Jesus’ Third Temptation

25 Aug
Third Temptation in Luke

from Google Images

Luke’s third temptation (Luke 4:9-12) is Matthew’s second (Matthew 4:5-7). Luke, however, deals with this temptation second in order in the body of his text. That is, it comes second in order as we read Luke’s description of all three temptations in Luke 4:16 to Luke 6:49. So, I’ll deal with this temptation, concerning the pinnacle of the Temple, in the order in which Luke places it in his own record (Luke 5:16 to Luke 6:5). It immediately follows Luke’s analysis of the Lord’s first temptation (Luke 4:3-4), which I discussed HERE in a short synopsis of Luke 4:16 to Luke 5:15. All three of Jesus’ temptations took place in Galilee in the wilderness of people (Ezekiel 20:35), according to my understanding, not in the desert of Judea, as has been traditionally assumed.[1]

In our previous study we left Jesus alone with his Father, praying and away from the townsfolk of Galilee (Luke 5:16). Next in Luke’s orderly account (cf. Luke 1:3) we find Jesus in a house in Capernaum (see Mark 2:1) on a certain day. This marks the first of three or four events that deal with understanding the Scriptures. Note that the paralytic man was brought to the roof (or pinnacle) of the house and let down to Jesus (Luke 5:18-19). This is the reverse of Luke 4:9 where Jesus was brought to the pinnacle of the Temple and commanded to cast himself down.

When the man was let down, Jesus told him his sins were forgiven (Luke 5:20), a very Temple-thing to do. In fact the Pharisees and rabbis who were there spoke among themselves, saying Jesus was being blasphemous (Luke 5:21). Yet, Jesus noted the illogical manner in which they understood the Scriptures—“Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Rise up and walk’ (Luke 5:23)?” That is, the Pharisees and rabbis taught that an illness or a physical defect was always due to sin (cf. John 9:2). So, any healing, according to their teaching, would have been evidence of forgiveness of sin! Of course, Jesus healed the man (Luke 5:25), and all were amazed and glorified God, but all the Jewish leaders were able to say was: “We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5:26)! That is, no one was changed. Their logic was destroyed, but they refused to admit error—we have seen strange things today!

Next, Luke tells us how Matthew was called, and that he left all, i.e. his business, to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27-28). This is in contrast to what the Pharisees and rabbis had just said. Matthew may have witnessed the miracle of healing the paralytic, but, if not, he certainly heard of what Jesus had been doing, and when Jesus called him, he left all to do so. In fact, he threw a party in Jesus’ honor and invited all his friends, which brought up another theological question in the hearts of those who doubted Jesus: “Why do you eat with sinners?” (Luke 5:30), but Jesus replied according to their own argument that sin is a disease, saying “Those who are whole don’t need a physician; only those who are sick need healing!” (Luke 5:31).

The next event in Luke’s record may not be the third event. It is possible that it is an extension of Luke’s second event above—Jesus eating with the publicans. The Pharisees asked Jesus why they and John’s disciples fast but his disciples did not (Luke 5:33-39). Jesus’ reply concerns a wedding feast. He said that the wedding guests (the disciples) cannot fast as long as the bridegroom is present. In other words: whoever heard of fasting at a wedding celebration? That would be illogical. The problem is the Pharisees are trying to apply Jesus’ Gospel to their ancient traditions (Luke 5:36-37). It cannot be done and still preserve both. The Gospel can only be received by those who are ready to receive it, but those who believe the old ways are good enough will never even try what Jesus has to say (Luke 5:38-39).

The final event that concerns Luke’s third temptation (Luke 4:9-12) has to do with the Sabbath day and the disciples being accused of laboring instead of resting (Luke 6:1-5). Much could be said here, but Jesus responded by pointing to David’s eating the showbread, which only priests were permitted to eat. Just as David was Lord over the ceremonial things of the Temple, so Jesus, the Messiah and David’s Son and heir, was Lord of the ceremonial keeping of the Sabbath. Jesus never claimed that their traditions were wrong, he simply showed how the new ‘David’ or the Messiah had authority to change things having to do with the Temple and Jewish traditions, just as the original David did.[2]

All of Jesus temptations or trials that have anything to do with his being brought to the pinnacle of the Temple (Luke 4:9) also have something to do with misunderstanding or misapplying the Scriptures (Luke 4:10). Time after time the rabbis and Pharisees had disagreements with Jesus concerning his new teaching (Luke 5:21, 30, 33), but Jesus could not accommodate them according to their desires (Luke 5:36-37). A choice must be made to either give oneself over to the new teaching (Luke 5:38) or reject it in favor of the old ways (Luke 5:39). As we shall see in the next study (Jesus’ Second Temptation, according to Luke), the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus in favor of the old ways.


[1] See The Pulpit Commentary: “Tradition has fixed upon a hill district bordering on the road which leads up from Jericho to Jerusalem, as the scene of the temptation. The hill itself, from being the supposed spot where the Lord spent these forty days, is named Quarantania. The rocks in this neighborhood contain many caves.”

[2] I’ll go deeper into this argument as I get to this text in its proper order.

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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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