Luke 4 - Jesus' Temptation and First Galilean Ministry
A. The temptation of Jesus.
1. (1-2a) Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.
a. Was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted: After identifying with sinners in baptism, He now identifies with them in temptation. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
i. We sometimes think that Jesus' temptations were not real because they were not exactly like ours. There was never a sinful pull or sinful memory inside of Jesus, like in us. But in many ways, Jesus' temptations were more real and more severe. For us, often times the pressure of temptation only relents when we give in - and Jesus never did. He had to withstand a much greater pressure of temptation than you or I ever will.
ii. The word or idea of temptation is used in three different senses in the Bible.
- Satan, working through our own lusts, tempts us to perform evil acts - a solicitation to evil (1 Corinthians 7:5 and James 1:13-14).
- We may tempt (wrongly put to the test) God (Acts 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:9).
- God may test us, but never with a solicitation to evil (Hebrews 11:17).
b. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit leads us into seasons of wilderness as well as seasons of green pastures.
i. There are parallels with the way that Jesus is tested and the way that Adam was tested; but Adam faced his temptation in the most favorable circumstances imaginable; Jesus faced His temptations in about the worst circumstances.
c. Being tempted for forty days: Jesus was tempted for the entire forty days. What follows is an account of one aspect of that temptation.
2. (2b-4) The first temptation: transform stone into bread for personal needs.
And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"
a. He was hungry: To tempt a man with food, who has been fasting for forty days seems almost unfair; yet the Father allowed it because He knew Jesus could handle it. God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).
i. The fact that Dr. Luke points out that afterward . . . He was hungry is important. After such a long fast, renewed hunger probably points to a critical need for food. Jesus is beginning to starve to death.
ii. Jesus is hungry, but full of the Spirit. We are sometimes just the opposite - full stomachs and empty spirits.
b. If You are the Son of God: This could be more accurately translated since You are the Son of God. Satan isn't expressing doubt about Jesus' identity. Instead, He challenges Jesus to display His identity.
i. The temptation was basically this: "Since You're the Messiah, why are You so deprived? Do a little something for Yourself." The same temptation comes to us: "If you're a child of God, why are things so tough? Do a little something for yourself."
c. Command this stone to become bread: Satan entices Jesus to use the power of God for selfish purposes. The temptation to eat something inappropriate worked well with the first sinless man (Genesis 3:6), so why not try it on the second sinless man?
i. By this, we also see how temptation often works.
- Satan appeals to a legitimate desire within Jesus (the desire to eat and survive).
- Satan suggests that Jesus fulfill this legitimate desire in an illegitimate way.
Often, this is the essence of temptation.
d. But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'" Jesus countered Satan's suggestion with Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3). What Satan said made sense - "Why starve yourself to death?" But what is written makes even more sense. Jesus reminded Satan of Biblical truth, that every word of God is more important than the very bread we eat.
i. Jesus used Scripture to battle Satan's temptation, not some elaborate spiritual power inaccessible to us. Jesus fought this battle as a man in this battle, and He drew on no "special resources" unavailable to us.
ii. We effectively resist temptation in the same way Jesus did: by countering Satan's seductive lies by shining the light of God's truth upon them. If we are ignorant of God's truth, we are poorly armed in the fight against temptation.
3. (5-8) The second temptation: all the kingdoms of this world in exchange for a moment of worship.
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"
a. All the kingdoms of the world . . . All this authority I will give to You, and their glory: Satan knew Jesus had come to win the kingdoms of the world. This was an invitation to win back the earth without going to the cross. Satan would simply give it to Jesus, if Jesus would worship before the devil.
i. For this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish: Satan claims that authority over the earth's kingdoms was delivered to him, and Jesus never challenges the statement. Who delivered it over to Satan and when? In Genesis 1, God gave man dominion over the earth, and Adam and his descendants have forfeited it over to Satan.
ii. Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) by the popular election of mankind since the days of Adam.
iii. Since Satan possesses the glory of the kingdoms of this world, and can give it to whomever I wish, it should not surprise us to see the ungodly in positions of power and prestige.
b. If You will worship before me, all will be Yours: The Father's plan for Jesus was for Him to suffer first, then enter His glory (Luke 24:25-26). Satan offered Jesus a way out of the suffering.
i. One day, it will be said that The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15). Satan offered this to Jesus now, before the agony of the cross.
ii. If Jesus accepted this, our salvation would be impossible. He might have gained some sort of "authority" to rule, but He could not redeem individual sinners through His sacrifice.
c. And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!" Satan brought a powerful temptation to Jesus, and Jesus resisted the influence of Satan, first by saying, "Get behind Me, Satan!" In this, Jesus fulfilled the exhortation that would later come in James 4:7: Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
d. For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve." For the second time, Jesus counters Satan's deception with Biblical truth, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13. There might have seemed to be an advantage in Jesus avoiding the cross, but Jesus affirms to Himself and reminds Satan that the command to worship the Lord your God and serve Him only is far above any supposed advantage in bowing to Satan.
i. Again, Jesus answers Satan with the same resource that is available to us: the Word of God used by a Spirit-filled believer. In resisting these temptations as a man, Jesus proved that Adam did not have to sin; there was not something faulty in his make up. Jesus faced worse than Adam did and Jesus never sinned.
4. (9-13) The third temptation: testing God through signs and wonders.
Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
a. Set Him on the pinnacle of the temple: Satan took Jesus to a prominent, high place. From this wall surrounding the temple mount, it was hundreds of feet to the rocky valley floor below. If Jesus followed Satan's request to throw Yourself down from here, it would be a spectacular event.
i. The ancient Jewish document Pesiqta Rabbati (162a) records a traditional belief that the Messiah would show Himself to Israel standing on the roof of the temple. If Jesus did what Satan suggested, it would fulfill the Messianic expectation of His day.
b. Throw Yourself down from here: Satan could not himself throw Jesus off the pinnacle of the temple. He could do no more than suggest, so he must ask Jesus to throw Himself down.
c. For it is written: "He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you": This time, the Devil knows and quotes Scripture in his temptation (Psalm 91:11-12). "Go ahead, Jesus; if You do this the Bible promises angels will rescue You, and it will be spectacular self-promotion."
i. When Satan says, "For it is written" it reminds us that Satan is a Bible expert and knows how to twist Scriptures out of their context. The sad truth is that many people today will accept anyone who quotes a Bible verse as teaching God's truth, but the mere use of Bible words does not necessarily convey the will of God.
ii. Some suggest that Satan is such a Bible expert because he looks for loopholes!
d. And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Jesus answered Satan's misuse of Scripture with the proper use of the Bible, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. As Jesus rejects Satan's twisting of Scripture, He rightly divides the word of truth, understanding it in its context.
i. Jesus understood from His knowledge of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) that Satan was "twisting" this passage from Psalm 91. Jesus knew how to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
ii. Jesus understood that Satan enticed Him to take a step of "faith" that would actually test (tempt) God in an ungodly way. "The temptation may have been to perform a spectacular, but pointless miracle in order to compel wonder and belief of a kind." (Morris)
e. Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time: When Satan saw that he couldn't get anywhere, he left for a while. The devil will always seek to come back at an opportune time, so we should never give him the opportunity.
i. Satan is not stupid; he will not continually put his limited resources into an ineffective battle. If you want Satan to leave you alone for a while, you must continually resist him. Many are so attacked because they resist so little.
ii. Jesus resisted these temptations because He was walking in the Word and in the Holy Spirit. These two give the believer full resource for victory. Too much Word and not enough Spirit and you puff up (in the sense of pride). Too much Spirit and not enough Word and you blow up. With the Word and the Spirit together, you grow up.
B. Jesus is rejected at Nazareth.
1. (14-15) The early Galilean ministry.
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
a. Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit: Jesus comes forth from His time of testing stronger than ever. Though He was alrady filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1), He continues to walk in the Spirit - and in the power of the Spirit - after experiencing victory over temptation.
i. "He who, through the grace of God, resists and overcomes temptation, is always bettered by it. This is one of the wonders of God's grace, that those very things which are designed for our utter ruin he makes the instruments of our greatest good. Thus Satan is ever duped by his own proceeding, and caught in his own craft." (Clarke)
b. To Galilee . . . the surrounding region: The region of Galilee was a fertile, progressive, highly populated region. According to figures from the Jewish historian Josephus, there were some 3 million people populating Galilee, an area smaller than the state of Connecticut.
c. He taught in their synagogues: Jesus' focus in ministry was teaching, and at this early point in His ministry He had no organized opposition (being glorified by all).
2. (16-17) Jesus comes to His own synagogue in Nazareth.
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
a. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day: Jesus made it His custom to get together with God's people for worship and the Word of God. If anyone didn't need to "go to church," it was Jesus - yet, it was His custom to do so.
b. And stood up to read: The usual order of service in a synagogue began with an opening prayer and praise; then a reading from the Law; then a reading from the prophets and a sermon, perhaps from a learned visitor. On this occasion Jesus was the "learned visitor." Since this synagogue was in Nazareth, Jesus would have attended it often before, and now He will read and teach in His hometown synagogue.
3. (18-19) Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
a. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me: The one speaking in this Isaiah passage is the Anointed One; the Messiah, the Christ.
i. Anointed Me: The word "anoint" means to rub or sprinkle on; apply an unguent, ointment, or oily liquid to. Persons in the Old Testament were often literally anointed with oil. For example, priests were anointed for their special service to the Lord (Exodus 28:41). Literal oil would be applied, but as a sign of the Holy Spirit upon their lives and service. The oil on the head was only the outward representation of the real, spiritual work going on inside them.
b. He has anointed Me to: In this prophecy, the Messiah announces that He is here to heal the fivefold damage that sin brings. Sin has done great damage, so there needs to be a great work of redemption.
- To preach the gospel to the poor: Sin impoverishes, and the Messiah will bring good news to the poor.
- To heal the brokenhearted: Sin breaks hearts, and the Messiah has good news for brokenhearted.
- To proclaim liberty to the captives: Sin makes people captive and enslaves them, and the Messiah has come to set them free.
- Recovery of sight to the blind: Sin blinds us, and the Messiah has come to heal our spiritual and moral blindness.
- To set at liberty those who are oppressed: Sin oppresses its victims, and the Messiah comes to bring liberty to the oppressed.
i. Thankfully, Jesus didn't come to only preach deliverance or even to only bring deliverance. Jesus came to be deliverance for us.
c. Where Jesus stopped reading from Isaiah helps show us the nature of prophecy and its relation to time. The passage goes on to describe what Jesus would do at His second coming (and the day of vengeance of our God); this is a 2,000 year old comma.
4. (20-27) Jesus teaches on Isaiah 61:1-2.
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?" He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'" Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
a. And sat down: As Jesus sat, He prepared to teach instead of returning to His seat among the congregation. Everyone was wondering how He would explain what He had just read.
b. Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing: In this, Jesus answers two questions. "Who did Isaiah write of?" Jesus answered that question, "Isaiah wrote of Me." "When will this come to pass?" Jesus answered that question, "Isaiah wrote of now."
c. Marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth: Literally, the people said that Jesus' words were full of grace. They sensed the goodness and grace of God in the announcement that the ministry of the Messiah is now here.
d. Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country: The audience was impressed that a hometown boy could teach so well, but they also wanted Jesus to prove His claims with miraculous signs.
i. At this point in the ministry of Jesus, He has already done miracles unrecorded by Luke (such as in John 1-4). But Jesus never performed a miracle only for the sake of a sign.
e. Jesus' audience wanted special favors because He was in His hometown. Jesus points out that this doesn't matter to God, using Elijah's and Elisha's miracles as examples, because they were done among Gentiles.
i. Jesus makes two points. First, the fact that they don't receive Jesus has nothing to do with Jesus, but everything to do with them. He is truly from God, but they won't receive Him. Their rejection says more about them than Jesus.
ii. Second, it shows that God's miraculous power operates in unexpected and sovereign ways. People that we often consider undeserving and off the wall are many times recipients of God's miraculous power.
5. (28-30) Jesus walks away from a murderous mob.
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
a. When they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city: This is quite a response to a sermon. These people were angry that there was something wrong with them, that their request for a miracle was denied, and that Jesus implied that God loved the Gentiles too.
i. Obviously, Jesus is not being truly seeker-sensitive here. Some today might say that He needed help in tailoring His message so that it would be easier and more enjoyable to hear.
ii. Their violent reaction is like the pastor who said of his church: "I've got 100 active members. 50 are active for me, and 50 are active against me."
b. That they might throw Him down over the cliff: Pushing someone off a small cliff was often the first step in the process of stoning. Once the victim fell down, they were pelted with rocks until dead.
c. Passing through the midst of them: They wanted a miracle, and Jesus did an unexpected one right in front of them, escaping miraculously.
i. In this situation, Jesus could have backed off the cliff and been rescued by angels - as Satan suggested in the third temptation. Instead, Jesus chose a more "normal miracle," if there is such a thing.
C. Further ministry in Galilee.
1. (31-37) Casting out an unclean spirit.
Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 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!" But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
a. There was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon: The terms unclean spirit, evil spirit, and demon all seem to be the same, referring to malevolent powers of darkness who are the enemies of God and man.
b. What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? It is ironic that the demons know who Jesus is, but the chosen people - people in His own city, didn't appreciate who Jesus was.
c. But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" The manner of Jesus' dealings with the demon in this passage is a clear demonstration of His power and authority over the spirit realm.
2. (38-39) Peter's mother-in-law is healed of a fever.
Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon's house. But Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her. So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.
a. Simon's wife's mother: This proves beyond any doubt that Peter was married. According to the present day Roman Catholic standards for the priesthood, Peter was not qualified to be a priest - much less the first "Pope"!
i. Clement of Alexandria, an early Christian writer, said that Peter's wife helped him in ministry by meeting the needs of other women.
b. He stood over her and rebuked the fever: In this situation, Jesus saw the fever itself as something to be rebuked. Perhaps He perceived that there was some spiritual dynamic behind this seemingly natural illness.
c. And it left her: This was not only the healing of a disease, but the immediate granting of strength. One doesn't normally go from a high fever to serving others.
3. (40-41) Jesus heals many who are sick and demon possessed.
When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!" And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.
a. When the sun was setting: This marked the start of a new day, the day after the Sabbath (Luke 4:31). The people had to wait until the Sabbath was over until they came to Jesus. Religious tradition kept them from receiving from God at the moment.
b. Did not allow them to speak: Jesus restrained the demons from speaking about Him because He did not want their testimony to be relied upon.
c. Was demon possession more common in Jesus' day than our own? Actually, there are fewer than ten specific individuals delivered from demon possession, plus two general occasions where it describes people being delivered. This doesn't seem abnormally high over a period of three years, among three million people.
4. (42-44) Jesus continues His preaching ministry in Galilee.
Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.
a. Went into a deserted place: Jesus knew the value of solitude with God the Father. He spent most of His time ministering among the people, but needed such times in a deserted place.
b. I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also: He taught about the kingdom of God, in the sense that He announced the presence of the King and in correcting people's misconceptions about the kingdom.
c. For this purpose I have been sent: Jesus saw His main ministry, at this point, to be preaching the kingdom. Miracles were a part, but not the main focus of His ministry.