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Bible Commentaries
Luke 4

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

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Verses 1-44

Luke 4:4

The Greeks... knew that man does not live by bread alone, that livelihood is not life, that mere wealth is not well-being. The satisfaction of material wants is not the end of human endeavour. The wealth of nations, like the happiness of individuals, has its source deeper than in the accumulation of riches or the expansion of commerce. The true value of the goods of life is determined by the sense of life as a whole, and by their relation to the higher and distinctively human ends of existence.

Butcher's Harvard Lectures on Greek Subjects, pp. 79, 80.

Religion is the sense that you are, as far as you are anything, the child of the Larger Life.

R, L. Nettleship.

References. IV. 4. T. Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, p. 90. IV. 5. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 340. IV. 5- 8. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 95. IV. 7. W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 262. IV. 9. Ibid. Sermons, p. 275.

Luke 4:6-7

A strange, frolicsome, noisy little world was this school: great pains were taken to hide chains with flowers; a subtle essence of Romanism pervaded every arrangement; large sensual indulgence (so to speak) was permitted by way of counterpoise to jealous spiritual restraint. Each mind was being reared in slavery; but, to prevent reflection from dwelling on this fact, every pretext for physical recreation was seized and made the most of. There, as elsewhere, the Church strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning. 'Eat, drink, and live!' she says. 'Look after your bodies; leave your souls to me. I hold their cure guide their course: I guarantee their final fate.' A bargain, in which every true Catholic deems himself a gainer. Lucifer just offers the same terms: 'All this power will I give thee and the glory of it; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.'

Villette, xiv.

References. IV. 9-13. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 188. IV. 10. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 260; vol. x. p. 361.

Luke 4:13

Let not a man trust his victory over his nature too far: for nature will be buried a great time, and yet revive upon the temptation.


References. IV. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2326. IV. 14. J. Wallace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 381. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 339. IV. 15. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 25. IV. 16. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 91. J. Farquhar, The Schools and Schoolmasters of Christ, pp. 45 and 89. J. Alford Davies, Seven Words of Love, p. 88. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 69. Ibid. vol. iv. p. 376; (7th Series), vol. vi. pp. 30, 465.

The Beginning of the Ministry

Luke 4:16-19

We are the witnesses in this incident of the opening of a ministry which has changed the world. We picture Him as He stands up upon that memorable morn, full of a mysterious power. What was the secret of that power? Jesus teaches us the secret when He says, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me'. But, again, we may ask, What was it that had supplied the last element in the education of Jesus to His life work? It was temptation a temptation victoriously resisted. That is just the element of education which so many ministries conspicuously lack. Note, again, how the universal begins with the local. 'He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.' How difficult to begin just there; yet that is just where all true ministries ought to begin. And now let us ask what is the meaning of this great proclamation in which Christ describes the fourfold programme of Christianity?

I. First of all, He proclaims a social Gospel, a Gospel that deals with circumstances, a Gospel that deals with the outside conditions of a man's life. He says that He preaches the Gospel to the poor, and that Christianity is hope to poverty; this is the first note that Christ sounds. Now, there can be no mistake whatever as to what poverty means in the common judgment of the world. Poverty is degradation and dependence; to be poor is to be at the mercy of the world. What has Christ to say to that? In what way does He preach the Gospel to the poor? (1) In this way, that Christianity utterly rejects this human view of poverty. (2) It is a Gospel to the poor, again, because it arches over every poor man the illimitable firmament, and opens to him the doors of an everlasting life. (3) Christianity is a Gospel to the poor, because Christianity alone has taught us to have some respect for the rights of labour, some sympathy with the sorrows of poverty, some regard for the natural claims of human brotherhood.

II. The second element of this programme of Christianity is the healing Gospel. Broken-hearted-ness may stand for the sorrows of love, for the poignant anguish of love unrequited or shattered, the love that seeks but never finds, the love which finds but soon loses, the love which wins an imperfect or no earthly consummation.

III. The third element in the programme that Christ announced is an emancipating Gospel. Christ brings intellectual emancipation. The true liberty is within Christianity, not without, for Christianity replaces doubt by certitude, the guesses of hope with the never-failing light of faith.

IV. Christ announced an enlightening Gospel. Christianity is the recovery of spiritual faculty sight to the blind, for men were not created blind, but seeing; and Christ gives back the lost power of seeing. It is an enlightening Gospel; the soul recovers its vision, and we see the will of God upon the scroll of destiny, and are at peace. And who can close the book without feeling, too, how there throbs through this passage a Divine hospitality and compassion! This is the keynote surely of Christianity, and must be the keynote of every successful ministry.

W. J. Dawson, The Comrade Christ, p. 33.

References. IV. 16, 17, 21. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 36. IV. 16-21. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 25. IV. 16-30. A. B. Bruce, The Galilean Gospel, p. 20. Expositor (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 21. IV. 17, 18. Lyman Abbott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 68. IV. 17-19. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 102. IV. 17-20. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 55.

The Broken-hearted (For Advent)

Luke 4:18

I. A Broken Heart. A broken heart is a very common thing at the present day, perhaps commoner now than it ever was in the world's history. Science has to a great extent conquered physical pain, but science has done nothing to diminish mental pain. So there are many reasons why hearts are broken.

(a) Broken by Grief. There is grief, natural grief, perhaps we may call it grief which comes upon us, which we all expect must come upon us when the parent dies, and we are left without those we love in this cold world.

(b) There is Failure. The world of youth is a glorious world of sunshine and of bright visions, and those visions fade as youth fades, and then the world is grey, like some December day.

(c) Sin. And there are some whose hearts are broken by sin, sin of themselves or of some other. Yes, their shame is rightly suffered, but the thought that this shame could have been avoided adds poignancy to the pain.

II. Christ came to Heal the Broken in Heart. To the simple this truth appears in all its simplicity. Christ healed the broken heart by taking sorrow on Him. He trod the road first, and the simple with grateful hearts tread it after Him. They ask no reason why He created sorrow, they ask no reason why Christ had to suffer, they merely feel that they are planting their footsteps where Christ trod, and that His Divine sympathy enfolds them, and their hearts ache no longer as their mind dwells on His sorrow and His love.

The Christ coming on earth assured us that our God was One of infinite pity. Before His coming the world knew God as a Being of infinite power, but not of infinite beauty. His all-embracing love was yet unknown to man. Till he heard of God taking upon Himself the form of man, and by the sacrifice of the cross, showing that infinite love in infinite selfsacrifice, the mystery of His love was hid from man; but when He entered in triumph into heaven He threw open wide the gates of heaven and showed the wondrous beauty of the Godhead. Poverty, shame, sorrow, disappointment, failure, have henceforth another meaning to the Christian.

Luke 4:18

In Wesley's Journal for Monday, 2nd April, 1739, this entry occurs: 'At four in the afternoon I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to almost three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible any one should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?), "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor," etc.

Luke 4:18

In confusion there is ever bondage; and it is to this confusion, the want of rhythm and cadence in life, the absence of a clear purpose and intention, that it owes so much of its weariness and sadness. Have you not felt how much there is in the ordinary inevitable cause of life which renders to bondage? 'The strong hours conquer us.' We are straitened in ourselves and in each other, fettered to a routine which makes us often say with John Bunyan, And so I went home to prison'.

Dora Greenwell.

References. IV. 18. H. P. Liddon, University Sermons (2nd Series), p. 281. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 372. IV. 18, 19. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1483, p. 1. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 74. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 38. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 343. IV. 19. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 15. IV. 21. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 116. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Luke, p. 85. IV. 22. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. i. p. 171. H. G. Woods, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiii. p. 786. IV. 23. L. D. Bevan, Sermons to Students, p. 93. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. pp. 232, 319; ibid. vol. vi. p. 445.

Luke 4:24

A correspondent of the Daily News, some years ago narrated a circumstance regarding the burial of Carlyle at Ecclefechan, to illustrate the small honour in which the great author was held by his native villagers. Hardly any interest was excited by the arrival of the funeral party. Mr. Froude, however, rushed fussily up to the stationmaster and said: 'I hope every precaution is being taken to prevent unseemly crowding; that the police have taken proper measures to ensure the road being kept clear between the station and the churchyard.' 'Eh, man,' was the reply, 'ye needna fash yersel'. There's na an auld wife in Ecclefechan that wud pit her heed oot o' the winda tae look at Tam Carlyle when he was leevin,' let alane when he's deed.'

References. IV. 24. H. S. Holland, Vital Values, p. 131. IV. 25. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 178. IV. 28-30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 753. IV. 29. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 266. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 195; ibid. vol. viii. p. 382. IV. 30. Ibid. vol. vi. p. 366.

Luke 4:32

The first condition of effective oratory is given in the words 'this man speaketh with authority'. English preachers, ever since the seventeenth century, have never possessed this secret, and have therefore never commanded their hearers.

Leslie Stephen, English Thought in Eighteenth Century, ii. p. 355.

Reference. IV. 32. F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine , vol. xvii. p. 431.

Luke 4:32

Say what you will, the Christian religion, it must be allowed, has something astonishing about it.


References. IV. 32, 36. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 366. IV. 33, 34. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Luke, p. 95. IV. 34. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 407. IV. 38. C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 186. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 355. IV. 38, 39. M. Eastwood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 60. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2174. IV. 39. E. A. Askew, The Service of Perfect Freedom, p. 205. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1071.

Setting Suns

Luke 4:40

What happened when the sun was setting? 'He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.' It was the brightest sunrise they ever saw; they forgot that the sun was setting in the heavens, for a greater, healthier, happier Sun had risen elsewhere. It will always be so in human history. When your heart's sun is setting another sun will take its place and fill the sky with a brighter light. There is no despair in love, no sunset hour in the higher passions. God will be merciful to you, and He will comfort you at the latter end. He has great stores of grace, great stretches of ability that have not yet been touched, and He will come to you in some sunset hour, and tell you that presently the Sun will rise with healing in His wings.

I. 'He laid His hands on every one of them,' and the laying-on of His hands was resurrection, rehabilitation, ordination, life. O Thou living Christ, why not lay Thine hands upon us, and make men of us, and heroes, and triumphant souls? Why not? There is a great deal of masonry in contact. They say that when a certain man shakes hands with you, he can by the handshake let you know whether he belongs to the Freemasons or not. What is it? Only himself knows, and his kith and kindred in that secret; but by a grand grasp you know that you are hand-locked with a brother. Has the Christian hand lost its touch? It is a hand in form, in pressure of a certain kind, but is there that electric, magnetic touch which is the secret and the seal of a high and noble personality?

II. 'And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ, the Son of God;' and He said, Silence! But why silence? They told the truth. Yes, they did. Why hush them in an ignominious silence? Simply because they were bad spirits. Christ never called in the aid of any one devil or man, that was bad. The devils also believe and tremble, their faith does not bring them to peace; they believe and are afraid; they believe, and they are burned with judgment Christ will not have any bad man as a preacher. He does not call for men who have no infirmities and no weaknesses, but He knows the difference between a man who is infirm on purposes and weak that he may serve an end, and the sincere man who is only a man. 'The best of men are but men at the best,' and Christ knows this, and therefore it hath pleased Him to call out men who are very imperfect and infirm, but sincere at heart, to tell what they know of His kingdom.

III. 'And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought Him, and came unto Him, and stayed Him, that He should not depart from them.' They said, No, abide with us always, we are happy and healthy whilst Thou art here. Christ said, No, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also'. What is the lesson? Christ must not be localised. If we want to localise Him, we are selfish; we must send the royalist love and gift to other cities also, saying, Let them hear by all means. Oh that all the cities of the world could hear this music! That is the true secret of missions. If we cannot send the living Christ Himself, we must send the living Christ in the living missionary to preach good tidings of great joy.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 242.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 242

References. IV. 41. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 460. IV. 42. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 103. IV. 43. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 72. IV. 44 J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 235.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 4". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/luke-4.html. 1910.
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