Luke 4:12-44 (application—see endnote)
Chapter three records His initiation into His ministry with His baptism (3:23). From Luke’s account, the ministry career of John was cut short with his arrest no long after Jesus’ baptism (3:20). How long John had been preaching, we are told. Why, and why did he disappear from the scene? John gives us that answer in (3:15-16). Simply put, his task had been completed. He paved the way. Now he would confuse as people already had been asking if he might be the Messiah (3:15).
Jesus began his ministry at about thirty years of age (3:23). His ministry began with baptism and God’s “laying on of hands” with God the Father’s affirmation from heaven (3:22) and the immediate leading by the Spirit into the wilderness. We noted previously that this was likely an intensive instructional experience for the human Jesus being followed by the intense temptation of the Devil.
Opposition Will Continue
Luke makes the following comment regarding his temptation. “And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” In other words, the three avenues of temptation failed with Jesus’ utilizations of the Word of God overcoming the lust of the flesh (rational drive to get what is forbidden), the lust of the eyes (satisfy emotional feel-good desires), and the pride of life (willful determination, I will do it my way). Hence, experientially (been there, do that), Jesus can empathize with our human temptations.i
Immediate Engagement in Calling
And immediately, he engages in His teaching career, explaining the meaning and process of His mission and miraculous authentication of His identity (3:14-15). At this juncture, Luke underscores the third ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, “He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”
Since, as we are told at another time, Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel, he embarks on this ministry in their synagogues. History tells us that this was not a practice limited to Jesus but a cultural mechanism that he capitalized on. Luke tells us he made a circuit of the synagogues (15, 16) and found an initial good reception (15). This lasted till in his hometown of Nazareth, he read from Isaiah 61:1f and proclaimed that the prophecy was being fulfilled in their midst (20-21). Even here, their initial reaction was to speak well of Him as he spoke of this fulfillment in “gracious words,” and they were surprised since they were sure he was Joseph’s son (22). But this did not last long when his reaction to their speculation triggered his prediction that when they understood the full impact of his announcement (23-28). And he was right since they immediately were filled with rage, cast him out, and would have killed him (23-29)—the devil’s first opportune time (4:13).
But it was not his hour, so he slipped through the crowd and moved on to his adopted headquarters, Capernaum (31). On the Sabbath, he goes to the synagogue and teaches, eliciting a response that will be repeated along His journey, “They were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority” (32). ii
Establishing His Authority iii
- Authority over the demoniac
Luke now gives another tidbit with his historical record. Remember, it is his purpose to provide a history of the life of Jesus in consecutive order (1:3). Jesus first established his authority as a teacher, as we just observed. Now, He will establish His authority over the demoniac and physical worlds. If you do not understand Providence, you might say, “There just happened to be a demon-possessed man in the synagogue that Sabbath. However, this scene is better understood as providentially designed as an opportunity for Jesus, from the get-go, to display his authority over the demoniac.
In the NASB, the demoniac addresses Jesus with jest. The first word he utters is “Ha!” That is followed by a taunt, the meaning of which might be rendered this way, “Do you think you can destroy us because you are the Holy One of God?”
Why might he so respond? Perhaps the incident in Daniel 10 where we are told that the angel reports that a demon had prevented the angel for three weeks from reaching Daniel. The angel’s message is about Israel and the future. This demon may not have fully grasped that he was dealing with the Son of God. At any rate, he is overconfident, and Jesus tells him to be quiet and disperses him from the man (41)
Authority over the physical world
This is immediately followed by his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. Interestingly, he had not previously healed sickness. But they assumed he could heal her based on what happened in the synagogue with the demoniac. He does and establishes his authority over the physical world (38).
Authority in teaching (32), demoniac, and nature frames His Career
This generates attention and attracts the sick and the demon-possessed seeking healing (40-42). Unlike his previous experience (29), the multitude from Capernaum desired Him from going away (42). In response to them, Jesus declares his mission, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” We could look at this from two perspectives since He will later point to His death and resurrection to achieve the saving of many as His purpose. He may simply be speaking of His coming as a package. That is, my purpose is to preach what it is I am going to achieve. Or we may view His “must preach” as the immediate purpose for which He came. The former seems to be the best understanding.iv
i New believers should be taught to expect immediate opposition from family and friends. A seventeen-year-old wild living converts will likely find his family delighted with his change in lifestyle, but soon after discouraging this religious kick and association with those Sunday holy rollers. The new believer needs to know that Jesus faced immediate opposition from the devil through our thought life (Jesus in the Wilderness and in Galilee) and others.
ii Every believer’s career as a Christian should begin with immediate engagement in ministry. Let me give a personal example. My mentors (just ten years older than me) asked me to serve on our Teenage Club’s planning committee in the first two months of my Christian life. Five months later, Jim, the husband, had me working in his store and preaching on New Year’s Eve in a country church. New believers have an immediate field of evangelism since most of their associates are unconverted.
iii The new believer establishes the authority of Christ and authentic conversion by his change in lifestyle, language, and commitments. These changes authenticate his preaching of God’s kingdom, evangelism, and discipleship. Consider the radical life of the Apostle Paul. His lifestyle changed, including his associates. His language changed from hate to love, compassion, and encouragement.
iv The authentic new believer must display and engage in a new commitment. He is about pleasing the Father and fulling his purpose as a child of God. Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31), thereby preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.