Blessings For All – Luke 4.22-30

After a reasonably positive reaction to this bombshell-revelation of Jesus being the Messiah (Luke 4.22), as the passage progresses we see people turn very quickly.

“All were speaking well of him, and were amazed at the gracious words coming out of his mouth. They said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Jesus said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ and say, ‘What we have heard that you did in Capernaum, do here in your hometown too.’” And he added, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up three and a half years, and there was a great famine over all the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to a woman who was a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, forced him out of the town, and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.

(NET)

People were now furious with Jesus because He had, simply, pronounced that the Gentiles (people and nations distinct from the Israelites) would have God’s blessings.

Would a habitual liar risk being pushed off a cliff for inciting an angry mob if He knew that He was lying (v.29)?

Would someone not in their right mind make claims such as this that were long-prophesied in Scripture? 

“Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.””

(Genesis 21.18)

“I, the LORD, officially commission you; 

I take hold of your hand. 

I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, 

and a light to the nations,

to open blind eyes, 

to release prisoners from dungeons, 

those who live in darkness from prisons.”

(Isaiah 42.6-7)

If, then, Jesus were correct in claiming to be the Messiah (Luke 4.21) then He would have known that the Gentiles were always part of the plan, so to speak. His words in Luke 4.22-30 about God’s blessings and the nations are not lies, not lunacy, they are of the Lord.

For you and for me this means that no matter who we are and no matter where are from the blessings of God are available to you today because of Jesus!

Fulfilling Scripture – Luke 4.21

“Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 

because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives 

and the regaining of sight to the blind, 

to set free those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.””

(Luke 4.16-21, NET)

After returning from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit to Galilee (4.14), Jesus taught Scripture in synagogues and was, it seems, warmly received (4.15). In His hometown of Nazareth he did just this, and read from Isaiah 61,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 

because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives 

and the regaining of sight to the blind, 

to set free those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So far, so good. Scripture reading received, Jesus then drops a verbal bombshell,

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, 

Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.””

(Emphasis added)

Reading this Messianic Scripture in a synagogue and claiming it has been fulfilled was a huge statement. Jesus was saying, simply, “I am the Messiah”. Jesus was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah that would bring about God’s Kingdom.

Could these be the words of a liar or a lunatic? Maybe.

Given the next utterance He makes, Jesus is not lying to get the crowd on His side (more on that tomorrow).

Perhaps these are the words, as C.S. Lewis said, of a lunatic? A lunatic could conceivably believe that they were someone they were not. I’m not sure a lunatic would be so well-versed in Scripture, though. Sure, they might catch onto the idea that there was this future figure, a Messiah, a coming conquer and deliverer who would bring about a new way of life and usher in God’s Kingdom. They might have heard and dreamed and started to believe, “Yeah, I like the sound of that”. Would they announce themselves cooly and calmly and through a properly-exegeted piece of Scripture? No. 

Again then, given what we know about the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and future promises of Jesus, His claim in Luke 4.21 is not one of a liar nor of a lunatic. It must then, be the claim of the Lord.   

Temptation, 3 – Luke 4.9-13

“Then the devil brought him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” So when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time.”

(NET)

Having been tempted physically and with glory, Jesus is now tempted with timing and structure, so to speak. This temptation comes with the extra layer of demonic deception in the form of the devil quoting Scripture. The devil quotes from Psalm 91 and says, simply, throw yourself off the temple, God will protect you, and then people will love and revere you and accept you as Messiah…

Would a liar have listened? Would a lunatic have listened? If Jesus were out of His mind, maybe He would have listened and bought into the deception. If Jesus were lying about who He was, maybe He wouldn’t have jumped for fear of death but come up with a clever response. However, what He did say again shows that He is no liar and no lunatic:

  “It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’”

To jump, knowing that Divine protection would testify to His Lordship and give people irrefutable proof of His identity would, essentially, cut the cross out of the picture (1 Peter 1.20, Ephesians 3.9).

Being tempted to take a shortcut to the ultimate goal is something we will all face. If we are in the habit of taking shortcuts to get where we think we need to go, perhaps we will fall for the temptation to cut God’s plans and purposes for us out of the picture. Rather, let us follow the example of the Lord Jesus here and keep this truth central in our minds when we are tempted to take a shortcut and cut God’s plans and purposes out of the picture,

“It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Temptation 2, Luke 4.5-8

“Then the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “To you I will grant this whole realm —and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’””

(NET)

Having been tempted physically (vv.1-4), Jesus was then tempted with glory. Jesus was offered this whole realm…the glory that goes along with it…How was this dominion and glory to be transferred? Jesus is told that He has to worship the devil, literally “bend the knee, προσκυνέω”. Jesus was being asked to worship the devil in act and in posture. On offer was world ruling dominion and the associated glory if only Jesus were to worship and rely on the power of evil to achieve it. 

If dominion and glory were someone’s main goal and they were not concerned with process, or truth, do you think they would have taken the opportunity? I think a self-centred, deceitful, lying lunatic may well have taken the opportunity.

Someone committed to the cause, someone who knew where glory and power and dominion truly belong (Jude 1.24-25) would not give in to the temptation of glory via demonic deception.

For you and for me, this temptation will present itself many times each day in many ways. Are you willing to take credit for something when others deserve it, thus making you a liar? Are you willing to deceive yourself and to tell yourself that you do actually deserve all the good in your life, that you have earned it, that you are just ‘getting yours’? Or, like the Lord, are you prepared to stand on the authority of Scripture and say only God is to be worshiped, creator not creation, and certainly not me.

Temptation, 1 – Luke 4.1-4

“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he endured temptations from the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were completed, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’”

(NET)

Between the last words and now, Luke has given us an account of John the Baptist (3.1-22) and of Jesus’ genealogy (3.23-38). As we move into ch.4 we see Jesus being tempted (cf. Hebrews 4.15).

The first temptation concerns physical need. Hungry from fasting (He ate nothing during those days…) Jesus is tempted with having all His physical needs, and more, met miraculously. 

“The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.””

It’s not surprising that the first temptation thrown at Jesus is based on His immediate state. Hungry? How about you forsake faith for food?

What does Jesus respond with?

 “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’”

First and foremost we see Jesus answering temptation with the Word of God. He quotes from Deuteronomy 8.3 and throws back to the exiles in the wilderness. Was it God’s will for the exiles to live or die in the wilderness? Was it God’s will for Jesus to live or die in this wilderness?

Thinking of our liar, lunatic, or Lord categories;

Would someone lying about who He is and His purpose be so foolish to refuse food if He was forty days famished?

Would someone not thinking properly? Perhaps. The measured, contextualised, and Scriptural response is not one of madness though, is it?

Again then the conclusion is that Jesus here is demonstrating His Lordship, but also His obedience to God. John A. Martin writes,

Jesus, knowing God’s Word, knew of the plan which was before Him and was trusting in the Father and His Word for sustenance.” 

For you and for me, what a great example this is. The Lord Jesus standing on the authority and sustenance of the Word of God in the face of temptation. Questions to consider today:

Do we know of the plan before us? 

Do we trust in the Father and His Word for sustenance?