We are looking at various eyewitness accounts about Jesus recorded in the Bible. If you want something more current, there is a great website called “I Am Second” that offers hundreds of personal eyewitness testimonies from people TODAY about what it’s like to encounter Jesus and to put him first in your life. It’s filled with people from every walk of life, including both celebrities and everyday people. They tell their stories simply and in the first person narrative, saying “this is what happened to me”. If you watch a few of them some of the first-hand reactions to Jesus are surprising, but they are compelling in both their content and presentation.
An Unexpected Reaction
In the Gospels there are also some great snapshots of eyewitness reactions to Jesus of Nazareth, including this one, which provides testimony from a place you’d least expect it: “Then he [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:31-34, NIV)
The eyewitness in this passage is not one of the people in the synagogue, even though they were amazed at his teaching, and it’s not Luke, who recorded it later for posterity. It’s not even the poor man who was possessed… For a clue as to its identity, read verse 34 again.
This eyewitness appears on the scene from almost out of nowhere with a startling affirmation about who Jesus was. It’s not surprising that people were amazed at his teaching. He spoke with authority. As a result what Jesus said contained so much truth that even the small portions of it we possess are still amazing to us today, twenty-one centuries later. (Small portions, you ask? Don’t forget that John ends his Gospel with this: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25)
“Out of this World” Recognition
What’s significant about this passage is the fact that He was recognized by the spirit who possessed a man in the Capernaum synagogue. This spirit called him by name and identified him as “the Holy One of God!” Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36 that He came to usher in a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one. If that statement was true, I guess it makes sense that a spirit would recognize a spiritual king and know about who he was. You may not acknowledge a spirit world, but I’ll tell you this: the spirit world acknowledges you.
How often have you seen evil in our world that seems beyond human comprehension? (Think: Holocaust, mass murderers, senseless shootings…) If there is no evil spirit at work, why are there those who worship Satan or practice dark rituals? Second, there is evidence of evil taking place somewhere every day. I don’t think most of us even begin to know about places that Satan and his minions touch our world, but I bet you’ve seen evidence of it. Surely we can look around our world and see inhumanity because that’s exactly what it is. Humans act “inhuman”, motivated by forces beyond themselves. Consequently they achieve levels of evil that the average person doesn’t even think of.
I’m sure that onlookers in the synagogue at Capernaum had to be asking themselves, “Who was this man who taught with authority and was known by name to even the spirit world?” Do you ever wonder about that yourself? It’s a great question—read a few snapshots about Jesus this week and answer it for yourself.
I made my home here years ago, so cozy and secure;
I found myself a helpless host whose motives were impure,
Who followed my suggestions, stepping deeper into sin
So smoothly that he didn’t hesitate to let me in!
Capernaum has really been a great place to reside.
The coastal vibe is nice, and there are places we can hide.
The synagogue gives handouts, and they think my host is crazy–
Though truth be told, he’s really just inhabited, and lazy…
Wait! Who is THAT?! He hurts my eyes! My heart is seized with fear!
The Holy One of God?! What is HE doing way out here??
I’ve never felt a spiritual force so powerful and big;
I guess I’m gonna have to go and find another gig…
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