Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
Epistle: Romans 10:8b-13
Lesson: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm: Psalm 91:1-13
CLB Commentary – Dr. Eugene Boe
This text forms a bridge from Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a dove and the voice from heaven said, “you are my beloved son, with you I am well-pleased,” to the beginning of his public ministry as the Messiah. It follows Luke’s genealogy narrative in which Jesus is clearly placed in the human family, a descendant of Adam, and divine, as son of God (Luke 3:38). This identity and relationship of sonship will now be put to the test by the same tester who confronted the first Adam. However, the context is quite different; then the Garden of Eden, now a wilderness; then well nourished, now without food. The first encounter with the devil ended in defeat and death for all of mankind.
The way that Luke narrates the temptation also calls to mind the testing of Israel during her time in the wilderness (see Psalm 106). Joel Green in his commentary on Luke states:
We may note especially the far-reaching similarity between the nature of their testing and his. According to Deuteronomy, (1) Israel was allowed to hunger in order to learn that one does not live by bread alone (8:3); (2) Israel was instructed to worship the one and only God, and not to follow after any other god (6:4–15); and (3) Israel was commanded not to put the Lord God to the test (6:16). In each case, however, Israel failed in their obedience to God (e.g., Exod 17:1–7; Deut 9:6–29; cf. Acts 7:35, 39–43). The deployment of these scriptural texts in the production of this new text opens the door to a particularly fertile discursive play; we hear a virtual choir of voices telling this story and giving it significance. The similarities are sufficient in scope and quantity to show that the narrator has drawn attention deliberately to Jesus in his representative role as Israel, God’s son. 1
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is now led by the Spirit into the wilderness (4:1). This one on one with the devil, literally slanderer, was God’s plan and will. This would be the beginning of an on-going battle with the evil one.
The temptations not only test the identity of Jesus calling him to prove that he is God’s son and prove his faithfulness to his Father, but also his faithfulness to being the kind of messiah God had promised who would accomplish the needed redemption of sinners. The temptations were designed to deny who Jesus was and derail his work on the cross.
There is a progression in the temptations as recorded by Luke as the scenes move from the wilderness to a high place and then culminate at Jerusalem and the temple where the final victory is won. Even though Luke, focuses only on three specific temptations the tempting work of the evil one was continuous throughout the forty days.
The first temptation seeks to lead Jesus to distrust his heavenly Father and take matters into his own hands and power. In the second temptation Jesus can instantly become possessor of and authority over all the kingdoms of the world through the worship of the devil. This false promise of the devil is true to his nature as a liar who cannot give what he does not own. The third temptation calls for proof that God really will be faithful to his promise and save. This slanderer distorts what God has indeed said.
Jesus, as true man and true God, however, defies and defeats the one who deceived our first parents, resulting in all human persons to be born into sin and under sin’s sentence of death. The ultimate victory over the devil, who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14), would be accomplished on the cross.
These temptations of the devil are still being put to believers today with the same force of deception and with the ultimate goal of destroying faith and trust in Jesus. Many read this passage of the temptations of Jesus as a model for how we should respond in our times of testing and temptation by the devil. But the point of this text is the victory of Jesus over the devil in this one on one battle with the enemy of our souls. Because Jesus won we who are in Christ win. Thanks be to Jesus for his defeat of this our enemy.
1 Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 192-93.