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Luke 4

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Luke 4:0


The Temptation of JesusSatan Tempts JesusJesus' TemptationThe Temptation of JesusTesting in the Desert
Luke 4:1-13Luke 4:1-13Luke 4:1-4Luke 4:1-2Luke 4:1-4
Luke 4:3
Luke 4:4
Luke 4:5-8Luke 4:5-7Luke 4:5-8
Luke 4:6
Luke 4:9-13Luke 4:9-11Luke 4:9-13
Luke 4:12
Events and Teachings in Galilee(Luke 4:14-50)Luke 4:13
The Beginning of the Galilean MinistryJesus Begins His Galilean MinistryJesus Returns to GalileeJesus Begins His Work in GalileeJesus Begins to Preach
Luke 4:14-15Luke 4:14-15Luke 4:14-15Luke 4:14-15Luke 4:14-15
The Rejection of Jesus at NazarethJesus Rejected at NazarethIn the Synagogue at NazarethJesus is Rejected at NazarethJesus at Nazareth
Luke 4:16-30Luke 4:16-30Luke 4:16-30Luke 4:16-19Luke 4:16-22a
Luke 4:20-21
Luke 4:22
Luke 4:22-24
Luke 4:23-27
Luke 4:25-27
Luke 4:28-30Luke 4:28-30
The Man with an Unclean SpiritJesus Casts Out an Unclean SpiritThe Synagogue at CapernaumA Man with an Evil SpiritJesus Teaches in Capernaum and Cures a Demoniac
Luke 4:31-37Luke 4:31-37Luke 4:31-37Luke 4:31-34Luke 4:31-32
Luke 4:33-35
Luke 4:35
Luke 4:36-37Luke 4:36-37
The Healing of Many PeoplePeter's Mother-in-law HealedHealing and PreachingJesus Heals Many PeopleCure of Simon's Mother-in-law
Luke 4:38-41Luke 4:38-39Luke 4:38-39Luke 4:38-39Luke 4:38-39
Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset A Number of Cures
Luke 4:40-41Luke 4:40-41Luke 4:40-41aLuke 4:40-41
Luke 4:41b
A Preaching TourJesus Preaches in Galilee Jesus Preaches in the SynagogueDawn Departure from Capernaum and Travels Through Judea
Luke 4:42-44Luke 4:42-44Luke 4:42-44Luke 4:42-43Luke 4:42-44
Luke 4:44


A. It is extremely significant that immediately following God's affirmation of the Messianic Sonship of Jesus (cf. Luke 3:22) the Spirit "drives" Jesus into the desert to be tempted (cf. Mark 1:12). Temptation was in the will of the Father for the Son. Temptation can be defined as the enticement of a God-given desire beyond God-given bounds. Temptation is not a sin. This temptation was initiated by God. The agent was Satan (cf. Luke 4:2 Kgs. 22:13-23; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:0).

B. Could Christ really have sinned? This is really the mystery of the two natures of Christ. The temptation was real. Jesus, in His human nature, could have violated the will of God. This was not a puppet show. Jesus is truly human though without a fallen nature (cf. Philippians 2:7-8; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26). In this respect He was like Adam. We see this same true, but weak, human nature in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed three times for another way of redemption other than the cross (cf. Luke 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). This tendency is the essence of each one of Satan's temptations in Matthew 4, cf. James S. Stewart, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ). How will Jesus use His Messianic gifts to redeem mankind? Any way other than substitutionary atonement was the temptation!

C. Jesus must have told this experience to His disciples later because He was alone in the desert. This implies that this account not only teaches us about Christs temptation, but also helps us in our temptations (cf. Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15).

D. The Synoptic parallels of Luke 4:0 are found in Mark 1:12-13 and Matthew 4:1-11. Since only Matthew and Luke record this full event, and it does not occur except briefly in Mark (Luke 1:12-13), scholars say this comes from a list of Jesus' sayings (possibly written by Matthew in Aramaic), which they call Quelle, the German for "source." The account of the temptations is similar (order of temptations vary, but same three temptations and dialogue) that there "must" have been a common source. The problem is that "Q" has never been found, not even a part of it. It is assumed because of logic and church tradition.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Could Jesus have been tempted to sin?

2. Is temptation a sin?

3. Does God ever cause temptation?

4. How is Jesus' Messianic task related to these temptations?

5. Why are the temptations listed in different order (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12)?

6. Why did the Gospels leave out such large sections of Jesus' ministry?

7. Why did Jesus regularly teach in the synagogue?

8. Why were the people in Nazareth so angry?

9. Explain why Jesus' message was so different from the rabbinical teachers of His day.

10. Why were the people astounded at Jesus' teachings?

11. What about demons? Who are they? What is their purpose?

12. What does Peter's having a mother-in-law imply about celibacy?

13. What is the significance concerning Jesus' healing everyone who was brought to Him?

14. What is the Kingdom of God? Define it in your own words.

15. What is the problem with the word "Judea" in Luke 4:44?

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:1-4 1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone.'"

Luke 4:1 "full of the Holy Spirit" This refers to Jesus' baptism in Luke 3:22. Luke's emphasis on the Spirit can be seen by the Spirit being mentioned twice in the opening clauses as well as verses Luke 4:14 and 18. Notice that the temptations occurred while Jesus was filled with the Spirit, even led by the Spirit (cf. Mark 1:12) into this time of testing (as well as spiritual preparation and mental clarification).

Luke is often called the Gospel of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealed as the empowering source of Jesus.

1. conceived by the Spirit Luke 1:35

2. came in the Spirit to the temple Luke 2:27

3. will baptize with the Spirit Luke 3:16

4. Spirit descended upon Him Luke 3:22

5. full of the Spirit Luke 4:1

6. led by the Spirit Luke 4:1

7. in the power of the Spirit Luke 4:14

8. anointed by the Spirit Luke 4:18

Some theologians try to contrast "full of the Spirit" with "filling of the Spirit" as if the first were permanent (which is surely true of Jesus, cf. Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18). However, the "filling" is used of several in Luke's writings:

1. Luke

(a) Elizabeth in Luke 1:41

(b) Zacharias in Luke 1:67

2. Acts

(a) the Seven in Acts 6:3

(b) Stephen, one of the Seven in Acts 7:55

(c) Barnabas in Acts 11:24

Several times in Acts the disciples are said to "be filled":

1. all those in the upper room, Luke 2:4

2. Peter, Luke 4:8

3. the group, Luke 4:31

4. Paul, Luke 9:17; Luke 13:9

Even Jesus has a previous experience of the Spirit in Luke 3:22.

I have included several Special Topics related to the Spirit

1. Spirit (pneuma) in the NT at Luke 1:80

2. The Trinity at Luke 3:22

3. The Personhood of the Spirit at Luke 12:12

4. Spirit in the Bible (see below)


"forty days" Mark (Peter) chose a motif from the OT of (1) Moses' forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 10:10) and (2) Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years (cf. Numbers 14:26-35). Matthew saw Jesus as the New Law giver and deliverer.

The term "forty" was used often in the Bible, implying that it could function both literally (forty years from Egypt to Canaan) and figuratively (the flood). The Hebrews used a lunar calendar. "Forty" implied a long, indefinite period of time longer than a lunar cycle, not exactly forty twenty-four hour periods.

"was led by the Spirit" This phrase is different in each of the Synoptics.

A. Mark (Luke 1:12) has ekballô ("to throw out") in its present active indicative form, which would denote an ongoing experience. This was a strong term, used of exorcism (cf. Mark 1:34, Mark 1:39; Mark 3:15, Mark 3:22, Mark 3:23; Mark 6:13; Mark 7:26; Mark 9:18, Mark 9:28, Mark 9:38).

B. Matthew (Luke 4:1) has anagô, a compound from ana "up" and agô "to go" or "to lead." In its aorist passive indicative form, which denotes a finished, one-time event. This term is also used of offering sacrifices (cf. Acts 7:41).

C. Luke (Luke 4:1) has agô in its imperfect passive indicative form, which emphasizes the beginning of an action.

All three assert the action of the Spirit (see Special Topic at Luke 12:12) in this inaugural preparation experience for public ministry.

"the wilderness" This refers, not to the desert, but to the uninhabited pastureland south and east of Jerusalem. It was during the wilderness wandering of Israel (i.e., the Exodus) that YHWH was uniquely present, powerful, and constantly providing for Israel's needs. The rabbis later called this forty-year (actually thirty-eight years) wandering the honeymoon between YHWH and Israel. This was the very region where John had spent his time of preparation.

It is also possible that "the wilderness" symbolizes the dwelling place of evil spirits (azazel, cf. Leviticus 16:8, Leviticus 16:10). These spirits were denoted by certain animals (cf. Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14-15). There is an allusion to this in Matthew 12:43.


Luke 4:2 "forty" There seems to be some literary attempt by the Gospel writers to connect Jesus' experience in the wilderness with Moses in the wilderness (cf. Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:33-34; Duet. Luke 8:2) or Moses on the mountain of God (cf. Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 10:10). This play on Moses is much more obvious in the Matthean parallel (cf. Matthew 4:0).

"tempted" See Special Topic below.


"by the devil" This is the Greek term diabolos, for the OT Satan. See Special Topic following.


"He ate nothing" Fasting for spiritual sensitivity was practiced regularly in Judaism of the first century. Although Jesus ate nothing (double negative) this does not mean He did not drink fluids. Physically life cannot be sustained after the third or fourth day without fluids. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING at Luke 5:33.

"He became hungry" Jesus was a normal man with bodily needs. Scholars still debate whether Luke's emphasis on Jesus' humanity was in any way connected to the early church heresy of Gnosticism, which denied His true humanity. (See Special Topic at Luke 2:40).

It is possible that Satan/Devil waited until the end of the fast, when Jesus was weak and hungry, to start the temptations, the first of which deals with bread.

Luke 4:3, Luke 4:9 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence and may have several meanings: (1) the statement is assumed true so that the author can make his point or (2) the author is assenting the truthfulness of the statement. In this context I am assuming #2. The Devil was not doubting who He was (i.e., "the Son of God," Luke 3:22, also mentioned in Luke 1:32, Luke 1:35), but how He would accomplish His God-given Messianic task (cf. James S. Stewart, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ).

Luke 4:3 "stone. . .bread" Apparently these rocks in the Judean desert were shaped like loaves of baked bread used in first century Palestine. Satan was tempting Jesus to use His Messianic powers both to meet His personal needs and to win human followers by feeding them. In the OT the Messiah was described as feeding the poor (cf. Isaiah 58:6-7, Isaiah 58:10). These temptation experiences, to some extent, continued to occur during Jesus' ministry. The feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) and of the four thousand (Matthew 15:29-33) showed how humans would, and did, abuse God's provision of physical food. This again was similar to the problems of Israel's wilderness experience (i.e., God providing food). Matthew saw a parallel between Moses and Jesus. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to perform many of the functions of Moses (cf. John 6:0).

Luke 4:4 "it is written" This is a perfect passive indicative. This was the standard way of introducing an inspired quotation from the OT (cf. Luke 4:4, Luke 4:7, Luke 4:10), in this case, from Deuteronomy 8:3 from the Septuagint (LXX). This particular quote relates to God providing manna to the children of Israel during the wilderness period.

All of Jesus' responses to Satan's temptations were quotes from Deuteronomy (i.e., Deuteronomy 6:13, Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 8:3). This must have been one of His favorite books.

1. He quoted repeatedly from it during His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-16; Luke 4:1-13.

2. It is possibly the outline behind the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

3. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 as the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28.

4. Jesus quoted this section of the OT (Genesis - Deuteronomy) most often because the Jews of His day considered it the most authoritative section of the canon.

Jesus memorized God's word and hid it in His heart that He might not sin against God (cf. Psalms 119:11). If Jesus needed God's word in His mind and heart to face temptation, how much more do we?

"man shall not live on bread alone" This quote is from Deuteronomy 8:3. There is a Greek manuscript variant involving this quote.

1. NASB, NRSV, TEV, and NJB follow the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W (UBS4 gives it a B rating).

2. NKJV follows MSS A and D, which come from the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 8:3 and the Matthew 4:4 parallel.

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:5-8 5And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." 8Jesus answered him, "it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'"

Luke 4:5 "he led Him up" This is the term anagô, which was used in Matthew 4:1, where Luke has agô. The preposition ana means up. The Matthew parallel has the temptations in a different order, but the parallel adds "to a very high mountain" (cf. Matthew 4:8).

"show Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time" This phrase makes me think that these temptations, real though they were, were in Jesus' mind (cf. George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 49). There was no mountain from which one could see all the kingdoms, even in this one part of the world. The instantaneous time factor further confirms this. This same issue of physical vs. mental can be seen in Ezekiel 8:0 and John's visions in Revelation.

Luke 4:6 "this domain" See Special Topic at Luke 20:2.

"it has been handed over to me" The Bible presents Satan as the ruler (god) of this world (cf. John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). However, he is not the owner.

This is a perfect passive indicative, which denotes something that has become a settled position and was given by an unnamed agent. The crux of the interpretation is "is this statement true" or "is it a lie by the great liar?"

If true, it is a result of Genesis 3:0. If true, this time of sin and rebellion may have been allowed by God to test His human creation. There is surely mystery here! If false, it just fits into so many other lies of Satan, the accuser and father of lies.

Theologically they may be parallel. Satan successfully tricked Adam and Eve, but he will not be able to trick Jesus, the second Adam (cf. Romans 5:12-21; Luke 4:2 Cor. 15:45-49; Philippians 2:6-11). Satan "claims" all authority here, but Jesus has all authority (cf. Matthew 28:18, as well as Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; John 13:3; John 17:2).

"I give it to whomever I wish" This was a lie. Satan can do only what God allows (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:0).

Luke 4:7 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action but with an element of contingency.

NASB, NKJV"worship before me" NRSV, TEV"worship me" NJB"do homage to me"

Theologians have assumed that Satan wants to replace God. This is often based on (1) Isaiah 14:0 and Ezekiel 28:0 or (2) Daniel 11:36-39 and (3) Revelation 13:0. The rabbis say Satan, a created angel, rebelled when he was told he must serve fallen humanity. Now he wants to supplant God.

In the OT Satan is a servant of god, but an enemy of humanity. There is a progressive development of evil in the Bible (see A. B. Davidson, An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306).

Luke 4:8 This is a quote from Duet. Luke 6:13. Jesus answers the devil's temptations with another quote from Deuteronomy. This was a significant book for Him. He must have memorized it. He quoted it three times to Satan in this context.

Verses 9-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:9-12 9And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,' 11and, 'On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'" 12And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Luke 4:9 "pinnacle of the temple" This was the corner that overlooked the Kidron Valley where the priest announced the morning and evening sacrifices. The temptation here was to win the world by the miraculous and spectacular. Many Jews expected the Messiah to appear suddenly in the Temple (cf. Malachi 3:1).

Luke 4:10 Satan quotes from Psalms 91:11-12. He misquotes it slightly but still in context. This is a good example of how proof-texting is a poor method of biblical interpretation (even Satan can make the Bible say what he wants it to using this method).

Luke 4:12 This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16. Every response of Jesus to Satan in this context is from Deuteronomy, and all from the sections where Israel was in the wilderness. Jesus refused to force God to act (cf. Daniel 3:16-18).

Verse 13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:13 13When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

Luke 4:13 "When the devil had finished every temptation" Matthew and Luke record these same temptations in a different order. This phrase may imply there were others. However, this may be a summary statement so common in Luke's writings. Jesus knows our temptations and loves us anyway (cf. Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15-16) because He's been there!

"he left Him until an opportune time" This phrase has implications.

1. temptation is not a once-and-for-all event

2. Satan looks for times of vulnerability (cf. Matt. 16:22-33)


A. This begins Luke's Galilean ministry of Jesus. The Gospel of John's recording of an early Judean ministry (cf. John 1:19-42) does not fit Luke's theological pattern. Luke wants Jesus' visit to Jerusalem to climax His ministry. The majority of Luke's presentation of Jesus is "on the way/road to Jerusalem," which characterizes Luke 9:51 (i.e., "He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem," cf. Luke 13:22; Luke 17:11; Luke 18:31; Luke 19:11, Luke 19:28).

This focus on Jerusalem may also be why Luke rearranges the order of Satan's temptations so that Jerusalem is last.

B. Luke takes a day in the life of Jesus (both in Nazareth and Capernaum) and uses it to reveal His whole life and ministry. The themes of "gladly welcomed" and "rejection, even murder" are repeated. Readers see the whole reflected in a part.

C. Remember, as Jesus used typological Christology to reveal Himself from the OT (cf. Luke 24:13-35, esp. 25-27), so too, Luke, writing long after Jesus' death, resurrection, and the spread of the gospel, gives us hints of the main points of Jesus' life and message very early in his account. Only a backwards view fully reveals Luke's perspective. Luke's Gospel is as much theology as chronological, sequential history. True historical events are selected, adapted, and arranged for theological impact (see Fee, Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148)!

Verses 14-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:14-15 14And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

Luke 4:14 "returned to Galilee" Both Matthew and Luke move directly from the temptation experience in Judea into the Galilean ministry which runs from Luke 4:4 to 9:50. Only John 1:35-44 describes the intervening ministry in Judea. Galilee, which in Hebrew means "circle" (BDB 165 II), was interpreted by the rabbis as meaning encircled by the Gentiles. This area was despised by the Orthodox Jews from Judea, however, Jesus' ministry here was a fulfillment of predictive prophecy (cf. Isaiah 9:1). Josephus describes this region in Jewish Wars 3.3.1-2.

Mark (Luke 1:14) and Matthew (Luke 4:12) mention that Jesus' return to Galilee coincided with John the Baptist's arrest by Herod.

"in the power of the Spirit" Temptation does not cause the loss of the Spirit. Jesus spoke the Father's words and acted in the Spirit's power. The fluidity between the ministries of the three persons of the Trinity is evident throughout the NT (cf. Luke 4:18-19). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22.

"news about Him spread through all the surrounding district" This is one of Luke's characteristic statements (cf. Luke 4:37; Luke 5:15; Luke 7:17). He tended to add brief summaries both in his Gospel and Acts.

Luke 4:15 "synagogues" This local Jewish institution developed during the Babylonian Exile to offer the Jews who were estranged from their Temple a place of prayer, worship, study, and ministry. It was probably the single most significant means of the Jews retaining their culture. Even after they returned to Palestine they continued this local institution.

"was praised by all" The Gospels record Jesus' popularity with the common people in the local Galilean synagogues. But they also record a growing opposition from the religious leaders.

Luke often adds a comment about how people preserved Jesus' words (cf. Luke 4:22; Luke 8:25; Luke 9:43; Luke 11:27; Luke 13:17; Luke 19:48).

Verses 16-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:16-30 16And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." 20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" 23And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" 24And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, He went His way.

Luke 4:16-30 The footnote in the New Jerusalem Bible translation (1966) on p. 99 #g makes the interesting assertion that Luke combines three separate visits to Nazareth.

1. vv. 16-22, where Jesus is honored (cf. Matthew 4:13)

2. vv. 23-24, where Jesus amazes the townspeople (cf Matthew 13:54-58)

3. vv. 25-30, where Jesus is attacked, which is not mentioned by Matthew or Mark

The NJB (Jerome Biblical Commentary, pp. 131-132) says this account functions as a theological summary of how Jesus will be initially received and then rejected by Palestinian Jews.

Luke 4:16 "Nazareth" The spelling of "Nazareth" (Nazara) is unusual and is found only here and Matthew 4:13, which is also the temptation of Jesus. This seems to give evidence that both Matthew and Luke used a common source for their Gospel accounts.

This was Jesus' hometown (cf. Luke 2:39, Luke 2:51, see Special Topic at Luke 4:34). There is some question as to whether Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:53-58 are parallel or this is a second trip to Nazareth. For me, the similarities are too overwhelming to be a second visit. Luke purposefully places this event first as a summary of Jesus' whole life-ministry.

It must be remembered that the Bible is not a western history. Near Eastern history is selective, but not inaccurate. The Gospels are not biographies, but gospel tracts written to different groups of people for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship, not just history. Often Gospel writers selected, adapted, and arranged the material for their own theological and literary purposes (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart's How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 94-112, 113-134). This does not mean to imply they falsify or make up events or words. The differences in the Gospels do not deny inspiration. They affirm eyewitness accounts and the unique evangelistic purpose of each author.

"as was His custom, He entered the synagogue" Jesus grew up participating in public worship. I’m sure he learned the OT in synagogue school (starting at age 5). Habits are a vital, healthy part of our religious life.

"Sabbath" This is from the Hebrew word meaning "rest" or "cessation" (BDB 992). It is connected to the seventh day of creation where God ceased His labor after finishing initial creation (cf. Genesis 2:1-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but because

1. creation was complete and good (cf. Genesis 1:31)

2. to give mankind a regular pattern for worship and rest

The Sabbath begins like all the days of Genesis 1:0, at twilight, therefore, twilight on Friday to twilight on Saturday was the official time period. All the details of its observance are given in Exodus (especially chapters 16, 20, 31, and 35) and Leviticus (especially chapters 23-26). The Pharisees had taken these regulations and, by means of their oral discussions, interpreted them to include many rules (the Oral Traditions, later the written Talmud). Jesus often performed miracles, knowingly violating their picky rules so as to enter into a dialogue with them. It was not Sabbath that Jesus rejected or belittled, but the self-righteous legalism and lack of love exhibited by the religious elite.


"stood up to read" The general order of worship in the synagogue service is as follows:

1. prayer

2. a reading from the Pentateuch

3. a reading from the Prophets

4. exposition of the texts (this order was followed by the early church, but they added the reading of the NT)

As was the custom of the Jews, Jesus stood up to read the Scripture, but sat down to teach (cf. Luke 4:20). See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chapter 10, pp. 430-450.

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy several times during His temptation experience. All were quotes from the Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint. Here in the synagogue of Nazareth His reading seems to also come from the Septuagint. Most Jews of Jesus' day had lost the ability to read Hebrew. They spoke Aramaic, but most could also use Koine Greek as a second language.

I would assume, along with F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 175, that Jesus could read and speak (everyone read aloud) Hebrew. If so, Jesus was trilingual. The real question is what text of the Scriptures was used in the synagogues of Galilee? Most Jewish sources would assert that the reading of the Scriptures would have been in Hebrew, then an Aramaic translation would be provided.

Luke 4:17 "the book of the prophet Isaiah" The Hebrew Scriptures are written on long parchment scrolls that had to be turned to find the right place. A good resource book on this type of background information is F. F. Bruce's The Books and the Parchments.

Luke 4:18 "This is a partial quote of Isaiah 61:1-2 from the Septuagint with the omission of verses 61c and 62b, but with an insertion of a verse from Isaiah 58:0:6d. The combining and editing of OT texts was common in rabbinical Judaism.

There is a variant in the Greek MSS concerning the quote of Isaiah 61:1-2.

1. some MSS stop at "He has sent me" א, B, D, L, W

2. others add the full sentence from Isaiah 61:1 A, Delta, Epsilon

The UBS4 gives option #1, the short text, and A rating (certain).

One wonders if Jesus intentionally omitted the line from Isaiah 61:0 because He chose not to do any miracles in Nazareth. This may explain why He added another line from Isaiah 58:6.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" Notice the different divine Persons. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22. The new age of righteousness is the Age of the Spirit.

"He anointed Me" This Hebrew word is the same root as "Messiah" (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11). In Greek the term "Messiah" is translated "Christ." This was a way of denoting God's calling and equipping of leaders. In the OT prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANOINTING IN THE BIBLE (BDB 603)in the Bible also at Luke 2:11.

"preach the gospel" At this point the full gospel (lit. "good news") is not yet available. Only after Jesus' death and resurrection did His actions and teachings come into perfect focus.

"poor. . .captives. . .blind. . .downtrodden" Notice the types of people that Jesus came to help. His care for these fulfilled many prophetic texts.

Luke 4:19 "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" This originally referred to the year of Jubilee (cf. Leviticus 25:8-17), but in this context (Isaiah 61:2), it applies to the eschatological fulfillment of Jesus' ministry. Clement and Origen of Alexandria said that this means that Jesus ministered only one year, but this is far too literal in understanding how this OT passage is fulfilled in Christ.

Luke 4:20 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Luke 1-9 in the Anchor Bible, has an interesting comment on the VERB atenizô (fixed intently). He notes that it is a term used often by Luke, especially in Acts.

"In most instances it expresses a steadfast gaze of esteem and trustthe nuance intended here. It is part of the assembly's initial reaction of admiration or pleasant surprise" (p. 533).

Luke 4:21 "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" This is a perfect passive indicative. It speaks of the eschatological fulfillment of the promise of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which was now present in Jesus. What a shocking statement!

The Kingdom of God is the focus of Jesus' preaching. It is the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10). It is both here and now and yet future!


Luke 4:22 "all were speaking well of Him" Jesus' initial popularity continued (cf. Luke 4:15), but it will be short-lived at Nazareth!

"Is this not Joseph's son" This question in Greek expects a "yes" answer. This shows the normalcy of Jesus' childhood in Nazareth (i.e., Luke 2:40, Luke 2:52). It was a statement of pride in a hometown boy.

Luke 4:23 "proverb" This is literally "parable," which means "to throw alongside of." It was a method of teaching which used a common occurrence of life to illustrate or highlight a spiritual truth.

"'Physician, heal yourself’" The point Jesus is making is obvious: to these townspeople of Nazareth, Jesus held no special place in their minds. They wanted Jesus to do the miracles that He had done in Capernaum in His hometown also. We learn from Mark 6:1-6 that because of their unbelief, He did not do many mighty miracles here (cf. Luke 4:24).

"we heard what was done at Capernaum" This is a good place to see how Luke uses Mark's Gospel. Mark 1:21ff records Jesus' ministry in Capernaum. In Mark, the healing at Capernaum found in Luke 4:31-37 is placed in chapter 1.

The difficulty modern western readers and commentators face in trying to understand the Gospels is that we assume they are chronological, detailed, sequential, cause-and-effect, modern histories, which they are not. For a good discussion on interpreting the Gospels, see Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 113-134.

Luke 4:24 "'Truly I say to you’" This is literally "amen." Only Jesus uses this as a literary technique to introduce a significant statement.


"no prophet is welcome in his hometown" This statement is similar to our English statement "familiarity breeds contempt." It must have been so hard for Jesus' family and neighbors to accept His Messiahship (cf. Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57).

Luke 4:25-27 Jesus mentions two OT examples where God acted in miraculous ways for non-Jews and no miracles for covenant people are recorded (Stephen will pick up on these examples in Acts 7:0) . This fits Luke's universal emphasis of the gospel's availability to all humans who repent and believe. The majority of Jews, however, will not believe, as in the days of Elijah and Elisha.

Notice that the two prophets mentioned were northern prophets from the area Jesus was addressing (i.e., tenth century B.C. Israel).

Luke 4:25 "when the sky was shut for three years and six months" This same time element is mentioned in James 5:17, however, 1 Kings 18:1 mentions only three years. Apparently, this was a rabbinical tradition. It was also an apocalyptic idiom for "a set time of persecution" (cf. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 11:2; Revelation 12:6, Revelation 12:14).

Luke 4:26 "Elijah. . .sent to Zarephath. . .to a woman who was a widow" God sent His prophet to minister to a needy Phoenician foreigner (and a woman at that), instead of the contemporary Israelis, who were also in need. Luke records Jesus' sayings and teachings which emphasize His love and care for outcasts!

Luke 4:27 "Elisha. . .Naaman the Syrian" God sent His prophet (Elisha) to heal a foreign military leader (an enemy at that) instead of the many sick among God's Covenant people, Israel (cf. 2 Kings 5:0).

Luke 4:28 "And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things" God's universal love toward the Gentiles was the source of these nationalistic Jews' rage (the same is true of Stephen's sermon in Acts 7:0). They did not think well of Him now (cf. Luke 4:22a and 29). They did not want to hear God's truth, but only wanted affirmation of their own biases and nationalistic traditions (not much has changed with humans of every age). These religious worshipers are "filled with rage" against Him who is full of the Spirit. What irony!

Luke 4:29 "they got up and drove Him out of the city. . .to throw Him down the cliff" It is amazing how quickly the attitude of this crowd moved from wonder and awe to rage and murder.

Luke 4:30 "But passing through their midst, He went His way" This is a remarkable miracle, the exact nature of which is not explained (cf. John 8:59; John 10:39). It was simply not His hour (cf. John 7:30). It, at least, shows us that Jesus was an ordinary-looking man of His day.

Verses 31-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:31-37 31And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. 33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34"Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You arethe Holy One of God!" 35But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. 36And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out." 37And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.

Luke 4:31 "He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee" Capernaum became Jesus' headquarters and He probably moved His family to this locale.

"and He was teaching them on the Sabbath" In these early days of ministry, Jesus spoke in the local synagogues as much as possible (as did Paul, cf. Acts 3:26; Romans 1:16). There would quickly come a time when He was forced to speak to the large crowds in the open air of the countryside.

Luke 4:32 "and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority" The Greek term translated "amazed" literally meant "struck by a blow" or "knocked beside themselves." Jesus' message was different (both in content and form) because He did not speak as the scribes who quoted the famous pair of rabbinical teachers like Shammai (the conservative rabbinical school) and Hillel (the liberal rabbinical school). He spoke as one who had authority in Himself (cf. Matthew 7:28-29; John 7:46).

"authority" See Special Topic: Luke's Use of Exousia at Luke 20:2.

Luke 4:33 "a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon" See Special Topic below.


"cried out" This implies at the top of his voice.

Luke 4:34

NASB, NRSV"Let us alone" NKJV"Let us alone" TEV"Ah" NJB"Ha"

The Greek particle ea is used in the Septuagint of Job where it is translated "alas" in Luke 19:5 and "let alone" in Luke 15:16. It is used in Hellenistic poetry to express displeasure or surprise.

NASB"What business do we have with each other" NKJV"What have we to do with You" NRSV"What have you to do with us" TEV, NJB"What do you want with us"

This expression is used in the Septuagint with a hostile connotation (cf. Jgds. 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Chronicles 35:21).

"Jesus of Nazareth" See Special Topic below.


"us" Notice the plural. In the NT possession often involves numbers of demons (cf. Luke 8:2, Luke 8:27, Luke 8:30).

"I know who You arethe Holy One of God" The demon's recognition and testimony was not meant to help Jesus, but to add to the Pharisee's charge that His power was from Satan (cf. Luke 4:41; Luke 11:15; Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22).

The phrase "Holy One of God" is an OT Messianic title. It is alluded to in Luke 1:35 and Acts 3:14. It is the title by which the demonic addressed Jesus in Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34.


Luke 4:35 "'Be quiet’" This is an aorist passive imperative singular meaning "be muzzled." Notice the switch from "us" (Luke 4:34) to the singular here. Possibly only one demon spoke on behalf of them all.

"come out" This is an aorist active imperative. Exorcisms were common in Jesus' day, but Jesus' methods were radically different. His exorcisms were a sign of the New Age. The rabbis used magic formulas, but Jesus used His own authority. There is so much confusion and bad information circulating today about exorcism and the demonic. Part of this problem is that the NT does not discuss these issues. As a pastor I wish I had more information on this subject. Here are some books I trust:

1. Christian Counseling and the Occult, Kurt E. Koch

2. Demons in the World Today, Merrill F. Unger

3. Biblical Demonology, Merrill F. Unger

4. Principalities and Powers, Hendrik Berkhof

5. Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare by Clinton Anthony

It surprises me that exorcism is not listed as one of the spiritual gifts and that the subject is not addressed in the Apostolic letters. I believe in a biblical world view which includes the spiritual realm (i.e., good and evil), present and active in the physical realm (i.e., Job 1-2; Daniel 10:0; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 4:14; Ephesians 6:10-18). However, God has chosen not to reveal the specifics. As believers we have all the information we need to live godly, productive lives for Him! Some subjects are not revealed or developed.

Several physical manifestations of an unclean spirit leaving a person are recorded (cf. Mark 1:26; Mark 9:26; Luke 9:39). This may have been a way of confirming that the spirit had truly left.

This first sign of power clearly shows the Messianic implications of Jesus. The OT title (cf. Psalms 16:10) by which the demons acknowledge Him and His power to control and judge them clearly reflects the spiritual authority of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Luke 4:27c).

Luke 4:36 "amazement" This is a different Greek term from Luke 4:32, but a synonym (cf. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, pp. 311-312). Luke uses it in Luke 4:36; Luke 5:9 and Acts 3:10.

"authority" See Special Topic at Luke 20:2. Jesus' message about Himself was radical and unexpected. He verified His claims with His actions!

Luke 4:37 "spreading" We get the English term "echo" from this Greek term. The message of Jesus' power over unclean spirits, as well as His physical healings, caused great excitement and the gathering of large crowds.

Verses 38-39

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:38-39 38Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. 39And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them.

Luke 4:38 "Simon's mother-in-law" Peter was obviously married (cf. Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:29-34; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Celibacy is a gift, not a forced norm for clergy. Marriage is the biblical norm (cf. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:18; Genesis 9:1, Genesis 9:7).

"was suffering from" This is a periphrastic imperfect passive. This fever was a pre-existent, recurrent problem.

"a high fever" This is a medical term used by Galen for a "category of fever." The Gospels make a distinction between Jesus exorcizing demons and healing sickness.

"He rebuked the fever" In Luke Jesus rebukes

1. demons (Luke 4:35, Luke 4:41; Luke 9:42)

2. fever (Luke 4:39)

3. the wind and waves (Luke 8:24)

4. the disciples (Luke 9:21, Luke 9:55)

This showed His authority and power. Jesus was truly human, but He was also God incarnate. It is hard to hold these two in balance. Luke's Gospel emphasizes both aspects!

Just a word about Jesus rebuking a fever. This literary personification of a physical problem does not make this an exorcism. Demons can cause physical problems, but not all physical problems are demonic. Be careful of the extremes (no demons; demons cause everything)! See note at Luke 4:35 on exorcisms.

Verse 40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:40-41 40While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. 41Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.

Luke 4:40 "While the sun was setting" This meant it was the end of the Sabbath. The Jews count the day from twilight in the evening to the next twilight following (cf. Genesis 1:5). Many Jews felt even healing on the Sabbath was inappropriate.

"brought them to Him" The people had seen Jesus' power in the synagogue (Luke 4:31-37) and had heard His words of compassion and prophecy. Jesus now shows by His actions that He has both the power and the compassion of YHWH!

"laying His hands on each one of them" Note the laying on of hands was for the sick, never the demon possessed (cf. Luke 4:41).


"healing them" Notice that Jesus cured all who came! Also notice the distinction between the medical problems of Luke 4:40 and the demon possession of Luke 4:41. These actions reveal the gracious, loving, kind heart of God for humanity and the compassion and power of God's Messiah.

Luke 4:41 "many" From the English text it seems that Jesus healed all of those with physical ailments, but only some of those with demons. There are two possible solutions:

1. There is a volitional aspect to deliverance/exorcism.

2. The Bible uses "all" and "many" interchangeably (cf. Isaiah 53:6, "all" vs. 53:11,12, "many" or the parallelism of Romans 5:18, "all" and Romans 5:19, "many").

"the Son of God" See Special Topic at Luke 1:35.

"not allow them to speak" This is another reason that Jesus did not allow their testimony. The people had a false view of His Messianic task (nationalism). These demons were not witnessing to support Jesus, but allowing the religious leaders to claim that His power came from Satan, not God.

"they knew Him to be the Christ" Demons have theological knowledge (cf. James 2:19), but they do not have a personal faith relationship with the Father or the Son. Here is a good example of knowledge without faith being futile (cf Matthew 7:21-23). See Special Topic: Messiah at Luke 2:11.

Verses 42-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:42-43 42When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. 43But He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose."

Luke 4:42 This verse is one of Luke's ways of showing

1. the humanity of Jesus and His need to get away and relax

2. the crowds seeking Jesus, not for His teachings, but for His physical healings and exorcisms. He did not want to be known for these things, but they did give Him access to large numbers of people.

Luke 4:43 "the kingdom of God" The Kingdom of God is a central concept of Jesus' preaching. It involves the reign of God in human hearts now which will one day be consummated over all the earth. The kingdom is placed in the past in Luke 13:28, in the present in Luke 17:21, and in the future in Matthew 6:10-11. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21.

"I was sent for this purpose" Jesus knew something of His special calling and purpose by age twelve (cf. Luke 2:49). Mark 10:45 reveals Jesus' mature self-understanding. Jesus is the Father's special agent, His sent One, His anointed One (cf. John 17:3). The verb here is apostellô (cf. Luke 4:18), which came to be used of those special disciples Jesus commissioned and sent (Apostles of John 17:18; John 20:21). This term takes on special meaning in John's Gospel, but in the Synoptic Gospel it is just one of several Greek words used for sending.

Verse 44

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Luke 4:44 44So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Luke 4:44 "Judea" This geographical location is very unusual because of Luke 4:14, Luke 4:31, and 37. Jesus is supposed to be in Galilee (cf. Matthew 4:23).

Because of the confusion caused by "Judea" (found in MSS P75, א, B, C, L) several early Greek manuscripts have "Galilee" (cf. MSS A and D and the Vulgate and Peshitta), which follows Mark 1:39 and Matthew 4:23.

The editorial committee of the UBS4 gives "Judea" a B rating (almost certain). This may be (1) the use of Judea referring to all of Israel (i.e., the Prophets) or (2) the Gospels are not western histories, but eastern gospel tracts.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Luke 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/luke-4.html. 2021.
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