Luke 4

The Word Made Fresh

1Jesus returned from the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led him into the wilderness, 2and for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He had nothing to eat, and when the forty days were over he was hungry. 3Then the devil told him, “If you are God’s son, turn this stone into a loaf of bread.”

4Jesus said, “It is written, ‘A man cannot live by bread alone.’”

5The devil then led him higher and showed him a panorama of all the kingdoms of the earth, 6and told him, “I’ll give you all their glory and power. It has all been turned over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose. 7It’s yours if you’ll worship me.”

Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Worship and serve only the LORD your God.”

9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, jump! 10It is written, ‘For God will command the angels to be your guardians wherever you go,’ and, 11‘They will lift you on their hands, and you will not so much as trip over a stone.’”

12Jesus told him, “It is also written, ‘Don’t test the LORD your God.’”

13When the devil had finished testing him he left to wait for another opportunity.

14Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. News about him was being spread throughout the countryside, 15and he began to teach in their synagogues. He was praised by everyone.

16He came to Nazareth, his hometown, and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his habit. He stood up to read 17and they handed him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled it and found the place where these words are written:

18“The Spirit of the LORD has come over me because I have been chosen to bring good news to the poor, to announce release to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to free those who are imprisoned, 19and to announce the year of the LORD’s favor.”

20He rolled the scroll and handed it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was staring at him. 21He said to them, “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing today.”

22They all spoke well of him, and they were amazed at the pleasing words he had spoken. They said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

23Jesus said, “No doubt you are thinking this old saying applies to me: ‘If you’re a physician, cure yourself!’ And you’ll want me to do here in my hometown the things you heard I have done in Capernaum. 24But the truth is that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25In the time of Elijah there were many widows in Israel. There was no rain for three and a half years, and the land was suffering a terrible famine. 26But Elijah was sent only to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also a lot of people in Israel suffering from leprosy in Elisha’s day, but none of them were healed except Naaman the Syrian.”

28When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was infuriated. 29They drove him out of the town and took him to the hilltop on which the town was founded, to throw him off the cliff. 30But Jesus walked through the crowd and went on his way.

31He went to the Galilean town of Capernaum. On the Sabbath he was teaching in the synagogue, 32and they were astounded because he taught with such authority. 33A man was there who was possessed by an evil spirit that made him cry out, 34“Leave us alone! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to put an end to us? I know who you are! You are the Holy One of God!”

35But Jesus reprimanded him, “Be quiet! Come out of this man!” The evil spirit threw the man down in their midst, and then left without having injured him. 36All of them were amazed. They kept saying, “What has happened? He orders evil spirits around with authority, and they run away!” 37Word quickly spread around the whole region about Jesus.

38He left the synagogue and went to Simon’s home. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick, and had a high fever. They asked Jesus about her, 39and he came and stood beside her and dismissed her fever and it left her. She was able right away to get up and begin to attend them.

40By sundown everyone who had a sick family member brought them to Jesus, and he touched them and healed them of every kind of malady. 41A lot of them were possessed by evil spirits who screamed at him, “You are the Son of God!” but Jesus sent them away and stopped them from speaking because they knew he was the Christ.

42At sunrise he left and went out to a deserted place, but crowds of people were searching for him and found him. They tried to persuade him not to leave their town, 43but he said, “I must tell the good news of the kingdom of God in the other towns also. That is why I have been sent.” 44So, he continued preaching the message in the synagogues of Galilee.


1-13: Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus is similar to Matthew’s (4:1-11). Both record three temptations; Luke’s order is different. Both have Jesus responding to the devil by quoting the same passages of scripture. Matthew, who tends to be more mystical than Luke, has angels come to Jesus’ aid, while Luke simply notes that the devil leaves Jesus “until an opportune time.” Perhaps the point of the story for Luke is to demonstrate that from the very beginning of his ministry Jesus refuses to seek wealth or power or public acclaim.

14-15: One might wonder what report about Jesus is spread through the countryside, since he hasn’t done anything yet. Luke has gotten a little ahead of himself, for verse 23 will let us know that he has already performed miracles in Capernaum.

16-30: Nevertheless, people apparently have some expectations about him. Luke has him immediately go to his hometown of Nazareth. The wording of verse 16 indicates that he no longer lives there, and perhaps has not for some time. He reads the scripture of the day – a passage from Isaiah 61 – then sits down and tells them the scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing. They’re proud of their hometown boy. But then he reminds them of the Old Testament stories about the widow of Zarephath (see 1 Kings 17:10-16) and Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5) and they are offended because they understand he is telling them he hasn’t come for their sake, and folks elsewhere may be more important than they. They run him out of town, and he narrowly escapes with his life.

31-37: Now Jesus goes to Capernaum where he also teaches in the synagogue. He is confronted by a demon-possessed man who identifies him as “the Holy One of God.” Jesus casts out the demon easily enough. The people are all amazed, and wonder about the title with which the demon addressed him.

38-39: Luke tells this story before he has Jesus call any disciples; still, the Simon here is undoubtedly Simon Peter (see Matthew 8:14 and Mark 1:30).

40-41: People line up at the door. Curiously, in Luke’s gospel, it is the demons who are first to recognize Jesus publicly as the Son of God, which gives him a rather bizarre authenticity. Of course, angels had given him that recognition a little more privately at his birth and even before he was born.

42-44: Jesus tries to take a little vacation, but that doesn’t last long before people find out where he is. He disentangles himself by telling them God has sent him to proclaim the good news elsewhere.


Even today, people’s reactions to Jesus are wide ranging just as in Galilee, from accepting to rejecting. The church’s job is not to convert everyone, but simply to tell the story of God’s love for us all.