A Day in Capernaum: Proclaiming Release to the Prisoners

Black stones are from the 1st century synagogue in Capernaum.
Black stones are from the 1st century synagogue in Capernaum.
This week in worship, we reflected on Luke 4:31-44.  Following are three vignettes of this day in Capernaum.

When Jesus was in his hometown Nazareth (Luke 4:1-32), less than a day’s walk from Capernaum, he read these words from Isaiah in the synagogue:

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'”  Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” (Luke 4:18-21, CEB)

Have you ever wondered what this looks like?

What does it look like for good news to be preached to the poor?

Luke walks us through a day in the life of Jesus. As Jesus left Nazareth and made his way to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we see what good news looks like in the lives of people not that different from you and I. Join the people of Capernaum as we spend the day with Jesus.

Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath. They were amazed by his teaching because he delivered his message with authority. – Luke 4:31-32 (CEB)

Proclaiming release to the prisoners…a man possessed

Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath. They were amazed by his teaching because he delivered his message with authority. A man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. He screamed, “Hey! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”

 “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The demon threw the man down before them, then came out of him without harming him. – Luke 4:31-35 (CEB)

I’ve really been struggling lately. Overall, life is good, but still I feel cloaked in a coat too heavy for the season. It seems like anything can set me off – and the anger I feel seems out of control. It is out of my control. I am constantly on edge and irritated. I can usually keep it together at work, but when I get home… My wife said she doesn’t even recognize me sometimes.

The thing is, I’m not really angry with my wife or my kids. It’s just this heaviness I’m carrying around. Its weight takes everything I have to make it through the day. It’s like a cloud has settled over my mind, my strength, my life.

It is a weighty darkness.

Anger is my natural response when I feel out of control. It gives me a rush of energy to make someone else feel as bad as I do. But then I feel even emptier. As I try to sort out my feelings, I don’t think it’s really anger I feel but sadness, aloneness – this heaviness and cloud that seems to separate me from others. I feel sad and alone, but I don’t know why. I couldn’t explain it even if I chose to let someone into this world I’m living in.

My wife keeps wanting me to go to synagogue. She says that it will make me feel better. It doesn’t. It takes strength I don’t have to put on a happy face – to act like I have it all together. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t want me here with them. I just don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.

I still can’t comprehend the encounter I had with Jesus. Somehow, he saw me as I am. I’m mean, how I really am, not this heaviness that has cloaked me for so long. Jesus offered freedom from the demons inside me that stoked my sadness and fueled my anger. Jesus returned me to who I am, to my family, to my community. Jesus gave me hope. I’ve found new life.

The demons of failure, depression, anxiety, loneliness and unworthiness are heavy to bear. While Jesus can free us of them with one word, the process of finding freedom, hope and new life is not often easy. Like the demon who threw the man down before the crowd before leaving him, we may find ourselves on the ground, doing the hard work of beginning to stand again. Jesus’ promise is that we never do this alone.

What “demon” is casting a weighty darkness over your life? What “demon” has Jesus already cast out?

A Prayer for Release

Redeeming God, my hope is in you. I am alone in the darkness and feel afraid. I use all my strength to find a way out of this place I am in, but seem only to go backward. I no longer know who I am. My name has become Fear and Shame.

Through fault of my own, through fault of others, through fault of a world that is broken, I find myself weak and needy. I cry out to you, wanting to leave this darkness behind, but my courage leaves me.

I call on you, my help and my rescuer. I beg you not to wait to release me from what holds me prisoner. Silence the voices that condemn me! Speak words of life in me – words of light, strength and grace. My hope is in you, and I claim your promise that this hope will not disappoint.

So now you, LORD—

don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.

Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me.

Favor me, LORD, and deliver me!

LORD, come quickly and help me!

(Psalm 40:11, 13)


A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Redeeming God, my hope is in you. When darkness threatened to consume me, when my feet could not find sure footing, when my shame and fear haunted my dreams, when I had no place to rest my head…

I put all my hope in you. I cried out to you – and you heard me! I was no longer invisible. I remembered that I was not alone. Even though evil surrounds me, I am protected by your loving faithfulness.

I seek and rejoice in you, for you have been my help and my shield. When the darkness threatens, I will not be afraid because you are light. When my foot slips, I will confess and turn to you because you are forgiveness. When shame and fear chase away sleep, I will count all the ways you are good.

You, LORD my God!

You’ve done so many things—

your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—

no one can compare with you!

If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,

they would be too numerous to count!

I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.

I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.

I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness from the great assembly.

(Psalm 40:5, 10)


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2 Thoughts to “A Day in Capernaum: Proclaiming Release to the Prisoners”

  1. […] of our shared humanity is the desire (and need) for release.  But without understanding what holds us captive, release may be yet another prison.  It can be […]

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