Saying, “What business do we have with each other,
Jesus of Nazareth?
Have You come to destroy¹ us?
I know who You are: the Holy One of God!”
¹) Translated from the Greek word ἀπόλλυμι apollumi (pronounced as: ap–ol’–loo–mee) meaning to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; metaphorically: to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell.
From other translations:
What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God! [AMP] "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God." [ESV] "What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you're up to! You're the Holy One of God, and you've come to destroy us!" [MSB] Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. [KJV] "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" [NIV] and he began shouting, "Why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One sent from God!" [NLT] saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" [NKJV]
Now let us see what this verse is telling us.
Let us alone
The exclamation (in Greek ἔα ea, pronounced as: eh’–ah) which in most translations is not translated, and in the KJV and NKJV with “Let us alone” actually expresses a painful surprise.
What have we to do with thee
The expression “What have we to do with You” implies a rejection and indicates that you want to keep a certain distance (cf. eg Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18, see also Mark 5:7; Matthew 8:29; Luke 4:34; 8:28);
We can also render it with “Don’t interfere with us, leave us alone!”
It is an expression that occurs frequently in the Old Testament (1 Kings 17:18, 2 Kings 3:13 , 2 Chronicles 35:21 , &c.). As said, it denotes a separation of interests: That is, “You and us have nothing in common; we do not want You; what do You want with us?” Also remember the analogous application of it by our Lord to His mother at the wedding at Kana.
Some people think that the plural “we” indicates that this man is speaking on behalf of the inhabitants of Capernaum, but it is more likely that the unclean spirit is speaking through this man on behalf of all the demons (Mark 5:10-12).
Thou Jesus of Nazareth
The demons know Him: He is “Jesus of Nazareth,” as He was known (see Mark 1:9, compare Mark 10:47; 14:67; John 1:46; Acts 22:8).
“Jesus, Nazarene!” an epithet originally given to express contempt, but soon adopted as the current designation by those who held our Lord in honor (Luke 18:37, 16:6, Acts 2:22).
Art thou come to destroy us?
In the case of the Gadarene demoniac the question was, “Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).
Themselves being tormentors and destroyers of their victims, they discern in Jesus their own destined tormentor and destroyer, anticipating and dreading what they know and feel to be awaiting them!
Conscious, too, that their power was but permitted and temporary, and perceiving in Him the woman’s Seed that was to bruise the head and destroy the works of the devil. They had no choice, but to let go their grasp of this miserable victim.
The question ‘Have you come’ does not so much refer to Jesus’ coming to Capernaum, but to His coming as the Messiah to the world. The devil and his angels, the demons, know that Jesus’ coming leads to their destruction (Mark 3:15; 1 John 3:8). The demon now frightens whether that moment has already come (cf. Matthew 8:29; 25:41; Revelation 20:1-3, 10).
The sentence can also be read as a statement: “You came to …!”
I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God
Then the evil spirit says, “I know who you are,” and he calls Jesus “the holy one of God” (John 6:69; Acts 3:14; 4:27-30; Revelation 3:7, cf. Mark 11; 3:11; Psalms 106:16). The demons know the Lord Jesus all too well (James 2:19); by pronouncing His name, the evil spirit may have wanted to exercise power over Him.
This and other even more glorious testimonies to our Lord were given.
But we know that there was no good will behind these words. Possibly the demon said this, hoping that Jesus would accept the testimony, and if so, He might appear to the people to be in league with evil spirits. Something which His enemies would surely throw out against Him.
But a Wiser than either was here, who invariably rejected and silenced the testimonies that came to Him from beneath, and thus was able to rebut the imputations of His enemies against Him (Matthew 12:24-30).
The expression, “Holy One of God,” seems evidently taken from that Messianic Psalm (Psalms 16:10), in which He is styled “Thine Holy One.”
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“I know who you are, the Holy One of God” we hear coming from the mouth of the possessed man in the synagogue of Capernaum. (Mark 1:24)
That demon has clearly noticed that the message that Jesus brings makes a big impression. He already sees with horror that he will lose these people if they start to believe in Jesus’ words. And he wants to prevent that; That may not happen.
At that moment he turns on his poor slave. Possibly that man regularly came to the synagogue. But we don’t know if he was disturbing them then as well. It is very possible that he those other times just sat there very quietly and said nothing.
However, now Jesus is preaching it is different. Now he calls out. That is the tactic of the evil one. The devil always becomes active when the Word starts to do something in a human life. The demon doesn’t want people to listen any longer to Jesus. Those people must remain ignorant and he absolutely doesn’t want them to be converted.
And then this is especially the ugly, and deceptive thing, that the devil also speaks a piece of truth. He acknowledges that Jesus is the Holy One of God. And isn’t He?
However, at times the devil may show himself to be righteous, but the goal he has in mind is to destroy the souls of men. Never forget that.
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