Biblical Theology Briefings

Three Sons & The Devil

David Gibson

The sermon text: context issues

One of the first things to ensure is that 4:1-13 isn't all that is read publicly as the sermon text - if it is, it is going to be a lot harder for the congregation to see what it's all about. One of the clues to unlocking it is to treat 3:21 - 4:13 as a unit and to ignore the chapter division. When read as one unit a very clear emphasis begins to emerge: Jesus as the Son of God. But this unit also describes Adam as the son of God and that again is another really significant clue.

So as I came to read the passage I introduced it like this:

Our sermon this morning is about Jesus' temptations in Luke 4. But our passage doesn't begin there. Please turn back with me to ch3 v21 and we're going to read through to 4:13. And as I read, please notice with me that there is one word that keeps appearing over and over again - the word 'son'.

This (hopefully!) begins to alert the congregation to a detail in the text which might have just washed over them but which is going to be vital for the sermon. You then face the choice of whether to read out the entire genealogical list in 3:23b-38 - I didn't and simply said that all the great names of Israel's history are there, pointed to a few famous names and then, very importantly, read the concluding verses of the chapter which record Adam as the son of God.

NOTE: The Greek doesn't actually have the recurring 'son of' phrase which occurs in all the English translations - it just has 'Joseph of Heli of Matthat of Levi' and so forth. Joel Green comments that this is the 'genitive of relationship' and so I assume that 'son of' in English translations is an attempt to faithfully render the meaning of the Greek. The important thing is that the word 'son' is used in v23b as the controlling idea for the following genealogical list and the interpretation which I am going to offer below rests more on the clear recurrence of the word 'son' in 3:21-23 and 4:1-13 than in the genealogy, apart from the Adam reference in 3:38.

What this passage is not about: false trails in the sermon

This is a classic passage for taking a number of false trails quite early on, which ultimately skew the real meaning of the text. These ideas are so prevalent, and exactly what the congregation would be expecting as they came to the sermon, that I decided to begin by challenging them right from the start. My introduction went like this:

Our sermon this morning could have been called: "How to overcome temptation." And a sermon with that title might have had three points, three points that told us how to overcome temptation:
1) Be filled with the Spirit - because Jesus was (and that sermon might point you to verse 1 of ch. 4 to see that)
2) Be on your guard at times of weakness (and the sermon would point you to verse 2 where the devil tempts Jesus when he is hungry) 3) Counter temptation with Scripture - because Jesus did (and the sermon would point out how Jesus answers each temptation with a verse from the Old Testament).

That sermon might say a lot of true things ... but that sermon would also entirely miss the point of this passage. This passage is not about how you and I overcome temptation.

This sort of introduction isn't really designed to shock the congregation but simply to get straight to the point by showing my intent right from the start. The above three points are admittedly something of a caricature. Nevertheless, the third point in particular is certainly a common way that the passage is moralised so that essentially what we have is the congregation being told to be like Jesus and do what he did. As it stands, of course, such an admonition is often entirely correct from certain biblical texts but here the point of the passage is precisely the opposite - we are not like Jesus and that's what the narrative is showing us. Miss this and the cutting edge, the redemptive-historical significance, and ultimately the liberating application of this passage are all blunted.

What this passage is about: the difference biblical theology makes

The meaning of this passage revolves around Luke's focus on the 'sonship' motif in 3:21-4:13 and the explicit and implicit references to two other sons of God.

Explicitly, 3:38 refers to Adam as the son of God. Reading 3:21 - 4:13 carefully, we have Jesus proclaimed as the Son of God at his baptism, a genealogy tracing sonship back to God with Adam as the original 'son of God' and then more references to Jesus as the Son of God by the Devil. What is the point of mentioning Adam as the son of God alongside Jesus as the Son of God?

Implicitly, Jesus' encounter with Satan in the wilderness has direct verbal and theological parallel's to God's son, Israel, in the desert. There are a number of reasons for taking this view. Firstly, all of Jesus' responses to Satan come from the book of Deuteronomy and the broader context of each of the quotes is Moses reflecting on Israel's wilderness experience and failings. Secondly, the words used in Lk. 4:1-2 ("and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted") are so similar to the words used in Deuteronomy 8:2 ("the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you") that it is hard not to think Luke is drawing a very direct parallel between Jesus and Israel. Thirdly, Israel is described as God's son throughout the Old Testament - see Exodus 4:22. This in itself would not necessarily be significant for our passage if it were not for the first two points but, taken together, they show that Luke is writing his narrative against the backdrop of God's son Israel.

NOTE: It is often said that if your theological idea is novel it is almost certainly wrong. And that may be the case here. As far as I am aware, commentaries either seem to favour one or other of the background parallels i.e. either Adam or Israel and I couldn't find anywhere that sees both here as I do. Strictly speaking, most commentators seem to see one of them explicitly and then hints of the other, (although Bock is quite close to accepting both Adam and Israel). I haven't gone for three just for the sake of it - the sermon could just as easily be called "Two Sons and the Devil" - but because I think Luke is actually trying to show us both Adam and Israel and their difference to Jesus.

This, then, is the basic biblical theology underlying the passage. The matter now becomes:

  1. What is Luke demonstrating through it?
  2. how do you communicate it?

I tried it like this:

I want to say that although this passage revolves around temptation, it is really about 3 sons of God. What helps us to unlock the passage and get to the heart of it is realising that this title Son of God is not unique to Jesus. It's clear, isn't it, that Jesus is the Son of God - look at 3:22, 4:3 ... but there are two other sons of God in the background here. One of them is very obvious to see - he's there in 3:38 - Adam, the son of God. I wonder if you've ever noticed that - the Bible describes Adam as the son of God. Jesus, is the Son of God but his line is traced all the way back to Adam, the son of God.

But there is another son here that is harder to see at first. The key to it is to look at how Jesus responds to the temptations - as we heard earlier, all of his responses come from the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a sermon preached by Moses to Israel - and Israel was also called God's son. Listen to Exodus 4:22 God says "Israel is my firstborn son" and he tells Pharaoh, "Let my son go." And this language of Israel as God's son it's there in Deuteronomy - you can see an allusion to it in 8:5.

[NOTE: It's worth saying that we actually had Deuteronomy 6:10-19 and 8:1-5 read at an earlier point in the service before we got to the sermon. The congregation also had sermon handouts with the two Deuteronomy texts printed on them].

But the important question for us is this: what is it about Israel as God's son that is so important in Luke 4 - why does Jesus quote from Deuteronomy? Well, look at Deut. 8:2 with me and I want you to notice the exact language that is used - READ. Now cone back to Luke 4:1 with me and again, notice the exact words - READ.

Now what does that sound like to you? Although he's showing us Jesus in the desert, Luke is also pointing us back to Israel, isn't he? Do you see the incredible parallel? Israel, God's son, led by God in the desert for forty years to be tested and tried; Jesus, God's Son, led by the Spirit in the desert to be tested and tempted for forty days.

This is perhaps quite a lot to take in and get your head round, particularly if it's brand new and is pulling the rug out from under a common interpretation. Rather than then try and explain what Luke is getting at by more theology, I used the following illustration.

So Luke is giving us three sons here - Adam the son of God, Israel the son of God, and now Jesus the Son of God ...but what does it all mean? What is Luke getting at - is this all just fancy and abstract theology? Well, let me illustrate it like this:

In December 1975 my mum & dad were waiting for me to born. I was due at any day, was their first child, and they tell me that they wanted a son. Now I would imagine that as would-be parents the question in their minds would be something like this: if we have a son, what kind of son will he be? Will he be obedient ... will he be disobedient? And then along I came and they slowly began to find out some of the answers to their questions. Then in July 1977 mum and dad were expecting their second child - this time there are two types of questions in their minds. First question: if we have a son, what kind of son will he be - will he be obedient or disobedient? Second question: will he be just like the first son? Will he be an incredible natural athlete like our first son? Will he do what the first son does, or will he be different? And then in November 1980 mum & dad waited for their third child - if we have a son, what kind of son will he be, will he be obedient or disobedient? And how will he compare to the first two sons? Will he be just like them or will he be a different son?

And here in Luke 4 those are exactly the questions being asked: what kind of Son is Jesus going to be? Will he be an obedient Son or a disobedient Son? And will he be like the first two Sons - will he be like Adam and be like Israel or will he be different?

You see, imagine that the story of the Bible is a play. Act 1 - on the stage, in the garden of Eden, is Adam, God's son. What kind of Son will he be? Well, we watch in horror as Adam eats the forbidden fruit, disobeys God's word, rejects God's rule over his life, and the beautiful garden becomes a place of death. Act 2 - Israel, also God's son, is on the stage, in the desert, and God is leading them to the promised land - what kind of Son will they be? Will they be any different? Well, we watch in despair, as Israel begins to grumble and complain, as they disobey God and build a golden calf. This son is no different from Adam. Now it's Act 3 and alone on the stage in the desert, is Jesus the Son of God and the devil - the spotlight falls on Jesus: what kind of Son will he be? Can he possibly stand where Adam fell? Will he succeed where Israel failed? Will Jesus be God's obedient son?

Sermon shape and structure

All of the above was by way of introduction to the sermon! It is longer than I feel comfortable with as an introduction but I think in this case its benefit (if the interpretation is valid) is that it provides the canvas against which all the details of the text are going to be handled. Without the background, the details lose their significance.

One of the issues I was least sure about with this sermon was whether the three temptations demand to be taken as representative of one major test - Jesus' obedience - and hence all grouped under one main teaching point for the sermon; or whether all three temptations are slightly different and so each deserve a separate teaching point. I went for the latter option but am still undecided as to whether or not this is best. Part of my problem is perhaps simply that I'm not satisfied with the three headings I had:

  1. Will Jesus be the obedient Son? (4:1-4)
  2. Will Jesus be the faithful Son? (4:5-8) 
  3. Will Jesus be the trusting Son? (4:9-13)

Apart from the fundamental matter of whether these points correctly express the issue in each temptation, they seem a bit prosaic now. Further, I'm not sure about questions as sermon headings and even less as teaching points. If you go for three separate points, perhaps simply: "The Son who obeys/The obedient Son .... The Son who is faithful/The faithful Son ... The Son who trusts/The trusting Son." However, the force of the passage depends on the contrast that develops between Jesus' response to testing and that of Adam and Israel in the face of testing. This means that the most effective teaching points would probably be ones that manage to encapsulate the contrast for each temptation.

The rest of the sermon followed the above three points as the basic structure. As I worked through each point I tried to explain:

The real issue in each temptation and what Jesus was really being tested with (part of the answer in each case is understanding his use of the OT quote as this use exposes what Jesus sees as being the real challenge)
how Adam responded to the same/similar temptation and the contrast with Jesus
how Israel responded to the same/similar temptation and the contrast with Jesus

In each of my three main points, I felt on solid ground when explaining the contrast between Jesus and Israel as it is quite explicit from the broader context of Deuteronomy: all of Jesus' quotations from Deuteronomy function in their context as admonitions to Israel which they failed to live up to throughout their history - but now Jesus is obeying where they disobeyed. The contrasts with Adam are obviously not explicit in the text and that raises its own interpretive questions and problems. But if we accept the 'big picture' view of what Luke is trying to do here, it is valid to be asking in what sense Jesus' actions here as the Son of God compare and contrast with Adam as the son of God.

So my first point, together with an attempt to apply the sermon's biblical theology introduction, went like this:

Let's look at the three temptations together - and we're going to see that all three of the temptations test Jesus' obedience in slightly different ways. The first temptation very explicitly tests Jesus' obedience - I have just called that "Will Jesus be the obedient Son?" Let's READ 4:1-4.

Now what is the temptation here? What is Satan really asking Jesus to do? After all, Jesus hasn't eaten for forty days, so what is so wrong about turning a boulder into a baguette? What is Jesus being tempted with?

Well, the key is to see how Jesus answers the temptation - READ v4. You see, Jesus has been led into the desert by God, by the Spirit, and he ate nothing so that he could depend completely and utterly on God for all his needs. If Jesus now turns stones into bread - what is he saying to God? Well, he's saying that what God has done, leading him into the desert to go without food, is wrong. If he turns stones into bread Jesus is disobeying God's command to trust God. And we can see that obedience is the big idea if we look at Jesus' quote from Deuteronomy - look at Deut. 8v3 - READ. But notice the context, look at the first two verses of ch. 8 - READ.

The big issue in Deuteronomy is this: will Israel will be an obedient son? Will this son follow God's commands? Well we know the answer don't we - despite the fact that God had fed them with manna to teach them that his word was reliable and faithful and trustworthy ... Israel rebelled and constantly disobeyed his commands.

And not only Israel - but God's son, Adam, did exactly the same in the garden, didn't he? Do you remember God's words: "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" - you must not eat. Adam faced the same temptation as Israel, the temptation to disobey God's word - and like Israel, he failed. Adam refused to believe that man should live by God's word. And now here in Luke 4 is Jesus - faced with the same temptation as Adam and Israel - and where Adam and Israel disobeyed, Jesus obeys and depends totally on God.

Now, let me ask you - which son are you like? Are you like Adam, or Israel, or like Jesus? You see, come back to my imaginary sermon called "How to overcome temptation" That sort of sermon assumes that you and I are like Jesus - Jesus was tempted, we are tempted; he quoted the Bible to answer temptation, we should quote the Bible to answer temptation. But which of us here this morning have ever constantly and faithfully obeyed God? We are not like Jesus are we - you and I are like Adam and we're like Israel, we disobey God, don't we?

My second point followed the same format and here I tried to have a major illustration to begin to really try and apply the significance of my argument:

Let's look at the second temptation - and this temptation tests a different aspect of Jesus' obedience - "Will he be the faithful Son?" READ 4:5-8.

Now again, what is the temptation here, what is at stake? Well, Jesus is faced here with the temptation of false-worship; it is the temptation to be unfaithful to God and to go after a false god, an idol. Jesus is faced here with the temptation of becoming an idolator - worshipping something else, an idol, instead of God.

Well, Adam faced the same temptation didn't he, the temptation to false-worship and idolatry. Do you remember what the devil told Adam "when you eat, you will be like God. Adam, you can be your own God, you can be the ruler, why have someone else rule over your life - you can take the place of God." Adam put himself in the place of God. And Israel too was faced with the temptation to commit idolatry - and they gave in and built a golden calf. And that was just the start - they followed other gods constantly. Adam put himself in the place of God; Israel put statues in the place of God ... but Jesus - only he remained faithful to God. Now let me ask you again - which son are you like?

Angela and I have been married for over a year now ... and one of the things I've begun to see since we've been married is that money can very easily represent an idol in my life. Now, that's a standard Christian thing to say isn't it - Israel's idols were statues, our idols today are things like money, our cars, our homes our jobs and so on. But all these things are just the tip of the idolatry iceberg. You see, come with me to the cash machine on Chiswick High Road, let's say that it's about another 2 weeks before I get paid, and I'm going to check my bank balance. If the card goes in and my balance reads "you are very healthily in credit" - then all is well with me and the world. If the bank balance reads overdrawn or very nearly overdrawn - then my world begins to crumble around me! How will we survive for another 2 weeks? What are we doing wrong with our money?

And what this begins to expose is that at the deepest level of my life my idol, what I worship, is stability and security and being in control. And when I look at the bank balance and it says "you have no money whatsoever" and my world begins to crumble ... then effectively what I am doing is shaking my fist in the face of the living God and saying "you cannot meet my needs. Money meets my needs." And I'm saying to God "your promises to provide for all that I need and your promise that your goodness is better than life itself - are totally wrong. Sorry God, but you are lying. Money meets my needs, money is what makes life good." And that is the level at which idolatry works in our life - for the person who throws money around loads, the idol, the thing that they worship, may be acceptance with other people, or popularity; underlying the car and the house may be the idol of status. I wonder what idolatry looks like in your life?

And what I'm trying to get at here is to show that at the deepest level of our beings we are exactly like Adam and we are exactly like Israel - we are unfaithful to the living God, we say he is not enough for us, and we go after false gods. And this puts us at the bar of God's justice and tells us that we are guilty - like Adam and Israel we stand condemned and facing God's punishment. But Luke is telling us that where Adam and Israel and you and I have failed, Jesus has remained faithful.

NOTE: One of the biggest issues here with this particular temptation is whether what is really at stake is Jesus being tempted with an alternative kind of Messiah-ship, an alternative route to glory other than via the cross. This view follows a sound biblical-theology path in that universal dominion is ultimately something given to Jesus (cf. Psalm 2; Philippians 2) but only after the suffering of the cross. The significance of the temptation therefore is that the devil is offering Jesus death-free dominion. Some commentators give this view short thrift (Marshall), others hint at it (Bock), while popular authors like Yancey make much of it. I am undecided and open to persuasion!

I didn't deal with the third temptation in the same detail as the first two. I simply stated that it worked along the same lines, gave a brief explanation, and then moved on to application.

Application issues

I think this passage has three main applications, which I explained in this order:

  1. Things to forget when reading the Bible
  2. We fail, but Jesus didn't 
  3. Jesus' obedience covers our disobedience

The first application is obviously unusual and I will let it speak for itself:

I think this passage shows us that there at least 2 things we should forget when reading the Bible:

  1. Forget about chapter and verse divisions. Chapter and verse divisions are a helpful way of finding our place in the Bible but once we get there we should read our Bibles as if they didn't exist. You see, let's say for our QT's we decided to read a chapter of Luke's gospel everyday - we read chs 1 & 2, and then we read ch 3 and then the next day we read ch 4. If we read Luke like that we would most likely miss the theme of sonship that runs through chs 3 & 4. Chapter and verse divisions are not inspired, they were not there when the Bible was written and it is not irreverent to ignore them. Very often in our Bibles they are in really bad places, places that make it very hard to read passages in their proper context. You may know the story about how ch and verse were actually put into the Bible - as far we know, the divisions were introduced by a chap called Stephanus in 1555. And the story goes that he actually put the divisions in while riding his horse ... and that all the times we have chapter and verse numbers in bad places it's because his horse jolted his pen! Now, I doubt that's true of course, but it might as well be in places - forget chapter and verse divisions.
  2. Forget about yourself - at least initially. Remember my imaginary sermon that says Luke 4 is all about "how to overcome temptation" - well when we read the Bible like that we are assuming that the Bible is all about us and is always going to tell us exactly what to do. But the Bible is all about God and about Jesus and if we just jump straight into a passage and the first question in our mind is always "what does it mean to me" then very often we will miss what the passage is telling us about God and about Jesus. Please don't misunderstand me - we shouldn't forget ourselves completely, the Bible always applies to us, but its content, its message, is primarily about God and Jesus. And we've seen that about Luke 4, haven't we, that it is all about who Jesus is.

With the second main application ("We fail, but Jesus didn't"), we get down to the real issue of how Jesus' triumph in the desert applies to us. Here I simply tried to drive home the point I had been making all along, that this passage is actually in our Bible to point us to Christ by showing us how unlike him we are. Very importantly, here we also begin to touch the issue of how the rest of the NT interprets and applies the temptation of Jesus. The main witness here is the book of Hebrews. In the end I decided not to actually explicitly mention or cross-reference the sermon to Hebrews but I intended my applications to be consistent with the way Hebrews applies Jesus' temptations. Having said this, there is some doubt even about whether this move is necessary as some commentators seem to suggest that the Hebrews references to Jesus being tested refer to his passion and not his forty days in the wilderness.

Regardless, my basic methodology here was this: are there any key truths in the Luke 4 passage which are

  1. Self-evident applications from the narrative itself?
  2. Developed and applied anywhere else in the NT?

My thinking was that I didn't want to import true and correct theology (i.e. we should resist the devil and we should be like Jesus) from outside Luke 4 back into Luke 4 as its application in a way which made Luke 4 say something other than it does. Rather, I wanted to take the truths of Luke 4 and see if anywhere else in the NT actually tells me how to apply them.

For instance, an evident truth of the narrative is that humanity, represented in sons Adam and Israel, has failed but Jesus the true Son of God did not fail. That is sufficient to warrant what I expressed as my second application: "We fail, but Jesus didn't." This application is supported by Hebrews 4:14-15. At first glance, these verses actually seem to support what I have suggested are "we're-like-Jesus" approaches to application - these verses link Christ's temptations to ours and state that as result he sympathises with our weaknesses. But I want to suggest that the significance of the end of v15 should not be missed. The thing that gives us confidence is not just that he was tempted as we are, but that he was tempted "yet was without sin." In this passage, Christ's sympathy with our weaknesses is not the application. It is one of the factors which, along with Jesus' sinless-ness, creates the "Be confident" application of v16. That is the force of the argument - Christ identifies with us in our weaknesses but his human sinless-ness, in precisely the areas of our human sinfulness, is what qualifies him to be the merciful and gracious great high priest par excellence. This is explicitly the argument in Heb. 7:26ff. We fail but Jesus didn't.

All of this means that I now think a more faithful application might be: "We fail, but Jesus didn't - so approach God confidently". This would allow more scope to express the ideas of Hebrews 4 explicitly. As it was, I tried to express the second application in this way:

We fail, but Jesus didn't. And we've seen that, haven't we - just like Adam and just like Israel we have failed to obey and to trust God. And it is vital that we see this. You see, I want to say this morning that the key to living a healthy, joy-filled, happy Christian life is to see yourself as a failure ... because it's only when we see what we are really like, with all our disobedience and idolatry and doubt that we begin to appreciate and be grateful for all that Jesus is with his perfect obedience.

For some of us here this morning, thinking of ourselves as failures is the very last thought that would ever cross our mind. Maybe we're attractive people, very gifted, extremely capable, with a good job, a good home and stable loving relationships - what could there possibly be about us that makes us a failure? Well Luke 4 says you and I fall where Adam and Israel fell. And you see if we are not failures, then why do we need a Saviour? If we are not failures then why did Jesus have to face the devil in the desert?

Maybe though for some of us here this morning, hearing that we are failures is almost unbearable. We don't need to be told - it's all we feel about ourselves, our guilt and our shame plague us, they follow us like a shadow. All we feel is how sinful we are.

Well, this is why we need to hear the last main application ...

My final application is perhaps even more open to the charge of importing a foreign idea back into the text - where does Luke 4 say anything about Christ's obedience covering our disobedience? But this is a good example of my expressed intent to take a truth from Luke 4 and see if the NT applies it for us - and Hebrews does this in 5:8-9. These verses link together the dominant motif of Luke 4 (Jesus' obedience) and the effect that this has for God's people: Christ's obedience and perfection through suffering provide eternal salvation. The same idea is also present in Heb. 9:14. In the terms of NT theology, the ultimate significance of Jesus' obedient triumph in the desert is that it is part of his qualification as the unique unblemished Son, capable of representing and substituting for others.

This means that the application from Luke 4 could be worded any number of ways that show how Jesus' obedience procures salvation - "Jesus' obedience provides eternal salvation for us." That is perhaps better than my original application and would provide a valid and helpful means of directing the congregation to Hebrews. My reticence to bog them down with cross-references means that actually I am probably not showing them enough of my working out here, and hence not modelling biblical theology to them.

Jesus' obedience covers our disobedience. You see, here we are with all of our sin, our disobedience, our idolatry, our guilt ... but because of Luke 4, because Jesus has met the devil and triumphed where Adam and Israel and you and I have failed, then Christ himself offers us his perfect obedience, his righteous life, that covers all of our disobedience. It doesn't matter who we are or what we've done this morning, Christ's obedience can cover all of our guilt and shame. It means that as God looks at us, he doesn't see us like Adam or Israel or covered in all our wretched failure - but as God looks at us he sees us in Christ, with his obedience counted as our obedience.

And this has big implications you see for how we live everyday. Do you know the kind of prayer that we pray, maybe everyday, or a few times a week, the prayer that goes like this: "Father, I've sinned - I've really messed up again. I know I am such a poor Christian. Please help me to be better. Father, please help me not to do it again." Well, that's obviously not a wrong prayer to pray, but I think Luke 4 teaches us to pray something like this: "Father, I've sinned - I've really messed up again. Yet again I am exactly like Adam and exactly like Israel. Father in heaven, thank you for the Lord Jesus. Father I am amazed that in Christ, his perfect obedience covers all my sin and guilt and shame - thank you that because of Christ I can stand before you completely forgiven."

That is what Luke 4 means for us this morning. We are like Adam, we are like Israel ... and our only hope before God is Jesus.


Darrell L. Bock, The Gospel of Luke 1:1 - 9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament. (Baker: Grand Rapids, Michigan,1994).
Excellent commentary for detail and really thorough consideration of the passage, also for understanding the context of the Deuteronomy quotes. Probably the most useful commentary I read. However, after all his excellent biblical theology he frustratingly still goes for inadequate application: "What Jesus does is exemplary and representative. The ultimate way to avoid falling into temptation is not to go one's own way" (p.383). I would want to suggest that the latter sentence is utterly true but not really what Luke 4 is about. Even if it is granted that Jesus is showing us what it is to be truly human and hence what it is to live faithfully under God (so Bock), the point of the passage is surely still to point us to Jesus' uniqueness in that respect. - Bock also has a shorter, more popular commentary on Luke in IVP's NTC series, but this is unnecessary if you have his major work.

David Gooding, According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third Gospel (IVP: Leicester, 1987)
Now out of print and only available in second hand bookshops, this work's major focus is the structure of Luke. However, although the treatment is brief, on our passage it asks all the right questions: "The flow of the narrative ... takes us back in thought to the story of Adam's disobedient eating of the tree; and that in turn throws further light on our two basic questions: who is Jesus and what has he come to do?" (p. 78).

Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids 1997)
Main benefit of this commentary for the passage is his work on the connection between Luke 4 and Israel in the desert, very helpful indeed. A strength is his attention to Luke's literary art. Also quite good on getting to the heart of what's really at stake in each temptation.

John Nolland, Luke 1 - 9:20. Word Biblical Commentary 35A. (Word: Texas, 1989)
Also useful for getting to the heart of each temptation. Interesting comment on the big picture: "In the final analysis Jesus is tempted neither as second Adam nor as true Israel, but as Son. There is a touch of the Adamic typology and considerable exodus typology, but that is because the experiences of Adam and Israel are paradigmatic cases of the testing of God's Son" (p. 182). I wonder if the second sentence undermines the first, in that the categories 'second Adam' and 'true Israel' do not exclude the category 'son' - in other words, Jesus is the second Adam precisely because, like Adam, he is a son; Jesus is the true Israel precisely because, like Israel, he is a son.

I. H. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke. The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978)
The nature of the series demands the technicality that this commentary contains. A lot of the focus is on minutiae, but there are occasional nuggets of big picture theological reflection.

Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, 1995)
Yancey is stimulating on this passage and worth reading. He's also over-imaginative - the main thrust of the passage gets somewhat lost amongst some fresh insights and a plethora of illustrations, some of which bring you back to the text with questionable angles. I tend to read him for good illustrations although no joy this time.

Michael You, Saviour, Judge and King: A Guide to Studying Luke's gospel (UCCF: Leicester, 1994)
This is a manual rather than a book proper and it aims to be a popular interactive guide to Luke. However, it is very strong on the OT background to Luke. Very good questions for unpacking the text. Exclusive focus on Adam as the background to the passage.

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