And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Verses 1-13. - THE TEMPTATION. The consecration of our Lord in his baptism was immediately followed by what is known as his temptation. It is, perhaps, the most mysterious and least understood of any of the scenes of the public ministry related by the evangelists. It is related at some length by SS. Matthew and Luke, with very slight difference of detail, the principal one being the order in which the three great temptations occurred. In St. Mark the notice of this strange episode in the life is very short, but harmonizes perfectly with the longer accounts of SS. Matthew and Luke. St John omits it altogether; first, because, with the earlier written Gospels before him, he was aware that the Church of his Master already possessed ample details of the occurrence; and secondly, the story and lessons of the temptation did not enter into the plan which St. John had before him when he composed his history of his Lord's teaching. What, now, was the temptation? Did the evil one appear to Jesus actually in a bodily form? Did his feet really press some elevation, such as the summit of snowy Hermon, or the still more inaccessible peak of Ararat? and did the far-reaching prospect of sea and land, mountain and valley, bathed in the noonday glory of an Eastern sun, represent to him the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them? Did be in very truth stand on the summit of the great temple-roof, and from that dizzy height gaze on the crowds below, crawling like ants across the sacred court, or toiling along the Jerusalem streets? So generally thought the ancients, and so it would appear, on first thoughts, from St. Matthew's account, where we read (Matthew 4:3), "The tempter came to him.;" and the vivid realistic imagery of St. Mark (Mark 1:12, 13) would rather help us to the same conclusion. Some expositors and students of the Word have imagined - for it comes to little more - that the devil manifested himself to Jesus under the guise of an angel of light; others prove supposed the tempter came to him as a wayfaring man; others, as a priest, as one of the Sanhedrin council. But on further consideration all this seems highly improbable. No appearance of the devil, or of any evil angel, is ever related in the Bible records. The mountain whence the view of the world's kingdoms was obtained after all is fanciful, and any realistic interpretation is thoroughly unsatisfactory and improbable. The greater of the modern scholars of different countries - the Germans Olshausen and Neander, the Dutch Van Oosterzee, the Frenchman Pressense, the Swiss Godet, Farrar and Plumptre in our own land - reject altogether the idea of a presence of the tempter visible to the eye of sense. The whole transaction lay in the spiritual region of the life of Christ, but on that account it was not the less real and true. Nor is it by any means a solitary experience, this living, beholding, listening, and even speaking in the Spirit, narrated by the evangelist in this place as a circumstance in the Lord's life. Centuries before, Ezekiel, when in his exile by the banks of Chebar in Chaldea, was lifted up and borne by the Spirit to far-distant Jerusalem, that he might see the secret sins done in the temple of the Lord (Ezekiel 8:3). Isaiah again, in the year that King Uzziah died, saw the Lord on his throne, surrounded by seraphim; in this vision the prophet speaks, and hears the Lord speak, and a burning coal from off the altar is laid on his mouth (Isaiah 6:1-11). To pass over the several visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others, in which the transactions lay altogether in the spiritual region of their lives, we would instance from the New Testament St. Paul's account of himself caught up into paradise, "whether in the body or out of the body" he could not tell (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). And still more to the point, St. John's words prefacing his Revelation, how he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," when he heard the voice behind him, and saw his glorified Master. On that day and in that hour he heard and saw what he relates in his twenty-two chapters of the Revelation. In language very slightly different, the temptation of the blessed Son of God is related by the evangelists, when they preface the history of the event with the words, "Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost... was led by the Spirit into the wilderness" (see, too, Matthew 4:1). We conclude, then, with some confidence, that the devil did not appear to Jesus in a bodily form, but that, in a higher sphere than that of matter, the Redeemer met and encountered - with the result we know so well - that spiritual being of superhuman but yet of limited power, who tempts men to evil, and accuses them before the throne of God when they have yielded to the temptation. "We believe" - to use Godet's words here - "that had he been observed by any spectator whilst the temptation was going on, he would have appeared all through it motionless upon the soil of the desert. But though the conflict did not pass out of the spiritual sphere, it was none the less real, and the value of the victory was none the less incalculable and decisive." Verse 1. - And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness; more accurately translated, in the Spirit. The question of the nature of the temptation has been discussed in the above note. The words, "full of the Holy Ghost," and "was led by the Spirit," lead us irresistibly to the conclusion that the Lord, during this strange solemn time - like Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, and, later, Paul and John the beloved apostle - was especially under the influence of the Holy Spirit; that his eyes were open to see visions and sights not usually visible to mortal eye; and that his ears were unlocked to hear voices not audible to ordinary mortal ears. Tradition has fixed upon a hill district bordering on the road which leads up from Jericho to Jerusalem, as the scene of the temptation. The hill itself, from being the supposed spot where the Lord spent these forty days, is named Quarantania. The rocks in this neighborhood contain many caves.
Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
Verse 2. - Being forty days tempted of the devil. For some reason unknown to us, the number forty seems to possess some mystic significance. Moses was forty days alone with the Divine Presence on Horeb. Elijah fasted forty days in the wilderness before the vision and the voice came to him. Forty years was the period, too, of the wanderings of the chosen people. The existence of an evil power has been a favorite subject of discussion in those schools of thought who more or less question the authoritative teaching of the canonical books of the two Testaments. Keim, quoted by Godet, well and fairly sums up the present state of opinion of the more moderate and thoughtful schools of free-thought: "We regard the question of an existence of an evil power as altogether an open question for science." Those, however, who recognize the Gospel narratives as the faithful expression of Jesus Christ's teaching, must accept the repeated declarations of the Master that an evil being of superhuman power does exist, and has a great, though a limited, influence over the thoughts and works of men. Whatever men may feel with regard to the famous clause in the Lord's Prayer, which the Revisers of the Authorized Version render, "deliver us from the evil one," they must agree at least with the conclusion of the Revisers, that, in the Christian Church, a large majority of the ancients understood the Master's words in his great prayer as asking deliverance, not from "evil" in the abstract, as the English Authorized Version seems to prefer, but deliverance from the power of some mighty evil being. And in those days he did eat nothing. In this state of ecstasy, when the body was completely subordinate to the Spirit, the ordinary bodily wants seem to have been suspended. There is no difficulty in accepting this supposition, if the signification of the words, "in the Spirit," above suggested, be adopted. The whole transaction belongs to the miraculous. We, who receive as God's Word these Gospel narratives, find no difficulty in recognizing God's power to suspend, when he pleases, what men regard as fixed natural laws. We believe, too, that on certain occasions in the world's history it has pleased him to put this power into operation. He afterward hungered. Although still in the Spirit, in order to provide a field for the exercise of the peculiar typical temptation about to be dwelt upon, some of the bodily functions, which during the trance or the ecstasy had been temporarily suspended, were allowed again to play their usual part in the life, as in the ease Of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and John.
And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
Verse 3. - And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. It has been quaintly said of the tempter "that he had sped so successfully to his own mind by a temptation about a matter of eating with the first Adam, that he practiced the old manner of his trading with the second." These diabolical promptings have been spoken of already in this Commentary as "typical." They represent, indeed, some of the principal temptations to which different classes of men and women in all ages are subject; the hard task of bread-winning, after all, suggests very many of the evil thoughts and imaginings to which men are subject, though, perhaps, they suspect it not. Weakened and exhausted by long abstinence from food, the temptation to supply his wants by this easy means at once was great. Still, had he consented to the tempter's suggestion, Jesus was aware that he would have broken the conditions of that human existence to which, in his deep love for us fallen beings, he had voluntarily consented and submitted himself. Should he, then, use his miraculous power for his own advantage? Then, re-membering his own late experience, the long fast from all human food, and yet life enduring through it all; calling to mind the miraculous supply of manna in the old desert days, the preservation of Elijah's life through a similar fast, - Jesus, all faint and weary, exclaims in reply, "Man shall not live by bread alone."
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.
Verse 5. - And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. This temptation was something more than "offering to One who had lived as a village carpenter the throne of the world." It appealed to his ambition certainly, but in Jesus' case it was a high, pure, sinless ambition. This much he certainly knew already, that he was destined to rule over men from pole to pole. It was for him a righteous longing, this desire to have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as his possession. No false ambition was this in Jesus, this desire to realize the glorious Messianic hope. Again, how typical a temptation! All ranks and orders are often soon tempted here. A noble end as they think, and in the beauty of the goal they forget that the road leading to it is paved with evil and wrong.
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.
Verse 7. - If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. Dr. Morrison, on Matthew 4:9, has well caught the thought here. The arch-tempter "as it were said to Jesus, 'I am indeed the prince and god of this world. Its kingdoms and their glory are at my disposal. I could at once open up thy way to the highest honors that a universal conqueror and a universal sovereign could desire. I could gather at once around thee a host of devoted Jewish troops; I could pave their way for victory after victory, until at no distant period the whole Roman empire, and indeed the whole world, should be subject to thy sway. Only abandon the wild chimera of putting down sin and making all men fanatical and holy; fall in with my way of things; let the morals of the world alone, more especially its morals in reference to God; work with me and under me, and all will go well. But if thou refuse this offer, look out for determined opposition, for incessant persecution, for the most miserable poverty, and for every species of woe.'"
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.
Verse 8. - Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus repelled the offer with stern indignation. He would receive the splendid inheritance which he felt was his at no other hands than his Father's; he would win all and more than the tempter offered him, but it would be by a slow and painful process - by self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-surrender; the glorious consummation would only be attained at the end of a long vista of centuries. The words, "Get thee behind me, Satan," do not occur in the older manuscripts containing St. Luke's Gospel. These are evidently a later addition from the parallel passage in St. Matthew.
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:
Verse 9. - And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple. In St. Matthew Jerusalem is here called "the holy city," a name still preserved in the East, where it is still termed El-Khuds, the holy. Pinnacle; literally, "wing" of the temple. "Pinnacle" comes from the Vulgate translation, pinnaculum. The part of the great building evidently referred to here was that magnificent southern wing of the Lord's house constructed by Herod the Great, which was known as the royal portico. Josephus calls it the most remarkable building under the sun ('Ant.,' 15:11. 5). One who stood on the roof of this portion of the temple would look from a dizzy height into the Valley of the Kidron. Such a spectator, writes Josephus ('Ant.,' 2:05), "would be giddy while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth." To this spot, "whether in the body or out of the body" we cannot tell, Jesus was taken by the evil spirit. "Now," said his tempter, "if you really are what you seem to think, cast thyself down. You know what is written in the Divine writing, how the Eternal would give his angels charge concerning thee, they were to bear thee up, 'lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.' If thou art he of whom all this is written, there will be no risk. You are sure that you are the Son of God: try this once, and see. If you triumphantly come out of this trial, all men will recognize you, and your reign as Messiah will commence forthwith." This temptation was of a more subtle nature than the other two. It appeals again to all ranks of men, and warns them of the sore danger of selfishly courting danger. The angels will ever watch over us with a tender care when, to accomplish a duty or to perform an act of self-denying love, we confront peril; not so when we presumptuously and for our own ends rush into danger.
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.
Verse 12. - And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. It is remarkable that in these crowning instances of temptation, which no doubt were originally recounted by the Lord himself to the inner circle of the disciples, and from them passed into the regular course of instruction adopted by the Christian teachers of the first days, the Redeemer, in each of his three answers to the devil, uses words taken from two chapters (the sixth and eighth) of Deuteronomy. It has been suggested that the thoughts and expressions of this book were fresh in the mind of the tempted Christ, as he had probably, specially during his sojourn in the wilderness, used for his own study and meditation a book which told the story of Israel's wanderings in the desert for forty years. It seems, however, more likely that the Lord simply chose to frame his answers from a book with which every Israelite from his earliest yearn had been acquainted. The maxims and precepts of Deuteronomy were used in the education of every Hebrew child. Its devout and beautiful maxims were written on the phylacteries or frontiers which so many pious Jews were in the habit of wearing.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
Verse 13. - And when the devil had ended all the temptation.
"Thou Spirit, who ledd'st this glorious eremite
Into the desert, his victorious field,
Against the spiritual foe, and brought'st him thence
By proof the undoubted Son of God."
(Milton.) St. Matthew closes the story of the "victorious field" by telling us how, when every hellish suggestion had been made and repelled, the wearied and exhausted Jesus was visited and refreshed by the visible ministry of angels. The words of the Greek original translated "all the temptation" would be more accurately rendered by "every kind of temptation." The three great temptations, related by two of the evangelists in detail, are very varied and comprehensive in character, and appeal to most of the human passions and desires; but from the words with which St. Luke began his recital, "being forty days tempted of the devil," it is clear that Jesus was incessantly tempted the whole time by hellish whispers and suggestions, perhaps of the same kind, though with varied details, as the three we have recorded for us. Besides the uses of the temptation mystery in the development of the humanity of the blessed Son of God, the great scene has its deep lessons for all sorts and conditions of men in all times. Some eminent expositors would seem to wish to limit the area of the teaching of the temptation, and to regard it as mainly an experience preserved for the guidance of the disciples of the Master. They - so say these scholars - were, from this scene in the life of the great Teacher, to learn never to use their miraculous power for their personal advantage (first temptation); never to associate with wicked men for the attainment of good ends (second temptation); never to perform a miracle in an ostentatious spirit (third temptation). All this was doubtless contained in the Lord's story of his awful experience, and the lesson was never forgotten by the twelve and their own immediate followers. But the instruction was not meant to be confined to the little circle of his own; it was, like the whole of the gospel teaching, intended for all sorts and conditions of men. The common everyday lesson which every child may read in this story of his Master's trial, is that from the plain appointed path of duty, which very often too is the path of suffering, no persuasion however skillfully worded, no sophistry however plausible, must be sufficient to turn him. He departed from him for a season; more accurately, till a convenient season. It is evident that all through the two years and a half of the public ministry, which succeeded the events just recorded, Jesus was exposed to the various trials and temptations to which suffering mortal flesh is exposed. So Bonaventura, in his 'Life of Christ,' says, "Many other were the occasions on which he endured temptation." Still there is no doubt but that the "convenient season" here pointedly alluded to referred to that other great epoch of temptation just before the cross, when our Lord prayed in the agony of the garden at the close of his earthly work. There the tempter tried if great suffering was not able to conquer that Sinless One.
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.
Verses 14-30. - THE PREACHING OF JESUS AT NAZARETH, AND ITS RESULT. Verse 14. - And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. Between the events of the temptation and the preaching at Nazareth here related, some considerable time had intervened. St. John, in his Gospel, gives a somewhat detailed account of this period which St. Luke omits. Shortly after the temptation, took place the concluding incidents in the Baptist's career, which St. Luke summarized in his brief statement (Luke 3:19, 20), when he tells us of the arrest and imprisonment of the fearless preacher by the Tetrarch Herod. St. John tells how the Sanhedrin sent some special envoys to the Baptist, asking him formally who he really was. After this questioning, John in his Gospel mentions the calling of Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathanael, and then records the first miracle of Jesus at Cana in Galilee, and how the Lord visited Capernaum. He then proceeds to relate some of the circumstances which took place at the Passover at Jerusalem, and how the Lord drove out the men who profaned his Father's house. He writes down, too, the particulars of Nicodemus the Pharisee's visit to Jesus by night. The Master then proceeded, as is here related by St. Luke, "in the power of the Spirit," who descended on him formally at his baptism, into Galilee, and on his journey thither tarried at Samaria, resting on the well there, and talking with the woman in those memorable words recorded by St. John at length in his fourth chapter (vers. 4-42). Rapidly the report of what he had done at Cana, the fame of his marvellous words at Jerusalem, Samaria, and other places, spread through all the central districts of the Holy Land.
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
Verse 15. - And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. His miracles, his words touching and eloquent, perhaps too a dim memory of marvels which had happened years before at his birth, shed round the new Teacher a halo of glory. It was only when, instead of the Messianic hopes of conquest and power which they cherished, a life of brave self-denial and quiet generosity was preached, that the reaction against him set in. The men of Nazareth, with their violent antagonism, which we are about to consider, were only, after all, a few months in advance of the rest of the nation in their rejection of the Messiah.
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.
Verse 16. - And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day. This had been for years his practice in the little synagogue of the village where was his carpenter's shop. Children at the age of five years were admitted into the synagogue, and at thirteen attendance there was part of the legal life of the Jew. These synagogues were the regular places for religious gatherings every sabbath day, and also usually on Mondays and Tuesdays, besides on other special occasions. We hear of them after the return from the Captivity, and probably they existed long before. Some think that in Psalm 74:8 there is a reference to them. And stood up for to read. The holy books were always read standing. The ruler or elder presided over and directed the synagogue service. The priest and Levite had no recognized position in the synagogue. Their functions were confined to the temple and to the duties prescribed in the Law. It was not unusual for the synagogue officials, if any stranger was present who was known to be competent, to ask him to read and to expound a passage in the Law or Prophets. Our Lord was well known in Nazareth, and of late had evidently gained a great reputation as a preacher. It was, therefore, most natural that he should be asked to take a prominent part in the sabbath services.
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,
Verse 17. - And there was delivered unto him the Book of the Prophet Esaias. In the sabbath service there were two lessons read. The first was always taken from the Pentateuch (the Law). The five books of Moses were written on parchment, (usually) between two rollers, and the day's lesson was left unrolled for the reader's convenience. The Prophets were on single rollers, no special portion being left open. It has been suggested that the great and famous Messianic passage read by our Lord was the lesson for the day. This is quite uncertain; indeed, it is more probable that Jesus, when the roll of Isaiah was handed to him by the ruler of the synagogue, specially selected the section containing this passage.
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,
Verse 18. - The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. St. Luke here quotes, with a few important variations, from the LXX. of Isaiah 61:1, 2. The clause, "to set at liberty them that are bruised," does not occur the present text of Isaiah. The bright, comforting words of the great prophet the Lord chose as giving a general summary of what he designed to carry out in his ministry. It could be no undesigned coincidence that the opening words of the passage contain a singularly clear mention of the three Persons of the blessed Trinity - the Spirit, the Father, and the Anointed (Messiah). Because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, etc. The common interpretation referred this passage to the state of the people on the return from the Captivity. Nothing, however, that the people had yet experienced in any way satisfied the brilliant picture painted in the great prophecy. A remnant certainly had returned several centuries back from their distant exile, but the large majority of the chosen people were scattered abroad; their own land was crushed under what seemed a hopeless servitude; poverty, ignorance, universal discontent, reigned alike in Jerusalem, garrisoned with Roman legionaries, and in the most distant of the poor upland villages of Galilee. Only could deliverance come and a golden age of prosperity return with the promised Messiah. This was the interpretation which the choicest spirits in Israel applied to the great Isaiah prophecy read that sabbath day in the little synagogue of Nazareth. This was the meaning which Jesus at once gave to it, only he startled his hearers by telling them that in him they saw the promised long-looked-for Deliverer. We only possess, it is evident, the very barest abstract of the words of the Teacher Jesus on this occasion. They must have been singularly eloquent, winning, and powerful to have extorted the wonder and admiration alluded to in the twenty-second verse.
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.
Verse 20. - And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. This was the usual position adopted by a Jewish preacher. The chair of the preacher was placed near the spot where the lesson was read. These synagogues were built with the end pointed towards Jerusalem, in which direction the Jew ever loved to turn as he prayed (Daniel 6:10). The men sat on one side of the building, the women on the other. There was always at the end of the chamber an ark of wood, a memory of the sacred ark of the covenant, which once, with its golden mercy-seat, hallowed now and again with the presence of the visible glory, was the chief treasure of the temple ca Mount Zion. In the "ark" were kept the Law (the five books of Moses) and the rolls of the prophets.
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?
Verse 22. - And they said, Is not this Joseph's Son? Quickly the preacher caught the mind and feeling of his audience. Surprise and admiration soon gave place to a spirit of unbelief. Is not this who speaks to us such words, bright and eloquent with hope, often with a ring of sure triumph and certain victory in them - is it not the young Carpenter we have known so long in our village?
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.
Verse 23. - Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself. "There is something interesting in our finding this proverb in the Gospel of the beloved physician. May we think of him as hearing the proverb casually, tracking out its application, and so coming on this history? It was, probably, so far as is known, a common Jewish proverb; but there is no trace of it in Greek writers, and it was therefore likely to attract his notice" (Dean Plumptre). Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. Now, up to this time in Jesus' public career no miracles are recorded as having been done in Capernaum. After the miracle at Cana we know that the Lord resided for some time in Capernaum (John 2:12); the miracles to which these men of Nazarath alluded were no doubt worked then. 'The memory of these early miracles, as Godet well observes, would have been effaced by more remarkable later events, as that at Cana would have been had not John, who required it in the plan of his Gospel, rescued it from oblivion. The Jews of Nazareth, after the first moment of surprise and admiration at Jesus' words, evidently looked at him with scorn and unbelief. That poor Carpenter their glorious expected Messiah! As for the marvellous deeds reported to have been done in Capernaum, they did not believe in them; at least why did he not here, in the neighborhood of his own home, something of the same kind? If they could see with their eyes marvels worked by him, then perhaps they might accept him as Messiah.
And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
Verse 24. - And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But instead of gratifying their curiosity and supplying them with some more empty arguments why they should not listen to his words, the Lord quietly quotes a proverb well known to all people - Farrar calls it a curious psychological fact - the quoting prefaced by the solemn "verily." The Master was evidently looking far beyond the little prejudices of Nazareth. "His own country" meant far more than the narrow circuit bounded by the Nazareth hills. The Speaker was thinking of all the chosen people - of the Jews, who as a nation he knew too well would not accept him. But if Israel would have none of him, he would reign in the hearts of that unnumbered multitude who peopled the isles of the Gentiles.
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;
Verses 25-27. - 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. In support of these assertions, Jesus proceeds to quote two well known incidents in the story of Israel. They must remember God's mercies in past times were not confined to Israel. There were many starving widows among the chosen people, not a few childless, desolate hearths; but their own great Elijah was sent to none of these, but to a despised Phoenician woman in Sarepta, hard by Sidon. Elisha, that loved man of God, who passed by the homes of the people continually, performed his famous miracle of healing on no child of Israel, though many a leper mourned his sad lot among the chosen people; but the one on whom Elisha worked his mighty miracle of mercy was the Syrian leper Naaman, the great foe of Israel.
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,
Verse 28. - And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. The Jews in the synagogue quickly caught the Master's meaning. Thoughts such as "Thou our Messiah, who talkest of Gentile, Syrian, and Zidonian in the same breath with us the chosen and elect of God, who hintest at the possibility of the accursed Gentile sharing in our promised blessings!" flashed through their minds, and as one man the congregation rose, and, seizing the Preacher, dragged him out of the synagogue, and hurried him through the little town to one of the rocky precipices close by.
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.
Verse 29. - And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. The place now shown as the scene of the act of violence of the fanatics of Nazareth, known as the Mount of Precipitation, is some two miles from the town. It must be remembered that this happened on a sabbath day; this would therefore be beyond the limits of a sabbath day's journey. There is, however, close to Nazareth a cliff about forty feet high.
But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
Verse 30. - But he passing through the midst of them went his way. Not necessarily a miracle. There is nothing hinted here that our Lord rendered himself invisible, or that he smote his enemies with a temporary blindness. He probably quietly overawed these angry men with his calm self-possession, so that they forbore their cruel purpose, and thus he passed through their midst, and left Nazareth - as far as we know - forever. The foregoing is probably the same visit very briefly alluded to by St. Matthew (Matthew 13:54-58) and by St. Mark (Mark 6:1-6), in both Gospels related in unchronological order. Most likely they were aware of the incident, but ignorant of the exact place it held among the early events of the Master's life. St. Luke, who gives it with far greater detail, inserts it evidently in its right place. Is it not at least probable that St. Luke derived his accurate knowledge of this Nazareth incident from Mary, or from some of her intimate circle, from whom he procured the information which he embodied in the earlier chapters of his Gospel? She, and others of her friends, would be likely to have preserved some accurate memories of this painful visit of Jesus to his old home.
And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
Verses 31-44. - AT CAPERNAUM. Verse 31. - And came down to Capernaum. Capernaum was the real home of the Master during the two years and a half of his public ministry. He chose this flourishing lakecity partly because his kinsmen and first disciples lived in it or its immediate neighborhood, but more especially on account of its situation. It has been termed the very center of the manufacturing district of Palestine; it lay on the high-road which led from Damascus and the Syrian cities to Tyro, Sidon, and Jerusalem. "It was, in fact, on 'the way of the sea' (Isaiah 9:1), the great caravan-road which led (from the East) to the Mediterranean. It was hence peculiarly fitted to be the center of a far-reaching ministry, of which even Gentiles would hear" (Farrar). The evangelist speaks of "coming down" to the shore of the lake, in contrast with Nazareth, which was placed in the hills. We do not meet with the name Capernaum in the Old Testament; it therefore appears not to have been a city belonging to remote antiquity. Its name is generally interpreted as being compounded of two words, signifying "town of consolations," בפר גחים - a beautiful and significant derivation. It may, however, originally have taken its name from the Prophet Nahum. Josephus, the historian, tells us. the name originally belonged to a fountain. He dwells also on the mildness of the climate; it would therefore seem as though, in the first place, Capernaum was used as a health resort, and then its admirable situation favored its adoption as a convenient center. The extensive ruins of Tel-Hum, on the lake-shore, are generally believed to be the remains of the once rich and populous Capernaum. And taught them on the sabbath days.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
Verse 32. - And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. We have here again a picture which gives a general summary of Jesus' life extending over a considerable period. This is the fifth of these pictures of St. Luke. It represents the Master dwelling quietly at Capernaum, in the midst of his disciples, teaching and preaching; on the sabbath days gathering a considerable concourse drawn from the people at large, and generally surprising the listeners with his earnestness, freshness, and ability, which carried conviction into many a heart, Gentile as well as Jew. Although this period of the life of Jesus was signalized by many miracles, it does not seem that his ordinary preaching and teaching needed any such supernatural testimony to enable it to win its way. St. Luke especially tells us it was with power, and that the crowds heard it amazed and astonished. St. Matthew gives us (Matthew 7:29) one reason, which helps us to understand something of this success which attended his teaching. It was "not as the scribes." In the Talmud we have many a fair specimen of the sacred instruction of the "schools" in the time of our Lord. Frivolous minutiae, hair-splitting of texts, weary repetition of the sayings of the men of old, questions connected with the exact keeping of the sabbath, with the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, a singular lack of all dealing with the weightier matters of the Law - justice, judgment, truth - were among the characteristics of the scribes' popular instruction. The practical heart-searching words of Jesus were in strong contrast with the curious but useless themes dwelt on by the official teachers of the day. It was with the thirty-first verse of this chapter that the great Gnostic heretic, Marcion (second century) began his Gospel, which, in the early days of Christianity, had a vast circulation. Marcion, while preferring St. Luke's Gospel, as emanating from St. Paul, before putting it out as the authoritative history to be used by his numerous followers, cut out the earlier chapters of our Gospel, which bore on the birth and infancy of the Lord, commencing here - prefixing, however, a note of time, thus: "In the fifteenth year of the government of Tiberius, Jesus went down" (Marcioh probably intended it to be understood from heaven) "into the town of Galilee named Capernaum."
And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
Verse 33. - And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil. After the general picture of Jesus' life and work in Capenaum, St. Luke proceeds to give a detailed account of the way in which one sabbath day was spent, no doubt intending us to understand it as a specimen of the ordinary sabbath-day work of the Master. We meet with here, for the first time in our Gospel, one of those unhappy persons described as either "having a spirit of an unclean devil," or as "possessed with a devil" or "devils," or in similar terms, generally signifying "demoniacs," men or women - apparently a class by themselves, directly under the influence of some evil spirit. Who, now, were these unhappy beings with whom Jesus in his ministry of mercy seems often to have come in contact? Many of these "demoniacs" mentioned in the Gospels would nowadays certainly be classed under the ordinary category of the "sick." They seem to have been simply afflicted with disease of one kind or other; for instance, the epileptic child mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 9:39), or dumbness again (Matthew 9:32), blindness (Matthew 12:22), and insanity, among other instances, are ascribed to demoniac agency. Are we, then, simply to regard these cases, not as exceptional displays of diabolical power, but as instances of sickness and disease which still exist among us? and to suppose that our Lord, in speaking of devils possessing these sick ones, accommodated himself to the popular belief, and spoke of these afflicted persons in the way men were able to understand? for it is disputable that Judaism in the days of Jesus of Nazareth ascribed to "demons," or "devils," much of the suffering and woe with which men are afflicted under the common name of disease. The Talmud, which well represents the Jewish teaching of that time, has endless allusions to evil spirits, or devils, who were permitted to work evil and mischief on the bodies and even on the souls of men. Josephus, the contemporary historian, narrates that a lamb grew at Machaerus, the wool of which had the power of expelling devils; and he toils how he was the eye-witness of the cure of a man possessed of a devil by means of a ring containing a root which had similar properties; this, he says, took place in the presence of the Emperor Vespasian ('Ant.,' 8:02, 5; 'Bell. Jud.,' 7:06, 3). Many believed that these demons, or devils, were the souls of the wicked who returned to earth after death, and sought a new home for themselves in the bodies of the living. This popular belief in demoniacal agency is mentioned by Justin Martyr ('Apol.,' 1.), and even seems to have lingered in some parts as late as Chrysostom. But such a theory - which represents Jesus in his miraculous cures accommodating himself to popular belief, and speaking of the sufferers as possessed by devils which really had no existence save in imagination - is not only quite foreign to the transparently truthful character of all the Master's words and works, but is perfectly incompatible with the narratives given us by the evangelists of the cures in question. In these, in several instances, the devils are not only spoken to, but they speak themselves - they answer questions, they even prefer requests. Jesus, too, gives his own power to cast out devils (Luke 9:1), and to tread on all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). He even, in St. Mark (Mark 9:29), is represented as distinguishing a special class of devils over whom a mastery could be obtained alone through prayer and fasting. Evidently the Holy Spirit, who guided the writers of those memoirs of the apostles we call the Gospels, intended that a marked distinction should be impressed upon the readers of the apostolic memoirs as existing between ordinary maladies of the flesh and those terrible and various scourges which the presence of devils inflicted upon those hapless beings in whose bodies, for some mysterious reason, they had been permitted to take up their habitation. The whole question is fraught with difficulties. Dean Plumptre suggests that perhaps we possess not the data for an absolutely certain and exhaustive answer. It seems, on the whole - while not denying the possible presence of these evil spirits at different times of the world's history occupying the bodies and distracting the souls of men - best to assume that these devils possessed special and peculiar power over men at that period when Jesus walked among us. By this means, as Godet well says, Jesus could be proclaimed externally and visibly as the Conqueror of the enemy of men (and of his legions of evil messengers). That period, when the Lord taught among us, was a time when, it is generally conceded, moral and social evil had reached its highest point of development. Since that age the power of these unhappy spirits of evil has been, if not destroyed, at least restrained by the influence - greater, perhaps, than men choose to acknowledge - of the Master's religion or by the direct command of the Master himself.
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.
Verse 34. - Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? This man, with his evil spirit, would have been looked on as unclean, and would not have been admitted within the synagogue walls; he had probably crept in unseen. Something in the nearness to the holy Teacher we know compelled the demon to cry aloud. It is strange, this presence of God causing pain. It is the impossibility of the wounded eye bearing light. The cry rendered, "Let us alone," is scarcely the imperative of ἐάω, but an interjection, possibly the Greek reproduction of the Hebrew אֲהָהּ, ah! woe! There was evidently some deeper degree of misery possible for the unhappy spirit; hence its "Art thou come to destroy us?" The same dread appears in the case of the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:7; Matthew 8:29), where the spirits dreaded being driven into the deep, where such spirits await the judgment, that abyss, literally, "the bottomless place;" any doom seemed to these lost ones preferable to that. 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.
Verse 35. - And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace. Jesus at once indignantly refuses this homage. He never allowed devils to proclaim they knew him. There is something very awful in the thought that to this whole class of created beings he is ever pillions. In his dealings with these we never are allowed to catch sight of one ray of the Redeemer's tender pitiful love.
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.
Verse 37. - And the fame of him went out; more accurately rendered, and there went out a rumor concerning him.
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.
Verse 38. - And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. This abrupt mention of Peter (Simon) for the first time, without any explanatory notice, tells us that when St. Luke wrote his Gospel Peter was well known and honored in all the Churches. The Lord's choice of one who was already married, the subsequent favor showed to him, the high position evidently accorded to him in the Church of the first days, is a perpetual protest against the exaggerated asceticism which later was so earnestly taught in ecclesiastical Christianity. The epithet "great," applied to the fever, was a well-known technical term; it was used by Galen of fevers. There are several expressions in this Gospel which remind us that the author was a trained physician.
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.
Verse 40. - Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. The healing of the "possessed" in the synagogue that morning, followed by the cure of the fever of Simon's wife's mother, we know was rapidly noised abroad, and in great measure accoutered for the crowds who brought their sick to him in the evening. It was evidently in the life of Jesus a notable occasion, and many a sick tortured one had occasion to bless the Master's presence then. It was so memorable an occasion that all the three evangelists notice it; their reports are recorded in almost the same words. No doubt, in the early days of the preaching of the faith, this evening's work was constantly alluded to by the first teachers. The note of time, "when the sun was setting," indicates that the moment in question had been waited for, for sunset ended the sabbath, and then those outside Capernaum and in its outlying suburbs were enabled to bring their sick and afflicted without infringing the strict sabbath rules. "The twilight scene, of Jesus moving about with word and touch of healing among the sick and suffering, the raving and tortured crowd (Matthew 4:24), is one of the most striking in the Gospels, and St. Matthew quotes it as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4" (Farrar).
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.
Verse 41. - Thou art Christ the Son of God. The older authorities omit "Christ," and read simply, "Thou art the Son of God." For they knew that he was Christ; better rendered, that he was the Christ, or Messiah. After the Crucifixion, but not till then, "Christ" became a proper name. It was before simply a title, signifying "the Messiah," "the Anointed One." These words of the evil spirits do not seem to have been prompted by any design, as some have supposed, to excite the people either for or against the fresh Teacher; they are simply a cry of involuntary adoration. They knew who that poor Carpenter-Rabbi was; they had seen him in his Divine glory!
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.
Verse 42. - And when it was day, he parted and went into a desert place. For solitude, meditation, and prayer. The night, or at least most of it, must have been spent in these blessed works of mercy. It was very early in the deep, dark dawn that the Redeemer was up again seeking fresh strength from his Father. St. Mark tells us when he left the house "it was still very dark."
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.