LUKE, Part 2

Jesus teaching about heaven

Jesus Begins His Ministry, Luke 4:14—44

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…

After being led into the desert to fast for forty days and to be tempted by Satan, Jesus re-entered society still being led by and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Temptation to sin in not sinful, but it is a terrible thing to undergo. Jesus agonized the whole time He was being tempted by Satan. But He held firm and never sinned; He faced the full force of the Devil’s temptation, stared him down, and emerged completely sinless and victorious. As awful an experience the temptation to sin is, it does serve a purpose: it will either strengthen the believer or weaken him. Temptation makes you or breaks you; it reveals what you’re made of.

Verse 14 begins a whole new section of Luke and a new phase of the life of Jesus. Here is another example of Luke’s logical, not chronological treatment of Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth. This event is recorded in Matthew and Mark, but there it does not take place at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. Between Luke 4:13 and 4:15 there could very well have been a span of a year or more, in which the events of John 1:19—4:42 take place. Why did Luke do this? The good doctor uses the events of 4:14—44 as the first events of Jesus’ public ministry because of their logical significance; they serve to demonstrate the character of Jesus’ ministry on Earth; how it forced those who heard His teachings to make a choice: follow Him or reject Him. When it comes to the Gospel, there is no middle ground—a person either accepts it or he walks away from it.

In fact, Luke makes it clear this is not the actual beginning of Jesus’ ministry with verse 16—

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.

1. Anointed to minister, verses 14—21

After His temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee where He began His great public ministry. Why did He begin in Galilee? There were two reasons. First, Jesus had heard about the imprisonment of John the Baptist, His cousin, and was doubtlessly troubled by it. Second, to fulfill a prophecy by meeting Galilee’s need, according to Isaiah 9:1, 2—

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.

A. A teaching ministry, verses 14, 15

It escapes many modern Bible readers who are fascinated with the sizzle and spectacular, but it was Jesus’ teaching that caused His fame to spread like a wildfire, not His miracles or healings or exorcisms. As Dr. Luke summarized Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, we notice that our Lord’s public ministry consisted mainly of four characteristics:

  • It was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught under the anointing of the Spirit; He healed under the exact same anointing; and He met the needs of others still being led and empowered by the same Spirit.
  • It was well-known. News about Jesus’ unique brand of teaching spread fast and far.
  • It was centered in the Synagogue. Like Paul, Jesus made use of the religious structure of His day to proclaim His Gospel, at least in Galilee.
  • It was popular. Jesus was “praised by everybody” for His wonderful teaching. The people literally flocked to hear this Man teach. While during the latter half of His ministry Jesus lost the favor and interest of many who used to follow Him, at least during the first half of His ministry, generally speaking, Jesus was immensely popular with the masses, if not with the religious leaders.

B. Statement of purpose, verses 16—21

Jesus had been around preaching long enough to have established His own custom; people knew where to find Him and knew His preaching/teaching style. In the synagogue services of New Testament times, prominent visitors in attendance were often asked to read portions of Scripture and give a brief commentary either at the beginning or ending of the reading. The reader would stand to read, giving due respect to the Sacred Word of God.

This day, Jesus was the prominent visitor, and He was asked to read from the prophets; in this case, the reading was from Isaiah 61:1, 2. Whether or not Jesus chose this Scripture to read or it was the assigned reading for that day is not known, however, Isaiah 61 is a Messianic passage that outlines the functions of the Messianic ministry. In this brief reading, Jesus gives the very nature of the Gospel message:

  • To proclaim good news to the poor.” “Good news” is what the “Gospel” is all about. Why the poor? Did Jesus discriminate between rich and poor? The poor certainly had more needs than the rich and their needs turned them toward Jesus as the only One who could meet their needs. Of course, nobody, rich or poor, will come to Jesus until they see their spiritually bankrupt state.
  • To proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” What captives? Jesus breaks the bonds of sin and sets the sinner from their sins.
  • Recovery of sight for the blind.” Both physical blindness (miraculous healing) and spiritual blindness (due to sin) are righted by the ministry of Jesus Christ.
  • To set the oppressed free.” The KJV reads, “to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The idea is that a sinner is trapped in his sins; no matter what he does, he can’t get free of them. His sins are killing him and there is nothing he can do to help himself. Jesus ends sins dominion over that sinner, once and forever. Sin can never harm the one set free ever again.
  • To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This phrase may be several things, but in essence, the Gospel message, which saves sinners and sets them free, makes them acceptable to God for the first time in their lives.

After reading the Scriptures, Jesus offered His brief commentary:

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (verse 21)

With a single sentence, Jesus told His audience—many of whom He had grown up with—that the golden age spoken of by Isaiah had finally arrived. Literally, what Jesus said was, “Today, while you were listening to me, this prophecy has come to pass.”

2. Hated by some, verses 22—30

Verse 22 gives the impression that Jesus really wowed the crowd:

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

Certainly, some were impressed with Jesus and what He had to say. No wonder! Jesus spoke with wisdom, wit, and authority; so unlike the dry, staid, and lackluster rabbi of the day. Here was a new voice, teaching familiar things, but in a fresh way and with an authority never heard before. In time, these people would be further impressed by His mighty works, including healing the sick and casting out demons.

But, Jesus wasn’t finished speaking; the more He spoke, the more mixed the response got. What got their ire? It began with verse 25:

I assure you…. (tNIV)

But I tell you the truth… (KJV)

He was about to tell them a “truth”; something that challenged the listener’s typical way of thinking; a truth that many Jews would not like. What was the terrible truth that turned so many against the Messiah?

There were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. (verses 25—27)

You might find those verses difficult to understand, but many who were there when Jesus spoke those words of truth got it right way, and they were not happy with Him. To put it simply, Jesus used two Old Testament examples where Gentiles seemed to get preferential treatment by God and His prophets while Jews with the exact same needs were overlooked.

This truth was one of the most significant truths ever spoken by Christ. Jews had always assumed that the Messiah would come to save them, not the Gentiles. This truth was needed to “put the proud Jew” in his place. The kingdom of God had arrived on the scene and the dawn of a new era had begun. The Old Testament era was over. Now the era of worldwide redemption had begun; Jesus had come to deal with the sins of the whole world, Jew and Gentile sins alike, not just the sins of His own people. This worldwide scope of salvation was, of course, predicted in the Old Testament, but most of the Jews of Jesus’ day preferred to think of themselves as “the privileged ones,” to whom and only whom salvation would come.

The people of Nazareth were furious with what Jesus had said. Imagine how they must have felt, being compared by One of the own to a poor, Gentile widow or a Gentile with leprosy! Their anger and wrath became a murderous rage, filled with violence and confusion. They drove Jesus out of town, as if that could silence the Son of God! They intended to throw Him off a cliff, but an amazing thing happened: He escaped the crowd, literally walking right throw them.

3. Empowered with authority, verses 31—44

This group of verses doesn’t appear in Matthew’s Gospel at all, but Mark’s version of events is very similar to Luke’s.

A. A ministry of casting out demons, verses 31—37

The first thing we notice is that this exorcism not only took place in a synagogue, but the demon-possessed man was attending the service! After Jesus had finished teaching, like before in Galilee, almost everybody in attendance was impressed. Everybody save one, the demon-possessed man.

Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (verse 34)

Jesus kept His cool and responded sternly, commanding the demon to be silent. The demons knew who Jesus was and spoke words of truth, but Jesus didn’t need publicity from the gates of Hell. He was the Messiah, and it was up to Him proclaim that truth, not demons.

Technically, what Jesus did for this unfortunate man was not an exorcism. He did not use an incantation or a prayer, Jesus simply spoke with authority:

Come out of him!” (verse 35)

And it did, right in front of everybody at the synagogue that day. Jesus had already dealt with Satan, the prince of demons, in the desert, now He showed His authority of the minions of Satan. While teaching will remain the core component of Jesus’ ministry, we see here that His ministry broadens to include, not just the mind and reason, but also the spiritual/emotional/psychological aspects of a person.

B. A ministry of healing, verses 38—44

From the house of God, Jesus went Simon Peter’s house. Curiously, Luke mentions Peter without giving any details as to his calling or apostleship; that comes later in Luke’s Gospel.

It seemed as though Peter’s mother-in-law lived with Peter and his wife, and the mother-in-law was deathly ill with a very high fever. The fact that Peter’s mother-in-law lived in his home with his family tell us something very positive about Peter’s character.

Only a doctor would have noticed this simple posture, making note of it:

So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.

The Great Physician assumed the position of doctor as He healed this woman—He stood over her (Greek). The Greek devotes a mere six words to this miracle; it all happened so fast. Jesus spoke, she sat up, healed. What’s more, this woman didn’t “get better,” her cure was immediate and complete, for she got up and went to work, assuming the role of hostess!

According to Dr. Luke, all Jesus did was speak, and the woman was healed. Did He lay hands on her? Did He do anything else besides speaking? What we have here is a perfect example of the authority of the Words Jesus spoke. His authority drove out demons and cured sicknesses. Now, that’s power!

The remaining four verses of Luke 4 must surely be among the most beautiful in the New Testament. Our Lord took the time to cast out a demon and cure a sick woman; setting one man free and restoring another woman to complete health, all in the same day. News spread far and wide, and desperate people did what desperate people always do: they came looking for help from the only One who had demonstrated that He could help. All evening, and through the night, they came, from miles around, seeking relief for themselves and their loved ones.

…laying his hands on each one, he healed them. (verse 40)

In fact, Jesus not only healed them, He also cast demons out of some them. So many left Him completely whole, that the crowd didn’t want to let this miracle working man go! But, Jesus had plans of His own:

I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (verse 43)

(c)  2011
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