Luke 4
Calvin's Commentaries
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Matthew 4:1-4

Mark 1:12-13

Luke 4:1-4

1. Then Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, that he might be tempted by the devil; 2. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he at length was hungry. 3. And when he who tempteth had approached to him, he said, If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones may become loaves. [301] 4. But he answering said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of God.

12. And immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness, 13. And he was in the wilderness forty days and forty nights; and was tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts. [302]

1. And Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost, returnined from Jordan, and was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. 2. Forty days he was tempted by the devil; and he ate nothing in those days, afterwards he was hungry. [303] 3. And the devil said to him, If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it may become bread. 4. And Jesus replied to him, saying, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Matthew 4:1. Then Jesus was led. There were two reasons why Christ withdrew into the wilderness. The first was, that, after a fast of forty days, he might come forth as a new man, or rather a heavenly man, to the discharge of his office. The next was, that he might be tried by temptation and undergo an apprenticeship, before he undertook an office so arduous, and so elevated. Let us therefore learn that, by the guidance of the Spirit, Christ withdrew from the crowd of men, in order that he might come forth as the highest teacher of the church, as the ambassador of God, -- rather as sent from heaven, than as taken from some town, and from among the common people.

In the same way Moses, when God was about to employ him as his agent in publishing his law, was carried into Mount Sinai, withdrawn from the view of the people, and admitted, as it were, into a heavenly sanctuary, (Exodus 24:12.) It was proper that Christ should be surrounded by marks of divine grace and power -- at least equally illustrious with those which were bestowed on Moses, that the majesty of the Gospel might not be inferior to that of the Law. If God bestowed singular honor on a doctrine which was "the ministration of death," (2 Corinthians 3:7,) how much more honor is due to the doctrine of life? And if a shadowy portrait of God had so much brightness, ought not his face, which appears in the Gospel, to shine with full splendor?

Such also was the design of the fasting: for Christ abstained from eating and drinking, not to give an example of temperance, but to acquire greater authority, by being separated from the ordinary condition of men, and coming forth, as an angel from heaven, not as a man from the earth. For what, pray, would have been that virtue of abstinence, in not tasting food, for which he had no more appetite than if he had not been clothed with flesh? [304] It is mere folly, therefore, to appoint a forty days' fast, (as it is called,) in imitation of Christ. There is no more reason why we should follow the example of Christ in this matter, than there formerly was for the holy Prophets, and other Fathers under the law, to imitate the fast of Moses. But we are aware, that none of them thought of doing so; with the single exception of Elijah, who was employed by God in restoring the law, and who, for nearly the same reason with Moses, was kept in the mount fasting.

Those who fast daily, during all the forty days, pretend that they are imitators of Christ. But how? They stuff their belly so completely at dinner, that, when the hour of supper arrives, they have no difficulty in abstaining from food. What resemblance do they bear to the Son of God? The ancients practiced greater moderation: but even they had nothing that approached to Christ's fasting, any more, in fact, than the abstinence of men approaches to the condition of angels, who do not eat at all. Besides, neither Christ nor Moses observed a solemn fast every year; but both of them observed it only once during their whole life. I wish we could say that they had only amused themselves, like apes, by such fooleries. It was a wicked and abominable mockery of Christ, to attempt, by this contrivance of fasting, to conform themselves to him as their model. [305] To believe that such fasting is a meritorious work, and that it is a part of godliness and of the worship of God, is a very base superstition.

But above all, it is an intolerable outrage on God, whose extraordinary miracle they throw into the shade; secondly, on Christ, whose distinctive badge they steal from him, that they may clothe themselves with his spoils; thirdly, on the Gospel, which loses not a little of its authority, if this fasting of Christ is not acknowledged to be his seal. God exhibited a singular miracle, when he relieved his Son from the necessity of eating and when they attempt the same thing by their own power, what is it but a mad and daring ambition to be equal with God? Christ's fasting was a distinctive badge of the divine glory: and is it not to defraud him of his glory, and to reduce him to the ordinary rank of men, when mortals freely mix themselves with him as his companions? God appointed Christ's fasting to seal the Gospel: and do those who apply it to a different purpose abate nothing from the dignity of the Gospel? Away, then, with that ridiculous imitation, [306] which overturns the purpose of God, and the whole order of his works. Let it be observed, that I do not speak of fastings in general, the practice of which I could wish were more general among us, provided it were pure.

But I must explain what was the object of Christ's fasting. Satan availed himself of our Lord's hunger as an occasion for tempting him, as will shortly be more fully stated. For the present, we must inquire generally, why was it the will of God that his Son should be tempted? That he was brought into this contest by a fixed purpose of God, is evident from the words of Matthew and Mark, who say, that for this reason he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. God intended, I have no doubt, to exhibit in the person of his Son, as in a very bright mirror, how obstinately and perseveringly Satan opposes the salvation of men. For how comes it, that he attacks Christ more furiously, and directs all his power and forces against him, at the particular time mentioned by the Evangelists, but because he sees him preparing, at the command of the Father, to undertake the redemption of men? Our salvation, therefore, was attacked in the person of Christ, just as the ministers, whom Christ has authorized to proclaim his redemption, are the objects of Satan's daily warfare.

It ought to be observed, at the same time, that the Son of God voluntarily endured the temptations, which we are now considering, and fought, as it were, in single combat with the devil, that, by his victory, he might obtain a triumph for us. Whenever we are called to encounter Satan, let us remember, that his attacks can, in no other way, be sustained and repelled, than by holding out this shield: for the Son of God undoubtedly allowed himself to be tempted, that he may be constantly before our minds, when Satan excites within us any contest of temptations. When he was leading a private life at home, we do not read that he was tempted; but when he was about to discharge the office of Redeemer, he then entered the field in the name of his whole church. But if Christ was tempted as the public representative of all believers, let us learn, that the temptations which befall us are not accidental, or regulated by the will of Satan, without God's permission; but that the Spirit of God presides over our contests as an exercise of our faith. This will aid us in cherishing the assured hope, that God, who is the supreme judge and disposer of the combat, [307] will not be unmindful of us, but will fortify us against those distresses, which he sees that we are unable to meet.

There is a slight apparent difference in the words of Luke, that Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost, withdrew from Jordan They imply, that he was then more abundantly endued with the grace and power of the Spirit, in order that he might be more fortified for the battles which he had to fight: for it was not without a good reason that the Holy Spirit descended upon him in a visible shape. It has been already stated, that the grace of God shone in him the more brightly, as the necessity arising out of our salvation became greater. [308] But, at first sight, it appears strange, that Christ was liable to the temptations of the devil: for, when temptation falls on men, it must always be owing to sin and weakness. I:reply: First, Christ took upon him our infirmity, but without sin, (Hebrews 4:15.) Secondly, it detracts no more from his glory, that he was exposed to temptations, than that he was clothed with our flesh: for he was made man on the condition that, along with our flesh, he should take upon him our feelings. But the whole difficulty lies in the first point. How was Christ surrounded by our weakness, so as to be capable of being tempted by Satan, and yet to be pure and free from all sin? The solution will not be difficult, if we recollect, that the nature of Adam, while it was still innocent, and reflected the brightness of the divine image, -- was liable to temptations. All the bodily affections, that exist in man, are so many opportunities which Satan seizes to tempt him.

It is justly reckoned a weakness of human nature, that our senses are affected by external objects. But this weakness would not be sinful, were it not for the presence of corruption; in consequence of which Satan never attacks us, without doing some injury, or, at least, without inflicting a slight wound. Christ was separated from us, in this respect, by the perfection of his nature; though we must not imagine him to have existed in that intermediate condition, which belonged to Adam, to whom it was only granted, that it was possible for him not to sin. We know, that Christ was fortified by the Spirit with such power, that the darts of Satan could not pierce him. [309]

Matthew 4:3. And when he, who tempteth, had approached to him. This name, ho peirazon, the tempter, is given to Satan by the Spirit for the express purpose, that believers may be more carefully on their guard against him. Hence, too, we conclude, that temptations, which solicit us to what is evil, come from him alone: for, when God is sometimes said to tempt or prove, (Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 13:3,) it is for a different purpose, namely, to try their faith, or to inflict punishment on unbelievers, or to discover the hypocrisy of those who do not sincerely obey the truth.

That these stones may become loaves. Here the ancients amused themselves with ingenious trifles. The first temptation, they said, was to gluttony; the second, to ambition; and the third, to covetousness. But it is absurd to suppose that it arises from the intemperance of gluttony, [310] when a hungry person desires food to satisfy nature. What luxury will they fancy themselves to have discovered in the use of bread, that one who satisfies himself, as we say, with dry bread, must be reckoned an epicure? But not to waste more words on that point, Christ's answer alone is sufficient to show, that the design of Satan was altogether different. The Son of God was not such an unskillful or inexperienced antagonist, as not to know how he might ward off the strokes of his adversary, or idly to present his shield on the left hand when he was attacked on the right. If Satan had endeavored to allure him by the enticements of gluttony, [311] he had at hand passages of Scripture fitted to repel him. But he proposes nothing of this sort.

4. Man shall not live by bread alone. He quotes the statement, that men do not live by bread alone, but by the secret blessing of God. Hence we conclude, that Satan made a direct attack on the faith of Christ, in the hope that, after destroying his faith, he would drive Christ to unlawful and wicked methods of procuring food. And certainly he presses us very hard, when he attempts to make us distrust God, and consult our own advantage in a way not authorized by his word. The meaning of the words, therefore, is: "When you see that you are forsaken by God, you are driven by necessity to attend to yourself. Provide then for yourself the food, with which God does not supply you." Now, though [312] he holds out the divine power of Christ to turn the stones into loaves, yet the single object which he has in view, is to persuade Christ to depart from the word of God, and to follow the dictates of infidelity.

Christ's reply, therefore, is appropriate: "Man shall not live by bread alone. You advise me to contrive some remedy, for obtaining relief in a different manner from what God permits. This would be to distrust God; and I have no reason to expect that he will support me in a different manner from what he has promised in his word. You, Satan, represent his favor as confined to bread: but Himself declares, that, though every kind of food were wanting, his blessing alone is sufficient for our nourishment." Such was the kind of temptation which Satan employed, the same kind with which he assails us daily. The Son of God did not choose to undertake any contest of an unusual description, but to sustain assaults in common with us, that we might be furnished with the same armor, and might entertain no doubt as to achieving the victory.

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. The first thing to be observed here is, that Christ uses Scripture as his shield: for this is the true way of fighting, if we wish to make ourselves sure of the victory. With good reason does Paul say, that, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God," and enjoin us to "take the shield of faiths" (Ephesians 6:16,17.) Hence also we conclude, that Papists, as if they had made a bargain with Satan, cruelly give up souls to be destroyed by him at his pleasure, when they wickedly withhold the Scripture from the people of God, and thus deprive them of their arms, by which alone their safety could be preserved. Those who voluntarily throw away that armor, and do not laboriously exercise themselves in the school of God, deserve to be strangled, at every instant, by Satan, into whose hands they give themselves up unarmed. No other reason can be assigned, why the fury of Satan meets with so little resistance, and why so many are everywhere carried away by him, but that God punishes their carelessness, and their contempt of his word.

We must now examine more closely the passage, which is quoted by Christ from Moses: that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live, (Deuteronomy 8:3.) There are some who torture it to a false meaning, as referring to spiritual life; as if our Lord had said, that souls are not nourished by visible bread, but by the word of God. The statement itself is, no doubt, true: but Moses had quite a different meaning. He reminds them that, when no bread could be obtained, God provided them with an extraordinary kind of nourishment in "manna, which they knew not, neither did their fathers know," (Deuteronomy 8:3;) and that this was intended as an evident proof, in all time coming, that the life of man is not confined to bread, but depends on the will and good-pleasure of God. The word does not mean doctrine, but the purpose which God has made known, with regard to preserving the order of nature and the lives of his creatures. Having created men, he does not cease to care for them: but, as "he breathed into their nostrils the breath of life," (Genesis 2:7,) so he constantly preserves the life which he has bestowed. In like manner, the Apostle says, that he "upholdeth all things by his powerful word," (Hebrews 1:3;) that is, the whole world is preserved, and every part of it keeps its place, by the will and decree of Him, whose power, above and below, is everywhere diffused. Though we live on bread, we must not ascribe the support of life to the power of bread, but to the secret kindness, by which God imparts to bread the quality of nourishing our bodies.

Hence, also, follows another statement: by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall men live. God, who now employs bread for our support, will enable us, whenever he pleases, to live by other means. This declaration of Moses condemns the stupidity of those, who reckon life to consist in luxury and abundance; while it reproves the distrust and inordinate anxiety which drives us to seek unlawful means. The precise object of Christ's reply is this: We ought to trust in God for food, and for the other necessaries of the present life, in such a manner, that none of us may overleap the boundaries which he has prescribed. But if Christ did not consider himself to be at liberty to change stones into bread, without the command of God, much less is it lawful for us to procure food by fraud, or robbery, or violence, or murder.


[301] "Ut lapides hi panes fiant;" -- "Que ces pierres devienent pains."

[302] "Et estoit avec les bestes sauvages."

[303] "Mais apres qu'ils furent passez, il ent faim;" -- "but after that they were past, he was hungry."

[304] "Car, je vous prie, quelle virtu d' abstinence y-eust-il eue a, ne taster point de viande, veu qu'il n'avoit nulle faim qui le pressast? Car il est certain, et les Evangelistes le donnent a entendre assez clairement, qu'il s'est passe de manger tout ainsi que s'il n'eust point este revestu de notre chair." -- "For what virtue of abstinence, pray, was there in not tasting food, since he had no hunger that pressed him? For it is certain, and the Evangelists give us plainly enough to understand, that he had left off eating as completely as if he had not been clothed with our flesh."

[305] "En ce qu'ils se sont essayez par leur jeusne, forge a leur fantasie, de se mettre du rang de Christ, et se mesurer a luy." -- "In having attempted, by their fast, forged according to their fancy, to place themselves in the same rank with Christ, and to vie with him."

[306] "chachozelia." -- "Ceste singerie et imitation contrefaite;" -- "that apishness and counterfeit imitation."

[307] "Agonotheta." This word, slightly altered from the Greek word agonothetes, signifiesthe judge who presided at the public games." The Epistles of Paul contain many allusions to the Olympic games, -- sometimes so rapid and indirect, that they are apt to be lost in a translation, and at other times swelling into an extended picture, which arrests and captivates every reader. Those who are familiar with his writings, and who have occasion to treat of the same class of subjects, will naturally employ the same kind of illustrations, in conveying to the minds of others those conceptions, for which they have been indebted to this great master. While they describe the contests of the people of God with outward foes, or their more violent struggles with the old man within, they will frequently, and sometimes unconsciously, fall into similar allusions. -- Ed.

[308] Here the French copy gives an additional illustration, of which no trace is found in the Latin original. "Le mesme S. Luc avec S. Marc enseigne que le commencement des tentations estoit de plus loin. Car Satan avoit assailli Christ quarante jours au paravant qu'il eust faim: mais les principaux et plus excellens combats sont icy recitez, afin que nous sachions que Satan veincu en plusieurs assaux, s'est finalement rue furieusement, et de toute sa force, pour voir s'il pourroit d'aventure veincre finalement celuy duquel il n'avoit peu venir a bout. Car d'autant plus qu'on est exere aux combats spirituels, Dieu permet aussi qu'on soit plus rudement assailli. Parquoy apprenons a ne nous lasser jamais, jusqu'a ce qu' ayans paracheve tout le cours de notre guerre, nous soyons parvenus au but." -- "The same St Luke, as well as St Mark, informs us, that the commencement of the temptations was more distant. For Satan had attacked Christ forty days before he was hungry: but the most important and valuable combats are here related, in order that we may know that Satan, vanquished in many assaults, had fallen upon him furiously, and with all his might, to see if perhaps he might finally vanquish him, with whom he had not been able to succeed. For the more that we are exercised in spiritual combats, God allows us to be the more violently attacked. Wherefore let us learn, never to become weary, till, having finished the whole course of our war, we have reached the end."

[309] "Car nous savons que Christ a este muni d'une telle vertu de l'Esprit, que les dards de Satan ne le pouvoyent navrer ne blesser: c'est a dire, qcu'il estoit impossible que peche tombast en luy." -- "For we know that Christ was fortified by such a power of the Spirit, that the darts of Satan could not pierce or wound him: that is, that it was impossible for sin to fall upon him."

[310] "Friandise ou gourmandise;" -- "epicurism or gormandizing."

[311] "A friandise, ou a quelque excez de la bouche." -- "To epicurism, or any excess of the palate."

[312] "Combien que pour couvrir sa malice;" -- "though, to cover his malice."

Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

Matthew 4:5-11

Mark 1:13

Luke 4:5-13

5. Then the devil taketh [313] him into the holy city, and placeth him on the pinnacle [314] of the temple, 6. And saith to him, If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down: for it is written, He will command his angels concerning thee, and they will carry thee in their hands, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7. Jesus said to him, Again it is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8. Again, the devil taketh him to a very high mountain, and pointeth out to him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9. And saith to him, All these things I will give thee, if, falling down, thou shalt adore me. 10. Then Jesus saith to him, Depart, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him alone thou shalt worship. 11. Then the devil leaveth him, and lo, angels approached, and waited on him.

13. And angels waited on him.

5. And the devil conducted him to a high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment. 6. And the devil saith to him, I will give thee this universal power, and the glory of them: for they have been delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. 7. If, therefore, bowing down before me, thou shalt worship, all things shall be thine. 8. And Jesus answering said to him, Go behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him alone thou shalt worship. 9. And he led him to Jerusalem, and placed him on a parapet of the temple, and said to him, If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down hence: 10. For it is written, that he will command his angels concerning thee, that they may preserve thee: 11. And that they will support thee with their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12. And he answering said to him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13. And all the temptation having been finished, the devil departed from him for a time.

Matthew 4:5. Then the devil taketh him. It is not of great importance, that Luke's narrative makes that temptation to be the second, which Matthew places as the third: for it was not the intention of the Evangelists to arrange the history in such a manner, as to preserve on all occasions, the exact order of time, but to draw up an abridged narrative of the events, so as to present, as in a mirror or picture, those things which are most necessary to be known concerning Christ. Let it suffice for us to know that Christ was tempted in three ways. The question, which of these contests was the second, and which was the third, need not give us much trouble or uneasiness. In the exposition, I shall follow the text of Matthew.

Christ is said to have been placed on the pinnacle of the temple. It is asked, was he actually carried to this elevated spot, or was it done in vision? There are many, who obstinately assert, that the body was really and actually conveyed: for they consider it to be unworthy of Christ, that he should be supposed to be liable to the delusions of Satan. But it is easy to dispose of that objection. There is no absurdity in supposing, that this took place by the permission of God and the voluntary subjection of Christ; provided we hold that within, -- that is, in his mind and souls, -- he suffered no delusion. What is next added, that all the kingdoms of the world were placed in the view of Christ, -- as well as what Luke relates, that he was carried to a great distance in one moment, -- agrees better with the idea of a vision, than with any other supposition. In a matter that is doubtful, and where ignorance brings no risk, I choose rather to suspend my judgment, than to furnish contentious people with an occasion of debate. It is also possible, that the second temptation did not follow the first, nor the third the second, in immediate succession, but that some interval of time elapsed. This is even more probable, though the words of Luke might lead to the conclusion, that there was no long interval: for he says, that Christ obtained repose for a time.

But the main question for our consideration is, what was Satan's object in this kind of temptation? That will be best determined, as I have lately hinted, by our Lord's reply to Satan. To meet the stratagem of the enemy, and to repel his attack, Christ interposes, as a shield, these words: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Hence it is evident, that the stratagems of the enemy were intended to induce Christ to exalt himself unduly, and to rise, in a daring manner, against God. Satan had formerly attempted to drive Christ to despair, because he was destitute of food, and of the ordinary means of life. Now, he exhorts him to indulge a foolish and vain confidences, -- to neglect the means which are in his powers, -- to throw himself, without necessity, into manifest danger, -- and, as we might say, to overleap all bounds. As it is not proper for us to be discouraged, when we are pressed by "the want of all things," (Deuteronomy 28:57,) but to rely with confidence on God, neither are we at liberty to raise our crests, or ascend higher than God permits us. The design of Satan, we have now ascertained, was to induce Christ to make trial of his divinity, and to rise up, in foolish and wicked rashness, against God.

6. He will charge his angels concerning thee. We must observe this malice of Satan, in misapplying a quotation of Scripture, for the purpose of rendering life deadly to Christ, and of converting bread into poison. The same kind of stratagem he continues daily to employ; and the Son of God, who is the universal model of all the godly, chose to undergo this contest in his own person, that all may be industriously on their guard against being led, by a false application of Scripture, into the snares of Satan. And undoubtedly the Lord grants such a permission to our adversary, that we may not remain in indolent ease, but may be more careful to keep watch. Nor ought we to imitate the madness of those who throw away Scripture, as if it admitted of every kind of interpretation, because the devil misapplies it. For the same reason, we ought to abstain from food, to avoid the risk of being poisoned. Satan profanes the Word of God, and endeavors to torture it for our destruction. But it has been ordained by God for our salvation; and shall the purpose of God be frustrated, unless our indolence deprive his word of its saving effect?

We need not dispute long on these matters. Let us only inquire, what Christ enjoins on us by his example, which we ought to follow as a rule. When Satan wickedly tortures Scripture, does Christ give way to him? Does he allow him to seize and carry off the Scripture, with which he formerly armed himself? On the contrary, he quotes Scripture in his turn, and boldly refutes Satan's wicked slander. Whenever Satan shall cover his deception by Scripture, and ungodly men shall labor to subvert our faith by the same means, let us borrow our armor exclusively from Scripture for the protection of our faith.

Though the promise, he will charge his angels concerning thee, (Psalm 91:11,) relates to all believers, yet it belongs peculiarly to Christ, who is the Head of the whole Church, possesses authority over angels, and commits to them the charge of us. Satan is not wrong in proving from this passage, that angels have been given to Christ, to wait on him, to guard him, and to bear him on their hands. But the fallacy lies in this, that he assigns a wandering and uncertain course to that guardianship of angels, which is only promised to the children of God, when they keep themselves within their bounds, and walk in their ways. If there is any force in that expression, in all thy ways, (Psalm 91:11,) the prophet's meaning is wickedly corrupted and mutilated by Satan, when he applies it, in a violent and wild and confused manner, to extravagant and mistaken courses. God commands us to walk in our ways, and then declares that angels will be our guardians: Satan brings forward the guardianship of angels, for the purpose of advising Christ to put himself unnecessarily in danger, as if he would say: "If you expose yourself to death, contrary to the will of God, angels will protect your life."

7. It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. The reply of Christ is most appropriate. There is no other way, in which we have a right to expect the assistance promised in that passage, than when believers humbly submit themselves to his guidance: for we cannot rely on his promises, without obeying his commandments. God is tempted in many ways: but in this passage, the word tempt denotes the neglect of those means which he puts into our hands. Those who leave the means which God recommends, and resolve to make trial of his power and might, act as absurdly as if one were to cut off a man's arms and hands, and then order him to work. In short, whoever desires to make an experiment of the divine power, when there is no necessity for it, tempts God by subjecting his promises to an unfair trial.

8. The devil taketh him to a very high mountain. We must keep in mind, what I have already stated, that it was not owing to any weakness of Christ's nature, but to a voluntary dispensation and permission, that Satan produced this effect upon his eyes. Again, while his senses were moved and powerfully affected by the glory of the kingdoms which was presented to them, no inward desire arose in his mind; whereas the lusts of the flesh, like wild beasts, are drawn, and hurry us along, to the objects which please us: for Christ had the same feelings with ourselves, but he had no irregular appetites. The kind of temptation here described was, that Christ should seek, in another manner than from God, the inheritance which he has promised to his children. And here the daring insolence of the devil is manifested, in robbing God of the government of the world, and claiming it for himself. All these things, says he, are mine, and it is only through me that they are obtained.

We have to contend every day with the same imposture: for every believer feels it in himself and it is still more clearly seen in the whole life of the ungodly. Though we are convinced, that all our support, and aid, and comfort, depend on the blessing of God, yet our senses allure and draw us away, to seek assistance from Satan, as if God alone were not enough. A considerable portion of mankind disbelieve the power and authority of God over the world, and imagine that every thing good is bestowed by Satan. For how comes it, that almost all resort to wicked contrivances, to robbery and to fraud, but because they ascribe to Satan what belongs to God, the power of enriching whom he pleases by his blessing? True, indeed, with the mouth they ask that God will give them daily bread, (Matthew 6:11) but it is only with the mouth; for they make Satan the distributor of all the riches in the world.

10. Depart, Satan. Instead of this, Luke has, Depart behind me, Satan. There is no use for speculating about the phrase, behind me, which Christ addressed to Peter, Go behind me, (Matthew 16:23,) as if the same words had not been addressed to Satan. Christ simply bids him go away; [315] and now proceeds with the same kind of defense as before, employing Scripture as a shield, not of reeds, but of brass. He quotes a passage from the law, that God alone is to be adored and worshipped, (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20.) From the application of that passage, and from the circumstances in which it is introduced, it is easy to conclude what is the design of adoration of God, and in what it consists.

Papists deny that God only ought to be adored; and evade this and similar passages by sophistical arguments. Latria, (latreia,) they admit, is adoration, which ought to be given to God alone: but Dulia, (douleia,) is an inferior kind of adoration, which they bestow on dead men, and on their bones and statues. But Christ rejects this frivolous distinction, and claims for God alone proskunesis, worship; by which he warns us to attend more to the matter than to expressions, when we have to do with the worship of God.

Scripture enjoins us to worship God alone: we must inquire, for what end? If a man takes any thing from his glory, and ascribes it to creatures, this is a heinous profanation of divine worship. But it is very evident that this is done, when we go to creatures, to receive from them those good things, of which God desired to be acknowledged as the only Author. Now, as religion is strictly spiritual, and the outward acknowledgment of it relates to the body, so not only the inward worship, but also the outward manifestation of it, is due to God alone. [316]

11. Then the devil leaveth him. Luke expresses more: when all the temptation had been finished. This means, that no truce or relaxation was granted to Christ, till he had been fully tried by every species of contest. He adds, that Christ was left for a season only. This is intended to inform us, that the rest of his life was not entirely free from temptations, but that God restrained the power of Satan, so that Christ was not unseasonably disturbed by him. In like manner, God usually acts towards all his people: for, after permitting them to be sharply tried, he abates, in some measure, the violence of the strife, that they may take breath for a little, and gather courage. What immediately follows, the angels waited on him, I understand as referring to comfort, that Christ might feel, that God the Father took care of him, and fortified him, by his powerful assistance, against Satan. For the very solitude might aggravate the dreariness of his condition, when he was deprived of the kind offices of men, and was with the wild beasts, -- a circumstance which is expressly mentioned by Mark. And yet we must not suppose, that Christ was ever forsaken by the angels: but, in order to allow an opportunity for temptation, the grace of God, though it was present, was sometimes hidden from him, so far as respects the feeling of the flesh.


[313] "Le transporte;" -- "conveys him."

[314] "Le pinnacle."

[315] "Il vent seulement le rejetter avec son conseil;" -- "he wishes only to reject him with his advice."

[316] "Christ attribue aussi a Dieu seul l'adoration externe, que les Grecs appellent proschunesis: car il use de ce terme qui signifient proprement s'agenouiller ET prosterner par forme de service divin." -- "Christ ascribes also to God alone the external adoration, which the Greeks call proschunesis: for he employs this term, which signifies literally to kneel and bow down, in a form of divine service."

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.
If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
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.
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:
For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:
And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Mark 3:13-19

Luke 4:12-19

13. And he went up into a mountain, and called to him whom he would: and they came to him. 14. And he appointed twelve to be with him, and send them forth to preach, 15. And to have powers of healing diseases, and of casting out devils. 16. And to Simon he gave the name Peter. 17. And James th son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James: and he gave them the names of Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder. 18. And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James (son) of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19. And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

12. And it happened in those days, he went out into a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose twelve from among them, whom he also called Apostles: 14. Simon, whom he also called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 15. Matthew and Thomas, James (son) of Alpheus, and Simon, who is called Zelotes, 16. And Judas (brother) of James, and Judas Iscariot, who also was the traitor. 17. And going down with them, he stood in a plain, and a multitude of his disciples, and a very great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18. Who had come to hear him, and to be healed from their diseases, and those who were tormented by unclean spirits were healed. 19. And the whole multitude sought to touch him, for virtue went out of him, and healed all.

Mark 3:13. And he went up into a mountain. By this election he does not yet ordain them to be Apostles, to enter immediately into the discharge of their office, but merely admits them to enjoy his private instructions [348] with a view to the apostleship. Commentators have fallen into a mistake here, by confounding those passages with the tenth chapter of the Gospel by Matthew. For the plain meaning of the words is, that they are only destined to a future commission, the bestowal of which is recorded by Matthew; and Mark and Luke will be found afterwards relating, in its proper place, the mission which Matthew there describes. And we need not wonder, if their heavenly Master chose to train and accustom them gradually to so arduous an employment: for, even by a long course of instruction, their ignorance could not be corrected.

Both the Evangelists say, that Christ went up into a mountain. Luke explains the cause to have been, that he might pray with greater freedom in his retirement, which he was accustomed to do frequently, as is evident from other passages. Now, this example ought to be regarded by us as a perpetual rule, to begin with prayer, when we are about to choose pastors to churches: otherwise, what we attempt will not succeed well. And certainly our Lord prayed, not so much on his own account, as to lay down a rule for us. We are deficient in prudence and skill; and though our sagacity were of the highest order, nothing is more easy than to be deceived in this matter. Granting that we were in no danger of mistake, if the Lord does not regulate our affections, with what force, or rather violence, shall we be carried away [349] by favor and prepossession, or hatred or ambition? Besides, though the election were conducted in the very best manner, all will be unsuccessful, unless the Lord take under his guidance those who are elected, and furnish them with the necessary gifts. "What then?" it will be said, "did not Christ earnestly implore the Father to preside in the election?" This I readily acknowledge, and I have also to state, that this was a declaration and acknowledgment of his care for his Church. Accordingly, he did not pray to the Father in the ordinary manner, but spent the whole night in prayer. But if he, who was full of the Holy Spirit, (John 3:34,) implored the Father, with such ardor and earnestness, to preside in the election, how much greater need have we to do so?

He called to him whom he would. By this expression, I have no doubt, Mark conveys to us the instruction, that it was to the unmixed grace of Christ, and not to any excellence of their own, that they were indebted for receiving so honorable an office: for, if you understand him to say, that those were chosen, who were more excellent than others, this will not apply to Judas. The meaning, therefore, is the apostle-ship was not bestowed on account of any human merits; but, by the free mercy of God, persons, who were altogether unworthy of it, were raised to that high rank; and thus was fulfilled what Christ says on another occasion, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15:16.) To the same effect Paul frequently speaks, extolling the purpose of God in bestowing on him the apostleship, (Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:25.)

But here many questions arise. First, why did our Lord deliberately choose Judas, who, he perfectly knew, was unworthy of the honor, and would be his betrayer? Secondly, why did God, after being so earnestly supplicated by his Son, and as if he had given a refusal to Christ, permit a base and wicked man to find his way to the highest rank in his Church? [350] Thirdly, why did he resolve that the first-fruits [351] of his Church should be stained by so foul a disgrace? Fourthly, how came it, that Jesus Christ, knowingly and willingly, preferred Judas to honest and faithful ministers?

The first objection is met by the following reply. Our Lord expressly intended to prevent future offenses, that we may not feel excessive uneasiness, when unprincipled men occupy the situation of teachers in the Church, or when professors of the Gospel become apostates. He gave, at the same time, in the person of one man, an instance of fearful defection, [352] that those who occupy a higher rank may not indulge in self-complacency. At the same time, with regard to the second question, we do not admit that our Lord suffered a refusal. [353] This answer will serve also for the third question. At the very beginning, it was judged proper to give an early demonstration of the future state of the Church, that weak persons might not stumble on account of the fall of a reprobate; for it is not proper, that the stability of the Church should depend on men. With regard to the last objection, Christ did not prefer Judas to devout and holy disciples, but raised him to an eminence from which he was afterwards to fall, and thus intended to make him an example and instruction to men of every condition and of every age, that no one may abuse the honor which God has conferred upon him, and likewise that, when even the pillars fall, those who appear to be the weakest of believers may remain steady.

Luke 6:13. Whom also he named Apostles. This may be explained in two ways: either that, at a subsequent period, when he introduced them into their office, he gave them this name, -- or that, with a view to their future rank, he bestowed on them this title, in order to inform them why they were separated from the ordinary class, and for what purpose they were destined. The latter view agrees well with the words of Mark: for he says, that Christ appointed twelve to be with him, and to send them forth to preach. He intended to make them his companions, that they might afterwards receive a higher rank: for, as I have already explained, when he says, to be with him, and to send them forth to preach, he does not mean that both were to take place at the same time.

Mark 3:16. And to Simon he gave the name Peter. Though all Christians must be living stones [354] , of the spiritual temple, yet Christ gave this name peculiarly to Simon, according to the measure of grace which he intended to bestow upon him. This is not inconsistent with the shameful weakness which he manifested in denying his Lord: for this title showed his invincible power and steadiness, which continued till his death. Yet it is absurd in the Papists to infer from this, that the Church is founded on him, as will afterwards be more fully explained, (Matthew 16:18.) Christ called the sons of Zebedee sons of thunder, because he was to give them a powerful voice, that they might thunder throughout the whole world. [355] And that thunder is heard, in the present day, from the mouth of John. As to his brother, there can be no doubt that, so long as he lived, he shook the earth. The word has been corrupted: for the full pronunciation would be vny rgs, (Benae-regesh;) [356] but the changes which words undergo in passing into other languages are well known.


[348] "Pour ses disciples et escoliers domestiques;" -- "for his disciples and private scholars."

[349] "Destournez et transportez hors du droit chemin;" -- "turned and carried away out of the right road."

[350] "Pourquoy Dieu estant prie et requis si ardemment par son Fils, asouffert qu'un mechant et mal-heureux traitre fust eleve au rang le plus honorable de son Eglise, comme si Jesus Christ n'eust point este exauce?" -- "Why did God, when entreated and requested so earnestly by his Son, permit a wicked and unhappy traitor to be elevated to the most honorable rank in his Church, as if Jesus Christ had not been listened to?"

[351] "Les premices et premier commencement de son Eglise;" -- "the first-fruits and first beginning of his Church."

[352] "Un revoltement et cheute horrible;" -- "a dreadful rebellion and fall."

[353] "Cependant nous ne dirons pas que Christ a este esconduit, veu que le pere par un conseil admirable, mettant un diable en la compagnie d'onze Anges, a toutesfois tellement modere l'issue, que la cheute de cestuy-la a plustost conferme que non pas esbranle la foyde son Eglise." -- "Yet we will not say that Christ was refused, since the Father, by a wonderful purpose, putting a devil into the company of eleven angels, has, at the same time, so guided the result, that the fall of this man, instead of shaking, has rather confirmed, the faith of his Church."

[354] This alludes to the Greek word Petros, (Peter,) which literally signifies a stone. We shall afterwards find (Matthew 16:18) that our Lord makes express reference to the meaning of the name. -- Ed.

[355] "Afin qu'ils tonnassent par tout le monde en preschant;" -- "in order that they might thunder throughout the whole world in preaching."

[356] Philologists have been a good deal perplexed by this word. There is even some difficulty in settling the Greek orthography: for conflicting manuscripts present us with the various forms of Boanerges, Boanerges, and Boanergeis. The name is unquestionably of Hebrew origin. Some of the derivations, which have been given, are so far-fetched as not to deserve refutation. There is plausibility in Jerome's hypothesis, that it comes from rm, (Ragam,) thunder. But the substitution of final, s for m has never been satisfactorily explained. Admitting that es or es, is a Greek termination, the absence of the final and radical Mem (m) is too violent a supposition. After many trials, scholars are pretty nearly agreed, that they must return to the derivation which is suggested by our author, and which some writers have illustrated and defended by a considerable array of learning. -- Ed.

And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
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.
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
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.

Luke 4:16-22

16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and entered, according to his custom, on the Sabbath-day, into the synagogue, and rose up to read. 17. And the book of Isaiah the Prophet was delivered to him, and, having opened the book, he found the passage where it was written, 18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, [321] to preach forgiveness to the captives and sight to the blind, to loose by forgiveness those who are bruised, 19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20. Then, when he had closed the book, he returned it to the minister, and sat down: and the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21. And he began to say to them, To-day this Scripture hath been fulfilled in your ears. 22. And all gave him testimony, and wondered at the discourses of grace which proceeded out of his mouth, and said, Is not this the son of Joseph?

16. And he came to Nazareth The Evangelists are very careful to show by what sort of proofs Christ became known, a striking instance of which is here related by Luke. By explaining a passage in Isaiah, and applying it to the instruction which was immediately required, he turned upon him the eyes of all. He entered, according to his custom, into the synagogue Hence we conclude, that not only did he address the people in the open streets and highways, but, as far as he had opportunity, observed the usual order of the church. We see also that, though the Jews were become very degenerate, though every thing was in a state of confusion, and the condition of the church was miserably corrupted, one good thing still remained: they read the Scriptures publicly, and took occasion from them to teach and admonish the people.

Hence also it is evident, what was the true and lawful method of keeping the Sabbath. When God commanded his people to abstain from working on that day, it was not that they might give themselves up to indolent repose, but, on the contrary, that they might exercise themselves in meditating on his works. Now, the minds of men are naturally blind to the consideration of his works, and must therefore be guided by the rule of Scripture. Though Paul includes the Sabbath in an enumeration of the shadows of the law, (Colossians 2:16,) yet, in this respect, our manner of observing it is the same with that of the Jews: the people must assemble to hear the word, to public prayers, and to the other exercises of religion. It was for this purpose that the Jewish Sabbath was succeeded by the Lord's Day.

Now, if we make a comparison of dates, this passage will be sufficient to prove clearly, that the corruptions of the Papal Hierarchy, in our own time, are more shocking and detestable than those which existed among the Jews under the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. For the reading of Scripture, which was then in use, has not only grown obsolete under the Pope, but is driven from the churches by fire and sword; with this exception, that such portions of it, as they think proper, are chanted by them in an unknown tongue. Christ rose up to read, not only that his voice might be better heard, but in token of reverence: for the majesty of Scripture deserves that its expounders should make it apparent, that they proceed to handle it with modesty and reverence.

17. He found the passage There is no doubt that Christ deliberately selected this passage. Some think that it was presented to him by God; [322] but, as a liberty of choice was allowed him, I choose to say that, by his own judgment, he took this passage in preference to others. Isaiah there predicts that, after the Babylonish captivity, there will still be witnesses of the grace of God, who shall gather the people from destruction, and from the darkness of death, and restore, by a spiritual power, the Church, which has been overwhelmed by so many calamities. But as that redemption was to be proclaimed in the name and authority of Christ alone, he uses the singular number, and speaks in the name of Christ, that he may more powerfully awaken the minds of the godly to strong confidence. It is certain, that what is here related belongs properly to Christ alone, for two reasons: first, because he alone was endued with the fullness of the Spirit, (John 3:34,) to be the witness and ambassador of our reconciliation to God; (and, for this reason, Paul (Ephesians 2:17) assigns peculiarly to him, what belongs to all the ministers of the Gospel, namely, that he, "came and preached peace to them which were afar off, and to them that were nigh:") secondly, because he alone, by the power of his Spirit, performs and grants all the benefits that are here promised.

18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me These words inform us that, both in his own person and in his ministers, Christ does not act by human authority, or in a private capacity, but has been sent by God to restore salvation to his Church. He does nothing by the suggestion or advice of men, but everything by the guidance of the Spirit of God; and this he declares, in order that the faith of the godly may be founded on the authority and power of God. The next clause, because he hath anointed me, is added by way of explanation. Many make a false boast, that they have the Spirit of God, while they are destitute of his gifts: but Christ proves by the anointing, as the effect, that he is endued with the Spirit of God. He then states the purpose for which the graces of the Spirit were bestowed upon him. It was, that he might preach the Gospel to the poor Hence we conclude, that those, who are sent by God to preach the Gospel, are previously furnished with necessary gifts, to qualify them for so important an office. It is, therefore, very ridiculous that, under the pretense of a divine calling, men totally unfit for discharging the office should take upon themselves the name of pastors. We have an instance of this in the Papacy, where mitred bishops, who are more ignorant than as many asses, proudly and openly vaunt, that they are Christ's Vicars, and the only lawful prelates of the Church. We are expressly informed, that the Lord anoints his servants, because the true and efficacious preaching of the Gospel, as Paul says, does not lie "in the enticing words of man's wisdom," but in the heavenly power of the Spirit.

To the poor The prophet shows what would be the state of the Church before the manifestation of the Gospel, and what is the condition of all of us without Christ. Those persons to whom God promises restoration are called poor, and broken, and captives, and blind, and bruised The body of the people was oppressed by so many miseries, that these descriptions applied to every one of its members. Yet there were many who, amidst their poverty, blindness, slavery, and death, flattered themselves, or were insensible to their condition. The consequence was, that few were prepared to accept this grace.

And, first, we are here taught what is the design of the preaching of the Gospel, and what advantage it brings to us. We were altogether overwhelmed by every kind of evils: but there God cheers us by his life-giving light, to rescue us from the deep abyss of death, and to restore us to complete happiness. It tends, in no ordinary degree, to recommend the Gospel, that we obtain from it inestimable advantage. Secondly, we see who are invited by Christ, and made partakers of promised grace. They are persons, who are every way miserable, and destitute of all hope of salvation. But we are reminded, on the other hand, that we cannot enjoy those benefits which Christ bestows, in any other manner, than by being humbled under a deep conviction of our distresses, and by coming, as hungry souls, to seek him as our deliverer: for all who swell with pride, and do not groan under their captivity, nor are displeased with their blindness, lend a deaf ear to this prediction, and treat it with contempt.

19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord Many think that here the prophet makes an allusion to the Jubilee, and I have no objection to that view. But it is proper to observe, that he purposely anticipates a doubt, which might disturb and shake weak minds, while the Lord held them in suspense, by delaying so long the promised salvation. He therefore makes the time of redemption to depend on the purpose, or good pleasure, of God. "In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee." Paul calls it the fullness of the time, (Galatians 4:4,) that believers may learn not to indulge in excessive curiosity, but to acquiesce in the will of God, -- and that we may rest satisfied with the conviction, that salvation was manifested in Christ, at the time which seemed good in the sight of God.

20. The eyes of all who were in the synagogue God touched their hearts, I doubt not, with astonishment, which made them more attentive, and induced them to listen to Christ, while he was speaking. For they must have been withheld from opposing this discourse at the commencement, or breaking it off in the midst, when they were sufficiently disposed, as we shall see, to treat Christ with contempt.

21. Today is fulfilled Christ did not merely affirm in a few words, but proved by a reference to facts, that the time was now come, when it was the will of God to restore his ruined church. The object of his discourse was, to expound the prediction clearly to his hearers: just as expositors handle Scripture in a proper and orderly manner, when they apply it to the circumstances of those whom they address. He says that it was fulfilled in their ears, rather than in their eyes, because the bare sight of the fact was of little value, if doctrine had not held the chief place.

22. And all gave testimony to him Here Luke draws our attention, first, to the truly divine grace, which breathed in the lips of Christ; and then presents a lively picture of the ingratitude of men. Using a Hebrew idiom, he calls them discourses of grace, -- that is, discourses which manifested the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. The inhabitants of Nazareth are thus compelled to acknowledge and admire God speaking in Christ; and yet they voluntarily refuse to render to the heavenly doctrine of Christ the honor which it deserves. Is not this the son of Joseph? Instead of regarding this circumstance as an additional reason for glorifying God, they bring it forward as an objection, and wickedly make it a ground of offense, that they may have some plausible excuse for rejecting what is said by the son of Joseph. Thus we daily see many who, while they are convinced that what they hear is the word of God, seize on frivolous apologies for refusing to obey it. And certainly the only reason why we are not affected, as we ought to be, by the power of the Gospel, is, that we throw hinderances in our own way, and that our malice quenches that light, the power of which we are unwilling to acknowledge.


[321] "Pour guarir ceux qui ont le coeur froisse;" -- "to heal those who have the heart bruised."

[322] "Aucuns pensent que par la volonte de Dieu il l'ait recontre sans le chercher." -- "Some think that, by the will of God, he found it without seeking for it."

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,
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,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
And 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 4:23-30

23. And he saith to them, Ye will altogether [323] say to me this comparison, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever things we have heard done in Capernaum, do thou also here in thy country. 24. And he saith, Verily, I say to you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25. But in truth I say to you, There were many widows, in the days of Elijah, in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, so that there was great famine through all the land; 26. And to none of them was Elijah sent, but to a woman, a widow, in Zarephath of Zidon. 27. And there were many lepers in Israel, in the time of Elisha the prophet, and not one of them was cleansed, but Naaman, a Syrian. 28. And all were filled with wrath in the synagogue, hearing these things, 29. And rose up, and drove him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down. [324] 30. And he, passing through the midst of them, went away. [325]

23. Physician, heal thyself From the words of Christ it may be easily inferred, that he was treated with contempt by the inhabitants of Nazareth: for he states publicly those thoughts, which he knew to exist in their minds. He afterwards imputes to them the blame of his declining to work miracles among them, and charges them with malice, in bestowing no honor on a prophet of God. The objection, which he anticipates, is this: "There is no reason to wonder, if his countrymen hold him in little estimation, since he does not dignify his own country, as he does other places, by working miracles; and, consequently, it is but a just revenge, if his own countrymen, whom he treats with less respect than all others, are found to reject him." Such is the meaning of the common proverb, that a physician ought to begin with himself, and those immediately connected with him, before he exhibits his skill in healing others. The amount of the objection is, that Christ acts improperly, in paying no respect to his own country, while he renders other cities of Galilee illustrious by his miracles. And this was regarded by the inhabitants of Nazareth as a fair excuse for rejecting him in their turn.

24. Verily, I say to you He reproaches them with the blame of preventing him from exerting his power among them as he did in other places, by working miracles: for the unbelief of men presents an obstruction to God, and hinders him from working, as might be desired, for their salvation, (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5.) Christ could not perform any miracle among them, because "they did not believe on him," (John 12:37.) Not that it is in the power of men to bind the hands of God, but that he withholds the advantage of his works from those who are rendered unworthy of them by their infidelity. The answer given by Christ amounts to this: "If you wish to have a share in miracles, why do you not give place to God? or rather, why do you proudly reject the minister of his power? You receive, therefore, a just reward for your contempt, when I pass by you, and give a preference to other places, for proving by miracles, that I am the Messiah of God, who have been appointed to restore the church."

And, certainly, it was intolerable ingratitude that, when God was pleased to have his Son brought up in their city, such a person, who had been among them from his infancy, was despised. Justly, therefore, did he withdraw his hand, that it might not be exposed to the derision of those wicked despisers. [326] Hence we learn what value the Lord puts on his word, when, in order to punish for the contempt of it, he takes from the midst of us those favors, which are the testimonies of his presence. With respect to that saying, no prophet is acceptable in his own country, the reader may consult what I have said on a saying of the same import, recorded by the Evangelist John: "A prophet hath no honor in his own country," (John 4:44.)

25. There were many widows After throwing back upon themselves the blame of their being deprived of miracles, he produces two examples to prove, that they ought not to think it strange, if God prefers strangers to the inhabitants of the country, and that they ought not to find fault with him for obeying the call of God, as was formerly done by Elijah and Elisha. He throws out an indirect hint as to their vanity and presumption, in entertaining a dislike of him, because he had been brought up among them. When there was a great famine for three years and a half, there were many widows in Israel, whose want of food Elijah was not commanded to relieve, but he was sent to a woman, who belonged to a foreign nation, Zidon, (1 Kings 17:9.) In like manner, Elisha healed no lepers among his countrymen, but he healed Naaman, a Syrian, (2 Kings 5:10.)

Though his reproofs strike the inhabitants of Nazareth with peculiar severity, yet he charges the whole nation with ingratitude, because, for a long period, almost all of them had proceeded to more shameful contempt of the Lord, in proportion as he had approached nearer to them. For how did it come about, that a woman, who was a foreigner, was preferred by God to all the Israelites, but because the prophet had been rejected by them, and compelled to seek refuge in a heathen land? And why did God choose that Naaman, a Syrian, should be healed by Elisha, but to put a disgrace on the nation of Israel? The meaning, therefore, is, that the same thing happens now as in former times, when God sends his power to a great distance among foreigners, because he is rejected by the inhabitants of the country.

Meanwhile, Christ intimates that, though he is despised by his countrymen, his glory is in no degree diminished: because God will still be able, to their shame and confusion, to dignify and exalt his Son, as he formerly gave honor to his prophets in the midst of the Gentiles. In this way the foolish glorying in the flesh is repressed, when we see the Lord rain, not only where and when he pleases, but in distant corners, to the neglect of that country which he had chosen for his residence. Hence, also, may be collected the general doctrine that we have no right to prescribe any rule to God in disposing his benefits, so as to prevent him from rejecting those who hold the highest rank, and conferring honor on the lowest and most contemptible; and that we are not at liberty to oppose him, when he entirely subverts that order, which would have approved itself to our judgment. Our attention is, no doubt, drawn to a contrast between Israel and the heathen nations: but still we ought to hold, that none are chosen, in preference to others, for their own excellence, but that it proceeds rather from the wonderful purpose of God, the height and depth of which, though the reason may be hidden from us, we are bound to acknowledge and adore.

28. Were filled with wrath They perceived that the object of those two examples, which Christ had produced, was to show, that the grace of God would be removed from them to others: [327] and therefore they considered that he had spoken to their dishonor. But, instead of having their consciences stung to the quick, and seeking a remedy for their vices by correcting them, they are only driven to madness. Thus ungodly men not only resist, with obstinacy, the judgments of God, but rise into cruelty against his servants. Hence it is evident, how forcible are the reproofs which proceed from the Spirit of God: for the minds of those who would willingly evade them, [328] are inflamed with rage. Again, when we see that the minds of men are so envenomed, that they become mad against God, whenever they are treated with some degree of roughness, we ought to implore the Spirit of meekness, (Galatians 5:23,) that we may not be driven, by the same fury, into such a destructive war. [329]

30. But he, passing through the midst of them When Luke says, that Jesus passed through the middle of the crowd, and so escaped out of their hands, he means that God rescued him, by an extraordinary miracle, from immediate death. This example teaches us that, though our adversaries may prevail so far, that our life may seem to be placed at their disposal, yet that the power of God will always be victorious to preserve us, so long as he shall be pleased to keep us in the world, either by tying their hands, or by blinding their eyes, or by stupifying their minds and hearts.


[323] "Omnino." -- "Tout a plein."

[324] "Pour le jetter du haut en bas;" -- "to throw him from top to bottom."

[325] "Mais il passa par le milieu d'eux, et s'en alla." -- "But he passed through the midst of them, and went away."

[326] "Afin de n.e servir de passe temps a de si meschans contempteurs des graces de Dieu." -- "That it might not serve for amusement to such wicked despisers of God's favors."

[327] "Que la grace de Dieu leur seroit ostee, et envoyee a autres;" -- "that the grace of God would be taken from them, and sent to others."

[328] "Qui les laisseroyent volontiers escouler sans y penser;" -- "who would willingly allow them to steal away, without thinking of them."

[329] "Afin que ne soyons transportez a entreprendre une guerre si folle, a nostre grande confusion;" -- "in order that we may not be hurried away, to undertake a war so foolish, to our great confusion."

And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
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.
But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

Mark 1:21-28

Luke 4:31-36

21. And they entered into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbaths, entering into the synagogue, he taught. 22. And they were astonished at his doctrine; for he was teaching them, as one invested with authority, and not as the Scribes. 23. And there was in their synagogue a man liable to an unclean spirit, who cried out, 24. Saying, Ah! what have I to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold they peace, and go out of him. 26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and had cried with a loud voice, he went out from him. 27. And all were astonished, so that they inquired among themselves, saying, What is this? What new doctrine is this? for with authority he commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. 28. And immediately his fame went out into every part of Galilee.

31. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and there he taught them on the Sabbath-day: 32. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was accompanied with power. 33. And there was in the synagogue a man having a spirit of an unclean devil: and he cried out with a loud voice, 34. Saying, Ah! what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 35. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Holy thy peace, and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him down in the midst, he went out of him, and hurt him nothing. 36. And trembling came upon all, and they talked among themselves, saying, What speech is this? for with authority and power he commandeth the uclean spirits, and they go out.

This demoniac was probably one of that multitude, which was mentioned, a little before, by Matthew 4:24. Yet the narrative of Mark and Luke is not superfluous: for they relate some circumstances, which not only present the miracle in a more striking light, but also contain useful instruction. The devil dexterously acknowledges, that Christ is the Holy One of God, in order to insinuate into the minds of men a suspicion, that there was some secret understanding between him and Christ. By such a trick he has since endeavored to make the Gospel suspected, and, in the present day, he is continually making similar attempts. That is the reason why Christ rebukes him. It is, no doubt, possible, that this confession was violently extorted from him: but there is no inconsistency between the two suppositions, that he is forced to yield to the power of Christ, and therefore cries out that he is the Holy One of God, -- and yet that he cunningly attempts to shroud in his own darkness the glory of Christ. At the same time, we must observe that, while he flatters Christ in this manner, he indirectly withdraws himself from his power, and in this way contradicts himself. For why was Christ sanctified by the Father, but that he might deliver men from the tyranny of the devil, and overturn his kingdom? But as Satan cannot endure that power, which he feels to be destructive to himself, he would desire that Christ should satisfy himself with an empty title, without exercising it on the present occasion. [344]

Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32. And they were astonished at his doctrine The meaning of the Evangelists is, that the power of the Spirit shone in the preaching [345] of Christ with such brightness, as to extort admiration even from irreligious and cold hearers. Luke says, that his discourse was accompanied with power, that is, full of majesty. Mark expresses it more fully, by adding a contrast, that it was unlike the manner of teaching of the Scribes As they were false expounders of Scripture, their doctrine was literal and dead, breathed nothing of the power of the Spirit, and was utterly destitute of majesty. The same kind of coldness may be now observed in the speculative theology of Popery. Those masters do indeed thunder out whatever they think proper in a sufficiently magisterial style; but as their manner of discoursing about divine things is so profane, that their controversies exhibit no traces of religion, what they bring forward is all affectation and mere drivelling: for the declaration of the Apostle Paul holds true, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, (1 Corinthians 4:20.) In short, the Evangelists mean that, while the manner of teaching, which then prevailed, was so greatly degenerated and so extremely corrupted, that it did not impress the minds of men with any reverence for God, the preaching of Christ was eminently distinguished by the divine power of the Spirit, which procured for him the respect of his hearers. This is the power, or rather the majesty and authority, at which the people were astonished.

Luke 4:33. A man having a spirit of an unclean devil. This mode of expression, which Luke employs, conveys the idea, that the man was driven by the impulse of the devil. By the permission of God, Satan had seized the faculties of his soul in such a manner, as to drive him not only to speak, but to perform other movements, at his pleasure. And thus, when the demoniacs speak, the devils, who have received permission to tyrannise, speak in them and by them. The title, Holy One of God, was probably taken from a manner of speaking, which was, at that time, in ordinary and general use. The Messiah was so called, because he was to be distinguished and separated from all others, as endued with eminent grace, and as the Head of the whole Church.

Mark 1:26 When the unclean spirit had torn him Luke uses a milder phrase, when the devil had thrown him down: but they agree perfectly as to the meaning; for the design of both was to show, that the devil went out of the man in a violent manner. He threw down the unhappy man, as if he had intended to tear him: but Luke says that the attempt was unsuccessful; for he hurt him nothing Not that the attack was, in no degree whatever, attended by injury, or at least by some feeling of pain; but that the man was afterwards delivered from the devil, and restored to perfect health.

Luke 4:36. And trembling came upon all This is the result of the miracle. They are compelled to acknowledge that there is in Christ something more than man, and justly trace the glory and power of the miracle to his doctrine. What speech is this, they say, which even the devils themselves are forced to obey?

Mark 1:27 What new doctrine is this? They call it new doctrine, not by way of reproach, but as an acknowledgment, that there was something in it unusual and extraordinary. It is not for the sake of blame, or to lessen its credit, that they speak of it as new. This is rather a part of their admiration, that they pronounce it to be not common or ordinary. Their only fault lies in this, that they remain in their state of hesitation, [346] whereas the children of God ought to make increasing progress.


[344] "Mais pource que Satan ne pent endurer ceste vertue et puissance, aquelle il sait estre le destruire et ruiner, il voudroit bien que Christ se contenant d'un beau titre en l'air, se reposast, et se deportast de luy rien faire." -- "But because Satan cannot endure that power and might, which he knows to be to destroy and ruin him, he would rather wish that Christ, satisfying himself with a fine title in the air, should take repose, and refrain from doing any thing to him.

[345] "En la facon d'enseigner de Jesus Christ;" -- "in Jesus Christ's manner of teaching."

[346] "En leur doute et estonnement." -- "In their doubt and astonishment."

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
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.
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.
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.
And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.
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.

Matthew 8:14-18

Mark 1:29-39

Luke 4:38-44

14. And when Jesus had come into Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed, and afflicted with fever. 15. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and waited on them. 16. And when the evening had approached, they brought to him many demoniacs, and he cast out the spirits by his word, and healed all that were diseased: 17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, when he saith, He hath taken our diseases. 18. And when Jesus had seen great multitudes around him, he commanded that they should depart to the other side.

29. And immediately going out of the synagogue, they came, with James and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew. 30. And Simon's mother-in-law lay afflicted with fever and immediately they speak to him about her. 31. And approaching, he raised her, by taking her hand, and the fever immediately left her, and she waited on them. 32. And in the evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were diseased, and who were possessed by devils. 33. And the whole city was assembled at the door. 34. And hehealed many that were ill of various diseases, and cast out many devils: and he did not permit the devils to say that they knew him. 35. And in the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus, when he had risen, went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. 36. And Simon followed him, as also those who were with him. 37. And when they had found him, they said to him, All seek thee. 38. And he saith to them, Let us go into the adjoining villages, that I preach there also: for on this account I came out. 39. And he preached in their synagogues in all Galilee, and cast out devils.

38. And when Jesus had risen out of the synagogue, he entered into Simon's house. And Simon's mother-in-law was held by a great fever, and they besought him for her. 39. And standing over her, he rebuked the fever, and the fever left her: and immediately rising, she waited on them. 40. And when the sun was setting, all, who had persons laboring under various diseases, brought them to him: and he, laying hands upon each, healed them. 41. And the devils went out of many, crying and saying, Thou art Christ, the Son of God. And, rebuking, he did not permit them to speak those things, that they knew that he was Christ. 42. And when it was day, going out, he went into a desert place, and multitudes sought him: and came even to him, and held him, that he might not depart from them. 43. To whom he saith, I must also preach the kingdom of God in other cities: for on this account am I sent. 44. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

Mark 1:29. They came, with James and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew. There is reason to conjecture, that Matthew does not relate this history in its proper order: for Mark expressly states, that there were only four disciples who attended Christ. Besides, when he left the synagogue, he went straight to Peter's house; which also shows clearly, that Matthew did not observe, with exactness, the order of time. The Evangelists appear to have taken particular notice of this miracle; not that, in itself, it was more remarkable, or more worthy of being recorded, than other miracles, -- but because, by means of it, Christ gave to his disciples a private and familiar illustration of his grace. Another reason was, that the healing of one woman gave occasion to many miracles, so that they came to him in great numbers, from every direction, to implore his assistance. A single word, in Luke's narrative, presents to us more strikingly the power which Christ displayed; for he says, that Simon's mother-in-law was held by a GREAT fever. It was a clearer and more affecting proof of divine power, that, in a moment, and by a single touch, he removed a strong and violent disease. He might have done it by the slightest expression of his will; but he touched her hand, (Matthew 8:15,) either to mark his affection, or because he was aware that this sign was, at that time, advantageous: for we know, that he freely used outward signs, when the time required them.

Luke 4:39. He rebuked the fever. To a person not well acquainted with Scripture this mode of expression may appear harsh; but there were good reasons for employing it. Fevers and other diseases, famine, pestilence, and calamities of every description, are God's heralds, [347] by whom he executes his judgments. Now, as he is said to send such messengers by his command and pleasure, so he also restrains and recalls them whenever he pleases. The manner in which he healed them is not mentioned by Matthew and Mark: but Luke says, that it was by laying hands on each of them. Under the Law, this was a sign of reconciliation; and, therefore, it was not improperly, or unseasonably, that Christ laid hands on those whom he freed from the curse of God. It was also a solemn rite of consecration, as will afterwards be more fully explained. But I interpret Christ's laying hands on the sick, as meaning simply, that he recommended them to the Father, and thus obtained for them grace and deliverance from their diseases.

Matthew 8:17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet. This prediction has the appearance of being inappropriate, and even of being tortured into a meaning which it does not bear: for Isaiah does not there speak of miracles, but of the death of Christ, -- and not of temporal benefits, but of spiritual and eternal grace. Now, what is undoubtedly spoken about the impurities of the soul, Matthew applies to bodily diseases. The solution is not difficult, if the reader will only observe, that the Evangelist states not merely the benefit conferred by Christ on those sick persons, but the purpose for which he healed their diseases. They experienced in their bodies the grace of Christ, but we must look at the design: for it would be idle to confine our view to a transitory advantage, as if the Son of God were a physician of bodies. What then? He gave sight to the blind, in order to show that he is "the light of the world," (John 8:12.) He restored life to the dead, to prove that he is "the resurrection and the life," (John 11:25.) Similar observations might be made as to those who were lame, or had palsy. Following out this analogy, let us connect those benefits, which Christ bestowed on men in the flesh, with the design which is stated to us by Matthew, that he was sent by the Father, to relieve us from all evils and miseries.

Mark 1:34. He did not permit the devils to speak. There might be two reasons why he did not permit them: a general reason, because the time of the full revelation was not yet come; and a special reason, which we hinted at a little ago, that he refused to have, as heralds and witnesses of his divinity, those whose praise could have no other effect than to soil and injure his character. This latter reason is undoubtedly true: for he must have known, that the prince of death, and his agents, are in a state of irreconcileable enmity with the Author of eternal salvation and life.

Matthew 8:18 And when Jesus had seen great multitudes about him. Matthew, I have no doubt, touches briefly what the others explain in a more ample and copious narrative. The other two state a circumstance, which is not noticed by Matthew that Christ withdrew privately, for the sake of retirement, into a desert place, before it was daylight. Mark afterwards says, that Peter informed him, all seek, thee; and Luke says, that multitudes came to that place. Again, Matthew says, that he passed over to the other side, while the other two say, that he passed through all Galilee, to preach in every place. But the other side, or, the farther bank, (to peran,) does not, I think, denote what was strictly the opposite side, but refers to that curvature of the lake, which was below Capernaum. In this way, he crossed over to another part of the lake, and yet did not go out of Galilee.

Mark1:38. For on this account I came out. Luke 4:43. For on this account am I sent. These words deserve our attention: for they contain a declaration of his earnest desire to fulfill his office. But it will perhaps be asked, is it better that the ministers of the Gospel should run here and there, to give only a slight and partial taste of it in each place, or that they should remain, and instruct perfectly the hearers whom they have once obtained? I reply. The design of Christ, which is here mentioned, was agreeable to the injunction and call of the Father, and was founded on the best reasons. For it was necessary that Christ should travel, within a short period, throughout Judea, to awaken the minds of men, on all sides, as if by the sound of a trumpet, to hear the Gospel. But on this subject we must treat more fully under another passage.


[347] "Les sergens de Dieu;" -- "God's bailiffs."

And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
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.
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.
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.
And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
John Calvin's Commentaries
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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