Luke 4At the twenty-second verse of the foregoing chapter, we find the Holy Ghost descending in a bodily shape like a dove upon our Saviour. In this verse we find the extraordinary effects and fruits of the Holy Ghost's descent upon our Saviour: he was filled with all the gifts and graces of the blessed Spirit, to fit and furnish him for that ministerial service which he was now entering upon.
But observable it is, that before our Saviour undertook the ministerial office, he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and there furiously assaulted with Satan's temptations. Temptation, meditation, and prayer, says Luther, make a minister: great temptations from Satan do fit us for greater services for God.
And whereas it is said, that Christ was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil by the Spirit, we must understand the Holy Spirit of God; for the devil, I think, is never called the spirit, but has always a brand of reproach annexed, as the evil spirit, the unclean spirit, and the like.
By his being led by the Spirit, (St. Mark says he was drove by the Spirit,) we may either understand a potent and efficacious persuasion, without any violent motion: or else, as the learned Dr. Lightfoot thinks, Christ was bodily caught up by the Holy Spirit into the air, and carried from Jordan, where he was baptized, into the wilderness, where he was tempted.
God had put great honour upon Christ at his baptism, declaring him to be his well-beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased; and the next news we hear is the devil assaulting him with his temptations.
Learn thence, that the more any are beloved of God, and dignified with more eminent testimonies of his favour, so much the more is the devil enraged, and maliciously bent against them.
Observe here, how the divine power upheld Christ's human nature without food. What Moses did at the giving of the law, Christ doth at the beginning of the gospel, namely, fast forty days and forty nights. Christ hereby intended our admiration rather than our imitation; or if our imitation, of the action only, not of the time.
From this example of Christ we learn, that it is our duty, by fasting and prayer, to prepare ourselves for a conflict with our spiritual enemies. As Christ prepared himself, by fasting, to grapple with the tempter, so should we.
Observe here, 1. The occasion of the temptation.
And, 2. The temptation itself.
The occasion of the temptation was our Saviour's hunger and want of bread.
Learn thence, that when God suffers any of his children to fall into want, and to be straitened for outward things, Satan takes a mighty advantage thereupon to tempt and assault them.
Observe, 3. What it is he tempts our Saviour to; it is the sin of distrust, to call in question his sonship; If thou be the Son of God: and then to distrust God's providence and care; Command that these stones be made bread.
It is the grand policy of Satan, first to tempt the children of God to doubt of their adoption; next to distrust God's fatherly care and provision, and last of all to use unwarrantable means to help themselves. Thus Satan dealt with Christ, and thus he deals with Christians; for to work a miracle at Satan's direction, was not a lawful means of providing food for himself.
Note first, that though the devil abused scripture, yet Christ uses it. Good things are never the worse for being abused by Satan and his instruments.
Note secondly, the weapon which our Saviour made use of to vanquish Satan; it was the word of God: It is written, says Christ.
Learn thence, that the scripture, or the written word of God, is the only sure weapon wherewith to vanquish Satan, and beat back all his fiery temptations. The scripture is God's armory, out of which all our weapons of war must be taken, for managing our conflict with sin and Satan.
Observe, 1. The next sin which Satan tempts our Saviour to is the sin of idolatry, even to worship the devil himself. Oh thou impudent and foul spirit, to desire thy Creator to worship thee, an apostate creature! Doubtless there is no sin so black and foul, so horrid and monstrous, but the Christian may be tempted to it, when Christ himself was tempted to worship the tempter, even the devil himself.
St. Matthew reads it, If thou wilt worship me: St. Luke, If thou wilt worship before me.
From whence we may gather, that if to worship before the devil, be to worship the devil, then to worship before an image, is to worship the image. Dr. Lightfoot.
Observe, 2. The bait which Satan makes use of to allure our Saviour to the sin of idolatry, representing to his eye and view all the glories of the world in a most inviting manner, and that in a moment of time, that so he might affect him the more, and prevail the sooner.
Learn thence, that the pomp and grandeur of the world is made use of by Satan as a dangerous snare to draw men into a compliance with him, in his temptations unto sin: He showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
Observe, 3. What an impudent liar and proud boaster the devil is; he was a liar from the beginning: All this will I give thee, for it is delivered unto me. An impudent untruth, for the dominion over the things of the world was never given to the angels, neither has the devil any power over the creatures, but by permission from God. The devil is a most impudent liar; he told the first lie, and by long practice has become a perfect master in the art of lying.
Observe also, the devil's boasting as well as lying; All this will I give thee, when he had not one foot of ground to dispose of. Great boasters are for the most part great liars, and such boasters and liars are like the devil.
Observe, 4. How our Saviour declares the true and only object of religious worship; namely, God himself: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Religious worship is to be given to none of the creatures, neither to angels nor men, how excellent soever, but to God alone. We read but of two creatures that ever desired in scripture to be worshipped with divine worship; namely, the devil and antichrist; but the command is peremptory. Thou shalt worship the Lord, and him only.
Observe here, 1. The power which Satan, by God's permission, had over the body of our blessed Saviour: he took him up, and carried his body through the air, from the wilderness to Jerusalem, and there set him upon one of the pinnacles of the temple.
Learn hence, 1. That Satan, by God's permission, may have power over the bodies of the best of men.
2. That this exercise of Satan's power over the bodies of men, is no argument that such persons do not belong to God. Our Saviour himself, who was dear to God, is yet left for a time in Satan's hands. But though Satan had a power to set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, yet he had no power to cast him down: though Satan's malice be infinite, his power is limited and bounded; he cannot do all the mischief he would, and he shall not do all he can.
Observe, 2. The sin which Satan tempts Christ to; the sin of self-murder. Cast thyself down.
Learn, that self-murder is a sin which Christ himself was, and the best of his children may be, solicited and tempted to; yet though Satan solicited Christ to the sin, he could not compel him to comply with with the temptation.
Thence note, that how much earnestness and importunity soever Satan uses in pressing his temptation, he can only persuade, he cannot compel; he may entice, but cannot enforce.
Observe, 3. The argument which Satan uses to persuade Christ to the sin of self-murder; it is a scripture argument, he quotes a promise: He shall give his angels charge over thee.
What a wonder is here, to see the devil with a Bible under his arm, and with a text of scripture in his mouth! Christ had alleged scripture before to Satan; here Satan retorts scripture back again to Christ. It is written, says Christ; It is written, says Satan.
Learn, that Satan knows how to abuse the most excellent and comfortable scriptures to the most horrid and pernicious ends and purposes. He that had profanely touched the sacred body of Christ with his hand, sticks not presumptuously to handle the holy scriptures with his tongue.
Observe, 4. The text of scripture which Satan makes use of: He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: Ps 91:11,12 where the doctrine is good, but the application bad. The doctrine is true, that God is pleased to employ his angels for the good of his servants, and particularly for their preservation in times of danger: but see how falsely the devil perverts, misapplies, and wrests that sacred scripture. When God promises that his angels shall keep us, it is in all his ways; not in our own crooked paths.
Learn, that although the children of God have the promise of the guardianship of his holy angels, yet then only may they expect their protection, when walking in the way of their duty: He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
Observe lastly, the issue of his combat: Satan is vanquished, and departs from our Saviour. St. Matthew says, The devil left him, and angels came and ministered unto him. Satan is conquered and quits the field.
Teaching us, that nothing like a vigorous resistance of temptation, causes the tempter to flee from us. Satan is both a cowardly enemy, and a conquered enemy; resist him, and he will run.
Our blessed Saviour being thus fitted and prepared by his baptism and temptation for the execution of his ministerial office, he now enters upon the great work of preaching the gospel, and St. Luke here declares the first place he preached at, namely, Nazareth; and the first text he preached upon, Isa 61:1
Observe 1. The place where our Saviour preached at; he bestowed his first sermon upon Nazareth, the place of his conception and education. For though Christ was born at Bethlehem, yet he was bred and brought up at Nazareth; there he had his poor, but painful education, working on his father's trade, that of a carpenter. This prejudiced the Jews against him, who looked for a sceptre, not an axe, in the hand of him that was born King of the Jews. Our Saviour's short and secret abode at Bethlehem, and his long and public living at Nazareth, occasioned him to be called Jesus of Nazareth; yet some conceived it was a nick-name, fastened by the devil upon our Saviour, that he might disguise the place of Christ's nativity, and leave the Jews at a greater loss concerning their Messiah. Sure it is, that this name, Jesus of Nazareth, stuck upon our Saviour all his life; and at his death was fixed by Pilate on his cross. Yea, after his ascension, such as believed on were called, The sect of the Nazarenes, or the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
Observe, 2. The text which our Saviour preached upon at Nazareth: he takes it out of the prophet Esaias, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. Luke 4:18 That is, God the Father hath poured forth his Holy Spirit without measure upon me, in all the gifts and graces of it, to fit and furnish me for the work of a mediator; and particularly, to preach the gospel to the poor in spirit, and to such as are poor in outward condition also, if meekened and humbled with the sight and sense of their sins. To bind up the broken-hearted; that is, to comfort them with the glad tidings of the gospel. To preach deliverance to the captives: to let such sinners know, who were slaves to sin and Satan, that a Deliverer is come, if they be willing to be delivered by him. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord: or to proclaim a spiritual jubilee in which God proffers pardon of sin and reconciliation with himself upon the terms of the gospel.
Learn hence, 1. That God stirreth up none to take upon them the office of the ministry, whom he hath not fitted and furnished with gifts for the regular discharge of it.
2. That Christ himself did not undertake the office of a mediator, but by the ordination of God the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he hath sent me to preach the gospel.
3. That no creature, angel or man, could perform the office of a mediator, but only Christ, who was consecrated to that office by an anointing from the Holy Spirit without measure: The Spirit of the Lord hath anointed me.
4. That the preaching of the gospel is the great ordinance which Christ himself made use of, and recommended to his apostles and ministers, for enlightening blind sinners, for comforting broken hearts, and for delivering captive souls from the slavery and dominion of sin and Satan: He hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to publish deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind. What enemies than are they to the souls of men who have low and mean thoughts of this high and honourable ordinance of God, the preaching of the everlasting gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation?
Observe, 3. The behavior of our Saviour's auditors, the men of Nazareth, under his preaching: their eyes were fixed, and their minds intent, upon him, and upon what was spoken by him: The eyes of all that were in the synagogue were fastened upon him: not closed with sleep, nor gazing about upon others; but fixed upon Christ the preacher.
Fixing of the eye is a great help to the attention of the ear, and the intention of the mind; a fastened eye is a mean to help us to a fixed heart; as a wandering eye is both a sign and cause of a wandering heart. O that our hearers would imitate our Saviour's hearers under the word! They fastened their eyes upon him, as if they meant to hear with their eyes as well as with their ears: and yet we have cause to expect tht curiosity rather than piety caused this their attention; seeing, as you will find, Luke 4:29 that these very persons, who out of novelty were ready to eat his words, soon after out of cruelty were ready to devour the speaker: For they thrust him out of the city, led him to the brow of the hill, and would have cast him down headlong.
O blessed Saviour, what wonder is it that the persons of thy ministers are despised, and their doctrine neglected, when thou thyself, the first preacher of the gospel, and for thy first sermon at Nazareth, wert thus ignominiously treated!
Observe, lastly, how Christ conforms to the ceremonies of the Jewish doctrine, who, in honor of the law and the prophets, stood up when they read them, and according to custom, sat down when they explained them. And although the synagogual worship was then loaden with rules and ceremonies of human invention, and also the lives and manners both of priests and people were much corrupted, yet both our Saviour and his disciples went to the synsgogue, as members of the church of Nazareth, every sabbath-day, joining with them in the public worship.
From whence we may reasonably infer, that such Christians as do quietly and peaceably comply with the practice of the church in whose communion they live, in the observation of such indifferent rites as are used by her, act most agreeable to our Saviour's practice and example.
Observe here, 1. The effect of our Saviour's ministry at Nazareth: it created wonder, but did not produce faith; they marvelled, but not believed; they admired the wisdom of his discourse, but will not own him to be the promised Messiah, because of the poverty and meanness of Christ's condition: Is not this Joseph's son? They expected the son of a prince, not the son of a carpenter to be their Messiah.
Thence note, that the poverty and meanness of Christ's condition was that which multitudes stumbled at, and which kept many, yea, most, from believing on him. None but a spiritual eye can discern beauty in an humbled and abased Saviour.
Observe 2. Our Saviour wonders not that so few of his countrymen, among whom he had been bred and brought up, and with whom he had lived most part of his time, did despise his person, and reject his doctrine; he tells them, No prophet has honor in his own country: that is, very seldom has.
Teaching us that usually the ministers of God are most despised where they are most familiarly known; sometimes the remembrance of their mean original and extraction, sometimes the poverty of their parents, sometimes the indecencies of their childhood, sometimes the follies of their youth, sometimes the faults of their families and relations, are ript up, and made occasion of contempt; and therefore that prophet that comes from afar, and has not been much known, gains the greatest reputation amongst a people, who, being ignorant of his extraction, look upon his breeding, as well as his calling to be divine.
This good use ought to be made of our Saviour's observation, that his ministers be very wise and discreet in conversation with their people, not making themselves cheap and common in every company, nor light and vain in any company; for such familiarity will breed contempt, both of their persons and their doctrine.
But our duty is by strictness and gravity of deportment to keep up an awe and esteem in the consciences of our people; always tempering our gravity with courtesy and a condescending affability. That minister which prostitutes his authority, frustrates the end of his ministry, and is the occasion of his own contempt.
Here our Saviour by a double instance confirms what he had last told his countrymen at Nazareth, namely, that prophets are most despised by their own countrymen and acquaintance, and that strangers oft-times have more advantage by a prophet than his own people.
The first instance of this which our Saviour gives them, is in the days of Elias, though there were many widows then in his own nation, yet none of them were qualified to receive his miracles, but a stranger, a widow of Sarepta.
The second instance was in the days of Elisha; when though there were many lepers in and about the neighborhood, yet they being his countrymen, despised him, and none were qualified for a cure but Naaman the Syrian, a man of another country.
Thus the prophets of God, like some fishermen, catch least in their own pond, and do more good by their ministry among strangers, than among their own countrymen, kinsfolk, and near relations: No prophet is accepted in his own country.
Observe here, 1. The horrid impiety of the people of Nazareth, in thrusting their Saviour out of their city, and their barbarous and bloody cruelty in bringing him to the brow of the hill, with full intent to cast him down headlong. But Christ was to die a clean contrary way, not by throwing down, but by lifting up.
O ungrateful and unhappy Nazareth! Is this the return you make the divine Guest, which for thirty years had sojourned in your coasts? No wonder that the ablest preaching, and most exemplary living, of the holiest and best of Christ's ministers obtain no greater success at this day amongst a people, when the presence of Christ at Nazareth, for thirty years together, had no better influence upon the minds and manners of that people; but instead of receiving his message, they rage at the messenger: neither let any of the ministers of Christ think it strange, that they are ignominiously despised, when our Master before us was in danger of being barbarously murdered, and that for his plain preaching to his own people, the men of Nazareth.
But observe, 2. The miraculous escape of our blessed Lord from the murdering hands of the wicked Nazarites: He, passing through the midst of them, went his way. How and after what manner he escaped is not declared, and therefore cannot without presumption be determined.
Although the Romanists, to make way for their doctrine of transub- stantiation, positively affirm, that, contrary to the nature of a body, he penetrated through the breasts of the people. But whether he struck them with blindness that they did not see, or smote them with fear that they durst not hold him, or whether by a greater strength than theirs, (which his Godhead could easily supply his human nature with), he escaped from them.
It is neither prudent to enquire nor possible to determine: we know it was an easy thing for him who was God as well as man, to quit himself of any mortal enemies; and at the same time, when he rescued himself, could have ruined them, by frowning them into hell, or looking them into nothing.
Our blessed Saviour being driven out of Nazareth by the fury of his countrymen, departs to Capernaum, where he entered their synagogues, and taught. Who can declare the pains that our Saviour took, and the hazards which he ran, in preaching the everlasting gospel to lost sinners?
But observe the smallness of his success; the people were astonished, but not believed. His doctine produced admiration, but not faith; his auditors were admirers, but not believers. They were astonished at his doctrine: the reason of which astonishment is added, For his word was with power; that is, there were majesty in his person, spirituality in his preaching, and powerful miracles accompanying both, and confirming both, of which the evangelist here gives us as account, namely, the casting out of a devil in one possessed.
There was a man which had a Spirit of an unclean devil, and he cried out; Luke 4:33 that is, the devil, that unclean spirit, did enter into him, and bodily possess him. Amongst other many calamities, which sin has brought upon our bodies, this is one, to be bodily possessed by Satan. The devil has inveterate malice against mankind, seeking to ruin our souls by his suggestions and temptations, and to destroy our bodies by some means or other.
O how much is it to our interest, as well as our duty, by prayer to put ourselves morning and evening under the divine care and protection, that we may be preserved from the power and malice of evil spirits!
Observe, 2. The title here given to the devil: he is called the unclean spirit. The devils, those wicked spirits of hell, are most impure and filthly creatures; impure by reason of their original apostasy, impure by means of their actual and daily sins, such as murder and malice, lying and the like, by which they continually pollute themselves; and impure, by means of their continual desire and endeavours to pollute mankind with the contagion of their own sins.
Lord! How foul is the nature of sin, which makes the devil such a foul and filthy, such an impure and unclean creature!
Observe, 3. The substance of the devil's outcry: Let us alone, what have we to do with thee? Art thou come to destroy us? That is, to restrain us from the exercise of our power. The devil thinks himself destroyed, when he is restrained from doing mischief.
Observe, 4. The title given by the devil to our Saviour; he styles him, The Holy One of God. How comes this acknowledgment out of the devil's mouth? Could an apostle make a profession beyond this? But how comes Satan to make it? For no good end, and with no good intention, we may be sure; for the devil never speaks truth for truth's sake, but for advantage sake.
Probably, 1. He might make this profession, that so he might bring the truth profest into question; hoping that the truth, which received testimony from the father of lies, would be suspected.
Or, 2. It might perhaps be done to make the people believe that our Saviour had some familiarity with Satan, and did work miracles by his help, because he did confess him, and seem to put honor upon him.
Hence we may learn, that it is possible for a person to own and acknowledge Christ to be the true and only Saviour, and yet to miss of salvation by him. If a speculative knowledge, and a verbal profession, of Christ were sufficient for salvation, the devil himself would not miss of happiness.
Observe, 5. How our Saviour rebukes the devil for his confession, and commands him silence. Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace; but why was this rebuke given the devil, and his mouth stopped when he spoke the truth?
Answer, 1. Because Christ knew that the devil confessed this on purpose to disgrace the truth.
2. Because the devil was no fit person to make this profession: a testimony of truth from the father of lies, is enough to render truth itself suspected. Yet the devil's evidence, that Christ was the Holy One of God, will rise up in judgment against the wicked Pharisees, who shut their eyes against the miracles and stopped their ears against the doctrine, of the Holy One of God.
Observe, lastly, how the unclean spirit obeys the voice of Christ, but with great reluctancy and regret: when the unclean spirit had thrown him in the midst, he came out.
Where observe, the devil's spite at parting: he tears the man, throws him violently from place to place, showing how loathed he was to be dispossessed. Where Satan has once gotten an hold, and settled himself for a time, how unwilling is he to be cast out of possession! Yea, it is a torment and vexation to him to be cast out. It is much easier to keep out Satan, than to cast him out. Satan may possess the body by God's permission, but he cannot possess our hearts without our own consent and approbation. It will be our wisdom to deny him entrance into our souls at first, by rejecting his wicked motions and suggestions; for when once entered, he will, like the strong man armed, keep the house, till a stronger than he cast him out.
Here observe, 1. That St. Peter, a disciple, yea, an apostle, was a married person. Neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor the apostles of the New, did abhor the marriage bed, nor judge themselves too pure for an institution of their maker. The church of Rome, by denying the lawfulness of priests' marriage, makes herself wiser than God, who says, Marriage is honorable amongst all men. Heb 13:4
Observe, 2. Peter, though a good man, and his wife's mother probably a gracious woman, yet is his family visited with sickness: strength of grace, and dearness of respect even from Christ himself, cannot prevail against diseases. God's own children are visited with bodily sickness as well as others.
Observe, 3. The divine power of Christ manifested in this miraculous course: He stood over her, says St. Luke; He took her by the hand, and lifted her up, says St. Mark.
Here was an ordinary distemper cured after an extraordinary manner, by a touch of Christ's hand in an instant: Immediately the fever left her, and she arose and ministered unto them. That she could arise argued her cure miraculous; that she could and did arise, and administer to Christ and his disciples, argued her thankfulness.
After Christ hath healed any of us, it ought to be our first care to administer unto him: that is, to employ our recovered strength in the service of Christ, and to improve our restored health to the honor and glory of Christ.
The evangelist here declares sundry other cures wrought by our Saviour: he healed the sick, and dispossessed the devils. In our Saviour's time we read of many possessed with devils, and of but few either before or afterwards.
Probably, 1. Because Satan, perceiving the Messiah to be come in the flesh to destroy his kingdom, did rage the more, and discover greater malice and enmity against mankind.
2. Perhaps Almighty God suffered Satan at that time to possess so many, that Christ might have occasion to manifest his divine power by casting Satan out. And accordingly we find our Saviour dispossessing all that were possessed by Satan. It is added, That he suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him; that is, Christ would not be made known to be the Son of God by the preaching of the devil, lest the world should from thence take occasion to think that our Saviour held a correspondence with those wicked spirits, and that the miracles which he wrought were performed by the devil's assistance, as being one in combination with him.
Possible from the devils owning Christ to be the Holy One of God, the Pharisees concluded that there was a compact and agreement between them; and thereupon their affirmation was grounded. He casteth out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils.
Observe here, 1. The great work and business of our Saviour's life; to preach the gospel. I must preach the kingom of God for therefore came I forth. Preaching was Christ's great work, it is undoubtedly his ministers'. Christ omitted some opportunities of working miracles, that he might preach to other cities: this was his great work.
Observe, 2. It being Christ's great design to plant and propagate the gospel, he would not confine his ministry to one particular place, not to the great city of Capernaum, but resolves to preach the word in smaller towns and vilages; leaving his ministers herein an instructive example, to be as willing to preach the gospel in the smallest villages, as in the largest and most populous cities, if God calls us there. Let the place be never so obscure and mean, and the congregation never so small and little, if God sends us thither, the greatest of us must not think it beneath us to go and instruct an handful of people.
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