The temptation of Christ. (1-13) Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth. (14-30) He casts out an unclean spirit and heals the sick. (31-44)
Verses 1-13 Christ's being led into the wilderness gave an advantage to the tempter; for there he was alone, none were with him by whose prayers and advice he might be helped in the hour of temptation. He who knew his own strength might give Satan advantage; but we may not, who know our own weakness. Being in all things made like unto his brethren, Jesus would, like the other children of God, live in dependence upon the Divine Providence and promise. The word of God is our sword, and faith in that word is our shield. God has many ways of providing for his people, and therefore is at all times to be depended upon in the way of duty. All Satan's promises are deceitful; and if he is permitted to have any influence in disposing of the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, he uses them as baits to insnare men to destruction. We should reject at once and with abhorrence, every opportunity of sinful gain or advancement, as a price offered for our souls; we should seek riches, honours, and happiness in the worship and service of God only. Christ will not worship Satan; nor, when he has the kingdoms of the world delivered to him by his Father, will he suffer any remains of the worship of the devil to continue in them. Satan also tempted Jesus to be his own murderer, by unfitting confidence in his Father's protection, such as he had no warrant for. Let not any abuse of Scripture by Satan or by men abate our esteem, or cause us to abandon its use; but let us study it still, seek to know it, and seek our defence from it in all kinds of assaults. Let this word dwell richly in us, for it is our life. Our victorious Redeemer conquered, not for himself only, but for us also. The devil ended all the temptation. Christ let him try all his force, and defeated him. Satan saw it was to no purpose to attack Christ, who had nothing in him for his fiery darts to fasten upon. And if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Yet he departed but till the season when he was again to be let loose upon Jesus, not as a tempter, to draw him to sin, and so to strike at his head, at which he now aimed and was wholly defeated in; but as a persecutor, to bring Christ to suffer, and so to bruise his heel, which it was told him, he should have to do, and would do, though it would be the breaking of his own head, ( Genesis 3:15 ) . Though Satan depart for a season, we shall never be out of his reach till removed from this present evil world.
Verses 14-30 Christ taught in their synagogues, their places of public worship, where they met to read, expound, and apply the word, to pray and praise. All the gifts and graces of the Spirit were upon him and on him, without measure. By Christ, sinners may be loosed from the bonds of guilt, and by his Spirit and grace from the bondage of corruption. He came by the word of his gospel, to bring light to those that sat in the dark, and by the power of his grace, to give sight to those that were blind. And he preached the acceptable year of the Lord. Let sinners attend to the Saviour's invitation when liberty is thus proclaimed. Christ's name was Wonderful; in nothing was he more so than in the word of his grace, and the power that went along with it. We may well wonder that he should speak such words of grace to such graceless wretches as mankind. Some prejudice often furnishes an objection against the humbling doctrine of the cross; and while it is the word of God that stirs up men's enmity, they will blame the conduct or manner of the speaker. The doctrine of God's sovereignty, his right to do his will, provokes proud men. They will not seek his favour in his own way; and are angry when others have the favours they neglect. Still is Jesus rejected by multitudes who hear the same message from his words. While they crucify him afresh by their sins, may we honour him as the Son of God, the Saviour of men, and seek to show we do so by our obedience.
Verses 31-44 Christ's preaching much affected the people; and a working power went with it to the consciences of men. These miracles showed Christ to be a controller and conqueror of Satan, a healer of diseases. Where Christ gives a new life, in recovery from sickness, it should be a new life, spent more than ever in his service, to his glory. Our business should be to spread abroad Christ's fame in every place, to beseech him in behalf of those diseased in body or mind, and to use our influence in bringing sinners to him, that his hands may be laid upon them for their healing. He cast the devils out of many who were possessed. We were not sent into this world to live to ourselves only, but to glorify God, and to do good in our generation. The people sought him, and came unto him. A desert is no desert, if we are with Christ there. He will continue with us, by his word and Spirit, and extend the same blessings to other nations, till, throughout the earth, the servants and worshippers of Satan are brought to acknowledge him as the Christ, the Son of God, and to find redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 4:1-13 . TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
Luke 4:14-32 . JESUS ENTERING ON HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY, MAKES A CIRCUIT OF GALILEE--REJECTION AT NAZARETH.
Note.--A large gap here occurs, embracing the important transactions in Galilee and Jerusalem which are recorded in John 1:29-4:54', and which occurred before John's imprisonment ( John 3:24 ); whereas the transactions here recorded occurred (as appears from Matthew 4:12 Matthew 4:13 ) after that event. The visit to Nazareth recorded in Matthew 13:54-58 (and Mark 6:1-6 ) we take to be not a later visit, but the same with this first one; because we cannot think that the Nazarenes, after being so enraged at His first display of wisdom as to attempt His destruction, should, on a second display of the same, wonder at it and ask how He came by it, as if they had never witnessed it before.
16. as his custom was--Compare Acts 17:2 .
stood up for to read--Others besides rabbins were allowed to address the congregation. (See Acts 13:15 .)
18, 19. To have fixed on any passage announcing His sufferings (as Isaiah 53:1-12 ), would have been unsuitable at that early stage of His ministry. But He selects a passage announcing the sublime object of His whole mission, its divine character, and His special endowments for it; expressed in the first person, and so singularly adapted to the first opening of the mouth in His prophetic capacity, that it seems as if made expressly for this occasion. It is from the well-known section of Isaiah's prophecies whose burden is that mysterious "SERVANT OF THE LORD," despised of man, abhorred of the nation, but before whom kings on seeing Him are to arise, and princes to worship; in visage more marred than any man and His form than the sons of men, yet sprinkling many nations; laboring seemingly in vain, and spending His strength for naught and in vain, yet Jehovah's Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and be His Salvation to the ends of the earth ( Isaiah 49:1-26 , &c.). The quotation is chiefly from the Septuagint version, used in the synagogues.
19. acceptable year--an allusion to the jubilee year ( Leviticus 25:10 ), a year of universal release for person and property. (See also Isaiah 49:8 , 2 Corinthians 6:2 .) As the maladies under which humanity groans are here set forth under the names of poverty, broken-heartedness, bondage, blindness, bruisedness (or crushedness), so, as the glorious HEALER of all these maladies, Christ announces Himself in the act of reading it, stopping the quotation just before it comes to "the day of vengeance," which was only to come on the rejecters of His message ( John 3:17 ). The first words, "THE SPIRIT of the LORD is upon ME," have been noted since the days of the Church Fathers, as an illustrious example of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost being exhibited as in distinct yet harmonious action in the scheme of salvation.
20. the minister--the chazan, or synagogue-officer.
all eyes . . . fastened on Him--astounded at His putting in such claims.
21. began to say, &c.--His whole address was just a detailed application to Himself of this and perhaps other like prophecies.
22. gracious words--"the words of grace," referring both to the richness of His matter and the sweetness of His manner ( Psalms 45:2 ).
Is not this, no rabbinical education, and anything supernatural they seemed incapable of conceiving.
23. this proverb--like our "Charity begins at home."
whatsoever, &c.--"Strange rumors have reached our ears of Thy doings at Capernaum; but if such power resides in Thee to cure the ills of humanity, why has none of it yet come nearer home, and why is all this alleged power reserved for strangers?" His choice of Capernaum as a place of residence since entering on public life was, it seems, already well known at Nazareth; and when He did come thither, to give no displays of His power when distant places were ringing with His fame, wounded their pride. He had indeed "laid his hands on a few sick folk and healed them" ( Mark 6:5 ); but this seems to have been done quite privately the general unbelief precluding anything more open.
24. And he said, &c.--He replies to the one proverb by another, equally familiar, which we express in a rougher form--"Too much familiarity breeds contempt." Our Lord's long residence in Nazareth merely as a townsman had made Him too common, incapacitating them for appreciating Him as others did who were less familiar with His everyday demeanor in private life. A most important principle, to which the wise will pay due regard. (See also Matthew 7:6 , on which our Lord Himself ever acted.)
25-27. But I tell you, &c.--falling back for support on the well-known examples of Elijah and Elisha (Eliseus), whose miraculous power, passing by those who were near, expended itself on those at a distance, yea on heathens, "the two great prophets who stand at the commencement of prophetic antiquity, and whose miracles strikingly prefigured those of our Lord. As He intended like them to feed the poor and cleanse the lepers, He points to these miracles of mercy, and not to the fire from heaven and the bears that tore the mockers" [STIER].
three years and six months--So James 5:17 , including perhaps the six months after the last fall of rain, when there would be little or none at any rate; whereas in 1 Kings 18:1 , which says the rain returned "in the third year," that period is probably not reckoned.
26, 27. save . . . saving--"but only." (Compare Mark 13:32 , Greek.)
Sarepta--"Zarephath" ( 1 Kings 17:9 ), a heathen village between Tyre and Sidon. (See Mark 7:24 .)
28, 29. when they heard these things--these allusions to the heathen, just as afterwards with Paul ( Acts 22:21 Acts 22:22 ).
29. rose up--broke up the service irreverently and rushed forth.
thrust him--with violence, as a prisoner in their hands.
brow, &c.--Nazareth, though not built on the ridge of a hill, is in part surrounded by one to the west, having several such precipices. (See 2 Chronicles 25:12 , 2 Kings 9:33 .) It was a mode of capital punishment not unusual among the Romans and others. This was the first insult which the Son of God received, and it came from "them of His own household!" ( Matthew 10:36 ).
30. passing through the midst, &c.--evidently in a miraculous way, though perhaps quite noiselessly, leading them to wonder afterwards what spell could have come over them, that they allowed Him to escape. (Similar escapes, however, in times of persecution, are not unexampled.)
31. down to Capernaum--It lay on the Sea of Galilee ( Matthew 4:13 ), whereas Nazareth lay high.
Luke 4:33-37 . DEMONIAC HEALED.
33. unclean--The frequency with which this character of impurity is applied to evil spirits is worthy of notice.
cried out, &c.--(See Matthew 8:29 , 3:11 ).
36. What a word--a word from the Lord of spirits.
Luke 4:38-41 . PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW AND MANY OTHERS, HEALED.
41. suffered them not to speak--The marginal reading ("to say that they knew him to be Christ") here is wrong. Our Lord ever refused testimony from devils, for the very reason why they were eager to give it, because He and they would thus seem to be one interest, as His enemies actually see also Acts 16:16-18 .)
Luke 4:42-44 . JESUS SOUGHT OUT AT MORNING PRAYER, AND ENTREATED TO STAY, DECLINES FROM THE URGENCY OF HIS WORK.
engaged in solitude when they came seeking Him.
42. stayed him--"were staying Him," or sought to do it. What a contrast to the Gadarenes! The nature of His mission required Him to keep moving, that all might hear the glad tidings ( Matthew 8:34 ).
43. I must, &c.--but duty only could move Him to deny entreaties so grateful to His spirit.