Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MARK 1:21-28; LUKE 4:31-36
21. And they entered into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbaths, entering into the synagogue, he taught. 22. And they were astonished at his doctrine; for he was teaching them, as one invested with authority, and not as the Scribes. 23. And there was in their synagogue a man liable to an unclean spirit, who cried out, 24. Saying, Ah! what have I to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold they peace, and go out of him. 26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and had cried with a loud voice, he went out from him. 27. And all were astonished, so that they inquired among themselves, saying, What is this? What new doctrine is this? for with authority he commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. 28. And immediately his fame went out into every part of Galilee.
31. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and there he taught them on the Sabbath-day: 32. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was accompanied with power. 33. And there was in the synagogue a man having a spirit of an unclean devil: and he cried out with a loud voice, 34. Saying, Ah! what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 35. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Holy thy peace, and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him down in the midst, he went out of him, and hurt him nothing. 36. And trembling came upon all, and they talked among themselves, saying, What speech is this? for with authority and power he commandeth the uclean spirits, and they go out.
This demoniac was probably one of that multitude, which was mentioned, a little before, by Mt 4:24. Yet the narrative of Mark and Luke is not superfluous: for they relate some circumstances, which not only present the miracle in a more striking light, but also contain useful instruction. The devil dexterously acknowledges, that Christ is the Holy One of God, in order to insinuate into the minds of men a suspicion, that there was some secret understanding between him and Christ. By such a trick he has since endeavored to make the Gospel suspected, and, in the present day, he is continually making similar attempts. That is the reason why Christ rebukes him. It is, no doubt, possible, that this confession was violently extorted from him: but there is no inconsistency between the two suppositions, that he is forced to yield to the power of Christ, and therefore cries out that he is the Holy One of God, — and yet that he cunningly attempts to shroud in his own darkness the glory of Christ. At the same time, we must observe that, while he flatters Christ in this manner, he indirectly withdraws himself from his power, and in this way contradicts himself. For why was Christ sanctified by the Father, but that he might deliver men from the tyranny of the devil, and overturn his kingdom? But as Satan cannot endure that power, which he feels to be destructive to himself, he would desire that Christ should satisfy himself with an empty title, without exercising it on the present occasion. 344
Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32. And they were astonished at his doctrine The meaning of the Evangelists is, that the power of the Spirit shone in the preaching 345 of Christ with such brightness, as to extort admiration even from irreligious and cold hearers. Luke says, that his discourse was accompanied with power, that is, full of majesty. Mark expresses it more fully, by adding a contrast, that it was unlike the manner of teaching of the Scribes As they were false expounders of Scripture, their doctrine was literal and dead, breathed nothing of the power of the Spirit, and was utterly destitute of majesty. The same kind of coldness may be now observed in the speculative theology of Popery. Those masters do indeed thunder out whatever they think proper in a sufficiently magisterial style; but as their manner of discoursing about divine things is so profane, that their controversies exhibit no traces of religion, what they bring forward is all affectation and mere drivelling: for the declaration of the Apostle Paul holds true, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, (1Co 4:20.) In short, the Evangelists mean that, while the manner of teaching, which then prevailed, was so greatly degenerated and so extremely corrupted, that it did not impress the minds of men with any reverence for God, the preaching of Christ was eminently distinguished by the divine power of the Spirit, which procured for him the respect of his hearers. This is the power, or rather the majesty and authority, at which the people were astonished.
Luke 4:33. A man having a spirit of an unclean devil. This mode of expression, which Luke employs, conveys the idea, that the man was driven by the impulse of the devil. By the permission of God, Satan had seized the faculties of his soul in such a manner, as to drive him not only to speak, but to perform other movements, at his pleasure. And thus, when the demoniacs speak, the devils, who have received permission to tyrannise, speak in them and by them. The title, Holy One of God, was probably taken from a manner of speaking, which was, at that time, in ordinary and general use. The Messiah was so called, because he was to be distinguished and separated from all others, as endued with eminent grace, and as the Head of the whole Church.
Mark 1:26 When the unclean spirit had torn him Luke uses a milder phrase, when the devil had thrown him down: but they agree perfectly as to the meaning; for the design of both was to show, that the devil went out of the man in a violent manner. He threw down the unhappy man, as if he had intended to tear him: but Luke says that the attempt was unsuccessful; for he hurt him nothing Not that the attack was, in no degree whatever, attended by injury, or at least by some feeling of pain; but that the man was afterwards delivered from the devil, and restored to perfect health.
Luke 4:36. And trembling came upon all This is the result of the miracle. They are compelled to acknowledge that there is in Christ something more than man, and justly trace the glory and power of the miracle to his doctrine. What speech is this, they say, which even the devils themselves are forced to obey?
Mark 1:27 What new doctrine is this? They call it new doctrine, not by way of reproach, but as an acknowledgment, that there was something in it unusual and extraordinary. It is not for the sake of blame, or to lessen its credit, that they speak of it as new. This is rather a part of their admiration, that they pronounce it to be not common or ordinary. Their only fault lies in this, that they remain in their state of hesitation, 346 whereas the children of God ought to make increasing progress.
“Mais pource que Satan ne pent endurer ceste vertue et puissance, aquelle il sait estre le destruire et ruiner, il voudroit bien que Christ se contenant d'un beau titre en l'air, se reposast, et se deportast de luy rien faire.” — “But because Satan cannot endure that power and might, which he knows to be to destroy and ruin him, he would rather wish that Christ, satisfying himself with a fine title in the air, should take repose, and refrain from doing any thing to him.
“En la facon d’enseigner de Jesus Christ;” — “in Jesus Christ's manner of teaching.”
“En leur doute et estonnement.” — “In their doubt and astonishment.”