31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32 They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man with an unclean demonic spirit who cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Leave us alone! What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 35 But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And throwing him down before them, the demon came out of him without hurting him at all. 36 Amazement came over them all, and they kept saying to one another, “What is this message? For He commands the unclean spirits with authority and power, and they come out!” 37 And news about Him began to go out to every place in the vicinity.
38 After He left the synagogue, He entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. 39 So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and began to serve them. 40 When the sun was setting, all those who had anyone sick with various diseases brought them to Him. As He laid His hands on each one of them, He would heal them. 41 Also, demons were coming out of many, shouting and saying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew He was the Messiah.
42 When it was day, He went out and made His way to a deserted place. But the crowds were searching for Him. They came to Him and tried to keep Him from leaving them. 43 But He said to them, “I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority.
So have you made them yet? Those ambitious aspirations we call “New Year’s Resolutions?”
Each year, we make promises to ourselves to be better, or at least not as bad. We hold on to the hope that the year ahead can (in fact, must) be better than the one behind. So we identify those things in our lives which we feel might lead to a happier, more successful 2014, and we commit ourselves to change.
It’s a great practice. Goal setting, discipline, and vision are all great things. But in the end, we soon realize that as long as we place our hope in our own efforts, we will be disappointed. That’s why we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another year making more resolutions with little realization of the change we hoped for twelve months ago.
So do we need better resolutions? Do we need resolutions to keep our resolutions?
Or do we need to look to a different source of authority and power for the change we seem to innately know we need?
As I read today’s passage, I notice three things, three characteristics of Jesus that seem to have particular implication to this issue. As it turns out, these three things (which are just observations by the way, not a complete exegesis of this text) change the way we look at not only how we keep our resolutions, but which resolutions we make to begin with.
1. His Power Is Absolute
The first thing we see in this passage is how astonished the people were just listening to Jesus. Verse 32 says: “His message had authority.” Clearly whatever they were used to hearing didn’t have this same authority.
This man was different. Then he proved it. A demon-possessed man cried out, interrupting Jesus’ teaching. With a single sentence, Jesus not only commanded the demon to come out, but also prevented harm to the man, despite the demon’s best efforts.
Later in the passage, Simon’s mother was instantly healed when Jesus rebuked her fever. And again, we see yet another instance of Jesus rebuking and commanding demons.
It’s clear that when it comes to the spiritual struggles we face each day, there is only one who has absolute power. Jesus is the only one who is capable of keeping our resolutions. Thankfully, this is the same Jesus that lives in us, making it possible to become everything He created us to be.
2. His Timing is Perfect
Twice in this passage, Jesus not only commands the demons to come out of their hosts, but he also silences them. This is because on each occasion, the demons addressed Him according to who He really was, the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus, however, knew the time for this message had not yet come. It was His message to share, according to God’s timing, not the demons’.
New Years is a convenient time to initiate change. For one, everyone is doing it. And it just seems natural to use a blank 2014 calendar to serve as a sort of clean slate. But that doesn’t mean that God’s plan for our lives always matches up with our holiday schedule. He is always working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
It’s this purpose that drives who we are and what He wants us to become. This all happens according to his timing, not ours.
3. His Plans Are Not Our Plans
You can’t blame the people of Galilee. They loved having Jesus around. He chased out demons and healed sick people. So it makes sense that they would try to keep him from leaving. But Jesus had other plans.
He was sent for a purpose. This purpose involved Galilee, but was not limited to Galilee. Jesus had a larger vision. And while his work in Galilee was good, it was not the greater good. So the Galileans had to deal with the initial disappointment of letting go without the knowledge of what they would gain later through this same Jesus.
And so it is with our lives. Often the change we seek in our New Year’s resolutions is in response to some pain we felt the year before, perhaps through loss or failure. Things don’t turn out the way we planned, and we feel responsibility for it. We weren’t good enough, so we need to be better.
But I wonder how much of this loss or pain comes from chasing after our plans instead of God’s plans. We have ideas about how things should go. And they’re good ideas. But are they a part of the greater good, God’s plan.
God’s plan, his timing for it, and his power to bring it to fruition depend on us, but not how we think. It is a plan that does not ask us to be good enough or strong enough. Instead, it tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing. It tells us that in our weakness, His strength is made perfect.
Perhaps our first resolution for the New Year should be to seek that plan and commit ourselves to it.
- What are your New Year’s resolutions?
- Do these resolutions match God’s plan for your life and his kingdom?
- Have you asked God to show you His place for you in that plan?