The Temptation of Christ. Luke 4, 1-13.
The first temptation: V. 1. And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, v. 2. being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing; and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. V. 3. And the devil said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. V. 4. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Jesus had received the gift of the Holy Ghost at His baptism in extraordinary measure, Heb. 1, 9. He was not merely enlightened by Him, but, like a vessel, He was full of the Spirit; also according to His human nature, all His thoughts and actions were directed by the Spirit's wonderful power. Not that Christ lost His identity and became a mere puppet, but that He worked with the Spirit that filled Him in full harmony in the work of redemption. It was this Spirit who also led Him, with somewhat urgent insistence, into the wilderness, Mark 1, 12. His human nature faltered often in the days of His flesh, He felt constrained at frequent intervals to seek the strength and comfort of His heavenly Father in prayer. And there is every reason for believing that the temptations of the wilderness were of the nature, if not of the severity, of the Passion in Gethsemane. Out there in the wilderness, without human companionship of any kind, Jesus was subjected to the temptations of Satan, for our sakes. He must meet the champion of the powers of darkness at the very outset of His ministry in order to overcome his cunning and powerful attacks. For forty days Christ was exposed to the onsets of the devil. The three temptations which are narrated here were therefore not the only ones which tended to hinder the work of redemption. What He endured during these forty days is beyond all human conception, for which reason He did not speak to His disciples about those days. Had the devil succeeded in his design, then the human race would have remained in his power in all eternity. But Christ did not suffer Himself to be led away from the path of duty and obedience which He had entered. During these forty days the Lord had had nothing to eat, and therefore He was hungry when they came to an end. He had a true human nature and was subject to the same affections as all men; He felt the need of food keenly. Of this fact the devil tried to take advantage. Putting his question in such a form that he implied doubt in the Lord's ability to help Himself, he pointed to the stones (collective) and asked Him to change them into bread. The temptation is very subtle; Satan does not want to urge the Lord to doubt the providence of the heavenly Father, but desired Christ, without need or authority, to abuse the power which He possessed as the Son of God for the gratification of the desires of the body. But Satan's cunning was lost upon Jesus, who immediately saw the challenge of the words and countered with a word of Scripture which effectually threw back the attack. He quoted Deut. 8, 3 to him, thus reminding him of a fact which the devil should know very well, which had been demonstrated to him during these forty days, namely, that God is not bound by the ordinary means for establishing and maintaining life. Had His heavenly Father been able to keep Him alive during these forty days, He would also find ways and means to do so for a few more days without any directions from the devil. Note: This should be remembered whenever the care of this life rears its head in a Christian home; God's providence and goodness has never failed yet, nor will it in the future, Ps. 37, 25.
The second temptation: V. 5. And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. V. 6. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. V. 7. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine. V. 8. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. This temptation, in the chronological sequence, is really the third. Luke narrates the three' in a different order, because he has a different climax in mind, that of the incident on the Temple's roof. The attempt to incite care and worry about the body and its needs in the heart of Jesus had failed. But the devil believed that temporal riches and power would exert an irresistible appeal, if offered at the right moment and with the proper effect. So he took Jesus up very high, to the very summit of a high mountain and, by means of the power which he possesses, he was able to give Jesus a picture of all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. The suddenness of the view, coming without preparation or announcement, must have been a wonderful, overwhelming sight: All the riches of the world, the mined and the un-mined precious metals, the gems and precious stones with and without their setting of the appropriate foils; all the power of the many rulers, kings, emperors, princes wherever governments had been established, among all races, peoples, and nations. And then came the devil's offer: To Thee will I give all this power (Thee emphatic). He asserts that all of the riches and all of the power have been given over to him, and that he can dispense his favors as he sees fit. But the condition was that Christ should bow down before him, should worship him, should acknowledge Satan as His Lord. To accede to this impudent demand would have put the Son of God into the power of the archenemy of mankind. But the Savior was fully equal to the occasion, and once more routed the enemy with a powerful quotation from Scripture, Deut. 6, 13. God is the only object of worship and service. To substitute any creature in heaven or on earth or under the earth for the one God is to commit idolatry. And in the case of Christ it would have been the end of His redemptive ministry.
The third temptation: V. 9. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence; v. 10. for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee; v. 11. and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. V. 12. And Jesus, answering, said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God. V. 13. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season. The attempt to excite care and worry for the body in the mind of Jesus having failed, and an effort to instill cupidity, greed, and ambition for power in His heart having met with equally poor success, Satan endeavors to arouse pride and foolish daring in the Lord. Having brought Him to Jerusalem, therefore, he placed Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple, probably on the roof of one of the porticoes, from which one could cast a look that made him dizzy, into an incalculable depth, as Josephus relates. Now the cool demand of the devil was that the Lord cast Himself down from there, into the depths of the Kidron Valley, before the eyes of the assembled congregation, who would be sure to rush out of the nearest gates to see how the foolhardy jump had succeeded. The devil's temptation has in reality two objects: Christ should demonstrate His divine Sonship; He should, in this manner, gain a great number of disciples, probably the entire populace, at one bold stroke. The devil even quoted Scripture to accomplish his purpose, Ps. 91, 11. 12, omitting, however, the very essential words "to keep thee in all thy ways," which are practically a norm for the proper understanding of the entire passage. Cp. Matt. 4, 5-7. But Jesus was fully equal to the occasion. Without going into the matter of falsifying Scripture in his own interest, He tells the devil that there is a passage which reads: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God, Deut. 6, 16. Any attempt to reach the ground below by any means outside of those suggested by a correct understanding of nature's laws would be a challenging of God's protective care, for which there is no promise in the Bible. Note: In a similar way, the devil is always attempting to make us presumptuous, daring, foolhardy, without the promise and command of God. It is the pride of our hearts which he intends to incite, together with the feeling that we are in no need of God's protective care. But the one effective way of meeting all the attacks of the Evil One and vanquishing him quickly and surely is to use the words of Scripture as weapons of defense and offense. Before these powerful onslaughts the devil must give way and be routed completely.
The Lord had remained victorious in all three temptations. The devil Mid not so much as made a dent in His defense. And so, for the time being at least, Satan was obliged to depart. But this withdrawal was, as the evangelist expressly states, only temporary. There was too much at stake for the devil for him to give up all endeavors to foil the work of redemption. During the entire time of Christ's public ministry, but especially during the days of His last great Passion, the devil used every means in his power to overcome the Son of God, who thus was obliged to be on the alert all the time, always ready to thrust and to parry, as occasion offered.
The Beginning of Christ's Ministry and His Teaching in Nazareth. Luke 4, 14-32.
The return to Galilee: V. 14. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. V. 15. And He taught in their synagogs, being glorified of all. The evangelist has here omitted a part of the gospel-story, probably that related John 2. For he writes that Jesus turned back into Galilee, where He had been before. In the power of the Spirit, who was with Him and took an active part in His ministry, He made this journey which meant the public beginning of the work in which He spent the last years of His life. He had been known before in the section of Galilee near Cana, where He had performed His first miracle, and therefore at this time the news concerning Him went out and spread throughout the neighborhood. It preceded Him wherever He went, it made the people eager to see and hear Him. And He took up His work of bringing the Gospel to His countrymen; He taught in their synagogs, He tried to impart the great lessons of the coming of the kingdom of God. And He was highly praised by all, for all felt the power of His preaching, of whom at least some acknowledged the divinity of His mission.
The visit to Nazareth: V. 16. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went into the synagog on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to read. V. 17. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, v. 18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, v. 19. to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. In the course of the Galilean travels Jesus came to Nazareth. This little town in the hills of Galilee, situated on the brow of a hill, had been His home for almost thirty years. There He had been brought up; there He had received His education, at least in large part; there He had worked at His trade of carpenter, together with His foster-father Joseph. Now He came in a new capacity, as a teacher or rabbi. When the Sabbath came, He followed His usual custom of going to the synagog. Note: If Jesus felt the need of regular attendance at church services, it is much more necessary for us to make it a habit to be at church every Sunday and whenever His Word is taught. On the Sabbath of which our text speaks the Lord was present as usual. According to the order of services, the reading of the Law had been done. Next in order came the reading from the prophets. Now the Lord arose to read. It was a courtesy which was willingly granted any visiting rabbis that they could read one of the lessons and append to that reading a few remarks in explanation. This was the meamar, or talk, which served instead of the sermon. When Jesus arose, the servant of the synagog took out of the ark, or case, in which the sacred writings were kept the roll of parchment on which the prophecies of Isaiah were written. It was a long, narrow strip, fastened at either end to an ornamental rod. As the reading was continued, the parchment was rolled up at the one end and unrolled at the other, only a small space of the written text being visible between the two end rolls, from which space the reader slowly read the Hebrew, which was at once translated into the Aramaic. As Jesus now rolled the parchment apart after the manner just described, He came, either by deliberate choice, or according to the due course of the reading of the lesson of the day, to the text Is. 61, 1. 2. It was a text which was eminently fitting for an introductory sermon, for it described so exactly the work of the Messiah. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon Jesus, because He has been anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. He is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, Acts 10, 38. The preaching of the Gospel is His characteristic work, Is. 48, 16. To the poor He preaches the Gospel, to those that feel the depth and hopelessness of their spiritual poverty; with Christ they will find the true riches that last throughout eternity. Jesus has been sent to heal those whose hearts were broken, that felt the wounds of sin with painful vividness, with the balm of Gilead, the Gospel of healing. To preach to the captives deliverance, to those that were held bound by the power of sin and the fear of the devil; He cuts the cords and breaks the fetters with which the enemies have held the souls in their power. He gives sight to the blind, that their eyes may no longer beheld in the darkness of unbelief; He grants the liberty of the children of God to those that were violently abused, that were slaves of their own lusts as they were led. And all of this together meant for all men the acceptable year of the Lord. As when the harvesters rejoice when the last sheaves are safely stored away, so the Lord of mercy is delighted when His harvest is bountiful. It is a year of rejoicing for His Church, Lev. 25, 10, the year in which all debts of sins and trespasses are remitted, in which all the goods of God's heritage, which were lost through sin, are recovered, Is. 49, 8. "That is His kingdom, that is His office, that we might not be conquered by death, by sin, by the Law, but that He helps us against them that they may also be overcome in us, not by our strength, but through the power of Christ, who triumphs in us through His Word." 37)
The sermon and its effect: V. 20. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagog were fastened on Him. V. 21. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. V. 22. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious •words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? When Jesus had finished the reading of the lesson, He rolled the parchment together again and then returned it to the servant of the synagog, who had charge of the sacred books. The Scriptures were very precious in those days, and every synagog took the best care of its copies. He then sat down. During the reading of the Scripture-lesson, both the congregation and the reader stood. But during the talk, or sermon, the speaker as well as the audience were seated. His reading and His entire bearing had made such an impression upon all those present that all eyes were fixed upon Him in anxious expectation. Their interest had been aroused. Luke gives only the topic or the beginning of the Lord's discourse: Today is fulfilled this scripture in your ears. That is the gist of the sermon: He that spoke these words through Isaiah, He stands today, at this moment, before your eyes; the promised Messiah has stepped into your midst. And then He surely invited them to come to Him with meek and contrite hearts, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled not only in their ears, but also in their hearts. Repentance and forgiveness of sins the Lord preached. The effect of Christ's sermon is shown in the words: They bore witness to Him and were surprised at the words of grace which issued from His mouth. The confession was wrung from them, though they were reluctant at first about making the concession. The words about the grace of God whereby the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled came upon them as a surprise: they had not known that so much beauty was contained in the Old Testament. But that the admission was made very grudgingly in the majority of cases, appears from the question which passed around among the audience: Is not this man the son of Joseph? Cp. Mark 6, 2. 3. The jealousy of small souls came to the foreground, feeling constrained to spoil the effect of the words of grace.
Jesus went down from the hill country to the city of Capernaum, which He made His headquarters during His Galilean ministry. Here He made it a habit to teach in the synagogs on the Sabbath-days, for the preaching of the Gospel of salvation was the first and principal part of His work. And wherever He taught, the effect of His words was the same: people were astonished almost to stupefaction over His doctrine, which differed so radically from the vapid discourses of the average rabbi, and in authority and power His word went out. There was not only the force of conviction behind it, but the merciful power of God which is in the means of grace and gives them their efficacy. Note: Luke always adds the geographical references for the sake of his readers, who were unacquainted with the location of the various towns which are mentioned in the Gospel story.
Healing of a Demoniac and Other Miracles. Luke 4, 33-44.
The healing of the demoniac at Capernaum: V. 33. And in the synagog there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, v. 34. 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. V. 35. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. V. 36. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. V. 37. And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country round about. Matthew commonly speaks of these unfortunates whom we meet in this passage as demoniacs, Mark as people with unclean spirits. The man was possessed of a devil, who worked in the body to harm him. He was evidently not always violent, otherwise the man could hardly have come to the synagog service. But in the course of the morning worship the sick man had an attack, the evil spirit took possession of his members. He screamed with a loud voice, whether from aversion, or horror, or wrath, or fear, or from them all together. The devil knows the Lord, and his words were a revelation concerning Him. He knows His name: Jesus; he knows whence He hails: of Nazareth; he knows Him to be the true Son of God, the Holy One of God, of equal majesty and power with the Father. He wants nothing to do with Jesus, for he fears lest the last destruction will be meted out to him and all his companions at once. Mark well: The devil is a mighty spirit and, together with his angels, can work a great deal of harm, if God permits it. The evil spirits are busily engaged in hurting the souls and the bodies of men wherever this is possible, and they are working with all speed, since they fear the Judgment Day, which will bring to them the final confirmation and the consummation of their eternal damnation. But Jesus earnestly rebuked the evil spirit because of his words. He wants no confession and proclaiming of His name and power from these spirits of darkness. Not by the revelation of devils, but by the preaching of the Gospel people should learn to know Him. The Lord bade him keep silence, and also come out from the man, from the victim of his spite. The spirit had to obey, but in doing so, he took the last opportunity to wrench the poor man in a frightful manner, throwing him down in the midst of the synagog. But beyond that he could not hurt him; Jesus would not permit it. But the effect upon the congregation was such as to throw a stupor upon them all. They were inclined to doubt the evidence of their own eyes and ears. To hear a man speak words of command, with power and authority, lay down the law to unclean, evil spirits and receive unquestioned obedience, was an entirely new thing in their experience; it filled them with something like horrified reverence. But they thought of promises like Is. 49, 24. 25, and were soon busily engaged in spreading the news of this deed to every town of the entire neighborhood. The miracle was a proof that Jesus was indeed the Holy One of God, and that He had come to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver men from the bonds of Satan.
The healing of Peter's mother-in-law: V. 38. And He arose out of the synagog, and entered into Simon's house. And. Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought Him for her. V. 39. And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her; and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. From the synagog Jesus went directly to the home of Simon Peter, of whose call Luke tells in the next chapter. Having lived at Bethsaida formerly, Simon had moved to Capernaum, where he lived with his family, to which the mother of his wife belonged. Evidently, Scripture knows nothing of the foolish unkindness which is now so commonly shown to those to whom reverence and honor is due. This aged woman, at any rate, must have been esteemed very highly in the house of her son-in-law, for when she was prostrated with a fever, severely afflicted with the severity of the attack, they, the members of the family, made intercession for her to Jesus. The Lord immediately signified His willingness. Stepping to the cot on which she was lying, He raised Himself in the fullness of His majesty, He threatened the fever, and it obeyed His voice. The healing was immediate and complete. If in any family some one becomes a disciple of Jesus, there is a path between that house and heaven, guarded by angels. Not only in temporal things, but especially in spiritual matters blessings will attend such a house where a faithful soul prays. And the subsequent serving of the mother-in-law of Peter after healing shows that the beautiful, but rare plant of gratitude nourished in that house.38)
Cures on the Sabbath evening: V. 40. Now when the sun was setting1, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them. V. 41. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ, the Son of God. And He, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak; for they knew that He was Christ. With the setting of the sun the Sabbath was over, and therefore all Sabbath commands no longer binding. It was then that people, as many of them as had sick relatives and friends that were afflicted with any diseases, began to lead and to carry them to Jesus. The miracle of the morning had convinced them that they had a powerful Healer in their midst, and they were only too willing to take advantage of that fact. Jesus had compassion upon them: upon every one of the sick He laid His hands and thus cured them. What purpose the Lord had in mind in permitting Himself to be imposed upon with all this wholesale healing is shown by Matthew, 8, 17. The one greatest disease, which the Lord has taken upon Himself and borne, is sin; all sickness, all evil, comes from sin, is a punishment of sin. When Jesus therefore laid His hands upon any sick person, it implied: Thou art a sinner, I am the Savior of sinners; I take the curse and consequence of sin from thee, let this be an admonition to thee to abstain from the service of sin. At the same time, demons came out from those possessed at the very presence of Jesus, screaming loudly and revealing the Lord's identity as the Christ. But these revelations Jesus stopped summarily, since He desires no praise and confession from the devil nor from all those that have placed themselves in the service of the devil.
The withdrawal of Jesus: V. 42. And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place; and the people sought Him, and came unto Him, and stayed Him that He should not depart from them. V. 43. And He said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent. V. 44. And He preached in the synagogs of Galilee. The very next morning, at break of day, Jesus left Capernaum. He followed the method He employed at other times also: He went out into the solitude to be all alone in prayer and communion with His heavenly Father. It would be of advantage to most Christians if they would occasionally withdraw from the bustle of modern business and spend some time after the example of Christ. We are too liable to lose our balance and the sense of proportion according to Biblical standards if there is only the ceaseless hurry of work, alternating with rounds of pleasure. Sunday should be the day for quiet communion with God, not spent in contempt of God's Word and in loud and boisterous picnics, but in prayerful contemplation of our need of God. But the absence of Jesus was soon noticed, and a large multitude of people, with Peter in the lead, went out to search for Him and bring Him back. But He would not be persuaded by them. He knew that it was not the Word of Life for which they were eager, but the miracles which they hoped to see. And so He explained to them the principal purpose of His ministry. The obligation rests upon Him to bring the Gospel news of the kingdom of God to other cities also. This work He has taken upon Himself; in this work He wants to show all faithfulness. And so He departed on a preaching tour of Galilee, Himself proclaiming the Gospel-message in His sermons in the synagogs of Galilee.
Summary. Jesus, in the wilderness, is tempted of the devil, begins His Galilean ministry, teaches in Nazareth, where the people try to kill Him, and at Capernaum heals a demoniac and other sick people.