“One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.”
– Luke 5:17, NIV
Jesus was teaching in Capernaum (Mark 2:1). The crowd included Pharisees and teachers from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. This was a very significant audience composed of people who knew the teachings of Judaism. Luke records that “the power of the Lord” was present for Him to perform healing.” A paralyzed man would be brought to him for healing. He received both healing and forgiveness of sins!
Power of the Lord
Luke writes that “the power of the Lord was present.” As is customary for Luke, he connects power (dunamis) with healing. This same expression occurs in Number 14:17. When Moses was expressing his concern for his people, he prayed “But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared.” NASU He was calling on God to be merciful to Israel. In both cases the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned.
At this point an interesting discussion arises concerning Luke’s use of “power” and “Spirit.” Particularly this discussion has to do with whether or not Luke connects the Holy Spirit with exorcisms and healings on the one hand and ethical results on the other hand. We will state briefly the views of Menzies and Turner.
Menzies supports the view that Luke treats the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy. Also, Menzies recognizes that the Spirit of prophecy empowers believers for witness, mission, and service. Moreover, he holds that Luke does not connect the Holy Spirit directly with exorcisms and healings. Menzies writes (p. 114), “Luke does, however attribute healings and exorcism to the dunamis [power] of God (Lk. 4.36; 5:17; 6:19; 9:1; Acts 4:7; 6:8).
Both Matthew (10:1) and Mark (6:7) say that Christ gave His disciples authority over unclean spirits. According to Menzies, Luke (9:1) included the word “power” along with “authority.” Thus, power is connected with exorcisms and healings.
According to Menzies, the question becomes more complicated when it is recognized that Luke can use the terms Holy Spirit and power together with little apparent distinction. Menzies cites Luke 1:35; 1:17; 4:14; 24:; Acts 1:8; and 10:38. Even though used together with little distinction, Menzies holds that the terms are not synonymous.
Menzies concludes that the Holy Spirit is the source of power, but that Luke is reticent to connect the Holy Spirit with healings and exorcisms. When Luke uses the terms dunamis and pneuma together he has in mind a combination of prophetic speech and miracles of healing and exorcism, rather than the separate activities which are normally associated with pneuma and dunamis respectively.
Like Menzies, Turner emphasizes that Luke stressed the Spirit of prophecy. However, he presents a much broader and more inclusive result. He maintains that the Spirit of prophecy includes charismatic revelation, guidance, charismatic wisdom, invasive prophetic speech and invasive charismatic praise or worship.
In addition Luke connects the Spirit with empowerment, ethical life, and exorcism and healings. Jesus, for example, was empowered by the Spirit for His Messianic ministry. With regard to ethical life, Turner (p. 24) cites Luke 1:35. Because of the Spirit’s action, the child born to Mary shall be called holy. Also, the Spirit of prophecy in some sectors of Judaism (p. 15) affects ethical life through ethically renewing wisdom. With regard to exorcism, Jesus cast out demons (Luke 11:20) by the finger of God. Turner says (p. 31) that the finger of God “probably refers to the Spirit.”
When Luke speaks of the Holy Spirit, he mainly has in mind inspired utterance, prophetic activity, and empowerment for service. When he talks about exorcisms and healings, he normally uses the word power (dunamis). Even though this distinction is customary for Luke, the Holy Spirit is regarded as the source of power. Sometimes Luke combines “Spirit and power” in one expression.
We know, of course that the Holy Spirit is connected with ethical life, exorcisms and healings, and all other aspects of Christian life. The question is, “What does Luke emphasize?” Clearly, Luke mainly emphasizes prophetic utterance, empowerment for service, and divine guidance. However, we cannot totally rule out some emphasis on others aspects of Christian life even though it may be rather indirect.
Turner, Max. The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. Peabody: Hendrikson Publishers, 1996.
Menzies, Robert P. Empowered for Witness. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery