This morning I gave the homily at San Antonio Mennonite Church. For those who were present who would like to read my notes, or for those who weren’t present who may be interested, see below:

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First Sunday of Lent, February 17th, 2013

San Antonio Mennonite Church, San Antonio, TX 

Text: Luke 4:1-13 

Pretext: 

In the Lukan narrative this event follows Jesus’ baptism (3:21-22). Jesus’ genealogy has been inserted in order to present the reader with Jesus’ identity: he was the “supposed” son of Joseph, whose lineage can be traced back through King David and the Patriarch Abraham to Adam, the proto-human (3:23-38). We can gather that the author wants us to know that God the Father has declared Jesus to be his “beloved Son”, and that the Spirit has descended upon him, signifying that he has been anointed/empowered for his mission.[1]

Text:

Jesus’ identity has been established, so the Spirit leads Jesus into a wilderness region. Jesus doesn’t eat for forty days, mimicking holy people like Moses and Elijah (4:1-2).[2] Jesus’ anointing places him in the unique company of these special prophets, but his baptism exalts him higher than those who had come before him.

When Jesus’ fast has been completed he meets “the devil” (4:3).[3] The devil begins to tempt Jesus through his perceived weakness, hunger, while attacking his identity. The devil tells Jesus that if he is the Son of God, he will tell a stone to become bread. Jesus replies in v. 4 by citing Deuteronomy 8:3, “Humans do not live by bread alone.”[4]

The devil takes him to a high place to show him all of the kingdoms of the “inhabited world” at that point in time (v. 5).[5] It offers these kingdoms to Jesus, stating that these kingdoms have been handed to him, something Jesus does not protest. It offers Jesus “all this domain and its glory”,[6] signifying that Jesus may become the awaited messianic ruler, who reclaims the throne of King David, fulfills the Abrahamic Covenant, and becomes the new Adam who rules the world. It is possible that there is an allusion to Caesar, even if indirectly, since the devil is offering Jesus the inhabited world, a world under the domain of Caesar at this juncture (vv. 5-6).

The devil’s request is the ultimate blasphemy in v. 7. It request Jesus to prostrate himself as an act of submission, worship (προσκυνήσῃς). Again, Jesus responds in v. 8 with a quotation from Scripture, and again it is from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:13), “You will worship the Lord your God and you will serve him alone.”[7] This statement is part of a passage that emphasizes Israel’s fidelity to their Covenant with one God, YHWH (the Shema begins Deut. 6).

The devil’s third and final temptation occurs in Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the Temple (4:9).[8] As with the first temptation, this one strikes at Jesus’ self-identity: “If you are the Son of God”, which he was declared to be by God himself.[9]  Unlike the first and second temptations the devil chooses to borrow Jesus’ methodology by quoting Scripture. The devil cites Psalm 91:11-12 in vv. 10-11, “He will command his angels concerning you to protect you” and “with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”[10] The LXX version is important for understanding this part:

He who lives by the help of the Most High, in a shelter of the God of the heavens he will lodge.

He will say to the Lord, ‘My supporter you are and my refuge; my God, I will hope in him, because it is he who will rescue me from a trap of hunters and from a troublesome word; with the broad of his back he will shade you, and under his wings you will find hope; with a shield his truth will surround you.

You will not be afraid of the nocturnal fright, of an arrow that flies by day, of a deed that travels in darkness, of mishap and noonday demon (δαιμονίου).

At your side a thousand will fall, and ten thousand at your right, but it will not come near you. Only with your eyes will you perceive, and the requital of sinners you will see.

Because you, O Lord, are my hope, the Most High you made your refuge. No evil shall come before you, and no scourge shall come near your covert, because he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; upon hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. On asp and cobra you will tread, and you will trample lion and dragon under foot.

Because in me he hoped, I will also rescue him; I will protect him, because he knew my name. He will call me, and I will listen to him; I am with him in trouble; I will deliver and glorify (δοξάσω) him. With length of days I will satisfy him and show him my deliverance.[11]

In the LXX version the psalmist is delivered from a “noonday demon” and God delivers and glorifies him. In the Lukan narrative the devil is a demon that offers Jesus pseudo-glory. Jesus overcomes him; thereby, treading on the asp and cobra, the lion and dragon.

Jesus responds in v. 11 by quoting from Deuteronomy (6:16) for a third time, the second time from this section, “You will not put the Lord your God to the test.”[12] Again, fidelity to God is central to Jesus’ rebuttal of the devil, and his identity as the Son of God is established. The devil retreats (v. 13).

Post-text:

The author presents Jesus in v. 14ff., as going into Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. Many people begin to hear about Jesus. He increases in popularity and he begins to teach in the local synagogues. The devil aimed to offer Jesus fame and power. Jesus refused it, but the ironic twist is that he is presented as quite powerful and his fame has spread through the region. The narrative transitions with Jesus announcing that he is the fulfillment of the Isaiah 61:1ff, the one who comes anointed by the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, release the captives, provide sight to the blind, and to “proclaim the favorable year of the Lord”, or the Jubilee year (vv. 17-18).


[1] See Ps. 2 and Is. 11:1ff, 61:1ff.

[2] See Ex. 34:28-29 and 1 Kgs. 19:7-9.

[3] In the Gospel of Luke this figure is known as “the devil” (ὁ διάβολος), simply. In the Gospel of Matthew this figure receives the same identification in 4:1, but it is named “the Satan” in v. 10 (Σατανᾶ).

[4] Οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος. Identical to the LXX: οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος. The remainder of this statement is, “…but by every word which comes from the mouth of God” is cited in the Matthean version (4:4). Contextually, Jesus quotes a section where Moses informs Israel that YHWH provided manna in order to show that humans are not dependent upon bread alone, but the word (declaration) of God.

[5] Two points of interest here: τῆς οἰκουμένης means something like the inhabited world, but it may have the connotation of receiving that which is ruled by the Roman Empire, rather than all the nations of the world. For example, see Acts 17:6 where antagonist toward the early Christian movement proclaim that these people have “turned with world (τὴν οἰκουμένην) upside down”. Clearly, the οἰκουμένη may be the inhabited empire. Also, the author may want to avoid the misconception that the kingdoms of the inhabited world won’t belong to Jesus, since the messianic identity includes reigning over the nations. Therefore, he emphasizes that the devil offered him the kingdoms at that point in time (ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου).

[6] τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν

[7] Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις. The LXX differs: κύριον τὸν θεόν σου φοβηθήσῃ καὶ αὐτῷ λατρεύσεις. The LXX corresponds to the MT (תירא), so it could be that Jesus is presented as interpreting the “fear of God” as the worship of God.

[8] This order is different from the Gospel of Matthew, where it moves from the temptation to eat bread, to the temptation to jump from the Temple, to the temptation to worship Satan in order to receive the kingdoms of the world.

[9] Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ

[10] Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε, καὶ ὅτι Ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου. In the LXX (Ps. 90:11-12) it reads, ὅτι τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου, ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου. The devil excludes the part “in all of your paths” (ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου). Interestingly enough, in the LXX version it begins by identifying the God of the heavens as the shelter and refuge in which the psalmist will trust. The psalmist proclaims that God will

[11] NETS, trans. Albert Pietersma, accessed from http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/

[12] Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου. Identical to the LXX: Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου. In the following, vv. 17-19, fidelity to YHWH corresponds to receiving the land (something offered by the devil) and the enemy being driven out.

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