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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Luke 4

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

The temptation and fasting of Christ: he overcometh the devil: beginneth to preach. The people of Nazareth admire his gracious words: he cureth one possessed of a devil, Peter's mother-in-law, and divers other sick persons. The devils acknowledge Christ, and are reproved for it: he preacheth throughout the cities.

Anno Domini 29.


Verse 2

Luke 4:2. Being forty days tempted, &c.— Where he was forty days, and he was tempted by the devil. Bengelius and Heylin. See Matthew 4:2-3. For notes on this remarkable transaction we refer to that chapter and the Inferences drawn from it, and also the Inferences from the present chapter.


Verse 5

Luke 4:5. The devil, taking him up into an high mountain, &c.— This temptation is placed the last of the three in St. Matthew.To reconcile the evangelists, it is observed, that St. Matthew recites the temptations according to the order in which they occurred; for he plainly affirms this order by the particle then, Luke 4:5 and again, Luke 4:8 and at the conclusion of the temptation (relating to Christ's casting himself down from the pinnacle or wing of the temple) that then the devil left him. In this order, considering the natural temper of the Jews, they appear to rise progressively in strength one above another; St. Matthew therefore having preserved the true order of the temptations, St. Luke must be supposed to have passed it over, as a thing not verymaterial: and the supposition may be admitted without weakening his authority in the least; for he connects the temptations only by the particle και, which imports, that he was tempted so and so, without marking the time or order of the temptations as St. Matthew does. If the reader be of a different opinion, he must suppose, with Toinard, that the temptation to idolatry was twice proposed, once before Jesus went with the devil to the temple, as the order observed by St. Luke may imply; and again when he was returning from the temple, to receive new testimonies from the Baptist and make disciples at Jordan, the devil taking him a second time into the mountain for that purpose. As it seems unlikely that the devil should have shewed Christ the kingdoms of the earth in a moment, strictly speaking, some would place a comma at world, referring the words in a moment to the celerity with which Christ was carried to the mountain: The devil, taking him up into an high mountain in a moment of time, shewed him, &c.


Verse 6

Luke 4:6. For that is delivered unto me, &c.— Grotius has well observed, that this contains a vile insinuation, that God had done what no one who truly understands the nature of God and the creature can suppose possible; namely, that he had parted with the government of the world out of his own hands: and we may add to this, that in the text which Christ has quoted, there is enough to overthrow that notion; since God's appropriating to himself the worship of all his creatures, plainly implies his universal empire and dominion over all, and the regard that he has to the religious observation thereof and the obedience of all the subjects of his kingdom. It is remarkable, that among other things which several heathen writers learned from the primitive Christians, this was one; to represent evil spirits as tempting men from their duty by worldly riches and grandeur; over which, Porphyry in particular says, they often would pretend to much more power than they really had. We may observe from this verse, that the impudence of the tempter is boundless: he promises liberally what is peculiar to God to give; and, in return, asks what is due to God alone,—religious worship; that is, an acknowledgment, not of his being the first cause of all things, the Maker, Preserver, and Governor of the universe,—for on this very occasion he confessed that what he had was delivered unto him;—but an acknowledgment of his being lord of the world, so far as to dispense its joys to whomsoever he pleased. Which acknowledgment implied likewise a promise of submission to the measures, which he, as lord of the world, should prescribe.


Verse 12

Luke 4:12. Thou shalt not tempt, &c.— See on Matthew 4:7. To tempt God, in the sense in which the phrase is here used, is, to make an improper trial of his power. The expression of our Saviour may likewise be interpreted, as signifying that the scripture forbids us to prescribe to God in what instances he shall exert his power; and as we are not to rush into danger without a call, in expectation of extraordinary deliverance, so neither are we to dictate to divine wisdom what miracles shall be wrought for men's conviction. Probably in this and the preceding temptations the devil transformed himself into an angel of light, or assumed the appearance of a good spirit, hoping the better to deceive Jesus. See the Inferences.


Verse 13

Luke 4:13. He departed—for a season. This implies that he assaulted him afterwards; see John 14:30. We may therefore believe, that he was not much wiser for the trial which he now made. It is true, we find the devils more than once confessing our Lord in the course of his ministry; but it does not thence follow, that theywere fully satisfied of his character. If they suspected him to be theMessiah, they might give him the title, in order to make his enemies believe that he acted in concert with them. Besides, towards the conclusion of his ministry, wefind the devil active in procuring his death; which he could not have been, had he known who our Lord was, or understood the method in which the redemption of the world was to be accomplished. It cannot be denied, indeed, that the devils had some knowledge of God's merciful intentions to save the world by his Son. At the same time it is equally true, that the knowledge of this grand event was very imperfect, the prophesies relating to it having been all along conceived in such terms, as made it difficult, if not impossible, to understand them fully in all their parts, till the events explained them; probably on purpose that evil spirits might not have it in their power to frustrate the beneficent work, in the execution of which, contrary to their dispositions, they were to be active; and in which God did not judge it proper to act by a constant exertion of omnipotence.


Verse 15

Luke 4:15. Being glorified of all. With universal applause. Heylin.


Verse 16

Luke 4:16. He went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day, &c.— They who are acquainted with Jewish literature know, that the five books of Moses have long ago been divided in such a manner, that by reading a section of them every sabbath, the whole is gone through in the space of a year. For though the sections or parashoth be fifty-four in number, by joining two short ones together, and byreading the last and the first in one day, they reduce the whole within the compass of the year. It is generallythought that Ezra was the author of these divisions; and that the Jews from his time read Moses publicly on the sabbaths, till Antiochus Epiphanes prohibited that part of their service on pain of death. Awed by the terror of so severe a punishment, the Jews forbore reading their law for a time, and substituted in its place certain sections of the prophets, which they thought had some affinity with the subjects handled by Moses; and though more peaceable times came, in which they again brought the law into their worship, they continued to read the prophets, joining the two together, as is evident from St. Luke's account of the synagogue service, Acts 13:15. By the rules of the synagogue, any person whom the directors called up, might read the portion of scripture allotted for the service of the day. Our Lord therefore read, by the appointment of those who presided in the service. Vitringa, indeed, and Surenhusius imagine, that he did not officiate on this occasion in the low capacity of a reader, but as a teacher; alleging, that none of the circumstances which usually attended the reading of the law are to be found here; particularly, it is not said that Jesus was called to read; nothing is spoken of the benedictions with which this part of the service was accompanied; and only one verse, with part of another, was read. Vitringa also affirms, that, as far as he knows, the passage which he mentioned makes no part of any section of the prophets now read in the synagogue. De Vet. Synag. p. l000.—But the first objection proves too much; for the fore-cited passage, Acts 13:15 shews that a call from the rulers was necessary to a person's preaching in the place of public worship. It is therefore strange that Vitringa should have insisted on the omission of this circumstance, to prove that Jesus now performed the office, not only of a reader, but a teacher: the truth is, an omission of this kind can prove nothing at all, as it is well known that the evangelists, in their narrations, have omitted many circumstances which really existed. But to pass this, the historian himself appears to have determined the matter in dispute; for he says expressly, that Jesus went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day, and stood up for to read; which seems to imply, that he did read the section for the day, and that he was authorized to do so. The reason is, it does not appear that any portion of scripture was used in the synagogue-service besides the appointed sections, the shemas excepted, which were three passages in the books of Moses, beginning with the word shema, whose signification is Hear thou, and which were written on the phylacteries. See on Matthew 23:5. As for the benedictions, it was quite foreign to the evangelist's purpose to take notice of them at all; and that there was only one verse read, with a part of another, if I mistake not, Vitringa will find it hard to prove from any thing that St. Luke has said. He tells us, that Jesus stood up for to read, Luke 4:17 and there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Isaias; and when he had opened the book, he found the place.—No sooner had he separated the two rolls of the volume, ( αναπτυξας το βιβλιον ) than that lesson of the prophet presented itself—where it is written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Therefore, since the evangelist says expressly that Jesus stood up for to read, those who understand the customs of the synagogues, and the manner in which the books of the ancients were written and rolled up, must acknowledge that what he read was in all probability the section for the day, which presented itself of course, and that he did not deliver the book to the minister till he had finished it. For, consistently enough with these suppositions, St. Luke might characterize the lesson read, by that particular passage of it which Jesus chose to make the subject of his sermon to the congregation, especially as that sermon occasioned his removal to Capernaum, which was the principal point that the historian had in view.—To Vitringa's last argument it may be replied, that though the passage read should not be found in any section of the prophets read at present in the synagogue, it will byno means follow, that it was not used in the synagogue anciently; especially as it is well known that all the Jews do not now observe one rule in this matter: nor, though they were perfectly agreed about the lessons, should the practice of men, who in many instances have deviated from the institutions of their fathers, outweigh, in a matter of antiquity, the testimony of anauthor who lived in the age that he wrote of, and who could not but know the form of worship then practised. Nevertheless, if the reader be pleased to consult the table printed at the end of Vender Hooght's edition of the Hebrew Bible, he will find that Isaiah 61:1 according to the custom of all the synagogues, fallsto be read with the fiftieth section of the law. For the section of the prophets corresponding with the fiftieth section of the law, begins at Isaiah 60:1 and ends where the next section begins, viz. at Isaiah 61:11. It was therefore the section for the day which Jesus read in the synagogue of Nazareth:—If so, the chronology of this part of the history is determined; for the first section of the law being anciently read on the fifth sabbath of Tisri, the seventh month, according to our September, because Ezra, the father of the synagogue, began the public reading on the first day of that month, (Nehemiah 8:2.) thefiftieth section, with its corresponding passage in the prophets, fell to be read on the last sabbath of August, or the first of September. The Jews at present begin the law, answering to the primitive institution of Moses, Deuteronomy 31:10-11 on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, that is, the twenty-second day of Tisri. By this commencement it was a week or two later in the year when our Lord read the scriptures publicly in the synagogue of Nazareth, was expelled the town, and fixed his residence at Capernaum. We may just remark further, that the attitude observed in reading the Scripture was standing; but when they commented upon or explained what had been read, they sat down. There was a settled reader in every synagogue, but it was likewise customary to compliment any person with this honour, though a stranger, provided he was any way famous for his mental abilities or gravity; therefore, though Jesus was not one of the stated ministers of religion in the town of Nazareth, the office now assigned him was agreeable to the regulations of the synagogue. Perhaps the rulers, having heard the report of his miracles, (see Luke 4:14.) and of the Baptist's testimony concerning him, were curious to hear him read and expound the scriptures, and the rather, because it was well known in Nazareth that he had not had the advantage of a learned education. Some would point the latter part of this verse thus: He went into the synagogue, as he was wont to do, on the sabbath-day, and stood up to read.


Verses 17-19

Luke 4:17-19. When he had opened the book, &c.— Αναπτυξας το βιβλιου, unrolling the volume. The sacred books were written anciently on skins of parchment, and sewed together; and the books thus written were rolled up into volumes, like the Pentateuchs used by the modern Jews in their synagogues. The reader will find a full account of them in Jones's Vindicationof St. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 15. As the scriptures were read in order, the passage of the prophet Isaiah which fell of course to be read in the synagogue of Nazareth that day, would naturally present itself on separating the two rolls of the book. This happened to be the celebrated prediction, Isaiah 61:1 in which the Messiah is introduced describing his own mission, character, and office; the reader is referred to our notes on that chapter. The doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity is often interwoven, even in those scriptures where one would least expect it. We have a clear declaration of the great THREE-ONE in the words before us.—The Spirit—of the Lord—is upon Me; because he hath anointed me, that is, commissioned me—to preach the Gospel to the poor, that is to say, the meek and lowly in heart. To one who considers the matter attentively, it must appear an unspeakable recommendation of the gospel economy, that it offers the pardon of sin and salvation to all, on the same terms. The rich here have no pre-eminence over the poor, as they seem to have had under the law, which prescribes such costly sacrifices for the atonement of sin as were very burdensome to the poor. The prophet Isaiah, therefore, in describing the happiness of gospel-times, very fitly introduces the Messiah mentioning this as one of the many blessings which would accrue to the world from his coming; that the glad tidings of salvation were to be preached by him and his ministers to the poor, and consequently were to be offered to them without money, and without price, Isaiah 55:1. Instead of recovering of sight to the blind, which is in the LXX, the Hebrew copies of Isaiah have, and the opening of the prison to the bound. Some render the clause in Isaiah, and to the prisoners broad day-light, or open vision. The last clause in the 18th verse is neither in the LXX, nor in the original Hebrew. We find it indeed in Isaiah 58:6 where the LXX have the very words. The 18th verse contains a magnificent description of the Messiah's miracles and mighty works: all that he needed to do, for the deliverance of such persons as were held captives,—or, as the apostle expresses it, were oppressed of the devil, Acts 10:38.—was to preach ( κηρυξαι ), to proclaim, or declare them delivered. In like manner, to give recovery of sight to the blind, or to work any other miracle of healing, no more was requisite, but that he should speak the word. It is observable, that in this description of the Messiah's ministry, Isaiah has alluded to the manners of the easterns, who in ancient times were so inhuman as to lead captive into far distant lands those whom they conquered. Their principal captives they cast into prison, loaded with irons, which sorely bruised their bodies; and to render them incapable of raising fresh disturbances, or it may be to increase their misery, they sometimes put out their eyes. In this manner Nebuchadnezzar treated Zedekiah. Wherefore, as the Messiah in many other prophesies had been represented under the notion of a great and mighty conqueror, Isaiah, in describing his spiritual triumphs, with great propriety introduces him declaring, that he was come to subdue the oppressors ofmankind, and to deliver from captivity and misery those wretches whom they had enslaved, by opening the prison-doors, healing the wounds and bruises occasioned by their chains, and even by giving sight to those whose eyes had been put out in prison. Some, understanding this prophesy in a literal sense, are of opinion, that it foretels the alteration which by the Christian religion has been made in the policy of nations, but especially in the manner of making war, and of treating the vanquished, in both which much more humanityis now used than anciently, to the great honour of the Christian institution, and of its Divine Author; and this sense we have no objection to including in the passage, though not as the primary or most important one.


Verses 20-22

Luke 4:20-22. And sat down. In agreement with the custom which we have spoken of at the end of the note on Luke 4:16 our Lord sat down to preach, after he had read the passage in the prophet which he made the subject of his discourse. The custom of preaching from texts of scripture, which now prevails throughout all the Christian churches, seems to have derived its origin from the authority of this example. In speaking to the congregation from theprophesy, he told them, it was that day fulfilled in their ears, Luke 4:21 for although no miracle had been done in their city, they were crediblyinformed of many which had been wrought by him; and, it may be also, at the passover had seen him do such things as fully answered the prophet's description of the Messiah. By some illustration of this kind, Jesus proved his assertion in a sermon of considerable length, the subject of which only is mentioned by St. Luke, though at the same time he leads us to think of the sermon itself; for he tells us, Luke 4:22 that all the congregation bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. The phrase in the original, λογοις της χαριτος, signifies literally, words of grace, and probably refers to the agreeable manner of Christ's discourse, as well as to the matter of it. And as they could not but take notice of the majesty and grace with which he spoke, so it must naturally fill them with admiration,consideringthemeanness of his birth and education. At the same time, the malevolence of their disposition led them to mingle with their praises a reflection, which they thought fully confuted his pretensions to the Messiahship,and shewed the absurdity of the application which he had made of Isaiah's prophesy to himself as the Messiah.—They said, Is not this Joseph's son? See John 7:27 and the next note.


Verses 23-27

Luke 4:23-27. And he said unto them, &c.— When our Lord came to Galilee, with a view to exercise his ministry, he did not go to Nazareth: on the contrary, he passed by it, and went straight to Cana, which lay not far from Sidon. See John 2:1. This exasperated the Nazarenes. Besides, he had not performed any miracle in their town; far less had he done any like that which they heard he had performed in Capernaum, where he cured the nobleman's sonwithout stirring from Cana. It seems they thought, since their townsman could so easily give health to the sick at a distance, there ought not to have been so much as one diseased person in all Nazareth. At least our Lord's own words suggest this conjecture: He said unto them, Ye surely say to me, (for so it should be rendered) ye apply to me this proverb,—which was a common one among the easterns, Physician, heal thyself. Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country, plainly alluding to the cure of the nobleman's son; as if they had said, "Since thou possessest powers so great, and art able to cure sick persons at a distance, we cannot help thinking, that in thine absence thou oughtest to have recovered the sick of thy native city, rather than those of any other town; it being expected of every physician, that he will bestow his healing virtue and his art upon his own relations and friends who need it, sooner than upon strangers." In answer to their ill-natured whispers, Jesus told them plainly, that his character would suffer nothing by their rejecting him; because it had ever been the lot of prophets to be despised in their own country, Luke 4:24 and see on Matthew 13:57. And with relation to his having wrought no miracle of healing in their town, he insinuated, that the very heathens were more worthy of favours of this sort than they, to such a pitch of wickedness had they proceeded; in which respect they resembled their ancestors, whose great sins God reproved by sending his prophets to work miracles for heathens, rather than for them, in a time of generalcalamities, Luke 4:25-27. By putting them thus in mind of Elijah's miracle in behalf of the widow of Sarepta, a heathen inhabitant of a heathen city, in a time of famine, while many of Israel were suffered to starve; and of Elijah's miracleupon Naaman, the Syrian leper, while many lepers in Israel remained uncleansed; he shewed them both the sin and the punishment of their ancestors, and left it to themselves to make the application. St. James speaks of the same period of time, that the heavens were shut up in the days of Elijah, ch. Luke 5:17 as our Lord does, Luke 4:25 which is grounded either on our Lord's authority here, or was a circumstance, probably, established by tradition: for in both places it is spoken of as a thing well known; nor can we doubt but the account is very exact, though the time is not determined in the Old Testament. Dr. Lightfoot and others have observed, that there is somewhat remarkable in this circumstance of time, as it agrees with the continuance of Christ's public ministry, that as Elijah shut up heaven by his prayers, so that it rained not upon the earth for the space of three years and six months; so from the baptism to the death of Christ the heavens were opened for a like space of time, when his doctrine dropped as the rain, and his speech distilled as the dew. God sent Elijah to Sarepta, a Gentile city in the coasts of Sidon, and so made him the first prophet that was ever sent among the Gentiles; and when our Lord himself went among the Gentiles, it was into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, to shew mercy to a poor woman, as Elijah had done to a poor widow; thereby giving a tacit intimation of the mercy intended to be shewn to the Gentiles. See the note on Matthew 13:58.


Verse 30

Luke 4:30. Passing through the midst, &c.— In the midst of the confusion our Lord escaped, probably by making himself invisible: but though we cannot certainly determine, whether the miracle lay in this, or in our Lord's assuming some other form, or in affecting their eyes and minds in such a manner that they should not know him; it is unquestionable that there was something miraculous in the case; and therefore the Nazarenes could no longer complain that he had wrought no miracle among them. Compare ch. Luke 24:16. John 8:59 and 1 Kings 6:18-20.


Verse 31

Luke 4:31. To Capernaum, Capernaum is no where mentioned in the Old Testament, either by its own name, or by any other. Probably it was one of those towns which the Jews built after their return from Babylon. Its exact situation has not yet been determined with certainty by geographers; only, from its being on the confines of the two tribes, Reland and others conjecture that it stood somewhere on the north-west shore of the lake of Gennezareth. According to Josephus, (Bell. b. 3. 100: 18.) the length of this lake was a hundred furlongs, or twelve miles and a half, and its breadth forty furlongs, or five miles. Pliny says it was sixteen miles long and six broad. Anciently the lake of Gennezareth was called the Sea of Chinnereth, Numbers 34:11 but in latter times it was named the Sea of Galilee, because that country formed part of its shore;—and the Sea of Tiberias, from the city of Tiberias lying on the south-west coast thereof. Its bottom is gravel, which gives its water both a good colour and taste. The river Jordan runs through the middle of it, and stocks it with a great variety of excellent fish. In the countries round this lake our Lord spent two or three years of his public life; and though he afterwards enlarged the compass of his journies, yet they always enjoyed a considerable share of his blessed company and divine instructions. There were several reasons which might determine Jesus to be so much about the sea of Galilee. 1. The countries which surround this sea were large, fertile, and populous, especially the two Galilees. For, according to Josephus, (Bell. 50. 3. 100. 2.) they alone had many towns and a multitude of villages, the least of which contained above 15,000 souls. On the east side of the lake were Chorazin, Bethsaida, Gadara, and Hippon; on the west, Capernaum, Tiberias, and Tarrichea, with other places of inferior note. Wherefore, as it was agreeable to the end of Christ's coming, that his doctrine should be spread extensively, and his miracles wrought publicly, no country could be a better scene for his ministry than this. Besides its numerous inhabitants, there were at all times many strangers resorting to the trading towns on the lake, who, after hearing Jesus preach, could carry home with them theglad tidings of salvation, which were the subject of his sermons. Capernaum, chosen by Christ as the place of his residence, was a town of this kind, and much frequented. 2. The countries round the lake were remote from Jerusalem, the seat of the scribes and Pharisees, a most malignant sort of people, who would not have borne with patience the presence of a teacher held in such estimation as Jesus deservedly was. We know this by what happened in the beginning of his ministry, when he made and baptized many disciples in Judea. They took such offence at it, that he judged it expedient to leave the country: John 4:1 compared with ch. Luke 3:22. Wherefore, as it was necessary that he should spend a considerable time in preaching and working miracles, both for the confirmation of his mission, and for the instruction of his disciples in the doctrine, which they were afterwards to preach, these countries were, of all others, the most proper for him to reside in; or rather, they were the only places where he could be with safety for any time unless he had used his divine power for his own protection. 3. It was agreeable to the end of our Lord's mission, that he should be in a low station of life; because to have affected pomp and grandeur was inconsistent with the character of a teacher sent from God. Some readers, perhaps, will be here pleased to be informed, that Plato, drawing the character of one perfect in virtue, says, "He must be poor, and void of all recommendation but virtue alone." Repub. 2. That the duties of his ministry might be executed as extensively as possible, he and his disciples were obliged to make long journies, the fatigue of which would have been too great for ordinary constitutions to have sustained, had they been all performed on foot. This inconvenience was remedied by the easy passages which the lake afforded. Hence the countries round it were chosen by him as a scene of his ministry, preferably to the other parts of the land of Israel. Farther, as the multitude earnestly wished that he would take the title of king, and set up a secular empire, it was necessary, according to the mode which he had prescribed for his own conduct, that he should have the opportunity of retiring from them when they became troublesome. Accordingly, we find him and his disciples making their escapes by the lake; passing easily and speedily in their own boats, from one country to another, as occasion required. 4. Capernaum, of all the towns near the lake, was pitched upon by Jesus as the place of his ordinary residence after his expulsion from Nazareth, because he was sure of meeting with a favourable reception there. He had gained the friendship of the principal family in the city; viz. that of the nobleman, whose son he had curedat Cana: and the good-will which this family, with its relations, bare to him, was not an ordinary kindness, like that which persons bear to a benefactor; but, being struck with the miracle, they firmly believed him tobe the Messiah, heartily espoused his cause, and, no doubt, were ready to assist him on all occasions. Besides, this miracle must have conciliated the love and respect of the inhabitants of Capernaum, to whom it could not but be well known. Nor mustwe omit the foreknowledge which Jesus had of his being to gain the favour of a Roman centurion, (Matthew 8:5; Matthew 8:34.) and of a ruler of the synagogue, (Mark 5:22.) both living in this town, whose friendship likewise would protect him from the insults of his enemies. To conclude, Capernaum was a place where the men dwelt who had become his disciples immediately after his baptism, and whose presence he chose to have very frequently, before he called them to leave their families, and attend upon him constantly. But we must ever remember that all this arose primarily from his not judging it expedient to use the power of his supreme Godhead on trivial occasions.


Verse 32

Luke 4:32. They were astonished They were powerfully struck, or much affected. See ch. Luke 2:47-48.


Verse 35

Luke 4:35. Had thrown him in the midst, See on Mark 1:26. The meaning of the last words seems to be, and did him no further harm; ΄ηδεν βλαψαν αυτον ; for while the convulsion continued, it must have given him some pain, and might have been attended with lasting disorder, had not the restraining power of Christ prevented it.


Verse 38

Luke 4:38. And Simon's wife's mother For, &c.


Verse 39

Luke 4:39. Rebuked the fever, This is an expression of the same kind and signification with rebuking the winds and the sea, Matthew 8:26. Not that either the one or the other was considered by Christ as persons; but it intimates his authority over all diseases, and over the elements, being analogous to the figurative expressions of scripture, which represent, not only all inanimate creatures as God's servants, but diseases, famines, pestilence, &c. as executioners waiting on him to inflict punishment upon rebellious sinners. Thus Habakkuk 3:5. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet; a figure which excellently represents the divine power, to which all things are subject. See Psalms 104:7; Psalms 106:9. We may remark, that this cure was effected in an instant, and not slowly, like the cures produced in the course of nature, or by medicine; for though the length and violence of her distemper had brought her into a weak and languid state, her full strength returned all at once, insomuch that, rising up immediately, she prepared a supper for them, and served them while at meat, shewing that she was restored to perfect health.


Verse 41

Luke 4:41. And devils also came out of many, See ch. Luke 11:14. It is to be considered, that the view under which Christ is frequently represented, is as the great antagonist of the prince of darkness; and the gospel has its foundation in the victory which Satan has gained over mankind. Compare Genesis 3:15. Matthew 12:28-29. 1 John 3:8. Hebrews 2:14 and Romans 16:20., as also Matthew 6:13. John 17:13. Ephesians 6:16 and 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18-19 in all which places the original ' ο πονηρος seems to signify the wicked one, that is, the devil, whose powerful influence over men is intimated or expressed in each of them. And it appears from Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 that the Jews before Christ's time held this sentiment, and considered the wicked as taking part with the devil. The words are, Through envy of the devil came death into the world, and they who hold of his side do find it. The inspired texts above shew that the expression is just; and it was certainly on this account a most wise and gracious dispensation to permit the devil about this time to give some unusual proofs of his existence, power, and malice, in thus attacking men's bodies; which might convince them what a dangerous enemy he was to their souls, and what need they had of the power and patronage of Christ; as the sensible victory of Christ in these dispossessions would be a proof and specimen of that illustrious and complete triumph over the devil and his confederate powers, in which our Lord's mediatorial kingdom is to end. No kind of miracles therefore could be more fit to attest his mission, and to promote his interest among men; and hence it is that hardly any are more frequently and circumstantially described. This seems a sufficient answer to the difficulty proposed by Dr. Mede, in his Works, p. 28 and others; and a clear proof that we shall do no service to Christianity by endeavouring to disprove the reality of these possessions, or by dropping the mention of the infernal powers in our preaching, how fashionable soever such omissions may grow.

Inferences drawn from our Saviour's temptation.—The several scenes of the wonderful transactions recorded in this chapter, were presented to our Lord in the form, and answer the end, of a present trial. But this was not all; they appear to have been directly and properly intended as symbolical predictions and representations of the future difficulties of his office and ministry. We will consider them in this view.

Now with respect to the first scene, (Luke 4:3-4.) it is evident that it had reference to our Saviour's future ministry, through the whole course of which he was pressed with the same kind of temptations, and resisted them on the same principles. This part of the temptation very naturally conveyed this good instruction, "that Christ, though the Son of God, was to struggle with the afflicting hardships of hunger and thirst, and all the other evils of humanity, like the lowest of the sons of men; and that he was never to exert his divine power for his own personal relief under the most pressing difficulties, or for the supply of his most urgent occasions." Accordingly, we find that Christ regulated his conduct by this maxim. He did not subsist by miracles; but though rich in the possession of power capable of controlling all the laws of nature; though heir and Lord of all, he became poor, and lived an indigent life, without any settled habitation, or certain provision. He knew how much more blessed it is to give than to receive, and yet disdained not to accept kindness from others, or even to stand indebted to their bounty for his support. In some circumstances he felt the pressure of hunger, without having food to eat; at other times he had no leisure to take any, through a zealous application to the duties of his office, such as was not to be interrupted by the pressing calls of nature. He chose rather to deny himself necessary refreshment, than lose an opportunity of healing and instructing the multitude; and neither on these nor on any other occasion did he relieve himself by a miracle. This is the more extraordinary, as he interposes with readiness on the behalf of others, who daily rejoiced in the temporal as well as spiritual benefit of his divine power; and at different times fed the hungry multitude in the desert, by a miraculous increase of his own slender provisions.

Nor did he only endure hunger and thirst, but all the other evils incident to human nature. He lived a laborious, and led an itinerant life. Instead of commanding angels to his service, he submitted to the inconveniences and fatigues of travelling on foot, from one part of Judea and Galilee to another, and was tossed about by tempests at sea. He was exhausted by the incessant labours of his ministry, and that intense application of mind with which he engaged in it. After performing tiresome journies, and preaching to the crowds which followed him in the day, he often spent a considerable part of the night, sometimes the whole of it, in prayer to his Heavenly Father, and in the open air; notwithstanding that the copious dews which fell by night in those parts must have been very dangerous, especially when the body was heated by the exercise of the preceding day. So many injuries did his constitution suffer, that the crasis or texture of his blood was destroyed, and sweated through every pore of his body; and to such a degree was he enfeebled by the violence to which he patiently submitted, as to be unable to bear his cross. He, who in so many thousand instances renewed the health and vigour of others, never exerted any miraculous power, either to preserve or restore his own, but sunk under the pressure of his infirmities! In all his exigencies he referred himself to his Heavenly Father. Even under the greatest extremity, his agony in the garden, as man, he sought and waited for the interposition of his Heavenly Father; who, in answer to his prayer, sent an angel from heaven to strengthen him: and when the hour of his death approached, he used no means for his rescue; but meekly resigned himself into the hands of his most malicious enemies, in obedience to his Father's will.

The divine powers with which Christ was invested as man, were designed as the seal of his mission; and accordingly they were never applied to a different purpose. This strict appropriation of his miracles to their proper intention, served to point it out more clearly, and to keep it in constant view; to manifest his wisdom, and the necessity of the works themselves, and to preserve their dignity and authority, which would have been impaired, if not destroyed, by a more general application of them. As Christ never applied them to any purpose foreign to their grand intention, so it was in a very peculiar manner necessary, that he should never be employed to protect himself from the calamities and distresses to which human nature is liable. Had he, when made in the likeness of man, saved himself by miracles from the evils of humanity, where had been his conflict, his victory, his triumph? Or, where the consolation and benefit that his followers derived from his example, his merit, his crown?

The second scene of his temptation (Luke 4:9-12. Matthew 4:5-7.—The reader will see that we follow St. Matthew's order, agreeable to the observation on Luke 4:5.) has also an evident reference to our Saviour's future ministry. Through the whole course of it he was assaulted with temptations similar to that here proposed, and repelled them upon the maxim here adopted. Instead of needlessly running into danger, and then exerting his divine power to extricate himself, which might have occasioned an unnecessary and endless multiplication of miracles; we find him using the utmost caution in declining dangers where the great end of his divine mission was not concerned, avoiding as far as possible what might exasperate his enemies, and enjoining silence with regard to his miracles, when the publication of them was likely, by raising envy or popular commotions, to inflame their minds yet more against him. We find him also disappointing their malice, by prudently retreating from its reach, till the appointed period of his ministry was fulfilled: so that, although there were some instances in which he protected himself from his adversaries in a miraculous manner, yet, considering how eagerly the Jewish rulers were bent upon his destruction, and how often they attempted it, those instances are few, compared with what they must have been, had not Christ been perpetually attentive in his whole conduct to this maxim,—Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

In producing the evidences of his divine mission, he still acted upon the same maxim: instead of opening his commission at Jerusalem, and displaying all at once upon that grand theatre the divine powers which he possessed in all their fulness; he performed his first miracle at Cana in Galilee, and made that obscure country, for a considerable time, the principal scene of his ministry; which he endeavoured to fulfil with all the privacy which the nature of the work would admit. Instead of courting the favour of the opulent and powerful, to engage them to countenance and support his cause, or challenging from the rulers of the Jewish nation the homage due to his divine character, he did not bear a commission chiefly or particularly directed to them (an honour which some of the ancient prophets enjoyed); but conversed freely with all sorts of people; not only with the lowest but with the worst, in order to bring them to repentance.

Now these circumstances of Christ's ministry correspond with those in the scene before us, where he was tempted to a public and ostentatious display of his miraculous powers; and his answer to this second temptation contained a new limitation under which those powers were to be used: even in bringing men to the faith, he was not to exceed the order which was consistent with the divine perfections. And though the determination of God in this respect was certainly founded in the highest wisdom; though it was perfectly analogous to the other measures of his government over his moral creatures; and though it was well calculated to promote the credit and true interest of the Gospel; yet did it require the greatest humility, fortitude and piety in him as man, who had the power of working miracles at pleasure, to acquiesce herein.

Ambition and vain-glory could never have resisted the temptations that Christ was under to an incessant and unlimited exertion of his miraculous powers, by which he would have advanced his own honour, rendered his ministry more illustrious, and forced universal submission. This temptation was the more difficult to be overcome, as, in consequence of the method which was taken, his doctrine was embraced only by a few well-disposed persons, and those generally in the lower rank of life. See Matthew 11:25-26.

The third and last scene of this temptation (Luke 4:5-8. Matthew 4:8-9.) was also a presignification and warning of the like temptations in the course of his future ministry; during which he was called upon to prostitute himself, with all his miraculous endowments, to the service of Satan, for the sake of worldly honours. The Jewish nation expected their Messiah to deliver it from the yoke of servitude, and to raise it to a pitch of grandeur superior to what it had ever enjoyed. As these were the expectations which the Jews entertained, so they were very solicitous that Jesus should answer them; and would have done every thing in their power to promote the success of such an undertaking:—they even would have taken him by force, and made him a king. And it is certain, that had his miraculous powers, which were wholly consecrated to the erecting of the kingdom of God among them, been employed in paving his way to secular honour, he might not only have escaped sufferings and death, but easily have ascended the throne of the universe. How readily would not only the Jews, but all other nations, have repaired to the standard of a prince, who by a word, or silent volition only, could provide for his own armies, or destroy those of his enemies? "Why then,—it might have been suggested to him,—instead of spending your life in affliction, and then ending it upon the cross, will you not use your power for your own benefit, to deliver yourself from misery, and make yourself master of the world?"

But temptation never at any time prevailed over our Lord, notwithstanding universal empire carries with it charms almost irresistible to noble and heroic minds, conscious of their superior wisdom and abilities, and an intention to employ their power to the true ends for which it was bestowed. If any thing can heighten the virtue of despising worldly greatness, if it come in competition with our duty, it is the being practised in circumstances of indigence, such as are infinitely beneath that rank to which our talents entitle us: and therefore to refuse, as our Saviour did, grandeur, and royalty, and universal empire, while he was more destitute of the accommodations of life than even the beasts of the field, or the birds of the air, and was struggling with poverty, reproach, and persecution, and had death itself in certain prospect before him,—all which evils might have been avoided by a misapplication of his miraculous powers,—was the higher act of virtue that could possibly be exhibited. See the Inferences drawn from Matthew 4.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, As the great enemy of souls had foiled the first man in the midst of a paradise of delights, the second man, the Lord from heaven, who came to destroy the works of the devil, that he might render his victory more illustrious, gives the tempter every advantage. Though deep retired in a dreary desert, without human converse, without food, during forty days, to satisfy his hunger, he stood like a rock in the midst of the sea, defying the impotent attacks of the raging fiend of darkness. Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, and just then anointed for his most sacred office, and furnished with the fulness of divine grace, Satan, to his bitter shame and vexation, found him immoveable; and every attack that he made but signalized his own defeat.

1. He tempted him to distrust his Father's care, and insinuated his suspicions of the character that he assumed as the Son of God; seeking to shake the faith of the Redeemer, and challenging him to give a proof of it by working a miracle for his own supply of food in his extremity. But Jesus refused to gratify him; and by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, foiled his assault, testifying his confidence in his Father's provision for him, refusing to take the matter out of his hands, and persuaded that he could by other means than by bread alone preserve his life and satisfy his hunger: hereby teaching us, (1.) Under every temptation to have recourse to the word and promises of God. (2.) Not to give place to the devil, by harbouring for a moment his suggestions. (3.) Never to desire to be our own carvers, or think by our own contrivance and wisdom, exclusive of God, to extricate ourselves from our difficulties, or gain our own ends; but quietly to resign ourselves to him, submissive to his providences, and constantly depending upon his blessing and support. (4.) That we should not estimate God's favour by his outward dispensations, nor call in question our adoption by him, because we are severely exercised. Many of God's dearest children have known the pinchings of hunger, to prove their faiths and try their patience.

2. He tempted him with the enticing offers of temporal grandeur. This St. Matthew places the last, and such it seems to have been; though St. Luke inverts the order. (See the Annotations.) Taking him up into a mountain, the devil in a moment caused all the kingdoms of the world in their greater glory to pass in review before our Lord, as if to dazzle and charm him with their united splendor: then boldly challenging them as his own, as if delivered to him, either by the Most High, which was false; or by the willing subjection of these nations and their kings, who yielded themselves up to the devil's power; and, as Lord of all, he pretends therefore a right to dispose of them at his pleasure: on one condition he proffers to lay them all at the feet of Jesus, and constitute him the universal sovereign, If thou wilt worship me, all shall be thine. With indignation and abhorrence at such insolence and impiety, he rejects the tempter's offer; and still drawing his weapons from the sacred magazine of scripture, condemns the daring attempt of this hateful spirit thus to invade the divine prerogative; and confounds him with producing that eternal and invariable rule of worship, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Note; All adoration of saints, angels, and the virgin, is in fact but the worship of Satan.

3. Once more the devil returns to the charge, and, since Christ is unmoved with grandeur, and unshaken with distrust, he tries to fill him with unwarrantable presumption; and setting him on a pinnacle of the temple, bids him cast himself down into the court of worshippers below; and, if he was really the Son of God, to prove it by such a sign from heaven as the Jews sought, which, he suggests, would not fail of engaging them to receive him as the Messiah; nor could there be danger in the experiment, since God had given him an express promise of protection, and he was under angelic care, Psalms 91:11-12. Christ laid such stress upon the scripture, that Satan quotes it also to support his cause. The word of God, in the hands of wicked men, is thus often perverted and wrested to serve the vilest purposes. But Jesus detects Satan's fallacy. God is to be trusted, not tempted, as it is written, Deuteronomy 6:16. In the way of duty, he will hold us up: if, without any warrant from him, we expose ourselves to needless danger, we have not the least ground to hope for preservation.

Utterly defeated now, the devil quits the field, covered with shame; in malice still inveterate. Waiting therefore for a more favourable season, he departed, resolving to seize the first occasion of returning with sharpened malignity; see Luke 22:53.

2nd, Having vanquished his infernal foe in the wilderness, Jesus enters upon his ministerial office, and publicly appears, destroying, by his doctrine and miracles, the power of Satan over the bodies and souls of men.

1. In the power of the Spirit he returned to Galilee, strengthened with might in the inner man for the arduous work which he had undertaken; and immediately he set himself to discharge his high commission, preaching in their synagogues the gospel of the kingdom: and such power accompanied his word, and such miracles confirmed his doctrine, that the people in general admired and extolled him, and his fame quickly spread through all that country.

2. After passing through other parts of Galilee, 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 to read some section of scripture, as was usually done on that day: and a most laudable custom is this, in every worshipping assembly, to read the word of God. The volume, which was delivered to him for this purpose by the minister of the synagogue, contained the prophesy of Isaiah; and, unrolling the parchment on which it was written, he found the place, Isaiah 61:1-2 which spake so evidently of himself. Whether it was the portion of scripture for the day, or that he chose it as the properest introduction to his discourse, is uncertain; but, which-ever was the case, it gave him the fairest opportunity to describe his own office and character, and left them inexcusable who should reject him notwithstanding the voice of the prophets was heard every sabbath-day.

[1.] The text gave a full account of the Redeemer's undertaking. 1. He was eminently qualified for his arduous work by that plenitude of gifts and graces conferred upon him by the Spirit of the Lord; and fully commissioned by this unction from the Holy One for the discharge of his divine office. 2. The great end of his mission is set forth. (1.) To preach the gospel to the poor, to evangelize them; not only to speak to their ears, but to make his work effectual to convert the hearts of all believers. By the poor are meant not merely the indigent and common people, though of such did Christ's disciples chiefly consist; but the poor in spirit, who, convinced of their spiritual wants and wretchedness, would gladly embrace that free pardon and salvation which the gospel revealed to them. (2.) To heal the broken-hearted, whose sins pierced their souls with sorrow, and whose troubled consciences and corrupted hearts nothing but the balm of his blood and grace could relieve and cure. (3.) To preach deliverance to the captives, to sinful souls enslaved by Satan's power. Their chains of guilt are broken through faith in the atonement of Jesus, and by his Spirit they are delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. (4.) To preach recovering of sight to the blind, to open the darkened understanding of fallen man, and to shine into his heart, communicating the knowledge of the salvation which is by grace. (5.) To set at liberty them that are bruised, to break off the galling yoke of the law from the necks of those who, under a spirit of bondage, continued miserable and unhappy, and, in its stead, to give them the spirit of adoption, and liberty from every slavish fear. (6.) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, that joyful year of gospel jubilee, when insolvent but believing sinners shall obtain free remission of all their sins, deliverance from their miseries, restoration to the divine favour, and, if faithful unto death, their forfeited inheritance in the heavenly Canaan.

[2.] Having read this text, and delivered the roll again to the minister, he sat down, as was the custom of the Jewish doctors, and began to discourse at large on all the various particulars; shewing how the words referred to the Messiah and his office, and were that very day fulfilled in himself.

3. The audience hung with attention on his lips, their eyes eagerly fastened on him, and admiration seized every hearer: such eminent wisdom, such energy of diction, such majesty and grace, appeared in all his words and address, that they were astonished above measure, especially considering the meanness of his birth and education. Is not this Joseph's son, the carpenter? which, though it increased their wonder at his discourse, prejudiced them against his person, and would not suffer them to admit the application to himself of this high office of the Messiah. Note; (1.) To have our eyes directed to the minister, serves often to fix the attention to his discourse. (2.) Many admire the preaching, and are pleased with the orator, whose hearts are never truly converted by what they hear.

4. He anticipates and answers the objection which he saw rising in the hearts of many against him. Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: if thou art the wondrous personage, as reported, shew it, by working the same miracles at home, which we have heard done in Capernaum. But, in answer hereunto, he assures them, that, if he did the same or greater wonders among them, he knew their prejudices against him were such, that they would notwithstanding reject him, no prophet being accepted in his own country; they, who had known his parentage and education, and been used for so long a time to regard him as vastly their inferior, would still think meanly of him through the wilful obstinacy of their hearts. But he shews them, that though he withheld his favours from them, it would be no proof against him, since he had the examples of former prophets to plead. As great or greater objections would therefore lie against these prophets, than they suggested against him.

5. The people were highly exasperated at the reproach which they apprehended was couched under these instances, as if they of Nazareth were as wicked as the Israelites in the days of Ahab, and that even Gentiles would be preferred before them in the divine regard. Though so lately they admired his gracious words, this application cut them to the heart; and, rising in a popular tumult, they cast him out of the synagogue, hurried him through the city, and, dragging him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, intended to hurl him headlong down, and dash him in pieces. Note; It is a mercy that even the madness of the people is under a divine restraint: else how many of God's faithful ministers had met an untimely death, who have escaped under the divine providence.

6. Jesus disappoints their malice. His time to suffer was not yet come, and therefore, by his divine power, either holding their eyes, or rendering himself invisible, he passed safe through the midst of them, leaving them to their impenitence and ruin. Note; They who reject Jesus and his gospel, are justly given up to a reprobate mind. 3rdly, When Jesus departed from Nazareth, he returned to Capernaum, and, as usual, on the sabbath-day he taught the people in their synagogues, to the astonishment of all who heard him; such divine authority and commanding energy accompanied his word. In proof of the doctrine that he advanced, we have,

1. A notable miracle performed in the presence of the congregation where he preached; see Mark 1:23. A man with the spirit of an unclean devil was in the synagogue. Filled with enmity against Christ and his gospel, and terrified with just fears that Jesus would dispossess him, the devil, using the man's organs of speech, cried out, Let us alone, &c. These wicked spirits dread their doom, and fearfully look forward to their terrible judgment. They knew the powers of Jesus of Nazareth, for Satan had proved it in the wilderness; and, fully satisfied concerning his mission, they confess him to be the Holy One of God, though with no kind intention: malice dictated here the language of truth, and they would fain fix upon him the suspicion of a confederacy with them, by bearing such an honourable testimony to him. But Jesus in a moment silenced this foul fiend, and with a word rescued the miserable sinner from his power. With rage, compelled to depart, the devil vented his last efforts, throwing the man down with violent convulsions; as if he would have torn him in pieces; but his power was broken, he was unable to hurt him, and the cure was complete. Amazed, the whole congregation beheld, and questioned with each other concerning a miracle so wondrous and incontestible. Never had such power and authority appeared before; that with a word the infernal spirit should thus be dispossessed, without the least ability to make effective resistance. And immediately the fame of the cure spread far and wide. Note; The power of Satan, as an unclean spirit, over the souls of men, is still exceeding great, and nothing but the powerful word of gospel-grace can cast him out.

2. No sooner was Jesus returned from the synagogue, than St. Peter's wife's mother, who lay ill of a fever, experienced his healing grace. At the request of some of the company, who mentioned her disorder, he arose, stood by her bed-side, rebuked the fever with a word; and instantly she was so perfectly restored to health, as to be able to wait on the guests who were in the house. Note; (1.) When they who are near and dear to us are sick, we must beseech Jesus on their behalf; and the prayer of faith still availeth much. (2.) They who are restored to spiritual health by the Saviour's grace, will be ready to discharge every kind office of love and service to the least of his people.

3. A multitude of other cures were performed by him the same day at even. All who had friends or relations diseased applied to him, and, whatever was their malady, he with a touch healed them all: even devils, unable to stand before his word, came out of those that were possessed, confessing him to be the Messiah; but he silenced them, refusing to receive any testimony from such as they were. Note; When they who, we know, bear enmity towards us, speak of us most respectfully, their civilities are to be most suspected of design.

4. Early next morning he departed from Capernaum to a solitude for retirement. Thither the people followed him, and intreated him to return to their city: but he chose to diffuse the favour of his gospel, and dispense his miracles of mercy, in the country around; for this was the design of his mission, to be a general blessing. Note; (1.) They who have much public work, have especial need of seasonable retirement also. To be alone with God is the best preparative for the pulpit. (2.) They who have found Christ's presence so desirable, naturally wish for its continuance. And though he refused his bodily presence to them, he has engaged to his faithful people, who perseveringly cleave to him, that he will abide with them for ever.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/luke-4.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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