offices of Christ: but, notwithstanding all he knew, he was a devil still. To what purpose then will be all our knowledge, if we be not sanctified by it? It will only aggravate our guilt, and consequently enhance our condemnation also. We never know Jesus aright till we love his presence, and delight in an unreserved compliance with his will.]

2.       Endeavour to improve his presence for the good of your souls—

[He comes to us in the preaching of his Gospel: he has promised to be with us whenever we are assembled in his name. Shall we then either by our aversion or indifference say to him, ‘Let us alone?’ Let us rather say, ‘Lord, expel this evil spirit from my heart; take me under thy care; and “fulfil in me all thy good pleasure.” ’ Thus shall the “prince of this world be cast out:” and we, his poor vassals, be “brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”]