Luke 4:1-13


In all three Synoptics the temptation follows the baptism of Jesus. The genealogy has been called an interlude in the Lukan account. Luke stresses the divinity (3:22  "Thou art My beloved Son") and the humanity (3:23  "son of Joseph") of Jesus. And now we find the God-man tempted by the devil.

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,

Note the prominence of  "Jesus"  which means Savior. He was not only full of the Holy Spirit, look at Acts 10:38, but was actually led by the Holy Spirit. He returned from east of the Jordan in the direction of Jerusalem.

By the way, perhaps the best explanation for the fact that Matthew and Luke do not have the same order for the second and third temptations is that Luke in this way preserved the itinerary from east of Jordan to Jerusalem, though this may not be the true explanation. No one knows for sure.

Luke 4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The number forty may be symbolic though authorities are not agreed as to is application.

TEMPTED - Used here with an evil connotation. It was part of his calling. Look at Matthew 12:29.

Jesus was separated from His fellow men at the time of His temptation. He was to struggle alone. We have here an historical incident without a parallel and yet not unhistorical. We witness a personal encounter between two princes, the One of Life, and the other of death, the Prince of Light and the prince of darkness.

Expositor's: God's Spirit is never more with a man than in his spiritual struggles.

Look at Romans 8:26.

Lenski: The remarkable conjunction between God's Spirit and the devil ought to be noted - the one to bestow all his power upon the human nature of Jesus, the other at once to put this power to a supreme test.
He did it in our place, not for Himself. Look at Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 5:8; 2:14. All silly, needless, and useless rationalizing about this temptation should cease. He was actually and severely tempted. God wills it and Jesus was willing though Jesus did not place Himself into temptation on His own accord.

DEVIL - Means  "slanderer."  He is a liar and the father of lies, see John 8:44.

Arndt: He endeavors to give God a wrong picture of man and man a wrong picture of God. Look at Job 1 and 2.
Marshall: What is intended by the devil as a means of defeating Jesus becomes, in the purpose of God, the occasion for his own defeat.
Kittel suggests that the forty days were intended for communion with God, accompanied by fasting but that the devil sought to destroy that communion.

HE BECAME HUNGRY - He was famished. That may be. The devil strikes at his most opportune time.

Luke 4:3 The devil said to him,  "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."

Perhaps Satan appeared as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14. In whatever form, the devil actually appeared.

Ylvisaker: Jesus here appears in His greatest lowliness, that He refrained from the use of His divine attributes. He did not realize at once who the tempter was.

"If, really, or, as you believe, you are God's Son."  He is casting doubt on what the Father had said in 3:22. Satan sets a trap: Non-compliance would indicate that Jesus was not God's Son. Compliance would indicate that the Father would not or could not sustain Him. Satan wants Jesus to distrust His Father and to do the will of Satan.

Luke 4:4 Jesus answered,  "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"

IT IS WRITTEN -  "It stands written" for all time.

LIVE - Better  "will live."  This denotes God's will for man.

MAN - The generic article, which includes men and women. Like the German  "Mensch" or Latin  "homo."

Jesus is including Himself with all men. What God wills for man, He wills for Jesus. Jesus vanquishes Satan with Scripture. He does not appeal to some  "charismatic" gift, not even to the Holy Spirit. He uses the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

By the way, Jesus is implying that the Pentateuch is the Word of God. Jesus does not argue or debate. All faithful Lutheran commentaries differ widely here from others on the doctrine of the Word. As Luther said:  "One little Word can fell him (Satan)."

BREAD - Bread merely sustains physical life. God's Word gives life.

Luke 4:5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

Marshall lists the names of the scholars who hold that Matthew has the original order and then the names of scholars who hold that Luke has the original order. No one can answer this question with finality.

Jesus  "was being led by the Spirit" and at the same time  "Satan led Jesus up."  Maybe this resembled the removal of Philip from the presence of the eunuch in Acts 8:39, but, in any case, it actually happened. Jesus is both passive and active.

"All the kingdoms of Rome, Greece, Egypt, etc, in a flash"  Must have been a magnificent sight. Satan has great power, Luke 10:19.

Luke 4:6 And he said to him,  "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

Ylvisaker: This is a mixture of truth and falsehood. Satan is called the prince and the god of this world, John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4. The devil it is who has raised his throne in the midst of the world which lies in evil; but it is also certain that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, Psalm 24:1; 50:12.

Luther says that here the devil is a divine and majestic devil, who comes right out as if he were God himself. He shows great insolence.

BEEN GIVEN TO ME - This is bestowed, not inherent, power.  "Dominion and the glory that goes with it, has been lastingly turned over to me."  Satan uses the word  "power" as if he were God.

Luke 4:7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

SO - Means  "In view of what I've just said."

God gives unconditionally. Satan gives conditionally. God gives and is then worshiped. Satan must have the worship first. But Satan's promises are lies. He promised Adam and Eve that they would become like God. They didn't. He promised Judas thirty pieces of silver. Judas threw the money away.

Luke 4:8 Jesus answered,  "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

Arndt: 'Worship' is the word employed in the New Testament to denote divine worship, look at 1:74; Acts 7:7; 24:14.

Jesus must attain Psalm 2:8 through Philippians 2:8. Note again that Jesus does not argue or debate. And His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36-37.

Luke 4:9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  "If you are the Son of God,"  he said,  "throw yourself down from here.

LED HIM - How Satan did this we do not know, but he did.

HIGHEST POINT - Pinnacle, parapet, highest point, edge of the temple.

Note how similar these words to those of the mockers when Jesus was crucified, Luke 23:35-39. They didn't believe it and Satan didn't either.

Ylvisaker: The sum total of all temptations is a carnal caricature of the work of the Messiah.

Again Satan presents Jesus with a dilemma. If He doesn't throw Himself down, He isn't the Son of God. If He does, He does the will of the devil. That, of course, is how Satan argues. It shows the awful arrogance of Satan. Some commentators have maintained that Satan is suggesting that Jesus  "float" down in a spectacular way so that spectators would declare Him the Messiah immediately. But the text in no way says or implies that idea.

Luke 4:10 For it is written:  "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;

FOR -  "You see."

Satan poses now as teacher. He uses Jesus' method of verses 4 and 8. He quotes but omits:  "in all thy ways."  Furthermore, he is practically saying  "No matter what you do, you'll be alright."

"In all thy ways" surely means  "in all your faithful" ways. Satan wants Jesus to abandon faithfulness and espouse recklessness.

This verse is a wonderful promise if not misused. Misuse and misapplication of Scripture is Satan's most insidious trick. He is doing it constantly through false teachers.

Luke 4:11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "

HANDS - Angels do not have hands, it denotes their God-given power.

Luke 4:12 Jesus answered,  "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Did Satan hope that Jesus would kill Himself? The text does not say that.

TO THE TEST - Does this verb refers to Satan  "You Satan must not tempt" or does Jesus mean it for Himself? The latter. It was Jesus' obedience that was being tested, not Satan's.

Arndt: Jesus willingly confronts danger when God bids Him to do so, but not as one who is foolishly adventurous and presumes on angels' help.
Marshall: It is the filial relationship of trust in the Father which is the object of the devil's attack.
Geldenhuys: In this manner Jesus rejects all self-will, self-seeking, self-display, and fanaticism as being incompatible with God's Word and God's will.

Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

ALL THIS TEMPTING - could mean  "all the temptation,"  "every temptation," or  "every way of tempting."  This author thinks the last one is best.

Bengel: He had expended all his weapons of offense.
Lenski: Satan had nothing more in the present situation by which to assail Jesus with any hope of success.
Plummer: The enemy tried all his weapons, and was at all points defeated.
He is still called  "the devil."  Though the devil hears the Word of God again and again he is still the slanderer. He is so incorrigibly wicked that  "the eternal fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels,"  Matthew 25:41.

UNTIL AN OPPORTUNE TIME - This does not mean until the time of Jesus' death. Some commentators claim that from here to 22:3 we have the so-called  "satan-free" period, but Marshall rightly remarks:  "But Satan does not reappear to tempt JESUS at 22:3, and there are clear signs of his activity during the intervening period, for example 11:16."


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 42-44. Used with permission.

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