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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Luke 4

 

 

Verse 1

This chapter has Luke's account of the temptation of Christ (Luke 4:1-14), his preaching at Nazareth (Luke 4:15-30), the cure of a demoniac at Capernaum (Luke 4:31-37), the healing of Peter's wife's mother (Luke 4:38-39), the mention of many healings (Luke 4:40-41) and Jesus' withdrawal from Capernaum, to preach throughout Galilee (Luke 4:42-44).

THE TEMPTATION

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness during forty days, being tempted of the devil. And he did eat nothing in those days: and when they were completed, he hungered. (Luke 4:1-2)

Full of the Holy Spirit ... The Holy Spirit dwelt without measure in the sinless Christ; and his being "led in the Spirit in the wilderness" is a reference to the fact that God intended the temptation to take place just as it was recounted here.

Led in the Spirit ... exactly the same meaning as Mark's "the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12). See fuller comment on this in my Commentary on Mark.

Being tempted of the devil ... One should not fail to see in the placement of this phrase the subtle hand of critical scholarship. The placement here seems to indicate that the temptation was continuous throughout forty days; but a glance at Matthew 4:1-4 shows that this was not the case. Satan came to Christ after the forty days of fasting ended. Advocates of the rendition here evidently had the purpose of making Luke agree with Mark against Matthew to support the Markan theory of synoptic criticism; but this rendition is incorrect. As Lamar said:

The punctuation recommended by many of the learned, and adopted by the Bible Union is as follows:

And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him (Mark 1:13).

And he was led in the Spirit in the wilderness forty days, tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1,2).

As Lachman said, "In this way even the appearance of a discrepancy between Matthew and Luke, in regard to the actual point when the temptations began, is avoided." This view is justified by the language of both Mark and Luke, and expressly taught by Matthew.[1]

REGARDING THE PECCABILITY OF CHRIST

The view that Christ COULD HAVE SINNED is expressed by the word PECCABILITY; the view that it was impossible for him to have sinned is expressed by IMPECCABILITY. The view here is that the capability of Jesus to commit sin was a necessary and inherent result of the incarnation, in exactly the manner as was his mortality. "Temptation in Christ indicated the possibility of sin."[2] If it was impossible for Christ to sin, how could there have been any temptation? No man can be tempted to do that which it is impossible for him to do; but Christ was tempted in "all points" like as we are tempted (Hebrews 4:15). The emotional treatment of this subject by some who hold the contrary view is represented by the words of Best, "A peccable Christ would mean a peccable God";[3] but this is not logical, being equivalent to saying that a mortal Christ is equivalent to a mortal God. See more extensive treatment of this subject in my Commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 4:14.

Forty days ... There are many examples of men fasting for forty days, and some even longer; and thus there is no reason to suppose any supernatural support of Jesus during this period. There was indeed supernatural support, but it came afterward. The number "forty" was significant in Israel's history, that being the number of days Moses fasted (Deuteronomy 9:9), the time Elijah fasted (1 Kings 19:8), the number of days of uncleanness following childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-4), and the number of years Egypt was to suffer (Ezekiel 29:11).

The devil ... The proper name of this being is Satan; and he must be understood, not as a mere principle of evil, nor as a personification of iniquity, but as a malignant creature of the highest order, and one who is the conscious enemy of God and man. Ezekiel 28:11-19 appears to speak of the origin of Satan, designated there as "King of Tyre," who was at one time "the anointed cherub that covereth," and who had "been in Eden the garden of God," and whose eternal overthrow was prophesied. "And never shalt thou be any more." See my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 4:1.

Satan's malignant hatred of humanity, first manifested in Eden, has continued unabated throughout history, his purpose as the destroyer having been evident in every case in which the holy Scriptures have given any knowledge of it (see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 8:32); and his strategy of opposing Jesus the Son of God was discernible throughout the whole life of the Saviour. Satan attempted to murder the Christ child, made another attempt to kill him in this very chapter, and finally, with God's permission accomplished his death on Calvary. Regarding a more extensive view of the satanic strategy against Christ, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 26:39. The prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray closes with the line, "Deliver us from the evil one." Thus there is universal witness to the personality and malignancy of Satan.

The wilderness ... mentioned here cannot be exactly located. It could have been anywhere on the western side of the Jordan river. "Tradition locates the place as Quarantania, a mountain just west of Jericho."[4] Wherever it was, it was a howling wilderness, alive with wild beasts (Mark 1:12f), and contrasting vividly with the garden of Eden where the first Adam succumbed to the wiles of Satan. Satan seemed to have that encounter in mind, as indicated by his approach to the second Adam with regard to eating, the same strategy that had succeeded in Eden, and reinforced here by circumstances much more favorable to the evil one.

He hungered ... Luke here recorded the condition of Jesus after the forty days had ended; and, by his doing so before relating the series of temptations, plainly indicated that the temptation was not continuous throughout the forty days, but was the climactic aftermath. "It was more in keeping with the wily cunning of Satan to wait until his intended victim was enfeebled with hunger."[5]

[1] J. S. Lamar, New Testament Commentary, Vol. II, Luke (Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase and Hall, 1871), p. 74.

[2] Ibid.

[3] W. E. Best, The Impeccable Christ (Houston, Texas: Park Place Grace Church, n.d.), p. 4.

[4] Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 79.

[5] J. S. Lamar, op. cit., p. 74.


Verse 3

And the devil said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread.

One may only marvel at the type of thinking (!) which sees the word "stone" here as in any way contradictory of "stones" as recorded by Matthew, both words meaning exactly the same thing. The writer once asked a freight yard attendant what was in a certain car, and he replied, "It was 57,000 pounds of stone!" It was, in fact, crushed granite, probably several million "stones"! Thus there is no need to "harmonize" the accounts; but, as Boles noted:

Some explain this as though the devil had first commanded "these stones" to be made into bread, and later commanded only one particular stone to be made into bread, and that Matthew recorded one of these statements of the devil, and Luke the other made a little later.[6]

Boles' explanation is, of course, absolutely valid, if one insists on seeing differences in what Matthew and Luke recorded. Such variations are positive, infallible proof that the Gospels are independent records; and, if they did not appear, the same critics who profess such dismay at the "variations" would make their absence the grounds of denying the independence of the sacred records.

If thou art the Son of God ... This could be taken as an effort on the part of Satan to create a doubt in Jesus' mind; but Boles is more likely correct in the view that "IF seems to have the force of SINCE, which would express no doubt."[7] If this is allowed as correct, then Satan already knew that Jesus was the Messiah, admitting it in this suggestion. It does not appear, however, that Satan at this point actually recognized Jesus as "God come in the flesh," a recognition that was to come later. If Satan had known at the time, it seems unlikely he would have tried to accomplish Jesus' murder through the citizens of Nazareth (Luke 4:29).

Command this stone that it become bread ... The temptation here was that of suggesting that Jesus should use his own miraculous power to meet his daily needs. Both Satan and Jesus knew that the Lord had ample power to do this; but, if Jesus had done it, it would have indicated a failure to rely on the Father. It would have been taking things into his own hands. Here appears one of the most enticing aspects of temptation. The need which the situation required to be met was genuine, legitimate, and altogether honorable; but Christ did not fall into the error of meeting legitimate need by illegal and forbidden means. If Christ had met his own physical need by such a miracle as Satan suggested, it would have given Christ an unfair advantage not enjoyed by all other mortals, thus compromising the intent and purpose of the incarnation itself. Furthermore it would have pointed away from Jesus' purpose of saving men from their sins, and toward the alleviation of their earthly and physical needs. As Ash said, "Jesus did not come to supply bread for humanity but to answer their deeper needs."[8]

[6] H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1972), p. 91.

[7] Ibid., p. 92.

[8] Anthony Lee Ash, The Gospel according to Luke (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1972), p. 81.


Verse 4

And Jesus answered unto him, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.

It is written ... As the first recorded words of Jesus' ministry on earth, this appeal to the Old Testament indicated Jesus' trust of it as God's word, his acceptance of it as divine authority, and his reliance upon it as the only thing needed to thwart the purpose of the devil.

Man shall not live by bread alone ... Important as physical needs assuredly are, man is spiritual, and not merely physical; therefore, if man should take a forbidden course in the fulfillment of his physical needs, without regard to his spiritual nature, he forfeits life in the highest and best sense. The passage cited here was Deuteronomy 8:3. Materialism concerns itself only with bread; but God never intended this to be the exclusive goal of humanity.


Verse 5

And he led him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

The question of whether the temptation was a subjective experience of Christ; with Satan presenting cunning and subtle suggestions to his mind, or if it was an objective event with Satan appearing in the form of another human being may not be certainly known. The view here inclines toward that of Ash who said:

This was probably a visionary experience rather than a case of bodily transport, since Satan would not have control of the movement of Jesus' body and since there was no one physical locale from which all the world's kingdoms could be seen.[9]

ENDNOTE:

[9] Ibid.


Verse 6

And the devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it.

Satan indeed exercises a great authority on earth, but it is illegal and usurped authority, dramatically contrary to the implication of what he said here to Jesus. The conviction of this student has ever been that this satanic promise was merely a big lie. If Jesus yielded, he would not have won the kingdoms of the world, he would have lost them; and redemption for mankind would have been thwarted. God rules in the kingdoms of human beings (Daniel 4:26); Satan is a liar and the father of liars (John 8:44); and, despite the fact that there was a tawdry, carnal sense in which Satan is indeed the "god of this world," his arrogant boast here was totally false. Christ answered him without regard to the truth or falsity of Satan's promise, because it actually had no solid significance.


Verse 7

If thou therefore wilt worship before me, it shall be thine.

That Christ was tempted to worship the devil, and yet without sin, has the meaning that temptation itself is not sinful; it is only when temptation is yielded to that sin occurs. The arrogance of Satan in such a proposal as this is staggering. Here indeed the prince of evil appeared "as a roaring lion," the guise in which he often assails men. He is designated the devil, the beast, and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10). He appears in three guises: a serpent (Revelation 20:2), a lion (1 Peter 5:8), and an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). These three guises of Satan, thus arranged, are in the ascending order of power, exactly the order in which Luke presented the temptations. Matthew's presentation followed another order, apparently not related to Satan but to environment: the wilderness, the temple, the mountaintop. Jesus was alone in the first, in a great city in the second, and having a view of all kingdoms of the earth in the third. Significantly, neither Matthew nor Luke stated the exact chronological order of the three temptations. Speculations to the effect that either writer was incorrect are false. In this series of temptations Satan appeared as a serpent in the first, as a lion in the second, and as an angel of light in the third.


Verse 8

And Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

It is written ... Jesus took no notice of the extravagant promise of the devil, rejecting it out of hand as being merely something which God had forbidden in the sacred Scriptures. The reference was to Deuteronomy 6:13. By his ignoring the promise, disregarding either its truth or falsity, Jesus' reply had the effect of saying, "Even if what you say is the truth, my answer is the same; I will not do what God has forbidden."

In a world so filled with evil, and with the power of Satan admittedly a fearsome thing, which even an archangel dared not take lightly (Jude 1:1:9), the devil's arrogance in the claim that he could help wicked men achieve their goals certainly had an element of truth in it, as far as men are concerned. Many a man, through the sacrifice of principle, has moved into some position of power or authority, only to find that the true power lay with Satan and not himself. What was true of many men, however, was in no wise true of Christ.


Verse 9

And he led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: And on their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.

The pinnacle ... It is not known exactly what part of the temple was meant by this, but it was evidently a very high portion of it. The essence of the temptation was the presumption that would have been required to act upon it. Christ did not dispute the passage Satan quoted, nor accuse him of misapplying it; it was simply the truth as stated. It would have been sinful, however, to test willfully, in any such manner, a promise of the Father. The Scripture cited by Satan is Psalms 91:11,12; and it was Satan's quotation of it here that led Shakespeare to make Antonio say, "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."Acts 1, Scene 3.">[10] This is a caution that all should heed; for it is still true that many an evil purpose has been supported by the same method.

Regarding the probable scene of this temptation, Josephus described the south elevation of the temple in Jerusalem:

It was encompassed by a deep valley along the entire south quarter; ... this valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen. If you looked from above into the depth, this further vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon the height insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.[11]

There is something in this temptation of Jesus that brings to mind the impulse which comes to many persons at such places as the top of the Empire State building in New York, or on the brink of Niagara Falls, where elaborate precautions have been taken to thwart such impulses of self-destruction. In the case of Christ, that somewhat natural impulse was reinforced by the devil's suggestion that the Saviour would survive if he jumped.

Acts 1, Scene 3.">[10] William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Acts 1, Scene 3.

[11] Flavius Josephus, Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston (New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston), p. 474.


Verse 12

And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.

The passage quoted by Jesus is Deuteronomy 6:16; and by such an appeal to other Scriptures relating to the one Satan quoted Jesus set forth the proper manner of understanding Biblical quotations, all of which must be understood in the light of all the Scriptures bearing upon the subject considered. A failure to heed this divine pattern has resulted in countless misunderstandings and errors. Lamar paraphrased Jesus' meaning by this quotation thus: "The suggestion must be wrong; for nothing, under any circumstances, can be right that is contrary to the written word."[12] No individual, nor any church or religious fellowship, is authorized to go beyond the things which are written (1 Corinthians 4:6); and the violation of this principle is always of the evil one.

ENDNOTE:

[12] J. S. Lamar, op. cit., p 77


Verse 13

And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him for a season.

Chaplain Branham of the U.S. Army had a favorite sermon that he liked to preach from this text, entitled "The Devil's Vacation." Satan does not assail mortals with a state of constant, invariable pressure, but varies it in order to achieve advantage through surprise.

Departed from him for a season ... These words actually mean, however, "until a season," that is, "a favorable season." Many have referred this to the hour in Gethsemane. Dummelow said:

The conflict foretold so precisely can be none other than Gethsemane. "This is your hour and the power of darkness," Jesus said at that very time (Luke 22:52); and a few moments before, he had said, "The prince of this world cometh" (John 14:30).[13]

This does not mean, of course, that Christ was free of temptation except for the two crisis temptations here and in Gethsemane. Temptation came again when the multitude tried to crown him king by force, and upon many other occasions. Nothing in the New Testament would limit the temptation of Christ to the events here and in Gethsemane. He was tempted "in all points" (Hebrews 4:15). Spence said that the words rendered "every temptation" would have been more accurately rendered "every kind of temptation."[14] Nevertheless, the event recorded here by Luke was the decisive battle between Christ and Satan. These three temptations in their basic appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), repeated the pattern of the temptation of the first Adam, and are, in essence, the sum of all temptations. By his magnificent triumph over Satan in this confrontation, Jesus made certain the final victory. When all the keys of a piano have been struck, the total capacity of the instrument is revealed; and when every note in the chromatic scale has been sounded, its total content is presented; and, in the same manner, when Satan tested Jesus in the three basic areas of temptation, his true character was fully revealed, with no necessity whatever for every conceivable instance of temptation to have been confronted by him. In testing a piano, there is no need to play every conceivable melody upon it; just strike all the keys; and, here, Satan struck all the keys of temptation.

[13] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Macmillan Company, 1937) p. 745.

[14] H. D. M. Spence, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, Luke, p. 88.


Verse 14

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

And a fame went out concerning him ... These verses are the Lukan summary of the fame that came to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. It is not related how many synagogues he visited, or how many towns and villages received him. A typically Lukan summary, this passage sets the stage for a more detailed account of the dramatic synagogue meeting in Nazareth, where Jesus announced himself as the Messiah, and the villagers responded by trying to kill him, such events being related next in Luke's Gospel.

Glorified of all ... This doubtless included the recognition by many that Jesus was indeed the Christ, a recognition that came at the very beginning of Christ's ministry, as more fully evident in John. Ash pointed out that "Luke recorded three miracles showing that Jesus did have messianic power. They are found in reverse order to the temptations."[15]

ENDNOTE:

[15] Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 83.


Verse 16

And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read.

JESUS PREACHES AT NAZARETH

We may not identify this rejection of Jesus by Nazareth with the later rejection recorded by Matthew (Matthew 13:54ff). In his comment on that later rejection, Robertson said:

There is no sufficient reason to identify this visit to Nazareth with that described by Luke. That was at the very beginning of the great ministry of Galilee, and this near its close. The details are quite different. It is perfectly natural that after a long interval he should give the Nazarenes another opportunity to hear his teaching, etc.[16]

As his custom was ... The regular habit of attending formal, public worship was a vital element in the character of the Son of God; and it is simply impossible for any man to "follow in his steps" without doing likewise. The old virtue of church attendance has been maligned and slandered; but the equivalent of it marked the life of Christ. Let all of his servants exhibit the same virtue.

And stood up to read ... As Dummelow noted, "The Jews permitted the law and the prophets to be read only with the reader standing. Jesus stood to read, sat to expound."[17]

[16] A. T. Robertson, Harmony of the Gospels (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922), p. 77.

[17] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 745.


Verse 17

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened upon him.

Opened the book ... This was a roll, similar to those that may be seen in Jewish synagogues until this day.

The place where it was written ... This was Isaiah 61:1f, wherein the great prophet had foretold the coming of Messiah's kingdom in the appealing metaphor of these words read by Jesus. There are two ways of misunderstanding this prophecy: (1) by those who view Christianity as being merely a revolutionary movement intent on emptying jails and raising economic standards, and (2) by those who fail to accept the Christian fundamentals of aiding the poor and relieving the afflicted. Nevertheless, the great stress of the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, the "poor" including even the rich who know not the Lord, "captives" being primarily those who are taken captive by the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26), and "the blind" having certain references to such people as the secular and materialistic Pharisees, of whom Jesus said, "I came into this world, that they that see not may see" (John 9:39).

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord ... This is a reference to the times of the Messiah, as proved by the word "anointed," used earlier in the passage.

Closed the book ... The attendant to whom Jesus gave the roll, after reading from it, was a minor official of the synagogue, a kind of factotem who performed many services.

The eyes ... fastened upon him ... The intense interest that focused upon Jesus after the reading from Isaiah was probably induced by the choice of the passage read, and the manner of Jesus' reading it.


Verse 21

And he began to say to them, Today hath this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears.

This was a dogmatic affirmation on the part of Jesus, declaring himself as the Messiah, the Spirit-filled, anointed of the Lord, sent to save the people from their sins and to usher in the new age. The first reaction of the audience was favorable, as shown in the next verse; but this first impression was due to audience failure, at first, to realize the significance of the declaration.


Verse 22

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son?

The more the people thought of what Jesus said, the less they appreciated it. The son (as they supposed) of the local carpenter, the Messiah? Such a monstrous proposition as that appeared to be was utterly beyond their comprehension. They totally rejected it.


Verse 23

And he said unto them, Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself, whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thine own country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country.

These remarks of Jesus were his response to unfavorable murmurings that developed in the audience as the meaning of his declaration began to take effect. Until this day, audiences in Jewish synagogues talk freely out loud during the services. Besides this, Christ freely read the thoughts of his hearers.

Physician, heal thyself ... This slander by the people of the Saviour never diminished throughout his ministry, reverberating against the cross itself, his enemies saying, "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Matthew 27:42).

We have heard it done at Capernaum ... This is a reference to wonders wrought in that city which were not recorded, but were alluded to in Matthew 11:23.

No prophet is acceptable in his own country ... Plutarch said, "You will find that few of the most prudent and wisest of mankind have been appreciated in their own country."[18] Familiarity breeds contempt for that which is commonplace or well known, the same being a most unfortunate characteristic of men. This writer lived awhile in Washington, D.C.; and during the cherry blossom festival made a trip through Arkansas, the peach orchards in that state being in full flower at the time. He stopped at a lone filling station surrounded on both sides of the road a mile in both directions by one of the largest orchards in Arkansas, then blazing with one of the most fantastic color displays to be seen anywhere on earth; but the station operator had just been reading an account of the cherry blossom spectacle in Washington; and he said, after a glance at the license plates, "Oh, I would give anything to see the cherry blossoms in Washington." What a pity it is that a man living in the very midst of 10,000 acres of magnificent bloom probably spent the rest of the morning dreaming about the far-off cherry blossoms in the tidal basin of the Capitol City. What a far greater shame it was for the citizens of Nazareth to despise the Christ of the ages because they were familiar with the surroundings where he grew up.

But there was more to Nazareth's rejection than a mere failure to appreciate Jesus; there was also a jealous hostility deriving from his working wonders in Capernaum instead of their town. Were not its citizens, at least some of them, the Israel of God? Thus, it was that here in microcosm the racial conceit of the chosen people erupted against Jesus. God indeed loved Israel, but he also loved Gentiles; and Jesus promptly cited two examples from the sacred Scriptures of Israel to demonstrate a truth they should have already known. For a sermon on the unbelief at Nazareth, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 13:56.

ENDNOTE:

[18] Ibid., p. 746.


Verse 25

But of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.

The Old Testament record of this event (1Kings 17,1 Kings 18) should be read in connection with this, as it clears up the questions some of the scholars have regarding the "three years and six months" in which the heavens were shut up and it did not rain. 1 Kings 18:1 states that "in the third year" God sent Elijah to Ahab with a promise of rain; however, that promise was not fulfilled immediately, the rain coming after a long contest between Elijah and the false prophets, resulting in the slaughter of the prophets of Baal. Besides that, "the third year" mentioned in 1Kings is a clear reference to the "third year" after Elijah had moved to the home of the widow, the actual drought having gone on a considerable time previously. The critical community who suggest that Luke erred in attributing these words to Jesus are themselves in error. James also affirmed that the drought lasted "three years and six months" (James 5:17).

The big point of the passage, however, is that it was a Gentile widow, a Sidonian, to whom Elijah was sent, and not to any widow in Israel. The reason for this choice lay in the unbelief prevalent in the Israel of that period, and in the contrasting faith of the widow of Zarephath.


Verse 27

And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.

This was another incident from the Old Testament (2 Kings 5:1-14), this time from the ministry of Elisha; and it has exactly the same point as the one drawn a moment before from the ministry of Elijah. Naaman showed his faith in God by obeying the command of the prophet, being subsequently healed of leprosy; Naaman, of course, being another despised Gentile. There is also the inference from Jesus' mention of the many lepers in Israel that it was their unbelief which prevented their being healed. Both incidents cited here, especially as Jesus applied them, aroused anger and hatred in the hearts of his hearers.


Verse 28

And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things.

Why were they angry? Jesus had spoken the truth to them, having cited it in their own Scriptures; but as Lamar said, "To error, and especially to partisan error, nothing is so offensive as truth."[19] The same furious rage resulted from the discourse of Stephen (Acts 7:51-54), and from the sermon of Paul (Acts 22:22); and these examples of it demonstrate the invariable attitude toward faithful and uncompromising teachers of the word of God in all generations.

ENDNOTE:

[19] J. S. Lamar, op. cit., p. 85.


Verse 29

And they rose up and cast him forth out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.

This attempted murder of the Son of God was what the Jews called "a rebel's beating." "Somewhat akin to lynch law, it was administered without trial, and on the spot, when anyone was accused of violating their law or tradition."[20] Other New Testament examples of this volatile, illegal, and unscrupulous characteristic of the times and people are: John 8:59; 10:21; Acts 7:67-70; and Acts 21:31,32. Whether Jesus used any miraculous power in passing through his enemies is not definitely known. Divine power most certainly would have been used if it had been necessary.

ENDNOTE:

[20] Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 92.


Verse 31

And he came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the sabbath day: and they were astonished at his teaching; for his word was with authority.

THE CURE OF A DEMONIAC IN CAPERNAUM

Note that Luke explained the location of Capernaum, due to the non-Jewish readers who would see it. The astonishment of the people was due to the authority of Jesus' words (see Matthew 7:29). His teaching was not patterned after the methods of the Pharisees. He did not bow down before the traditions of the elders, but spoke the truth of God's word regardless of the prejudices of the people.


Verse 33

And in the synagogue there was a man, that had a spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, Ah, what have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

The fact of demon possession is undeniably taught in the Gospels, nor can the fact of it be rationalized out of existence by the supposition that Jesus merely accommodated himself to popular prejudice, or by supposing that the afflicted merely had such diseases as lunacy or epilepsy. The words of the sacred narratives are too explicit to be accommodated to any such devices. In this passage, the demon is represented as addressing the Christ by one of his proper titles, and as having knowledge of the destruction that Jesus would bring upon the demonic world. This is a large subject; and for a more comprehensive discussion of it, see my Commentary on Mark, Mark 1:24, and in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 8:16,28.


Verse 35

And Jesus rebuked him saying, Hold thy peace and come out of him. And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no hurt.

Again from Ash:

The threat of the brow of the hill (Luke 4:29) corresponds to the pinnacle of the temple; the expulsion of the demon (Luke 4:35f) to the desire of Satan for Jesus' worship; and the catch of fishes (Luke 5:6) to the bread temptation.[21]

This correspondence of these wonders to the sequence of temptations endured by Jesus is most beautiful and impressive. Far from being a mere hit-or-miss collection of sayings and events, the Gospels exhibit an accuracy, design, symmetry, and perfection of detail, that can be described only as superlative.

ENDNOTE:

[21] Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 83.


Verse 36

And amazement came upon all, and they spake together, one with another, saying, What is this word? for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And there went forth a rumor concerning him into every place of the region round about.

On the first of this passage, see under Luke 4:32.

Rumor ... "The word thus rendered is [@echos], our word echo",[22] and it reveals the manner of the person-to-person method of spreading the good news of Jesus in that era. The communications media known today were unknown at that time.

ENDNOTE:

[22] Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 95.


Verse 38

And he rose up from the synagogue and entered into the house of Simon. And Simon's wife's mother was holden with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her; and immediately she rose up and ministered unto them.

THE HEALING OF PETER'S WIFE'S MOTHER

For commentary on this see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 8:14-17 and my Commentary on Mark, Mark 1:29-31. The Gospel accounts of Jesus' miracles are true historical records, standing vindicated as such in the highest intellectual circles of this generation, or any other. Christians should therefore reject the unbelieving slanders, disguised as scholarship, which are continually directed against the holy Gospels. For example, Interpreter's Bible, commenting on the miracles of this chapter, has this, "The miracle stories of the Gospels have been borrowed from popular Jewish and Hellenistic cycles and attached to Jesus."[23] This, of course, is nothing but a bold, categorical lie, unsupported by any evidence whatever. In the same vein of denial, that source also has, concerning the words "they" and "them" in the above two verses, the allegation that they are "an editorial slip on Luke's part, allowing the plurals to remain" while copying down this from the Gospel of Mark! The truth is that all three of the synoptics have examples in their accounts of this wonder of dangling pronouns, that is, pronouns without a clearly defined antecedent. Matthew has: "They brought unto him many possessed with demons" (Matthew 8:16). Mark has: "They came into the house of Simon and Andrew" (Mark 1:29). Luke here has: "they" and "them" as cited above. There is not a grammatical antecedent for any of these pronouns; and it is unalloyed sophistry to make any kind of an argument based on such a common characteristic of all three Gospels.

ENDNOTE:

[23] S. MacLean Gilmour, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), Vol. 8, p. 98.


Verse 40

And when the sun was setting, 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. And demons also came out of many, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And rebuking them, he suffered them not to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

And when the sun was setting... Such an expression as this, compared with the parallels (Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:32), proves the independence of the synoptic narrators. Note:

<MONO>Matthew: When even had come.

Mark: At even, when the sun did set.

Luke: When the sun was setting.MONO>

Suffered them not to speak ... The reason here given by Luke for such a prohibition, the demon's knowledge that he was the Christ, suggests other reasons cited elsewhere in the New Testament. Christ did not wish to permit the Pharisees an excuse to allege any collusion on his part with demons; and it was premature, at that time, for Jesus to declare his Messiahship, except by implication as he did in Nazareth.


Verse 42

And when it was day, he came out and went into a desert place: and the multitudes sought after him, and came unto him and would have stayed him, that he should not go from them. But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent. And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

Some, at least, of the citizens of Capernaum desired Jesus to remain among them; but the worldwide mission of Christ demanded that the base of this teaching be broadened as much as possible. Also, Capernaum itself refused, at last, to accept the Lord (Matthew 11:23,24); and from this it may be inferred that the desire of the people in this instance was directed more to the possibility of their using Jesus to take care of their than to any serious purpose of accepting his holy teachings. The last verse here summarizes many occasions of Jesus' preaching throughout Galilee. All that is recorded in the Gospels is but the tip of the iceberg, as compared with the total volume of the deeds and teachings of the Master (John 21:25).

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 4:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/luke-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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