John T. Willis

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Commitment, Then Testing--Luke 4:1-13

When an individual commits himself or herself completely to God, IMMEDIATELY AND FROM NOW ON, the devil=Satan will attack that person in numerous ways to break and destroy his or her commitment. This is precisely what happened in the life of Jesus. Jesus committed himself to God completely through submitting to baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and immediately and from now on the devil tested him, to which we now turn in this blog to Luke 4:1-13. The same pattern appears in Matthew 3:13-17 then 4:1-11; and Mark 1:9-11 then 1:12-13.

A comparison between Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 reveals that the order of the three tests is in a different order. The order in Matthew is: (1) turning stone into bread; (2) jump off the pinnacle of the temple; (3) worship the devil and Jesus will rule over all the kingdoms of the world. The order is Matthew is: (1) turning stone into bread; (2) worship the devil and Jesus will rule over all the kingdoms of the world; (3) jump off the pinnacles of the temple. Obviously, the Bible does not portray the chronological order of these events. Rather, Matthew and Luke portray these events in some sort of theological way. It seems most likely that Matthew put the test of worshipping the devil so he might rule all the kingdom of the world last because of the motif of a mountain in Matthew--see Matthew 28:18-20; or because Jesus rejected worshipping Satan in order to serve God alone. Matthew's order is in reverse of the texts in the Hebrew Bible which Jesus quoted: Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 6:16 in Matthew 4:7; and Deuteronomy 6:13 in Matthew 4:10. Luke probably portrayed this order geographically making jumping off the pinnacle of the Jerusalem temple as the final scene that occurred in Jerusalem.

The devil puts three tests to Jesus. The Bible does not portray these tests as inner conflicts in the heart of Jesus. NO!!! They are ACTUAL EXTERNAL tests presented to the devil=Satan. The devil or Satan is a REAL PERSON. Like numerous angels, the devil is invisible from human beings on earth. But he is very real. Throughout the life of Jesus, many people were hostile to Jesus, opposed Jesus, and rejected Jesus, and put him to death on the cross. As divine and as the Son of God the Father, Jesus was constantly tested or tempted to overthrow or destroy his enemies. See Luke 22:31-34. The author of Hebrews explains: "He [Jesus] had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested" (Hebrews 2:15-16). "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). As the Son of God the Father, Jesus was obedient to His Father's will and refused to be seduced by the devil or Satan to use his power or authority as Son of God for any reason other than that for which God the Father had sent him into the world. The connecting tie between the three scenes in Luke 4:1-13 is the quotations from Deuteronomy, texts which recall three events of the exodus from Egypt in the days of Moses, where God tested the Israelites as they moved into the wilderness wanderings. The Israelites failed; by way of contrast, Jesus succeeds. We will follow each of these tests.

I. The First Test: Changing a Stone to Bread--Luke 4:1-4.
a. Luke begins by emphasizing that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, a clear reference to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism (see Luke 3:22). Now, Jesus conquers the devil because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke underlines this important theme in 4:14, 18; and throughout Luke and Acts. This may seem strange to us, but this text emphasizes that Jesus was in subjection to the Holy Spirit. How are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit related? We would all love to know, but this is a mystery. In other texts, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. But here, Jesus is in subjection to the Holy Spirit. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit from the Jordan River where he was baptized to the wilderness at some undesignated location south of Jerusalem. 4:1.
b. Jesus was being tested by the devil forty days in the wilderness. This event echoes the forty years Moses was on Mount Sinai--Exodus 24:18; 34:28. Typically, the wilderness was a place where wild beasts and demons lived--Leviticus 16:10; Isaiah 13:21; 34:14; Tobit 8:3. The devil is Satan, the arch-enemy of God the Father. The verb "test" in this context means to put to the test with a sinister purpose, as in Acts 5:9; 15:10. Jesus fasted during these forty days; he ate nothing at all; and now he was famished. This calls to mind similar events of Moses in Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9; and Elijah in 1 Kings 19;8. This was the ideal time for the devil to attack. 4:2.
c. The devil tested Jesus with this challenge: "If you are the Son of God [as God the Father just declared in Luke 3:22], command this stone to become a loaf of bread." The devil assumes Jesus IS the Son of God; now the devil builds on this to test Jesus' character of the Father's Son. The devil seizes on the situation that Jesus is extremely hungry, and ultimately seeks to thwart Jesus' mission to save the world. Will Jesus submit to his desire to seek food for himself to satisfy his hunger, or will Jesus be obedient to his heavenly Father? This is the first test.
d. Jesus responds with a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3: "It is written, One does not live by bread alone." Like the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings, Jesus opens his heart to receive God the Father's miraculous manna, some unknown food which human beings had never experienced before. [Matthew 4:4b adds the statement: "but by every word that comes from the mouth of God," which is not in Luke. The term "word" can mean "thing" or "word." A similar text to shed light on this line is Lamentations 3:38:
"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?"
The point is: God the Father provides everything we have. We are all recipients of God's bountiful blessings and gifts. Jesus is not dependent on his own power. He is dependent on God the Father, who can give Jesus ample food, just as God the Father did to the Israelites when he miraculously gave them manna. 4:4.

II. The Second Test: If the devil will worship him, the devil will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Luke 4:5-8.
a. God the Father created the devil. The devil has great power, but still under God the Father's limitations or restrictions. Job 1:12; 2:6 contains the same concept of the devil's limitations under God the Father. The devil led Jesus up at some unknown place or position and showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world "in an instant." 4:5.
b. The devil confidently declares that HE is under the control of all the kingdoms of the world BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN GIVEN OVER TO ME, AND I GIVE IT TO ANYONE I PLEASE." This is a powerful, challenging statement. The passive "has been give over" obviously assumes that God the Father gave all the kingdoms of the world to the devil. John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; and other New Testament passages state that the devil is "prince" or "god" of the earth and claims authority over it and seeks that all human beings will worship him. Other texts suggest this is because all people have rebelled against God our Creator and Master. See Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:23. Under the limitations of God the Father, the devil may give the kingdoms of the world to anyone he pleases. The devil challenges Jesus to accept worldwide dominion over all kingdoms from himself and to switch allegiance from the God the Father to himself, who is subservient to the Son. 4:6-7.
c. Jesus responds in a similar way he did to the response in the first test. He quotes the Hebrew Bible, this time in Deuteronomy 6:13: "It is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve only him." Yahweh sent his Son to earth on the mission of declaring Yahweh's kingship rules over all human beings. Yahweh is the only king of the world; all must serve Yahweh alone. Thus, Jesus the Son submits himself to his heavenly Father. 4:8.

III. The Third Test: Jump Off the Pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple. Luke 4:9-13.
a. Now the devil took Jesus from wherever he had been to the Jerusalem temple, and summons Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple [no one can know the exact location of this pinnacle since the Bible does not reveal this location], quoting a text from the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 91:11-12, assuring Jesus that God the Father will send his angels to protect Jesus and they will bear Jesus up so he will not dash his foot against a stone. Satan says that Jesus should prove himself that he has great notoriety or brilliancy of achievement before the people now present at the temple to conform to the popular ideas of what a messenger from heaven of the people they expect or anticipate. The devil is using Psalm 91:11-12 for his own purposes, not to proclaim the true message from God in this psalm.
b. Again, Jesus responds in a way similar to the first two tests. Now he quotes Deuteronomy 6:16: "It is said, Do not put the Lord your God to the test." In the wilderness wandering, the Israelites put Yahweh to the test by demanding water when they were thirsty. Exodus 17:1-7. Moses called that place "Massah," the Hebrew term for "test." 4:12.
c. After Jesus passed all three of these tests triumphantly, the devil left him "until an opportune time." Jesus is the great conqueror because he is armed with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God--see Ephesians 6:17. The devil quotes scripture from the Hebrew Bible for his own purposes, but Jesus is more powerful (see Luke 3:16; 11:22) standing guard over God the Father's eternal plan and obedient to Scripture itself. The devil left Jesus for a while, i. e., until the death of Jesus when the devil will make another powerful attack against Jesus. At the same time, the devil worked constantly attacking Jesus throughout his ministry, as later events show. 4:13.

Share the TESTS YOU are facing and ways in which YOU are dealing with each one. Share YOUR problems and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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