Luke 4:1-15


Luke 4:1-15 (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13)
1Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
3And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'”[Deuteronomy 8:3]
5Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”[Deuteronomy 6:13]
9Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’ [in all your ways]
11and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”[Psalm 91:11-12]
12And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'”[Deuteronomy 6:16]
13Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
14Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. 15And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
In this amazing passage, we see one aspect of what the writer of Hebrews says about our great High Priest – Jesus…
Hebrews 4:15-16
15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
All of the synoptic gospels report on Jesus’ temptation by the devil, although Mark’s treatment of this episode is very brief, devoting only two verses to it. It is worth our time to look at all three reports…
Matthew 4:1-11
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”[Deuteronomy 8:3]
5Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”[Psalm 91:11-12]
7Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'”[Deuteronomy 6:16]
8Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”[Deuteronomy 6:13]
11Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Mark 1:12-13
12Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Matthew says that Jesus was led into the wilderness by God’s Spirit specifically to be tempted by the devil. Matthew also seems to imply that Satan only came to Jesus after He was weakened by His forty-day fast, while Luke’s report indicates that the devil was tempting Jesus the entire time.
Notice that Satan begins his attack by questioning Jesus’ deity, saying, “If You are the Son of God…” This seems very strange to me. We know that Satan was present in the form of the serpent when God declared the very first Messianic prophecy in Eden…
Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
Clearly, Satan must have known that Jesus is God, having come in the flesh of a man – Immanuel. So what was Satan trying to accomplish in calling Jesus’ Sonship into question? Perhaps he hoped that in the flesh of a man, and in His deprived, hungry state, Jesus would have begun to question His own relationship with the Father. Yet we find throughout Jesus’ life that He sought continual fellowship with the Father in prayer. This is a great encouragement for us. Jesus has purchased for us with His own blood that same access to the Father which He enjoyed Himself while on earth as the Son of Man…
Romans 5:1-2
1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Ephesians 2:13-22
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Jesus had enjoyed intimate fellowship with the Father for eternity past. Then, having come in the flesh of a man, He continually renewed that bond with the Father through prayer. The (temporary) loss of this companionship was part of His suffering. In His desperate prayer in Gethsemane, anticipating the imminent loss of fellowship with the Father, He begged the Father not take away His presence if there was any other possible way. When we study this prayer, seeing Jesus’ frantic desperation, and His ultimate surrender to the will of the Father, we ordinarily think in terms of the physical torture He knew He would soon suffer. But the prospect of separation from the Father was for Jesus even more terrifying.
Yet the breaking of this eternal bond of fellowship between the Father and the Son was necessary in order that Jesus might assume the full burden of our sins upon Himself. God in His perfection cannot dwell in the presence of sin. Therefore, Romans 6:23 proclaims that God’s righteous punishment for sin is death – eternal separation from God. The very plan of salvation in Christ is designed above all to spare sinful mankind from this separation by placing it instead upon Jesus. God preserved mankind from suffering this punishment himself, by banishing us from Eden once Adam and Eve had tasted the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil…
Genesis 3:22-24
22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
This was then the state of the world and mankind until the advent of the Messiah. Then on the cross, Jesus took our rightful place, and tasted death – separation from the Father – for the first time since the founding of the universe…
Matthew 27:46
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
It is deeply sorrowful for us when we dwell on this torture of separation from the Father that Jesus suffered on our behalf. But we must always remember that Jesus rose again on the third day, having conquered sin and death, and that He has now sat down at the right hand of the Father, just as He always was, and will always be.
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Satan’s strategy in his temptation of Jesus is identical to the one he uses on us, taking advantage of our primary weaknesses – namely the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…
1 John 2:15-17
15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
In his first attack upon Jesus here in Luke 4 Satan attempted to make use of the lust of the flesh. Knowing Jesus’ was in a weakened state after a 40-day fast, Satan suggested Jesus make bread for Himself…
Luke 4:3
And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
To me, this begs the question why the devil didn’t simply offer bread to Jesus, rather than suggesting Jesus create the bread Himself. Although it might not have been obvious to us, this verse is a reminder that surely Jesus could have provided food for Himself any time, yet He chose not to. Instead, He chose to suffer the weakness of the flesh in hunger. He did this for a specific purpose – to demonstrate for us that is possible (and often necessary) in the mercy and grace of God, by the power of His Spirit to rise above our fleshly desires, and conform ourselves to the obedience of God. Physical hunger has the desirable side effect of drawing us into spiritual humility, and reliance upon God. Jesus gives us here a simple demonstration of this principle.
Even though Jesus had emptied Himself of many of His godly attributes in order to come in the flesh as the Son of Man, He certainly had the power to provide bread for Himself had He chosen to. We know this from the stories of the many miracles He performed on earth like the feeding of the 5,000, and turning the water into wine at the Cana wedding. The devil was certainly aware of this too. It is clear that Jesus had been called to fast during this time, so the temptation Satan presented Him with was to disobey this call to fast, and satisfy the lust of the flesh. What is God teaching us through this story? The answer lies in Jesus’ response. God knows we need food…
Matthew 6:31-33
31“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Rather than relying on His own power to fulfill the need, Jesus instead modeled for us here in His response to this temptation, a full reliance upon God, and a trust in God’s Word, quoting from Moses’ proclamation of God’s given law to the children of Israel…
Deuteronomy 8:3
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.
How apropos this specific scripture was to Jesus’ situation in the wilderness at the time of His temptation after His forty-day fast.
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Next we see Satan trying to tempt Jesus through an appeal to the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. This is the same old lie he’s been spreading all along, first calling into question God’s Word, and then preying on mankind’s greed, ambition, and pride…
Genesis 3 1-5
1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'”
2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Luke 4:5-7
5Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
Satan is not just idly boasting here. Jesus Himself calls the devil “the ruler of this world” three times, all in John…
John 12:31
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
John 14:30
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.
John 16:5-11
5But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
It is mankind’s sin which has ceded this power over the earth to the devil…
Ephesians 2:1-3
1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Yet we can still take heart in God’s promise that the evil one’s temporary dominion over the earth will be brought to an end by God’s righteous judgment in His perfect time…
Isaiah 14:12-15
12″How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart:
“I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.”
15Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Revelation 11:15
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Here again, Jesus’ response to the temptation was to remain obedient to God’s Word…
Luke 4:8
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”[Deuteronomy 6:13]
This exhortation immediately follows the שָׁמַע shama` – so called because it begins with the Hebrew word שָׁמַע shama` meaning to hear, listen to, obey. Jesus quotes twice from this chapter in Deuteronomy in response to two of Satan’s temptations…
Deuteronomy 6:4-19
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 10So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.14You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15(for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.
16“You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah. 17You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the LORD swore to your fathers, 19to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has spoken.
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In his final temptation, we can discern a sense of desperation on the part of the tempter. Having failed in the two previous attempts to turn Jesus from obedience, Satan is now seemingly willing to settle for simple murder…
Luke 4:9-12
9Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’ [in all your ways]
11and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” [Psalm 91:11-12]
12And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'” [Deuteronomy 6:16]
Once again, the devil calls into question Jesus’ Sonship, then starts the final assault with another misquote from the Word of God. Indeed, Psalm 91 does say that God will give His angels charge over us, but why? In order to keep us in all our ways…
Psalm 91:11-12
11For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Satan seems to have conveniently left out the part about keeping us in all our ways. God does, indeed, protect us when we stumble and fall, not to preserve us from harm, but to maintain us in the ways of obedience. Indeed when we stray into rebellion, God will definitely allow suffering in our lives so that we might be restored to a proper subordination of our wills to His, so that He might thus bless us with the truly abundant life we can only obtain by following Him closely, and walking in obedience by trusting in Him.
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Luke 4:13
Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Following the three temptations, Luke’s gospel points out that Satan only left Jesus for a time. In this, Luke reminds us that the devil is always seeking to ensnare us, but he is wily, and often leaves us for a time only to return with a vengeance once our guard is down. This is a reminder of God’s admonition to Cain, who in his pride was unfortunately unwilling to receive it…
Genesis 4:6-7
6So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
As we walk in faith under obedience to God, we will often be victorious, yet we must be continually on guard…
1 Corinthians 1:12-13
12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
With that said, though, we need to be continually pressing forward. We can’t rest on our victories in Christ, and we can’t be paralyzed by our failures either. We would do well to remember Paul’s great admonition…
Philippians 3:12-14
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
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Luke 4:14-15
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. 15And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
Following His trial in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit. God allows trials and suffering in our lives for a variety of reasons. We are well familiar with His taking us “to the woodshed” as Pastor Steve might say, for correction. But God also allows trials so that He can strengthen and prepare us for what He is leading us into next…
James 1:2-4
2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:12-15
12Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
1 Peter 4:12-16
12Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
1 Timothy 6:11-12
11But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Romans 5:1-5
1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
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