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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 4

 

 

Verses 1-44

TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL

(vs.1-13)

The Father having pronounced His delight in His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In Mark 1:12 it is said the Spirit "drove" Him for Mark speaks of His servant character, and Matthew 4:1 interestingly reads that He was "carried" by the Spirit (JND trans.), for Matthew considers Him as King, therefore as it were carried as a king in triumph. But as the Man Christ Jesus He was "led," for He is here willingly dependent on the leading of His God and Father

This temptation (or test) by the devil was to prove who He really is, for there could be no doubt that He would triumph perfectly over such temptation: this had been settled by the Father's approval of Him beforehand: He is His own Son. But as the test of fire proves the reality of pure gold, so this test proved the Lord Jesus to be absolutely without dross, without sin. Satan's temptation may cause in us a struggle because there is in us an inclination to succumb. But in Christ there was no such thing. "In Him is no sin," no inclination to do evil, therefore no struggle, but firm decision against temptation. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do" (John 5:19). It is impossible for Him to do anything other than the Father does, therefore certainly it was impossible for Him to sin.

Observe the contrast here between Adam and the Lord Jesus. Adam was in circumstances of beauty and plenty in the Garden of Eden. Nothing was lacking to him, yet he quickly gave in to temptation. Christ was alone amid desolation, having eaten nothing for forty days, and was hungry. Yet Satan temptations found not the slightest tendency of yielding on His part. Satan's first temptation (v.3) is subtle. It is an appeal to pride, yet also to need, for it questions whether Christ is really the Son of God and urges Him, if so, to ease His hunger by turning a stone into bread. This may sound reasonable enough if one decides to live by his own reason. But it was by the Word of God that the Lord Jesus lived and by which all men ought live. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to show this. He would certainly do nothing as directed by Satan: it was His very nature to live only by the authority of God's Word.

The second temptation (vv. 6-7) is also an appeal to pride as well as an appeal to greed, but again there is no inclination in the Lord to succumb to this. From a mountain top the devil shows Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. (Indeed, the length of time all these kingdoms will exist is virtually "but for a moment.") Satan can show all he has in a moment of time, but the Lord will take eternity to show us the riches of His possession. It is true enough that all these kingdoms have been delivered to Satan: he is a usurper who deceitfully prevailed upon Adam to yield the world's authority to him. So he tries also to bring Christ under his authority by his false offer of all these kingdoms, if Christ will only worship him! Of course the Lord knew well the cunning wickedness that moved Satan, but He does not refer to this. Rather He quotes again from Deuteronomy (ch.6:13), that worship is allowed only to the Lord God. He is the one Man of true, unswerving faith, dependent only upon God.

The supernatural power that Satan has in both taking Christ from the wilderness to a high mountain and in taking Him to a pinnacle of the temple is a matter of wonderment. But this was allowed by God to demonstrate the superior moral power of total obedience to God on the part of the sinless Son of Man. Satan was defeated.

In the third temptation the devil again quotes Scripture in an effort to induce the Lord Jesus to act in self-reliance to prove He is the Son of God. This temptation also was an appeal to pride, but with the subtle inference that the Lord could prove Scripture true by this act. But Satan left out four words in quoting Psalms 91:11-12, where it is said, "to keep You in all Your ways" (not in Satan's ways). The Lord does not mention this, but there is nothing in Him to respond to Satan's temptations. The Lord quotes again from Deuteronomy (ch.6:6), " You shall not tempt the Lord your God." Thus He perfectly kept the place of dependent Manhood, living simply by the Word of God, not arguing with Satan, but silencing him with nothing but the written Word of God. The devil then left him for a season. Satan's withdrawing does not mean his giving up: he would return again before the cross (John 14:30), but again would find no inclination in Christ to succumb to his oppression, any more than to his temptation.

MINISTRY IN GALILEE INCLUDING NAZARETH

(vs.14-30)

Only John's Gospel speaks of the Lord's ministry in Jerusalem before He returned to Galilee, and no public preaching is mentioned, though individuals were drawn in faith to Him (John 1:38-51). In Galilee news of Him began to spread and He taught in the power of the Spirit of God in the synagogues. It is evident too that He made another visit to Jerusalem before John was put in prison (John 2:13) and from there into the Judean countryside (John 3:22-24).

Whether the Lord came to Nazareth again before or after this Jerusalem visit we cannot say, for Luke is not interested in fixing the time of events, but in their moral significance and order. In the Lord's home city He entered the synagogue and stood up to read the Word of God. It is not said that He asked for the book of Isaiah, but this was handed to Him, certainly by divine guidance. He opened the book to Chapter 61:1-2, a most lovely prophecy of the Messiah (vs.17-19). It was in Judea that the Spirit of God had publicly come upon Him, anointing Him for the marvelous service of grace: now when He returned it was the perfect time to read this Scripture. He was first to preach the gospel to the poor, and "the common people heard Him gladly." He manifestly came for the help of those in need, not to seek the patronage of the rich. The broken hearted, the captives, the blind, those who were bruised -- these were the subjects of His gracious ministry. The bruised speak of those suffering under oppression.

He concludes His reading with the words, "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord," and closed the book in the middle of a sentence, for in Isaiah it is added, "and the day of vengeance of our God." In this way He separated the two events very pointedly. Sitting down, He told His audience, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (v.21). This prophecy of Isaiah could be true only of the Messiah; therefore it is absolutely true that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. Anyone falsely making this claim would be a wicked imposter. But the day of vengeance was not to be fulfilled yet. Old Testament Scripture had not indicated that grace would be preached for a long time before the day of vengeance took place, but it has continued for nearly 2000 years, He who has closed the Old Testament book of prophecy for the time being will Himself be the One to open the book again to disclose the day of vengeance. Thus the whole dispensation of the grace of God intervenes at the present time, which includes the birth of the Assembly, the Church of God, at Pentecost and the rapture of the Church to glory at the coming of the Lord.

The Lord's gracious words cause His hearers to marvel. Because He was well - known since he was brought up in their city, they could not understand such words proceeding from His mouth. He had not learned these things in the schools of the rabbis. He was not of the priestly tribe and had not been given credentials by the priests to allow Him to speak like this. Was He not Joseph's son, son only of a lowly carpenter? But He did have these things: why did they not seriously enquire so they might find that God, not man, was the Author of what He spoke?

The Lord knew their hearts and that they were ready to accuse Him of mere words without power. They had heard of His miracles in Capernaum and were interested, not in His words, but in seeing miracles. He anticipated therefore what they would have to say, and therefore adds that "no prophet is accepted in his own country" (vs.23-24). Such is the pathetic condition of people's hearts that they do not want a prophet who might know them too well.

He then gave two Old Testament examples of God's pure grace, not shown to the proud nation Israel, but to Gentiles at a time when the need was deeply felt. First, though there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah the prophet, yet in time of need Elijah was sent to none of them, but to a Gentile woman in Sidon (vs.25-26). She was blessed through this and saved from dying from hunger. The second example was of Naaman the Syrian who came to Elisha at a time when there were many lepers in Israel. Again, no Israelite was healed, but Naaman received this great blessing (v.27). This is the Word of God which was in Israel's possession, and both cases are most striking in the fact of grace being shown to Gentiles.

Yet the very reminder is intolerable to the Jews of Nazareth. It offends their religious pride and racial dignity, for does it not reduce Jews to the level of requiring grace? But law, not grace, is the principle they want, though they, with all Israel, were guilty of breaking the law and desperately needed the grace of which Isaiah 61:1-11 had spoken, just as they needed the Messiah who had spoken to them. Filled with anger, they have no hesitation in further violating their own law by the attempted murder of God's prophet by taking Him to a cliff to throw Him over. They would consider He was not loyal to His own nation, but men's thoughts of loyalty are too often merely selfish sectarianism which in this case was so intense as to resort to cruel and violent murder. But He simply passed untouched through the midst of them (v.30). Here is the protection of the power of God on behalf of the obedient Man. He shows no supernatural display of power, but rather God rendered His enemies powerless to carry out their intentions. This same power is often exerted, completely unknown in most cases, for the protection of believers who depend in faith on His sovereign grace.

MIRACLES IN CAPERNAUM

(vs.31-44)

The Lord returned to Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. The emphasis is placed upon His preaching there, which He did on the sabbath days. People were astonished at His doctrine (as in Nazareth, but there resented), for there was manifest power in the words He spoke. Such power necessarily faces people with a decision to make: will they bow to that word or will they refuse it? No indifference can be allowed.

His words were also backed up by miraculous powers. In the place of the profession of God's name, the synagogue, there was a man possessed by a demon (v.33). What a comment on Israel's spiritual condition! He cried out loudly, "Let us alone," for it was the demon within him who was disturbed by the presence of the Son of God. The man spoke almost as though the Lord was encroaching on their property. Though knowing Him to be the Holy One of God, the demon used the expression "Jesus of Nazareth," a designation commonly used to infer something inferior in men's minds. He questions if the Lord had come to destroy them, that is, the demons. For they can understand nothing of grace.

Rebuking the demon, the Lord orders him to come out of the man, which order the demon must obey, but not without one last, vicious thrust, throwing the man down in the midst. Fourteen times in Luke the words "the midst" appear, indicating the place of central attraction (not always translated this way in the New King James Version, but the same Greek expression, if the Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament, by G.V.Wigram, is consulted).

People were amazed, not only at the power of the miracle, but more importantly by the authority and power of the word spoken by the Lord Jesus (v.36). Every miracle was intended to draw attention to the authority of His word so people might believe Him and submit to His word. His fame spread into the surrounding area so whatever people thought of Him, they could not ignore Him. There is fullest public testimony to the power of His word, as in fact there is to the grace and truth of that word.

It appears that Simon's house was always available (as ours ought to be), and such a house will receive blessing from the Lord's hand. In answer to the prayers of loved ones, the Lord stood over Peter's wife's mother (for Peter was married (1 Corinthians 9:5) to immediately dispel a high fever that afflicted her (vs.38-39). Such immdediate results are certainly miraculous. In fact, after a high fever subsides, one is generally left weak for a time, but she rose immediately and ministered to the Lord and to others. How lovely is the affection and energy that grace awakens in a believer!

The unwearied labors of the Lord continued until the setting of the sun, with large numbers coming to be healed of various diseases (vs.40-41). He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. The laying on of hands is consistent with the character of Luke's Gospel, for the Son of Man has come in grace to identify Himself with the sorrows and trials of His people, indeed to feel these things Himself and to sympathize with those in need, as He met their needs by His grace. Not one was turned away. Present day so-called "healers" may profess great power in healing, but they would not even claim to heal all who come to them. In fact, when the people find they are not healed, the healer will blame this on their lack of faith! Such healers thrive on neurotic cases, who, by the power of suggestion, claim to be healed, but such were not the miraculous healings of the Lord Jesus. In Him there is pure, living reality, not a mere religious show.

All of this is a little shining forth of the eventual great blessing that earth will receive when the Millennium is introduced. It is He alone who can bring this. Still it is only a sample, for He had not come to reign. When demons, being cast out of many victims, cried out that he was Christ, the Son of God (which of course is true), He silenced them. His great power and glory as the Messiah must wait, for He came to suffer and die first.

He sought no flattery from man, nor would He remain to take advantage of the excitement that had been awakened. Early the next day He withdrew to a deserted area (v.42). Every servant of the Lord also must learn that he cannot live always before the public eye, for he needs the quietness of the presence of God.

The people followed Him and urged Him to remain, but with calm, firm decisions He told them He must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also (v.43). His Father had sent Him for this and He would fully obey. Popular opinion and natural feelings would not influence Him otherwise. Nor would He be turned from His blessed work of preaching the Word of God, for He made it clear that His miracles were intended simply to draw attention to the vital truth of that Word. If people made miracles an object, they lost the true blessing. The kingdom of God is that in which the authority of God is dominant, and this kingdom had to be established even before the gospel of the grace of God was declared following the death and resurrection of the Lord. Paul preached both (Acts 20:24-25). It is not that there are two gospels, but the kingdom speaks of the authority of God established over subjects. The grace of God is vital too, for authority and grace are complements of one another.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/luke-4.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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