[Note: This is the “Old” version of the Grace Commentary on Luke. It will be updated to the new version soon.]
In fulfillment of Luke 4:18-19, Jesus continues to carry out His ministry through preaching the gospel and performing miracles.
4:38. After preaching in the synagogue and casting out the demon (4:33-35), Jesus entered Simon’s house. This is the first time Simon—who later becomes known as Peter— is mentioned in the book of Luke, and he has not yet officially become a disciple of Jesus (cf. Luke 5:1-11). Simon is probably one of those who regularly attended the Capernaum synagogue, and they went there for the Sabbath afternoon meal. But when they arrived, they learned that Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever. Simon was married and had a wife (cf. 1 Cor 9:5), and his mother-in-law lived there as well, and she was sick. The fact that she is living with her son may indicate that she was a widow (Malina 2003:244; Green 1997:225).
The term Luke uses here for high fever is an actual diagnoses for a well-known fever at that time, also called Eshatha Tsemirta, or the “burning fever” (Gk. puretō megalō; Bock 1994:436). The Jewish Talmud prescribes the following remedy: one must take a knife made of iron and tie it to a thornbush with a braid of hair and then for four days, recite one verse a day from Exodus 3:2-5. On the fourth day, the bush is to be cut down, and a formula should be pronounced (Edersheim 1988:486).
But Jesus did none of this. Instead, they—probably Simon and his wife—made a request to Jesus to see if He would heal her. They did not demand something of Jesus, or expect magical rites and ceremonies, but made a simple request to Him.
4:39. In response to their request, Jesus stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. No ceremony or rite was required. Jesus simply told the fever to depart, and it did. The terminology here is nearly identical to the immediately preceding event when Jesus rebuked the demon (4:35). Some have argued that this indicates that this fever was caused by a demon (cf. Bock 1994:436). Later, Jesus rebukes the wind and waves (8:24), and so some see similar demonic influence there. But such understandings read too much into the text, and give too much credit and power to the devil. It is better to understand these texts as ways of revealing that Jesus has come to reverse all that is wrong with the world, whether it is demonic oppression, disease and sickness, or destructive storms. Furthermore, Luke is a physician and knew the difference between sickness and a demon. He says Simon’s mother-in-law is sick, and we must not read more into it than that. Also, if this sickness was caused by a demon, then the healing that Jesus performs here would only continue to show His power and authority over demons; not His power and authority over regular physical ailments. But Luke is intent on showing that Jesus has power over all areas of life which cause problems to humans.
So after Jesus healed the woman, she arose and served them. She was serving them food on the Sabbath, which was not a violation of the Sabbath. Luke records this to show that not only was she healed of the fever, but she also received all her strength. She did not have to recuperate (Pentecost 1981:146). And once she is healed, she served. Being healed by Jesus resulted in service to Him.
4:40. Near the end of the Sabbath day, as the sun was setting, Jesus went out from Simon’s house to heal all who were sick with various diseases. There are no complaints about Jesus healing on the Sabbath, though this will become an issue later as the religious leaders look to find some fault with Jesus. On this Sabbath, He didn’t heal just a select few, but laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. Jesus was not just a good teacher of spiritual truths, but also sought to alleviate pain and suffering in the people around Him. And He wasn’t concerned only with those who were closest to Him, but for all people who came with their needs.
4:41. Jesus not only healed the sick, but demons also came out of many. As they were case out by Jesus, many tried to proclaim who He was, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” This is very similar to what the demon in 4:34 said. The demons were intent on proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. They were not necessarily proclaiming Him to be God, but simply the Anointed One of God.
Why would the demons want to announce Jesus as the Messiah? Some have taught that the demons were trying to make it appear that the power of Jesus was demonic. If they were seen to be His heralds, than it was possible that the people would begin to believe that Jesus was in league with the demons. And in fact, this was an accusation that was later leveled against Jesus (Luke 11:15). However, this view is highly unlikely since the demons were known to be evil, and yet they were proclaiming Jesus to be the Holy One of God. If anything, the demons were trying to make themselves appear to be like God by proclaiming the Messiah, rather than the Messiah more like the demons. This is possible, since the original rebellion of the devil involved him wanting to be like God. But demons and fallen angels are probably two different types of beings, and so this view is unlikely.
Instead, in proclaiming Jesus as “the Son of God” the demons were trying to reinforce the popular opinion that the Jewish Messiah would be a ruling and reigning King who would go to war against Caesar and the Roman Empire, liberating the Jewish people once and for all. As seen in Luke 4:1-13, the devil wanted Jesus to become a kingly, ruling Messiah, and do so through short cuts that circumvented the plan and purposes of God. The testimony of demons would certainly spread this false conception of the Messiah and make the task and purposes of Jesus even more difficult. Proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God when Caesar had claimed this title for himself would be seen to be an act of war and treason against Caesar (cf. Barclay 1975:54; Bock 1994:438).
Jesus knew that a false testimony from demons would only enhance and spread this false impression about what He was going to do. He had come, not to wage war against Caesar, but against the devil. And so Jesus rebuked the demons, and did not allow them to speak.
4:42 It appears that Jesus spent most of the night healing the sick and casting out demons, for the text says that when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. The deserted placeis similar to the wilderness of 4:1 where Jesus was led by the Spirit to face the temptations of the devil. The wilderness is seen to be a place of both testing and ministry preparation. In this case, the temptation may have been to rest after a long day of ministry filled with teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Instead, Jesus retreated from the crowds to pray (Mark 1:35).
Nevertheless, the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them.Someone who taught as He did, and healed all their sick and cast out demons was someone they wanted to keep around. Though they accepted the teaching of Jesus, “the people at Capernaum also make the mistake of their counterparts in Nazareth: Failing to understand who Jesus is and, therefore, the scale of his mission, they hope to limit his ministry to their own boundaries” (Green 1997:220).
4:43. Jesus understood that He did not come for a select group of people in a select geographical area. So He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” This is a direct reference back to 4:18 since similar terminology and ideas are used. As the Messiah, the “Anointed One” He has been sent (Gk. apestalēn) to preach the gospel (Gk. euangelisasthai) of the kingdom.
This is the first time Jesus has mentioned the kingdom of God. It refers not to some future reign of God, but to the inbreaking of God’s rule and dominion over all the earth in the present time. It begins to bring light to the promise of the angel about the kingdom without end that the Messiah would bring (1:33), and also show the true form of the false kingdom which had been offered to Jesus by the devil (4:5-6). Jesus had come to declare that the Kingdom of God was being set up in and through His life and ministry, and this Kingdom was clashing with the kingdom of the devil.
What will this Kingdom look like? He has already described it in His preaching (cf. Luke 4:18-19) and in His actions of healing the sick and casting out demons (cf. Luke 11:20). Much of the rest of the ministry of Jesus is spent explaining what this Kingdom looks like, how it is arriving, how it will expand, and what His followers can do to continue the growth of the Kingdom. It is for this reason that Jesus was sent (Gk. apestalēn. Jesus is the first “sent one” or “apostle” and He will soon select others who will join Him in being sent to proclaim the arrival of God’s Kingdom (cf Bock 1994:440).
4:44. So Jesus went out from Capernaum and continued to teach about the Kingdom of God in the synagogues of Galilee. Jesus continued to go to the Jewish people when they gathered in the synagogues to proclaim from the Scriptures what the Kingdom truly was, how it would look, and how He had come to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.
Luke 4:43-44 has pointed the reader back to Luke 4:14-15 as a way of summarizing the entire ministry of Jesus. He was preaching and healing. What was He preaching, and why? He was preaching the good news that He, as the Messiah, had come to usher in the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:18-19; 4:43). Having shown this point, Luke begins to show how Jesus selected disciples who would carry on this mission to the world. The mission of Jesus and His followers “is a ministry to the marginalized of society—to the demonized, to the diseased, to women as well as men. Moreover, as expected, Jesus’ ministry carefully balances word and deed, teaching and healing/exorcism” (Green 1997:220).