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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Luke 4

 

 

Verses 1-15

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

For the exposition, see the notes at Matthew 4:1-25, and Mark 1:35-39.

As observed on Matthew 4:13, the prevalent opinion has always been that our Lord paid two visits to Nazareth: the first being that recorded here; the second that recorded in Matthew 13:54-58, and Mark 6:1-6. This is maintained on the following grounds: First, The most natural sense of the words in Matthew 4:13, "And leaving Nazareth, He came down and dwelt in Capernaum," is that He then paid a visit to it, though the particulars of it are not given. In this case the visit recorded in Luke 13:54-58 must be a second visit. Next the visit recorded in Luke bears on its face to have been made at the outset of our Lord's ministry, if not the verse opening of it; whereas that recorded in Matthew 8:1-34 and in Mark 6:1-56 is evidently one paid at a somewhat advanced period of His ministry. Further, at the visit recorded by Luke, our Lord appears have performed no miracles; whereas it is expressly said that at the visit recorded in Mark He did work some miracles. Once more it is alleged of the wonder expressed by the Nazarenes at our Lord's teaching, that the language is noticeably different in Luke and in Mark. In reply to this, we observe: First, that as none of the Evangelists record more than one pubic visit to Nazareth, so we have shown in our exposition of Matthew 4:13, that it is not necessary to infer from that verse that our Lord actually visited Nazareth at that time.

Thus are we left free to decide the question-of one or two visits-on internal evidence alone. Secondly, the unparalleled violence with which the Nazarenes treated our Lord, at the visit recorded by Luke, suits far better with a somewhat advanced period of His ministry than with the very opening scene of it, or any very near its commencement. Thirdly, the visit, accordingly, recorded by Luke, though it reads at first like the opening scene of our Lord's ministry, gives evidence, on closer inspection, of its having occurred at a somewhat advanced period. The challenge which they would be ready to throw out to Him, and which He here meets, was that He ought to work among His Nazarene townsmen as wonderful miracles as had made His stay at capture so illustrious. Does not this prove not only that His ministry did not begin at Nazareth, but that He had stayed so long away from it afar His public ministry began, that the Nazarenes were irritated at the slight thus put upon them, and would be ready to insinuate that He was afraid to face them? Fourthly, supposing our Lord to have framed His own procedure according to the instructions which He gave to His disciples - "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine;" and "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 7:6; Matthew 10:23) - it is in the last degree improbable that He would again expose Himself to those who had, at a former visit, rushed upon Him and thrush Him out of their city, and attempted to hurl Him down a precipice to kill Him; and though, if recorded, it is of course to be believed, the evidence of the fact would require to be much clearer than we think it is to warrant the conclusion that He actually did so.

Fifthly, if our Lord did pay a second public visit to Nazareth, we might expect, in the record of it, some allusion to the first; or, if that be not necessary, it is surely reasonable to suppose that the impression made upon the Nazarenes, and the observations that fell from them would differ somewhat at least from those produced by the first visit. But, instead of this, not only do we find the impression produced upon them by the visit recorded by Matthew (Matthew 13:1-58) and by Mark (Mark 6:1-56), to be just what might have been expected from such a people on hearing Him for the first time; but we find their remarks to be identical with those recorded by Luke as made at his visit. Who can readily believe this of two distinct visits? Can anything be more unnatural than to suppose that after these Nazarenes had attempted the life of our Lord, and been disappointed of their object at one visit, they should at a subsequent one express their surprise at His teaching precisely in the terms they had before employed, and just as if they had never heard him before? As for the attempts to show that the questions are not put so strongly in Matthew and Mark, as they are in Luke (see Birks' "Horae Evangelicae"), it is astonishing to us that this should be urged-so devoid of all plausibility does it appear. The one argument of real force in favour of two visits is, that at the visit recorded by Mark (which is the same as that of Matthew) our Lord is expressly said to have performed miracles, while it would seem that at that of Luke He performed none. But the very way in which Mark records those miracles suggests its own explanation: "He could there do no mighty work" [ dunamin (Greek #1411)], or, "He could there do no miracle, except that He laid His hands noon a few sick folk, and healed them" (Mark 6:5) - suggesting that the unbelief of the Nazarenes tied up His hands, so to speak, from any display of His miraculous power. But as that unbelief evidently refers to what was displayed in public, so the inability is clearly an inability, in the face of that unbelief, to give any manifestation in the synagogue, or in public, of His miraculous power, as He did in the synagogue of Capernaum and elsewhere. Hence, His "laying His hands on a few sick folk," being expressly recorded as exceptional, had been done in private, and in all likelihood before His public appearance in the synagogue had kindled the popular rage, and made at impossible. If this be correct, the demand of the Nazarenes for miracles and our Lord's refusal of them, as recorded by Luke, is quite consistent with the statement of what He performed as given in Mark. A striking confirmation of the conclusion we have formed on this question will be found in the exposition of John 4:43-44, and Remark I at the close of that section.


Verse 16

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and, as his custom was, [ kata (G2596) to (G3588) eioothos (G1486) autoo (G846), compare Acts 17:2], he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Does this read like the opening of our Lord's public ministry? Does it not expressly tell us, on the contrary, that His ministry had already continued long enough to acquire a certain uniformity of procedure on the Sabbath days? Since others besides Rabbis were allowed to address the congregation (see Acts 13:15), our Lord took advantage of that liberty.


Verse 17

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written (Isaiah 61:1-2). There is no sufficient ground for supposing that our Lord fixed upon the portion for the day. The language used rather implies the contrary-that it was a portion selected by Himself for the occasion.


Verse 18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because [or 'inasmuch as' hou (G3739) heneken (G1752)], he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,


Verse 19

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

To preach the acceptable [or 'accepted' to (G3588) dekton (G1184)], year of the Lord. To have fixed on any portion relating to His sufferings (as Isaiah 53:1-12) would have been unsuitable at that early stage of His ministry. But He selects a passage announcing the sublime object of His whole mission, its divine character, and His special endowments for it; expressed in the first person, and so singularly adapted to the first opening of the mouth in His prophetic capacity, that it seems as if made expressly for the occasion when He first opened His mouth where He had been brought up. It is from the well-known section of Isaiah's prophecies whose burden is that mysterious "SERVANT OF THE LORD" [ `ebed (Hebrew #5650) Yahweh (Hebrew #3068)], despised of man, abhorred of the nation, but before whom kings on seeing Him are to arise, and princes to worship; in visage more marred than any man, and his form than the sons of men, yet sprinkling many nations; labouring seemingly in vain, and spending. His strength for nought and in vain, yet Yahweh's Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and be His Salvation to the ends of the earth, (Isaiah 49:1-26, etc.) The quotation is chiefly from the Septuagint version, used, it would seem, in the synagogues.

Acceptable year - an allusion to the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10), a year of universal release for person and property. See also Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2. As the maladies under which humanity groans are here set forth under the names poverty, broken-heartedness, bondage, blindness, bruisedness, (or crushedness), so Christ announces Himself, in the act of reading it, as the glorious HEALER of all them maladies; stopping the quotation just before it comes to "the day of vengeance," which was only to come on the rejecters of His message (John 3:17). The first words, "THE SPIRIT of THE LORD is upon ME," have been noticed since the days of the Church Fathers, as an illustrious example of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being exhibited as in distinct yet harmonious action in the scheme of salvation.


Verse 20

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister - the Chazan or synagogue-officer.

And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him - astounded at His putting in such Messianic claims; for that, they saw, was what He meant.


Verse 21

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

And he began to say unto them - language implying that only the substance, or even the general drift, of His address is here given.

This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. The Evangelist means to say in a word, that His whole address was just a detailed application to Himself of this, and perhaps other like prophecies.


Verse 22

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth , [ epi (Greek #1909) tois (Greek #3588) logois (Greek #3056) tees (Greek #3588) charitos (Greek #5485)] - 'the words of grace,' referring to the richness of His matter and the sweetness of his manner (Psalms 45:2).

And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? See the notes at Matthew 13:54-56. They knew He had received no rabbinical education, and could not imagine how one who had gone in and out among them, as one of themselves, during all his boyhood and youth, up to within a short time before, could be the predicted Servant of the Lord who was to speak comfort to all mourners, to bring healing tot all human maladies, and be, in fact, the Consolation of Israel.


Verse 23

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.

And he said unto them, Ye will surely, [ pantoos (G3843), 'Ye will no doubt'] say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself - not unlike our proverb, 'Charity begins at home.'

Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. 'Strange rumours have reached our ears of thy doings at Capernaum; but if such power resides in thee to cure the ills of humanity, why has none of it yet come nearer home, and why is all this alleged power reserved for strangers?' His choice of Capernaum as a place of residence since entering on public life was, it seems, already well known at Nazareth; and when He did come there, that he should give no displays of his power when distant places were ringing with His fame wounded their pride. He had indeed "laid His hands on a few sick folk, and healed them" (Mark 6:5); but this, as we have said, seems to have been done quite privately-the general unbelief precluding anything more open.


Verse 24

And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.

And he said, Verily I say unto you. No prophet is accepted in his own country. In Mark 6:4, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." He replies to one proverb by another equally familiar which we express in rougher forms, such as, 'Too much familiarity breeds contempt.' Our Lord's long residence in Nazareth merely as a townsman had made Him too common, incapacitating them for appreciating Him as others did who were less familiar with His every-day demeanour in private life. A most important prynciple, to which the wise will pay due regard.


Verse 25

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;

But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months. So James 5:17, including perhaps the six months after the last fall of rain, when there would be little or none at any rate; whereas in 1 Kings 18:1, which says the rain returned "in the third year," that period is probably not reckoned.

When great famine was throughout all the land;


Verse 26

But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.

But unto none of them was Elias sent, save , [ ei-mee (Greek #1508)] - rather, 'but only,' as the same phrase means in Mark 13:32,

Unto Sarepta - or "Zarephath" (1 Kings 17:9), far beyond the northern border of Palestine, and near to Sidon (see Mark 7:24):

Unto a woman that was a widow. Passing by all the famishing widows in Israel, the prophet was sent to one who was not an Israelite at all.


Verse 27

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus (or Elisha), the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving, [ ei-mee (G1508) again, rather, 'but only'] Naaman the Syrian. Thus, in defending the course which He had taken in passing by the place and the people that might be supposed to have the greatest claim on Him, our Lord falls back upon the well-known examples of Elijah and Elisha, whose miraculous power-passing by those who were near-expended itself on those at a distance, yea on pagans; 'these being,' to use the words of Stier, 'the two great prophets who stand at the commencement of prophetic antiquity, and whose miracles strikingly prefigured those of our Lord. Since He intended like them to feed the poor and cleanse the lepers, He points to these miracles of mercy, and not to the fire from heaven and the bears that tore the mockers.'


Verse 28

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath - maddened at the severity with which it reflected upon them, and at those allusions to the pagan which brought such a storm of violence afterward on His apostle at Jerusalem (Acts 22:21-22).


Verse 29

And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

And rose up (breaking up the service irreverently and rushing forth) and thrust him out of the city - with violence, as a prisoner in their hands.

And led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built. Nazareth, though not built on the ridge of a hill, is in part surrounded by one to the west, having several such precipices. It was a mode of capital punishment not unusual in ancient times among the Jews (see 2 Chronicles 25:12; 2 Kings 9:33), the Romans, and others; and to this day examples of it occur in the East. This was the first open insult which the Son of God received, and it came from "them of His own household"! (Matthew 10:36).


Verse 30

But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

But he passing through the midst of them went his way - evidently in a miraculous manner, though perhaps quite noiselessly, leading them to wonder afterward what spell could have come over them that they allowed Him to escape. Escapes, however, remarkably similar and beyond dispute, in times of persecution, stand on record.

Remarks:

(1) Was there ever a more appalling illustration of human depravity than the treatment which the Lord Jesus received from His Nazarene townsmen? Real provocation there was none. Demonstrations of His miraculous power they had no right to demand; and if without these they declined to believe in Him, they had their liberty to do so unchallenged. He knew them too well to indulge them with bootless displays of His divine power; and by an allusion to the Lord's sovereign procedure in ancient times, in dispensing His compassion to whom He would, and quite differently from what might have been expected, He indicated to them intelligibly enough why He declined to do at Nazareth what He had done exuberantly at Capernaum. But, as if to compensate for this, and gain them otherwise, if that were possible, He seems to have spoken in their synagogue with even more than His usual suavity and grace; insomuch that "all bore Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." Yet all was in vain. Nor were they contented with venting their rage in malignant speeches; but, unable to restrain themselves, they broke through the sanctities of public worship and the decencies of ordinary life, and like lions roaring for their prey they rushed upon Him to destroy Him. After this, we may indeed wonder the less at the question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" But instead of contenting ourselves with ascribing such procedure to the exceptional perversity of the Nazarene character, we shall do well to inquire whether there be not in it a revelation of human malignity, which hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest its deeds should be reproved, and which, if it would speak out its mind on the Redeemer's gracious approach to it, would say, reproved, and which, if it would speak out its mind on the Redeemer's gracious approach to it, would say, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most High? We know Thee who thou art; the Holy One of God"!

(2) Did the Lord Jesus become so common among His Nazarene townsmen, with whom He had mingled in the ordinary contact with society during His early life, that they were unable to take in His divine claims when at length presented to them with matchless benignity and grace? Then must there be a deep principle in the proverb by which He explains it, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." As if He had said, 'The nearer the vision, the less the attraction.' We must not descend so low as to recall our own analogous maxims; but in fact, almost every language has such sayings, showing that there is a principle in it, everywhere arresting attention. In the case of mere showy virtues, there is no difficulty in explaining it. It is merely this, that nearer inspection discovers the tinsel which distance concealed. The difficulty is to account for the ordinary contacts of life destroying, or at least blunting, the charm of real excellence, and in this case taking down, in the eyes of His Nazarene townsmen, even the matchless excellences of the Lord Jesus.

In all other cases there is an element which cannot be taken into account here. There are foibles of character invisible at a distance, which the familiarities of ordinary life never fail to reveal. But if it be asked on what principle, common to the Holy One of God with all other men, the fact in question is to be accounted for, perhaps two things may explain it. As novelty charms, so that to which we are accustomed has one charmless, however intrinsically worthy of admiration. But in addition to this, there is such a tendency to dissociate loftiness of spirit from the ordinary functions and contacts of life, that if the one be seen without the other it is likely to be appreciated at its full value; whereas, when associated with languor and want, waste and dust, and the consequent necessity of eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, and such like, then that loftiness of spirit is apt to be less lofty in our esteem, and we say in our hearts, 'After all, they are much like other people'-as if in such things they could or ought to be otherwise.

This, however, would be a small matter, if it did not intrude itself into the spiritual domain. But there also its operation is painfully felt, occasioning a false and unholy separation between natural and spiritual, human and divine, earthly and heavenly things. 'Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers-James and Joses and Simon and Judas-don't we all know them? Haven't we done business with them? Haven't they been in our houses? and this Jesus himself, have we not seen Him in boyhood and youth moving about among us? Can this be He of whom Moses and all the prophets wrote? Can this be He who is sent to heal the broken-hearted, and comfort all that mourn? Incredible!' Nor can it be doubted that a nearer view of Him than even ordinary Nazarenes could have was the very thing that stumbled His own "brethren," who for a while, we are told, "did not believe in Him," and that made even the whole family think He was "beside Himself" (Mark 3:21). Well, if these things be so, let Christians learn wisdom from it. Recognizing the principle which lies at the bottom of the proverb quoted by our Lord, it will be their wisdom, with Him, to bring their character and principles to bear rather upon strangers than upon those to whom they have become too familiar in the ordinary walks of life; for the rare exceptions to this only prove the rule. On the other hand, let Christians beware of being too slow to recognize eminent graces and gifts in those whom they have known very intimately before these discovered themselves.

(3) Since we read that Jesus, when about to be hurled down a precipice, glided through the midst of them and went His way, we perhaps think only of His own special resources for self-preservation. But when we remember how He only refused to avail Himself wantonly of the promise rehearsed to Him by the Tempter, "He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways; and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone," may we not suppose that the unseen ministry of angels, now if ever legitimately available, had something to do with the marvelous preservation of Jesus on this occasion? Nor can it well be doubted that their interposition in similar ways since in behalf of "the heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14) is the secret of the many and marvelous escapes of such which are on record.


Verses 31-44

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

For the exposition of this section-embracing, as appears, the first recorded transactions of our Lord on the Sabbath day in Galilee, and those of following morning-see the notes at Mark 1:29-39, and at Matthew 4:23-25.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-4.html. 1871-8.

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