Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
The Gospel According to St.
Notes on Chapter 4
Verse 1. Was led by the Spirit— Or, And was carried about, hgeto. Matthew says, avhcqh, he was brought up. Mark says, the Spirit driveth him ekballei-putteth him forth. But each of the evangelists attributes this to the Holy Ghost, not to Satan. It may be useful to remark here, that, during the forty days and forty nights in which he is said to have been tempted by the devil, he is carried about, continually sustained and supported, by the Holy Ghost. Let those who are tempted by Satan look for, and, in virtue of the power and intercession of Christ, claim, the same support; and it matters little how many days they may be assaulted by the devil, while they are carried about by the Spirit of God.
Verse 7. If thou-wilt worship me— This temptation is the last in order, as related by Matthew; and it is not reasonable to suppose that any other succeeded to it. Luke has here told the particulars, but not in the order in which they took place. See every circumstance of this temptation considered and explained in the notes on Matthew 4:1-11.
Verse 14. Returned in the power of the Spirit— en th dunamei tou pneumatov, In the mighty power of the Spirit. Having now conquered the grand adversary, he comes in the miracle-working energy of the Spirit to show forth his power, godhead, and love to the people, that they might believe and be saved. He who, through the grace of God, resists and overcomes temptation, is always bettered by it. This is one of the wonders of God’s grace, that those very things which are designed for our utter ruin he makes the instruments of our greatest good. Thus Satan is ever duped by his own proceedings, and caught in his own craft.
Verse 15. And he taught in their synagogues— We do not find that even the persecuting Jews ever hindered Christ or his disciples from preaching in their synagogues. Is it the same in every place where even the Christian religion is established by law? Would Jesus, or his apostles, or their most Scriptural representatives, be permitted to preach in one out of a thousand churches, in certain countries, unless they were strictly conformed to their external ecclesiastical customs? Nor even then, unless their doctrine were according to the taste of the managers and of the times.
Glorified of all.— All felt the power of his preaching, and acknowledged the divinity of his mission. The scandal of the cross had not yet taken place.
Verse 16. To Nazareth, where he had been brought up— It is likely that our Lord lived principally in this city till the 30th year of his age; but, after he entered on his public ministry, his usual place of residence was at the house of Peter, in Capernaum.
As his custom was— Our Lord regularly attended the public worship of God in the synagogues; for there the Scriptures were read: other parts of the worship were very corrupt; but it was the best at that time to be found in the land. To worship God publicly is the duty of every man, and no man can be guiltless who neglects it. If a person cannot get such public worship as he likes, let him frequent such as he can get. Better to attend the most indifferent than to stay at home, especially on the Lord’s day. The place and the time are set apart for the worship of the true God: if others do not conduct themselves well in it, that is not your fault, and need not be any hinderance to you. You come to worship GOD-do not forget your errand-and God will supply the lack in the service by the teachings of his Spirit. Hear the saying of old Mr. Herbert:- “The worst speak something good: should all want sense, God takes the text, and preacheth p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.” A man may always profit where the word of God is read.
Stood up for to read.— The Jews, in general, sat while they taught or commented on the Sacred Writings, or the traditions of the elders; but when they read either the law or the prophets they invariably stood up: it was not lawful for them even to lean against any thing while employed in reading.
Verse 17. And when he had opened the book— anaptuzav, When he had unrolled it. The Sacred Writings used to this day, in all the Jewish synagogues, are written on skins of basil, parchment, or vellum, sewed end to end, and rolled on two rollers, beginning at each end; so that, in reading from right to left, they roll off with the left, while they roll on with the right. Probably the place in the Prophet Isaiah, here referred to, was the lesson for that day; and Jesus unrolled the manuscript till he came to the place: then, after having read, he rolled it up again, and returned it to the officer, Luke 4:20, the ruler of the synagogue, or his servant, whose business it was to take care of it. The place that he opened was probably the section for the day. See the table at the end of Deuteronomy, and the note at the end of that table.
Verse 18. The Spirit of the Lord— This is found in Isaiah 61:1; but our Lord immediately adds to it Isaiah 42:7. The proclaiming of liberty to the captives, and the acceptable year (or year of acceptance) of the Lord, is a manifest allusion to the proclaiming of the year of jubilee by sound of trumpet: see Leviticus 25:9, etc., and the notes there. This was a year of general release of debts and obligations; of bond-men and women; of lands and possessions, which had been sold from the families and tribes to which they belonged. Our Savior, by applying this text to himself, a text so manifestly relating to the institution above mentioned, plainly declares the typical design of that institution.-LOWTH.
He hath anointed me— I have been designed and set apart for this very purpose; my sole business among men is to proclaim glad tidings to the poor, etc. All the functions of this new prophet are exercised on the hearts of men; and the grace by which he works in the heart is a grace of healing, deliverance, and illumination; which, by an admirable virtue, causes them to pass from sickness to health, from slavery to liberty, from darkness to light, and from the lowest degrees of misery to supreme eternal happiness. See Quesnel. To those who feel their spiritual poverty, whose hearts are broken through a sense of their sins, who see themselves tied and bound with the chains of many evil habits, who sit in the darkness of guilt and misery, without a friendly hand to lead them in the way in which they should go-to these, the Gospel of the grace of Christ is a pleasing sound, because a present and full salvation is proclaimed by it; and the present is shown to be the acceptable year of the Lord; the year, the time, in which he saves to the uttermost all who come unto him in the name of his Son Jesus. Reader! what dost thou feel? Sin-wretchedness-misery of every description? Then come to Jesus-He will save THEE-he came into the world for this very purpose. Cast thy soul upon him, and thou shalt not perish, but have everlasting life.
Verse 20. Were fastened on him.— Were attentively fixed on him. The proper import of atenizontev autw.
Verse 22. At the gracious words— To the words of grace, epi toiv logoiv thv caritov, or the doctrines of grace, which he then preached. It is very strange that none of the evangelists give us any account of this sermon! There was certainly more of it than is related in Luke 4:21. To-day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears; which seems to have been no more than the first sentence he spoke on the occasion. Had it been necessary for our salvation, it would have been recorded. It was a demonstration to those Jews, that Jesus, who preached to them, was the person of whom the prophet there spoke: it was not designed for general edification. Let us make a good use of what we have got, and we shalt not regret that this sermon is lost. The ear is never satisfied with hearing: we wish for another and another revelation, while sadly unacquainted with the nature and design of that which God’s mercy has already given us.
Verse 23. Physician, heal thyself— That is, heal the broken-hearted in thy own country, as the latter clause of the verse explains it; but they were far from being in a proper spirit to receive the salvation which he was ready to communicate; and therefore they were not healed.
Verse 24. No prophet is accepted— See on Matthew 13:55-57.
Verse 25. In the days of Elias— See this history, 1 Kings 17:1-9, compared with 1 Kings 18:1-45. This was evidently a miraculous interference, as no rain fell for three years and six months, even in the rainy seasons. There were two of these in Judea, called the first and the latter rains; the first fell in October, the latter in April: the first prepared the ground for the seed, the latter ripened the harvest. As both these rains were withheld, consequently there was a great famine throughout all the land.
Verse 26. Unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta— The sentence is elliptical, and means this: To none of them was Elias sent; he was not sent except to Sarepta; for the widow at Sarepta was a Sidonian, not a widow of Israel. PEARCE.-Sarepta was a pagan city in the country of Sidon, in the vicinity of Galilee.
Verse 27. None of them was cleansed— This verse is to be understood as the 26th; for Naaman, being a Syrian, was no leper in Israel. The meaning of these verses is, God dispenses his benefits when, where, and to whom he pleases. No person can complain of his conduct in these respects, because no person deserves any good from his hand. God never punishes any but those who deserve it; but he blesses incessantly those who deserve it not. The reason is evident: justice depends on certain rules; but beneficence is free. Beneficence can bless both the good and the evil; justice can punish the latter only. Those who do not make this distinction must have a very confused notion of the conduct of Divine Providence among men.
Verse 28. Were filled with wrath— They seem to have drawn the following conclusion from what our Lord spoke: “The Gentiles are more precious in the sight of God than the Jews; and to them his miracles of mercy and kindness shall be principally confined.” This was pretty near the truth, as the event proved. Those who profit not by the light of God, while it is among them, shall have their candle extinguished. The kingdom of God was taken from the Jews, and given to the Gentiles; not because the Gentiles were better than they were, but because, 1st. The Jews had forfeited their privileges; and 2dly. Because Christ saw that the Gentiles would bring forth the fruits of the kingdom.
Verse 29. The brow of the hill— Mr. Maundrel tells us that this is still called “the Mountain of the Precipitation, and is half a league southward of Nazareth. In going to it, you cross first over the vale in which Nazareth stands; and then going down two or three furlongs, in a narrow cleft between the rocks, you there clamber up a short but difficult way on the right hand; at the top of which you find a great stone standing on the brink of a precipice, which is said to be the very place where our Lord was destined to be thrown down by his enraged neighbors.” Maundrel’s Journey, p. 116. Edit. 5th. 1732.
Verse 30. Passing through the midst of them— Either he shut their eyes so that they could not see him; or he so overawed them by his power as to leave them no strength to perform their murderous purpose. The man Christ Jesus was immortal till his time came; and all his messengers are immortal till their work is done. The following relation of a fact presents a scene something similar to what I suppose passed on this occasion: A missionary, who had been sent to a strange land to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and who had passed through many hardships, and was often in danger of losing his life, through the persecutions excited against him, came to a place where he had often before, at no small risk, preached Christ crucified. About fifty people, who had received good impressions from the word of God, assembled: he began his discourse; and, after he had preached about thirty minutes, an outrageous mob surrounded the house, armed with different instruments of death, and breathing the most sanguinary purposes. Some that were within shut the door; and the missionary and his flock betook themselves to prayer. The mob assailed the house, and began to hurl stones against the walls, windows, and roof; and in a short time almost every tile was destroyed, and the roof nearly uncovered, and before they quitted the premises scarcely left one square inch of glass in the five windows by which the house was enlightened. While this was going forward, a person came with a pistol to the window opposite to the place where the preacher stood, (who was then exhorting his flock to be steady, to resign themselves to God, and trust in him,) presented it at him, and snapped it; but it only flashed in the pan! As the house was a wooden building, they began with crows and spades to undermine it, and take away its principal supports. The preacher then addressed his little flock to this effect: “These outrageous people seek not you, but me; if I continue in the house, they will soon pull it down, and we shall be all buried in its ruins; I will therefore, in the name of God, go out to them, and you will be safe.” He then went towards the door; the poor people got round him, and entreated him not to venture out, as he might expect to be instantly massacred; he went calmly forward, opened the door, at which a whole volley of stones and dirt was that instant discharged; but he received no damage. The people were in crowds in all the space before the door, and filled the road for a considerable way, so that there was no room to pass or repass. As soon as the preacher made his appearance, the savages became instantly as silent and as still as night: he walked forward; and they divided to the right and to the left, leaving a passage of about four feet wide for himself and a young man who followed him, to walk in. He passed on through the whole crowd, not a soul of whom either lifted a hand, or spoke one word, till he and his companion had gained the uttermost skirts of the mob! The narrator, who was present on the occasion, goes on to say: “This was one of the most affecting spectacles I ever witnessed; an infuriated mob, without any visible cause, (for the preacher spoke not one word,) became in a moment as calm as lambs! They seemed struck with amazement bordering on stupefaction; they stared and stood speechless; and, after they had fallen back to right and left to leave him a free passage, they were as motionless as statues! They assembled with the full purpose to destroy the man who came to show them the way of salvation; but he, passing through the midst of them, went his way. Was not the God of missionaries in this work? The next Lord’s day, the missionary went to the same place, and again proclaimed the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!”
Verse 31. Came down to Capernaum— Which it is likely he made his ordinary place of residence from this time. See on Matthew 4:13.
Verse 32. His word was with power.— en exousia, With authority. He assumed the tone and manner of a new Lawgiver; and uttered all his doctrines, not in the way of exhortation or advice, but in the form of precepts and commands, the unction of the Holy Spirit accompanying all he said. See on Mark 1:22.
Verse 33. A spirit of an unclean devil— As demon was used both in a good and bad sense before and after the time of the evangelists the word unclean may have been added here by St. Luke, merely to express the quality of this spirit. But it is worthy of remark, that the inspired writers never use the word daimwn, demon, in a good sense. See the whole of this case explained, Mark 1:23, etc.
Verse 35. And hurt him not.— Though he convulsed him, Mark 2:26, and threw him down in the midst of them, probably with the design to take away his life, yet our Lord permitted it not; and this appears to be the meaning of the place. The spirit was not permitted essentially to injure him at that time.
Verse 37. The fame— hcov, the sound. This is a very elegant metaphor. The people are represented as struck with astonishment, and the sound goes out through all the coasts; in allusion to the propagation of sound, by a smart stroke upon any substance, by which the air is suddenly agitated, and conveys the report made by the stroke to distant places. So this miracle was told to others by those who saw it, and they to others still, till it was heard through all the coasts of Galilee, Mark 1:28.
Verse 38. Simon’s wife’s mother— See on Matthew 8:14-17. As soon as Peter began to follow Christ, his family began to benefit by it. It is always profitable to contract an acquaintance with good men. One person full of faith and prayer may be the means of drawing down innumerable blessings on his family and acquaintance. Every person who knows the virtue and authority of Christ should earnestly seek his grace in behalf of all the spiritually diseased in his household; nor can he seek the aid of Christ in vain.
Verse 40. When the sun was setting— And consequently the Sabbath ended, for before this it would have been unlawful to have brought their sick to be healed.
Verse 42. And the people sought him— Rather, Sought him earnestly. Instead of ezhtoun, sought, I read, epezhtoun, earnestly sought. This reading is supported by ABCDFLMS-V, and more than seventy others. Wetstein and Griesbach have both received it into the text. The people had tasted the good word of God, and now they cleave to Christ with their whole heart. Hearing the words of Christ, and feeling the influence of his Spirit upon the soul, will attract and influence the heart; and indeed nothing else can do it.
And stayed him— Strove to detain him; kateicon auton they caught hold of him. Thus showing their great earnestness to be farther instructed.
Verse 43. I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities— To proclaim the kingdom of God was the Messiah’s great work; healing the diseases of the people was only an emblematical and secondary work, a work that was to be the proof of his goodness, and the demonstration of his authority to preach the Gospel, and open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
SOME have found both a difficulty and a mystery in the shutting up of heaven in the time of the Prophet Elijah. It was, no doubt, emblematical of the hardened and impenitent state of the Israelites, and of the judgments of God in withholding those Divine influences which they had so often abused. As to the difficulty of the six months, which both our Lord here, and St. James, James 5:17, mention, and which are not mentioned in the book of Kings whence the account is taken, it may be easily understood thus. The rains, we have already seen, fell in Judea twice in the year, about April, and about October. At this latter period, when the rain was expected, the prophet prayed that it might not rain; the rain therefore of Marchesvan, or October, etc., was then restrained: this restraint continued for three full years; but six months had elapsed from Nisan, April, etc., when they had their last rain, add these six months to the three full years that the rain was restrained at the prayer of Elijah, and then we have the period of three years and six months, according to our Lord and Saint James. By this the justice of God was shown: but behold his mercy in that rain of grace which fell so abundantly by the preaching of Christ during the three years and six months of his public ministry! Thus the difficulty is solved, and the mystery explained. Reader, the most awful famine is a famine of the word of God: thou art not yet tried in this way: behold the goodness and severity of God! While thou hast the light, walk as a child of the light; and let it not be thy curse and condemnation, that while others, by reading and hearing the word of God, are plenteously watered, thy fleece alone should be found dry. How unutterable must the wo of those be, who live and die infidels under the preaching of the Gospel of Christ! Let him that readeth, understand.