THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 4: Chapters 3:1-4:13
The Preparation for Jesus' Public Ministry
Through the Old Testament prophets You promised the covenant people that You would send the Redeemer-Messiah and that His coming would be heralded by one sent in the spirit of the prophet Elijah. You kept that promise, as You keep all Your promises. We give thanks for Your constancy, Lord, and we are reminded that You keep both Your promises of blessings and judgments. Continue to send us priests like St. John the Baptist who are committed to proclaiming the Savior and His active role in the lives of every member of the human family. And give us the courage to resist the temptations that threaten to misdirect us from the Narrow Path to the salvation You have promised those who persevere in faith. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
To keep his
promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David's descendants, Jesus, as
Savior, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of
repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his course he
said, "I am not the one you imagine me to be; there is someone coming after me
whose sandal I am not fit to undo."
Now, some of the
Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's [Herod Antipas] army came
from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John,
that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and
commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one
another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for the washing
[with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order
to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the
purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified
beforehand by righteousness.
Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.2 [116-118]
+ and *: these dates are based on Luke's testimony that John baptized Jesus in the 15th year of the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius in c. 28 AD (as the ancients counted; see discussion below), when Jesus was about 30 years old (Lk 3:1-3, 23). The 4 BC date for Herod's death given by many scholars is based solely on unsubstantiated data relating to Josephus' testimony that a solar eclipse took place when Herod died. In the 15th century Johannes Kepler discovered that a partial solar eclipse occurred in 4 BC and scholars accepted that date for Herod's death. However, according to modern astronomers, a full solar eclipse took place in 1 BC.
Chapter 3: John the Baptist's Ministry and the Baptism of Jesus
Luke 3:1-6 ~ John the Baptist is called to begin his
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, 6 and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar... Augustus Caesar died and was succeeded by his step-son and heir Tiberius on August 19th, 14 AD. The first year of Tiberius reign is therefore from August 19th, 14 AD to August 18th, 15 AD. The 15th year is then from the 19th of August 28 AD to 18th of August 29 AD.(1)
Question: How does St. Luke historically situate the
beginning of St. John the Baptist's ministry?
Answer: St. Luke first situates the beginning of St. John the Baptist's ministry during the reign of the political leaders and then during the rule of the religious leaders.
The "Herod" referred to is Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great and Malthace. Philip is another son of Herod the Great by his wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem. The title "tetrarch" in verse 1 literally meant "ruler of a quarter." However, it came to be applied to the rule of a subordinate prince, as in the case of Herod's younger sons Herod Antipas and Herod Philip. Abilene was a territory northwest of Damascus ruled by an ally of Rome named Lysanias.(2) Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea from 26-36 AD. St. Luke also situates St. John's ministry during the reign of Judea's religious leaders "the High Priest Annas and his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas.
Question: How was it that John knew when to begin his
ministry proclaiming repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah?
Jer 1:4; 2:1;
Ez 1:2; 2:1-3;
Jonah 1:1-2; etc.
Answer: God called John to begin his ministry as He had called his other prophets.
Luke further emphasis the nature of John's divine call by quoting from the book of the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3-5, a passage quoted in part by the other Gospel writers (Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3 and Jn 1:23 all quote only Is 40:3) and which he relates to St. John's ministry. Matthew quotes verse three from the Isaiah text in its Greek Septuagint form (Mt 3:3) as does the Gospel of John (Jn 1:23): Only Luke quotes the entire passage of Isaiah 40:3-6 from the Hebrew text: A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'
Notice the universal theme of the Isaiah passage that is similar to Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2:30-32 that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" compared to Simeon's statement: "your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
Question: What is the significance of the prophetic
voice in the Isaiah passage? Is the prophetic voice identified in the Isaiah
passage? What does the symbolic and poetic nature of the passage suggest? See
Answer: No, the prophetic voice in Isaiah is not identified in the Book of Isaiah. The mysterious, unidentified prophetic voice announces the coming of God among His people and the wondrous, all-encompassing change the Lord's coming will have on the world. The passage poetically announces that all obstacles will be set aside and nothing will hinder His coming or the message of His gift of salvation to all mankind.
Through the prophet Isaiah God promises a new Exodus "in the first Exodus liberation God came through the desert to rescue His people and to bring them to salvation (Dt 33:2; Ps 68:7-8). The paths and roadways that must be made straight are not physical thoroughfares but the people's lives that must veer from the crooked paths of sin that have become obstacles/mountains that separate them from God to the straight paths of righteousness that lead to salvation.
Question: How does the Isaiah passage relate to St.
John's mission and to Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2:30-32?
Answer: John is now identified as the prophetic voice in the Isaiah passage. His mission is to prepare the way for the coming of God the Redeemer Messiah by calling the people to repent their sins and turn back to God so they can receive the universal salvation spoken of in Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2:30-32.
Luke 3:7-20 ~ The preaching of John the Baptist
7 He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 10 And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" 11 He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" 13 He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." 14 Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages." 15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you will the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." 18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. 19 Now Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed, 20 added still another to these by [also] putting John in prison.
Question: Where was John preaching and baptizing? See Jn 1:28.
Answer: He was baptizing on the east side of the Jordan River.
It is likely that this was the site where John first began to offer baptism in repentance for sins, at the same site. John was blessed with the power and spirit of the 8th century BC prophet Elijah and it would have been fitting for John his ministry at the same site where Elijah's ministry ended and his more powerful successor Elisha's ministry began. It is also where John will baptize Jesus (Yehoshua), one who is more powerful than John, who will then cross over from the east to the west side of the Jordan to begin His conquest against sin and death that will result in the conquest of Heaven, the true Promised Land for God's people.
Luke 3:7 He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
John's preaching style was not gentle "today he might be compared to a "fire and brimstone" preacher.
Question: What is the "coming wrath, and what warning
did he give the people in verses 8-9?
Answer: The "coming wrath" John speaks of is God's divine judgment that will bring about the destruction of unrepentant sinners. John warns the people that:
St. John makes a play on words in verse 8 when he warns the people that they cannot rely on their descent from father Abraham to save them from judgment. The word for "son" in Aramaic (the common tongue) was "ben" and the word for "stone" was "eben." That the Jews are special and not like other men because they are the descendants of Abraham is an argument that the Jew will make unsuccessfully to Jesus in John 8:33-47.
Question: What is John's point in saying that God can
raise up children to Abraham from the stones? It is the same point Jesus makes
in John 8:33-39.
Answer: True sons of Abraham would behave as Abraham did. Unlike Abraham's son Isaac who submitted his life to God, the Jews do not behave as sons/children of Abraham because they do not believe that the Messiah is coming and now is the time to submit their lives to God "they are merely of Abraham's race like Ishmael, the son of the slave, who was cast out.
Luke 3:12 And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"
Question: The crowds ask what should they do to
demonstrate genuine repentance and to avoid divine judgment; what is John's
reply? See verses 10-14.
Answer: He returns to his message in verse 8. They need to demonstrate their repentance by righteous living according to God's Law and righteous deeds in treating their fellowman/woman with mercy, respect and justice.
The link between demonstrating faith in God through works of mercy and righteousness that leads to salvation has been a consistence teaching in the Church of the Old and New Testaments. For example, the prophet Jeremiah wrote: I, the LORD, alone prove the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds (Jer 17:10). The merit of one's deeds counts toward one's salvation, as the inspired writer of Sirach wrote: Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins (Sir 3:29). In the New Testament, Jesus based the final outcome of the Last Judgment on one's earthly record of demonstrations of works of mercy (Mt 25:31-46. St. James wrote What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (Jm 2:14) ...See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (Jm 2:24) ... For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (Jm 2:26). Also see CCC 1473 for the necessity of works of mercy and 2447 for the significance and kinds of works of mercy.
Luke 3:15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
John's call to repentance through a ritual of water purification and his warnings of divine judgment for those who oppress the weak and disadvantaged probably reminded the people of the prophecies of the Messiah in the books of Ezekiel and Malachi:
Luke 3:16 John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you will the Holy Spirit and fire.
St. John denies that he is the Messiah and tells the crowd that in contrast to his baptism with water, the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is an event that is literally fulfilled at the Jewish feast of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus' Resurrection in Acts 2:1-14 and which is a fulfillment of the prophecy of the purifying and refining characteristics of the Messiah prophesied in the Ezekiel and Malachi passages.
Luke 3:17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
This verse repeats the divine judgment promised in verse 9. The threshing floor was a flat area where the harvested grain was brought. A winnowing fan was a forklike instrument that was used to separate the wheat kernels from the inedible chaff. The wheat was thrown into the air with the winnowing fork as the breeze blew away the chaff and the good wheat kernels fell to the ground. The unwanted chaff was burned with fire and destroyed. The symbolic imagery of the winnowing fan, the threshing floor and the burning of the unwanted chaff is a familiar Old and New Testament biblical image of judgment in separating the righteous from the wicked and as an image of the final destruction ( Job 21:17-18; Is 41:16; Jer 15:7; Wis 5:14, 23; Mt 3:12; 13:30, 40, 42, 50; Lk 3:17; Jn 15:6).
However, in the Old Testament fire was often a symbol of purification that was more efficacious than water and was a sign of the divine transforming action of God's Spirit in purifying the souls of men and women who still had the hope of salvation (see Sir 2:5; Is 1:25-28; 48:10; Zec 13:9 and Mal 3:2-3 and CCC 696). This is the same way St. Paul speaks of God's purifying fire in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 in which the souls of some of the saved must experience a necessary final purification in Purgatory (CCC 1030-32) and why St. Paul urges the Thessalonians not to "quench the Spirit" (1 Thes 5:19). However, a place of fire which forever goes on consuming that which is defiled and for which purification is no longer an option, as in John's description, is rare in the Old Testament (see Jdt 16:17; Ps 21:8-9; Si 7:17/19; Is 66:24; Zep 1:18) until the coming of Christ when both divine blessings and divine judgment is eternal and in which divine judgment is described as an unquenchable fire (CCC 1033-37). Jesus refers to this place/state of eternal punishment as Gehenna for those who do not die in a state of grace ( Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 10:15; 12:5; 16:23; also see Rev 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 15; 21:8).
Question: How does John use this familiar imagery of
the harvest to teach the people about the Messiah's role as divine judge? What
does the "threshing floor" symbolize?
Answer: The threshing floor is the world. The Messiah has the authority to separate and judge the righteous from the wicked.
Luke 3:17 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people
In Luke 1:19, Gabriel announced the "good news" (evangelizesthai) of the birth of St. John, and now John preaches the "good news" (using the same Greek word) of the coming of the Messiah.
Luke 3:19-20 . 19 Now Herod the tetrarch, who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed, 20 added still another to these by [also] putting John in prison.
Verses 19-20 looks forward to John's arrest by Herod Antipas which later resulted in his death (see Lk 9:7-9), all of which occurred after Jesus' baptism (3:21-22). In this way Luke shows a division in salvation history between the ministry of John's preparation of Israel coming to an end and the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets in Jesus' ministry that begins immediately after His baptism. The first century AD Jewish priest/historian Flavius Josephus records that John was arrested by Herod Antipas for causing unrest among the people and was taken to his prison fortress of Machaerus in Perea on the east side of the Dead Sea (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.2 . That John might incite a Jewish insurrection against the Roman authority may have been the official reason given to the Romans, but the Gospels of Matthew (14:3-12) Mark (6:17-29) and Luke record that John's arrest and death was the result of condemning Herod and his wife/niece Herodias of adultery and other wicked acts. They had been married to others before they divorced to marry each other. Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great the last Jewish Hasmonean princess (descendants of the Maccabees). Therefore she was a Jewess and bound by the Law of Moses.
Luke 3:21-22 ~ The baptism of Jesus
21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Jesus was without sin (2 Cor 5:21; CCC 602)
Question: John's baptism was one of repentance of sins (Lk 3:3). Why did Jesus submit to John's baptism if He was without sin? See Mt 3:13-15; Mk 10:38-39 and Lk 12:50 (Jesus speaking of His death); 22:37 and 23:32; Rom 5:8; 6:3-4; Mt 28:19-20; Jn 1:31; Acts 10:37-38, 43; 2 Cor 5:21; and CCC 438 and 535-6.
Answer: Jesus tells John that He must be baptized (Mt 3:13-15). By baptizing Jesus:
The Gospel of Matthew provides more details of the event of Jesus' baptism (Mt 3:13-17), but all the accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke record the first evidence of the Most Holy Trinity in Sacred Scripture and salvation history.
Question: How is the Holy Trinity present at the
baptism of Jesus?
Answer: The Trinity is present in the descent of God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon God the Son and voice of God the Father from heaven proclaiming His pleasure in Jesus the Son.
Luke 3:23-38 ~ The genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth
23 When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattahias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhese, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Ammindadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Both Jesus and John began their ministries when they were thirty years old. John was six months older than Jesus (Lk 1:36), but John announced Jesus' pre-Incarnate existence when he told the crowd: He is the one of whom I said, A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me' (Jn 1:30). That their ministries began in their thirtieth year may be significant in that John, the son of the priest, began his ministry at the age a member of the tribe of Levi finished his instruction in the Law and Temple service and began his fulltime duties, and thirty was the age that David became King of Israel (Num 4:3; 2 Sam 5:4).
A Comparison the Biblical Genealogies
Bold type = agreeing genealogy names
|Names in Luke (ascending order)||Names in Matthew (descending order)|
|1. Jesus (3:23)||42. Jesus (1:16)|
|2. Joseph||41. Joseph|
|3. Heli||40. Jacob (1:15)|
|4. Matthat (3:24)||39. Matthan|
|6. Melchi||38. Eleazar|
|8. Joseph||37. Eliud (1:14)|
|9. Mattathias (3:25)||36. Achim|
|11. Nahum||35. Zadok|
|13. Naggai||34. Azor (1:13)|
|14. Maath (3:26)|
|15. Mattathias||33. Eliakim|
|17. Josech||32. Abiud|
|19. Joanan (3:27)|
|21. Zerubbabel||31. Zerubbabel (1:12)|
|22. Shealtiel||30. Shealtiel|
|24. Melchi (3:28)|
|27. Elmadam||29. Jechoniah (1:12)*|
|29. Joshua (3:29)||28. Jechoniah (1:11)*|
|30. Eliezer||27. Joseph (1:10)|
|31. Jorim||26. Amos|
|32. Matthat||25. Manasseh*|
|33. Levi||24. Hezekiah (1:9)*|
|34. Simeon (3:30)||23. Ahaz*|
|35. Judah||22. Jotham*|
|36. Joseph||21. Uzziah (1:8)*|
|37. Jonam||20. Joram*|
|39. Melea (3:31)||18. Asa[ph] (1:7)*|
|40. Menna||17. Abijah*|
|41. Mattatha||16. Rehoboam*|
|42. Nathan [King David's son]||15. Solomon [King David's son] (1:6)*|
|43. David*||14. David*|
|44. Jesse (3:32)||13. Jesse (1:5)|
|45. Obed||12. Obed|
|46. Boaz||11. Boaz|
|47. Sala||10. Salmon (1:4)|
|48. Nashon||9. Nashon|
|49. Amminadab (3:33)||8. Amminadab|
|51. Arni||7. Ram/Aram (1:3)|
|52. Hezron||6. Hezron|
|53. Perez||5. Perez|
|54Judah||4. Judah (1:2)|
|55. Jacob (3:34)||3. Jacob|
|56. Isaac||2. Isaac|
|57. Abraham||1. Abraham (1:2)|
|60. Serug (3:35)|
|65. Cainan (3:36)|
|70. Methuselah (3:37)|
|75. Enos (3:38)|
Many of the names in Luke's extensive genealogy are also found in the Old Testament genealogical lists (see Gen chapters 5 and 11 and 1 Chr chapters1-3). There are 42 names in Matthew's list which are purposely arranged to yield three sets of 14 names to correspond to the gematria (the number 14) of David's name DVD in Hebrew (see the Matthew study Lesson 2). Luke's list has 77 names, a number signifying double spiritual perfection and fulfillment. More Davidic kings are in Matthew's list than in Luke's list (see * for Davidic kings of Judah).
Question: Comparing the lists, what differences and
similarities do you notice? Can you draw any conclusions about the lists?
The "Nathan" in Luke's list is not Nathan the prophet who confronted David with his sin regarding the woman Bathsheba (see 2 Sam 11:1-12:25), but David's son Nathan who was born in Jerusalem after David repented his sin and God blessed David and Bathsheba with more children (see 2 Sam 12:25; 2 Sam 5:14; 1 Chr 3:5). If the genealogies were written prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, which many scholars believe, they both Luke and Matthew would have had access to the extensive genealogies of families kept in the Temple library. Proof of a bride's impeccable pedigree assured a higher "bride price" and her suitability to marry into important families.
It is a problem that the two lists are so different. An explanation is that perhaps Matthew's genealogy is Jesus' legal claim of inheritance through Joseph, who is a descendant of King David (Mt 1:20; Lk 1:27), while Luke's list is that of Jesus' physical descent through Mary who is also a Davidic heir, as Luke makes clean through the testimony of the angel in the Annunciation (Lk 1:32-33)(4).
It is a problem that the father of Joseph is listed by two different names. Explanations that have been offered are:
Question: Why did Luke extend his genealogy from
Jesus to Adam and why did Matthew list his genealogy from Abraham to Jesus?
Hint: for what audience did Matthew and Luke write their gospels?
Answer: Matthew's Gospel was written to the Jews and therefore his genealogy focuses on Jesus' mission to Israel and the claim that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah in fulfillment of the prophets who foretold the Messiah would be a descendant of both Abraham and King David. Matthew begins his list with Abraham, the "father" of the covenant people, then shows Jesus' claim to the Davadic throne as a descendant of King David, and then to Jesus who he announces is "the Messiah" (Mt 1:16). Luke, however, does not limit Jesus' ancestral line only to Abraham but extends Jesus' genealogy all the way to Adam, the first man and therefore gives a universal slant to Jesus' mission to mankind in general, for all men and women are descendants of Adam and Jesus' mission of salvation is not limited to Israel and the descendants of Abraham.
One of Luke's main themes is that of the universalism of Jesus' gift of salvation " expressed in Simeon's prophecy that Jesus the Messiah has come to bring "your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32). This theme of "universalism" is now expressed in Luke's genealogy of Jesus. Unlike St. Matthew's genealogy that stressed Jesus' blood bond to Israel by listing the genealogy from Abraham, Luke does not limit Jesus' genealogy to the covenant people but extends it back to the beginning to the first man Adam and also to God, expressing Jesus' humanity and His divine sonhsip ""He was the son ... the son of God." (verses 3:23b and 38b)
Chapter 4: The Temptation of Christ
Luke 4:1-13 ~ The temptation of Jesus "the second Adam
1 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert 2 for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, One does not live by bread alone.' 5 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, "I shall give you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me." 8 Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'" 9 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' 11 and With their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus said to him in reply, "It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'" 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have the details of Jesus' temptation by Satan. At the end of His ordeal of 40 days of fasting and prayer, Jesus was hungry like any man. Recognizing His physical weakness, Satan saw an opportune time to test Jesus. The Greek word diabolos (in the LXX and the New Testament) is usually translated "devil," but in Hebrew the word is satan, meaning "adversary" or "accuser" as in a court of law. An example of this imagery is found in the book of Job where "the satan" is standing in the heavenly court accusing the man Job (Job 1:1-8); and also the use of the word "accuser/satan" in Ps 109:6-7: Find a lying witness, an accuser [satan] to stand by his right hand, that he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain. The most frequent use in the Old Testament, however, is in the metaphorical sense of an adversary (for example see 1 Sam 29:4) Every place the title "Satan" is found in the Old Testament it is preceded by the definite article "the;" the one exception is in 1 Chronicles 21:1 where it is a proper name.
Question: Who is Satan? See Rev 12:7-9 and CCC
391-95 and 2852.
Answer: He is a created being who was once an angel but who is now the adversary of both God and man. Revelation 12:9 identifies Satan as the same serpent who tempted Adam and Eve into sin and became the "deceiver of the whole world."
In Isaiah 14:11-15, God promised His people that the day would come when the King of Babylon would be held accountable for the suffering he caused the Israelites and the people would taunt the Babylonian king concerning his downfall. Within the lines of the taunt, the king is compared to another evil force, a beautiful creature whose pride led to his downfall when in his five declared "I wills" he announced himself God's enemy (Is 14:13-14). A similar passage is found in Ezekiel 28:11-19 where the lament over the king of Tyre also takes on a descriptive dimension of the fall of Satan: In Eden, the garden of God, you were, and every precious stone was your covering ... blameless you were in your conduct from the day you were created, until evil was found in you ...Then I banned you from the mountain of God; the Cherub drove your from among the fiery stones. You became haughty of heart because of your beauty; for the sake of splendor you debased your wisdom. I cast you to the earth, so great was your guilt ... (Ez 28:13-17). In his first letter to the Church, St. John wrote: Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8).
Question: In Luke 4:3 Satan begins the test by asking
Jesus to give proof that He is the "Son of God." Does this mean Satan knows
Jesus is God's divine Son? What is meant by the title "Son of God"? Who else
in the Old Testament bore this title? See Job 1:16;
Mt 5:9, 45;
Ps 2:7; 89:27/26;
2 Sam 7:8, 12-14;
1 Chr 17:13.
Answer: Satan is not certain that Jesus is the Messiah, therefore, he tests Jesus. "Son of God" was a title that was also assigned to:
Question: How will Jesus describe His rank of divine
sonship as different the others who bore the title previously in salvation
history? See Mt 4:11; 7:21; 22:42-46;
Jn 10:15, 29-30; 14:9-10, 20; 16:15.
Question: What events will confirm Jesus' claim to
the unique title "Son of God"?
Answer: The Resurrection and Ascension.
In His encounter with Satan, Jesus the Son of God is enacting both Adam's temptation by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Israel's temptations in the desert after leaving Egypt as God's "first-born son" among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23). St. Paul called Jesus the "last Adam" (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-47), and the Fathers of the Church called Him the "new Adam" and the "second Adam" (CCC 359 and 504).
St. John the Apostle wrote: Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn 1:15-16 NJB). St. John has summed up the temptations of the world into three categories: sensual lust (desires of the flesh), enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life (1 Jn 2:15-16).
Question: What comparisons can be made between the temptation of Adam, the son of God and the temptation of Jesus, the Son of God, and how does John's list of the world's temptations compare to Satan's testing of both Adam and Jesus? Quote the significant verses.
|The Temptations of the First and Second Adams Contrasted|
The first Adam
Jesus, the new Adam
|The devil's invitation to rebellion||"Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees...?"||The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God ...|
|Hunger, a desire of the flesh||The woman saw that the tree was good for food||... command this stone to become bread"|
|Enticement for the eyes:||
pleasing to the
|Then he took him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world ... "All this will be yours if you worship me."|
|The pride of a pretentious life (power)||desirable for gaining wisdom||"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here... He will command his angels concerning you ..."|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Question: What comparisons can be made between the
desert testing experiences of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Israelites, the
sons of God, in their Exodus experience?
|Israel is God's "first-born son" from among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23)||
Jesus is the Son of God (Lk 1:32)
|The Israelites were baptized by passing through the waters of the Red Sea and then, accompanied by God's spirit in the pillar of cloud and fire, they went into the desert (Ex 13:21-22; 14:21-22; 15:22)||After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert (Lk 4:1)|
|The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years where they suffered from hunger (Ex 16:2-3)||After 40 days in the desert, Jesus was hungry (Lk 4:2)|
|God tested Israel (Ex 16:4; Dt 8:2)||God allowed Satan to test Jesus (Lk 4:1-13)|
|The Israelites continually failed their tests of covenant obedience and loyalty, even to the point of worshiping a golden idol (Ex 32:1-6)||Jesus passed His tests. He remained faithful and obedient to God, and He refused to bow down to worship Satan (Lk 4:8)|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Satan is Jesus' great adversary. Jesus describes the devil as "a murderer from the beginning" who "does not stand in truth because there is no truth in him" (Jn 8:44). Jesus' mission is not only to free mankind from bondage to sin and death but to "destroy the works of the devil"; the most heinous of the devil's works was to lead man to disobey God (1 Jn 3:8, CCC 394).
In Jesus' contest with Satan, the devil addressed Jesus three times. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture three times from Deuteronomy 8:3a, 6:13 and 6:16, using the formula "it is written" twice in verses 4 and 8. The devil quoted Scripture once from Psalm 91:10-12 and used the formula statement "it is written" once (verse 10).
Question: What do all of Jesus' quotations from Scripture
have in common?
Answer: All Jesus' Scripture quotations are from the Book of Deuteronomy.
Question: What was significant about events in the
Book of Deuteronomy that have a bearing on Jesus' testing by Satan? See
Ex 15:25b; 16:4;
Dt 1:1-3; 8:16;
Answer: Jesus' tests took place after His forty days in the desert wilderness and the Book of Deuteronomy takes place after Israel's forty years of desert wandering.
Answer: All Jesus' quotes from Scripture are from passages in Deuteronomy where Moses recalls Israel's testing in the desert journey from Egypt to Mt Sinai. In Jesus' temptations He was faced with three similar tests:
Question: Compare the three tests of the Israelites
on the journey to Mt. Sinai to Jesus' three tests. What is different about
Answer: Satan gave Jesus three similar tests; however, unlike the Israelite "sons of God," Jesus, the obedient and faithful Son, passed His three tests:
|1. Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger; God gave them manna (Ex 16:3, 4)||Jesus was hungry when Satan challenged Him to make bread out of a stone (Lk 4:3-4)|
|2. Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah to prove God was with them (Ex 17:7)||Jesus refused to put God to the test when Satan challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God (Lk 4:9-12)|
|3. Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:1-6)||Jesus refused to bow down and worship Satan (Lk 4:6-8)|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Note: in St. Matthew's three temptations, #2 and 3 are reversed, reflecting the same order as the Israelites' desert temptations listed above.
Question: During the desert period, the Israelites
often tested God's faithfulness. When they were ready to possess the land of
Canaan what three warnings/perils did Moses give the children of Israel in
Deuteronomy 6:10-16 at the end of the 40 years in the desert wilderness?
Answer: Moses gave three warnings/perils the Israelites would face when they lived in the land of Canaan. The Israelites were told they would be in danger of losing the blessings God promised the Patriarchs and would be driven from the land if:
Jesus will not fail as the Israelites failed. He will fulfill all His obligations as an obedient Son of God.
Satan tests Jesus three times:
Test #1 Luke 4:3-4 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, One does not live by bread alone.'
In the first test, Satan approached Jesus to test Him to see if He would reveal Himself as the divine Messiah by commanding a rock to turn into bread to feed His hunger "no ordinary "son of God" would have that power over the natural world. Jesus responded to Satan's test by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. In that passage, Moses tells the children of Israel: Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. 3 He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD (Dt 8:2-3).
Question: In the Deuteronomy 8:2-3 passage, what did
Moses tell the Israelite "sons of God" was the reason for their 40 years in the
Answer: During the years in the wilderness, God tested the Israelites to see if they would be obedient to His commandments by allowing them to be afflicted with hunger and then showed them His faithfulness to provide for their needs by feeding them manna, bread from heaven.
Moses continued his address to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:7-9. In that passage, Moses told the people if they are faithful that God will give them the land He promised them. Then Moses describes the Promised Land as a new "Eden" where everything they need will be provided by God.
In the first test, Jesus rejected Satan's taunt; He did not come to serve His own fleshly desires but to do the will of the Father.
Question: How can the context of Moses' remarks in
Deuteronomy chapter 8, which links the manna from heaven to a test in obedience
to the "word of God" (Dt 8:3), and the description of Canaan as a new Eden give
us greater insight into Jesus' reply to Satan in the first test? Also see Ex
16:1a, Jn 1:1; and 6:28-35, 47-58 where Jesus refers to the manna of the
fathers and then to Himself as "the bread which comes down from heaven." What
is ironic about Jesus' response to Satan?
Answer: Jesus' reply is that it is not material bread which nourishes the physical body that ultimately gives life, but the Word of God. In the Old Covenant "life" meant obedience to the Law of God, but there is more to Jesus' response to Satan than the meaning of "life" in the Old Covenant. The irony is that Jesus is Himself the "Living Word" and He is the "Living Bread come down from heaven." It is He who ultimately gives life that lasts to eternity, and the "bread" that He will give to provide eternal life is not like the manna that only gave temporal life. His "manna" is His Body which is "the Living Bread" and the future gift of the Eucharist. Jesus' Body becomes the true Tree of Life that sustains man's immortality, like the Tree of Life in Eden. Jesus will give man the necessary spiritual nourishment on the journey to the new Eden that is heaven.
Test #2: Luke 4:5-8 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, "I shall give you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me." 8 Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'"
In the second test, the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus will bow down and worship him.
Question: Does Satan have the authority to make this
offer? See Jn 12:31 and CCC 550 and 2853.
Answer: Apparently he does have that authority; from the time of man's Fall from grace when Adam and Eve rejected God's sovereignty over them, Satan has been the "prince of the earth."
In His response to Satan, Jesus refers to Dt 6:13. In Deuteronomy 6:12-14 Moses told the Israelites: ..take care not to forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. 13 The LORD your God, shall you fear; him shall you serve, and by his name shall you swear. You shall not follow other gods....
Question: In Moses' warning to the Israelites, what
contrast is he making and what is the significance of swearing by God's name?
See Ex 24:3-8.
Answer: In Moses statement, serving Yahweh stands in contrast to the fact that they had once served the Egyptian Pharaoh as vassals, a man who was worshiped as a god-king (Dt 8:12). The statement "his is the name by which you must swear" suggests a loyalty oath of allegiance to the Israel's new king who is also Israel's God in the covenant sworn at Mt. Sinai.
Question: What is Jesus' point in quoting from this
passage? Compare Jesus' faith and obedience to the failures of Israel and Adam.
Answer: Unlike the Israelites who were the "first-born sons of God" among the nations of the earth, and unlike Adam, God's firstborn son in the human family, Jesus' is the true Son whose allegiance cannot be swayed by hardship like the Israelites (who lost faith and worshipped the Golden Calf) or by Satan's promises of self-glorification to which Adam submitted himself (Satan promised Adam he would be god-like if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit). Jesus' loyalty and obedience is to God the Father alone.
Test #3 Luke 4:9-12 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' 11 and With their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus said to him in reply, "It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"
In the third test, Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 while Jesus responds by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. This passage is proof that even the devil can quote Scripture and twist it to his advantage. Satan's taunt is for Jesus to demonstrate He is God's Son by testing God's promise to deliver His elect: For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. 12 With their hands they shall support you, least you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. 14 Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high (Ps 91:11-14). Notice that the devil "the ancient serpant/dragon failed to add verse 13 to the quote. For a third time Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, refusing to "test" God by demanding a supernatural show of power, unlike the Israelites. Jesus only quotes most but not all of the verse. The complete passage is: You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test as you did at Massah (Dt 6:16).
Question: What did Moses tell the Israelites in
Deuteronomy 6:16? Also see Ex 17:1-7; and Dt 9:22-24. What is the meaning of
the word "Massah" and how are those passages related to Jesus' response?
Answer: Jesus' third test recalls the Israelites' failure at Massah. In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses told the people: You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah. He was referring to the events in Exodus 17:1-7 where the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD in our midst or not? (Ex 17:7). At Massah the thirsty Israelites challenged God to provide them with water, behaving rebelliously instead of with faith and trust. Moses' message to the Israelites was that rather than testing God, Israel should be loyal, diligent and obedient. Yahweh's promised blessings in the Promised Land were conditional upon Israel's obedience. Jesus is God's faithful and obedient Son. Jesus' response to Satan is that He will not test God; He will put His trust and faith in His Father's will for His life.
Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.
After completing His covenant ordeal, the angels of the heavenly court came to minister/serve Jesus (Mt 4:11). However, the devil has only departed "for a time."
Question: When will the devil return to test God the
Son a final time?
Answer: Jesus' final test will come as He prays alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and then makes His final act of obedience and submission to the will of God the Father.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: Does God tempt us to sin? See
James 1:2-6, 12-18;
Wis 2:12-13; 3:1, 5;
1 Cor 10:6-13 and
CCC 1730, 2846, 2847.
Answer: God does not tempt us to sin. God tests us but at the same time never tests us beyond our ability to withstand the temptation (1 Cor 10:13) and at the same time provides what we need to have victory over sin to allow us to grow stronger in faith. However, while God would never tempt us to do evil, He will allow Satan to tempt us and when we rise above that temptation we are strengthened and purified by the experience: But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace..." (Wis 3:1a, 5 NJB).
Take courage when you are tested and claim this Psalms: The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Ps 37:23-24 NJB). St. John of Avila wrote "God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm." (Sermon 9)
Question: But all the same, should we expect trials?
Is there a reward for persevering through trials for the sake of our faith? See
Jm 1:14-15, 27; 4:4, 7;
1 Pt 1:6-7; 4:12;
2 Pt 2:9;
CCC 390, 215, 397-98, 404, 978, 1849-50, 2515.
Answer: Yes. If God did not spare His Son or His mother from trials and sufferings why should we expect that we should be exempt? Nevertheless, we have God's assurance that we can overcome our trials; even those trials that are meant to discipline us will help us to rise to a higher standard of holiness and serve as a witness to others of our faith and trust in God's sovereignty over our lives. Many of our trials will result from a condition the Church calls concupiscence. The Catholic Church identifies concupiscence as mankind's tendency to sin: Etymologically, concupiscence' can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the flesh' against the spirit.' Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins (CCC# 2515). The New Covenant believer, through the Sacrament of Baptism, has been reborn into the family of God and has been forgiven original sin; however, the condition of that sin we inherited from our original parents (Adam and Eve) remains. This is the condition St. James refers to in James 1:14-15: Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. James is teaching that the source of temptations spring from our own disordered passions and desires. Later in James 1:27; 4:4 and 7, James will warn that the world and the devil continually tempt us with sin; however, those temptations only become sin when we act upon them. We have been cured of the deadly "disease" known as original sin, but the virus known as concupiscence still lingers and brings suffering to man and to creation. We can be encouraged by what Jesus promised persevering Christians who suffer in Revelation 2:10: Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested .... Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
1. However, the Syrians had a slightly different way of calculating a reignal year than the Romans and Judeans, beginning that year not on the year the successor assumed the throne but by beginning with the new calendar year. Therefore, if St. Luke is using the Syrian method of calculating the year of a reign, the 15th year of Tiberius is from Sept. - Oct. 27 AD to Sept.-Oct. 28 AD.
2. This Lysanias was probably the grandson/great-grandson of the better known King Lysanias I, the ruler of Chalcis in Lebanon who was executed by Antony and Cleopatra in 36 BC because he remained loyal to Octavian (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.5.1, 14.13.3, 15.4.1; Wars of the Jews, 1.13.1, 2.11.5). Octavian/Caesar Augustus never forgot the sacrifices of loyal supporters and it was entirely within his character to reward the family member of an ally. The existence of the second Lysanias mentioned by Luke is confirmed by two Greek inscriptions found in Abila, the capital city of the tetrarchy of Abeline, located in the region of the Decapolis about 18 miles NW of Damascus. The inscriptions coincide with the chronology of Like 3:1 and were erected between the years of 14-29 AD (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 1, "Abilene", page 20; vol. IV, "Lysanias," page 425).
3. In the Transfiguration of the Christ, the Trinity is also present: "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud" (CCC 555 quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, Suma Theologica III, 45.4).
4. This is a theory introduced by Annius of Viterbo (c. 1490) and also embraced by many modern Bible scholars. One problem is that Luke lists Joseph in Lk 3:23, but "son" can also be understood to mean "son-in-law."
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (*indicates Scripture is quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
Lk 3: 8
CCC 550, 2853, 2855*
CCC 608*, 2600*
CCC 438, 536*