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Luke 4

Frank Binford Hole

The Gospel of Luke

OUR CHAPTER OPENS with Him returning from His baptism, full of the Holy Ghost. But before beginning His service He must for forty days be tempted of the devil. To this testing the Spirit led Him, and here we see the glorious contrast between the Second Man and the first.

When the first man was created God pronounced all to be very good, but Satan came promptly on the scene, tempted man and ruined him. The Second Man has appeared, and the Father's voice has pronounced His excellence, so again Satan comes on the scene with promptness, but this time he meets Man, full of the Holy Ghost, who is impervious to his wiles. When the first man fell, he knew no pangs of hunger, for he dwelt in the fertile garden planted by his Creator's hand. The Second Man victoriously stood, though the garden had been turned into a wilderness and He was an hungered.

Luke evidently gives us the temptations in the moral order and not the historical. Matthew gives us the historical order, and shows us that the end of the temptation was when the Lord bade Satan get behind Him, as recorded in verse 8 of our chapter. The order here agrees with John's analysis of the world in1 John 2. The first temptation was evidently designed to appeal to the lust of the flesh, the second to the lust of the eyes, and the third to the pride of life. But no such lust or pride had any place in our Lord, and the three testings only served to reveal His perfection in its details.

The Lord Jesus had become truly a Man, and in answer to the first temptation He took man's proper place of complete dependence upon God. Just as man's natural life hangs upon his assimilation of bread, so his spiritual life hangs upon his assimilation of, and obedience to, the Word of God. In answer to the second temptation was seen His whole-hearted devotedness to God. Power and glory and dominion in themselves were as nothing to Him; He was wholly set for the worship and service of God. He met the third temptation, in which He was urged to put God's faithfulness to the test, by His unswerving confidence in God. The great adversary found no point of attack in Him. He trusted God without testing Him.

The three features thus brought so prominently into display-dependence, devotedness, confidence-are those which mark the perfect Man. They are very distinctly seen in Psalm 16, which by the Spirit of prophecy sets forth Christ in His perfections as a Man.

Having been tested by Satan, and triumphed over him in the power of the Holy Ghost, the Lord Jesus returned to Galilee to begin His public ministry in the power of the same Spirit, and His first recorded utterance is in the synagogue at Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He read the opening words of Isaiah 61, stopping at the point where the prophecy passes from the first Advent to the second. "The day of vengeance of our God" has not yet come, but by stopping at the point He did, where in our Version only a comma appears, He was able to begin His sermon by saying, and "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." It presented Him as the One anointed by the Spirit of God, in whom was to be made known to men the fulness of the grace of God.

This presentation of Himself appears to be characteristic of Luke's Gospel. Though He was God in the fulness of His Person, yet He comes before us as the dependent Man full of the Holy Ghost, speaking and acting in the power of the Spirit, and flowing over with grace for men. What struck the hearers at Nazareth was, "the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." The law of Moses had often been rehearsed within the walls of the synagogue, but never before had grace been thus proclaimed there. But it was not enough to proclaim grace in the abstract: He proceeded to illustrate grace in order that the people might realize what it involved. He cited two instances from their own Scriptures where the kindness of God had been shown, and in both cases the recipients of the grace were sinners of the Gentiles. The Sidonian widow was in a hopeless plight-"without strength." The Syrian soldier was amongst the "enemies" of God and His people. Hence the two cases quite aptly illustrate Romans 5: 6-10, for the woman was saved and sustained, and the man was cleansed and reconciled.

This beautiful presentation of grace in its practical working did not suit the people of Nazareth. Gracious words were all very nice in the abstract, but the moment they realized that grace presupposes nothing but demerit in those who receive it, they rose up in proud rebellion and great fury, and would have slain Jesus had He not passed from their midst. The good things that grace brings were acceptable enough, but they did not want them on the ground of grace, since it assumed they were no better than Gentile sinners. The modern mind would probably approve of grace being offered in the slum, while regarding it as an affront if preached in the synagogue. The Jewish mind would not even hear of it being exercised in the slum!

Thus in a very definite way there was a rejection of grace the very first time it was proclaimed, and this not in Jerusalem among scribes and Pharisees but in the humbler parts of Galilee in the very place where He had been brought up. Their familiarity with Him acted as a veil upon their hearts.

In the light of all this the closing section of the chapter is very beautiful. When men offer a kindness in the spirit of grace and it is spurned with contumely and violence they are offended, and turn away with disgust. It was not so with Jesus. If it had been so, where should we have been? He withdrew Himself from Nazareth but passed to Capernaum and there He preached. His teaching astonished them, doubtless because of the new note of grace that characterized it, and then also because of the Divine authority with which it was clothed.

In the synagogue He came into conflict with the powers of darkness. The synagogue was a dead affair, hence men possessed by demons could be present undetected. But instantly the Lord appeared the demon revealed himself, and also showed that he knew who He was, even if the people themselves were in ignorance. Jesus was indeed the Holy One of God, but instead of accepting the demon's testimony He rebuked him and cast him out of his victim. Thus He proved the power of His word.

In verse 36 we have both authority and power, the latter word meaning dynamic force. In verse 32 the word is really authority. So we have the grace of His word in verse 22, followed by the authority of His word, and the power of His word. No wonder that folk were saying, "What a word is this!" And we, who have in this day received the Gospel of the grace of God, have equal cause for such an ejaculation. What wonders of spiritual regeneration are being wrought by the Gospel today!

From the synagogue He passed to the home of Simon in which disease was holding sway. It vanished at His word. And then at eventide came that marvellous display of the power of God in the fulness of grace. All kinds of diseases and miseries were brought into his presence, and there was deliverance for all. "He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them." Thus He exemplified the grace of God, for it is exactly the character of grace to go out to all irrespective of merit or demerit. On God's side it is offered freely and for all. Verse 40 inspired the hymn,

"At even when the sun was set,"

and surely we all rejoice to sing that,

"Thy touch has still its ancient power,

No word from Thee can fruitless fall."

But beautiful as that hymn is, the reality spoken of in verse 40 is far more lovely. Such is the grace of our God.

And the grace that was displayed on that memorable evening was not exhausted by the display. He went forth elsewhere to preach the kingdom of God-a kingdom to be established not on the basis of the works of the law but on the basis which would be laid by grace as the fruit of His own work.

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