Commentary on Luke 4:31-37
Immediately after his mixed reception in Nazareth, Jesus moves on to Capernaum, a town on the north shore of Galilee, which was to be the base from which Jesus did much of his missionary work. As in Nazareth, he taught the people in the synagogue on the sabbath. Unlike in Nazareth, “his teaching made a deep impression” on the people because he spoke “with authority”. He did not quote other authorities, like the teachers of the law, because his authority was directly from God, it was his own.
At the same time, it was not the authority of domination. It was the authority of someone who has access to special knowledge, the authority of someone who speaks in his own name and not just on behalf of others, the authority of one who empowers others and makes them grow. (‘Authority’ comes from the Latin auctoritas, which in turn comes from the verb augere, to increase or augment).
And Jesus’ authority is not only in word and teaching. Right there in the synagogue as he speaks is a man possessed by an “unclean spirit”. The spirit speaks through the man. It speaks in fear of the power of Jesus. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” This title seems to indicate that the spirit recognises Jesus’ divine origin but not his Messiahship. There was a belief in those times that knowing the exact name of one’s opponent gave one power over him.
Jesus ordered the evil spirit of the man who was thrown to the ground but not hurt. The people are amazed. Exorcism was not new to them but they had never seen it done with such speed and effectiveness. They are astounded again at the power and authority of Jesus. They realise they are in the presence of someone very special, in fact, the “Holy One of God”.
Each one of us is given authority of some kind – as a parent, a teacher, our job responsibility… Let us make sure that we use it in such a way as to enhance the abilities of others rather than diminish them.