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Luke 4:1. Full of the Holy Ghost.—Which had descended upon Him in full measure at His baptism. Led by the Spirit—Or, “in the Spirit” (cf. Luke 2:27); abiding in the Spirit as the element of His life. Into the wilderness.—A better reading is “in the wilderness” (R.V.), and to connect the next clause with it: the leading of the Spirit continued there during forty days. The scene of the Temptation according to a not very ancient tradition is the mountainous region near Jericho—called from this identification Quarantania. There is some probability that the legend is true.
Luke 4:2. Tempted.—The present participle implies that the temptations lasted daring the forty days, though they culminated in the three specific attempts recorded in this and in the first Gospel.
Luke 4:3. And the devil said.—It is impossible to say whether the narrative before us, which Christ Himself must have communicated to His disciples, is literal history, or a symbolical description of an inward struggle. The phrase in the fifth verse, “in a moment of time,” would seem to indicate that the prospect was presented to the spiritual sense and not to the bodily eye; and this would favour the second of the two modes of interpretation above suggested. The phrase used in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “in all points tempted like as we are” (Luke 4:15), inclines the same way. If Thou be the Son of God.—An allusion doubtless to the words spoken from heaven at the time of His baptism. This stone.—Notice the graphic touch. Bread.—Or, “a loaf” (R.V. margin).
Luke 4:4. It is written.—It is somewhat remarkable that the three quotations from the Old Testament which Christ here makes are all from the Book of Deuteronomy (Luke 8:3; Luke 6:13; Luke 6:16). But by every word of God.—Omit these words; omitted in R.V.; probably taken from Matthew 4:4.
Luke 4:5. And the devil.—St. Matthew describes the temptation in Jerusalem as coming before that on the mountain; he evidently follows the order of time, as he indicates in the use of the word “then” (Matthew 4:5; Matthew 4:11). St. Luke may have had the idea in his mind of recording the temptations in the order of their varying degrees of intensity, as addressed respectively to natural appetite, ambition, and spiritual pride. It may be, however, that he simply narrates the two temptations, the scene of which was laid in the wilderness, before passing on to that which took place on the summit of the Temple. The words “the devil” and “into an high mountain” are possibly added from St. Matthew’s Gospel; they are omitted in the R.V. See note on Luke 4:3.
Luke 4:7. Worship.—I.e. do homage. All shall be Thine.—Rather, “it [the world] shall all be thine” (R.V.).
Luke 4:8. Get thee, etc.—The first sentence in this verse is omitted in the R.V.; it was probably taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Luke 4:9. A pinnacle.—Rather, “the pinnacle”; some well-known part of the building. Josephus tells of one called the Royal Porch which overlooked the valley of Hinnom at a dizzy height. There is nothing to indicate that Satan desired Jesus to perform a miracle in the sight of the people by casting Himself down and being preserved from injury.
Luke 4:10. For it is written, etc.—The quotation is from Psalms 91:11, but the words “in all Thy ways” are omitted; these words give the condition on which protection is promised—a condition which Satan would have Christ ignore.
Luke 4:11. In their hands.—Rather, “on their hands” (R.V.).
Luke 4:13. All the temptation.—Rather, “every temptation” (R.V.), i.e. every kind of temptation. For a season.—Or, “until a season” (R.V. margin); though the two renderings are virtually identical in meaning. Temptation was now abandoned, but was to be resumed again on a fitting opportunity. The reference is probably to the closing scenes of our Lord’s life, when the devil would assail Jesus through the treachery of Judas (Luke 22:3; Luke 22:53; John 14:30), and through the malignant opposition of the Jews (John 8:44).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 4:1-13
Temptation and Victory over it.—At first sight one might be inclined to think that He who was Son of God as well as Son of man could not be an example to us in the matter of resistance to evil. We find it hard to believe that He could really feel the pressure of temptation, and we take it almost for granted that He won the victory over evil in virtue of a Divine strength specially His own. Hence this episode in the life of the Saviour is usually regarded as mysterious and inexplicable, and is probably but seldom chosen by Christian preachers for purposes of exhortation. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, however, speaks of the temptation of Christ in terms which bring it near to our experiences: he says, “We have an High Priest, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” A reverent study, therefore, of this incident in the history of our Lord should teach us many lessons of great value, both as to the nature of temptation and as to the way in which to overcome it. From it we learn, e.g.—
I. That the holiness which God approves is that which can stand the test which temptation applies.—It was the will of God that Jesus should be subjected to temptation. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (cf. Matthew 4:1). It was in accordance with what the word of God tells us of the Divine procedure that He who took upon Him our nature should be put to the test. And the process, painful as it is, is one through which all intelligent, moral beings must pass. Innocence, which is so attractive to us, may be largely ignorance of evil, and therefore be devoid of moral value; and accordingly we can see the wisdom of subjecting it to the process by which alone it can rise into holiness. The angels were put to the test, and some of them fell from their first estate. Our first parents, in like manner, were called to make the choice between obedience and disobedience to a Divine commandment; and every one of their descendants has had to suffer from the consequences of their evil choice. And in the Scriptures we read of the trial to which the faith of some of God’s most eminent servants was specially subjected in the cases of Abraham, Job, David, and Peter. It is of course highly dangerous and presumptuous for us to cast ourselves in the way of temptation, and Christ has taught us to pray to be spared temptation. But that virtue or holiness is alone worthy of the name which has endured and can endure trial; and God is able and willing to impart special grace to us, when in His providence we are placed in circumstances of special danger.
II. That we have to contend against a vigilant and wily spiritual foe.—The doctrine of an evil spirit is unwelcome to many; but both the word of God and the facts of human life attest the existence of a personal tempter. “Assuredly,” says Trench, “this doctrine of an evil spirit, tempting, seducing, deceiving, prompting to rebellion and revolt, so far from casting a deeper gloom on the mysterious destinies of our fallen humanity, is full of consolation, and lights up with a gleam and glimpse of hope regions which would seem utterly dark without it. How should one not despair of oneself, having no choice but to believe that all the strange suggestions of evil which have risen up before one’s own heart had been born there! One might well despair of one’s kind, having no choice but to believe that all its hideous sins and all its monstrous crimes had been self-conceived, bred within its own bosom with no suggester from without. But there is hope, if ‘an enemy have done this’; if, however, the soil in which all these wicked thoughts and wicked works have sprung up has been the heart of man, yet the seed from which they sprang had been there sown by the hand of another.” It lay in the necessity of things that he should come into direct and immediate collision with Him who had one mission in the world, that is to destroy the works of the devil.
III. That temptations are manifold in form.—Some, as this history reveals to us, spring from bodily necessities and weaknesses, others from a love of those things that are earthly and transitory, others from spiritual pride; for under these three heads may the temptations which assailed Christ be classified. They appeal to every side of the being, and no one is in circumstances which place him above the reach of some one or other of them. The poor are tempted by their poverty to distrust God, the rich and successful are tempted to use unlawful means for securing greater wealth and power or to apply what they possess to selfish ends, while those who enjoy God’s favour are tempted to presume upon it. The weakness of the weak, the strength of the strong, and attainments in holiness are made by the tempter the occasion for suggesting evil counsels.
IV. All the forms of sin suggested are found to spring from one root—self-will.—At His incarnation Christ had merged His lot with the lot of His race. The first temptation is that He should separate Himself from them and use the power which had been intrusted to Him for providing a way of escape from the hardship in which He found Himself. The second temptation was that He should refuse to accept the humiliation and suffering by which it was God’s will that He should win His kingdom, and that He should found a kingdom like those of this world—founded on force and policy and surrounded by the pomp and display which the world loves. The third temptation was that He should put the love of His Father to the proof in a way of His own choosing and not of God’s appointing. In all of them the attempt was made to excite self-will, and to urge Christ to depart from what He knew to be the course His Father would have Him follow. This was an attempt of the kind only too successfully employed against our first parents. They, too, were urged to distrust God’s love, and to seize upon that which was attractive in their eyes, even although, in order to do so, they had to transgress a Divine commandment.
V. Victory over temptation is won by steadfast trust in God and obedience to His will.—Christ’s hunger and isolation at this time did not shake His belief in God’s power and willingness to sustain Him. Worldly wealth, and power, and honour which could only be secured by disloyalty to holiness and truth had no charms for Him; and He did not shrink from the toil, and pain, and suffering by which He knew it had been appointed that He should gain His throne. Nor would He abandon that life of faith which He intended to live by tempting God, or putting His loving-kindness and fidelity to the proof. All through He subordinated every feeling and desire to the will of God. In this, then, He affords us the great example of resistance to evil. No temptation can prevail against us if we calmly and fairly consider what God would have us to do, or what commandment He has given us for our guidance in the special circumstances in which we find ourselves, and if we resolutely determine to subject our wills to His will. We can never be at a loss to discover what God’s will is. If we are in the habit of consulting conscience, and if we, like Christ, have our minds stored with the holy precepts of God’s word, we can in an instant decide what is the path of duty, and no tempter can force us against our will to depart from that path. Our danger lies in a conspiracy between our wavering wills, our strong passions, and the counsels of the evil one.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 4:1-13
Luke 4:1-13. The Temptation in Relation to the Baptism.—The temptation followed, and must be viewed in connection with, Christ’s baptism. When God gives armour, He soon puts it to the proof, and so the strength given at the baptism was soon tested in the wilderness.—Nicoll.
A Strange Passage in the Life of Christ.—Jesus had been baptized of John. One would have thought that without further delay He would now have begun His public work. But we are mistaken. The thirty years must have a parallel in the forty days. The Spirit leads not to the battle-field, but to the wilderness. He leads Him out not to attack the enemy, but to sustain the enemy’s attacks on Him. What mythical theory could find a motive for so strange a passage in the life of Christ? The temptations of the devil were all skilfully directed to try the question whether Jesus was so thoroughly one with the Father as He professed to be and as it was necessary He should be—whether His Father’s business was really the one interest of His heart and the great business of His life—whether His delight in doing God’s will was so strong that it could not be overcome by any intenser feeling—whether, under high pressure, some discord might not be revealed between Him and His father.—Blaikie.
The Account of the Temptation given by Christ Himself.—The account of the Temptation can only have come from our Lord Himself. This is the only instance in which our Lord breaks through His reticence as to His personal history on earth. Here, and here only, does He give us a glimpse of what had befallen Him, or of what had passed within His breast.—Latham.
A Solemn Pause.—He who is ever the God, not of haste, but of order, prescribes a solemn pause, memorable in itself, monitory in its doctrine, between the Baptism and the Ministry.—Vaughan.
The Temptations in the Wilderness.—Of this mysterious conflict we see but little, and that dimly. The agony in the wilderness, like the final agony in the garden, is shrouded in darkness. But we see an absolute victory, and a Deliverer proved at the outset “mighty to save.”
I. The preparation, the process, and the issues of our Lord’s temptation exhibit it to us as a necessary element in His redeeming work.
II. In His temptation our Lord is to be regarded as a type and pattern to ourselves.—Pope.
The Purpose of the Temptation in Relation to Christ.
I. That He might bid defiance to Satan, and in His person conquer at the outset the power of sin.
II. That He might approve, in uttermost trial, the spotlessness and perfection of the sacrifice He carried forward to the cross.
III. That He might acquire, by a mystery of experience which we cannot fathom, a perfect sympathy with the infirmities of the nature He came to sanctify and save.—Ibid.
Luke 4:1. “Led by the Spirit.”—It was necessary that Christ who had assumed our nature should be put to the proof—should be subjected to the trial of having to choose between using His gifts and faculties for gratification of self or using them in the service of God. This probation is required in the case of all free and intelligent beings; some angels passed through it successfully, man fell before it. It is noticeable that Jesus did not seek temptation, but was led towards it by a higher will than His own. The fact that temptation came immediately after the baptism in the Jordan, with all its wonderful and supernatural circumstances, is very significant. The time of spiritual exaltation is the time of spiritual danger. “Thus shalt thou be sure to be assaulted, when thou hast received the greatest enlargements from Heaven, either at the sacrament, or in prayer, or in any other way. Then look for an onset. This arch-pirate lets the empty ships pass, but lays wait for them when they return richest laden” (Leighton). Satan knows how to take advantage of the peculiarities of our situation.
“Wilderness.”—The contrast between the temptation of Adam and that of Jesus, the second Adam, both in the scenes in which they were laid and the results which followed from them, has often been drawn.
1. Adam was tempted in a garden, Jesus in the wilderness.
2. Adam fell, Jesus was victorious.
3. Adam’s disobedience brought death, the obedience of Jesus brought life. “Adam fell in paradise, and made it a wilderness; Christ conquered in the wilderness, and made it a paradise, where the beasts lost their savageness (Mark 1:13) and the angels abode” (Olshausen).
Luke 4:2. “Did eat nothing.”—The forty days’ fast seems rather an indication of deep absorption in reverie, during which not even the stings of hunger were felt, than as a religious exercise of the kind the Jews were accustomed to observe in connection with prayer. It scarcely seems to afford ground for the custom of observing an ecclesiastical fast of like duration. For
(1) Christ literally abstained from every kind of food;
(2) He did not deliberately inflict the pain of hunger upon Himself—indeed, He did not feel hunger until the forty days were past; and
(3) He did not periodically observe a like abstinence—this was a unique experience in His life, and His state of ecstasy (like that of Moses and Elijah) is not one into which we can bring ourselves.
“Hungered.”—Christ hungered as man, and fed the hungry as God. He was hungry as man, and yet He is the Bread of Life. He was athirst as man, and yet He says, Let him that is athirst come to Me and drink (Revelation 22:17). He was weary, and is our rest. He pays tribute, and is a King; He is called a devil, and casts out devils; prays, and hears prayer; weeps, and dries our tears; is sold for thirty pieces of silver, and redeems the world; is led as a sheep to the slaughter, and is the Good Shepherd; is mute like a sheep, and is the everlasting Word; is the Man of sorrows, and heals our pains; is nailed to a tree and dies upon it, and by the tree restores us to life; has vinegar to drink, and changes water to wine; lays down His life, and takes it again; dies and gives life, and by dying destroys death.—Greg. Naz.
Luke 4:3-4. The First Temptation.—During the forty days Jesus had been sustained, not by the power of His Divine nature, but by the great rapture of spiritual gladness which upbore Him. When these had passed, He was torn with the pangs of hunger, and here the temptation of Satan comes in.
I. After the manner of the tempter, he makes the truth problematical—“If Thou be.” The stones to the sick eyes of a hungry man had the shape of loaves, and one word from Him would have turned them to food. Why was the word not spoken? Because, if He had spoken it, He would have undone His incarnation, by drawing back from the lot of the race with which He had identified Himself. He would also have shown—
II. A want of trust in the Divine providence that was able to feed Him without using any miraculous energy. “Man shall not live,” etc. He did not care to assert His Godship then. If God pleased, He might make the bare wind of the desert a banquet. Jesus has meat to eat that the tempter knows not of. This first temptation—
III. Is presented to us by the tempter in our own lives.—“I must live.” The answer is—There is no need that a man should live, but there is need that he should be righteous. He will not die if he trusts in God. Man lives by everything that proceeds from God’s mouth.—Nicoll.
The Danger of Starving the Soul.—Man wants no reminding that he lives by bread. There is no fear of his not giving care enough to the needs of his body; but there is danger lest he should think of nothing but these needs, and starve his soul, and become such that eternal life, without a body to care for, would only be a condition of aimless weariness. Jesus resolved therefore to keep His powers apart for spiritual ends. He will not use this power to provide what others win by toil, or to preserve Himself or His followers from the common ills of human life.—Latham.
Luke 4:3. “If Thou be the Son of God.”—Satan contrasts the Divine greatness of Jesus as the Son of God, of which He had been assured at His baptism, with His present condition of destitution and hunger, and urges Him to depart from the condition of humiliation which He had accepted on becoming incarnate. Self-sufficiency and independence of God is the state of spirit Satan would fain excite in Christ. The temptation is a subtle one; for he does not suggest a miraculous provision of luxurious food, but of mere bread to stave off death by hunger. But Christ did not work a miracle for the sake of delivering Himself from that state of dependence upon God which all men should occupy.
“Command this stone.”—This gift of miracles in Christ was in many respects a talent; and it was necessary that He should employ this talent wholly for the purposes for which it was intrusted to Him, viz. to confirm His mission and doctrine, to honour the Father, and to do good to men, and not at all to accommodate and relieve Himself.—Scott.
Luke 4:4. “Written.”—It is not by inward illumination, but by the written word of God, that Christ as man professes to find guidance. His words are a rebuke to those who claim greater honour for what they imagine is inward illumination than they are willing to pay to God’s word.
“Not live by bread alone.”—The passage quoted is a strikingly appropriate answer: “Jehovah suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee to know that man doth not live,” etc. (Deuteronomy 8:3). The whole nation of Israel was fed for forty years in the wilderness: with what confidence may Christ therefore look to God for sustenance during the few days of His sojourn in the desert! God by the ordinary operation of His providence brings forth food for man out of the earth; but He is able to give sustenance in other ways, if He sees fit so to do. Manna and quails were miraculously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness; Elijah was fed by the ravens and by an angel; the multiplication of the loaves of bread and of the fishes by Christ’s power (cf. also the miracle wrought by Elisha, 2 Kings 4:42-44) illustrates this principle. It is right to look to God for extraordinary help in extraordinary circumstance. The fact that we are dependent upon God for food is also implied in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Christ’s Use of Scripture.
I. For defence.—This is the very first use we find Him making of the word. He answered every suggestion of Satan with, “It is written.” The word was in His hands the sword of the Spirit, and He turned with its edge the onsets of the enemy.
II. For this use of Scripture the practice of committing it to memory is essential.—Often, when temptation comes, there is no time to search for the word to meet it; everything depends on being armed, with sword in hand. This shows how necessary it is to fill the memory while it is plastic with stores of texts.—Stalker.
Christ is our Example in all Things.—Here we see how He met the tempter so as to conquer him. He used His Bible as a quiver, and He drew from it the sharp arrows which He hurled so successfully against His opponent. He drew them from memory. He had used the quiet days at Nazareth to store His mind with the precious words. The lesson lies for us on the surface.—Miller.
“Not by bread alone.”—It was the Saviour’s purpose to give a signal proof, at the very outset of His public career, both of the weakness of His body as man and the perfect control exercised over it by the joint action of His human and Divine will. The appetite for bread was lawful; not so the abuse of His high powers to satisfy His own personal need. Therefore His answer was ready. His heart overflowing with love and confidence in His heavenly Father, and pure from all unclean desires, prompted the reply He clothed in the words of Scripture. There lay the force of His word, strong to baffle the tempter and drive him to another ground of attack. The Lord’s rebuff was no mere quotation got by heart and ready; the thought rose spontaneously out of the pure springs within, and found its readiest expression in the well-studied language of Holy Writ.—Markby.
Our First Duty.—It is never right for us to starve our spiritual nature to get bread for our bodies. It is our first duty to keep God’s commandments, and in obedience is the highest good that we can attain in this world. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our life is to lose it; we had better any day starve to death than commit the smallest sin to get bread. Getting bread should not be our first object in life, and is really not our business at all.—Miller.
Higher Aims than Gratification of Appetite.—It is one of the grandest texts I know. Man has appetite, but appetite is not man. The gratification of appetite is not the main object of man’s existence. Too many live as if they thought it was so. To make bread is the one object for which many live. Jesus Christ protests against this degradation of our nature, and says, “A man has higher aims than to gratify his appetite. He has a soul. Bread-making is not a sufficient object for a redeemed soul.”—Meyer.
Luke 4:5-8. The Second Temptation.
I. The tempter tried Jesus through the mind.—Human nature is ambitious, loves power, thirsts for greatness. To such dispositions did Satan now address himself in Christ. He offered Him universal empire; without delay and without a struggle He proposes, as it were, a short road to redemption. On one condition. He must do homage for His throne to Satan; He must hold His crown, as it were, from him. In short, it was the offer of a great good through a little evil—to save Himself and to save mankind a deluge of blood and tears, by one brief acknowledgment of an enemy’s right, and by one passing homage to a usurper’s crown.
II. Christ discerned the snare and foiled the stratagem.—The gospel so brought in would have been a curse and not a blessing. Never for one moment did His will waver. He seized upon the compromise, and crushed it to atoms in the right hand of obedience. Henceforth there must be war, war to the knife, between the Tempted and the tempter. In that decision lay ten thousand others. Christ will not have Satan lulled. He will have him bound. The lesson, the edict, the declaration of war are for all time.
III. It has a voice for Christian men.—Whenever we do evil that good may come we bend the knee to Satan.—Vaughan.
Luke 4:5. “All the kingdoms of the world.”—Hunger had not terrified, neither does plenty allure, the Saviour from the path of duty. The scourge of poverty is followed by the vision of plenty; but the one is as powerless as the other to overcome His holy will. This teaches us the great lesson that our liability to sin does not depend upon the circumstances in which we are placed so much as upon the disposition or frame of spirit which characterises us. We are apt to think that if the cross were removed or the burden lightened we should find it easier to be holy—that the sin that besets us would lose its power to ensnare us if we were placed in happier circumstances. Yet circumstances only afford us an opportunity of manifesting what is in us. Jesus was superior to all circumstances simply because He was superior to all sin. The sinful heart will betray itself even if the outward conditions on which it lays the blame were all changed; it will be as faithless in prosperity as it was in adversity. The sinless heart is free from danger everywhere; it is not depressed by humiliation, it is not seduced from its allegiance to God by exaltation.
“In a moment of time.”—Perhaps in this phrase we have the clue to the solution of the question as to whether the history of the Temptation is a narrative of external facts or a parabolical description of mental and spiritual experiences. Apart from the consideration that from no mountain on earth could “all the kingdoms of the world be seen,” the phrase “in a moment of time” seems to describe something presented to the mind’s eye rather than to the bodily sense. And if this is the case with one of the temptations, why may it not be so in the case of all of them? In Hebrews 4:15 we read that Christ was “tempted in all points like as we are.” Does not this imply manner of temptation as well as actual fact of temptation? The momentary glimpse of the world’s kingdoms and their glory suggests temptation of a very intense kind. For those temptations are most acute which are presented to us suddenly and unexpectedly. Another thought is suggested by an ancient writer: “It is fitting that all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, should be displayed ‘in a moment of time.’ For here it is not so much the rapid glance of sight which is signified as the frailty of mortal power which is declared. For in a moment all this passes away; and oftentimes the glory of this world has vanished before it has arrived.”
Luke 4:6. A Great Bribe offered to Christ.—The greatness of Christ is implied in the greatness of the bribe here offered to Him. Satan is not accustomed to offer all to those whom he tempts, but gives by little and little. “There be some that will say—They were never tempted with kingdoms. It may well be; for it needs not, when less will serve. It was Christ only who was thus tempted; in Him lay a heroical mind that could not be allured with small matters. But with us it is nothing so, for we esteem far more basely of ourselves. We set our wares at a very easy price; he may buy us even dagger-cheap, as we say. He need never carry us so high as the mount. The pinnacle is high enough; yea, the lowest steeple in all the town would serve the turn. Or let him but carry us to the leads and gutters of our own houses, nay, let us but stand in our windows or our doors, if he will give us but so much as we can there see, he will tempt us throughly; we will accept it, and thank him too. He shall not need to come to us with kingdoms.… A matter of half a crown, or ten groats, a pair of shoes, or some such trifle will bring us on our knees to the devil” (Andrewes).
“Delivered unto me.”—We cannot say this statement is absolutely false. Satan has a certain limited power assigned to him; the world is under his power, not absolutely or permanently, but actually. Hence he is called “the prince of this world” by Christ Himself (John 12:31). Worldly glory is within his power, since he may use it for tempting and ensnaring men. The description of a delegated power possessed by the evil one was calculated to correct the erroneous ideas of many of St. Luke’s Gentile readers. They were accustomed to the dualistic idea of a kingdom of evil, not simply permitted to exist, but independent of the Divine will.
The Tempter’s Promise.—High on the desert mountain, full descried, sits throned the tempter with his old promise—the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them. He still calls you to your labour, as Christ to your rest,—labour and sorrow, base desire and cruel hope. So far as you desire to possess rather than to give; so far as you look for power to command instead of to bless; so far as your own prosperity seems to you to issue out of contest or rivalry of any kind with other men, or other nations; so long as the hope before you is for supremacy instead of love, and your desire is to be greatest instead of least—first instead of last—so long you are serving the lord of all that is last and least—Death—and you shall have death’s crown with the worm coiled in it, and death’s wages with the worm feeding on them; kindred of the earth shall you yourself become; saying to the grave, “Thou art my father,” and to the worm, “Thou art my mother and sister.” I leave you to judge and to choose between this labour and the bequeathed peace; these wages and the gift of the Morning Star; this obedience and the doing of the will which shall enable you to claim another kindred than that of earth, and to hear another voice than that of the grave, saying, “My brother, and sister, and mother.”—Ruskin.
Luke 4:7. “If Thou therefore wilt worship me.”—Worship of Satan means that Christ should acknowledge his delegated power, and make the Messianic kingdom like those of the kingdoms of this world, in accordance with the general expectation and desire of the Jewish people. The word “therefore” shows that this is the sense in which the passage is to be understood. Not by material means or by physical force did Christ intend to found His kingdom, but by spiritual operations. His kingdom was not to be in continuation of anything previously existing, but a new beginning.
Luke 4:8. “Him only shalt thou serve.”—Satan has recourse to that passion whereof men in stricken folly are prone to be proud, and to make silly boast of their own weakness—to ambition, “the last infirmity of noble minds.” But the allegiance of the Son of man was not to be so shaken. Sinless, therefore, was the soul of the Lord as well as His body.—Markby.
Worship due to God alone.—Christ here asserts that worship is due to God and to Him alone. Yet in Hebrews 1:6 we read that worship is to be paid to Christ Himself. What way is there by which to reconcile these two assertions, except by recognition of the Divine nature of Christ? How can Arians and Socinians reconcile them?
Luke 4:9-12. The Third Temptation.
I. Satan prompts Jesus to display His supremacy and confound His adversary by challenging the celestial powers to do Him the homage of their protection.
II. The sublime reliance of Christ’s answer is in His profound submission of obedient humility.—These simple words confounded the assailant, and go to the root of the temptation. Where is the child of God upon earth who is not daily thus tempted to tempt his God? This temptation finds its best and worst comment in the sins which dishonour God in His people; in the spiritual pride which tempts the Lord to withdraw His gifts; in the presumption that trifles with danger, trusting in an unpledged protection; in the spirit, conduct, and lives of those who forget that the privileges of grace belong to the lowly in heart, and are to be maintained only by humble walking with God.—Pope.
Luke 4:9. How to distinguish Faith from Presumption.—The moment trust in God presumes to break any one, even the least of the laws of God, and then expects God to save it from the consequences of its disobedience, it is not trust, but unbelief; it is not faith, but presumption; it is not honouring, it is tempting God.—Barrett.
“Cast Thyself down.”—Experiments upon the Lord our God, whether upon His forbearance, His protection, or His power, are forbidden once and for ever in the sure word of revelation. Thou shalt not put to wilful trial the preserving and protecting Hand. God will keep His servants in lawful paths; but thou shalt neither trifle with danger, and say, “God will preserve,” nor with sin, and say, “God will protect!”—Vaughan.
Use of Supernatural Power.—Though Christ did not intend to have recourse to material means and to the methods and resources of worldly power in founding His kingdom, He yet purposed to make use of the gift of working miracles in accordance with the will of God. He is now urged to use this power capriciously, or in other words to infringe the relationship that existed between Him and the Father.
“Cast Thyself down.”—Observe, Satan may tempt us to fall, but he cannot make us fall. He may persuade us to cast ourselves down, but he cannot cast us down,—Wordsworth.
Luke 4:10-11. “He shall give His angels charge.”—The quotation from Scripture gives additional keenness to this temptation; and it is valuable to notice the nature of the error which underlies the use made of the sacred text. The error consists in ignoring or in keeping out of sight the fact that God’s promises are conditional, while His precepts are absolute. By voluntarily creating a danger for ourselves, we deprive ourselves of the promises of help and deliverance which God will fulfil to those who are in danger while they are pursuing the path of duty. There is nothing in the narrative to imply that Christ was tempted to make an impression upon priests and worshippers in the Temple by miraculously appearing among them, and thus to induce them to accept Him as the Messiah. This idea of theatrical display and wonder-working power would be more in harmony with the second temptation of Luke 4:6, i.e. to use carnal and not spiritual means for founding His kingdom.
Luke 4:12. Temptation to Spiritual Pride.—Finding Jesus to be a man of God, and His body proof against His weapons, Satan turns to a more formidable mode of attack. He tries Him on the quarter of spiritual pride. Doubtless he knew well that this was the most vulnerable point in the armour of the servants of God. Perhaps he had never met with one before who had escaped being wounded there; even Elijah hardly came off scatheless from that assault. Here, however, he was foiled again, and driven off by a like impulse of the pure human heart of Christ, quenching Scripture ill used with Scripture well used.—Markly.
“Thou shalt not tempt.”—In Deuteronomy 6:16 the words are, “Ye shall not tempt.” Perhaps by the change to “thou” Christ implies His own Divine majesty, and forbids Satan to assail Him further. “Thou shalt not tempt Me who am the Lord thy God.” To tempt God is to seek to put Him in the dilemma of either violating His own word, or of doing what we wish Him to do, even though we are conscious that our wish is not in accordance with His will. It is a kind of sin which is often prompted by religious fanaticism.
“It is said.”—Christ does not refute the use made by Satan of Scripture, but, as said above, sets the absolute precept over against the conditional promise. This is more emphatically indicated by St. Matthew (Matthew 4:7).
“It is written again.”—The addition of a second scripture qualifies and interprets the first, but does not contradict it.—Alford.
Clear Guidance in Scripture.—So though thou canst not clear the sense of an obscure scripture, thou shalt always find a sufficient guard in another that is clearer.—Leighton.
Luke 4:13. “All the temptation.”—I.e. every kind of temptation. The Christian may recognise temptations and learn the proper mode of resisting them by studying this narrative of Christ’s experience in the wilderness. On every occasion of danger we may draw help from His example, for few forms of temptation will be found which may not be referred
(1) to distrust of God, or
(2) the desire of perishing things, or
(3) vain ostentation.
“For a season.”—What is the force of these words? It is in accordance with the facts of His life to read them as referring to the continual battle of His life. “My temptations.” That is His own description of His life. There was not a temptation at the beginning (in the wilderness) and at the end (in the garden) with a clear space between, but the battle was fought all through His life. If proof, or rather record, of it be a wanting, that does not make it less terrible, for mortal struggles are often waged in grim silence.—Nicoll.
A Short Lull.—It is a mistake to suppose that He was only tempted during the forty days in the wilderness. Those forty days were a fierce and typical outbreak of new temptations such as He had been incapable of before His baptism; but we are significantly told that, at the close of them, the devil departed from Him “for a season.” It was a short lull, and the storm was but gathering strength to burst on Him again.—Mason.
Enticements and Threats.—As, in the wilderness, by every allurement of pleasure, so in the garden and on the cross, by every avenue of pain, did the devil seek to shake the second Adam from His steadfastness. And this also may teach us what we have to expect; at one time the seductions, at another the threats, of an evil world. “And who is sufficient for these things?”—Burgon.
Luke 4:14. Returned.—I.e. from Judæa. Galilee.—The main centre of our Lord’s ministry (cf. Acts 10:37; Luke 23:5). In the power of the Spirit.—Fresh strength gained from His victory in the wilderness. A fame.—The ground of this is given in Luke 4:15.
Luke 4:16. And He came to Nazareth.—It is almost certain that this is the visit recorded in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6. These latter inform us that disciples accompanied Him and that He healed a few sick persons. As His custom was.—I.e. the custom of attending the service, not necessarily of reading the lessons.
Luke 4:17. The book.—I.e. the roll. Opened.—Lit. “unrolled.” Found the place.—This seems to imply either that He accidentally lighted upon the passage or specially selected it, and not that it was part of the stated lesson for the day. The present order of lessons in the synagogue service is of a very much later date than this; so that we cannot discover by reference to it what particular Sabbath this was.
Luke 4:18-19.—The words are from Isaiah 61:1-2, freely quoted from the LXX., supplemented by a passage from Isaiah 58:6. To heal the brokenhearted.—These words are not found in the best MSS. of the Gospel; omitted in R.V. The acceptable year of the Lord.—I.e. the definite time in which the Lord is gracious.
Luke 4:20. The minister.—I.e. the attendant [chazzan], who brought the sacred volume to the reader and restored it to its place. Sat down.—“They read the Holy Scriptures standing [an attitude of respect], and taught sitting [an attitude of authority]” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 4:21. And He began to say, etc.—This was the theme of His discourse: that He was the Messiah [anointed One] of whom the prophet spoke. It is evident from Luke 4:22 that He expatiated at some length on this topic.
Luke 4:22. Bare Him witness.—By expressing wonder and admiration. Gracious words.—Reference is to the persuasive beauty and not to the ethical character of His words. Is not this Joseph’s son?—This marks a change of feeling—contempt and envy beginning to overcome admiration.
Luke 4:23. Physician, heal Thyself.—The best modern equivalent of this proverb is, “Charity begins at home”: Do something for Thine own countrymen. It may, however, mean, “Do something for Yourself, work a miracle here, and save Yourself from being rejected by us.” Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum.—There is no record in the Gospels of the miracles wrought at Capernaum to which reference is here made. They must belong to the period indicated in John 2:12.
Luke 4:24.—“No prophet is received in his own country, as he is elsewhere; and it is God’s way to send His messengers to strangers, as in the case of Elijah and Elisha, who were sent to be the ministers of God’s mercy to Gentiles” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 4:25. Three years and six months.—So in James 5:17; in 1 King Luke 18:1 three years are spoken of, but we do not know the terminus a quo from which they are reckoned; if from the flight of Elijah to Zarephath, the time would correspond with that here specified.
Luke 4:26. Sarepta.—I.e. Zarephath (1 Kings 18:9): a village half-way between Tyre and Sidon.
Luke 4:29.—Dean Stanley points out the accuracy of the description given of Nazareth in this place, though at first sight there seems to be inaccuracy. “Most readers probably from these words imagine a town built on the summit of a mountain, from which summit the intended precipitation was to take place. This is not the situation of Nazareth. Yet its position is still in accordance with the narrative. It is built ‘upon,’ that is, on the side of, ‘a mountain’; but the ‘brow’ is not beneath but over the town, and such a cliff as is here implied is to be found in the abrupt face of the limestone rock, about thirty or forty feet high, at the south-west corner of the town, and another at a little farther distance” (Sinai and Palestine, x.).
Luke 4:30.—A miraculous occurrence is evidently implied. The Nazarenes had Him in their grasp; so that the awe with which a dignified demeanour might impress a furious crowd and keep them within bounds would not account for His deliverance on this occasion.
Luke 4:15. Mused.—Rather, “reasoned, debated.” The absence of outward splendour occasioned doubts as to whether John could be the promised Messiah; the holiness of his life and the authority with which he spoke suggested to some that he might be the Sent of God. This verse is peculiar to St. Luke but is equivalent to what is said in John 1:19-25.
Luke 4:16. Latchet.—I.e. thong or lace. Shoes.—Rather, “sandals.”
Luke 4:17. Fan “The Latin vannus, a great shovel with which corn was thrown up against the wind to separate it from the chaff” (Farrar). Floor.—I.e. “threshing-floor” (R.V.).
Luke 4:18. Preached.—Lit. “evangelised the people”—proclaimed good tidings to them. “With many other exhortations, therefore, preached he good tidings unto the people” (R.V.). The allusion seems to be to the announcement of Christ’s coming or to references of Him, which underlay the Baptist’s teaching.
Luke 4:19.—The imprisonment of John is mentioned by anticipation. Cf. this passage with the fuller notices in Matthew 14:3-5; Mark 6:17-20. Philip’s.—Omit Philip (R.V.), “his brother’s wife.” The first husband of Herodias was named Herod, and was a private citizen living in Rome. He was probably called Philip to distinguish him from Herod Antipas (cf. Mark 6:17).
Luke 4:20.—It is interesting to find the same estimate of Herod’s conduct towards John in the history of Josephus (Antt., XVIII. Luke 4:1-4). Prison.—The Jewish historian tells us that the scene of John’s imprisonment was the fortress of Machærus, on the north of the Dead Sea.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 4:14-30
The Acceptable Year of the Lord.—St. Luke’s Gospel, which represents Christ as the Son of man, keeps up the note struck in its accounts of the birth and youth by giving as His first reported discourse this one, in the place “where He had been brought up,” and in the synagogue into which it had been “His custom” from childhood to enter on the Sabbath. It was a natural feeling which drew Him thither, that He might win disciples among the companions of His boyhood. The rumour of His miracles in Capernaum heightened His reputation among His fellow-villagers. One can fancy the curious looks of the congregation, and the busy remembrances filling His heart on that Sabbath. In the discourse He delivered, Christ described the nature of the work He had to do as Messiah, and intimated that the Gentile world would welcome the blessings which the Jews valued so lightly. St. Luke gives a brief outline of both topics of discourse, and describes the effect produced upon the hearers by each.
I. Christ’s conception of His work.—Whether the passage He read was from the usual lesson for the day or not we cannot tell. But it is significant that He stopped in the middle of a verse, and said nothing about “the day of vengeance of our God,” as if He would keep the sweet and radiant side of His mission unshaded by any terror. After reading the words of the prophet He declared at length His claims to be the Messiah. Note
1. How definite and complete His conception of His work is from the first. He knew what He had come to be and do. His aims neither cleared nor grew, but were sun-clear and world-wide from the beginning. That is not the experience of God’s other servants. They are led by undreamed-of ways to an end which they never foresaw. But Jesus had no mist on His future, nor any unconsciousness of His significance. Note
2. Christ’s great theme was always Himself. His demand is not, Believe this or that which I tell, but, Believe in Me; and there in the synagogue, among those who had seen Him as a child, and played with Him in the streets, and known Him as the carpenter, He begins His ministry by proclaiming that the great prophecy is fulfilled in Him. If this is not the speech of incarnate Divinity, it is the boasting of arrogant egotism. He is conscious of possessing the Divine Spirit. It is the permanent effect of the sign at His baptism. Note
3. The view of men’s condition implied. They are poor, captives, blind, bruised. The loving, sad eye is already looking on humanity with clear insight and yearning pity. Mark the calm consciousness of power to grapple with and overcome all these miseries. There stands a humble Galilæan peasant, and singly fronts a world full of wretchedness, blindness, bondage, and bruises, and asserts that power to remedy them all is in Him. Was He right or wrong? If He was right, what and who is He?
II. The effect produced on the hearers.—They “bare Him witness.” Something in their hearts was stirred by the gracious manner as well as substance of His words, and endorsed His claims and drew the hearers towards Him. That inward witness speaks still. Will the testimony within be listened to or stifled? Life and death hang on the answer. The balance wavers for a moment, and then goes the wrong way. A cold jet of criticism is turned on; and when the hearers got to saying, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (which He was not), all was over. Let us take heed how we deal with the witness of our own hearts to Jesus; for we too are in danger of drowning its voice by noisy prejudices and inclinations.
III. Christ passes to the thought of His world-wide mission.—The handful of Nazarenes becomes representative of the nation, and their rejection of Him the occasion of the blessings passing to the heathen. If Jesus had not long been familiar with this thought, it could not have come to Him now so quickly nor so clearly, nor been announced so decisively and calmly. Obviously He entered on His ministry with the consciousness that His kingdom was as wide as humanity, and His blessings meant for all the lonely and diseased everywhere. Note, too, how His mind is saturated with Scripture: it was His weapon in His desert conflict, and it is His unanswerable demonstration that Israel’s prophets carry blessings to Gentiles. He selects His examples from the hereditary enemies of Israel, and not only hints at the inclusion of the alien, but He plainly tells of the exclusion of the Jew. In this lay the sting of the examples.
IV. The anger of the Nazarenes.—Their interest had quickly cooled. The carping question, and the craving for miracle, had effectually damped the incipient admiration. No doubt the words of prophecy had stirred some hopes of mere political freedom; and if He had preached revolt, He might have beat up a following. But this declaration that the outside heathen were to have a share in the healing, sight, and liberty which He proclaimed extinguished all the dreams of a political Messiah; and that helped to make the Nazarenes the angrier. They “rose up,” interrupting the synagogue service, and, in the whirlwind of their fury, drag Him to some cliff high enough to kill any one thrown over it.
Let us learn how little the mere familiarity with Christ in the flesh availed to open men’s eyes to His beauty, and let us beware lest a similar familiarity with the letter of the record of His life may equally blind us to our need of Him, and His Divine authority over us, and Divine power to help and heal us. Let us take heed that we yield to and follow out the stirrings of conviction in our inmost hearts; and remember, for warning against dealing lightly with these, that the same people who one half-hour bare witness to Jesus, and wondered at His gracious words, were ready to fling Him over the rock the next, and, so far as we know, lost Him for ever when He passed through their midst and went His way. That way led Him unto the wide world. It leads Him to each heart that is sad and sore, and brings Him to our doors with hands pierced and laden with blessings.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 4:14-30
Luke 4:14. “Power of the Spirit.”—Strengthened by His victory over temptation. “And now, the way being clear before Him, with God as His assured ally and Satan as His open foe, Jesus moves forward to the field of battle” (Godet).
“Fame.”—I.e. on account of
(1) His teaching, and
(2) of His miracles (cf. Luke 4:23).
The Return with Power.—The power was the power of the Spirit in which He returned to His own land. Who would not desire to be such a power in the world? Whence comes this ability? Where shall we win the subtle secret of such a power? The best gifts can neither be bought nor commanded. This power is of the very essence of a man’s nature: it must radiate from his spirit.
I. The power which Jesus wielded was drawn forth in the experience of the wilderness.—The wilderness and the temptation preceded the gracious words. No man gets power except in conflict; conflict is the schoolroom where power and courage are learned. This principle is true in the material world and in the world of mind. Pain and isolation discipline the spirit. No man is strong who has not learned to live alone. But—
II. Loneliness is not enough.—It is not because Jesus spent forty days in solitude that He was strong. It was because of the power which He matured in the wilderness—the power of living not by the earthly but by the heavenly law.
III. Our Lord shows that there is a heavenly light in ordinary human life.—Our Lord had gone into the wilderness to bring hope to men. There was no lot in which God was not. “This day,” He cried, “the hindering ills and the oppressive sorrows of life may disappear.”—Carpenter.
Luke 4:15. “Synagogues.”—In spite of the religious degeneracy of the Jewish people of this time, the word of God was still read publicly and endeavours made to elucidate its teaching and apply it to the hearts and lives of those who heard it.
Luke 4:16-30. An Epitome of the History of Jesus.—The whole scene in the synagogue at Nazareth from beginning to end is full of typical significance. Commencing with evangelic discourse, and closing with death-perils, it may be said to be an epitome of the history of Jesus. And for that very reason it is introduced here by the Evangelist at so early a place in his narrative. Luke selects it for the frontispiece of his Gospel, showing by sample the salient features of its contents.—Bruce.
Christ an Example to Teachers—
I. In His spirit of devotedness.
II. In His being filled with the Spirit.
III. In His custom of frequenting the synagogue.
IV. In His knowledge of and aptness to teach the word.
V. In His utterance of words of grace.—Hone.
“Where He had been brought up.”—It was a trying visit, for few tasks are harder than to give God’s message to one’s own relatives and intimate friends, especially when they are in no mood to receive it.—Blaikie.
Luke 4:16. Church Attendance. “As His custom was.”—There are many evidences that Jesus had fixed religious habits. Attending the weekly synagogue worship had been His custom from childhood; and although He was the Son of God, and had been manifested as the Messiah, He still continued to observe the custom. He went there to worship God, not to find an intellectual entertainment. The inconsistencies of His fellow-worshippers did not keep Him from the services. If He needed the means of grace, surely we need them far more.—Miller.
Jesus a Lover of the House of God.—It is strange to think of Jesus being preached to Sabbath after Sabbath during these silent years at Nazareth. What was the man like to whom Jesus listened? When He began His public work, He still regularly frequented the synagogue. This was in fact the centre from which His work developed itself. It is thus evident that Jesus was a passionate lover of the house of God. As the Scripture was read, the great and good of former ages thronged around Him; nay, heaven itself was in that narrow place for Him.—Stalker.
Christ an Example as a Worshipper.—There is a strong argument to be drawn from the example of Christ for attendance upon public worship on the day of rest. If He made a point of being present at the reading and exposition of Scripture, and of joining with others in worship of God, how much more should we attend to this duty. It was “His custom”—not mere obedience to a rule imposed by ecclesiastical authority—but a way of employing the Sabbath which He found to be for edification. The narrative seems to imply that this was the first time He had addressed the people of Nazareth: we are therefore to conceive of this as an occasion of special solemnity in the life of Jesus.
“Stood up.”—Attitude of respect adopted by the Jews in reading the Scriptures: the attitude of sitting while engaged in teaching (Luke 4:20) implies authority (cf. Matthew 23:2).
Luke 4:18. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.”—This, it has been often noticed, contains a statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, operating distinctly but harmoniously in effecting man’s salvation.
“He hath anointed Me.”—The meaning of this prophetic citation may be better seen when we remember that it stands in the middle of the third great division of the Book of Isaiah (49–66), that, viz., which comprises the prophecies of the person, office, sufferings, triumph, and Church of the Messiah; and thus by implication announces the fulfilment of all that went before, in Him who then addressed them.—Alford.
“The poor,” etc.—The troubles that afflict humanity and that are to be abolished by Christ are figuratively described as
(3) blindness, and
The Sermon at Nazareth.—The opening of a ministry that has changed the world. A fourfold scheme of Christianity.
I. A social gospel.—“To the poor.”
II. A healing gospel.—“To the brokenhearted.”
III. An emancipating gospel.—“Deliverance.”
IV. An enlightening gospel.—Dawson.
The New Teacher.—Three points make Him pre-eminent and unique.
I. The relation between His person and His word.
II. The consciousness He had of Himself and His truth.
III. His knowledge of Himself and His truth were throughout perfect and self-consistent.—Fairbairn.
The Text of His First Sermon.—There was nothing fortuitous in Christ’s choice of His first text in Nazareth. The occasion was a marked one. None could forget it. He turned in calm self-possession to the first three verses of Isaiah’s sixty-first chapter, describing what should be the work and office of the destined Redeemer and Saviour of man. It scarcely needed that He should say what the application was. The audience felt, as He read, that the text said so.—Vaughan.
“Closed the book.”—When He had read the text from the Old Testament, He closed the book and gave it back to the attendant. As soon as the book had delivered its message, He presented Himself to the congregation as the fulfilment of the prophecy. His sermon consisted in permitting the prophet to pronounce the promise and then exhibiting Himself as its fulfilment. No other preacher, either false or true, ever acted thus.—Arnot.
The Gospel to the Poor.—The evangelisation of the poor was really the divinest thing in Christ’s ministry, the most original phase thereof, and the phenomenon which most convincingly showed that a new thing, destined to make all things new, had appeared in the world—the religion of humanity, the universal religion. Such a religion is surely Divine; but when first it made its appearance, it could not but seem a very strange and startling phenomenon.—Bruce.
Luke 4:18-19. Five Portraits of our Blessed Lord.
I. Christ the Evangelist.
II. Christ the Good Physician.
III. Christ the Liberator.
IV. Christ the Revealer.
V. Christ the Jubilee of His Church.—Vaughan.
Luke 4:19. “Acceptable year.”—The allusion is to the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:0). The benefits conferred upon Jewish society by this institution were the following:
1. The Israelite who had sold himself into slavery received his freedom.
2. Families which had alienated their patrimony received it back again.
3. A generous amnesty was granted to those who were in debt. All these are most appropriate figures of the spiritual blessings which Christ was to confer upon men.
“The acceptable year of the Lord.”—Our Lord laid emphasis on this last clause of His text.
I. What was in His mind when He said He was anointed to preach “the acceptable year.”—The year of jubilee. In its remarkable position it was a type of gospel times. The jubilee year of the Lord was introduced by Christ and is in process now.
II. The genuine jubilee year goes beyond the Old Testament picture.—We extend both time and place. Our “year” rolls out into centuries, our “land” into the whole earth. The liberty proclaimed is soul liberty. But a man cannot live on liberty. The slave was to return to land and family. So in the gospel. The home and the birthright are waiting for us.
III. The great delight God has in bestowing liberty.—It is a great joy to Him. Jesus wished His first words to be all mercy. Judgment is in the background. He puts the acceptable year first, and so should it be with us. For those who despise His love and sacrifice there remains only judgment, the day of vengeance.—Gibson.
Vengeance left out.—If Christ left out “vengeance,” well may I. It belongs neither to my province nor to this dispensation. His first advent had nothing to do with “vengeance.” He did not come then to judge the world, but to save the world, and He could not, therefore, have said of this awful word, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”—Vaughan.
Luke 4:20. “Eyes of all fastened on Him.”—Many things contributed to arrest their attention:
1. The report of His teaching and mighty works which had preceded Him.
2. The fact that it was the first time He whom they knew so well was to address them.
3. The remarkable character of the words He had read.
4. His manner and bearing, which convinced them that He was about to make some important statement of His claims and purposes.
Luke 4:21. “Fulfilled in your ears.”—The theme of Christ’s discourse was that the preaching which now re-sounded in the synagogue of Nazareth was a fulfilment of the prophecy He had just read.
Luke 4:22. “Wondered at the gracious words.”—This passage and John 7:46 give us some idea of the majesty and sweetness which characterised our Lord’s utterances. It is the attractive manner of His speech rather than the substance that is here referred to; perhaps “graceful utterances” would be the best paraphrase of the expression “gracious words” (cf. Psalms 45:2). It is a poor result of preaching when the attention of the hearers is principally fastened upon the speaker’s oratorical gifts, and what he has to say is overlooked. Frivolous curiosity gives place to contempt and indignation. The inhabitants of Nazareth could not brook the lofty claims put forth by their fellow-townsman, whom they had known from His infancy.
Gracious Words.—We can well believe that there was a peculiar charm in the Speaker’s manner, but it sprang from His heart being filled with enthusiasm for the mission on which He had been sent. The grace of manner had its source in the grace that lay in the message. He had come to preach the gospel to the poor, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. There can be no doubt how the Evangelist regarded the prophet’s words, which Christ made His own, and in what sense He calls them “words of grace.”—Bruce.
Luke 4:23. “Heal Thyself.”—This was a taunt which was used again when He hung upon the cross (Luke 23:35). As great a need existed in Nazareth for the healing labours of the Saviour as in Capernaum, but the unbelief of its inhabitants hindered the exercise of His powers (cf. Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5). He was like a skilful musician or able orator whose powers are chilled and almost nullified by an unsympathetic audience.
Luke 4:24. “No prophet,” etc.—Christ here gives the reason why, in His own town, He fails to make the impression He had made in Capernaum. So far from compelling His fellow-citizens to accept His claims by performing astounding prodigies, He is willing to accept the fate ordinarily encountered by Divine messengers.
Physician and Prophet.—The Saviour at Nazareth reveals at once His double character as
(1) Physician, and
(2) Prophet—as a Physician who is treated with scorn when He wishes to prepare help for others, and is at once bidden to heal Himself; and as a Prophet who deserves the highest honour and does not receive the least.—Lange.
“In his own country.”—Two causes may be assigned for the vulgar prejudice to which Christ here alludes.
1. In the case of one well known the charm of novelty is absent.
2. People are apt to think that circumstances of life so like their own, are wanting in that romance and mystery, which their imaginations lead them to associate with remarkable persons of whom they know but little.
Luke 4:25-27. Elijah and Elisha.—The cases of the mercy shown to the widow of Zarephath and to Naaman find a close parallel with those of the Syro-phœnician woman (Mark 7:26) and the centurion’s servant (chap. Luke 7:1-10). The points of resemblance are
(1) the unbelief with which these prophets and Jesus were confronted at home, and
(2) the faith which they encountered in persons outside the pale of Judaism. The deeds of mercy shown to the destitute and to the leper by these earlier prophets were apt figures of the benefits which Christ was able and desired to confer.
God blesses whom He will.—The general teaching of the incidents quoted from Old Testament history and of Christ’s own course of procedure on this occasion may be stated as follows:
1. That God is free to confer His blessings on whom He will.
2. That it is the fault of men if they do not receive these blessings. Widows and lepers in Israel had not the faith shown by those who actually received benefits from the prophets; the mood of the people of Nazareth was different from that of those who had been healed in Capernaum.
3. That in every nation those who fear God and work righteousness are accepted of Him.
Luke 4:28. “Filled with wrath.”—The angry and murderous feelings manifested by the people of Nazareth justify the severity of tone which Christ had adopted in addressing them, and the ill opinion which seems at that time to have been generally formed of them (cf. John 1:46). The same anger was excited whenever the possibility of the Divine mercy being withdrawn from the Jews, because of their unbelief, and manifested to the Gentiles, was hinted at (cf. Acts 22:21-22). “The word of God is a sword, is a war, is a poison, is a scandal, is a stumbling-block, is a ruin to those who resist it” (Luther).
Luke 4:29. “Thrust Him out of the city.”—This was the first open insult that was offered to Jesus, and it is sad to think that it proceeded from those who had for nearly thirty years been witnesses of His innocent and holy life. “He came unto His own, and they that were His own received Him not” (John 1:11).
Luke 4:30. “Passing through the midst of them.”—There is a tragic irony in the fact that the people of Nazareth desired to see some miracle wrought by Him to accredit His claims to be the Messiah; a miracle was granted to them, but it was in the supernatural way in which He escaped from their hands. In Christ’s escape from this great danger we may see a genuine fulfilment of the promise in Psalms 91:11-12, which Satan had urged Him to put to the test in another way: “He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, to guard Thee, lest haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.”
Luke 4:31. Came down.—Capernaum being situated on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Nazareth being higher on the hills. Taught them on the Sabbath days.—Rather, “He was teaching them on the Sabbath day” (R.V.).
Luke 4:32. Doctrine.—Rather, teaching: both the manner and substance of His words (cf. Matthew 7:28-29). With power.—Rather, “with authority” (R.V.).
Luke 4:33-41 contain a narrative of the events of one particular Sabbath day, from morning to night: see also Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:21-31.
Luke 4:33. Unclean devil.—The word “unclean” is inserted, either because in Greek “demon” might be good or bad, or because in this special case the effect upon the possessed person made the epithet peculiarly appropriate.
Luke 4:34. Let us alone.—Or, “Ah!” (R.V.), the Greek word ἔα being either the imperative of ἐαῶ to “let alone,” or an interjection.
Luke 4:35. Hold thy peace.—Lit. “be muzzled.”
Luke 4:37. The fame of Him.—Rather, “a rumour concerning Him” (R.V.).
Luke 4:38. A great fever.—This is a technical term used by contemporary Greek physicians. For other examples of minute medical or physiological details given by this Evangelist, see Luke 4:35 (“and hurt him not”), Luke 5:12; Luke 6:6; Luke 22:50-51; Acts 3:7-8; Acts 4:22; Acts 9:33; Acts 28:8.
Luke 4:39. He stood over her.—Notice the graphic description; also in Luke 4:40, “He laid His hands on every one of them.”
Luke 4:40. When the sun was setting.—With sunset the Sabbath ended, and the friends of the sick would feel at liberty to carry them into Christ’s presence.
Luke 4:41.—The best MSS. omit “Christ”: omitted in R.V. It is probably a gloss explanatory of “The Son of God.”
Luke 4:43. Preach the kingdom of God.—Rather, “preach the good tidings [gospel] of the kingdom of God” (R.V.).
Luke 4:44. Galilee.—MS. evidence is very strong in favour of Judæa rather than Galilee in this passage. It may be an error of transcription; but the striking fact remains that there was an early Judæan ministry, which is recorded in St. John’s Gospel, but is not directly referred to by the Synoptists, unless it be here.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 4:31-44
A Sabbath in Capernaum.—We here pass from the synagogue at Nazareth, among its hills, to that at Capernaum, on the lake-side, where Jesus was already known as a worker of miracles. The two Sabbaths are in sharp contrast. The issue of the one is a tumult of fury and hate; that of the other, a crowd of suppliants and an eager desire to keep Him with them. The story is in four paragraphs, each showing a new phase of Christ’s power and pity.
I. Christ as the Lord of that dark world of evil (Luke 4:33-37).—The silence of the synagogue was suddenly broken by shrieks of rage and fear coming from a man who had been sitting quietly among the others. Possibly his condition had not been suspected until Christ’s presence roused his dreadful tyrant. Note the rage and terror of the demon. The presence of purity is a sharp pain to impurity, and an evil spirit is stirred to its depths when in contact with Jesus. Observe, too, the unclean spirit’s knowledge of the character and Divine relationship of Jesus. It gives a glimpse into a dim region, and suggests that the counsels of heaven, as effected on earth, are keenly watched and understood by eyes whose gleam is unsoftened by any touch of pity or submission. Observe Christ’s tone of authority and sternness. He had pity for men who were capable of redemption; but His words and demeanour to the evil spirits are always severe. He accepts the most imperfect recognition from men, and often seems as if labouring to evoke it; but He silences the evil spirits’ clear recognition. The confession which is “unto salvation” comes from a heart that loves, not merely from a head that perceives; and Jesus accepts nothing else. He will not have His name soiled by such lips. Note, still further, Christ’s absolute control of the demon. His bare word is sovereign and secures outward obedience, though from an unsubdued and disobedient will. He cannot make the foul creature love, but can make him act. Surely omnipotence speaks, if demons hear and obey. The existence of such spirits suggests the possibility of undying and responsible beings reaching, by continued alienation of heart and will from God, a stage in which they are beyond the capacity of improvement and outside the sweep of Christ’s pity.
II. The gentleness of Christ’s healing power and the immediate service of gratitude to Him (Luke 4:38-39).—Now the Lord’s tenderness shines unmingled with sternness. His pity, that pity which wielded omnipotence, was kindled by the beseeching of sorrowful hearts. And He who moves the forces of Deity still from His throne lets us move His heart by our cry. St. Luke is specially struck with one feature in the case—the immediate return of ordinary strength. The woman is lying, the one minute, pinned down and helpless with “a great fever,” and the next is engaged in her domestic duties. When Christ heals He heals thoroughly, and gives strength as well as healing. What could a woman, who was probably a poor dependant on her son-in-law, do for her Healer? Not much. But she did what she could, and that without delay. The natural impulse of gratitude is to give its best, and the proper use of healing and new strength is to minister to Him. Such a guest made humble household cares worship; and all our poor powers and tasks, consecrated to His praise and become the offerings of grateful hearts, are lifted into greatness and dignity. He did not despise the modest fare hastily dressed for Him; and He still delights in our gifts, though the cattle on a thousand hills are His.
III. The all-sufficiency of Christ’s pity and power (Luke 4:40-41).—As soon as the sinking sun relaxed the sabbatical restrictions, a motley crowd came flocking round the house carrying all the sick that could be lifted, all eager to share in His healing. It did not argue real faith in Him, but it was genuine sense of need, and expectation of blessing from His hand; and the measure of faith was the measure of blessing. They got what they believed He could give. If their faith had been larger, its answers would have been greater. St. Luke makes prominent the inexhaustible fulness of pity and power, which met and satisfied all the petitioners. The misery spoke to Christ’s heart, and He moved among the sad groups, and with gentle touch healed them all. To-day as then, the fountain of His pity and healing power is full, after thousands have drawn from it, and no crowd of suppliants bars our way to His heart or His hands. He has “enough for all, enough for each, enough for evermore.”
IV. Jesus seeking seclusion, but willingly sacrificing it at men’s call (Luke 4:42-44).—He withdraws in early morning, not because His store of power was exhausted, or His pity had tired, but to renew His communion with the Father. He needed solitude and silence, and we need it still more. No work worth doing will ever be done for Him unless we are familiar with some quiet place, where we and God alone together can hold converse, and new strength be poured into our hearts. Our Lord is here our pattern also, of willingly leaving the place of communion when duty calls and men implore. A great solemn “must” ruled His life, as it should do ours, and the fulfilment of that for which He “was sent” ever was His aim, rather than even the blessedness of solitary communion or the repose of the silent hour of prayer.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 4:31-44
Luke 4:31-44. A Vivid Glimpse of Christ’s Actual and Active Ministry.—We are enabled to follow His footsteps for nearly twenty-four hours.
I. In the earlier part of the day, He goes to the synagogue, teaches with great impression, and deepens this still further by the first instance of His power over “the possessed.”
II. In the after-part of the day, He raises Simon’s mother-in-law from her fevered bed to perfect health.
III. Later on the same evening, the afflicted people of the whole town are gathered round the door, and He heals them all.
IV. The night’s rest which followed must have been of the briefest, for He rose the next morning long before day broke, and retired into a solitary place for prayer.—Laidlaw.
The Record of a Single Sabbath’s Work.
I. A strange scene in a church.
II. A wonderful transformation in a private house.
III. The house turned into a public hospital from which all the diseased people go away cured.—Hastings.
Christ’s Daily Life.
I. His work of preaching.
II. His work of healing.
III. His hours of retirement.—W. Taylor.
Luke 4:31. “Came down to Capernaum.”—Jesus had before this visited Capernaum and wrought miracles of healing the fame of which had reached Nazareth (Luke 4:23); but now He makes it the headquarters of His work in Galilee. Probably the animosity towards Him manifested by His fellow-townsmen in Nazareth had something to do with His making this change. From John 2:12 we should understand that His mother and brethren also removed to Capernaum at the same time. Perhaps the hatred He had incurred was to some extent visited upon them. So intimately was He associated henceforth with Capernaum that it is called “His own city” (Matthew 9:1). It is strange that this city which is so much spoken of in the Gospels has completely disappeared; there are three or four theories as to which particular heap of ruins near the Sea of Galilee is to be identified with it. We can scarcely make any mistake in connecting this utter destruction with Christ’s own prophecy concerning the city (Matthew 11:23).
“Taught them.”—The substance of His teaching is given in Mark 1:15 : “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
Luke 4:32. “His word was with authority” (R.V.).—The teaching of Jesus was different from that to which the people were accustomed:
(1) He spoke as one sent and commissioned by God;
(2) He laid stress upon His own person and claims as “the Word of God made flesh”; and
(3) love for the souls of men shone out in all He said. The general characteristics of Rabbinical teaching have been described as follows: “The scribes varied greatly, like other men, in ability, character, and qualifications; but it would appear that in the time of our Lord the great bulk of them were pedantic in things that were obvious enough, and frivolous and jejune in all things that lay beyond. They were admirable guessers, and mighty in platitudes. They were ingenious in raising microscopic doubts, and perfect adepts in conjuring up conceit to do battle with conceit. They were skilful in splitting hairs to infinity, and proud of their ability to lead their hearers through the endless mazes of the imaginations of preceding rabbis—imaginations that ended in nothing, or in something that was actually worse than nothing. But they had no power, or almost none, to move the conscience toward true goodness, or to stir the heart toward God and toward man. They might speak, indeed, with positiveness enough; but it would not be with moral power. They might assert with dictatorial self-sufficiency; but it would not be with ‘demonstration of the Spirit’—demonstration flashing in conviction even upon reluctant souls” (Morison).
Luke 4:33-36. The Demoniac in the Synagogue.
I. The unhappy worshipper.—We can only conjecture the special meaning of the phrase here employed, “a spirit of an unclean devil.” He had not as yet been excluded from the synagogue worship. Or perhaps he rushed, spirit-driven, into the midst of the worshippers.
II. The sacred Presence provokes a crisis.—There is an unbelief which can never be silent. The demons could never confront Jesus calmly. They resent His interference. They are indignant at His saving work. They make weird, unearthly complaint.
III. Jesus is stern and cold.—He is gentle with sinful men. Not so here. As to a wild beast, He says, “Be muzzled. Come out of him.” Whereupon the evil spirit exhibits at once his ferocity and his defeat.
IV. The spectators draw the proper inference.—A new power implied a new revelation. Something far-reaching and profound might be expected from Him who commanded the unclean spirits with authority and was obeyed. Yet no one was converted by this miracle. All were amazed; but wonder is not self-surrender.—Chadwick.
Luke 4:33. “In the synagogue.”—It is strange to find a man possessed by an unclean spirit among the worshippers in the synagogue, but perhaps he had not before this given any open indication of the spiritual malady from which he was suffering. The excitement connected with the teaching of Christ, and the holiness of His person, may have disturbed the man’s mind and stirred up the rage of the evil spirit.
Luke 4:34. “What have we to do with Thee?”—The unclean spirit is the real speaker; but the utterance is that of the man, who, being in, i.e. possessed by, the evil spirit, becomes its mere instrument. In this respect a specific distinction may be observed in the mode of spiritual action in the case of true prophets: in them inspiration does not supersede personal consciousness; they either speak their own words, or they deliver a message in the name and in the words of the Lord.—Speaker’s Commentary.
“Art Thou come to destroy us?”—The Saviour had not, so far as appears, been formally interfering by a specific action. But His very presence on the scene was felt to be interference. There emanated from Him, round about, an influence that went in upon men blissfully, counteracting all evil influences. The unclean spirit felt the power, and resented it as an interference—an interference not with itself in particular, but with the entire circle of kindred spirits. “Art Thou come to destroy us?”—Morison.
“I know Thee … the Holy One of God.”—Earth has not recognised her King, disguised as He is like one of her own children; but heaven has borne witness to Him (Luke 2:11; Luke 3:22), and now hell must bear its witness too—“the devils believe and tremble.”—Trench.
The Outcry of the Evil Spirit.—Jerome speaks of the outcry of the evil spirit as being like the exclamations of a fugitive slave when he comes face to face with his master and seeks to deprecate his wrath. But it is more probable that on the part of the evil spirit there was a malignant intention to compromise Jesus by bearing testimony in favour of His high claims. The acknowledgment of the supreme power of the Saviour together with a refusal to submit to His rule is an illogical course of procedure we are only too familiar with in our own experience. To many of His professed disciples Jesus may say, “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
Luke 4:35. “Thrown him in the midst.”—The final deliverance of the sufferer from the evil spirit was accompanied by such a sharp paroxysm that evidently those in the synagogue thought that the man was dead. This is vividly indicated by the phrase “came out of him and hurt him not.” “Something similar to this violence of the evil spirit in the hour of its ejectment is evermore finding place; and Satan vexes with temptations and with buffetings none so much as those who are in the act of being delivered from his dominion for ever.” In the man possessed by the evil spirit we have a living picture of our own souls under the dominion of sin; just as in the power of Christ to heal the sufferer we have a proof of His ability to control the powers of darkness and to deliver us from subjection to them.
Luke 4:36-37. “They were all amazed.”—“We can imagine to ourselves the emotion of those assembled in the synagogue who, while they were listening in silence to the teaching of Jesus, saw in an instant such a storm break forth in their midst—an almost visible contest between the two spiritual powers which were disputing with each other for rule over mankind” (Godet). In their presence the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children” (Isaiah 49:25). The admiration manifested by those who witnessed this miracle and the fame with which the performance of such a work invested the Saviour no doubt indicate that His claim to have been sent from God was pretty widely accepted in the district. Yet after all it was but the springing up of the seed in the rocky ground where there was not sufficient deepness of earth. The words they heard and the mighty works they saw involved all the heavier punishment for their unbelief (Matthew 11:23).
Luke 4:38-41. Healing of the Body a Pledge of the healing of the Soul.
I. The fever rebuked.—
1. At the request of those around.
2. Accompanied by a specific action.
3. Followed by a complete recovery.
II. The evening’s work.—He began afresh and carried on probably late into the night His toilsome work. “Disease being the cold shadow of sin, its removal was a kind of sacrament, an outward and visible sign that the Healer of souls was nigh.”—Laidlaw.
Luke 4:38. “Simon’s house.”—Perhaps in the statement that Jesus on leaving the synagogue went to the house of a disciple rather than to that in which His mother and brethren were, we have an indication of an estrangement between Jesus and some of His own family who believed not on Him (cf. John 7:5). The fact that Peter was married is, one would think, calculated to disturb those who attach great importance to the doctrine of the celibacy to the clergy. We read of his wife as accompanying him in missionary journeys (1 Corinthians 9:5). Clement of Alexandria, in his Miscellanies, tells of her martyrdom in words that are very beautiful and free from exaggerated sentiment. “They say that the blessed Peter, when he saw his wife led away to death, rejoiced that she was graciously called, and was returning to her home, and that, calling her by name, he addressed her in words of encouragement and consolation, ‘Remember thou the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the saints, and such their perfect state of mind towards their dearest.”
“A great fever.”—I.e. typhoid fever.
“They besought Him for her.”—I.e. evidently Peter and his wife.
Luke 4:39. “Rebuked the fever.”—It is not necessary to understand the word “rebuke” as implying a personification of the fever: it evidently means speaking in a firm, authoritative manner, and tolerating no resistance to His command.
“Rose up and ministered unto them.”—The instantaneousness and completeness of the cure is indicated in the fact that she immediately, on leaving the bed on which sickness had laid her, ministered to the Saviour and the others, i.e. waited upon them at the table. We may apply this circumstance to our spiritual duties. “The first use she made of her recovered strength was to employ it in her Master’s service. And does she not become a pattern therein to Christians, who on their restoration to spiritual health should employ their powers in ministering to Christ in the person of the poorest members of His mystical body?”—Burgon.
Consecration of Renewed Powers.—There is a whole cluster of suggestions here.
I. Every sick person who is restored should hasten to consecrate to God the life that is given back.—Surely it was spared for a purpose.
II. Opportunities to minister to Christ in the persons of His people are at hand and innumerable.—No need to wait for fine and splendid service. True ministry to Christ is doing first and well one’s daily duties.—Miller.
Luke 4:40. “All they that had any sick.”—Observe His Divine power and goodness shining forth in the miraculous cure of all diseases. And whatsoever be thy spiritual maladies, though never so many and so desperate, yet come. Never any came to Him and went away uncured.—Leighton.
“Laid His hands on every one.”—Jesus could certainly have cured by a word (Luke 7:6-10), or even by a simple exercise of will (John 4:50). But there is first of all something profoundly human in this act of laying His hand on the head of each one whom He wished to benefit. It was an indication of kindly feeling. Then, too, it was morally significant. Each time that Jesus made use of material means for working a cure, whether it were by the sound of His voice or by the use of clay made with His spittle, His purpose was to establish a personal tie between the sufferer and Himself; for He wished not only to cure, but to lead to God, and to do that by presenting Himself as the organ of Divine grace among mankind. It is this moral purpose which explains the diversity in the means which He employed. If they had been in themselves curative—if, for example, they had been of the nature of magnetic passes—they would not have varied so much. But as they were directed to the heart of the sufferer, they were chosen with special reference to his character or condition. In the case of a deaf-mute, Jesus put His fingers in his ears; He anointed the eyes of a blind man with His spittle, etc. The cure, therefore, was presented to the heart of those healed as an emanation from His person, and attached them to Him by an indissoluble tie.—Godet.
The Miracles of Healing Prophetic.—In the healing of all manner of diseases, Jesus not only gave a proof of His power to cope with all the evils bodily and spiritual that afflict mankind, but gave a prophetic representation of the state of blessedness in the new heavens and earth, from which all that mars our happiness will be for ever excluded. In the miracles of healing we have the first-fruits of that Divine beneficence which will overcome and banish all our sorrows (cf. Revelation 21:3-4).
Luke 4:42. Christ in Solitude.—He was continually withdrawing Himself from human sight and contact in those deserts of Palestine and praying. With teaching and healing, prayer divided His life. Have we too no need of like withdrawings after Him and with Him into the wilderness? Are we so intensely spiritual that we need none of that desecularising, decarnalising process of which the desert seclusions of Jesus were the perpetual parable? It is not safe to have the world always with us. The ground “lacks moisture” which has only the glare of day upon it.—Vaughan.
Solitude often Dreaded.—What is it that makes solitude dreadful to some and oppressive to many? Partly
(1) the sense of physical danger, born of helplessness and uncertainty. This Jesus never felt, who knew that He must walk to-day and to-morrow, and on the third day be perfected. And partly
(2) the weight of unwelcome reflection, the rebukes of memory, the fears that come of guilt. Jesus was agitated by no inward discords, upbraided by no remorse. He had probably no reveries; He is never recorded to soliloquise; solitude to Him was but another name for communion with God His Father; He was never alone, for God was with Him.—Chadwick.
Jesus makes Time for Prayer.—Jesus would always find time for prayer, or make time for it. If His days were full of excitement and toil, He would take time out of His nights for communion with God. At least, He never allowed Himself to be robbed of His hours of devotion. Is not His example a solemn rebuke?—Miller.
The Order of these Events.—From St. Mark’s Gospel we get several additional particulars which enable us to understand more clearly the narrative in this place. In the morning, long before the darkness of the night was past, Jesus rose up and left the house of Simon Peter and went into a desert place to pray. When His absence was discovered, Simon Peter and others went in search of Him, and entreated Him not to leave them. The early morning, the silent departure from the house, the purpose for which He sought the solitude of the desert, and the search for Him, form a very striking picture. The active labours of the preceding day caused Jesus to feel the necessity of recruiting His spiritual strength by withdrawing Himself for a time from the turmoil of the world and by holding communion with His heavenly Father. How much more do we need to seek from time to time to collect together our thoughts which are so easily dissipated by our every-day occupations, and to seek from God that spiritual refreshment that will make us strong to serve Him and our fellow-men! For we cannot give out unless we receive from Him.
The Search for Jesus.—Jesus had doubtless enjoyed some uninterrupted hours of such communings with His heavenly Father ere His friends from Capernaum arrived in search of Him. When morning came, Peter, loath to break in upon the repose of his glorious Guest, would await His appearance beyond the usual hour; but at length, wondering at the stillness, and gently coming to see where the Lord lay, he finds it—like the sepulchre afterwards—empty! Speedily a party is made up to go in search of Him, Peter naturally leading the way.—Brown.
Luke 4:43. “I must preach the kingdom of God.”—No doubt those who had witnessed the miracles in Capernaum expected to see a repetition of marvels of the same kind; but in the words in which Jesus replied to their request to remain among them, He lays stress upon preaching “the good tidings of the kingdom of God” as the great work He was sent to do. As the Saviour of Israel, and not merely of Capernaum, a moral obligation lay upon Him to go from city to city. It would no doubt have been pleasanter to remain among those who showed a disposition to pay Him reverence. But “even Christ pleased not Himself.” “The Saviour of the world might, indeed, by abiding in the same place, have drawn all men unto Himself; but He did not do so, because He would give us an example to go about, and seek those who are perishing, as the shepherd his lost sheep.”
“Other cities.”—Jesus went about doing good. He did not confine His blessings to single localities. He sought to reach as many souls as possible. He did not wait for people to come to Him, but carried the good news to their own doors. He thus taught that—
I. His gospel is for all men, and not for any particular place. He taught us also—
II. To make the most of our lives and opportunities, scattering the blessings of grace as widely as possible. He wants His Church to keep on preaching the gospel to “other cities also,” till there is not one left in which it has not been heard.—Miller.
Luke 4:44. “The synagogues of Galilee.”—Our Lord’s procedure in this first missionary journey was therefore to visit various towns, and to preach in synagogues on successive Sabbaths. It has been calculated that the time occupied must have been some four or five months. Galilee at this period was a very populous district. Josephus says that it contained two hundred and four towns, with not less than fifteen thousand inhabitants in each, i.e. more than three million of a population. Even if he has exaggerated the number, it must still have been considerable.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25