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Luke 4: 1-13

I propose a biblical analysis with the following steps: a study of each Greek word of the gospel passage, followed by an analysis of the structure of the narrative and its context, to which is added a comparison of parallel or similar passages. At the end of this analysis and as a conclusion, I propose to summarize what the evangelist meant, and I end up with some suggestions on how this Gospel could shed light on our current situation.


 


  1. Translation of the Greek text (28th edition of Kurt Aland)

    Greek textTransliterated Greek textLiteral translationTranslation in current language
    1 Ἰησοῦς δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου ὑπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου καὶ ἤγετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ1 Iēsous de plērēs pneumatos hagiou hypestrepsen apo tou Iordanou kai ēgeto en tō pneumati en tē erēmō1 Then, Jesus, full of holy spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in the spirit in the wilderness,1 Inhabited by the Spirit of God, Jesus returned from the Jordan to be led to an uninhabited place by the Spirit and
    2 ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου. Καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν ἐπείνασεν2 hēmeras tesserakonta peirazomenos hypo tou diabolou. Kai ouk ephagen ouden en tais hēmerais ekeinais kai syntelestheisōn autōn epeinasen.2 forty days being tested by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days and having been completed he got hungry.2 to undergo for forty days the trial of the adverse desires, and he remained fasting all this time, so that in the end he was hungry.
    3 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος• εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος.3 eipen de autō ho diabolos• ei huios ei tou theou, eipe tō lithō toutō hina genētai artos.3 Then, said to him the devil, if son you are of the God, say to this stone so that it would become bread.3 One of the adverse desire said, "If God is with you, order this stone to become bread.
    4 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς• γέγραπται ὅτι οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος.4 kai apekrithē pros auton ho Iēsous• gegraptai hoti ouk ep' artō monō zēsetai ho anthrōpos.4 And answered towards him the Jesus, it has been written that not on bread alone shall live the man.4 Jesus replied, "It is written in the Bible, 'The person must not live by bread alone'."
    5 Καὶ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτὸν ἔδειξεν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου5 Kai anagagōn auton edeixen autō pasas tas basileias tēs oikoumenēs en stigmē chronou5 And having led up him, he showed him all the kingdoms of the universe in a moment of time5 Lifting him up to see at a glance all the kingdoms of the universe,
    6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος• σοὶ δώσω τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν, ὅτι ἐμοὶ παραδέδοται καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν θέλω δίδωμι αὐτήν•6 kai eipen autō ho diabolos• soi dōsō tēn exousian tautēn hapasan kai tēn doxan autōn, hoti emoi paradedotai kai hō ean thelō didōmi autēn•6 and said to him the devil, to you I will give all this authority and the glory of them, for to me it has been delivered, and to whom if I would wish I give it.6 another adverse desire says to him, "I will give you all this power and the fame that comes with it, because I control all this and I can dole it out according to my pleasure.
    7 σὺ οὖν ἐὰν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνώπιον ἐμοῦ, ἔσται σοῦ πᾶσα.7 sy oun ean proskynēsēs enōpion emou, estai sou pasa.7 Therefore, you, if you would kneel before me, will be yours all.7 And if you become my slave, all these kingdoms are yours".
    8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ• γέγραπται• κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.8 kai apokritheis ho Iēsous eipen autō• gegraptai• kyrion ton theon sou proskynēseis kai autō monō latreuseis.8 And having answered the Jesus, he said to him, it has been written you will kneel down (before) Lord the God of you and him alone you shall worship,8 Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written in the Bible, 'You shall make obeisance to the Lord your God, and you will cleave to him only.'"
    9 Ἤγαγεν δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἔστησεν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ• εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω•9 Ēgagen de auton eis Ierousalēm kai estēsen epi to pterygion tou hierou kai eipen autō• ei huios ei tou theou, bale seauton enteuthen katō•9 Then, he led him into Jerusalem and stood upon the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, if son you are of the God, throw yourself from here down,9 Another adverse desire then takes him to Jerusalem, standing on the top of the Temple, and says to him, "If God is with you, throw yourself down.
    10 γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε10 gegraptai gar hoti tois angelois autou enteleitai peri sou tou diaphylaxai se10 for it has been written, to the angels of him he will give orders concerning you to take care of you,10 For it is written in the Bible, He will charge his messengers to protect you,
    11 καὶ ὅτι ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.11 kai hoti epi cheirōn arousin se, mēpote proskopsēs pros lithon ton poda sou.11 and upon hands they will take up you, lest you would ever stumble towards stone your foot.11 and even: They will lift you up with their hands to prevent your foot from hitting a stone".
    12 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι εἴρηται• οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.12 kai apokritheis eipen autō ho Iēsous hoti eirētai• ouk ekpeiraseis kyrion ton theon sou.12 And having answered he said to him the Jesus that it has been said, you shall not test Lord the God of you.12 But Jesus answered him, "The Bible says, Thou shalt not restrain the Lord thy God by forcing him to reveal his presence."
    13 Καὶ συντελέσας πάντα πειρασμὸν ὁ διάβολος ἀπέστη ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ἄχρι καιροῦ.13 Kai syntelesas panta peirasmon ho diabolos apestē ap' autou achri kairou.13 And having completed all tests, the devil departed from him until the (right) time.13 After exhausting the ordeals' list, the adverse desires became more discreet before coming back at the right time.

  1. Analysis of each verse

    v. 1 Inhabited by the Spirit of God, Jesus returned from the Jordan to be led to an uninhabited place by the Spirit and

    Literally: Then, Jesus, full of holy spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in the spirit in the wilderness,

full of holy spirit
Jesus is inhabited by the Spirit since his baptism, Luke tells us. This baptism was a crucial moment in his life, a moment when he discovered his mission and which would reorient his life. From then on, the Spirit will accompany him throughout his mission until his last breath on the cross, when he will let go his spirit.

returned from the Jordan
We can understand his need to isolate himself in order to take stock: when one experiences a shock that disrupts one's life, one needs to find oneself and digest what has just happened. During his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul of Tarsus experienced the same need to isolate himself by going to Arabia (see Gal 1: 17). The desert or wilderness represents this isolated place. Let us not imagine the dunes of the Sahara, for the desert of Palestine is rather rocky and arid. Since the baptism took place in the Jordan Valley, we do not have to go far to find the wilderness: we need only go further south to the Dead Sea Valley.

wilderness
The wilderness also represents an important symbolism for Israel. When Luke has Stephen tell the story of the Jewish people in his Acts of the Apostles (7:2-53), the wilderness is the place of the burning bush where Moses meets Yahweh in the flame and is sent on his mission. It is in the wilderness that Sinai is found where Moses receives the words of life (Acts 7:38). It was in the wilderness that the people walked for 40 years and gave in to the temptation of idolatry (Acts 7:41), while carrying the Tent of the Testimony. In this context, through his stay in the wilderness, Jesus relives the history of his people.

v. 2 to undergo for forty days the trial of the adverse desires, and he remained fasting all this time, so that in the end he was hungry.

Literally: forty days being tested by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days and having been completed he got hungry.

 
We know that the number 40 is highly symbolic. In the Bible, forty years is the length of a lifetime. Around this will be grafted different related meanings: the time of the stay of the Jewish people in the desert (the time of a life) or of the life of Moses (Acts 7, 23) and here, the time of fasting and temptation. We understand that the emphasis is on a long period of time that symbolizes the length of a lifetime.

Luke does not tell us anything specific about this period. But translating "devil" as "adverse desires to his mission" as we do (see explanation of this translation), one can imagine the temptation to return to his hometown and continue to ply his trade as a carpenter as he had been doing up to that point, and probably experience a normal life like any good Jew of the time. In fact, what is wrong with maintaining the status quo? Why should one have to go through an abrupt breakup and be playing the hero? Really, only one thing is mandatory, to be true to oneself and one inner callings.

Luke speaks of 40 days of fasting. There is something implausible about extending the period of fasting to 40 days, but Luke is probably referring to a period of intense reflection when Jesus must make a decision that will guide the rest of his life.

v. 3 One of the adverse desire said, "If God is with you, order this stone to become bread.

Literally: Then, said to him the devil, if son you are of the God, say to this stone so that it would become bread.

 
How is the desire to eat a temptation when you are hungry? Here the temptation is not in the desire to satisfy one's hunger, but in the way of doing so. The human way of doing it is to rely on others, like those who can make bread and exchange it for something our hands can make. The temptation is to look for a way where we have complete control over the making of bread, or where we don't even need bread, both of which would be God's order. So the question comes down to this: do you want to be human or divine?

Asking for bread is quite legitimate since it is part of the prayer that Jesus left us: "Give us each day our daily bread". And the breaking of the bread is at the heart of Christian symbolism: "Taking bread, he gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, given for you; do this in memory of me.'" The temptation is to get the bread without going through the sharing.

v. 4 Jesus replied, "It is written in the Bible, 'The person must not live by bread alone'."

Literally: And answered towards him the Jesus, it has been written that not on bread alone shall live the man.

 
Jesus' answer refers us to the experience of the Jewish people in the desert. Here we have a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3: "He (Yahweh) humbled you, he made you hungry, he gave you to eat manna that neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that comes from the mouth of Yahweh." In other words, the Jewish people did not have to worry about bread in the wilderness, because Yahweh saw to that by giving them manna. What was important was to remain faithful to Yahweh and his word.

v. 5 Lifting him up to see at a glance all the kingdoms of the universe,

Literally: And having led up him, he showed him all the kingdoms of the universe in a moment of time

v. 6 another adverse desire says to him, "I will give you all this power and the fame that comes with it, because I control all this and I can dole it out according to my pleasure.

Literally: and said to him the devil, to you I will give all this authority and the glory of them, for to me it has been delivered, and to whom if I would wish I give it.

v. 7 And if you become my slave, all these kingdoms are yours".

Literally: Therefore, you, if you would kneel before me, will be yours all.

 
We are faced with political power. Luke has a negative view of this power by affirming that it is in the hands of the forces of evil: God would have accepted that in this world this power could rule and ensure its succession. It seems that this could have been an option for Jesus: to enter into the logic of power. With his ability to attract crowds, we can imagine that Jesus could have carved out a small kingdom of people that he could control at will like a guru. And when we look at the politicians of this world and their incessant effort to maintain power, we understand the extent of the temptation.

v. 8 Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written in the Bible, 'You shall make obeisance to the Lord your God, and you will cleave to him only.'"

Literally: And having answered the Jesus, he said to him, it has been written you will kneel down (before) Lord the God of you and him alone you shall worship,

 
Jesus' answer refers us again to the experience of the Jewish people in the desert. Here we have a reference to Deuteronomy 6:13: "It is Yahweh your God whom you shall fear, him whom you shall serve, by his name you shall swear." Let's recall the context. Yahweh has communicated to Moses his ten words, i.e. the laws and customs that He asks the people to put into practice. By accepting these laws, the people will live long and inherit land, houses and wells that will be given to them as gifts. In return, the people must cling to Yahweh with all their being and have no other absolute than Him. This implies that what must guide their lives must take its source in this word received at Sinai. For Jesus, the dilemma becomes this: what is the source of authority, oneself or God? The dictator answers: myself. Jesus answers: God. Of course, it can be a sham to claim authority from God. Without entering into this discussion, suffice it to say that putting oneself under God's authority implies the search for an answer that is not tied to one's own interests, that is not immediate but requires a lot of reflection, and often comes through others.

v. 9 Another adverse desire then takes him to Jerusalem, standing on the top of the Temple, and says to him, "If God is with you, throw yourself down.

Literally: Then, he led him into Jerusalem and stood upon the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, if son you are of the God, throw yourself from here down,

v. 10 For it is written in the Bible, He will charge his messengers to protect you,

Literally: for it has been written, to the angels of him he will give orders concerning you to take care of you,

v. 11 and even: They will lift you up with their hands to prevent your foot from hitting a stone".

Literally: and upon hands they will take up you, lest you would ever stumble towards stone.

 
What temptation is it exactly? It is about the prospect of death. Throwing oneself down from a high place means certain death. One might ask why one has to go to Jerusalem and, more precisely, to the top of the Temple to find a high place to throw oneself from. It must be that the temple of Jerusalem, with its high walls, was a great source of inspiration and must have made one dizzy at times. This temptation is subtle, because it is based on the Bible, more particularly on Psalm 91, vv. 10-12, which says: "Woe shall not come upon thee, nor shall the plague approach thy tent: he hath given his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands they will carry you so that your foot will not stumble on the stone." In other words, a protégé of God has nothing to fear, for God will see to it that nothing happens to him. There was something similar in the racing driver Ayrton Senna who said he had nothing to fear and felt protected by God, because he prayed regularly. You probably know the rest. He died tragically in an accident during a car race.

v. 12 But Jesus answered him, "The Bible says, Thou shalt not restrain the Lord thy God by forcing him to reveal his presence."

Literally: And having answered he said to him the Jesus that it has been said, you shall not test Lord the God of you.

 
Jesus' answer again refers us to the experience of the Jewish people in the desert and is a citation from Deuteronomy 6:16: "You shall not put Yahweh your God to the test, as you put him to the test in Massah." Let us remember that in the wilderness the people complained to Moses about not having water to drink and blamed him for dragging them out of Egypt to experience misery, and thus questioned God's protection and support of them, which forced Yahweh to tell Moses to take the same stick used to strike the river when they came out of Egypt to bring water out of a rock. This place was later known as Massah and Meribah. The reproach of the Bible to the people is that of doubting the active and benevolent presence of God, and thus of forcing him to act as we want, and not as he wants. Two different wills are then confronting each other. Jesus' intention is clear and we hear it clearly in Gethsemane: "Not my will but yours be done". Jesus' answer means this: we cannot act without worrying about God's will, hoping to draw him into our path.

v. 13 After exhausting the ordeals' list, the adverse desires became more discreet before coming back at the right time.

Literally: And having completed all tests, the devil departed from him until the (right) time.

 
The point is that Jesus was confronted with agonizing choices all his life. Of course, a list of temptations is presented at the beginning of his mission, but these temptations will never really leave him. Luke is simply saying that Jesus will also have to make heartbreaking choices when he faces death. By grouping these temptations together as Jesus ponders his future, Luke is shedding light on his entire ministry.

  1. Analysis of the narrative's structure

    Introduction and setting:
    v. 1-2a: The Holy Spirit leads Jesus to the desert to undergo for 40 days the test of the assaults of forces contrary to his mission

    1. The test of hunger
      v. 2b: After 40 days of fasting, Jesus is hungry

      1. Proposal of the opposite force: God is able to give him the power to feed himself from the stones
        v. 3 Command this stone to become bread

      2. Jesus' answer (citation from Deuteronomy on the experience of the Jewish people in the desert): first listen to Yahweh and he will take care of the rest
        v. 4 Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that comes from the mouth of Yahweh

    2. The test of political power
      v. 5 The opposing force shows him all the kingdoms of the universe

      1. Proposal of the opposite force: If you accept to enter in this logic of the political power and you submit to it totally, you will have it
        v. 6-7 You will have this power and fame if you accept its slavery

      2. Jesus' answer (citation from Deuteronomy on the experience of the Jewish people in the desert): it is God who gives and to him alone we must cling with all our heart
        v. 8 God alone is an absolute

    3. The test of denial of death
      v. 9 The force brings him to the top of the Temple of Jerusalem

      1. Proposal of the opposite force: Throw yourself down and God will take care of you so that nothing happens to you
        v. 10-11 God will protect you and see to it that nothing hurts you

      2. Jesus' answer (citation from Deuteronomy on the experience of the Jewish people in the desert): it is not for us to dictate the way of God
        v. 12 You cannot force God to reveal his presence

    Conclusion: Jesus passed the test of the opposing forces that will return before he dies
    v.13 Jesus has exhausted the list of tests, but they will come back

  2. Context analysis

    1. Mission of John the Baptist (Lk 3: 1-14)
      1. In the Jordan region, John the Baptist proclaims a baptism of conversion for the forgiveness of sins (Lk 3: 1-6)
      2. He invites the crowds to face the judgment of God that is about to take place and that will spare no one, even the Jews (Lk 3: 7-9)
      3. To those who ask him what to do, he gives the following advice (Lk 3: 10-14)
        1. In general, it is necessary to share clothes and food
        2. Tax collectors must avoid collecting more than what is required
        3. The military must avoid extorting and molesting people

    2. Transition to the mission of Jesus (Lk 3: 15-20)
      1. To avoid confusion, John insists that he is not the messiah because he can only offer water baptism
      2. He announces one who is stronger than he is and who will be able to offer a baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, and thus be able to exercise true judgment
      3. Jean Baptiste is arrested and put in prison

    3. Vocation of Jesus and preparations (Lk 3: 21 – 4: 13)
      1. After his baptism, in a moment of prayer, Jesus discovers that he is called by God
      2. Genealogy of Jesus
      3. Jesus undergoes several tests like the Jewish people in the deserts and emerges victorious

    4. Beginning of Jesus' mission in Galilee: he teaches in the synagogues and his reputation spreads (Lk 4: 14-44)

      1. In Nazareth (Lk 4: 16-30)
        1. Reading of the book of Isaiah and proclamation that this good news is for now
        2. Mixed reactions from the audience

      2. In Capernaum (Lk 4: 31-41)
        1. Jesus expels an unclean demon from a man
        2. People are amazed at the authority of his word
        3. Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law in her home
        4. People bring their sick to Jesus to be healed

      3. In a deserted place (Lk 4: 42-44)
        1. Jesus withdraws to pray
        2. The people go to him and want to hold him back, but Jesus announces that he must also announce the good news elsewhere

    • Our story is thus a link between the mission of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. In his infancy narrative, Luke has emphasized the parallel between the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. Both are now adults, and Luke continues this parallel, but he does so by contrast: one is not the messiah and can only give water baptism, the other will be the true messiah who can give the baptism of the Spirit. This place of the Spirit is major, for as much as Luke does not speak of it for John the Baptist, he insists that with Jesus the Spirit descends on him at his baptism and will guide him throughout his mission, including his stay in the desert to experience several tests.

    • The contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus is accentuated by the fact that nothing is said specifically about John the Baptist's vocation, except that the word of God was addressed to him, and that he now preaches relentlessly in the desert, inviting people to face the coming judgment by converting, a conversion expressed by his baptism. On the other hand, Jesus is said not only to be God's beloved son, and therefore to have a unique mission, but also to humbly take the same path as his people on their way to the promised land by accepting to be tested.

    • By presenting the genealogy of Jesus, in which he traces his ancestors back to Adam, Luke takes a further step in presenting the humanity of Jesus: not only can he claim to be the son of Jews, having lived through the same trials as his people, but by his blood he belongs to the whole of humanity.

    • In short, Jesus stands out from John the Baptist on two fronts: on the one hand, by his Spirit he enjoys a unique power, on the other hand, by his life and the tests he is going through, he is the most human of humans.

  3. Parallels

    Recall that, according to the most accepted theory in the biblical world, Mark would have been the first to publish his gospel, Matthew and Luke would have reused much of Mark's work in their gospel, while incorporating another source, known to both of them and referred to as the "Q Document," as well as other sources of their own, and finally John would have published an independent gospel at a later date, with no knowledge of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, even though he seems to have had access to similar sources.

    In this context, the study of parallels allows us to better identify what is specific to each evangelist. Here is our convention: we have underlined the words of Mark found as well under the other evangelists' pen; we have put in blue what is common to Matthew and Luke only. The verses of Matthew in square brackets have been placed out of sequence for the sake of comparison.

    Mc 1Mt 4Lc 4
    12 And immediately the spirit cast him out into the wilderness. 1a At that time the Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the spirit1 Then, Jesus, full of holy spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in the spirit in the wilderness
    13a And he was in the wilderness forty days being tested by the Satan, and he was with the beasts,1b-2 to be tested by the devil. And having fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he got hungry. 2 Forty days being tested by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days and having been completed he got hungry.
     3 And having come near the tester said to him, if son you are of the God, say so that these stones would become bread 3 Then, said to him the devil, if son you are of the God, say to this stone so that it would become bread.
     4 Then, him, answering, he said, it has been written that not on bread alone shall live the man, but on every word coming out through mouth of God. 4 And answered towards him the Jesus, it has been written that not on bread alone shall live the man.
     [8-9 Again the devil brings him to an exceedingly high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and he said to him, these I will give you all, if having fell down, you would kneel to me. 5-7 And having led up him, he showed him all the kingdoms of the universe in a moment of time, and said to him the devil, to you I will give all this authority and the glory of them, for to me it has been delivered, and to whom if I would wish I give it. Therefore, you, if you would kneel before me, will be yours all.
     10 At that time he says to him the Jesus, go, Satan, for it has been written, you will kneel down (before) Lord the God of you and him alone you shall worship]8 And having answered the Jesus, he said to him, it has been written, you will kneel down (before) Lord the God of you and him alone you shall worship
     5 At that time the devil brings him into the holy city and stood upon the pinnacle of the temple9a Then, he led him into Jerusalem and stood upon the pinnacle of the temple
     6 and says to him, if son you are of the God, throw yourself down, for it has been written that to the angels of him he will give orders concerning you and upon hands they will take up you, lest you would ever stumble towards stone your foot.9b-11 and said to him, if son you are of the God, throw yourself from here down, for it has been written that to the angels of him he will give orders concerning you to take care of you, and that upon hands they will take up you, lest you would ever stumble towards stone your foot.
     7 He was declaring to him the Jesus, again it has been written, you shall not test Lord the God of you.12 And having answered he said to him the Jesus that it has been said, you shall not test Lord the God of you.
    13b and the angels were serving him. 11 At that time leaves him the devil, and behold angels came near and were serving him. 13 And having completed all tests, the devil departed from him until the (right) time.

     

    • The first observation is that we have two different sources of Jesus' temptations, the very brief one in Mark and the Q Document that Matthew and Luke use. Matthew and Luke must have been familiar with Mark's, since the structure of Jesus' ministry in Galilee follows that of Mark. Moreover, Matthew has preserved an echo of Mark in his conclusion by mentioning the role of the angels who come to serve Jesus. As for Luke, we could see an echo of Mark at the beginning when he says that Jesus was tested for 40 days, the same expression as in Mark, whereas Matthew speaks rather of a 40-day fast.

    • When we compare Mark's version with that of the Q Document, it is clear that the latter seeks to detail the temptations: it is no longer enough to know that Jesus experienced temptations like any human being, but we want to be able to specify them. But the way of specifying them is rather original, because it refers to the temptations of the Jewish people in the desert. First of all, in facing the desert under the leadership of Moses, they had to face the shortage of food and trust in God who gave them manna. Second, the people would have liked to control their destiny by staying in Egypt and having a home, land and a well, but Moses reminded them that it is Yahweh who will give them all of this, if they at least hold on to Yahweh and his word with all their heart. Finally, the people would have liked a different destiny than that of having to walk in the desert with the risks of hunger, thirst and cold, and even the risk of dying, but Moses invites them to simply put their faith in Yahweh alone. While bringing to life for Jesus the temptations of the Jewish people in the desert, the Q Document gives them a universal dimension: these temptations become those of seeking exclusively one's own physical well-being, the temptation of absolute power, the temptation to escape the hazards of human life, including suffering and death.

    • When comparing two texts, we seek to determine what changes the author may have made to his source to better align it with his theological purpose. In the case of the accounts of Jesus' temptations from the Q Document, it is difficult to determine what form the original account took and which of Luke or Matthew modified it. For example, did Matthew push the temptation of political power to the back of the line, or did Luke push the temptation of death denial to the back of the line? Given Luke's finale, which takes us to the passion narrative for the final assault on the opposing forces, I am inclined to think that it was Luke who modified his source to create this link. Thus, this third temptation represents a peak in Luke, for it is the most difficult one, that of having to suffer and die. Jesus' final answer will be given at his trial and crucifixion.

    • We can make one last observation. Luke has a rather negative view of political power, for he takes the trouble to make a small development that this power is entirely in the hands of the opposing forces (v.6), by the very will of God (for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I want). This sheds some light on his bias towards the poor from the time of Jesus' birth (it is to the shepherds that the good news will be announced).

  4. Intention of the author when writng this passage

    • In seeking to interpret Luke's particular emphases, one must first admit that his room for maneuver is limited. For he follows the basic framework established by Mark, i.e. the sequence of John the Baptist's preaching in the desert, Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist and the revelation of his unique mission, and then the forty-day stay in the desert where he will experience the temptations related to this mission. But according to his habit, he likes to order the stories in a systematic way by ensuring smooth transitions. Thus we leave John the Baptist because he was put in prison, and now we can give all the space to Jesus. But since John the Baptist is no longer in the picture, he can no longer recount the baptism of Jesus, and so is content to mention it in the form of an allusion, and it will be in a moment of prayer, and not at his baptism, that Jesus will become aware of his mission. Finally, while Mark then moves on to the temptations of Jesus, Luke inserts here a genealogy of Jesus that traces him back to our common ancestor, Adam. Only later does he move on to the temptations of Jesus. As we can see, despite the framework of Mark, which he follows closely, Luke modifies it and gives it particular accents.

    • Inserting the genealogy of Jesus, where his ancestors go all the way back to Adam, even before presenting the story of the temptations, colors the whole by saying this: Jesus is part of our humanity, and like every human being, he had to fight a battle to resist all kinds of temptation. There is something universal in the fate of Jesus.

    • Of course, Luke picks up on the themes of the Q tradition where Jesus must confront his physical needs, his needs for power, and his needs to avoid the vagaries of life, of which death is a part, and responds by referring to the attitude of absolute trust and unconditional attachment expected of the Jewish people in the desert. This is the paradox: the opposing forces tell Jesus that if he is the Son of God, let God allow him to be God. Jesus' response is to join the human condition and live it in faith.

    • The fact that he puts the temptation of denial of death as the last temptation, and therefore, in a way, a summit in the temptations, is indicative that Luke sees it as one of the greatest temptations that Jesus had to face. That is why, when the trial of Gethsemane comes, Luke writes this: "Entering into agony, Jesus prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground." In this, Jesus shares our humanity.

    • Finally, among Luke's dominant themes is that of sharing wealth and God's concern for the poor. His formulation of the second temptation is indicative of his vision of things: political power is in the hands of opposing forces and is incompatible with God.

  5. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

    1. Suggestions from the different symbols in the story

      Our story includes several images that lend themselves to symbolic interpretation and may be evocative of current situations.

      • The three temptations lend themselves easily to actualization: we only have to imagine their modern equivalent.

        1. First temptation: to want to be God by controlling our source of sustenance (you are hungry, give yourself bread by transforming this stone)
          • Deeply rooted in the human being is his need for autonomy, but this need for autonomy can wander by refusing all dependence. As I have received life, I receive the bread I need, as well as the variety of food I could not produce. Life is essentially an exchange with the surrounding world, and the temptation is to interrupt this exchange. Examples:
            • Refusing the knowledge accumulated by humanity through its researchers
            • Denying the wisdom of other cultures
            • Refusing to depend on others for my bread, milk, eggs, meat, etc.
            • Refusing to depend on others to grow as a human being

          • What applies to individuals, can apply to more general entities, such as countries, or corporations. Usually, we hear a country announcing its desire for independence from oil or gas or water sources, or seeking a certain food independence. Among international companies, we speak of vertical integration: we seek to control the entire production cycle, from supply sources to the final product; for example, a newspaper will want to own its own paper mill, its own printing plant in addition to the team of journalists. There are pragmatic reasons for this approach, but it becomes a self-defeating philosophy, as a number of high-profile failures demonstrate. It is as if humanity was made in such a way that we had to rely on each other, and taking another path leads to a dead end. Some examples:
            • The corporatist spirit that refuses the entry of foodstuffs from poorer countries
            • The refusal to depend on a small company, even if it has expertise like no other

        2. Second temptation: wanting to be God by exercising absolute control over the political world

          • The call of power seems universal and probably the one that creates the most slaves. It seems that once one has tasted power, it becomes difficult to do without it. This is true for individuals, corporations and political entities alike. On the other hand, affirming that God alone is an absolute and that to him alone one will express total attachment forces one to distance oneself. It also means that one will receive one's value not from others, but from God alone. Examples of the power of this temptation:
            • Refusing to abdicate political power even if the elections have decided otherwise
            • Refusing to involve others in the decisions to be made
            • To reject all opposing forces or opinions
            • Refusing the long process of the common search for the truth
            • Refusing to distance oneself from one's status or role or ideas

        3. Third temptation: to want to be God by no longer being subject to the hazards of life, including suffering and death

          • This temptation may seem difficult to apply to oneself, since it is impossible for us to escape our mortal condition. But this temptation can nevertheless take subtle forms: Examples:
            • To imagine that, because we are religious people, adversity will not strike us
            • To imagine that our plans, because we are religious people, necessarily correspond to those of God
            • Imagining that the path to God is so simple that it does not involve listening to others or to the events of life

      • We could direct our reflection towards Jesus' decision of going into the desert in a period of intense reflection and starkness, trying to put ourselves totally in tune with the Spirit. There are many examples of situations that give us the opportunity to strip ourselves inwardly in order to reflect on the meaning to be given to our lives:
        • Illness that leaves us bedridden, vulnerable and rethinking our achievements
        • The loss of a loved one that contributes to the collapse of our world and forces us to rethink our values
        • The failure of a project in which we had invested all our energies that leaves us completely disoriented, asking the question of what is worthwhile and what is not
        • Some events where we feel betrayed by our friends and those we trusted, and force us to rethink our values and our surroundings
        • The call of some to a project that seems beyond our strength or so different from what we had imagined, which challenges our identity and what we wanted to do with our life.

 

-André Gilbert, Gatineau, February 2013