Jesus overcomes Satan. Jesus begins his ministry. The Spirit of the Lord is upon him. He is rejected at Nazareth. They try to throw him off a cliff, but he walks away. He goes to Capernaum and delivers a man with an unclean spirit. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law and many others. The people try to keep him from leaving, but he says he must preach the good news of the kingdom elsewhere.
As I say in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. It is not better than the published ones. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are offered for further study.
Satan Tempts Jesus (Luke 4:1-13)
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was being led by the Spirit into the desert 2 for forty days to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing for those days, and when they were completed, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread!” 4 And Jesus replied to him, “It is written, ‘Humankind shall not live by bread alone’” [Deut. 8:3].
5 After he led him up to a high mountain, he showed him every kingdom of the world at one moment, 6 and the devil said to him, “I shall give you all this authority and their glory because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I will! 7 Therefore if you bow down before me, everything shall be yours!” 8 In reply, Jesus said to him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve only him’” [Deut. 6:13].
9 He led him into Jerusalem and stood him on the summit of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here! 10 For it is written that ‘I shall command my angels concerning you, to protect you,’ [Ps. 91:11] 11 and that ‘they shall lift you up in their hand, and you shall not strike your foot against the stone!’” [Ps. 91:12]. 12 In reply, Jesus said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God’” [Deut. 6:16].
13 Completing his temptation, the devil departed from him until the right time.
Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God; the temptation is about what kind of Son he is. Submissive to God or self-promoting and self-aggrandizing? A magical-Son or a Spirit-filled Son? Grasping for the kingdoms of the world or allowing God to give him all authority after the cross (Matt. 28:18)? “He chooses radical obedience to God, knowing that this obedience will lead him to the cross (9:22; 17:25; 24:7, 6; Acts 17:3; see 14:22)” (Garland, comment on 4:9-10).
Jesus had just been water baptized, and the Spirit in the appearance like a dove came upon him. He was full of the Spirit. This verse sets the stage for the rest of the chapter and his entire ministry. Don’t read past it as “of course” or “to be expected” without absorbing what this means.
“full”: this is one of several of Luke’s favorite words for the infilling of the Spirit. “Luke uses the passive form of the verb ‘to fill’ … to describe persons filled with the Spirit (e.g. John, Elizabeth, and Zechariah; see also Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 13:9), but he never uses it for Jesus. Luke tells us that in Jesus’ baptism the Spirit came upon him (3:22), and the adjectival phrase ‘full … of the Holy Spirit’ suggests that he is not ‘seized by an external power’ but appears as the bearer of the Spirit and is anointed by the Spirit. Other characters are described in Acts as full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24), and all are given special tasks to fulfill. In Jesus’ case, it means that the Spirit directs his actions and that he is empowered ‘to carry out his divinely appointed task’ (Garland, comment on 4:1a, and quoting another scholar at the end).
Let’s not overlook the biblical truth that the Spirit led him out into the wilderness—a literal, physical wilderness or desert for forty days, to fast. The Spirit did this. Jesus slept out under the stars, probably under rocky outcrops. He stayed in the shade of a rock when the sun was at its most intense. He was in prayer. He knew his ministry just launched, so he needed to be alone. What was he praying to his Father in heaven? He had doubts just before he died (Luke 22:39-44). Did he have doubts just before his public ministry because he foreknew where he would end up—on the cross? Or did he just have to transition with difficulty from his obscurity to publicity?
How has the Spirit led you into your own wilderness, just right for you?
“As God led his people in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2, 15), so the Spirit, as God’s presence, leads Jesus. The ‘wilderness’ evokes the image of ‘the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions (Deut. 8:15), rather than some idyllic retreat’” (Garland, comment on 4:1b-2a).
Luke linked both Jesus’ being equipped by God and his encounter with the devil as the result of the Spirit’s having come upon him. The conflict was not initiated by the devil but by the Spirit. Thus Jesus was not portrayed as passively being dragged out by the Evil One to endure temptation, for the initiator of this event was not the devil but God. The picture is that of the Anointed of the Lord on the offensive and led by the Spirit to confront the devil. (comment on 4:1)
Theologically, the Spirit is more than an “It.” He is a person. Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology):
No doubt the Spirit was taking orders from the Father, because the Father wanted to test and even allow his Son to be tempted. It also brings up an issue, because God can never be tempted (or even tested in a human sense) (Jas. 1:13). So if Jesus is God in the flesh, how can he be tempted. Yes, he is God in the flesh, but he is also 100% man, true man. It was his human nature that was tempted. Why did God want his Son to be tempted? To relate to our own weakness:
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb. 2:17-18, ESV)
Yet he passed the testing and temptation without sinning.
There was a purpose of being led out into the wilderness-desert: to be tempted by the devil.
“tempted”: It comes from the verb peirazō (pronounced pay-rah-zoh), and it can mean both “tempted” and “tested” in the right context. Here are the nuanced meanings and their verses: “try, attempt” (Acts. 9:26; 16:7; 24:6); “try, make trial of, put to the test” (Matt. 16:1; 22:18, 35; Mark 10:2; John 6:6; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 2:18; 11:17; Rev. 2:2; 3:10); make trial of God, which is not a good idea (Acts 5:9; 15:10; 1 Cor. 10:9; Heb. 3:9); “tempt, entice to sin (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 3:5; Jas. 1:13; Rev. 2:10). The context determines the nuanced meanings. Jas. 1:13-14 says God does not tempt people because he cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone in that way. But God will allow us to go through testing and even to be tempted by the devil, as God allowed for his Son. Will we pass the test / temptation as Jesus did? James writes: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial [noun of peirazō] because having stood the test [different word]; that person will receive a crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (Jas. 1:12, NIV). Will we receive this crown for standing up during our time of trial? The way to pass the temptation and trial is to love the Lord and know Scripture.
After he fasted for forty days, he got hungry. Then the devil tempted him. For some reason I had thought he tempted Jesus throughout the forty days in the desert (the movies). No. The devil tempted him after his forty days of fasting; Matthew agrees (4:1-11). And so it is reasonable to conclude that the most effective way to resist satanic temptation is to be full of the Spirit and to do spiritual disciplines. No, not legalism, but spiritual disciplines are an effective way to crucify the sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and beat down the body, as Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do (1 Cor. 9:24-27). One discipline is to read Scripture regularly. Another is to limit worldly input, like turning off the TV once in a while. Two other disciplines: regular private prayer and worship and regular public prayer and worship—fellowship, in other words. A really important way to fight the devil, as seen by Jesus’s struggle and victory over Satan, is to know Scripture. It helps sort out the mental battle. It has been truly said that the mind is the battlefield. And if you don’t have God’s thoughts, then you cannot sort out his thoughts from your own or the devil’s awful ideas.
There are different kinds of fasts, like fasting from social media or TV or from coffee and snacks and rich foods. Or it can be total. I have known people who fasted forty days without food. They came through all right. Let the Spirit lead and monitor your soul’s health, strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be foolish.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
Temptation: To provoke you to do evil, in order to ruin and sideline you
Testing: To find out what is in your character, in order to improve and grow you up
When you are tempted and fall, however, God can restore you.
Satan tempted Jesus by doubting his God-given identity: “If you are the Son of God.”
“Since you are the Son of God ….” Satan is tempting Jesus to discredit his sonship; the Father allowed the Spirit to lead him to be tested to accredit him. Satan may not have doubted Jesus sonship in principle, but he is tempting him to selfishly use his sonship status.
The devil was challenging God’s public announcement at Jesus’ baptism and his identity. He was the Son of God and his Father loved and delighted in and accepted him. Will Jesus misuse his sonship?
Don’t let the devil tempt you off of your God-given identity. If you were born a boy, you are a boy. If you were born a girl, you are a girl. God’s plan is opposite-sex attraction, not same-sex attraction. Now let’s go long-range. He calls you his son and daughter (John 1:12-13). That is now your new identity in Christ.
The devil tempted him at his weakest point after a forty-day fast—hunger. The lesson: the devil will tempt you at your weakest point: chemical dependency, sex, and other personal vices like anger and unforgiveness. Follow those spiritual disciplines, know Scripture, and be full of the Spirit.
Jesus presents a life-lesson for us all. Scripture has power to sustain you. I was severely attacked and tempted back in the old days, especially during my graduate school days and afterwards. After a series of dreams, I learned that Satan was the source of the attacks. Of course I was an intellectual, so I did not follow Christ’s simple counterattack. He used Scripture. I didn’t. He hid it in his heart and mind. I forgot what I had memorized. He quoted it. I did not, back then. Too intellectual. Finally, after years went by, I relearned Eph. 6:16. Now here’s my daily prayer based on it: “I pray over my mind a shield of faith that quenches the fiery arrows of the enemy.” It works! You don’t have to rebuke Satan himself or a demon every moment of every day, though you may have to do this once in a while if you have identified the evil spirit attacking you. Rather, just focus on Scripture and let it renew your mind. Jesus held these Scriptures deeply in his heart and quoted them. So should I and you.
“humankind”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only men. However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person or humankind, depending on the context. In Luke 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male. However, in most other contexts, “person” or “people” or “men and women” or “humankind” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say, such as the NASB or ESV.
The devil led him up to a high mountain, though the phrase “a high mountain” is implied, just based on the Greek “led him up.” Matt. 4:8 also says “high mountain.” I believe God allowed Satan to show all of the kingdoms of the inhabited world in some sort of vision or in a panorama outside of his mind. After all, the verse says all the kingdoms “in one moment.” However, does this mean Jesus’s mind was polluted, so that he sinned? No. The vision was not part of his mind, but he saw it. In his human nature, he had no sin nature, due to his heavenly Father through his power and the Spirit ordaining his conception to be supernatural. Just because thoughts cross one’s mind does not mean one is sinful. Jesus had to go through even death, just to identify with us and win the victory over it (Heb. 2:17). Similarly, this moment was an encounter that Jesus had to go through, so he could be tempted in every way we are, yet without sin (Heb. 2:18). He won.
This passage teaches that Satan rules over the kingdom of the world, yet God’s kingdom is far above Satan’s worldly kingdom. The tension between God’s right to rule and Satan’s right to rule with a limited scale and scope and humankind’s right to rule with a limited scale and scope by using his free will can never be fully resolved until Jesus returns and sweeps aside all earthly kingdoms and eventually throws Satan in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
One hyper-prosperity preacher shouted to the camera and said, “Money, come forth!” (Evidently, he based his shout on Jesus’s prayer for dead Lazarus in John 11:43: “Lazarus, come out!”). And now the hyper-prosperity preacher is richer than his wildest dreams. However, who guarantees that God provided the money for him, particularly when the preacher shouted out of his greed—clearly out of his greed. Who’s to say that Satan didn’t provide him with his riches?
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Tim 6:6-10, NIV)
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
“handed to me”: Some Bible interpreters and theologians teach that Satan was lying. He did not really have authority over all the kingdoms of the world. But I say he did and does. He is the god of this world or age, who is able to blind the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). The whole world is under the sway of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Satan does this all the time in various kingdoms as represented by their leaders. Some kingdoms go so far as to persecute believers in Christ, and this is far beyond being blinded. Satan’s ownership over kingdoms and authorities explains why they have done such evil things, like Germany starting wars and doing the holocaust and Japan attacking peaceful nations for decades before they bombed Pearl Harbor.
God has everything under his ultimate control, even though Satan has his own authority and jurisdiction over the kingdoms of humanity (Acts 26:18). With our limited vision and knowledge, we are unable to draw the line between when God exercises his sovereign control over nations and when humans use their free will and when the devil prompts people overseeing kingdoms. Since we cannot figure out any of this in detail, our mission, instead, is to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Bock: “It is probably best to say that the devil’s offer is a mixture of truth and error. He is pictured as wielding great authority on the earth … He certainly claims such authority in saying he can give these things to whomever he wishes. It is possible that Satan believes the claim, so that the offer should be seen as involving diabolical self-delusion” (p. 376).
In contrast, Stein points out the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God is behind the scenes permitting (but not causing): “‘Has been given’ is a divine passive, i.e., God has placed this world’s kingdoms under the devil’s temporary rule. God is clearly sovereign, but within his permissive will the devil is temporarily given this authority. This statement explains why the next one is true” (“And I can give to anyone I want to”) (comment on v. 6).
My belief is that Satan did have a lot of authority to make the offer, which was not empty. I agree with Stein in general terms.
“bow down”: It is the verb proskuneō (pronounced pros-koo-neh-oh), and it literally means “kiss toward” (kun– means to “fall” or “kneel,” and pros means “towards,” among other things). Further, it can mean, depending on the context, “(fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully.” The Bible shows that people do those things to humans (Matt. 18:26; Acts 10:25; Rev. 3:9); to God (Matt. 4:10; John 4:20, 23; 12:20; Acts 24:11; 1 Cor. 14:25; Heb. 11:21; Rev. 4:10; 14:7; 19:4); to idols (Acts. 7:43); to the devil and Satanic beings (Matt. 4:9; Luke 4:7; Rev. 9:20; 13:4; 14:9, 11); to Christ (Matt. 2:2, 8, 11; 8:2; 9:18: 14:33; 20:20; 15:25; 28:9, 17; Mark 5:6; 15:19; Luke 24:52).
Welcoming people respectfully is appropriate. However, the only appropriate beings to whom worships belongs and is due are God and Christ, not humans or devils or idols.
Don’t do foolish things by getting involved with Satan. You do this by practicing evil magic and casting spells on people and the dark arts. Please see my post on this
Jesus was true God, yes, and he was also true man. What would have happened if Jesus failed this temptation to bow down? Liefeld and Pao write:
Had Jesus accepted the devil’s offer, our salvation would have been impossible. Frist, Jesus would have sinned by giving worship to the devil and thus could not have offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (The same applies to all three temptations.) Second, Scripture teaches that the Messiah should first and only then ‘enter his glory’ (24:26). Third, since the devil tried to prevent Christ’s voluntary death for our sins, the implication of this second temptation was that accepting an immediate kingdom would avoid the cross. (comment on v. 7)
But in the final analysis, this scenario is speculative, because Jesus did not fail; he did not bow down. Now he can accomplish his mission, spelled out in this chapter, by fulfilling Is. 61:1-2, in the synagogue audience’s hearing.
Jesus simply quoted Scripture, which is the best weapon against the devil, because it replaces falsehoods with the truth. Sometimes you have to rebuke Satan, but he likes the attention, so don’t rebuke Satan or demons very often. Just get your mind renewed with Scripture and God’s truths (Rom. 12:1-3). Stay in fellowship with Spirit-filled believers.
Commentator Morris writes: “He had already identified himself with the sinner he had come to save (3:21). That meant the lowly path, not that of earthly glory. It meant the cross, not a crown. To look for earthly sovereignty was to worship wickedness and Jesus decisively renounced it” (comments vv. 5-8).
God and Jesus himself allowed Satan to lead the Son of God to a high place on the temple. (The possible locations for the high place have been identified, and you can google it.) God and Jesus both understood that Jesus had to go through this temptation. It must have been a (deceptive and temporary) delight for Satan to “boss” the Lord around! But before the hero of the story can emerge victorious, he must go through the valley (Ps. 23). Satan’s delight did not last, because Jesus came out of his time of testing victorious.
Once again Satan attacked Jesus’s identity before God. Don’t allow Satan to attack your identity. You are male or female. There is no confusion or blurring the distinctions.
Satan also took the verses out of context. The verses in Psalm 91 have nothing to do with a person deliberately jumping off a tall building and “trusting” God. Some 300+ individuals have thrown themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge, and about a dozen survived. On the way down, the survivors regretted it. “Oh no! What did I just do?” “I shouldn’t have done that!” “I won’t see my family again!” Don’t allow the devil to lie to your mind that you are no good and have done too many bad things to keep on living. No. God is perfectly and happily willing to forgive you and help you start a new life, with him in control.
“angels”: let’s not dwell too long here, because Satan is misapplying this section of Scripture. But here are the basics about angel. An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
“test”: it is the verb ekpeirazō (pronounced ehk-pay-rah-zoh), and it is related to the verb peirazō in v. 2. The prefix is difficult for a nonnative speaker in the twenty-first century to decipher. Normally the prefix means “from” or “out of” or “away from.” So what does it mean here? “Test out”? “Test thoroughly”? In any case, the lexicon definition does not make a big deal of the prefix, so neither should we. It says of the whole verb, “put to the test, try, tempt.” Only these verses have this verb form: Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12; 10:25; 1 Cor. 10:9.
Again Jesus spoke God’s truth to the devil. Don’t allow the American (and western) trendiness of leaving the Bible on the shelf to dominate your life. They disrespect the Scriptures. “The Bible has to evolve to fit with the times and our morality!” These Americans and others are wrong. Jesus was right to respect Scripture, as written.
“temptation”: it is the Greek noun peirasmos (pronounced pay-rahss-mohss), and of course it is related to the verb in v. 2. It means, depending on the context, “test, trial” or “temptation, enticement to sin” or “way of tempting.” Here it means “time of temptation to entice to sin.” As noted at v. 2, God does not tempt people to sin (Jas. 1:13-14), but he does test us to see what we are made of in Christ. And this temptation of Jesus shows that God may lead us into a time of satanic temptation. God does not directly tempt, but he does allow Satan or demons to do the tempting. Think of Job who had a hedge built around him, but God allowed Satan to attack. Job was made of the right stuff, because he never cursed God (Job 1-2), though he doubted God’s plan and ways throughout the book. Here in Luke, Jesus passed every temptation the devil threw at him. He was filled with the Spirit and had just finished fasting for forty days. He won. Now what about you and me?
“right time”: the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
Here, however, the devil was not counting the minutes and hours when he could attack again, but waiting for a weakness, like the crucifixion (compare 1 Cor. 2:6-8), or to trip him up by verbal sparring matches (Luke 20:1-8, 20-26), or false accusations about the satanic source of his power (Luke 11:14-26) or about his going to too many parties (Luke 5:29-32) or associating with the wrong people (Luke 7:36-50). He fixed his face like a flint and walked above these low-grade accusations. Satan did not win.
Commentator Joel Green (p. 192) sees these parallels in the story of ancient Israel in the desert and Jesus in his own desert:
- Israel was divinely led in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2); Jesus was led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1);
- forty years (Exod. 16:35; Num. 14:34; Deut. 8:2); forty days (Luke 4:2);
- Israel as God’s son (Exod. 4:22-23); Jesus as God’s Son (Luke 4:3, 9);
- Testing of Jesus is like the testing of Israel; note that the texts Jesus quotes refers to Israel’s testing (Deut. 6-8);
- Israel rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit and disobeyed God (Is. 63:10); Jesus was full of the Spirit (Luke 4:1) and obeyed his Father (Luke 4:1-13).
Garland and another scholar (Jerome Neyrey) see a side-by-side contrast between Jesus and Adam, which I have modified (p. 188):
Jesus obeys God and overcomes; Adam (and later Israel) disobey God and fail.
Jesus resisted temptation to satisfy hunger by abusing his power in the desert; Adam yielded to temptation and ate forbidden fruit in a lush garden.
Jesus did not seek power or kingdoms for himself; Adam was given dominion over the whole world (Gen 1:26-28)
Jesus resisted temptation to jump off a high point and prove his invulnerability; Adam yielded to temptation so that he and his wife would not die.
Jesus tells a repentant sinner that he will share paradise with him (Luke 23:43); Adam lost paradise.
Some have seen parallels with John 2:16:
Satan tempted Jesus with the desires of the flesh (food), the desires of the eyes (kingdoms of the world) and pride of life (boasting that he undying because he survived the jump).
You can make of these three parallels what you will.
Some readers will notice the different sequence between this passage here and in Matt. 4:1-11. The second and third temptations have been switched. One explanation is that Matthew uses the more specific time marker tote (pronounced toh-teh) “then,” while Luke does not have this word. This means that Luke was not going for strict chronology. However, they are still switched. The best answer is that it just does not matter. We get the main point of the two passages: Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness–temptation–and he used Scripture to rebuke Satan–Jesus won.
We must not let our faith be so brittle that it snaps in two when these differences present themselves. It would be foolish to throw out the entire Bible, as some uptight pastors and teachers demand. “If the Bible were to be wrong in one historical detail, then we cannot trust it about God and theology and our faith and practice!” That’s an overreaction. The Bible is not brittle, and nor should your faith be. We could still learn wonderful truths from the Bible about God and his redemptive plan of salvation in Christ and how we can live our lives. The American church of the more restrictive variety needs to relax a lot more.
My view of Scripture: It’s very high, but I don’t believe in “total inerrancy” or “hyper-inerrancy”; I allow for the inspired authors to rearrange the material, without hurting the main meaning.
Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:
The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines:
Celebrate the similarities; don’t obsess over the differences.
See this part in the series that puts differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a contradiction):
GrowApp for Luke 4:1-13
A.. Satan attacked Jesus’s identity of being the Son of God. How has Satan attacked your God-given identity?
B.. Jesus quoted Scripture to defeat the devil. How have you hidden Scripture in your heart? Study James 4:7. How does submission and surrender to God enable you to resist the devil?
C.. Study Eph. 6:10-18, particularly v. 16. What does this passage teach you about fighting the devil?
Success in Galilee (Luke 4:14-15)
14 And so Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him went out through the whole region. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues and was being honored by them.
“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on Miracles, Signs and Wonders.
“news”: it is the noun phēmē (pronounced fah-may) and I think it is related to the Latin fama, which means “talk,” “rumor” or “public opinion” (but I have to look it up further). Here the Greek noun could be translated as “fame” or “renown,” and the context warrants it (v. 15 says the people honored him). It is a good idea to let the context guide a word. But I chose “news.”
Jesus never lost the empowerment of the Spirit when he had to go through his temptation, but Luke mentioned this truth one more time to let his readers know that he was full of the third person of the Trinity. The message is that the miracles and deliverances from demonic oppression he was about to effect was done by the Spirit. Disciples in the Book of Acts can do the same thing (Acts 10:38), and they did. So can we, by the power and infilling of the Spirit.
He had success in Galilee, but in his hometown, he was about to experience a reversal. His hometown guys, the Nazarenes, were about to lose their vision and be irrationally outraged.
For a discussion on how Jesus’s divine nature, his Messianic anointing by the Holy Spirit and the Father’s will interacted to do the mighty works and preach, see Luke 1:35.
The imperfect verb tense “was teaching” indicates what he habitually did (“imperfect” means “incomplete” or “unfinished”). It was his habit and custom to enter their synagogues and teach the people (see v. 31; 6:6).
It is the verb didaskō (pronounced dee-dahs-koh, and our word didactic is related to it). The verb means to instruct or tell or teach (BDAG), some times in a formal setting like a classroom or another confined setting, other times in a casual setting. Here he was in a formal setting, the synagogue. He spoke with authority, unlike the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Luke 4:32; Matt. 7:28-29). This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. It was his habit and custom to enter their synagogues and teach the people (see 4:15). He combined a teaching and healing ministry. His insight into Scripture was profound. This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind after a victory over Satan. Some Renewalists of the fiery variety don’t teach, but evangelize and shriek and freak, after they read one verse or two, and put on a show. How much time do they put in to study the Word? Jesus had a full ministry: teaching, healing, miracles, and deliverances.
The teachers of the law and Pharisees were steeped in traditions and the finer, technical points of the law. We don’t know what he was teaching throughout Galilee at this early time, but I don’t imagine he was talking about how far a man could travel on the Sabbath before he broke it, or how consecrated a man became by denying this or that food. Rather, he surely raised their vision more highly and taught them about God’s ways and plans in their time and to expect the Messiah See vv. 18-19 for a hint as to what he taught. The entire Gospel also gives us hints. He was moving people away from Judaism and towards a New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20). In fact, he predicted the temple, which was the hub of Judaism, would be destroyed because God’s judgment was about to fall on the Israelite establishment in Jerusalem for rejecting the Messiah (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.
“being honored”: this verb could be translated as “being glorified” by the people. But they lived in an honor and shame society, so let’s translate it as “being honored,” in this context. (Please note that shame in this context does not mean the psychological state coming from abuse.)
GrowApp for Luke 4:14-15
A.. Jesus regularly taught in their synagogues. What do you regularly contribute to your fellowship or church, whether teaching or giving money or volunteering to do something else?
Jesus Fulfills a Messianic Scripture (Luke 4:16-21)
16 He came to Nazareth, where he was raised, and according to his custom on the Sabbath day he entered the synagogue and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was given him, and he opened the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me.
He sent me to preach the good news to the poor,
To proclaim release to the captives
And sight to the blind,
To set at liberty the shattered,
19 To proclaim the Lord’s year of favor” [Is. 61:1-2].
20 After he rolled up the scroll and gave it to the attendant, he sat down. Everyone’s eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began to tell them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
I like Liefeld’s and Pao’s summary of 4:14-30: “Even the content of Jesus’ sermon resembles that of the synagogue sermons later in Acts as Jesus focuses on his own identity, the call to evangelize, and the message of forgiveness. Therefore the significance of Luke 4:14-30 should not be limited to the ministry of Jesus; it also serves as a theological introduction to the early Christian movement as recorded in Acts” (p. 103).
Nazareth was not on the Lake of Galilee, and Nathanael said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). The people of this small town may have felt like outcasts in Galilee. This explains why they spoke favorably of him (Luke 4:22). He was raised there. A hometown boy made good.
It was his custom to go into his hometown synagogue. We can have no doubt that Mary, perhaps Joseph, if he had not passed away, and his younger brothers and sisters were there. They are about to hear his bold and seemingly presumptuous claim to an important verse. It is no wonder that later they would claim he was out of his mind and looked for him (Mark 3:21, 31-35; see Luke 8:19-21).
Alternative translation: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives and sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Those verses are Messianic, and when he finished reading it, he said that it was fulfilled in their hearing (literally “ears”). Imagine that! You stand up and read such an important passage and proclaim to the people, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled.” And you imply that no other person will fulfill it!” And later you say, “False Messiahs will come!” (Matt. 24:24). That shuts the door on any other claimant to that title. It must have been marvelous and startling to the listeners because this was real. The Messiah was standing right in front of them.
The Spirit is upon him. This verses echoes Acts 10:38, which says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Spirit and power.” We cannot claim the title Messiah, but we can claim the Spirit’s anointing to do his works on earth.
Jesus stopped the quotation short, because originally it reads in Isaiah, “The day of vengeance.” What does this mean originally? God’s vengeance is not his flying off at the handle and losing his temper. Rather, it is a divinely judicial process by which God judges the oppressors and captors and rescues his people from them. But Jesus stopped to indicate acceptance and favor and welcome without getting entangled with the vengeance theology, a perfectly legitimate aspect of God’s character.
God’s wrath is judicial.
It is not like this:
But like this:
That is a picture of God in judgment.
“sent”: this verb is apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and it is related to the noun apostle, but let’s not overstate things. It means “to send” and is used 132 times in the NT. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, says it means (1) “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away / out” (the disciples are sent out: Matt. 10:5; Mark 3:14; 6:17; Luke 9:2; John 4:38; 17:18). (2) “to dispatch a message, send, have something done.” You can translate it “commission,” if you wish.
See v. 43, below for more comments on his divine mission.
“anointed” it is the verb chriō (pronounced khree-oh) and it is related to Christ. The idea is to anoint or drench with oil on the head, which is the symbol of the Spirit.
“preach the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
“release”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
Here the noun means a literal release or letting captives go free.
“captives”: it comes from the noun aichmalōtos (pronounced eyekh-mah-loh-toss), and it is used only here in the NT. It is related to the even more ancient Greek word for spear. So the Scripture in Isaiah would have brought to the mind of native Greek speakers at the time people standing with their hands up at the tips of spears. People were captured and imprisoned by the spearpoint.
“liberty”: it is again the noun aphesis (set free or released).
Who are some captives who are released? They are shackled by Satan, and Jesus delivers them. The woman bent double was freed from her from Satan’s captivity (13:6; see Acts 10:36-38). Captives are also imprisoned by sin (see 1:77; 3:3), and the chains of iniquity (Acts 8:23) captivate people. The noun “release” is also used primarily to forgive people of sins (1:77; 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18) (Garland, comment on 4:18)
“shattered”: it is the verb thrauō (pronounced thrau-oh, and be sure to pronounce the -au- as ow!), and it is used only here in the NT. It means at its root to be “broken,” so some translations have “set at liberty the brokenhearted.” God intends the restore and heal the shattered. That’s an accurate translation. It speaks to the condition of many people. Most translations go with “oppressed,” and that’s fine too. People are shattered or broken by oppression.
“favor”: it comes from the adjective dektos (pronounced deck-toss), and it can be translated as “acceptable” (Phil. 4:18); “welcome” (Luke 4:24; Acts 10:35); “favorable” (Luke 4:19; 2 Cor. 6:2). Those are the only verses where the adjective is used. (By the way, it is related to the standard verb for “welcome” or “receive” or even “take”: dechomai, pronounced deh-khoh-my). The picture is God opening his arms and welcoming and accepting you and pouring his favor on you.
“year”: it does not mean one-year duration, and then favor shuts off like a dry well. No, it means, now is the year or time to launch the Lord’s welcome, favor and acceptance, and those gifts go on and on.
“favor”: it is the adjective dektos (pronounced dehk-ton) could be translated as “acceptable,” “welcome,” or “favorable.” In other words, the Lord welcomes and accept all oppressed and captured and blind people.
All of this evokes the image of Jubilee, which announces that all our past debts are canceled.
Jesus cut short the quotation so that the day of vengeance on the Gentiles is omitted. “and the day of vengeance of our God” (61:3). This edit is deliberate. God will soon reach out to the Gentiles. God will give his favor to them, when the Gospel of Luke ends and Luke writes his book of Acts (see 1:8, for example).
I like how Luke matter-of-factly describes what Jesus did. I sense Jesus’s courtesy to the synagogue attendant, but also his resolve and firm purpose. Then his application of that verse was startling and spectacular. He applied it to himself! We already talked about how gutsy that was, if you imagine your doing that (vv. 17-19)! No more can we say that Jesus was just a good moral teacher with bright ideas from a bright mind—though he was that, too. We might be able say he was deluded, as his family may have thought (Mark 3:21, 31-35). But the problem is that he showed brilliance and clarity of thought. He was on a mission. The only analogues are the prophets of old who did outlandish things, and this could give us the impression that they were deluded, but God endorsed their behavior. Now, in Luke 4:18-19 God endorsed his Messiah and placed an extra-surge of permanent anointing and the Spirit on him. The anointing in someone else can make ordinary people react negatively, as the Nazarenes are about to do.
“fixed”: it comes from the verb atenizō (pronounced ah-teh-nee-zoh) and also means “stare intently or intensely” or “fix one’s gaze.” Luke is fond of it: Luke 4:20; 22:56; Acts 1:10; 3:4; 3:12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. Then Paul uses it twice: 2 Cor. 3:7, 13.
“began to tell”: this indicates that he explained the Scripture as it applies to him, beyond what Luke recorded. Luke is an elliptical author.
“In your hearing”: it “is a vital component of the fulfillment. Jesus is not speaking in the air but speaking in community (see 1:1)” (Garland, comment on 4:20-21).
“Scripture” gives authority to Jesus pronouncement. Synagogues may not have head every book in the Bible in scrolls, but they had the Torah and Isaiah, and probably Psalms.
GrowApp for Luke 4:16-21
A.. Describe your story of how God set you at liberty from your captivity and oppression and shattered, broken heart.
B.. Has God spoken a “life verse” to you? How has this verse changed and is changing your life?
C.. What does God’s acceptance and favor and welcome look like for you? Do you believe or disbelieve it? On what do you base God’s favor and welcome and acceptance? Your feelings or his Word?
Nazarenes Accept and Then Reject Jesus (Luke 4:22-30)
22 Everyone spoke favorably of him and marveled at the words of grace that came out of his mouth and were saying, “Isn’t this man Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “You will probably tell me this proverb, ‘Doctor, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard happened in Capernaum do also here in your hometown!’” 24 But he said, “I tell you the truth: no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 Truthfully, I tell you that many widows were in the days of Elijah, when heaven was shut for three years and six months, while a severe famine came on all the earth. 26 And Elijah was sent to no one of them except to a widow woman of Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And many with skin diseases were in Israel at the time of Elisha the prophet, and not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. 28 And everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger when they heard these things. 29 They got up and drove him out of the town and led him up to the edge of the hill on which their town had been built, to throw him off. 30 But he passed through the middle of them and left.
“spoke favorably”: the modifier “favorably” is added because of the context. At first they liked their hometown hero. In just a few verses, however, they are about to change their mind radically, as soon as he pokes at their arrogance of being God’s Chosen People.
“words of grace”: for “words,” it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). The grammarians tell us that it just means “gracious words” or “pleasant words.” They are right, but I believe the context is charged with the Spirit’s anointing and power, so I like the translation I chose. But you can choose the other translations, if you like.
“The word ‘grace’ is also used in the sense of ‘power’ in Luke-Acts (cf. Ac 6:8), and the reaction of the audience may therefore be caused by the power of Jesus’ message ….” (comment on v. 22).
Further, here we see that logos is a synonym to rhēma, so let’s not make too big a thing of rhēma. On the other hand, logos should not be seen as individual words strung together like pearls on a string. He was speaking stories and explanations in large chunks. His entire accounts and discourses were gracious and pleasant and full of grace.
As I do in this entire commentary series, let’s explore the noun logos more deeply. It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level.) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Jesus’s words also have Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“Isn’t this man Joseph’s son?”: Are they asking skeptically or wondrously? Skeptically: “What? Really? Isn’t this man merely Joseph’s son? How can the son of a tradesman be so amazing?” Wondrously: “It is marvelous that this man, a son of Joseph, a tradesman, is doing such great things!”
“Doctor, heal yourself”: this means that charity begins at home. Don’t show your charity outside your own household. Do what you did elsewhere right here and now. It looks like he had success in Capernaum, Jesus’s chosen ministry base (Mark 2:1). Green writes of the widespread saying: “In effect, Jesus addresses the parochial vision of his townspeople directly, countering their assumptions that, as Joseph’s son, he will be especially for them a source of God’s favor” (p. 217). That is, do us a favor since you are our hometown boy. Do in Nazareth what you are about to do in Capernaum. Or you can’t benefit others and refuse to benefit us. However, as we see in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6, the Nazarenes do not have it in them to receive his message.
“heal”: see v. 40 for more comments.
The Nazarenes asked for a sign, and God is not a performing animal in a circus. Jesus rejects their request and goes further in his mission. Soon enough God will bless the Gentiles, which began in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8.
Simeon prophesied that Jesus would reveal thoughts in the hearts of many (2:35; see also 5:21), and here Jesus is doing that. The Nazarenes reacted strongly–badly. Maybe the wonderment in v. 22 was really doubt and low-level hostility that here erupted into violent hostility.
“I tell you the truth”: “Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus.
“welcome” the word is dektos (pronounced dehk-toss) ). In Luke 4:19, Jesus said that this was the acceptable (dekton) year (HT: Bock, p. 417). Here in v. 24, as a prophet he was not acceptable to his hometown. God accepts and welcomes people (on their repentance), but people do not welcome or accept God’s Messiah.
Mark 6:1-6 says that he went into his hometown at another time and did a few miracles, but he marveled at their unbelief.
“many with skin diseases” Usually the translation is “lepers”; however, this is a general term for various skin diseases.
“truthfully”: this is slightly different from “truly.” It literally reads, “upon a truth.” It is another way to introduce a serious and solemn statement. “Pay attention to what I (Jesus) am about to say!” it is a different Greek word, but it has the same meaning as amēn.
Jesus gives two instances of Gentiles who were not part of the Chosen People, but God sent his prophets to minister to them. (Gentiles are non-Jews.)
Gentile widow of Zarephath of Sidon, north of Israel: 1 Kings 17:7-24
Gentile Naaman the Syrian: 2 Kings 5:1-14
Israelite lepers were not healed.
Jesus was saying that the Nazarenes were worse than these Gentiles. And he said this in their synagogue—Gentiles were better than Jews. Imagine a restrictive Baptist pastor, who denies the spiritual gifts, saying in his restrictive home church, “The Pentecostals are better off and godlier and God-approved than you are! The Pentecostals are right!” It is a sure thing that he would be called before the board of elders and possibly get fired a short time later.
“filled with anger”: Luke likes the “filling” verbs, but here it is the wrong spirit. They were filled with anger or wrath. And this outrage happened in their synagogue, a sacred space. This is a subtle point that soon the synagogue will be left behind, which happened over the decades, and was slightly visible even in the Book of Acts. Slightly? Paul went to the synagogues, but often the people there rejected him as they did to Jesus right here (see Luke 11:20 and Matt. 10:17).
The widow of Zarephath was a Gentile. Jesus is telling the people of Nazareth that the gospel will reach out to them and maybe even bypass the Chosen People, if they are not careful. This enrages the Chosen People, which explains why they suddenly turned on him (Garland, comment on 4:28).
“in the synagogue”: it appears at the end of the sentence, so it could be translated: “Everyone was filled with anger when they heard these things in the synagogue.” Once again, they did not like those words in their sacred space. They were not used to hearing about Gentiles being blessed by God. Jesus truly was a revolutionary, counter-cultural. If Mary and her other children were there, I wonder how she would have felt about this?
Bock: “Jesus’ comparison to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha did not bring a positive reaction. The crowd knew their biblical history and got the point. In effect, Jesus was saying that the Nazarenes were worse than the Syrian lepers and Phoenician widows … Like Paul’s message about going to the Gentiles, this warning also left its audience displeased (Acts 13:46, 50; 22:21-22). … Outsiders may end up being blessed, while insiders are left out” (p. 419).
Luke introduces a series of action verbs (in various forms): “got up … drove out … led … throw off.” They must have had physical contact with him, pushing or driving him out of town and leading him up a cliff right up to the edge. (This cliff is real. You can google it.)
Was Mary shouting to her fellow-Nazarenes to stop? Were her other sons intervening to stop them? The text, of course, is silent, but it is hard to imagine that his family would not have done those things. But let’s not make too much of the silence of the text.
Then God said that was enough. Jesus simply walked away right in their midst and went on his way. Clearly the anointing and Spirit surged in him and made them back away and lose their power, so he could move on. This was another miracle.
I agree with Morris: “The identity of the spot is not easy, but the general meaning is plain enough. He simply passed through the midst of them and went away. He spoke no angry word, nor did he work any spectacular miracle. He simply walked through the mob. Some have felt that this was itself a miracle—though not the kind of miracle the Nazarenes wanted! As far as is known, Jesus never returned to Nazareth. Rejection can be final” (comments on vv. 28-30).
Jesus may have gone back at other times, but Morris’ main point is excellent.
GrowApp for Luke 22-30
A.. While in their synagogue the Nazarenes were filled with anger and almost threw Jesus off a cliff. Have you ever been rejected by religious people, even inside the church? If so, what did you do about it? If not, how would you counsel someone who has?
Jesus Delivers a Man with an Unclean Spirit (Luke 4:31-37)
31 Then he went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee. He was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32 And they were astonished at his teaching because his message was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man having an unclean demonic spirit, and he cried out with a loud voice: 34 “Yah! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus the Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! The Holy One of God!” 35 And Jesus rebuked it, saying, “Silence! Come out of him!” And throwing him right in the middle of them, it came out of him without harming him in the slightest. 36 A fear came upon everyone, and they spoke amongst themselves, saying, “What is this message? With authority and power he commands unclean spirits and they leave!” 37 And the news about him went out throughout every part in the region.
“was teaching”: it could be translated as “began to teach.” See v. 15 for more comments.
Jesus was a Sabbath keeper in these early days, in order to be a good witness to his fellow Jews. Soon he will proclaim that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). He owns it; it does not own him. Jesus came to set people free from the demands of ritual law (and Sabbath keeping is a ritual and not moral law). But even throughout his ministry he still kept it, as this summary, representative verse spells out. His witness would have been destroyed if he flouted his liberty by gathering wood on the Sabbath. A man in the time of Moses was stoned to death for doing exactly that (Num. 15:32-36). But Jesus is about to walk on the border between Sabbath keeping and Sabbath breaking, as Jewish tradition defined the terms, by healing on that day (Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-16; 14:1-5). And he allowed his disciples, as they were going through a grain field, to pluck some grains and eat them. Pharisees objected (Luke 6:1-5). Luke’s mentioning this Lordly adjustment to the Sabbath may indicate that Luke came under the influence of Paul, who also proclaimed the liberty of humans over sacred days (Rom. 14:5).
“astonished”: the verb is ekplēssō (pronounced ehk-play-soh) (see 2:48), and it means to be so astonished or stunned that one is overwhelmed. Many consider that the authoritative NT Greek lexicon to be BDAG, and it says, “cause to be filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed, amaze, astound, overwhelm.” It would be amazing, stunning, and overwhelming to see such a powerful deliverance.
“teaching”: here it is the more formal didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay), so Jesus spent some time teaching formally in the synagogues. It makes me wonder whether the church in the U.S. and the world get adequate teaching. In America many of the TV guys do a lot of yelling and shouting and displays of personality and shrieking and freaking and dancing and prancing. I wonder whether Jesus did any of that. I don’t think so. Yet he amazed the people with his teaching.
Let’s explore this Greek noun more thoroughly.
It is, as noted, the word didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay). BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) “The activity of teaching, teaching, instruction”; (2) “the content of teaching, teaching.” Yes, the word is also used of Jesus’s teaching: Matt. 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22, 27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16, 17; 18:19. And it is used of the apostolic teaching: Acts 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; 17:19; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 2 John 9 (twice), 10; Rev. 2:14, 15, 24.
Renewalists need much more instruction and doctrine than they are getting. Inspirational preaching about God fulfilling their hopes and dreams is insufficient. We need to discern the signs of the times or seasons (Matt. 16:3). We live in the time or season of the worldwide web. The people are getting bombarded with strange doctrines, on youtube (and other such platforms). These youtube “teachers” know how to edit things and put in clever colors and special effects, but they have not been appointed by God. They do not know how to do even basic research. They run roughshod over basic hermeneutical (interpretational) principles. These “teachers” do not seem to realize that they will be judged more severely (Jas. 3:1) and will have to render an account of their (self-appointed) “leadership” (Heb. 13:17). If they destroy God’s temple, God will (eventually) destroy them (1 Cor. 3:17).
Further, my impression is that the main platform speakers on TV whose budgets are big enough to put them on TV every day don’t even know the basics about doctrine. Why not? They are too busy being corporate managers and even Chief Executive Officers over large churches. They are not turning over the practical side of church leadership to their elders and deacons. They do not spend hours a day—all day, every day—studying nothing but Scriptures, with good ol’ commentaries. (Maybe this one can help.) They do not spend hours a day reading up on theology and doctrine. (Maybe my website can help, a little.)
An alternative and probably better translation of Eph. 4:11 reads: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors,” not pastors and teachers. Do we have teaching pastors or management or corporate pastors who specialize in organizational leadership? Or do we have psychology pastors? These areas should be turned over to a team. The teaching pastors should do nothing but study Scripture and should have the bulk of the teaching time on Sunday morning and in other services.
We need to change our ways and follow Scripture, or else much of the church will spiritually diminish and be swept away by strange teachings. Yes, good ol’ fashioned theology and even a little apologetics about difficult passages is what the global Church needs. They need the basics—even on Sunday morning, delivered by teaching pastors, not corporate, inspirational pastors.
“message”: this is again the noun logos, and see v. 22 for more comment. There was a rational and logical side to Jesus’s teaching. It was not all wild-eyed and frantic, as so many prominent pastors and evangelists in the Renewal Movements are today.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia, and vv. 6-7 for more information. When Pharisees and teachers of the law entered a synagogue to teach, they must have discussed why ritual baths were important and how exactly to keep the Sabbath. You may walk only so far, but no more! They enforced the law of Moses. Jesus’s formal teaching was not like that. For hints of what it was like at this stage, read the early chapters of the Gospel of Luke. He did not get his authority from belonging to a religious sect like the Essenes or the Pharisees, but from God and his Messianic anointing and Spirit empowerment. “More is caught than taught,” and the people were able to catch his authority.
“unclean demonic spirit”: Luke piles on the words because his larger audience in the Greek-speaking world would have believed that some demonic spirits were good ones, as opposed to malevolent ones (Garland, comment on 4:33). The demon also makes the man unclean.
In contrast, Jesus is the Holy One of God, says the unclean spirit demon.
In this passage Luke will zigzag between plural (spirits) or singular (spirit). This may indicate a “spokesman demon” or an upper-ranked demon that was leading the other lower-ranked spirits, but that’s speculation.
See verse 2 for my posts on Satan and demons for a more developed theology and evidence of a demonic hierarchy.
Yah!” One possibility: It’s just a yell. But was it to intimidate? Probably not, because they knew who he was. Was it a yell of surprise and defeat? Both. “Oh no!” Second possibility: some scholars say that the word could be the imperative of “permit” or allow” (see v. 41). So the demon yelled, “Permit us (to remain)!” I think the shout of surprise and defeat is the better translation. But you can decide.
“Why are you interfering with us?”: It is an idiom that can be translated literally, “What to us and to you?” It may point to an expression in the Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and is the third to second century B.C. Greek translation of the OT), which could be rendered as I have it here: “Why are you interfering with us?” (Josh. 22:24; Judg. 13:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13). And that’s what I chose, because the more I thought about it, the more I believe the Septuagint should be authoritative and decisive in this verse. Alternatively, however, the phrase may emphasize the distance between Jesus and the demon. Therefore, it can also be translated, “What do we have to do with you?” Or “What do we have in common?” Or “leave us alone!” (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 144). Or I could add this alternative: “Are you going to cross over into our jurisdiction, from you to us?” You can decide which translation is best.
“Have you come to destroy us?” It could be translated not as a question, but words of defeat: “You have come to destroy us!” This accords with 1 John 3:8 that says, “And the Son of God has appeared in order to loosen the works of the devil” (my translation). The verb “loosen” could also be translated as “destroy,” but they are different Greek verbs: v. 34: apollumi (pronounced ah-pol-loo-mee); 1 John 3:8: luō (loo-oh). One major purpose why Jesus came was to destroy the influence, power, and authority of the devil in people’s lives. This is the first passage where a demonic deliverance is mentioned in this Gospel, so it serves as a foreshadowing of the rest of Jesus’s ministry of the kingdom. Take it as paradigmatic.
Let’s explore appolumi further: it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.” Here it means destroy.
The demons shouted out Jesus’ true identity because they lived in the spirit world and understood, somehow, that Jesus the Nazarene, the Holy One of God, had come to earth and was appointed to bring the kingdom of God, demanding that Satan loosen his grip on humanity, and to doom his dark kingdom, destining his ultimate defeat. That’s why the demon shouted, “You have come to destroy us (in particular)!” Or, as noted, “Have you come to destroy us (in particular)?” In any case, they sized him up and saw their defeat and destruction. He was (and is) Lord; they were (or are) not, even over that one person they possessed.
“holy”: It means he was consecrated to God. But his holy consecration did not mean, however, that he was separated from the common people. He mixed in with them. That’s a lesson for us, too.
“rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō (pronounced eh-pea-tee-mah-oh), and it means “rebuke, censure, warn,” and even “punish” (see Jude 9). In exorcisms it may have developed a specialized meaning, so one should use it, as Jesus did. Be authoritative. In any case, he has given us authority to tread on the devil (Luke 9:1 and 10:19).
“silence!”: the verb is phimoō (pronounced fee-moh-oh), and it can mean to “muzzle,” as in a muzzled ox (1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9); or figuratively “(put to) silence” (Matt. 22:34; 1 Pet. 2:15); passive voice: “be silenced, be silent” (Matt. 22:12; Mark 1:25; 4:39; Luke 4:35). And those verses are the only ones where this verb appears. Here it is in the command form. Command the demon. Another translation: “shut up!”
Some teachers say they can converse with demons, in order to find out why they refuse to go, why they have a root in the human, as Jesus asked the demon for his name (Luke 8:30). I would never say no to this part of deliverance. I believe the mature believer must not follow a formula or ritual. But do we have to take it so far and have a detailed conversation? No.
So the demon threw the poor man, soon to be a “rich” man because of his deliverance, right in the middle of the synagogue attenders. This must have shocked the audience, when they were used to Pharisees and teachers of the law coming in and talking in zealous tones about the law. “Do this, but don’t do that!” They had no real authority in their voice or demeanor or spirit, and they certainly did not have Jesus’s Spirit-anointing. This is a sign of his being the Messiah, not just another Rabbi or teacher.
Even though the man was thrown down by the power of the demon possessing him, the man was not physically harmed in the slightest or “at all” is another translation. One commentator says that when the demon hurled him and landed him in the middle of the people, the evil spirit was handing the man over to Jesus, the rightful Lord (Garland, p. 216). Sounds good to me.
It is good to know that when a person is delivered from demonic spirits, he suffers no bodily harm if the demon were to toss him on the floor. (I have heard of deliverances that do not harm the man or woman when they stiffened up and fell hard on the floor.) Therefore, I conclude that Luke got this (true) story from a reliable transmitter of these early stories about Jesus’ ministry (in this case Mark 1:21-28), but Mark just says the demon shook the man violently. No doubt he was thrown also.
“fear”: it is the noun thambos (pronounced tham-boss), and it combines astonishment and fear and is used only here and in Luke 5:9 and Acts 3:10, so it seems only Luke liked the word, but not very often. In the Greek older than the NT, it meant “astonishment” and “amazement” (Liddell and Scott), but it is easy to see that in this context, fear would come upon the synagogue goers, who were not used to wild displays.
“what is this message?”: literally it reads, “what the word this?” So the verb “is” has to be supplied. Now how do we translate the noun logos, which is again translated here as message (see v. 22). “What is the story here?” “What does this matter mean?” What is this thing that just happened? “What is this account?” “What is this event?” Let’s not go nuts and translate it “Who is this Word?” (!), though the Greek literally could be rendered like that with a little theological creativity. In any case, let’s be moderate and just translate as I have it. Grammarians Culy, Parsons, and Stigall suggest, “What’s going on here?” (p. 142). That’s pretty good.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia again, and see vv. 6-7 more comments.
“power”: See v. 14 for more comments. Here Jesus was commanding the demon, and this impressed the synagogue attenders, particularly when the man was unhurt after being thrown down on the floor.
For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on
“commands”: it is the verb epitassō (pronounced eh-pea-tahs-soh), and tassō means, depending on the context, to “place” or “station,” “appoint” or “establish” or “put someone in charge of” or “order, fix, determine, appoint.” Add the prefix epi– to it, Jesus commands with authority on top of or from above or from a position over the thing being commanded. In other words, Jesus had total control and power and authority over the cluster of demons.
“news”: it is the noun ēchos (pronounced ay-khohss), and yes, we get our word echo from it. It can mean “sound, tone, noise … report, news.”
The news of deliverance can travel fast, and the whole region was filled with the “noise” or “echo” of this wonderful miracle.
See my post Deliverance for how a mature believer can deliver someone oppressed of the devil.
GrowApp for Luke 4:31-37
A.. Do you unknowing allow Satan to attack you and your family, even, for example, when you drive to church? What should you do to prevent this?
B.. Study Luke 9:1 and 10:19. You have authority and power over demons in Jesus’s name. What does this authority and power look like in your own mind and life?
Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Luke 4:38-39)
38 Leaving the synagogue, he entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. 39 He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.
So he was in Capernaum, and he simply left the synagogue and walked in to Simon’s house. This was Simon’s hometown, and Jesus adopted it for his home base of ministry (Mark 2:1).
“suffering”: the verb is sunechō (pronounced soon-ekh-oh), and it can mean “close by holding, stop” (Acts 7:57); “press hard, crowd” (Luke 8:45; 19:43); “hold in custody” (Luke 22:63); passive voice: “be tormented by, suffering from” (Matt. 4:24; Luke 4:38; Acts 28:8); “be distressed, be hard, pressed” (Luke 12:50; Phil. 1:23); passive voice: “be occupied with, be absorbed in” (Acts 18:5); urge on, impel, or hold within bounds, control (2 Cor. 5:14; Acts 18:5). Those are the only verses where this verb appears, and it seems Luke uses this verb more often than the other NT authors.
“high fever”: it literally reads “great fever,” but in English it is best to go with “high fever.” Whatever the case, Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from this fever.
“they asked him about her”: We have to supply the idea, “They asked him to help her.” Who were they? Either Peter and his wife, or the disciples? The Gospel of Mark says Peter, James, John and Andrew (Peter’s brother) were there. All of the above asked him. Luke shows Jesus calling Peter in the next chapter, so this is a prolepsis or foreshadowing of Peter’s calling. Luke is an inspired author, and he is allowed, by the Spirit, to reshape and sequence his story as he sees fit.
It is unclear why he stood over her, so it may not have a method behind it. It’s just the way the house was constructed and where she was lying. But I can’t escape the feeling that it may indicate his authority over diseases, but let’s not overwork simple words. And sure enough, the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark say that Jesus touched her hand (Matthew) or took her by the hand and lifted her up (Mark) (Matt. 8:14-15 // Mark 1:29-31). So Jesus had to be near her and stand over her to touch her. “The Jesus touch” transfers power and shows his identity with and love for the sick.
“rebuked”: the verb is epitimaō, and see v. 35 for more comments. Sometimes you simply have to rebuke a disease. Was it a spirit? No, and not even the parallel passages say it was a spirit (Mark 1:29-31; Matt. 8:14-15). The whole point of the verb is authority has to be used even for diseases. This is another example of releasing a captive announced in 4:18.
“began to serve”: the phrase comes from the one verb diakoneō (pronounced dee-ah-koh-neh-oh); some translations have “waited on.” She probably served them food and drinks. We should not see the verb here indicating a formal office, even though we get the word deacon from the related Greek noun. “began” is added from the form of the verb, but the word itself does not appear in this verse.
GrowApp for Luke 4:38-39
A.. Have you ever rebuked a disease in Jesus’s name? If not, and you do, tell your story.
B.. How did you serve the Lord after he raised you up from your sickbed?
Jesus Heals and Delivers Those with Various Diseases (Luke 4:40-41)
40 As the sun was going down, everyone who had those weakened with various diseases brought them to him. Placing his hands on each one of them, he was healing them. 41 Also, demons came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Son of God!” Rebuking them, he would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.
The sun going down indicates that people brought the sick to be healed after the Sabbath day, though usually one waits until after the sun set and then adds one hour, just to be sure. They would not even carry their sick relatives to be healed on the Sabbath, but they pushed the minute by minute timeline a bit sooner! The people were badly taught. They should have brought the sick on the Sabbath day. As noted in v. 31, Jesus was about to heal on the Sabbath (Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-16; 14:1-5).
The picture in v. 40 is that the relatives of those who were weakened with various diseases brought them to him. It is moving to think of them lifting and carrying and shouldering those weakened by diseases. Maybe one of them was so disabled that they had to carry him on a stretcher. Maybe one of them had a high fever, like Simon’s mother-in-law, and he could barely make it. Maybe one of them was injured on the job, like a stonemason who had a stone land on his foot, and now he could no longer work for a long time.
“weakened”: it is the verb astheneō (pronounced ahss-then-eh-oh), and it means, depending on the context, “be weak, be sick.” The prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” NIV translates it in this way, as it appears throughout the NT: sick, weak (most often), lay sick, disabled, feel weak, invalid, sickness, weakened, weakening.
Either he mingled through the crowd or prayed for them one at a time, as they waited in line (queued up). But I love how he laid hands on each of them, and the Greek makes it clear that he did this on each one. As noted, this shows his identifying with the people and his love for them, and also it shows that his healing power went out from him to them and healed them.
Back in the early to mid-1990s, the Spirit surged through me, and everyone I put my hands above (not on) fell down under the Spirit. I was cautious not to touch people, not because I don’t follow Jesus, but because showy evangelists and pastors regularly push people. (I wish they would stop.) In any case, that time passed and the surge also lifted, but looking back I didn’t regret that those giftings lifted because it was time to move on to deeper things. If those times come back, I would be glad to pray for people. I would not appear to push them. Manipulating and coercing the weak and sick so that the praying pastor or evangelist appears powerful is absolutely wrong, before God. Those who do it will have to give an account before him at the judgment, and their manipulative showboating will be burned up (1 Cor. 3:15). They risk losing their rewards (but not their salvation).
“was healing”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” Its tense is imperfect, which means unfinished or incomplete action. People were continuously being healed; this is not to say their healings were gradual (though healings can often be gradual). Rather, the imperfect tense means that Jesus’s healing ministry took time in his adopted hometown—he kept on healing and delivering people. Exhilarating and exhausting, in one!
“various”: it is the adjective poikilos (pronounced poi-kee-lohss), and it means “various kinds, diversified, manifold.” So Jesus healed all different kinds of diseases. This statement reveals that no weakness stands in his way. No disease is too hard for him.
“diseases”: it is the noun nosos (pronounced naw-sauce), and BDAG says it means (1) “physical malady, disease, illness”; (2) “moral malady, disease.” In the Greek written long before the NT (and during NT times), it means (1) “sickness, disease, malady” (2) “distress, misery, suffering, sorrow, evil, disease of mind” (Liddell and Scott). Don’t be afraid to pray against diseases of the mind or moral diseases. Pray, and watch God work in your mind or your child’s mind! Here it just means physical diseases.
This is a summary statement that looks a lot like the more detailed episode in vv. 31-37. The demons knew who he was. He was the Son of God and Messiah, the Anointed One with an eternal relationship of Sonship with the Father. Messiah and the Son of God are synonymous titles here.
“rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō, and see v. 35 for more comments. He censured and warned them to shut up.
Why did Jesus command the demons to shut up and not reveal who he was? He did not want their dark endorsement; revealing who he was too soon would raise the wrong expectations of what the Messiah should do and who he should be, as the people defined the terms. And he was not going to be the Conquering Military Messiah, but the Messiah who became the Passover Lamb who sacrificed for us and initiated the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20).
There are two main ways in the Greek NT to express demonic attacks to varying degrees, from full possession to just attacks: “have a demon” and “demonized.” The latter term is used often in Matthew: 4:24; 8:16, 28, 35; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22, but only once in Luke (8:36), and Mark four times (132; 5:15, 16, 18). John uses the term once (10:21). In Luke 8:26-39, Luke uses both “have a demon” and “demonized,” so he sees the terms synonymously. “Demonized” comes from the verb daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –izo to the noun daimōn (pronounced dy-moan). It is a very convenient quality about Greek (English has this ability too: modern to modernize). Just add this prefix to a noun, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. The context determines how severe the possession was. In this verse it is used generally, without precision as to the depth of possession.
Whatever the case, the answer was the same: deliverance by the power and authority of Jesus.
He healed all (everyone) and delivered many. Does this imply that some demonized people were left behind, undelivered? No. The Gospel writers use “any” and “all” interchangeably. Don’t over-analyze it.
GrowApp for Luke 4:40-41
A.. Have you done any kind of healing ministry, physical or emotional? What happened? How did the Lord work? What did you learn, good or bad?
B.. Has the Lord set you free from oppression, demonic or otherwise? Tell your story. What happened?
Withdrawal and a Synagogue Preaching Tour (Luke 4:42-44)
42 When the next day came, he went into a deserted place, and the crowds sought after him and came to him and were trying to hinder him from going from them. 43 But he told them, “I must also preach the good news of the kingdom of God in other towns because I have been sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Jesus ministered while the sun was setting, and now the sun is rising. He needed sleep. This day he had to take a break from ministry. Fireworks can be thrilling at first, but if we saw them every day, they would be exhausting. Sometimes you just need a break. Jesus needed one. He had to regroup. Mark 1:35 says he was praying.
“hinder”: it comes from the verb katechō (pronounced kaht-ekoh, and it combines the prefix kata– (down) and echō (have, hold). So they tried to hold him down. In other contexts, it can mean “hold back, hinder,” “keep,” “suppress,” “restrain, check,” “hold fast,” “possess,” “occupy”; passive voice: “be bound.” Those are picturesque and strong words. “Trying” is implied in the context because they did not actually succeed.
It is amazing that the people seemed to have tried to block his way or urged him not to depart. Often people do not hear from God, and they confuse their “good idea” with a “God idea.” They are not always the same. The people spoke out of self-interest. They wanted to contain Jesus for their permanent healer and deliverer and teacher. Don’t allow well-intentioned or self-interested people to hinder you from fulfilling God’s destiny and calling on your life.
Jesus solved the misunderstanding by telling them in general terms what his purpose was. It is amazing how a Spirit-filled word at the right time to the right people can stop them in their tracks. You may have to do that, if people try to hinder you from God’s call, but please don’t go into detail, unless God gives you permission.
“must”: it comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6;, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Here Jesus means his mission, which is as follows:
“preach the good news”: it is the one verb euangelizō, and see vv. 17-19 for more comments.
“kingdom of God”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary says that Jesus and his kingdom were to bring to the world. The powerful and people of high status are to be brought low, while the humble and those of low status are to be raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
“I have been sent”: it is the verb apostellō (ah-poh-stehl-loh), and see v. 18 for more comments. Note that it is in the passive voice. It does not mean “I sent myself,” but “I have been sent.” This is called the divine passive, which means an understated way of saying that God is behind the scenes orchestrating the sending. So we can say this is a major statement about Jesus’s mission.
Gabriel in his message to Zechariah said: “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent forth to speak to you and announce to you this good news” (1:19). This statement parallels that of Jesus. It too is in the divine passive. Gabriel stands in God’s presence and came from heaven with a message of good news to Zechariah, and Jesus—who is the Son of God and not an angel—also came from heaven with a message of good news for the whole world. Jesus said in the context of one who welcome a little one that he welcomes “the one who sent me” (Luke 9:48).
Some skeptics say that John is clear about God sending Jesus, while Luke (and Matthew and Mark) merely hints at it in such clauses as “I have been sent” or “I have come.” Therefore, the four Gospels are irreparably inconsistent and contradictory (they claim). The critics overemphasize the nuances, of course. John tells and shows loudly, and the Synoptic Gospel writers show and tell more subtly, for those who can see. John drops all subtleties, probably since his Gospel is the last one, so he does not need to be secretive to his readers.
“for this purpose”: the Greek merely reads “for this.” Purpose is implied in the pronoun “this.” He was on a mission; he had a purpose. What about your purpose? We all have a purpose. How do we find it? In my experience it comes in a variety of ways, but mostly it grows on you and then over time God leads you to grow up into it.
The other Gospels have Jesus staying in Galilee, and Luke seems to keep him in the north, as well (Judea is in the south) (Luke 9:51). Luke probably used “Judea” here generically as “the land of the Jews.” Also, Judea is better known in the Roman world as the province of the Jews, a fact that makes things easier for Luke’s first-century audience. So the meaning of Judea here in this verse is geographically broad.
Of course he went into the synagogues, because that was his custom. For how Jesus related to the synagogue and Sabbath keeping, please read my comments in vv. 25-29.
Once again, I like Liefeld’s and Pao’s summary: “Here, then, Luke has provided representative incidents from the ministry of Jesus. It is the kind of activity summarized in Acts 10:38 as ‘doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil’” (comments on vv. 42-44).
GrowApp for Luke 4:40-41
A.. Has anyone ever tried to hinder you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life? What did you do?
B.. How do you find out about God’s purpose and mission on your life? What is your story of seeking him first and searching for his purpose second?
Summary of Luke 4
There are five themes that leap out of this chapter. Those themes move us closer the climax: the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
First, Jesus was full of the Spirit. Yes, he was God in the flesh, but the Father called the third person of the Trinity to be a part of Jesus’s ministry that was led by the Father. Jesus was called the Anointed One or the Messiah or the Christ (they mean the same thing), and to be anointed, he needed the Spirit. Even demons identified him as such, proving that they have access to knowledge that humans do not—it took a long time for a few people to recognize his Sonship and Messiahship.
Second, the chapter also is about satanic attacks. Jesus overcame an intense attack from Satan himself. Then he was able to set people free from demonic oppression. This chapter sets the stage for something unexpected. The enemies of God are yes, humankind and their religion that blocks people from God, but mainly they are cosmic powers. The enemy of God is satanic. So the message of the kingdom has been elevated and radicalized (Garland, p. 111).
Third, he ministered in the synagogues on the Sabbath. He was a Sabbath keeper, but only to preach to a gathering of his people. Go where the people are. However, he will soon proclaim that he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). He owns it; it does not own him. Nonetheless, it would have been decisively counterproductive to ignore the Sabbath or to flout his liberty by carrying wood on that day, for example. He wanted to minister to people, not needlessly offend them. Too distracting. As noted, however, he is about to walk on the border between Sabbath keeping and Sabbath breaking, as Jewish tradition defined the terms, by healing on that day (Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-16; 14:1-5). And he will allow his disciples, as they were going through a grain field, to pluck some grains and eat them. Pharisees will object (Luke 6:1-5). He will defend them.
Fourth, he was a counter-revolutionary. He upset the people of his hometown by pointing out that God blessed ancient Gentiles over the ancient Israelites. The Nazarenes almost killed him and would have succeeded if God had not intervened and caused people to back off. In Capernaum, on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he cast out a demon from a man, and the evil spirit convulsed and tossed him to the ground—on the Sabbath, in the synagogue. The people were not used to such displays.
Fifth, his message had authority. Once in a while, a scholar will point out that a Jew of the time had magical powers. One of these ancient magicians drew circles on the ground and effected some kind of help for people. Honi the circle maker (google it). But this is not at all how Jesus ministered. His authority did not come by magic and superstition, but by the power of the Spirit. He got instant results without foolishness.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars. They are excellent, but they are also technical. My goal is to simplify matters.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
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