Luke 4
Luke 4 Kingcomments Bible Studies

Tempted by the Devil

The Lord is baptized. The Holy Spirit, by Whom He was conceived and Who is always fully present in Him, has descended on Him as a sign that He can begin His service. Before He begins His service, He is led around by the Spirit, with Whom the Father, God, has sealed Him, in the wilderness (Jn 6:27). He is the true Son Who is led by the Spirit of sonship. He is not only led to the wilderness, but He is also, when He is in the wilderness, led around in the wilderness. The initiative of the temptations comes from the Spirit Who brings the Lord to the area where it should happen.

The Spirit does this to show us what the Man is according to God’s thoughts and to be an example to us. The Lord is not tempted as the eternal Son, but as the Son of God Who is Man. Therefore He can be an example for us. The goal is to undergo the temptations under which Adam failed. Adam was tempted and failed, being in the most ideal circumstances. The Lord endures the temptations in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, not in those in which Adam was. By withstanding the temptations He has bound the strong man, the devil, and can begin His service work of delivering people from the power of the devil (Mk 3:27).

Luke does not give the temptations in historical order (as Matthew does), but in a moral order, i.e. an order according to the content of the temptations. This order corresponds to the order of the elements of the world as given by John in his first letter: “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1Jn 2:16). The Lord is first tempted in view of His physical needs, then in view of the glory of the world, and finally the devil has a spiritual temptation for Him by proposing to Him to claim His right as Messiah. The first temptation is aimed at the lust of the flesh, the second at the lust of the eyes, the third at the pride of life. The temptations of the devil concern the whole Man, His body, soul and spirit (cf. 1Thes 5:23, where the order is the other way around).

All these temptations have the effect on the Lord that His perfection shines all the more. He can say that the devil in Him finds no connecting point for sin (Jn 14:30). We cannot say that, but we can still stand like Him when temptations come our way. Victory is not achieved by thinking we are above it, but by following the example of the Lord in using the Word of God.

The Word of God should always be the normal guideline for the direction of our life in all our circumstances. That means we only act if it’s God will and we act in trust in Him. That is true obedience and dependency. That is how the Lord acts. What can the devil do with a Man Who never goes outside the will of God, and for Whom God’s will is the only motive to act?

The Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days. The three that are recorded for us are his last and most severe temptations. Here the devil does everything in his power to bring the Lord to an action that is independent of a command from His God. How weak has He become when He has eaten nothing for forty days? This is the choicest moment for the devil to come with his last temptations. Moses did not eat and drink forty days either, but he was alone with God all this time, without the devil having access to it (Exo 24:18; Deu 9:9; 18). The Lord was of course with God all this time, but He was exposed to all the temptations of the devil.

First Temptation

The devil introduces the first of his last three temptations with the words “if You are the Son of God”. He challenges the Lord to prove this, as it were, and to do so by making bread out of the stone. The devil acknowledges the power of the Lord’s word that He only has to say it to the stone, and the stone will change into bread. And did He not have an enormous hunger? Then it’s best to use your power to provide for that, isn’t it? Later He would several times satisfy a large crowd with just a few loaves.

It is not about whether He can or cannot do it, but whether the Father wants it. This first temptation is related to the physical need for food that is also Christ’s need. He is true Man and needs bread for His body. To be hungry is not a sin and also to eat to satisfy the hunger is not a sin.

As said, He has the power to make bread from this stone. Also the use of His power is not sin. But if He were to use that power for His own benefit and eat now, at the devil’s insistence, He would sin. He would then eat, without a command from His Father. If He had eaten, He would have been guided by His physical need instead of His Father. He would have asserted His own will instead of being dependent on God’s will.

How perfectly does He answer the devil with a quotation from God’s Word (Deu 8:3). The Lord does not say to the devil: “I am God, and you are the devil, go away.” This would not have been to the glory of God, nor would it have helped us. He takes the place that we also have. Like Him, we can only resist the temptations of the devil and chase him away by quoting the Word of God.

His answer to this first temptation shows that he takes the place before God that suits man, that is, the place of complete dependence on God. The natural life of man depends on eating bread. The spiritual life of man depends on accepting and obeying the Word of God. He listens every morning to what God has to say (Isa 50:4) and that determines what He does and speaks and where He goes; therein He finds His strength.

Many believers live from stones instead of bread. They also set a bad example for their children. If the Word is not our daily food, we should not expect our children to ask for it.

The Lord Jesus quotes something from the book of Deuteronomy every time. In that book the people have finished their wilderness journey and the promised land lies ahead of them. In that book God tells the people how He took care of them in the wilderness, what He wanted to teach them in the wilderness, and what wonderful blessings await them after the wilderness. God wants to shape their hearts through everything He says in this book so that they will all focus on Him alone.

He wishes to have a nation of sons with whom He can speak about what concerns His heart. And a son is for the good pleasure of God. We see this perfectly in the Son, but God also wants to see it in all His children. This requires that our life will be formed by the Word of God and that we live by it, and that we do not let our life be determined by physical needs, as if that’s all that matters.

Second Temptation

For his second temptation the devil leads him “up”. From this high place he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. As if He is not omnipresent! But He is here Man and submits Himself to this temptation. We also see here the power of the devil who is able to show in a flash all ruling powers and the glory that goes with them. By the way, He can only exercise this power if Christ gives him the opportunity to do so.

The great temptation is that the devil offers Him all the power over all kingdoms and all the glory that comes with it to take them without having to suffer. How attractive that offer must have been for Someone Who is extremely weakened! The devil does not boast when he says that those kingdoms have been handed over to him. This has been the case since man gave him control over his life at the Fall. When he says he gives them to whomever he wishes, it is deception. In a limited sense it is so (cf. Rev 13:4), but in absolute terms it is a lie. For God is the supreme Ruler (Dan 4:25; Rom 13:1). He appoints kings and deposes them. However, the Lord does not dispute either of them.

The devil wants to give Him those kingdoms, but he asks for something in return. The devil never gives anything away without asking a price. That price is always: honor for himself. The devilish trick of his proposal is that if the Lord Jesus had done this and if He had taken those kingdoms for Himself in this way, He would have been in the power of the devil at the same time, and the devil would really have had all dominion. What the devil gives, he has not lost. He who accepts anything from him, sells his soul to him.

To answer this second temptation, the Lord Jesus again quotes something from the Word of God and again from the book of Deuteronomy. The devil has suggested that He should worship him, but the Word of God states that all worship and service must be for God alone (Deu 6:13; Deu 10:20). Through this answer, the Lord shows that the only thing that matters to Him is complete surrender to God. He also shows that in that light worldly power and majesty in themselves mean nothing to Him.

Worship of God is the highest calling of a man. God the Father wishes worshipers, for them He seeks (Jn 4:23-24). The book of Deuteronomy also deals specifically with a place of worship where God wants to meet His people as sons, so that they worship Him. Sons say “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5-6). Knowing and enjoying that relationship makes all the glory of the world fade away.

Third Temptation

For his third attempt to bring down the Lord Jesus, the devil leads him to the temple in Jerusalem. He lets himself be taken to the pinnacle of the temple. The devil proposes Him to throw Himself down. Again he precedes this proposal with the challenging words “if You are the Son of God”. He says: ‘If you really are, prove it.’

To reinforce his temptation, the devil now quotes something from God’s Word himself. He says that if the Lord is indeed the Son of God, He can throw himself down, for He then may rely on the protective support of the angels of God (Psa 91:11). Is not He the object of the worship of the angels? If He would go into this, He would also gain the fame of the people on the temple square. They would certainly accept Him as the Messiah.

This temptation is in reality a temptation to self-exaltation in the things God has given. But with the Lord Jesus there is no seeking of Himself. He knows the Word too. He knows that the same psalm speaks of dwelling in the shelter of the Most High (Psa 91:1). That is the place He occupies, and so there is no thought with Him of tempting God. It is not necessary for Him to test God to see if what He has said is true.

In addition, the devil is always selective in his quotations from the Bible. The devil knows the Bible well. He quotes from it (Psa 91:11). We can be sure, however, that he always distorts verses or only partly quotes them when he quotes something from the Bible. Here he deliberately omits the words “to guard you in all your ways”. The devil does not speak of “your ways”, that are the ways of the Lord, Yahweh, for the Lord Jesus goes His way in obedience to Him.

The nature of the third temptation is to make Him doubt the faithfulness of God. It is a test if God will do what He said in His Word. In the answer He gives, which again comes from Scripture and again from the book of Deuteronomy, His complete trust in God appears (Deu 6:16). Israel has tested God at Rafidim (Exo 17:1; 7). They did want to know whether God was with them or not, although the evidence had proved so abundant. The Lord withstands the temptation with the verse from Scripture that warns against tempting the Lord His God. We offend God if we don’t trust Him on His Word, no matter how the circumstances may seem to indicate that God cannot be trusted.

Continue in the Power of the Spirit

With these three temptations the devil has finished all his temptations. He can think of nothing more in which he could tempt the Lord still more. If the master tempter leaves, it means that he is the loser. Not that he ever admits it, but a powerful defeat has been inflicted on him. He knows that in this Man he has met his Superior. But he comes back, for he leaves Him only until an opportune time. The devil knows he is the loser, but he never gives up.

While the devil has left Him, the Lord continues in the power of the Spirit. The same Spirit Who led Him around in the wilderness and through the temptations of the devil now leads Him to begin His public service. He has lost none of the power of the Spirit in the temptations. He gloriously appears as the Victor to now begin His service work of grace among men. Such a life, so perfect to the glory of God, cannot go unnoticed. All the surrounding district speaks about Him.

Wherever He goes, He teaches “in their synagogues”, the places where the Jews come together to listen to the explanation of the law. Whenever the Lord teaches or preaches, it is to present God. The synagogue is ideally suited for this purpose and is therefore the first area of His service. He wants to teach to form people into His image so that they resemble Him and serve God in His example.

In what He teaches and does, the grace of God becomes visible. This grace becomes visible in two ways. We read about the riches of God’s grace (Eph 1:7) in connection with the forgiveness that God grants to a sinner. We also read about the glory of God’s grace (Eph 1:6), which goes a step further than the riches of God’s grace. The glory of God’s grace becomes visible when God makes the sinner a son whom He lifts up to His heart. This teaching of grace that comes from His mouth (Lk 4:22) gives Him the praise of all who hear Him.

The Scripture of Isaiah Fulfilled

The Lord comes again in Nazareth. That is the place where He has been brought up. This also included going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was accustomed to that. He still acts according to this good habit. He goes to the synagogue and stands up to read. He wants to teach those present, as always, from God’s Word.

Whether He asked for it is not mentioned, but the book of the prophet Isaiah is handed to Him. In any case, He has led it this way, for He wanted that book because there is something in it about which He wants to teach those present. It is all described in human terms, that He “found the place where it was written”, as if He had to search for it. He is God Who had let this passage written down Himself – like the whole book of Isaiah and the whole Word of God – but Luke presents Him as Man. That is also striking here.

He goes all the way to chapter 61 of the book, because that chapter describes the beautiful service He is about to perform in grace. From that chapter He reads out the first two verses (Isa 61:1-2). In the first words He reads, we see the trinity of God again. There it is about the Spirit, about the Lord, that is Yahweh, God, and about ‘Me’, that is He Himself, Christ.

God anointed Christ with His Holy Spirit. We saw this at His baptism in the Jordan (Lk 3:22). Anointing has to do with the preparation for a certain service. In the Old Testament, kings, priests and sometimes prophets were anointed for the service they were to perform. The Lord Jesus is all three. He is the true King, the true Priest and the true Prophet. His anointing means His special equipment for His service as King, as Priest and as Prophet.

Then He reads that He was anointed by God with the Spirit to “preach the gospel to the poor”. That is His first task. The poor are those who are aware of their misery and call upon God for help. Luke speaks of “poor” where Isaiah speaks of “afflicted”. The afflicted is someone who has been overwhelmed by suffering and has therefore became small. He is broken and shattered by suffering. He is also broken in his inner being by the awareness of his sins. This creates the feeling of poverty where only God can offer help. He does this by sending Christ with “the gospel” for such poor in spirit. Gospel means “good news”. In Isaiah is written “good news” (Isa 61:1).

The “captives” to whom the Lord comes to preach release are those who are bound by chains of sin and the devil. Many are bound by the religiosity of the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees. Therefore they are also “blind” and cannot see the true purposes of God Who always has in mind blessing for His people. They are also the “oppressed”, oppressed by the heavy burdens of sins and also by the heavy yoke that religious leaders impose on them. The Lord comes to set free those who feel this oppression and are therefore wounded in the heart.

He is sent to proclaim “the favorable year of the Lord [Yahweh]”. The “year” does not represent a specific date, but a period. This period lasts as long as He preaches the gospel to Israel, which is approximately three and a half years. Ultimately, this means the year in which everything promised by God to Israel and lost to them by their unfaithfulness will be returned to them. That will be the true year of jubilee with exuberant joy about this pleasure, a ‘year’ that will last thousand years. With this thought the Lord stops reading the quote from Isaiah.

What follows in the prophecy of Isaiah, is about the deliverance of Israel by the judgment that in revenge will be exercised on the enemies of the people. In the first place He has not come to exercise revenge. Secondly, He does not announce any promises of future deliverance, for He Himself is through His presence the fulfillment of the promises.

The Lord Jesus reads from the Word of God while standing. Respect for the Word has made Him stand. When He has read, He gives the book back to the attendant and sits down again. The way of reading out and the part read out have made a deep impression. No one is sleeping or stares bored to the ceiling. The eyes of all are fixed on Him. This is also a wonderful attitude for the church when she comes together around Him.

Then He begins to speak. He will explain the read words. Luke only passes on the core of it to us. The essence is that what He has just read out and what they have heard read out is fulfilled in their ears. It has yet to be accepted with their heart. In view of the part read and His explanation of it, the conclusion is simple: He applies this part just read to Himself. It presents Him as the One on Whom the Spirit is and Who does what is prophesied. In this way in Him the fullness of the grace of God is revealed to man.

Words of Grace Not Accepted

All speak well of Him, all speak about Him, He is the subject of their conversation. What they have heard is so completely different from what they always hear. They are familiar with the voice of the law. Now they hear something that has never been spoken in such a way before. They hear Someone speaking words of grace. That they acknowledge, they taste something of the riches of grace. Yet in Him they see no more than an ordinary person. They know Him as the Son of Joseph. How is it possible that this simple Man they saw growing up could speak such words?

Unfortunately, they are blind to the fact that He is God in the fullness of His Person. Only faith sees here the dependent Man Who is full of the Holy Spirit and acts and speaks in the power of the Spirit and abounds with grace for people. In order to possess that faith, it is necessary to first see oneself as one who is poor in spirit who needs the gospel and then to appeal to it as one who is blind and captivated and oppressed.

This is how the people of Nazareth do not see themselves, and so they are wondering about these words of grace. It is not the wondering of a believer, but the wondering that comes from unbelief, in the sense that it cannot be possible for such a Person to speak such words. They stumble over Him because He is only a mere carpenter’s son to them. The words of grace are wasted on them. Israel is totally unprepared for grace. They are God’s chosen people, aren’t they? But Luke puts everything and everyone on the basis of grace. Only through grace blessing is possible, both for God’s people and for the Gentiles.

The Lord knows that they are impressed by the words of grace He has spoken, but that their hearts and consciences are not convinced. The cause is that they are looking for wonders. They have heard of things He did in Capernaum. They want Him to do such things with them as well. They want to see signs and wonders. He knows their hearts and knows what they will say to Him. He knows that they will challenge Him to stand up for himself (cf. Lk 23:39; Mt 27:40). They want Him to prove Himself by doing wonders and signs.

Wonders and signs, however, are never a goal in themselves, but are always a side issue. They support and guide the preaching to confirm it as a word that truly comes from God. He comes to bring the Word of God, and they will not accept it from Him Whom they think they know so well. The Lord thus shares in the common fate that all prophets have undergone. In the places where they should be best known, they are the least valued. In the rejection of all previous prophets He is already rejected. Now He Himself comes to His people and in His creation, but He is not known nor accepted. He came to preach the Lord’s “favorable” year, but He is not “favored” (the same word) in His father town. If He is not “favored”, there can be no “favorable year” from the Lord.

Grace for the Gentiles

The Lord illustrates God’s grace with two examples from their own Scriptures. In these cases it concerns sinners from the Gentiles who are receivers of grace. Through these examples, the true mind of their hearts becomes manifest. The first example of grace comes from the days of Elijah, and it comes from the time of three and a half years of drought which He indicates with the words that “the sky was shut up for three years and six months”, meaning that there was no rain (1Kgs 17:1; 7). God withheld His blessing from His people. He did so because of the prayer of Elijah (Jam 5:17). Elijah prayed this prayer because the people had deviated so far from the LORD and he longed that the people would return to Him. Sometimes this requires drastic means.

It is not for nothing that the Lord Jesus remembers that time. Also now, the people have deviated far from God. Would they see the parallel and be open to grace now? When there was a period of great drought, Elijah was not sent to any one of the people of Israel. But outside the land there was a woman, a widow, who was open to God. Elijah was sent to her (1Kgs 17:9). Now God is sending His Son to all the people. Will they accept Him?

The Lord brings forward another example of grace, from the time of the prophet Elisha. Then there were many lepers in Israel, but no one turned to God to be cleansed. Following the testimony of a girl, a heathen leper called upon God’s grace in the prophet Elisha (2Kgs 5:1-14). And he was cleansed. Now God is sending His Son to all the people to cleanse them from the leprosy of their sins. Will they accept Him?

The reaction of all those who have just been wondering about the words of grace is shocking. When He has given His examples of shown grace to the Gentiles, they are all filled with rage. Grace for the Gentiles is for them an impossibility, an utterly reprehensible thought. This is never possible. It makes it clear that they do not want to be dependent on grace. We always see this reaction in a religious, not born again human being: not accept grace himself and begrudge it to others.

Explanatory words of grace are good, but as soon as they notice that grace requires no other condition but the acknowledgment of the unworthiness of the recipient, they become furious. They think He says good things, but He should not think that they are standing at the bottom of grace. As if they are not better than the despised Gentiles! On this first occasion when grace is offered, it is definitely rejected. And not only rejected. They want to murder Him Who is the Bringer of grace. They throw Him out of the city and lead Him to the brow of the hill to throw Him down the cliff.

The Lord lets Himself be thrown out of the city and He lets Himself be carried away to the brow of the hill. Then He reveals in a perfectly meek way His Divine power and majesty. His service work must continue. Without any visible display of power He turns around. All let Him go and move aside. In complete peace He goes between them and departs. What a glory in Him! What a drama for Nazareth! Nowhere in the Gospels do we read that the Lord has been there again. It seems that He has left that city forever.

Healing of a Demon-Possessed

The Lord goes down even further. First He went down from Jerusalem to Nazareth (Lk 2:51). Now he goes down from Nazareth to Capernaum. He Who has come from the highest height, visits the lowest place. By His presence Capernaum is exalted to heaven, but without the inhabitants benefiting spiritually (Mt 11:23).

He teaches the inhabitants of that city on the Sabbath. There too is amazement about His teachings because He speaks with authority. He is always out to speak the Word. The Word, not a wonder, forms the connection between the heart and God. That is the weapon with which He beats the enemy. A wonder cannot establish this connection, because the Word is directed to faith, while a wonder is done as a sign for unbelief.

God brings forth faith through the Word, just as He also gives food through the Word. This proves the immeasurable value of the Word of God. And when that Word is spoken through Christ, it is spoken with authority. All those who hear it are amazed. That is what people always are when we preach the Word with authority. It is not a word from men, but it is God’s living and powerful Word, that performs its work in those who believe (1Thes 2:13). People can reject it, even deny its power, but that does not take away anything of the power of the Word.

We should not be surprised that people are wondering about the Lord and His teaching. In the synagogue the Word of God was brought in a very different way. It was brought by leaders who denied its power and only brought it in view of their own honor and in order to influence the people. This makes the synagogue a dead place, where people with an unclean spirit can be present undisturbed.

As soon as the Lord Jesus comes there, the demon cannot remain hidden and he reveals himself. The demon tells Who He is, something the people are blind to. The Lord however does not accept testimony of demons. He silences the demon and on His word of power the demon leaves his victim. Although the demon makes a final attempt at damaging his victim according to the nature of his corrupt being, he goes out without harming him.

All who witness this are filled with amazement. Before, there was wonder about the grace of His words (Lk 4:22), now there is amazement about their authority and power. They speak not so much about the exorcism, but about His word. What they have seen is the effect of His word. They see Someone Who speaks in a way that a person is delivered from the power of the devil.

The words and deeds of the Lord go through the whole environment like a wildfire. These are words and works they have never seen before. The Son of God makes it clear that He came to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn 3:8).

Healing of Peter’s Mother-In-Law

After His teaching and healing in the synagogue, the Lord leaves the synagogue. His next field of activity is the house of His disciple Simon Peter. Simon has his mother-in-law in his home. It must have been nice for his wife that her mother was with her. As a fisherman Peter was often gone and soon he will leave his wife for a long time because he will follow the Lord Jesus. Now his mother-in-law is seriously ill. She suffers from a high fever. But there is the Lord, and those who are in the home ask Him to help her. They bring their need to Him. This is a good example for us that we may always come to the Lord with our concerns about others, including the illnesses of our family members.

The Lord responds directly to their request. He takes place over her and He rebukes the fever. The fever obeys as if it were a person and leaves the sick person. Here too He overcomes by the power of His word. She is immediately healed and able to wait on them.

Fever is a disease that makes a person very active and that also costs a lot of energy, without any result from that activity and energy. It robs strength and does not yield anything. Fever causes confusion, the feverish one is unable to think well. When the fever has disappeared, there is peace and also strength and insight to do the right thing. Healing always aims to serve the Lord and His own. That’s what Simon Peter’s mother-in-law does.

Other Healings

The power of God and the fullness of grace unfold wonderfully in the midst of much misery. All kinds of diseases and misery are brought to the Lord and all suffering find deliverance. Thus grace becomes visible in countless examples, for the essence of grace is that it flows out, without the question of whether someone deserves it or not. The Lord does not only physically deliver from diseases. He also delivers many from demons. The whole power of the enemy, all the sad consequences of sin, both for the body and for the mind, disappear before Him. He lays His hands on the sick. He never does that with demon-possessed people. He delivers them by the power of His word.

The demons bear witness of Him that He is the Son of God. But He absolutely does not want testimony from demons. Therefore, He rebukes them and forbids them to speak of Him as the Christ. Demons may be forced to acknowledge the truth about Christ, but they will never deny their character as deceivers toward humans. Demons only speak truth if they are forced to do so by God. However, their character remains that of the father of lies in whom there is no truth (Jn 8:44).

Preaching to Other Cities

After a day full of activity that lasted into the night, the Lord goes out at the dawn of the day. He seeks solitude. He needs to be alone with His God. That time is not granted to Him. The crowds are so impressed by His wonders and words of grace that they search for Him. They want to stop Him, for He must stay with them. That is a good desire. However, the motives are not good, because it is only about the advantage He brings. The Lord does not let Himself be deceived into staying with them. He does not seek honor for Himself, but wants to accomplish His work.

There are so many other cities He hasn’t been to yet. He also has for them the joyful good news of “the kingdom of God”. He must go there, for God has sent Him there. God’s plan is to establish a kingdom in which the Son of Man will reign. That kingdom is called “the kingdom of God” because it belongs to God. The King Who will govern it is Christ Who is here on earth in humiliation, subjected to God, to form subjects for that kingdom. He does so, before the kingdom is established in glory, as if He Himself is a subject in it, which He is not.

When He has explained His decision that there are other cities He must go to, He continues to preach. He wants to bring God’s Word to the people. He does so in the appropriate places, the synagogues.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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