Word and Spirit (Luke 4.1-30)
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit (14)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4.15). Jesus would be subjected to more and greater temptations than the three, Luke recounts here, notably the temptation to avoid the cross (see 22.42; Matt 26.53), but these three underscore both Jesus’ humanity and the reality of the spiritual battle he was entering into. That would not simply be “against flesh and blood, but against… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6.12).
The point of the temptations is not so much the particular seductions offered by the devil, but the fact that Satan was attempting to derail Jesus’ mission at its outset. Luke has made it very clear that Jesus was both fully human (3.23-38) and fully divine (1.35; 3.22). Satan’s “If you are the Son of God…” is arguably better translated, “Since you are the Son of God…” What is being tested is not Jesus’ self-identity, which needed no further proof, but whether he will fulfil his Messianic mission in obedience to his heavenly Father – or take an easier route (as Satan proposes, cf.22.42). Will he please his heavenly Father, or himself?
Jesus’ weapon of defence is the scriptures. Of course they were also one of Satan’s weapons of attack (10-11), a reminder that simply quoting scripture does not guarantee the truth is being spoken. But from Jesus’ lips the scriptures are spoken with an authority which even Satan cannot resist.
In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus enters another spiritual battle. This time it is he who is on the offensive, once more wielding the Scriptures. If Satan needed any further confirmation that Jesus would not be swayed from his Messianic mission, here it is. Jesus throws down the gauntlet: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” His mission has begun. His kingdom is invading Satan’s with captives being freed and sight restored. The year of the Lord’s favor has arrived.
With the devil’s agents having brought him to the brow of the hill to throw him down the cliff, how on earth did he manage to pass through their midst and go away? In an ironic echo of the third temptation, the angels seem to have guarded God’s Son. Jesus has again withstood the schemes of the devil, by the Word and in the power of the Spirit (14).
How well do you know the Scriptures?
Almighty God, grant me such understanding of your Word and fullness of your Spirit as I need to resist the temptations of the devil and follow your commands; in the name of Christ I pray. Amen
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash