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Ch. 4:1 13. The Temptation
1 . being full of the Holy Ghost ] Omit ‘being.’ St Luke often calls special attention to the work of the Spirit, 3:22, 4:14; Acts 6:3 , Acts 7:55 , Acts 11:24 . The expression alludes to the outpouring of the Spirit upon Jesus at His baptism, John 3:34 . The narrative should be compared with Matthew 4:1-11 ; Mark 1:12 , Mark 1:13 . St John, who narrates mainly what he had himself seen , omits the temptation.
returned ] Rather, went away .
was led ] A divine impulse led him to face the hour of peril alone. St Mark uses the more intense expression, “immediately the Spirit driveth Him forth .” He only devotes two verses (Mark 1:12 , Mark 1:13 ) to the Temptation, but adds the graphic touch that “He was with the wild beasts” (comp. Psalms 91:13 ), and implies the continuous ministration of angels ( diekonoun ) to Him.
by the Spirit ] Rather, in the Spirit , comp. 2:27. The phrase emphasizes the “full of the Holy Ghost,” and has the same meaning as “in the power of the Spirit,” vs. 14,
“Thou Spirit, who ledd’st this glorious eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field
Against the spiritual foe, and brought’st Him thence
By proof the undoubted Son of God.”
Milton, Par. Reg . i.
into the wilderness ] Rather, in. He was ‘in the Spirit’ during the whole period. The scene of the temptation is supposed to be the mountain near Jericho, thence called Quarantania. The tradition is not ancient, but the site is very probable, being rocky, bleak, and repellent
“A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades.”
Scripture everywhere recognises the need of solitude and meditation on the eve of great work for God (Exodus 24:2 ; Exodus 1:0 K. 19:4; Galatians 1:17 ), and this would be necessary to the human nature of our Lord also.
2 . forty days ] The number was connected in the Jewish mind with notions of seclusion, and revelation, and peril; Moses on Sinai, Exodus 34:18 ; Elijah, 1 K. 19:8; the wanderings of the Israelites, Numbers 14:34 ; Judges 13:1 .
tempted ] The present participle implies that the temptation was continuous throughout the forty days, though it reached its most awful climax at their close.
of the devil ] The Jews placed in the wilderness one of the mouths of Gehenna, and there evil spirits were supposed to have most power (Numbers 16:33 ; Matthew 12:43 ). St Mark uses the Hebrew form of the word ‘Satan.’ Both words mean ‘the Accuser,’ but the Greek Diabolos is far more definite than the Hebrew Satan , which is loosely applied to any opponent, or opposition, or evil influence in which the evil spirit may be supposed to work (1 Chronicles 21:1 ; 2 Corinthians 12:7 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:18 ). This usage is far more apparent in the original, where the word rendered ‘adversary’ is often Satan , Numbers 22:22 ; 1 Samuel 29:4 ; 1 Kings 11:14 , &c. On the other hand, the Greek word Diabolos is comparatively rare in the N. T. (The word rendered ‘devils’ for the ‘ evil spirits ’ of demoniac possession is daimonia .) St Matthew also calls Satan “the tempter.” Few suppose that the Devil came incarnate in any visible hideous guise. The narrative of the Temptation could only have been communicated to the Apostles by our Lord Himself. Of its intense and absolute reality we cannot doubt; nor yet that it was so narrated as to bring home to us the clearest possible conception of its significance. The best and wisest commentators in all ages have accepted it as the symbolic description of a mysterious inward struggle. Further speculation into the special modes in which the temptations were effected is idle, and we have no data for it. Of this only can we be sure, that our Lord’s temptations were in every respect akin to ours (Hebrews 4:15 , Hebrews 4:2 :10, 18); that there was “a direct operation of the evil spirit upon His mind and sensibility;” that, as St Augustine says, “Christ conquered the tempter, that the Christian may not be conquered by the tempter.” All enquiries as to whether Christ’s sinlessness arose from a ‘ possibility of not sinning’ ( posse non peccare ) or an ‘impossibility of sinning’ ( non posse peccare ), are rash intrusions into the unrevealed. The Christian is content with the certainty that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (see Hebrews 5:8 ).
he did eat nothing ] St Matthew says more generally that ‘He fasted,’ and St Luke’s phrase probably implies no more than this (see Matthew 11:18 ). The Arabah at any rate supplied enough for the bare maintenance of life (Jos. Vit. 2), and at times of intense spiritual exaltation the ordinary needs of the body are almost suspended. But this can only be for a time, and when the reaction has begun hunger asserts its claims with a force so terrible that (as has been shewn again and again in human experience) such moments are fraught with the extremest peril to the soul. This was the moment which the Tempter chose. We rob the narrative of the Temptation of all its spiritual meaning unless in reading it we are on our guard against the Apollinarian heresy which denied the perfect Humanity of Christ. The Christian must keep in view two thoughts: 1. Intensely real temptation. 2. Absolute sinlessness. It is man’s trial ‘to feel temptation’ ( sentire tentationem ); Christ has put it into our power to resist it ( non consentire tentationi ). Temptation only merges into sin when man consents to it.
“’Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall.” Shakespeare.
The temptation must be felt or it is no temptation; but we do not sin until temptation really sways the bias of the heart, and until delight and consent follow suggestion. The student will find the best examination of this subject in Ullmann’s treatise On the Sinlessness of Jesus (Engl. Transl.).
3 . If thou be the Son of God ] Doubtless an allusion to the divine Voice at His baptism (3:22). The same words were tauntingly addressed to our Lord on the Cross (Matthew 27:40 ). The Greek strictly means “ Assuming that Thou art ,” but in Hellenistic Greek words and phrases are not always used with their earlier delicate accuracy.
command this stone ] The Greek implies that the suggestion called direct attention to a particular stone. In this desert there are loaf-shaped fossils known to early travellers as lapides judaici , and to geologists as septaria . Some of these siliceous accretions assume the shape of fruit, and are known as ‘Elijah’s melons’ (Stanley, Sin. and Pal. 154). They were popularly regarded as petrified fruits of the Cities of the Plain. Such deceptive semblances would intensify the pangs of hunger, and add to the temptation the additional torture of an excited imagination. (See a sketch of such a septarium in the Illustrated Edition of my Life of Christ , p. 99.)
that it be made bread ] Rather, that it may become a loaf . The subtle malignity of the temptation is indescribable. It was a temptation to “the lust” (i. e. the desire) “of the flesh;” a temptation to gratify a natural and blameless appetite; an appeal to free-will and self-will, closely analogous to the devil’s first temptation of the race. ‘You may; you can; it will be pleasant: why not?’ (Genesis 3:1-15 ). But it did not come in an undisguisedly sensuous form, but with the suggestive semblance of Scriptural sanctions (1 Kings 19:8 ; Deuteronomy 8:16 ; Psalms 78:19 ).
4 . It is written ] The perfect gegraptai means ‘it has been written,’ it standeth written as an eternal lesson. Jesus foils the tempter as man for man. He will not say ‘I am the Son of God,’ and ‘does not consider equality with God a prize at which to grasp’ (Philippians 2:6 ), but seizes “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 ).
man shall not live by bread alone ] The quotation is from Deuteronomy 8:3 , where Moses tells the people that God has suffered them to hunger, and fed them with manna, to shew them the dependence of man on God, and the fact that life is something more than the mere living, and can only be sustained by diviner gifts than those which are sufficient for man’s lower nature. Bread sustains the body; but, that we may live , the soul also, and the spirit must be kept alive. Exodus 16:4 , Exodus 16:15 . “They did all eat the same spiritual meat.” 1 Corinthians 10:3 .
but by every word of God ] These words, though implied , are probably added in this place from Matthew 4:4 , since they are omitted by א , B, D, L, and various versions. “ Word ” is not in the original Hebrew. The verse conveys a most deep truth, and by referring to it our Lord meant to say ‘God will support my needs in His own way, and the lower life is as nothing in comparison with the higher.’ There are many most valuable and instructive parallels; see John 4:32-34 , “I have meat to eat that ye know not of … My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” Job 23:12 , “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food .” Jeremiah 15:16 , “Thy words were found, and I did eat them ; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Wisd. 16:6, “God’s word nourisheth man.” The Jewish Rabbis had the remarkable expression, “The just eat of the glory of the Shechinah.” Comp. John 6:27-63 .
5 . And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain ] Probably “the devil” and “into a high mountain” are added from St Matthew. How the devil took Him up we are not told. Scripture, to turn away our thoughts from the secondary to the essential, knows nothing of those journeys through the air which we find in Apocrypha and in the ‘Gospel of the Hebrews.’
It is remarkable that St Luke (whom Milton follows in the Par. Regained ) here adopts a different order of the temptations from St Matthew, perhaps because he thought that the temptation to spiritual pride (which he places third) was keener and subtler than that to temporal ambition; perhaps, too, because he believed that the ministering angels only appeared to save Christ from the pinnacle of the Temple. That the actual order is that of St Matthew is probable, because (1) he alone uses notes of sequence, “ then ,” “ again ;” (2) Christ closes the temptation by “Get thee behind me, Satan” (see on vs. 8); (3) as an actual Apostle he is more likely to have heard the narrative from the lips of Christ Himself. But in the chronology of spiritual crises there is little room for the accurate sequence of ‘before’ and ‘after.’ They crowd eternity into an hour, and stretch an hour into eternity.
of the world ] See above on 2:1.
in a moment ] Rather, in a second ; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:52 , “in the twinkling of an eye” in the sudden flash of an instantaneous vision. The splendour of the temptation, and the fact that it appealed to
“the spur which the clear spirit doth raise,
The last infirmity of noble minds,”
might seem to Satan to make up for its impudent, undisguised character. He was offering to One who had lived as the Village Carpenter the throne of the world.
6 . All this power will I give thee ] Rather, in the emphatic order of the original, To Thee will I give this power, all of it, and the glory of them .
for that is delivered unto me ] The original is even stronger, has been entrusted to me . Hence the expressions, “the prince of this world,” John 12:31 , John 12:14 :30; “the prince of the power of the air,” Ephesians 2:2 . Satan is in one sense “a world-ruler ( kosmokratôr ) of this darkness” (Ephesians 6:12 ). The Rabbis went even further, and called him ‘Lord of this age’ ( sar hâolâm ), and even “another God” ( êl achêr ), which is Manicheeism; whereas in this verse, by the very admission of Satan, all Manicheeism is excluded.
to whomsoever I will I give it ] Comp. Revelation 13:2 , “the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Here however we note the exaggeration of the father of lies. How different was the language of our Lord to His ambitious disciples (Matthew 20:23 ).
7 . wilt worship me ] Rather, wilt do homage before me . Comp. Psalms 22:27 .
all shall be thine ] Rather, it (the habitable world) shall all be thine , for the true reading is pâsa (all the uncials) not panta . There was then living, one to whom in as high an ambitious sense as has ever been realised, it did all belong the Emperor Tiberius. But so far from enjoying it he was at this very time the most miserable and most degraded of men (Tac. Ann . vi. 6, iv. 61, 62, 67; Plin. H. N. xxviii. 5).
8 . Get thee behind me, Satan ] These words should here be omitted with א , B, D, L, &c., as having been added from Matthew 4:10 . Similar words were used to Peter (Matthew 16:23 ).
Thou shalt worship … and him only ] The quotation is slightly altered from Deuteronomy 6:13 , “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him.” St Matthew has the same variation, this being one of his cyclic quotations (i. e. those common to him with other Evangelists). Since Satan had now revealed himself in his true character, there was no need for Jesus to tell him of another and a divine Kingdom over which he had no power. It was sufficient to reprove his impious blasphemy.
9 . a pinnacle ] Rather, the pinnacle , or battlement . Some well-known pinnacle of the Temple, either that of the Royal Portico, which looked down from a dizzy height into the Valley of the Kidron (Jos. Antt . xv. 11 § 5); or the Eastern Portico, from which tradition says that St James was afterwards hurled (Euseb. H. E . ii. 23). ‘Battlement’ is used for the corresponding Hebrew word Canaph (lit. ‘wing’) in Daniel 9:27 .
cast thyself down from hence ] The first temptation had been to natural appetite and impulse: the second was to unhallowed ambition; the third is to rash confidence and spiritual pride. It was based, with profound ingenuity, on the expression of absolute trust with which the first temptation had been rejected. It asked as it were for a splendid proof of that trust, and appealed to perverted spiritual instincts. It had none of the vulgar and sensuous elements of the other temptations. It was at the same time a confession of impotence. “Cast thyself down.” The devil may place the soul in peril and temptation, but can never make it sin. “It is,” as St Augustine says, “the devil’s part to suggest, it is ours not to consent.”
10 . For it is written ]
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A deadly apple rotten at the heart.”
What damned error but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?”
to keep thee ] The quotation is from Psalms 91:11 , but the tempter omits “ in all thy ways ,” which would have defeated his object, since the “ways” referred to are only the ways of him “who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High.” But, as the next verse prophesies, Christ ‘trod upon the lion and adder’ of Satanic temptation.
12 . Thou shalt not tempt ] Rather, Thou shalt not utterly tempt , or tempt to the extreme . It is impious folly to put God to the test by thrusting ourselves into uncalled-for danger. The angels will only guard our perilous footsteps when we are walking in the path of duty. We cannot claim miracles when we court temptations. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 6:16 , and it is remarkable that the three quotations with which our Lord met the tempter are all taken from the 6th and 8th chapters of this book.
13 . had ended all the temptation ] Rather, every temptation . “He had,” as Bengel says, “shot his last dart.” The temptations had been addressed (1) to the desire of the flesh trying to make the test of Sonship to God consist not in obedience but in the absence of pain; (2) to the pride of life as though earthly greatness were a sign of God’s approval, and as though greatness consisted in power and success; (3) to spiritual pride as though the elect of God might do as they will, and be secure against consequences.
he departed ] “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James 4:7 .
for a season ] Rather, until an opportunity , though the meaning comes to be the same (Acts 13:11 ). St Matthew adds “And lo! angels came and began to minister unto Him.” We do not again meet with angels in a visible form till the Agony in Gethsemane. It must not be imagined that our Lord was only tempted at this crisis. He shared temptation with us, as the common lot of our humanity. “Many other were the occasions on which he endured temptation,” Bonaventura, Vit. Christi . See 22:28; Hebrews 4:15 . We may however infer from the Gospels that henceforth His temptations were rather the negative ones caused by suffering , than the positive ones caused by allurement. Ullmann, p. 30. See Matthew 27:40 (like the first temptation); John 7:3 , John 7:4 (analogous to the second in St Matthew’s order); John 7:15 (like the third); Van Oosterzee. See too 22:3, 53; Matthew 16:22 ; John 14:30 , John 8:44 .
14 23. Jesus returns to Nazareth and preaches there
14 . And Jesus returned ] St Luke here omits that series of occurrences which is mainly preserved for us by the Apostle who recorded the Judaean ministry St John; namely the deputation of the Sanhedrin to the Baptist (1:19 28), and his testimony about the baptism of Jesus (29 34); the call of Andrew and Simon (35 43); of Philip and Nathanael (44 51); the First Miracle, at Cana, and visit to Capernaum (2:1 12); the Passover at Jerusalem and first cleansing of the Temple (2:13 25); the secret visit of Nicodemus (3:1 21); the baptism of the disciples of Jesus, and the Baptist’s remarks to his disciples (3:22 36). St Luke has already mentioned by anticipation the imprisonment of John the Baptist (3:19, 20), which probably hastened the return of Jesus to Galilee; but St John alone preserves the deeply interesting revelation to the Woman of Samaria, and the preaching among the Samaritans (John 4:4-42 ). This must have occurred during the journey from Judaea to Galilee mentioned in this verse.
into Galilee ] This district was the starting-point and main centre of our Lord’s ministry, Acts 10:37 , “which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee.” Luke 23:5 , “He stirreth up the people, beginning from Galilee .”
15 . he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all ] The word ‘He’ is emphatic. ‘He Himself,’ in contrast with the rumour about Him. The word autos in this Gospel comes to mean “the Master,” as a sort of title of honour, as in the “ Autos epha ” “the Master said it” of the Pythagoreans. The verse shews that the journey from Sychar to Nazareth was not direct but leisurely; and it is remarkably confirmed by John 4:45 , who accounts for the favourable reception of Jesus by saying that they had seen “all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast.”
16 . And he came to Nazareth ] This is probably the visit related in unchronological order in Matthew 13:53-58 ; Mark 6:1-6 , since after so violent and decisive a rejection as St Luke narrates, it is unlikely that He should have preached at Nazareth again. If so, we learn from these (1) that His disciples were with Him; (2) that He healed a few of the sick, being prevented from further activity by their unbelief.
as his custom was ] This seems to refer to what had been the habit of the life of Jesus while he had lived at Nazareth. Hitherto however He had been, in all probability, a silent worshipper.
into the synagogue ] The article shews that the little village only possessed a single synagogue. Synagogues had sprung up throughout Judaea since the return from the exile. They were rooms of which the end pointed towards Jerusalem (the Kibleh , or consecrated direction, of Jewish worship (Daniel 6:10 ), as Mecca is of Mohammedan). The men sat on one side; the veiled women behind a lattice on the other. The chief furniture was the Ark ( tebhah ) of painted wood, generally shrouded by a curtain, and containing the Thorah (Pentateuch), and rolls ( megilloth ) of the Prophets. On one side was a bema for the reader and preacher, and there were “chief seats” (Mark 12:39 ) for the Ruler of the Synagogue, and the elders ( zekanim ). The servants of the synagogue were the clerk ( chazzan ), verger ( sheliach ) and deacons ( parnasim , ‘shepherds’).
on the sabbath day ] Observe the divine sanction thus given to the ordinance of weekly public worship.
stood up for to read ] The custom was to read the Scripture standing. There was no recognised or ordained ministry for the synagogues. The functions of Priest and Levites were confined to the Temple, and the various officers of the synagogue were more like our churchwardens. Hence it was the custom of the Ruler or Elders to invite any one to read or preach who was known to them as a distinguished or competent person (Acts 13:15 ).
17 . there was delivered unto him ] Literally, “there was further handed to Him.” The expression means that after He, or another, had read the Parashah , or First Lesson, which was always from the Pentateuch, the clerk handed to him the Roll of Isaiah, which contained the Haphtarah , or Second Lesson.
when he had opened the book ] If anaptuxas is the true reading, it means ‘unrolling.’ The Thorah, or Law, was written on a parchment between two rollers, and was always left unrolled at the column for the day’s lesson; but the Megilloth of the Prophets, &c., were on single rollers, and the right place had to be found by the reader ( Maphtir ).
he found ] The word heure leaves it uncertain whether the ‘finding’ was what man calls ‘accidental,’ or whether it was the regular haphtarah of the day. It is now the Second Lesson for the great day of Atonement; but according to Zunz (the highest Jewish authority on the subject) the present order of the Lessons in the Synagogue worship belongs to a later period than this.
the place where it was written ] Isaiah 61:1 , Isaiah 61:2 . Our Lord, according to the custom of the Synagogue, must have read the passage in Hebrew, and then either by Himself, or by an interpreter ( Methurgeman ) it must have been translated to the congregation in Aramaic or Greek, since Hebrew was at this time a dead and learned language. The quotation is here freely taken by the Evangelist from the LXX., possibly from memory, and with reminiscences, intentional or otherwise, of other passages.
18 . he hath anointed me ] Rather, He anointed (aorist); the following verb is in the perfect. The word Mashach in the Hebrew would recall to the hearers the notion of the Messiah “il m’a messianisé” (Salvador). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power,” Acts 10:38 . In illustration of the verse generally, as indicating the work primarily of Isaiah, but in its fullest sense, of Christ, see Matthew 11:5 , Matthew 11:5 :3, &c.
the poor ] i. e. the poor in spirit (Matthew 11:28 , Matthew 5:3 ), as the Hebrew implies.
to heal the broken-hearted ] Omitted in א , B, D, L.
recovering of sight to the blind ] Here the LXX. differs from the Hebrew, which has “ opening of prison to the bound .” Perhaps this is a reminiscence of Isaiah 42:7 .
to set at liberty them that are bruised ] This also is not in Isaiah 61:1 , but is a free reminiscence of the LXX. in 58:6. Either the text of the Hebrew was then slightly variant, or the record introduces into the text a reminiscence of the discourse.
19 . the acceptable year ] The primary allusion is to the year of Jubilee, Leviticus 25:8-10 ; but this was only a type of the true Jubilee of Christ’s kingdom. Many of the Fathers, with most mistaken literalness, inferred from this verse that our Lord’s ministry only lasted a year, and the notion acquired more credence from the extraordinary brightness of His first, or Galilaean, year of ministry. This view has been powerfully supported by Mr Browne in his Ordo Saeclorum , but is quite untenable (John 2:13 , John 6:4 , John 11:55 ).
20 . he closed the book ] Rather, rolling up . Generally the Haphtarah consists of twenty-one verses, and is never less than three; but our Lord stopped short in the second verse, because this furnished sufficient text for His discourse, and because He wished these gracious words to rest last on their ears, rather than the following words, “ the day of vengeance of our God .”
the minister ] The Chazzan .
sat down ] The ordinary Jewish attitude for the sermon (Matthew 23:2 ).
fastened on him ] A favourite word of St Luke, who uses it eleven times; elsewhere it is only found in 2 Corinthians 3:7 , 2 Corinthians 3:13 . The attitude of Jesus shewed that now for the first time He intended not only to read but to preach.
21 . he began to say unto them ] i. e. these were the first words of the discourse. It began with the announcement that He was the Messiah in whom the words of the prophet found their fulfilment.
22 . gracious words ] Rather, words of grace . The word grace does not here mean mercy or favour ( Gnade ), but beauty and attractiveness ( Anmuth ). This verse and John 7:46 are the chief proofs that there was in our Lord’s utterance an irresistible majesty and sweetness. Comp. Psalms 45:2 ; John 1:14 .
And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son ?] This points to a gradual change in the feeling of the listening Nazarenes. The Jews in their synagogues did not sit in silence, but were accustomed to give full expression to their feelings, and to discuss and make remarks aloud. Jealousy began to work among them, Matthew 13:54 ; John 6:42 . “The village beggarly pride of the Nazarenes cannot at all comprehend the humility of the Great One.” Stier.
23 . this proverb ] The Greek word is ‘ parabolē ,’ which is here used for the Hebrew mashal , and had a wider meaning than its English equivalent. Thus it is also used for a proverb ( Beispiel ), 1 Samuel 10:12 , 1 Samuel 10:24 :13; Ezekiel 12:22 ; or a type, Hebrews 9:9 , Hebrews 11:19 . See on 8:5.
Physician, heal thyself ] The same taunt was addressed to our Lord on the Cross. Here it seems to have more than one application, meaning, ‘If you are the Messiah why are you so poor and humble?’ or, ‘Why do you not do something for us, here in your own home?’ (So Theophylact, Euthymius, &c.) It implies radical distrust, like Hic Rhodos, hic salta . There seems to be no exact Hebrew equivalent of the proverb, but something like it (a physician who needs healing) is found in Plut. De Discern. Adul . 32.
whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum ] St Luke has not before mentioned Capernaum, and this is one of the many indications found in his writings that silence respecting any event is no proof that he was unaware of it. Nor has any other Evangelist mentioned any previous miracle at Capernaum, unless we suppose that the healing of the courtier’s son (John 4:46-54 ) had preceded this visit to Nazareth. Jesus had, however, performed the first miracle at Cana, and may well have wrought others during the stay of “not many days” mentioned in John 2:12 . Capernaum was so completely the head-quarters of His ministry as to be known as “His own city.” (Matthew 4:12-16 , Matthew 11:23 .)
24 30. Rejection by the Nazarenes
24 . is accepted in his own country ] St Matthew adds (13:57) “and in his own house,” implying that “neither did His brethren believe on Him.” This curious psychological fact, which has its analogy in the worldly proverb that ‘No man is a hero to his valet,’ or, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt,’ was more than once referred to by our Lord; John 4:44 . (“Vile habetur quod domi est.” Sen. De Benef , iii. 2.)
25 . many widows were in Israel ] So far from trying to flatter them, He tells them that His work is not to be for their special benefit or glorification, but that He had now passed far beyond the limitations of earthly relationships.
three years and six months ] Such was the Jewish tradition, as we see also in James 5:17 (comp. Daniel 12:7 ; Revelation 11:2 , Revelation 11:3 , Revelation 11:13 :5). The book of Kings only mentions three years (1 K. 17:1, 8, 9, 18:1, 2), but in the “many days” it seems to imply more.
26 . save unto Sarepta ] i. e. “but he was sent to Sarepta.” Zarephath (1 K. 17:9) was a Phoenician town near the coast between Tyre and Sidon, now called Surafend .
27 . saving Naaman the Syrian ] 2 K. 5:1 14. Thus both Elijah and Elisha had carried God’s mercies to Gentiles.
28 . were filled with wrath ] The aorist implies a sudden outburst. Perhaps they were already offended by knowing that Jesus had spent two days at Sychar among the hated Samaritans; and now He whom they wished to treat as “the carpenter” and their equal, was as it were asserting the superior claims of Gentiles and lepers. “Truth embitters those whom it does not enlighten.” “The word of God,” said Luther, “is a sword, is a war, is a poison, is a scandal, is a stumbling-block, is a ruin” viz. to those who resist it (Matthew 10:34 ; 1 Peter 2:8 ).
29 . the brow of the hill whereon their city was built ] The ‘ whereon ’ refers to the hill not to the brow. Nazareth nestles under the southern slopes of the hill. The cliff down which they wished to hurl Him (because this was regarded as a form of ‘stoning,’ the legal punishment for blasphemy) was certainly not the so-called ‘Mount of Precipitation’ which is two miles distant, and therefore more than a sabbath day’s journey, but one of the rocky escarpments of the hill, and possibly that above the Maronite Church, which is about 40 feet high. This form of punishment is only mentioned in 2 Chronicles 25:12 ; but in Phocis it was the punishment for sacrilege. (Philo.)
30 . passing through the midst of them ] This is rather a mirabile than a miraculum , since no miracle is asserted or necessarily implied. The inherent majesty and dignity of our Lord’s calm ascendency, seem to have been sufficient on several occasions to overawe and cow His enemies; John 7:30 , John 7:46 , John 7:8 :59, John 7:10 :39, John 7:40 , John 7:18 :6 (see Psalms 18:29 , Psalms 37:33 ).
went his way ] Probably never to return again. Nazareth lies in a secluded valley out of the ordinary route between Gennesareth and Jerusalem. If after thirty sinless years among them they could reject Him, clearly they had not known the day of their visitation. It is the most striking illustration of St John’s sad comment, “He came unto His own possessions ( τὰ ἴδια ) and His own people ( οἱ ἴδιοι ) received Him not” (John 1:11 ).
31 37. The Healing of a Demoniac
31 . came down to Capernaum ] St Matthew (4:13 16) sees in this the fulfilment of Isaiah 9:1 , Isaiah 9:2 , omitting the first part which should be rendered “At the former time he brought contempt on the Land of Zebulun and on the Land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he brought honour .” It was perhaps on His way to Capernaum that our Lord healed the courtier’s son (John 4:47-54 ). Capernaum is in all probability Tell Hûm. The name means village (now Kefr ) of Nahum, and Tell Hûm is ‘the ruined mound’ or ‘heap’ of (Na)hum. It is now a heap of desolation with little to mark it except the ruins of one white marble synagogue possibly the very one built by the friendly centurion (7:5) and the widely-scattered débris of what perhaps was another. But in our Lord’s time it was a bright and populous little town, at the very centre of what has been called “the manufacturing district of Palestine.” It lay at the nucleus of roads to Tyre and Sidon, to Damascus, to Sepphoris (the capital of Galilee), and to Jerusalem, and was within easy reach of Peraea and Ituraea. It was in fact on the “ way of the sea ” (Isaiah 9:1 ) the great caravan road which led to the Mediterranean. It was hence peculiarly fitted to be the centre of a far-reaching ministry of which even Gentiles would hear. These things, as St Paul graphically says, were “not done in a corner,” Acts 26:26 . Besides the memorable events of the day here recorded, it was here that Christ healed the paralytic (5:18) and the centurion’s servant (7:2), and called Levi (Matthew 9:9 ), rebuked the disciples for their ambition (Mark 9:35 ), and delivered the memorable discourse about the bread of life (John 6:0 ).
a city of Galilee ] These little descriptions and explanations shew that St Luke is writing for Gentiles who did not know Palestine. Comp. 1:26, 21:37, 22:1.
32 . they were astonished ] The word expresses more sudden and vehement astonishment than the more deeply seated ‘amaze’ of vs. 36.
at his doctrine ] Rather, at His teaching , referring here to the manner He adopted.
his word was with power ] St Matthew gives one main secret of their astonishment when he says that “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes ,” 7:29. The religious teaching of the Scribes in our Lord’s day had already begun to be the second-hand repetition of minute precedents supported by endless authorities. (“Rabbi Zeira says on the authority of Rabbi Jose bar Rabbi Chanina, and Rabbi Ba or Rabbi Chija on the authority of Rabbi Jochanan, &c., &c.” Schwab, Jer. Berachôth , p. 159.) We see the final outcome of this servile secondhandness in the dreary minutiae of the Talmud. But Christ referred to no precedents; quoted no ‘authorities;’ dealt with fresher and nobler topics than fantastic hagadoth (‘legends’) and weary traditional halachôth (‘rules’). He spoke straight from the heart to the heart, appealing for confirmation solely to truth and conscience, the inner witness of the Spirit.
33 . a spirit of an unclean devil ] The word ‘unclean’ is peculiar to St Luke, who writes for Gentiles. The word for devil is not diabolos , which is confined to Satan, or human beings like him (John 6:70 ); but daimonion , which in Greek was also capable of a good sense. The Jews believed daimonia to be the spirits of the wicked (Jos. B. J. vii. 6, § 3). Here begins that description of one complete Sabbath-day in the life of Jesus, from morning till night, which is also preserved for us in Matthew 8:14-17 ; Mark 1:21-31 . It is the best illustration of the life of ‘the Good Physician’ of which the rarest originality was that “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38 ). Into the question of the reality or unreality of ‘demoniac possession,’ about which theologians have held different opinions, we cannot enter. On the one hand, it is argued that the Jews attributed nearly all diseases, and especially all mental and cerebral diseases, to the immediate action of evil spirits, and that these ‘possessions’ are ranged with cases of ordinary madness, and that the common belief would lead those thus afflicted to speak as if possessed; on the other hand, the literal interpretation of the Gospels points the other way, and in unenlightened ages, as still in dark and heathen countries, the powers of evil seem to have an exceptional range of influence over the mind of man. The student will see the whole question fully and reverently discussed in Jahn, Archaeologia Biblica , E. T. pp. 200 216.
34 . Saying, Let us alone ] Omit saying , with א , B, L. The word Ea ! may be not the imperative of eaô (‘desist!’) but a wild cry of horror ‘Ha!’
what have we to do with thee ] The demon speaks in the plural, merging his individuality in that of all evil powers. (Matthew 8:29 ; Mark 5:9 .) For the phrase see 8:28; 2 Samuel 16:10 , 2 Samuel 16:19 :22; 2 Samuel 1:0 K. 17:18; John 2:4 .
to destroy us ] “The devils also believe and tremble,” James 2:19 .
the Holy One ] 1:35; Psalms 16:10 , “thine Holy One.” Daniel 9:24 .
35 . Hold thy peace ] Literally, “ Be muzzled ,” as in 1 Corinthians 9:9 . See Matthew 22:34 ; Mark 1:25 , &c.
had thrown him ] St Mark uses the stronger word “tearing him.” It was the convulsion which became a spasm of visible deliverance. It is most instructive to contrast the simple sobriety of the narratives of the Evangelists with the credulous absurdities of even so able, polished and cosmopolitan a historian as Josephus, who describes an exorcism wrought in the presence of Vespasian by a certain Eleazar. It was achieved by means of a ring and the ‘root of Solomon,’ and the demon in proof of his exit was ordered to upset a bason of water! (Jos. B. J. vii. 6, § 3; Antt. viii. 2, § 5.) As this is the earliest of our Lord’s miracles recorded by St Luke, we may notice that the terms used for miracles in the Gospels are teras ‘prodigy,’ and thaumasion ‘wonderful’ (Matthew 21:15 only), from the effect on men’s minds; paradoxon (5:26 only), from their strangeness; sēmeia ‘signs,’ and dunameis ‘powers,’ from their being indications of God’s power; endoxa ‘glorious deeds’ (13:17 only), as shewing His glory; and in St John erga ‘works,’ as the natural actions of One who was divine. See Trench, On Miracles , i. 9. “Miracles, it should be observed, are not contrary to nature, but beyond and above it.” Mozley.
37 . the fame of him went out ] Rather, a rumour about Him began to spread .
38, 39. The Healing of Simon’s Wife’s Mother
38 . into Simon’s house ] St Mark, nearly connected with St Peter, says more accurately “the house of Simon and Andrew” (1:29). This is the first mention of Peter in St Luke, but the name was too well known in the Christian Church to need further explanation. Peter and Andrew were of Bethsaida (House of Fish), (John 1:44 , John 12:21 ), a little fishing village, as its name imports, now Ain et Tabijah or ‘the Spring of the Figtree,’ where, alone on the Sea of Galilee, there is a little strip of bright hard sand. St Luke does not mention this Bethsaida, though he mentions another at the northern end of the Lake (9:10). It was so near Capernaum that our Lord may have walked thither, or possibly Simon’s mother-in-law may have had a house at Capernaum. It is a remarkable indication of the little cloud of misunderstanding that seems to have risen between Jesus and those of His own house (Matthew 13:57 ; John 4:44 ), that though they were then living at Capernaum (Matthew 9:1 , Matthew 17:24 ) having perhaps been driven there by the hostility of the Nazarenes their home was not His home.
Simon’s wife’s mother ] “St Peter, the Apostle of Christ, who was himself a married man.” Marriage Service. She seems afterwards to have travelled with him (1 Corinthians 9:5 ). Her (most improbable) traditional name was Concordia or Perpetua (Grabe, Spicil. Patr. i. 330).
with a great fever ] St Luke, being a physician, uses the technical medical distinction of the ancients, which divided fevers into ‘great’ and ‘little’ (Galen). For other medical and psychological touches see 5:12, 6:6, 22:50, 51; Acts 3:6-8 , Acts 3:4 :22, Acts 3:9 :33, &c.
they besought him ] not, as elsewhere, the imperfect (John 4:47 ), but the aorist, implying that they only had to ask Him once. St Mark confirms this when he says (1:30), “ immediately they speak to Him about her.”
39 . he stood over her ] A graphic touch, found here only. The other Evangelists say that He took her by the hand.
she arose and ministered unto them ] Literally, arising at once she began to wait on them .
40 44. Healing the Sick at Evening
40 . when the sun was setting ] Sunset ended the Sabbath, and thus enabled Jews, without infringing on the many minute ‘ abhoth ’ and ‘ toldoth ’ i. e. primary and subordinate rules of sabbatic strictness to carry their sick on beds and pallets. (John 5:11 , John 5:12 ; see Life of Christ , i. 433.) This twilight scene of Jesus moving about with word and touch of healing among the sick and suffering, the raving and tortured crowd (Matthew 4:24 ), is one of the most striking in the Gospels, and St Matthew quotes it as a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:4 .
41 . crying out ] The word implies the harsh screams of the demoniacs.
Thou art Christ the Son of God ] The words “Thou art Christ” should be omitted with א , B, C, D, F, L, &c.
suffered them not to speak ] “His hour was not yet come” (John 7:30 ), nor in any case would He accept such testimony: so St Paul with the Pythoness at Philippi (Acts 16:18 ).
to speak: for they knew that he was Christ ] Rather, to say that they knew that He was the Christ , i. e. the Messiah. It was not till after the Crucifixion that ‘Christ’ became a proper name, and not a title.
42 . when it was day ] St Mark (1:35) uses the expression “rising up exceedingly early in the morning, while it was yet dark.” It was His object to escape into silence, and solitude, and prayer, without being observed by the multitudes.
into a desert place ] Densely as the district was populated, such a place might be found in such hill ravines as the Vale of Doves at no great distance.
the people sought him ] Rather, were earnestly seeking for Him . It is characteristic of the eager impetuosity of St Peter, that (as St Mark tells us, 1:36) he, with his friends, on this occasion (literally) “hunted Him down” ( katedioxan ).
stayed him ] Rather, tried or wished to detain Him . It is the tentative imperfect.
43 . I must ] “It behoves me” the ‘must’ of moral obligation.
preach ] Rather, tell the glad tidings of . The word is “evangelize,” not kêrussô the word of the next verse.
the kingdom of God ] The acceptance of the Faith of Christ, whether in the heart or in the world, was illustrated by Christ in its small beginnings, the mustard seed (13:19); in its hidden working (13:21); and in its final triumph.
to other cities ] Rather, to the rest of the cities . In St Mark He says, Let us go elsewhere to the adjoining country villages.
44 . he preached ] Rather, He was preaching , implying a continued ministry.
of Galilee ] Here א , B, C, L and other uncials have the important various reading “of Judaea.” If this reading be correct, it is another of the many indications that the Synoptists assume and imply that Judaean ministry which St John alone narrates.
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the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30