Luke chapter 4.1-13

The Lord’s Temptation

The Location

Where did the temptation take place? Luke tells us it was in the wilderness, a barren unfertile place. This contrasts dramatically with Adam and Eve, who were tempted of the devil in the beauty and fruitfulness of the most wonderful garden the world has ever seen. Adam failed the test in perfect surroundings, but the Lord triumphed in adversity.

The Occasion

When did this take place? It follows immediately after the Lord’s baptism, when He received the commendation of the Father upon Him, saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The devil immediately takes up the challenge, and seeks to test the reality of the statement that He is the Son of God! Note how he begins in verse 3: “If thou be the Son of God …”

The Spirit descends and remains upon Him in chapter 3.23, and now He returns, full of the Spirit from Jordan and, under the leading of the Spirit as a dependent Man, He goes into the wilderness. Note that he goes prepared in power, and does not shrink in any way from the encounter!

The Question

What was the purpose of the temptation? There are at least 3 reasons that could be given:

  1. To prove that Jesus was the Son of God, as the Father claimed Him to be.
  2. To prove that here was a Man who would triumph where Adam failed.
  3. To provide for us an example in overcoming Satan in temptation.

Adam and Eve were tempted in relation to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These answer to the appeal to “Taste,” the fact that the tree was “Pleasant to the eyes,” and also that it was “To be desired to make one wise.” So, the devil follows the same pattern with the Lord, appealing to the need of His body through hunger, appealing to His dependence upon God – which in any other may have become a matter of pride – and appealing through the vision of kingdoms and their glory, which Satan brought powerfully before His eyes. However, the Lord Jesus could not respond to any of these!

The Temptation

What was involved in the temptation itself? Note the order emphasized by Luke: Verse 2 “When they were ended,” verse 5 “And the devil taking Him up,” verse 9 “And he brought Him to Jerusalem.” Note that the Lord was evidently being tempted over the whole 40 day period, and we are only told about the last three temptations, when the Lord was hungry after the long period of fasting.

Concerning verse 3, His ability to make the stone into bread was undeniable. He turned water into wine, so He could make stones into bread! However, this would have been to satisfy His own bodily needs, and the Lord could never perform a miracle for His own self-gratification! Observe how the Lord deals with the temptation. He resorted to scripture, quoting from Deuteronomy, chapter 8.3: “Man shall not live by bread only.” Note that he refers here both to the written word and the spoken word: “… every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” So, in the word of God there is Divine inspiration and also Divine provision. Also, we learn again that man is not only body, but soul and spirit. The physical, bodily needs we have are important, but not all-important!

In the first temptation, it is a test to physical necessity, but now, in the second, it is a test of desire for authority, and in the last it is a test of personal dependency. In verse 5, he shows Him all the kingdoms of this world, and in verse 6 he suggests to the Lord what he will give Him. So, by eye and ear, Satan appeals to the senses. Verse 7 demonstrates that this was not really for the Lord’s benefit, but for Satan’s, as it demanded He fall down and worship the devil before all would be His. The Lord again resorts to scripture, this time from Deuteronomy 6: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Scripture must always be our guide in every situation, no matter how personally beneficial something might appear to be!

Now, in verse 9, the devil sets Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and again challenges “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.” Satan knew that the Lord had put Himself in a position of dependence, and challenges Him to display that dependence by throwing Himself off the temple pinnacle. Picking up the Lord’s adherence to scripture, he also quotes from Psalm 91 to try to imply a justification for the proposed action. However, notice that he inserts 3 words that are not in the original quotation: “… at any time …” Clearly, this was not the time for such an action, and the Lord again quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, 6.16: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” We must not tempt God by playing on His promises. So, the Lord was not going to put God to the test, just for the sake of it!

What an encouragement it is to see how he lived a life of dependence upon God. There were times of hunger and thirst, times of weariness, times when He had nowhere to lay His head, yet through it all, and even through the sufferings of the cross, He trusted in His God, from whom came deliverance.

The temptation gives us confidence that Satan can be overcome, and he departs from the Lord a defeated foe. How good to know that the Lord is not able to succumb to evil temptations, because He is absolutely holy. These forty days of testing show that He was absolutely who God said, none other than the perfect Son of God.

Luke Chapter 3.21-38

The Lord’s Baptism (verses 21-22)

The coming of Jesus

Both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus came from Galilee (Nazareth) to Jordan. The years of subjection to earthly parents and the obscurity of the hidden years were over. He who had come from Heaven to Bethlehem now comes from the reproach of Nazareth to Jordan, to commence His public ministry.

The concern of John

John at first objected, saying: “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” Without this comment we would perhaps have wondered why there was the need for Jesus to be baptized at all. He had no need of repentance, as He was inherently holy! However, the Lord instructs John that it was the right thing to do, and, in being baptized, He was identifying Himself with the righteous remnant in Israel who were prepared to stand for God. In this, we see the devotion of the Son to accomplish the work given to Him by the Father.

Communion in prayer

Only Luke records that Jesus was praying, and this is in keeping with the dependence of the Saviour in the gospel of the perfect Man. At least seven times in Luke, the Lord Jesus prays. On the mountain in solitude, in the garden in sorrow, on the cross in suffering, He cried to His God in supplication. What an example to encourage us to pray also in our dependence upon the Father.

Complacency of the Spirit

Heaven was opened upon Him. Here was a Man for whom there was no barrier between heaven above and earth beneath. In the day of millennial glory, the heaven will be open again, and the angels of God will be seen to ascend and descend upon the Son of man (John 1.51). However, here, it is the Holy Spirit who descends as a dove upon the baptized Christ. There is now a Man on earth that the Spirit of God can rest upon. The psalmist says: “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” John’s gospel does not deal with the baptism as such, but he alone reveals the reason for the visible emblem of a dove being used. In John 1.33 the Baptist declares: “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth in the Holy Spirit.” Thus, John concludes: “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1.34).

The commendation of the Father

The visible sign of the Spirit is accompanied by the audible voice of the Father saying: “Thou art my beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.” In Mark and Luke the pleasure is more personal, as the Father directly addresses the Son. However, in Matthew it is more official, as He calls the attention of others to the Son of His great pleasure. This is of course true for all time, but may be a particular reflection upon the 30 years that are now past. The Lord Jesus confirmed the extent of this pleasure in John 8.29, when He said: “I do always those things that please Him.”

The context of the genealogy verses 23-38

The only genealogy found in the New Testament is that of the Lord Jesus. Someone has said it is because He was the only One who needed to prove His manhood (in Luke’s record) and His kingship (in Matthew’s record). In Luke, it is generally agreed that we have Mary’s genealogy, while Matthew presents the legal line through Joseph. However, both trace descent from David, which is essential to confirm the Lord’s right to Kingship. Luke also gives more extensive detail in tracing back to Adam, who was of God.

Note that the words “the son of” are not in the original text, with the exception of verse 23: “ … (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” Where there are differences in the names recorded, this can simply be explained by the fact that one is Joseph’s genealogy, while the other is Mary’s.

Thus, the Lord “began to be about 30 years of age.” What grace marks this statement! The patient waiting was over, and He had now reached the age when Levite service would officially begin. Mingled and anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, the Father was saying to all: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth” (Isaiah 42.1).

Luke chapter 3, verses 1 – 20

John the Baptist

Suitable Man (verses 1 – 2)

Verse 1 underlines the darkness and difficulties of the time. It was the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, and the Jewish nation was under the dominion and yoke of Rome. The political and religious conditions were adverse, and corrupt leaders were both morally and spiritually bankrupt.

Thus, God sets them aside and bypasses the great in the eyes of men to take up the insignificant son of a priestly couple. “The word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (verse 2). Here we have emphasised to us 3 matters:

  1. His selection– He was the sovereign choice of God. John 1.6 gives John his authority: “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.”
  2. Suitability – Being the son of Zacharias gives him a suitable pedigree and links him with the remnant group among the nation. Parental influence is a challenging matter, and we all need to determine what priorities we are setting for our families in the things of God.
  3. Separation– In the wilderness, he was a man set apart for God. His spiritual development is emphasised in chapter 1.80: “The child grew and waxed strong in spirit and was in the deserts until the day of his showing unto Israel.” He was a Nazarite from his mother’s womb and was separate in Appetite, Appearance and Association (see Numbers 6). His years in the wilderness were equipping him for Divine service. This is the order of things with God: private experience and personal growth must precede public service and responsibility!

Scriptural Ministry (verses 3 – 6)

  1. It was Prophetic – “And thou child shall be called the prophet of the Highest” (chapter 1.76). Chapter 3.3 indicates that Isaiah prophesied that John would come as “the voice of One crying in the wilderness,” and so did Malachi, where he is called “My messenger.” John’s preaching, too, was based upon Holy Scripture, as we can see from his reference here to Isaiah 40.
  2. It was Preparatory – Chapter 1.76 says again: “Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.” John was the herald of the coming King. The Lord is coming again, and we have a responsibility to preach and prepare others for that coming.
  3. It was Pointed – John’s task was to tell the people of the need to be in a fit condition for the coming of the King. The high were to be brought low, the crooked to be made straight, and the rough smooth. The grace of God ought to humble us, straighten us out and make us righteous and refine us for the presence of Christ. How will the Lord find us when He comes again?

Searching Message (verses 7 – 14)

John speaks to 3 groups of people who could be looked at in a representative way. They are the multitude, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. Notice the same question is repeated by each group, “What shall we do?” However, John does not answer them all in the same way, but in a way which is specific to the particular background of each group.

He stirs the social conscience of the multitude to meet the need of those around them, particularly with regard to food and clothing, the basic necessities of life.

To the tax collectors, he says: “Exact no more than that that is appointed you.” (No leeway to feather their own nest by defrauding others.)

To the soldiers he says: “No violence, no false accusation, and no discontent.”

This is what John means by “fruits worthy of repentance.” Likewise, we who have been saved have a responsibility to be model citizens and employees, and not to cheat, lie or steal for personal gain. It’s not for Christians to be involved in social unrest or political demonstrations, but we must also ask questions of ourselves in terms of doing good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith. It is a common enough question to ask: “What shall we do?” Some are asking: “What shall we do to be more acceptable?” Inevitably this leads to compromise. Others say: “What shall we do to be different?” This leads to all sorts of innovations being introduced. If only we were asking: “What shall we do to be more like Christ and more consistent with His word?” Conformity to Him is God’s ultimate purpose for us, and conviction about the truth of scripture would save us from liberal and modern trends.

Selfless Motivation (verses 15 – 18)

What a temptation for John in these verses. “The people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not.” There was the danger here of anointing the wrong man. Samuel almost did this when Eliab was brought before him, but God said: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him” (1st Samuel 16.7). Sometimes we judge after the outward appearance and settle on what is appealing to the flesh, but this will cause us to miss Christ. John knew there was room for only one Man to be anointed, and that was the Son of God.

Here the thrust of popularity was within John’s grasp, but it would have been a denial of his own ministry. No, John was clear of personal ambition and, like Paul later, sought only to magnify Christ. Christ was greater in might, moral worth and ministry, and John is happy to confess this here. It is at this point that God introduces the Man in whom is expressed every moral grace and dignity. He is the “chiefest among ten thousand,” the “altogether lovely” One (Song of Solomon ch. 5, vv. 10 and 16).

The Lord could speak of John’s greatness, but it was not for John to do that. May we learn that He alone assesses the worth of His servants, and we should learn not to think of men above that which is written. Perhaps that is a lesson we have still not taken on board, despite the disasters of the past.

Are we seeking only to promote Christ? What sayest thou of thyself? John replies: “I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoes.” Could it be that we have lost in our souls a sense of wonder at the worth of the Lord Jesus?

John knew why Christ was coming and what He was capable of doing. His baptism in the Holy Spirit was accomplished at Pentecost, and the baptism with fire has yet to come. One speaks of the provisions of the Lord through the Spirit, and the other of the punishment of those who are identified here as the chaff, fit only to be burned up. The Lord here is the Divine winnower. He will separate the chaff from the wheat as he separates the saved from the lost. However, there is another aspect to this, as the Lord deals with His own people, to remove the chaff from our lives. Thus, in Haggai’s day “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of Hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man to his own house” (Haggai 1.9). This is a characteristic of our own day: the Lord’s things are no longer first. They may have a place, but they are not the top priority over every other issue. Maybe He has been blowing upon us in order to bring us back to himself.

 Stand Morally (verses 19 – 20)

John stood against the immoral relationship Herod had with Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. He told Herod: “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” John spoke out on more than one occasion, and, as a result of this, Herod put him in prison. Ultimately John paid for his righteous stand by being beheaded at the request of the daughter of Herodias.

Luke chapter 2.25-52

The Meeting with Simeon (verses 25-35)

Simeon is another of the faithful remnant in Israel who was waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah.  He lived in Jerusalem and was righteous in his living and devoted to God.  Note the import of the Holy Spirit in this man’s life.

Separation in Service

“The Holy Spirit was upon him” (verse 25). God had set him apart for service by the Holy Spirit.  How important to know that we are fulfilling our Spirit-given service today!

Revelation through the Spirit

God had given him a revelation by the Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.

Direction in the Spirit

The Spirit of God controlled his movements.  So, he was led by the Spirit into the temple and was there when Mary and Joseph brought in the young child Jesus.  The messianic identity of the child was confirmed as Simeon received the Lord Jesus up into his arms and blessed God.  He recognised that this child was the Christ and that, having seen Christ, he could now depart this life in peace.  Simeon acknowledges the sovereignty of God over him as he says: “Sovereign Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”  He also speaks words of prophesy, declaring that salvation light and glory would be found in the child before him.  Mary and Joseph were amazed at the things that were said, and Simeon blessed them.  He then revealed directly to Mary that Jesus would cause the fall and rising-up again of many in Israel and would be spoken against as the reasoning of many hearts would be revealed.  He let Mary know that she herself would also suffer in her soul at the things that would happen, as if a sword had pierced her.

Anna the prophetess (verses 36-38)

Her sorrow recorded

Anna was a godly woman who lived in the temple, and she was very old, possibly even over one hundred years of age!  She had been widowed after only seven years of marriage and had been a widow for eighty-four years.

Her service unhindered

Luke emphasises her separated life to God in the temple, where she served Him night and day with fasting and praying.

Her speech focused on Christ

Anna came in when Jesus was there, and she also gave thanks to God for Him and continually spoke about Him to those in Israel who looked for redemption through the Messiah.

After everything required by the law had been fulfilled, they returned to Nazareth in Galilee.  Luke records that the child grew, was strong in spirit and full of wisdom as the grace of God rested upon Him.

The doctors of the law and Jesus’ growth (verses 39 – 52)

Mary and Joseph made the journey to Jerusalem at Passover time every year.  When Jesus was 12 years old, they made this same journey to keep the feast.  When the Passover was over, Jesus waited behind at Jerusalem when the others started the journey back home, but Mary and Joseph were not aware of this.  Their supposition led to a day without Christ, and, when they couldn’t find Him, they turned back to Jerusalem looking for Him.  It took them 3 further days to find Him sitting in the temple with the teachers, hearing them and asking them questions.  All those that heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers.  Mary and Joseph were also amazed, and Mary questioned Him as to why He had dealt with them in such a way, causing them to look for Him with great sorrow.  Jesus said: “How is it that you sought Me?  Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (speaking of His Father in heaven).  Mary and Joseph didn’t really understand what He meant.

After that, Jesus went with them to Nazareth and submitted to them, but Mary retained all these things in her heart.

So, Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.  Someone has said of His growth that “there was development but not improvement, as He was perfect at every stage He passed through.”