Luke Chapter 4 Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness and Early Ministry

Jul 1st, 2009 | By | Category: Luke, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Luke Chapter 4 Jesus’ Temptations in the Wilderness and Early Ministry

Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Luke 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit; that is, he had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). The flood of information regarding his preexistence with the Father that Jesus received at Jordan  impelled him to seek solitude in the wilderness. He also found himself “as a man” (Phil. 2:8). Now he had two sources of knowledge: (1) his youth up to his current manhood and (2) the knowledge of his preexistence. Jesus went into the wilderness to think things out. Incidentally, “forty days” (also forty years) is a testing period, a trial, in Scripture.

Luke 4:3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

For the first temptation, Satan waited until the psychological moment when Jesus “hungered.” His words (paraphrased) were, “Since you are the Son of God, use your power to turn this  stone into bread.” A test for the new creature is to pray for personal prosperity and temporal things as opposed to desiring growth for the new creature. Jesus had a legitimate right to eat bread, but the temptation was to command the stones to be made into bread. To do this, he would have to perform a miracle. Hence the temptation was the circumstances under which Jesus would have taken bread for bodily sustenance—had he performed the miracle, he would have followed Satan’s suggestion.

Comment: Adam and Eve were tempted and sinned in connection with eating. Jesus’ first temptation was also along the lines of eating.

Reply: In other words, as Adam was the man, the human son of God, the father of the human race, so Jesus, as the Ransom price, was the Son of the promised seed. Adam was tempted in regard to eating forbidden fruit. Jesus was tempted in regard to a misuse of power to gratify and feed self. Adam succumbed; Jesus did not.

“If” should be “since.” Jesus had just heard the Father say at Jordan, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, Jesus knew he was the Son of God.

Probably Jesus saw Satan in this temptation; that is, he saw the Adversary making a “friendly” suggestion. They were already adversaries (for example, they had disputed over Moses’ body—Jude 9), and Satan was the enemy of God, but here Satan posed as a friend. Because Jesus had the right principles, he renounced any suggestion of Satan.

Matthew and Luke listed all three temptations but reversed the order of the last two. Luke’s Gospel, the one “in order” (1:1), is accurate chronologically.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Jesus answered Satan with Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God” (Deut. 8:3 paraphrase).

Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

Verse 5 tells of the second temptation. In vision, Jesus was taken to a high mountain from which he could view all the kingdoms of the world. Note: There is no literal mountain high enough to provide such a view.

Luke 4:6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.

Luke 4:7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

Satan was offering to join forces with Jesus. He said in effect, “I have been your adversary, but if you will now recognize, worship, and submit to me, I will give you the power and the glory of these kingdoms and you will not have to suffer.” This was a powerful temptation. Jesus probably saw Satan as they were talking, but whether or not he did, the temptation was equally powerful either way. For example, when Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” Jesus recognized the source of the suggestion without seeing Satan (Matt. 16:23).

The temptation was, “If you worship me, you will be recognized as the King of the world.” Satan was trying not only to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Father but also to take the Father’s place. “Just transfer your allegiance to me instead of to the Father, and I will give you the power and the glory.” Just as Pharaoh was over Joseph, so Satan wanted to be over Jesus.

Only in the throne would Satan be higher. Jesus’ allegiance and fidelity would be of the same type but to a different being. If Jesus had yielded to this temptation, he would have avoided death on the Cross, the Ransom would not have been paid, and sin and death would not be destroyed.

Comment: Satan was very sure of himself. He knew that he was the “god of this world” and that all power and glory and all of the kingdoms had been delivered unto him.

Reply: It took faith for Jesus to trust God’s arrangements. Consider that the holy angels knew God, and yet some of them fell. And the holy angels were spirit beings, whereas Jesus was now a puny, little human being with the knowledge of just how large and powerful Satan really was. God momentarily allowed Satan to intrude into Jesus’ mind. This was a test on Jesus, to see how he would react. God tests; Satan tempts. Tests are permitted to develop and strengthen our characters. Every time we resist, we become stronger, normally speaking.

Since God allowed this intrusion by Satan into Jesus’ life, it means that we can have a similar experience. Evil suggestions may not necessarily be our natural depravity of nature (although in most cases they are), for some intrusions can come into the holiest of men who are desperately trying to do God’s will. Since Jesus had a perfect mind, any intrusion was foreign to his natural thinking. With us, however, Satan takes advantage of the natural depravity of man and uses it as a leverage to make us succumb to certain evil suggestions. Hence we need the Holy Spirit, prayer, and fasting to struggle and fight against Satan’s temptations. Our characters are developed by resisting.

Job is a good example. God asked, “Have you seen my faithful servant Job?” Satan replied, “Yes, but look at how he prospers. He has land, wealth, family, good health, friends, etc. If he loses these, the situation will be different.” God permitted Satan to afflict Job with trials short of taking his life, but Job remained faithful. We have examples in the Bible of how the Adversary has intruded and can intrude on the saints both past and present.

Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Again Jesus countered with Scripture: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only  shalt thou serve” (Exod. 20:3; 34:14). In other words, “No man can serve two masters.” In each case, Jesus gave short, terse, to-the-point negative answers. He did not reason, parley, or have a discussion with Satan. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” is the principle (James 4:7).

The danger with evil is to think we can help the one who is following an evil course, believing we can reason with him and remain untainted.

Luke 4:9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:

Luke 4:10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:

Luke 4:11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Luke 4:12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

In the third temptation, Jesus was transferred in vision to Jerusalem to a pinnacle of the Temple (the southeast corner where the wall and Temple are one) about 600 feet above the bottom of the valley. Satan’s suggestion was, “Cast yourself off this pinnacle, for the Scriptures promise you protection. You will not get hurt.” Jesus would have been conspicuous had he deliberately jumped. For the first time, Satan quoted Scripture, implying, “If you jump off, the angels will catch you. Many people will see you miraculously escape death and acclaim you as the Messiah.

You will be crowned King.” However, Satan added to Psalm 91:11,12 with the phrase “at any time.” (He used this same method in the Garden of Eden with Eve.) For Jesus to have yielded to this temptation would also have circumvented the suffering. But notice Jesus’ reply: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” In quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, Jesus wisely countered a misused Scripture with a correctly used Scripture. In effect, Jesus simply answered “no.” He did not give a long explanation by going back to the Scripture and comparing it. By answering as he did, Jesus was telling Satan, “You are trying to get me to disobey my Father.” It is significant that all three temptations came at Jesus’ weakest moments.

Luke 4:13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

After the three temptations, Satan departed from Jesus “for a season.” The same thing happens when we resist Satan. No matter how strong the test, when peace follows, we must be on guard, for another test will surely come.

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

Luke 4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

Verses 14 and 15 took place rather early in Jesus’ ministry. John’s Gospel filled in a gap with the wedding at Cana, which took place before Jesus got up to Galilee. At this point in Luke, Jesus had been in Galilee for some months in order for his fame to spread “through all the region round about.”

Q: The expression Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit” is somewhat similar to Luke 4:1, where Jesus, “being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit [his new mind] into the wilderness.” What does “returned in the power of the Spirit” signify?

A: Jesus went into the wilderness because he was overwhelmed by the knowledge of his prehuman existence and the instruction God had given before sending him on this mission. We know that Jesus was briefed before coming down here because he said he spoke as the Father had taught him (John 8:28; 12:49,50). Jesus’ experience to that point as a human being was one thing, and his prehuman existence and knowledge were another. He had to adjust the two and decide how to start his ministry. Apparently, he had things sorted out after the 40 days, and now he was returning with the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing how to proceed with his ministry.

Jesus taught in the synagogues. He had not gone to any rabbinical school, and his parents were known. As he read portions of Scripture, the people realized he was not a rabbi in the normal sense. Hearing him explain with great knowledge—above what any rabbi could ever hope to know—they could not understand where his great wisdom came from. They sat stunned as he opened up the Scriptures to them. Whatever the Scripture reading was would determine the nature of his discourse. The Scripture reading was “programmed” in advance (as in many churches today), but Jesus breathed new life into the Scriptures. The people would want to hear him again on the following sabbath. Jesus would read with understanding and the right intonation, sit down, and then explain what he had read.

Luke 4:16 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 raised. Some time expired following his consecration before he returned to his hometown. He had first gone to Capernaum and had a ministry around the Sea of Galilee. In Nazareth, he stood up in the synagogue to read. His fame had preceded him “through all the region round about” (verse 14), so the people of Nazareth were waiting for him.

Luke 4:17 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,

Luke 4:18 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,

Luke 4:19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

The Scriptures were on scrolls back there. It was providentially arranged that Jesus was specifically handed the Book of Isaiah. Of the Old Testament Scriptures, Isaiah and the Psalms were most often quoted, as recorded in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, both of which contain much information on Messiah. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1,2a. The following is a comparison of Luke 4:18,19 and Isaiah 61:1,2a.

Isaiah                                                                                                   Luke

Preach good tidings unto the meek                                               Preach the gospel to the poor

Bind up the brokenhearted                                                            Heal the brokenhearted

Proclaim liberty to the captives                                                     Preach deliverance to the captives

Open the prison to them that are bound                                     Set at liberty them that are bruised

Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord                                    Preach the acceptable year of the Lord

.                                                                                                           Recover sight to the blind

Whether Jesus preached from a boat, the shore, or the side of a mountain, those who came to hear him were generally ordinary people—the poor. And he actually healed the blind, the infirm, those who were deaf, lepers, those possessed with devils, etc. Therefore, those who heard him read this passage from Isaiah would think, “Well, that is exactly what Jesus is doing.

That is what his fame is all about.” In other words, the people back there were not thinking of deliverance from sin and death. Also, his intonations would be meaningful, and perhaps he paused when saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon—me.”

“He hath anointed me … to preach deliverance to the captives.” This portion of Jesus’ reading struck a very appealing note, for the people thought he meant deliverance from the Roman yoke.

Jesus was speaking to a mixed multitude with three types of listeners, and although his words were powerful, there was a problem: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Since the inhabitants of Nazareth knew Jesus personally as the carpenter’s son, some were turned off even by these gracious words. How one received his words depended on the condition of heart and the ability to look beyond the natural. Jesus said, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (verse 24).

From Isaiah 61:2, Jesus intentionally omitted the second half of the verse pertaining to “the day of vengeance of our God.” He did, however, speak of a day of vengeance just before his crucifixion (Luke 23:28). “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” And he said the stones in the Temple would be leveled (Matt. 24:2). Thus he did preach vengeance but not on this occasion in Nazareth. The message of the feet members will be to preach “the day of vengeance of our God.” The “day of vengeance” Jesus referred to occurred at the close of his ministry. The real “day of vengeance” will occur at the completion of The Christ class at the end of this age.

Luke 4:20 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.

Jesus “closed the book,” that is, rolled together the scroll, and then gave it to the minister and sat down. The fact that “the eyes of all … in the synagogue were fastened on him” shows how powerful just his Scripture reading was.

Luke 4:21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

The words “began to say” suggest he said other things that are not recorded. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Luke 4:22 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?

All wondered at Jesus’ gracious words. The people said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Thus they knew Joseph and, by implication, Jesus as the carpenter there in Nazareth before his baptism.

Previously Jesus spoke only privately; now he was preaching publicly. How startling! Here was a son who had been dutifully caring for his mother, Joseph having probably deceased, and then at age 30, he left home and began his ministry. Then came a report of his miracles. The people of Nazareth would have been puzzled, yet when they listened to him, they could not deny that he spoke with authority and learning.

Luke 4:23 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.

Luke 4:24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.

Luke 4:25 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;

Luke 4:26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.

Luke 4:27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

Notice that Jesus slanted his remarks in a certain direction. “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country [Nazareth].” Jesus was reading the minds of the people in Nazareth before they could audibly say this to him. He had already given them a lesson, but now he was directing his comments along another line. What did he mean when he said, “Physician, heal thyself”? Some suggestions follow.

1. Since Jesus had come to his own home territory, he could have read their thoughts as meaning, “You have done miracles elsewhere; now do them here in your hometown”; that is, “Physician, heal thine own”—your family, your neighbors, the townspeople.

2. At times, Jesus was accused of healing by the power of Beelzebub. The evil-minded people in Nazareth could have attributed his power of healing to the same vile source. And in Nazareth, Jesus did have the reputation of being a Samaritan—of not being a true Jew but a renegade—and of performing miracles by an occult power.

Even enemies can be momentarily startled and awed by the gospel. For example, the soldiers who apprehended Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane all fell backward when he said, “I am he” (John 18:5,6). They fell backward from the power of his presence, but they apprehended him, nevertheless. Jesus’ action shows that he could have evaded the Crucifixion had he chosen to do so.

3. Some wondered why he did not do wonderful works there in Nazareth as he had done in Capernaum. After all, he was a Nazarene and they wanted to share his popularity. They felt left out to think that their home son did wonderful things elsewhere but not at home. Their attitude was, “Now do your duty here.”

In effect, Jesus told the people of Nazareth they were not in the right heart condition; hence he would not comply. They wanted excitement, whereas Jesus wanted to comfort the sin-sick, the brokenhearted, and the afflicted. This wrong element wanted Jesus but on their terms. “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” As the Logos, Jesus must have observed this principle over and over, for he would have seen Israel’s treatment of the prophets, who were usually not honored in their own hometown.

Jesus continued, “Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah during the famine, but Elijah helped a non-Israelite, a widow of Sarepta in Sidon. It was the same with the lepers in Elisha’s day; only Naaman the Syrian was cleansed. Jesus’ statements were not tactful, but there is a time not to use tact. His statements caused anger and resentment. Jesus could read the minds of the people in regard to what they really wanted him to do, and he said in effect that they were not in the right heart condition for him to do such works. In other words, they were not worthy of such works. As proof, he used the examples of Elijah and Elisha and the healing of non-Israelites. His words were a slap in the face, yet they were Christlike. There is a time and a place for different types of behavior.

Normally, when a person returns home, he likes to demonstrate what he can do to help the people, but Jesus was right to do otherwise because some who were hostile were listening. Similarly, when Ezekiel was in captivity and some wanted him to do certain things, he bluntly said they were not worthy.

Luke 4:28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

Luke 4:29 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.

Luke 4:30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

Luke 4:31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

The crowd reacted angrily, just as Jesus knew they would. All in the synagogue “were filled with wrath.” They rose up, pushed him out of the synagogue, thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill of the city to push him off the cliff headlong. But he passed through them miraculously and went on his way to Capernaum, where he taught on the sabbaths. The people of Nazareth were exploding with such anger that they wanted to kill him. Incidentally, at that time, Nazareth was mostly situated up on a hill.

The crowd was allowed to push Jesus for a certain distance before he miraculously escaped. Had the people not been permitted to pursue their evil intentions and vent their wrath up to a point, their wrong heart attitude might not have been as discernible. And so, God has permitted evil to show what happens when man governs himself—what a mess! Ultimately, this method will help people to appreciate God’s principles and their own nothingness and lack of wisdom.

Jesus returned to Capernaum, the very place those of Nazareth had recognized as the site of his miracles (verse 23). Capernaum is “down” from Nazareth. Coming down a long hill, one passes through Cana and then Tiberias, Magdala, and Capernaum down along the Sea of Galilee. At Capernaum, Jesus “taught them on the sabbath days,” which was his custom.

Luke 4:32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.

The people were “astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.” Oh, to hear Jesus speak!

Luke 4:33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,

Luke 4:34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.

Luke 4:35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. Luke 4:37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.

Capernaum was Jesus’ main base. When in the synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus healed a man possessed by an evil spirit. But, first, the man cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone. What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? You are the Holy One of God.” A single demon, representing other demons, did the speaking. We are reminded of the girl who followed Paul for many days crying out in possession, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-18). Paul exorcised the evil spirit. The Christian does not want honor from evil spirits.

Jesus rebuked the demon: “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.” The rebuke shows that a separate personality was inside the man. Jesus addressed the demon with power, authority, and distinction. The demon threw the man down in the midst of the people in the synagogue and then was forced out of him, not being allowed to hurt the man permanently. This scene was allowed in order to prove that a real presence was in that man.

The people were amazed that Jesus had such authority. “With authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Jesus’ fame spread throughout the area— and later beyond.

Luke 4:38 And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her.

Luke 4:39 And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.

In Peter’s house, his mother-in-law had a “great fever.” When those who were there asked Jesus to heal her, he stood over her, took her hand, and rebuked the fever (Matt. 8:15).

Immediately, she arose and served them—as if she had never been sick. Incidentally, verse 38 proves Peter was married, yet Catholics say that he was the first pope and that their clergy should not marry.

Jesus had to do miracles to create an impetus for Christianity to survive. The miracles so energized his apostles that after his death, they preached with all confidence.

Luke 4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.

Luke 4:41 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.

Luke 4:42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.

Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: fortherefore am I sent.

Luke 4:44 And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

Jesus began healing in late afternoon. The people brought many who had diverse diseases. We know from another account that virtue went out of him, greatly fatiguing him (Mark 5:30). Being a perfect man, he was replenished overnight, but nevertheless, he felt virtue (power) draining out of him until he was revived. Therefore, the healing cost him something.

The demons were convinced that Jesus was Christ, but Jesus made them keep quiet because he did not want the work of the Second Advent done at the First Advent. The First Advent work was to lay down his life. The Second Advent work is to bring deliverance and restitution and to fulfill the Abrahamic promise.

Jesus “went into a desert place,” but the people sought him there, urging him not to depart. They looked for him then he was absent. Jesus replied, “I have other cities to go to besides  Capernaum.” Elsewhere he said, “I am  sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Hence the “cities” in verse 43 were in Israel.

It is sobering to note that many were possessed with devils in the Capernaum area at the time of the First Advent, let alone in the whole nation (verse 41). And many are possessed with devils today, although they do not know it.

Jesus preached in synagogues in the entire Galilee region, not just in Capernaum. The people in Capernaum were willing to keep Jesus at this time. Later Jesus said that Capernaum was cast down to hell and that it would be more tolerable for Sodom in the Kingdom (Matt. 11:23).

Jesus’ strong words showed that the people were mostly interested in the healing. Instead of realizing that the miracles were an evidence of his Messiahship and desiring his message, they sought the loaves and the fishes and did not become his disciples. Much is attributed to social communication. Many are attracted by fellowship and sociality. Very few hunger for the real gospel, for the Word itself. This is as true today as it was back there.

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