4 Principles for Reading Better:
Jesus’s Temptation in Luke 4:1-13 is one of the best New Testament passages to help us learn how to read the Bible. 4 Principles will help you read really well.
1. DETAILS: Note any details such as numbers, phrases, locations, etc. that are familiar in other passages.
2. PARALLELS: Note any parallel passages or references from either the O.T., N.T. or an extra-biblical source (use Biblegateway.com or a commentary for this)
3. ALLUSIONS: Note any allusions in which any word, phrase or idea is found elsewhere in the O.T. or N.T.
4. QUOTATIONS: Note any direct quotes from other portions of the O.T. or N.T. and treat them like modern day hashtags (#) rather than as cherry picked verses. As a hashtag verse, its a condensed version pointing to a much larger whole.
Luke 4:1-13 is a gold mine for parallel passages, allusions and quotations. We won’t look at all of the aspects, but focus upon 4 features in this passage that demonstrate how to read the Bible.
Jesus Succeeds where Israel Fails:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
In verses 1-2, Jesus leaves the Jordan River and enters the wilderness for a forty day fast. The first item to notice is the region he is leaving from and where he is going. He leaves the “Jordan” and enters the wilderness. Like the children of Israel before they arrived to the Promised Land, Jesus enters the wilderness to reenact the wilderness wandering. From the splitting and crossing of the Red Sea to the splitting and crossing of the Jordan River, Israel went through two 40 year periods of wandering before they could enter the Promised Land. Both Moses and the first generation failed to enter based upon their choices to disobey God in the wilderness. They failed. The second generation finally makes it into the land but only after crossing the Jordan. That final crossing marked the end of the wilderness wandering for Israel while crossing the Red Sea inaugurated it.
Jesus’s choice to fast in the wilderness for 40 days reenacted Israel’s wilderness wandering and Moses’s leadership – both of whom failed. Jesus is given the opportunity to fail where Moses and the early generation had failed when the devil visits him with 3 temptations. But Jesus doesn’t fail – as an Israelite and as the New Moses, he completes Israel’s story and succeeds, but has to do this outside of the Promised Land, beyond the Jordan. After his victory over the devil, he enters the Promised Land as the symbolic ideal Israelite who has succeeded in the wilderness where previously Israel had failed and completes their shared story.
Jesus Succeeds where Adam and Eve Failed:
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’
In verses 3-4, the devil comes to Christ and in the same manner as his visit to Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3), he questions the character of God by questioning whether or not Jesus really is the Son of God. He accompanies his questioning with a challenge to perform a miracle involving food – Jesus’s immediate need. Later in Jesus’s ministry, he will provide miraculous food (Matt. 14:13-21) when he feeds 5000 people, but it is not time for him to perform miracles just yet, especially if they are to prove to the devil something that he already knows. But in contrast to Adam and Eve’s failure, Jesus doesn’t fail and succeeds for the sake of Israel. Also, in contrast to Esau, he doesn’t give up his birthright for the immediacy of a meal.
The quote he provides is from Deuteronomy 8:3, but whenever a single verse is quoted, we need to treat it as a hashtag. Therefore, #It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone’ is actually asking us to look at the passage and discern the larger point being made in that passage.
Deuteronomy 8:1-5 – Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
Deuteronomy 8:3 is quoted to point to Jesus being led by the Holy Spirit to be tested in the same way that Israel was tested in the wilderness through their hunger. They failed their test, but Jesus doesn’t. How so? Well, how did God satisfy Israel’s hunger? Through miraculous bread! The devil knows that Jesus is the Son of God and that miraculous bread was provided in the wilderness so his challenge to Jesus is essentially a challenge to prove that he truly is the same God that provided manna in the wilderness. He declines the challenge because later on in John 6:30-59, immediately after feeding the 5000 and walking on water, Jesus explains that he is the manna from Heaven, the bread of life. His complaint in John is that even with a miraculous sign, the people he is arguing with, still won’t believe that he is the Son of God, nor will they believe in him. The same is true with the devil. So his solution is verse 3 – Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.