The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

2. Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30

v] Witness of the temptation.


Following his encounter with John the Baptist, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness and there, for forty days and forty nights, he is tested by Satan.


To save this world, Jesus must do battle with "the ruler of this world", "the god of this world", "the prince of the power of the air." There can only be one victor; either Jesus is Lord, or Satan is Lord. The temptation of Jesus is the first engagement in a battle that will reach its climax at Calvary. In this battle, no quarter is given, for it is a battle for the Lordship of the whole of God's creation. So, it is that Jesus is "led by the Spirit" into the wilderness to do battle with an old enemy. Unlike Israel of old, God's new messianic Israel stands firm against the enemy.


i] Context: See 2:41-53. The second section of Luke's gospel, Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30, consists of a group of six episodes which give witness to the coming messiah. Each episode serves to inaugurate Jesus' mission and tell us something of his messianic character. In the passage before us, the fifth testimony to Jesus, Luke records the witness of the temptation.


ii] Structure: The witness of the temptation:

Setting, v1-2;

1st. test, v3-4:

"man shall not live by bread alone."

2nd. test, v5-8:

"worship the Lord your God and serve only him."

3rd. test, v9-12:

"do not put the Lord your God to the test."

The devil departs, v13.


iii] Interpretation:

The purpose and nature of the three tests applied to Jesus is by no means clear, prompting numerous interpretations.

Marshall argues that the temptation account has a far broader intent; "it demonstrates how the Spirit, who had come upon Jesus, guided and empowered him in his new task, ...... it shows how Jesus, as the Son of God, was obedient to God." Bultmann thinks the account serves to denounce the selfish use of miracles, while Fitzmyer argues that it serves to establish the reason behind Jesus' intent not to do signs. Bock says "the account should be read as an example of how faithfulness overcomes the temptation to sin and avoids becoming allied with Satan." To this end, the reader is encouraged to rely on scripture, "in the power of the Spirit", to stand against the wiles of the Devil, cf., Stein. Johnson sees in the temptation a clear revelation of Jesus' person; he is the "true minister of God's kingdom, obedient to the one who commissioned him so that in all he does God is with him."

Finding some common ground is not easy, but Biblical theology can help. In the temptation, the messianic vocation of Christ, as corporate Israel, is tested by questioning the validity of three key elements of messiah's mission: his promised provision, authentication and success. So, the temptations are best viewed as tests of messiah's faith. See Nolland, who focuses on wilderness typology in the temptations, but in particular notes that each exposes the need to rely (have faith) in the divine pledge (covenant promise) to "do well by his son." There is a sense where the temptations are "designed to make Jesus prove his messiahship and thereby pervert it", Ellis, So, the temptations seek to undermine Jesus' commitment to the realisation of the kingdom in line with the revealed will of God:

iWhen it comes to the realisation of the kingdom, will God supply messiah's needs?

iIs not the power and glory of the secular city / Babel better able to realise the kingdom than divine fidelity?

iIs it not possible that self-glory would achieve a better response and so hasten the coming kingdom?

By defeating these temptations Jesus' "fidelity to God was proven in the midst of testing", Green, thus cementing his "willingness to do what he already knew God wanted him to do", Stein.


The temptation and its insight into Satan: This passage gives some very interesting insights into Satan:

iHe recognises that Jesus is the messiah, the anointed one who is to lead his people out of the slavery of sin and gather them together in the promised kingdom;

iHe accepts the authority of scripture;

iHe is described as lord over the present age, with the power and glory of this age in his hands;

iHe is a deceiver and so sets out to compromise Jesus' messiahship.


iv] Form:

The temptation of Jesus evidences an oral tradition utilised for a homiletic setting. Without diminishing the historicity of the temptation of Jesus, the tradition has taken on the shape of a three-point sermon, even somewhat "folkloric [under] the threefold [Hellenistic] categories of vice; love of pleasure, love of possessions; love of glory", Johnson. This is then framed in a kingdom of God Biblical theology, a theology grounded in the Old Testament. The gospel writers have taken this oral tradition, leaving aside any local application that may have attached to the three points.

We could attempt to draw out the historical substance of the temptation, but in the end, the inspired Word for us is the message of the writer, namely, a three point sermon on the messiah's temptation, set within the frame of the Biblical theology of the kingdom of God. In Israel's time of testing in the wilderness she doubted God's provision, she failed to preserve her special relationship with God, and she doubted God's power and so put him to the test, cf. Deut.6:10-16, 8:1-9:22. God's new messianic Israel is similarly tested in the wilderness; he does not doubt God's provision, preserves his special relationship with the Father, and does not doubt the Father's power and so put him to the test, cf. Evans, p256.

When we face Satan's arrows, let us follow in the footsteps of the Master.


v] Synoptics:

See 3:1-20. Jesus is obviously the source of this dramatized time of testing faced by him prior to his public ministry. Its homiletic shape may be down to Jesus, but it may also be the product of early church preaching. This may explain why the temptation is not recorded by Mark in this format - Mark's account provides little in the way of detail, 1:12-13.

Both Luke and Matthew record a homiletic version of Jesus' testing, yet, although very similar, the details indicate that they are both drawing from the pool of oral / written tradition that circulated in the early church, rather than one from the other (most commentators cite Q, eg., Fitzmyer, Manson, Creed, ....). The differences are many, and interesting. The major difference lies in the order of the temptations. Luke has the Jerusalem temple temptation as the last one. Many commentators argue that Matthew has the original version, and that Luke has changed it to emphasise the temple temptation as the decisive one, but of course, numerous versions of the temptation may well have been in circulation. Other differences of note include, for example: one stone for Luke, plural for Matthew; they have different names for Satan; Matthew's citation of Deuteronomy 8:3 is longer than Luke's; in Luke, Satan's offer of a kingdom is more developed than Matthew's; .....

All three gospel writers agree on context.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:1

The temptation of Jesus, v1-14: i] Introductory summary, v1-2. Luke carefully sets the scene. Jesus is corporate Israel undertaking a new Exodus. Will he fail the test as Israel did all those years before?

de "-" - but/and. Here transitional, introducing a new literary unit.

plhrhV adj. "full" - [jesus] full. The NIV treats this adjective as a substantive standing in apposition to "Jesus"; "Jesus, the one full of the Holy Spirit", but it could also be treated as an attributive modifier limiting "Jesus", "who was full of the Holy Spirit." Moffatt treats it as a predicate nominative, "From the Jordan, Jesus came back full of the Holy Spirit." The word "full" is often used by Luke in the sense of equipped to speak powerfully and truthfully for God, Acts, 6:5, 8; 7:55, 11:24. "When Jesus returned from the river Jordan, the power of the Spirit was with him", CEV.

pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the [Holy] Spirit" - of the [holy] spirit. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content; "filled full of the Holy Spirit"

apo + gen. "-" - [returned] from [the jordan. Expressing separation; "away from."

hgeto (agw) imperf. pas. "was led" - [and] was being led about. A divine passive. Note that Luke does not further the anomaly found in Matthew where Jesus is led out into the wilderness after having been with the Baptist in the wilderness.

en + dat. "by" - in / by / with [the spirit]. Possibly local, expressing space / place, "in", or instrumental, expressing means / agency, "by means of" (his preposition is sometimes equivalent to uJpo followed by the accusative = "by", but not when following a possessive verb as here), or association, "in association with", so Nolland. Jesus is not under the Spirit's control, but is rather guided by the Spirit; he is walking in the Spirit.

en + dat. "in" - in [the desert, wilderness]. Local, expressing space / place. LXX Deut.8:2. Jesus is led about in (not "to") the wilderness by the Spirit as Israel was led about all those years before.


peirazomenoV (peirazw) pres. pass. part. "was tempted" - being tempted / tested [forty days]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "was led"; "he was led by the Spirit ..... and tempted ...." Possibly adverbial, temporal, "while the devil tempted him", Moffatt, or final, expressing purpose, "in order to be tempted by the devil". The accusative "forty days" is temporal, duration - the testing is during the 40 days, as was Israel's testing during the 40 years.

uJpo + gen. "by" - by [the devil]. Here expressing agency, as NIV.

ouk efagen ouden "he ate nothing" - [and] he did not eat nothing. In this emphatic use of the double negative, the first negates the clause and the second the object. Luke could have used words appropriate for fasting here, but has chosen not to. So, Jesus is not fasting? For Luke, Jesus comes eating and drinking.

en + dat. "during" - in [those days]. Temporal use of the preposition. Luke uses this Old Testament phrase as a cue to the fulfilment of scripture, cf., Act.2:18. Yet, how does Jesus' not eating fulfil scripture? It is likely that the whole 40 days experience is what fulfils scripture, although, God's gift of manna is an act of grace to a grumbling people who have little faith. They ate, Jesus did not.

suntelesqeiswn (suntelew) gen. pas. part. "at the end" - [and them = those days] having been completed. The genitive participle with its genitive subject "them" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal; "when they were over he felt hungry", Moffatt.

epeinasen (peinaw) aor. "he was hungry" - he hungered. The temptation reaches a crescendo when Jesus is affected by hunger pains.


ii] The first temptation - stone into bread, v3-4. In the first test, the devil addresses Jesus as "Son of God". This is a messianic title, although the devil would fully understand Jesus' relationship with the Father. The "if" is not expressing doubt as to Jesus' messiahship, but is rather a goad for him to use his own powers to inaugurate the kingdom, rather than trusting God to supply the wherewithal for the kingdom's realisation. Israel doubted that God would supply food for the journey through the wilderness; Jesus has no such doubts.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, introducing a new literary unit and therefore untranslated.

oJ diaboloV "the devil" - the devil. Nominative subject of the verb "to say." Equivalent to the Old Testament Satan meaning "adversary", "slanderer". Matthew uses either "satan" or "the tempter."

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

ei + ind. "if" - if. Introducing a hypothetical conditional clause, 1st class, expressing a supposition which implies nothing as to the fulfilment or otherwise of the condition; "if, as is the case for the sake of argument, .... then ....." Of course, Satan knows full well that Jesus is the Son of God.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of God" - [you are son] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Many commentators argue that Satan is using this title as a descriptive of Jesus' filial relationship with the Father, but the term is also used as a messianic title for the Israel of God. It is surely more appropriate for Satan to cast doubts upon God's willing provision for Jesus' journey as the new Israel, in much the same way as he tested the faith of Israel of old as they journeyed from Egypt to the promised land.

tw/ liqw/ (oV) dat. "[tell this] stone" - [say] to [this] stone. Dative of indirect object.

iJna + subj. "to [become]" - that [it may become]. Rather than introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that ....", it introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, entreating / commanding what Jesus should tell the stone, namely "become bread".

artoV (oV) sing. "bread" - a loaf. Predicate nominative. Turn this stone into a loaf of bread. The singular is more appropriate than Matthew's "loaves".


The quotation comes from Deuteronomy 8:3. For the messiah "there is no need to leave off attending to God to seek for oneself", Nolland. Israel's yearning for the bread of Egypt displayed their little faith, but the new Israel will not go the same way. "For Jesus, life is about doing God's will, not providing for self", Bock.

proV + acc. "-" - [and jesus answered] toward [him, it has been written]. here introducing an indirect object; see 1:61.

oJti "-" - that. Here introducing a direct quote from scripture.

ep (epi) + dat. "on" - [not] upon [bread alone will live man]. Base / ground; "on the basis of bread alone." Note that the future tense "will life" is possibly imperatival, "shall not live", RSV = "must not live", although the NRSV has reverted to a statement, "does not live."


iii] The second temptation - authority over the world, v5-8. In the second test, Satan offers Jesus an easy way to establish the kingdom; he offers him a way to achieve the power and glory of this age, rather than end up in humility, suffering and death. Satan even offers to give up his authority over the inhabited world (of course, it is important to remember Satan is a liar), but Jesus must acknowledge Satan's lordship. Jesus chooses to resist Satan and travel God's way to victory.

anagagwn (anagw) aor. part. "led [him] up to a high place" - [and] having led up, taken up [him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he showed"; "took him up and showed him." Possibly adverbial, temporal; "then he lifted Jesus up", Moffatt. No mention of a mountain as in Matthew, just the going up. Also, note that Matthew has this as the last test.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [he showed] to him. Dative of indirect object; "showed ..... to him."

en + dat. "in" - in. Temporal use of the preposition. The phrase probably carries the idea of Jesus receiving an instantaneous vision supplied by Satan. Another indication of Satan's power.

cronou (oV) gen. "[an instant]" - [a moment] of time. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

thV oikoumenhV (h) gen. "of the world" - [all the kingdoms] of the world. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative. The whole inhabited world, rather than just the Roman Empire.


autw/ dat. pro "to him" - [and the devil said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

soi dat. pro. "you" - [i will give] to you. Dative of indirect object.

thn exousian (a) "[their] authority" - [all this] authority, power [and the glory of them]. With "glory", accusative direct object of the verb "to give." We have all witnessed it in war and famine. The genitive "of them", is possessive, although it does not have a natural antecedent here, but of course refers to "the kingdoms of the world", v5. Such power, in Satan's hand, is horrific.

oJti "for" - because. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why Satan can give such power and glory.

paradedotai (paradidwmi) perf. pas. "it has been given" - it has been given. What has been given to Satan: the inhabited world, the power and/or the glory of the inhabited world, or all three? Probably both power and the glory, but possibly just the glory (is it all just mirrors with Satan?). In any case, Satan has been given "it" and has the right to give "it" to whomsoever he wills (so he says!!!). The kingdom is easily established through an application of the power and glory of this age, and so Jesus is tempted to take the easy path of compromise.

emoi "to me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

w|/ ean + subj. "to anyone" - [and i give it] to whomever [i will, desire, to give it]. Introducing an indefinite relative clause serving as the dative indirect object of the verb "to give."


oun "so / -" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion.

ean + subj. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, future supposition, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true, "if, as may be the case, ..... then ...." If you do this, these consequences will result, namely, authority over the world and the gift of all its splendour.

enwpion + gen. "-" - [you bow down, do obeisance] before [me]. Spatial.

pasa adj. "all" - everything. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the future verb to-be. "Everything" over which Satan has authority within the creation. Of course, being a liar, Satan would not necessary follow through on the agreement.

sou gen. pro. "yours" - [will be] yours. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.


Jesus gets to the heart of the matter, again by quoting scripture to make the point that God alone is worthy of allegiance.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "answered" - [and jesus] having answered [said to him, it has been written]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say", redundant; see 1:19.

proskunhseiV (proskunew) fut. "worship / serve" - you shall worship [the lord the god of you]. Deut.6:13. Note the TNIV follows the modern tendency to translate this word as "serve", yet it is not a service word, but rather expresses the doing of obeisance, of falling down before the divine, and so is properly translated by the English word "worship". Words such as "venerate", or "revere", could also be used. The sense "to serve" is particularly evident in those circles where the word "worship" is defined as giving God his worth, ie., a service sense.

ton qeon (oV) "God" - the god [of you]. Accusative in apposition to "Lord".

autw/ dat. pro. "him [only]" - [and] him [alone you shall serve]. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to do obeisance to."


iv] The third temptation - signs and wonders, v9-12. In the third test, Jesus is tempted to gain messianic recognition through the application of miraculous powers, rather than by way of the cross. Israel once doubted God's gracious provision for their journey when they argued with Moses at Massa. Jesus does not make the same error. Jesus understands and accepts that the messiah will be eternally saved through faith in the face of death, not saved from death.

eiV + acc. "to" - [and he brought, led, him] into [jerusalem]. Expressing the direction of the action and/or arrival at.

to pterugion (ov) "the highest point" - [and set him upon] the little wing = pinnacle. A high part of the temple jutting out from the wall.

tou iJerou (on) gen. "of the temple" - of the temple. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

ei + ind. "if" - [and said to him] if, as is the case for argument's sake, [you are the son of god, then]. As in v3, introducing a hypothetical conditional clause, 1st. class.

enteuqen adv. "[from here" - [throw yourself down] from here. From where they were standing and therefore not at Satan's feet. Satan and the Father are the onlookers. The test seems designed to force a divine response for the protection of the messiah and thus, the inauguration of the kingdom outside the divine plan to establish a kingdom based on faith rather than amazement. The kingdom is realised through the suffering of the cross, not signs and wonders.


The Devil quotes scripture to support his third temptation; Psalm 91:11-12. Of course, the Devil would know that an is, namely God's protection of the righteous, is not necessarily an ought / is not necessarily God's will in respect to some particular action.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus is able to throw himself off the temple parapet, "because ....".

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "it is written" - it has been written. A standard introduction to a quote from scripture.

oJti "-" - that. Here serving to introduce a direct quotation from scripture.

toiV aggeloiV (oV) dat. " angels" - [he will give orders to] the angels [of him]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to give orders to".

peri + gen. "concerning" - about, concerning [you]. Expressing reference / respect.

tou diafulaxai (diafulassw) aor. inf. "to guard [you] carefully" - to protect, guard [you]. This construction, the genitive articular infinitive, usually introduces a purpose clause, although this seems somewhat forced here. The construction may also be epexegetic, and although not technically possible here, it does carry that sense; see Cassirer below. Zerwick suggests that the article is pleonastic, having no particular use / redundant. Luke is fond of the construction and interestingly tou diafulaxai se is not found in Matthew's gospel account. An infinitive by itself can introduce an object clause after a verb of saying or thinking, so here, taking tou as redundant, it may form a dependent statement of indirect speech, entreating / commanding, expressing what God will command his angels to do, namely "guard you carefully." "He will give his angels this commission concerning you, that they are to keep you in safety", Cassirer.


kai oJti "-" - and that. Again, serving to introduce a direct quote from scripture, here Psalm 90:12.

mhpote + subj. "so that [you will] not" - [upon their hand they will lift up you] lest, that not [you strike the foot of you]. This indefinite negation with a subjective verb is used to form a negated purpose clause, "in order that not ....", as NIV. "Lest you strike your foot against a stone", Bock.

proV + acc. "against" - toward [a stone]. Expressing movement toward, and here of contact, "up against."


Jesus responds with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16. The context of these words from Moses to Israel serve as a reminder that they not put God to the test as they did a Massah, when they doubted his provision for them, when they doubted that he would keep his promise to them, Ex.17:3.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "answered" - [jesus] having answered [said to him]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant Semitic construction; see 1:19.

eipen (eipon, legw) "it says / it is said" - it has been said. An interesting use, given that "it is written" is the usual form of words for a quote.

oJti "-" - that. Again, serving to introduce a direct quote from scripture.

ouk ekpeiraseiV (ekpeirazw) fut. "do not put ..... to the test" - you shall not put to the test (to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing*). The future probably functions as an imperative, so NIV. Test God, his capacity / power to act, or his willingness to act. "Testing God is not trusting him", Plummer.

sou gen. pro. "[the Lord] your [God]" - [lord the god] of you. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination. The accusative "the God" stands in apposition to "Lord".


v] Conclusion, v13. "All this tempting", means "every kind of temptation." Temptations will continue, but on this occasion Jesus faced the full range of temptations. So, for the moment the testing ends "until an opportune time."

suntelesaV (suntelew) aor. part. "when [the devil] had finished" - [and] having finished, completed. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

panta peirasmon (oV) "all this tempting" - every temptation. Accusative direct object of the verb "to finish, complete." Every kind of temptation, all kinds of temptations.

ap (apo) + gen. "[he left him]" - [the devil withdrew, went away] from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from."

acri kairou "an opportune time" - until a time. Temporal construction. A general sense "until a suitable time / for a while" is best. Conzelmann argues for a specific sense, namely that the Devil is removed from the scene until he is allowed back at the appointed time of the passion. This seems unlikely.


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