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The Temptation Of Jesus -- Luke 4:1-42.4.13
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did not eat anything: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season”- Luke 4:1-42.4.13.
We have two separate accounts of the temptation of our Lord Jesus in the New Testament, Matthew and Luke both relating His experiences at that time. It has often been noticed that the order of the tests is not the same in each of these Gospels. This does not, however, imply any contradiction, but simply that in the one Gospel, Luke, we evidently have the moral order of the temptations, and in Matthew the historical. We are told that our blessed Lord was “tempted in all points like as we are, apart from sin.” Actually there are only three points on which anyone can be tempted. All temptation appeals either to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. That is, there is the fleshly, the aesthetic, and the spiritual or intellectual temptation. It was in this way that Eve was tempted in the garden of Eden, and she capitulated on all points. She saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food; that was an appeal to the flesh: that it was pleasant to the eye; that was an aesthetic appeal: then that it was to be desired to make one wise; this, of course, was an appeal to spiritual pride. Our Lord resisted on every point and so demonstrated the fact that He was the sinless One.
He was born into the world as the holy One, and holiness repels evil. In Adam unfallen, we see humanity innocent; when fallen, humanity sinful. In our Lord Jesus Christ we have humanity holy. The question is often asked, “Could our Lord have sinned? If not, why the temptation, and what was the virtue in His standing?” The answer is clearly this: He was not tempted to find out if He could sin, but to prove that He was the sinless One. It was like the acid test for the gold, which demonstrates the purity of the metal. We need to remember that the Lord Jesus was God and Man in one Person. He was not two persons in one body. It is unthinkable that he could sin so far as Deity is concerned. God cannot be tempted with sin. Had He been only a man He might have been put on trial like Adam and failed. But because He was God and Man in one Person He could not sin. There was, of course, in Him no evil nature, but there was none in Adam before he yielded. If our Lord had inherited fallen human nature, if there had been in Him any tendency to sin, He would have needed a Saviour Himself. Because He was the absolutely sinless One He could offer Himself a ransom for our souls and so bring fallen humanity back to God.
We are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews that He suffered being tempted. On the other hand, Peter tells us, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” These two passages bring out most vividly the difference between Christ and us. We suffer by resisting temptation and so are enabled to cease from sin, but temptation caused Him the keenest suffering. As the holy One He could not endure this contact with Satanic suggestion without suffering inward distress.
We are told that “Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan; and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” This in itself is most suggestive. Acknowledged by the Father as His beloved Son in whom He had found all His delight, sealed by the Holy Spirit and thus marked out as the Messiah, the Anointed of Jehovah, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness of Quarantana, according to accepted tradition, in order that, through the temptation, it might be demonstrated that He was in very truth the holy One, who was thus suited to offer Himself a sacrifice on behalf of those who are unholy.
Standing in the ruins of the recently uncovered city of Jericho and looking up upon the bare, desolate mount of Quarantana, in the wilderness of Judaea, my own heart was deeply stirred some years ago, as I thought of my blessed Lord spending forty days there with the wild beasts of the wilderness and without food. What a contrast to Adam the First, who was placed in a garden of delight, with every creature subject to his will and provided with everything needful to sustain and strengthen him physically! Jesus stood every test, fasting in a wilderness among the wild beasts because He, the Last Adam, the Second Man, was God’s blessed, Eternal Son become flesh for our redemption.
We are told definitely that He was forty days tempted of the devil. Let me emphasize that. There are those today who deny the personality of the devil. They say that all the devil there is, is the evil of a man’s own heart, his own wicked desires, his own evil thoughts. In one great religious system, which has been taken up by multitudes, the teaching is current that if you just cut the letter “D” out of the word “Devil” you will find what that word really represents. The devil is simply the personification of evil. Actually, they tell us, there is no personal devil. Have you ever thought what that implies? First of all, it implies this: all the wickedness, all the vile iniquity, all the abominable filth and the dreadful corruption that have characterized the most vicious men and women during the millenniums of history have come from their own hearts without any tempting spirit to incite to these excesses. That is the worst indictment of the human race that anyone ever dreamed of bringing against mankind: It implies that man’s heart, in itself, is so utterly evil that it needs no outside incentive to produce the unbelievable vileness which has polluted the pages of human history. Surely, no stern, hyper-Calvinist of Reformation days ever brought as strong an indictment against humanity as that! And yet, because error is never consistent, the very people who teach this tell us that all men are children of God by natural birth, and deny the necessity of redemption and of regeneration!
But then there is more than this to be considered. The denial of the personality of the devil is positive blasphemy against our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we are told that He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Dare we say that this means He was to be tempted by His own evil thoughts, by the wickedness of His own heart? We have already seen that there was no wickedness there. He was the pure and sinless One. Yet He was tempted of the devil. He Himself tells us elsewhere that the devil abode not in the truth, that he is a liar from the beginning, a murderer, and that there is no truth in him. Note these personal pronouns. Our Lord Jesus recognized in Satan a sinister personality, the foe of God and man.
The question may be asked, “Why, then, did God create such an evil being? Why did He ever bring a devil into existence?” He did not create him as an evil spirit but as a pure and innocent angel. He abode not in the truth. Like all the other angels, he was created in innocence, but temptation came, the temptation to exalt himself, and so he fell and became the enemy of God and man. His judgment has already been declared, but before it is carried out God has chosen to permit him a certain measure of power and liberty in order that men may be tested to find out whether they prefer Satan’s service or whether to live in loving devotion to the God who created them. You may take your choice, but if you choose Satan as your master here you must share his doom for eternity, for hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, that is, his messengers.
Now notice the order of the temptations as here given. Satan came to Jesus when He was hungry, when physically He was weakest. This was the opportunity to present to Him the appeal to the lust of the flesh, if there had been anything in Him contrary to the holiness of the Godhead. So the devil said to Him, “If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” To have yielded would have been to accept a suggestion from Satan and thus to take Himself out of the hand of God. There was not the slightest tendency to do this. Jesus met the tempter with Scripture, saying, “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live.” There is something more important than bread to sustain the body, and that is the Word that sustains the spirit. So the Lord Jesus repudiated the suggestion of the devil. He had no word from the Father commanding Him to change stones into bread. He would not put forth such power in obedience to Satan.
Alas, how often have we who profess His name failed in similar circumstances. We have reached the place of grave extremity in some experience of life. Satan presents an opportunity to prosper through doing something that is a little bit off-color and that is not quite in keeping with the full Christian profession. How many a child of God has failed right there and has allowed himself to take up with something which even the world recognizes as shady or crooked, in order that he might procure more of the bread that perishes, only to find out at last that he breaks his teeth upon the very stones which he attempted thus to change into food. That is not God’s way. He does not call upon His people to make bread out of stones. He feeds us both naturally and spiritually as we labor day by day for that which is for our blessing. There is something more important than bread, and that is to do the will of God.
The second temptation was the attempted appeal to the lust of the eye. From a great and high mountain in marvelous vision Jesus looks over the whole world. Satan shows Him all the kingdoms of the earth in a moment of time. He declares that all this belongs to him; he is the god of the world; he is its prince; men have surrendered it to him, and he says, “To whomsoever I will give it. If Thou wilt therefore worship me all shall be Thine.” It was the offer of the kingdom without the cross; but there was no inward response on the part of the Saviour. He had come into the world not only to rule as King, but first to give His life a ransom for many, and Satan’s suggestion make no impression upon Him whatever. He replies, “Get thee behind Me, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” He recognizes at once who the tempter is, calls him by name, spurns his suggestion and again triumphs through the Word.
The day will yet come when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and His Christ. In that day Satan himself will have to acknowledge that “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” All created intelligencies will prostrate themselves before Him, even though many of them will do it with weeping and gnashing of teeth because of the rebellion of their hearts.
The third test was an endeavor to appeal to the pride of the natural heart, something of which our blessed Lord knew nothing. He could ever say, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” We are told that Satan brought Him to Jerusalem and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple and said unto Him, “If Thou be the Son of God cast Thyself down from hence.” Impudently he quoted Scripture, a portion of the Ninety-first Psalm, as an assurance that if our blessed Lord did this He would be held up by angel hands and would not suffer death. Cunningly he omitted the most important part of the passage.
Try to imagine just what was here suggested. Think of a great throng of people gathered in the temple courts, and our Lord looking down upon that worshipping multitude from one of the highest heights of that noble building. Remember He has come to present Himself as the Messiah of Israel. Now Satan pretends to co-operate with Him and suggests: “Here is your opportunity to prove to the people that you are really the Son of God and their promised Messiah. Leap off the pinnacle of the temple: let them see you being sustained in midair by angelic hands. Then they will know that you are what you profess to be.” It did indeed seem from a natural standpoint to offer a remarkable occasion for the Lord to demonstrate His Messiah-ship. Notice exactly how Satan misquoted Scripture to back up his suggestion. He said, “It is written, He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” Our Saviour recognized the misquotation at once and saw through the Satanic suggestion as an appeal to spiritual pride. The devil said, as it were, “I am only asking you to do what Scripture warrants: leap from the pinnacle of the temple and count upon God to fulfil His own Word and to protect you from harm.” But if we turn back to the Ninety-first Psalm we will find the passage actually says, “He shall give His angels charge over Thee to keep Thee in all Thy ways.” These last four words Satan cunningly omitted. It could never be part of the holy ways of the Son of God to try to put His Father to the test in such a manner as that suggested by Satan. Jesus, however, did not argue the question with the devil. He just met him with another saying of God. He answered, “It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” That is, it is never right to do anything just in order to see whether God will keep His Word or not. It is never necessary to do that. He can always be depended on to do as He has said. Had it been part of the ways of the Son of God as planned by the Father that He should leap from the pinnacle of the temple and be supported by angelic hands, Jesus would not have needed to get instruction from Satan. He came to do the Father’s will, and in doing that will He could always depend on the Father’s sustaining power.
As an illustration of tempting God, let me refer to some strange things that have taken place recently in our Southern Mountains. There is a sect of fanatical people down there who have sought to test God on a promise given by the Lord to His apostles that they should be able to tread upon serpents, and that the bite of a serpent would not harm them. So in weird meetings conducted by these ignorant people, many of whom could not read or write, the teaching was given out that if one was really a Christian the bite of a rattlesnake could not hurt him, as God had promised protection. A number of instances have occurred wherein live rattlesnakes were brought into the meetings and certain leaders actually permitted these writhing reptiles to bite them, and hoped thereby to demonstrate their invulnerability to serpent poison. Several died because of it, others suffered terribly, but were eventually freed of the poison through proper treatment. The Government had to interfere because of the folly of this sect. It was all a matter of trying to put God to a test, and, of course, God would not respond to anything of the kind.
But now contrast with this that which happened to the apostle Paul on the island of Melita. As the shipwrecked sailors were warming themselves around a fire, there came out a viper and fastened itself upon Paul’s arm. The people expected him to fall down dead, but he threw the reptile off into the fire and was himself unharmed. God kept His Word, but Paul did not attempt to put Him to a test.
And so in our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, Satan endeavored to trap Him on every point, but He proved Himself to be the holy One in whom was no inward desire to yield to any other direction than that given Him by the Father. Satan failed to make any impression whatever on the Son of God, and then we read, “He departed from Him for a season.” He returned again from time to time and sought through enraged and fanatical unbelievers to put Him to death before the cross, and in Gethsemane, and again when our Saviour was actually nailed to the cross, Satan sought once more to thwart the purpose of God, only to be defeated each time.
The great lesson for us is that our Lord Jesus, who was tempted in all points like as we are, apart from sin, lives in the glory today and is able to exert His mighty power on our behalf and to succor us when we are tempted. Whatever the trial or test we may have to face, let us remember that He stands ready to come to our relief, to give to us strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may resist temptation and not dishonor our God and Father through our failures.
"The Acceptable Year Of The Lord" -- Luke 4:14-42.4.30
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? And He said unto them. Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal Thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country. And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when the great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synogogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He passing through the midst of them went His way”- Luke 4:14-42.4.30.
In this portion of Scripture we have the account of the Lord’s return visit to the city of Nazareth after He laid aside His carpenter’s apron and His artisan’s tools, and went forth, first to be baptized by John in the Jordan, to be sealed by the Holy Spirit for His specific work, and then to go through His temptation in the wilderness. After a short stay in Jerusalem, He returned to His own hometown. The people had heard a great deal about Him. They had heard of marvelous signs and wonders following His ministry in other places, and they were in great expectation, hoping to see something remarkable done by Him when He appeared among them. We are told that He entered into the synagogue, as His custom was. There is something about that which might speak to everyone of us. The Lord Jesus grew up in that city of Nazareth. When He dwelt there, as a young man, it was His custom to attend the services in the place where the Word of God was read and expounded, and where the people gathered together for prayer. I fancy there must have been many things about the synagogue service which often offended His spirit. Many of those who participated must have greatly misunderstood the real meaning of the Word of God. But to Him the synagogue represented the authority of God in that city. So it was His custom to wend His way there from sabbath to sabbath.
I think some christian people need to have their consciences exercised more than they are, in regard to gathering together with God’s people, where the Word of God is appreciated and where they come together to sing His praises and to pray. A man said to me once, “If I could find a perfect Church I would attend there.” I replied; “My dear friend, don’t. If you find a perfect Church don’t join it, because if you did it would be imperfect the moment you got into it.” There is no such thing as a perfect Church, but we can thank God for the places where people meet to hear the Word of God, and to join in praise and prayer. We need to remember the words, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” We need to do this “so much the more as we see the day approaching!”
Jesus could always be depended upon, as a Boy and as a Youth, to be in His place in the synagogue, as divine service was being carried on. So the people knew that He would be there on this given sabbath day, and they gathered to hear Him. He was evidently accustomed to participate publicly in the service. As soon as He entered, we read, “There was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” It would seem as though it was an ordinary thing for Him, when He attended the synagogue service, to take the sacred scroll, and to turn from one passage to another and expound them to the people. So now, as He entered on this particular sabbath-day, the one who had charge of the scrolls turned to Him and inquired what portion of the Scriptures He would like to read. He asked for the Book of the prophet Esaias, and He turned to this particular section and He read, “For the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” and He closed the Book. There might not be any special significance in that. He reads His text, He rolls up the scroll, and He is now about to expound it. But the remarkable fact is this: He broke off His reading in the middle of a sentence. He stopped at a comma. If you will turn to this passage in Isaiah 61:1-23.61.2, you will find that it reads as follows: “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” The Lord Jesus did not read those last words. Why? Because He had not come to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God. He had come to do all that is written of Him in the other part of the passage.
He had come to preach the gospel to the poor. Oh, I like that! It is a striking fact that in every land where the gospel has gone it has been largely the poor who have rejoiced in its message. You remember, it is written, “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.” “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” The trouble is that when men have an abundance of this world’s goods they are so taken up with them that they are not concerned about spiritual riches. But it is the poor, the needy, the struggling, who love to hear the gospel message. When Jesus was here, the common people “heard Him gladly.” It was the rulers, the self-righteous leaders, who had no sense of their sinfulness, and no realization of their need, and who could not appreciate Jesus. They had no concern about His message. But the poor-they loved to listen to Him. Thank God, though nineteen centuries have gone by since He left this scene, the gospel still is preached to the poor. If the time ever comes when we are not interested in the poor, and do not care for the poor, and draw away from the needy, “The Glory is Departed” will be written over the doors of the church.
We read of the poor in this world rich in faith. Those who do not have earthly wealth are rich often in spiritual things in a way that others who are in better circumstances are not. You remember that little poem:
“In the heart of London city’
Midst the dwelling of the poor,
These bright golden words were uttered,
‘I have Christ, what want I more?’
He who heard them ran to fetch her
Something from the world’s great store.
‘It was needless,’ died she saying,
‘I have Christ, what want I more?’”
Christ is a substitute for everything, but nothing is a substitute for Christ. Jesus was always interested in the poor, and He is interested in the poor today. He came to preach the gospel to the poor, and He says, “The Lord has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted.” In that He expresses His Deity, for it is God only who can heal broken hearts. No man can do it. The best man you ever knew couldn’t heal a broken heart. It would not be of any use to send your broken-hearted friends to the most spiritual ministers of Christ, and saying, “These men will be able to make you whole again.” We have no ability to heal broken hearts, but we can point people to One who can. How many broken-hearted men there are! Dr. Joseph Parker, one-time minister of the London City Temple, was once addressing young preachers, and he said to them, “Young gentlemen, always preach to broken hearts, and you will never lack for an audience.” There are so many of them everywhere. Hearts are bleeding and broken all around us. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, and if you who read these words are broken-hearted people, let me say to you, you wrong your own souls if you do not bring your burdens to the feet of Jesus. An old chorus says,
“You’ve carried your burden,
You’ve carried it long!
Oh, bring it to Jesus-
He’s loving and strong
He’ll take it away
And your sorrows shall cease,
He’ll send you rejoicing,
With His heavenly peace.”
Then He came to preach deliverance to the captives, not exactly to open all prison doors and let people out of jails and penitentiaries, but to deliver men from the captivity of sin and free those who are bound in chains of habit which they could not break. He is doing that today. He is freeing men from the power of sensuality, from unclean living, from evil tempers and vile dispositions, that bind folks as chains bind men in prison-cells. And He came to give the recovery of sight to the blind. When He was here on earth He touched the blind and His glory shone through their darkened lids, and lighted them forever. Though we may not see Him now by the natural eye, and He is not perhaps working the same kind of miracles which He did when He was here on earth, those who are blind spiritually, those who have had the understanding darkened, and have not been able to comprehend spiritual realities, when they come to Him the scales fall from their eyes, and He gives them light, and they are able to say with that delivered man of old, “There are many things I do not know or understand, but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” Oh, what a wonderful thing it is when Jesus touches blind eyes!
Then “He came to set at liberty those that are bruised.” We have been bruised by Satan. The very humanity in which we live has been bruised by the fall, but He came to set at liberty them that are bruised, to enable the lame to walk, and the dead to live and to rejoice in His saving grace.
He closed with the words, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” The acceptable year of the Lord-what is that? It is the time when God is looking in grace upon poor sinners. It is the time when the gospel is going out to lost men and women. He says, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.”
Does some one say in his heart, “Oh I would like to be a Christian, I would like to know the healing power of Jesus, but I’m afraid the time has not come yet. I do not feel the proper moving of the Spirit. I am not certain that I would be welcome. I must await God’s time?” That is an illusion of the enemy. God’s time is now. It is He Himself who says it. “Now is the accepted time.” “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” There is no reason why any anxious soul should go on in sin for another hour, because God is waiting to be gracious. This is the acceptable year since Jesus came to reveal the Father’s heart, since He came to die on the cross for our sins. God sent the message out to the world that all may come and find peace in Him. This is still the acceptable time. It will not last forever. It has lasted now for nearly two thousand years, since Jesus came and read this Scripture. He said He came to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. He did not read, “And the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus did not read that because the time had not come for the vengeance of our God to begin, and it has not come yet. But listen to me! It may come soon! It may not be long now ere the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Then the day of vengeance of our Lord will begin for this poor world. Then the book of doom will be opened, the trumpets of judgment will be sounded, and then the vials of wrath will be poured out upon this guilty world. This whole dispensation of the grace of God in which we live, the Lord Jesus puts into a comma. That is why He did not read on to “the day of vengeance of our God.” I plead with you to avail yourselves of the grace of God before He arises in judgment to shake terribly this world and shut the door. Today the door is wide open, and He says, “Whosoever will may come.”
Our Lord Jesus read this scripture and then He closed the Book. He rolled up the Scroll and gave it again to the minister, and He sat down. He rose up to read the Word and sat down to teach it. And He began to say unto them, “This day is the scripture fulfilled.” That is, He applied the scripture to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me”- upon Jesus. It was He who had come in actual fulfilment of this Old Testament prophecy. In the Old Testament, in the Book of the prophet Isaiah we have this wonderful prediction of the Messiah who is coming. The Lord Jesus Christ took these same words and read them, and He applied them to Himself, to the amazement of His hearers. To apply them to Himself is one thing and to prove it quite another, but He proved it by what He did. He did the very thing that these words said He would do, and He has been doing it all through the centuries since. Millions have tested Him for themselves. They have come to Him. They have come with their sins. They have come to be delivered from their chains of evil habits, and they have put their trust in Him, and they have found He is able to do what He said He would do.
As He declared, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” We are told that all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They had never heard anything like this before. None of the Scribes ever said anything like this. None of them ever dared to apply such a prophecy to themselves. He was actually the son of the blessed Virgin Mary, but so far as they knew He was the son of Joseph, who had taken His mother under his protective care. So they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He knew what they were thinking. And He said unto them, “Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, “Physician, heal Thyself; whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country.” But He added, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” He knew the unbelief that controlled their hearts, so that they had no desire to turn to God in repentance. So He used two illustrations saying, “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Naaman the Syrian was a Gentile, and that stirred them. They did not like His speaking in this way. As though God was just as much interested in needy Gentiles as in Jews! Yes, He is just as much interested in all the needy, for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” He is the same Lord over all.
When Jesus presented these two instances of God’s grace going out to the needy Gentiles they were filled with wrath and they rose up and they thrust Him out of their city.
A few years ago I went along the path they took, and I could visualize the synagogue and the crowd rushing around Jesus and saying, “We do not care anything about what You say. Out You go!” They crowded Him out unto the cliff at the edge of the city, and their object was to cast Him down headlong! “But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way.” How did He escape? Was it a miracle? I think it was. He simply passed through and they could not see where He had gone, so they were unable to cast Him over the cliff. His hour had not come. He had come into this world to die on Calvary’s cross, and no power of men or of the devil could put Him to death until that hour when He was to yield Himself a ransom for sinners, upon the tree. Till then all their power was in vain.
Jesus At Capernaum -- Luke 4:30-42.4.44
“But He passing through the midst of them went His way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil (demon), and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a Word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country round about. And He arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken 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 arose and ministered unto them. Now 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 devils (demons) also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou are Christ the Son of God. And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ, 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. And He said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And He preached in the synagogues of Galilee”- Luke 4:30-42.4.44.
The greater portion of this section consists of one day’s work on the part of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, in the city of Capernaum, at the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. It is called elsewhere “His own city.” After He gave up His work in the carpenter shop and went out on His great mission to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to a waiting people, a people who had been expecting that kingdom for so long, He removed from Nazareth to Capernaum, and made that the center from which He traveled back and forth to the various parts of the land. So on this occasion He returned to Capernaum, and He taught them, we are told, on the Sabbath days. By the term “Sabbath-day,” we are not to understand our Sunday, but the Jewish Sabbath, the seventh day. That was the day on which the people laid aside their usual employment and gathered together in their synagogues to hear the Word of God and to offer prayer. Our Lord took advantage of that day and joined with them. It had been His custom always to do this, and there in the synagogue on the Sabbath-days He ministered the Word of God. We are told that the people were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power. There was a divine energy about Him that appealed to them. They had never heard another like Him. You remember sometime afterward when officers were sent to arrest Him, they returned without Him and were asked, “Why have you not brought Him?” Their answer was, “Never man spake like this Man.” There was something so compelling about the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it moved the hearts even of His enemies. His word was with power.
It was not only the power of His Deity, but it was also the power of the Holy Spirit, for our Lord Jesus chose, as Man on earth, not to act according to His own Deity, but to be led, and guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit He preached the gospel of the kingdom.
On one particular occasion we read that in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon, and cried out with a loud voice. We should change the word devil in the Authorized Version to demon, because of the well-recognized fact that according to Scripture there is only one devil, Satan, who is called “that old serpent, the devil”; but there are a great many demons. These demons, evidently, were spirits led by Satan in his great rebellion, and he is called “the prince of the power of the air.” So we gather that these demons are not yet confined in hell, but with their master, Satan, they have access to men, and on certain occasions they can actually indwell and dominate men, or even where they do not indwell them, are able to impress them for evil, and lead them into ways contrary to the will of God. Here was a case of a man who was actually possessed with a demon. Just as in our dispensation of grace Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and so act under His control as they yield obedience to Him, so it was possible for men to be indwelt by one of these evil spirits and act as under that control. When this man, in whom the evil spirit was, saw the Lord Jesus Christ there in the synagogue he cried out, “Let us alone. What have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth. Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art-the Holy One of God.”
There is something very striking here. Men, ordinarily speaking, did not know Him. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” Those who should have known Him, those who should have recognized Him as having been sent by the Father, failed to understand who He was. The demon knew because Jesus has absolute authority over the unseen world. This is the only world in which anyone dares to flaunt His will, or deny His Deity. Everybody does His will in heaven. Everyone knows Him there, and all the lost have to be subject to Him in the under-world. Even demons have to recognize His authority. So this evil spirit called out, “I know who Thou art-the Holy One of God.” But Jesus did not desire a testimony of that kind; so He rebuked him, saying, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him,” and immediately in response to the word of the Lord Jesus the evil spirit, dominating the man, threw him in convulsions on the ground, and then came out of him and no longer hurt him.
All this took place in the synagogue at Capernaum. When I was visiting Palestine some years ago, I think the greatest thrill I had, next to visiting “the place called Calvary,” and the garden tomb just outside the Damascus gate of Jerusalem, was when standing on that very platform of the synagogue in Capernaum where this event and other events recorded in the Gospel took place. It was at Capernaum, we are told, that a Roman centurion built the Jews a synagogue, and for many, many centuries Capernaum had been entirely hidden from view. Archaelogists were unable to identify its site, until some years before the First World War a group of German monks built a monastery on a hill north of the Sea of Galilee, and when the World War broke out they were interned within the monastery grounds and were not permitted to leave until the war was over. While interned, in order that they might keep physically fit, they began to dig about on the hill where their monastery stood, and soon they began uncovering great blocks of limestone. The work went on with great interest, and by-and-by they uncovered an ancient synagogue. There was the entire floor, the great stones of the side walls, and the platform and pillars that had once upheld the roof. Now they have restored a great part of that synagogue, set up those pillars in place again, and though, of course, the roof is not on, you can enter the building, can look out over the vast floor capable of seating several hundred people, and you can stand on the platform back of the stone reading-desk. As I stood there with one of the monks by my side and my wife and daughter on the other side, how sacred a spot it seemed! I knew that my feet were standing on the very place where my blessed Lord had stood so long ago. They were able to identify it as the synagogue of Capernaum by this: They found on the great stones of the foundation all kinds of Hebrew signs. For instance, you can see cut in the stone Aaron’s rod, and the golden bowl that was placed in the ark, the five-pointed star of Solomon and the six-pointed star of David, the olive, the fig, and vine-leaves which are used as symbols of Israel, and a great many other signs that were distinctly Jewish, and yet the synagogue itself is definitely Roman in architecture. But there is only one Roman sign to be seen. That is the great eagle. Evidently some Jew who revolted at this had chiseled off most of the eagle. The Jew did not like the sign of the eagle on a synagogue devoted to Jehovah. There is little question but that it is the synagogue built by the Roman centurion, that the Jews might have a suitable place of worship. There it is, bearing silent testimony to the Word of God. As I stood there at the reading-desk, I could look down, and I said to the monk, “Somewhere near there was that man with the unclean spirit. I can almost imagine I see him rising to his feet, and hear him screaming, ‘Let us alone, what have we to do with Thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us?’” The monk said, “And Jesus rebuked him.” I said, “Yes.” So we went on, mentioning one thing after another that had taken place in that synagogue.
It is a very real thing when you read the Bible in the light of what you can see, even in present-day Palestine. You realize how wonderfully accurate everything is. When this man, then, was delivered from the power of the evil spirit, the people assembled there were stirred greatly. They were all amazed and spake among themselves, saying, “What a word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.” Notice one thing about the miracles of our Lord. He never wrought a miracle for self-aggrandizement. He never exercised His marvelous power merely in order to draw attention to Himself. In other words, He was not like the so-called magicians among the heathen who do all sorts of wonders to amaze and dazzle people. Jesus never wrought a miracle of any kind except for the benefit of others.
It was so in delivering this man from the power of the unclean spirit. It was so great a miracle that the audience was stirred and they began to spread His fame abroad. But He went out of the synagogue on the same day and went down into the city. He entered into the house of Simon Peter, the fisherman, who lived there also. Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever, and they besought Him for her. Some people have forgotten that Simon Peter ever had a wife. He was not a celibate clergyman! His mother-in-law lived with them. He was doubtless deeply concerned because she had taken ill, and they called to Jesus, and they besought Him for her. Oh, how often in these records we find people going to the Lord Jesus about others. And He invites us to do the same, and to bring to Him those who are sick, and those who are needy, and those who are distressed. He loves to answer prayer today as He did so long ago. They pleaded with Him to do something for Simon’s wife’s mother, and He went into the sick room. He stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. There is an added word in one of the other Gospels I like so much. It says, “He touched her hand, and the fever left her.” He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and He put His hand upon that hot fevered hand of the patient, and immediately there came a calmness, a sense of quietness and coolness. In the same wonderful way the Lord Jesus loves to minister to our fevered, restless hearts today. Oh, how many of us, in a certain sense, are like this poor woman. We are all distracted and upset and disturbed by existing conditions. What a blessed thing it is when Jesus comes to the bedside, when Jesus draws near, and when He rebukes the fever, when He touches the hand, and the fever dies away.
We are told that immediately she arose and ministered unto them. This is quite natural when one has experienced the delivering power of our Lord Jesus Christ. How the heart delights then to do something for Him and for others. This good woman no sooner is healed, no sooner realizes that she is well, than she says, “Now, I want to serve Him who has done this thing for me, and I want to serve those who are dear to Him and to me.” So she ministered unto them.
Have you felt a touch of His healing hand? Has His voice rebuked the fever of sin that once raged in your very being? Is it your delight now to serve Him? Are you among those who are glad not only to avail themselves of His delivering power, but are now concerned about giving Him the service of a grateful heart? Are you putting yourself out for the blessing of other people? This is the test of real conversion. You can tell a person who has experienced the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ by the manifestation of a desire to please Him, a desire to do His will, to glorify Him, to make Him known to others, and to bring them into contact with Him.
Every time the Lord wrought a work of power like this upon the body of some dear needy soul, the word of it went abroad to encourage others to come to Him. It is the same today. When the Lord Jesus works in great grace, saving one from the life of sin, bringing him to know God and giving him the power to live a new life to His glory, how it appeals to other people! I do not think there is anything that has such a tendency to draw folks to any place where the Word of God is preached as the word going forth that people are being saved, that men and women are being delivered from their sins, that God is working miracles among them. Oh, that we might see more of that here-the saving power of our Lord Jesus thus manifested!
In this instance we are told that as the sun was setting, and the day drew to a close, a day in which He had been so busily engaged in alleviating woes, that multitudes were brought to Him, and He laid His hands on them and healed them. Nobody ever came to Him in the days of His flesh, seeking deliverance from any ailment, but He met them in grace and delivered them. Somebody might say, “Well, how is it that now sometimes when we are sick, we come to Him, and we do not receive that for which we ask?” We need to remember that those mighty signs and wonders that He wrought when He was here on earth were the witnesses given to Israel to His Messiahship. He did them not only to help those who came to Him, but also to bear testimony to those who saw and heard, that He was indeed the promised Saviour. You will remember that the prophet of old declared that in His day the tongue of the dumb should be made to sing; the lame should leap as a hart; the eyes of the blind should be opened; the ears of the deaf unstopped, and that sorrow and sickness should flee before Him. These were the outward evidences that He was what He professed to be, the Messiah of Israel. Now that He has gone back to glory He has not given the definite promise that He will heal diseased bodies, but He has promised that He will always deliver sin-sick people that will come to Him. He says, “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.”
Every miracle that He wrought was in someway a picture of what sin does to men and women and how they are delivered. Take, for instance, the man who was possessed with a demon. He is just a picture of people all about us controlled and dominated by Satanic power, driven by habits and passions from which they cannot deliver themselves. This woman, with a fever raging in her veins, is a picture of the feverishness of sin, from which the Lord gives complete freedom.
They came to Him from all quarters and He healed them. We are told that demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “Thou art Christ the Son of God.” They knew Him. They recognized Him. They understood who He was. Men might deny Him, but the demons could not. He rebuked them because He did not want their testimony. “And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ.” Then we are told that when it was day He departed. When the morning dawned, He left Capernaum and went out into a desert place, and people sought Him there, and came to Him and begged Him not to depart from them. It is beautiful to see this. At this time, at least, He was appreciated, and the people wanted Him to remain. There may have been some selfishness in that. But they recognized His power and they desired Him to stay in their city. He said, “I cannot confine Myself to one place. I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also.” He went on from place to place, and preached in the synagogues of Galilee. Thus He was being accredited to the people of Israel as the promised One for whom they had waited so long. Oh, what a joy it is to realize that although now He is hidden from the eyes of men, yet His power is just the same! If I am addressing any who are in trouble, or sorrow, or distress, who are bound by chains of sin, or controlled by the power of habit; if you will only come to Jesus, though He is now in heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, you can reach out the hand of faith and feel the touch of His hand of healing. He will give deliverance to all who call upon Him in faith.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany