Monday, February 8, 2016

Luke 4:1-13

This passage is found in the RCL, Lent 1, Year C (Most recently: Feb 14, 2016)

Summary:  I'd like to propose a highly Lutheran understanding of this reading.  (Shocking, I know).  I was struck by the idea that Jesus is full of the Spirit.  What does this mean?  It means he is filled with the Word in order to combat the devil.  The Word and the Spirit go together; to be Spiritual means you know the Word well enough that it becomes part of you, so that you might draw on it in time of temptation.

Pastoral note:  I think this is what sanctification actually looks like, that the Word has become so a part of us that we can actually draw on it.  In my experience, when people go through challenging times, the immediate reaction of the Christian is not much different than a pagan.  However, the Christian, when he hears the promise, either in a verse or hymn, has something resonate in his or her soul that revives them.  The pagan does not. The Word, like daily bread, has a shelf life, but it also eventually converts itself into muscle that can be called on for great strength.

Key Words
πληρης ("filled", 4.1)  This adjective means filled.  This is straight forward; interestingly the only other time in Luke's Gospel this word occurs it refers to someone filled with leprosy.  Also interesting is that leprosy normally entailed banishment, which is what Jesus is suffering here in the wilderness.  Even without the leprosy connection, Luke and the synoptic Gospels make it clear: to be baptized means to be led by the Spirit which entails confronting evil.  I would also argue that Jesus' way of arguing, using God's word, shows the way in which Spirit and Word work together.

αγω ("lead", 4.1, 9)  Intensifying this connection between the work of the Spirit into confronting evil:  The Spirit "leads" Jesus into the wilderness; later, the Devil "leads" Jesus to a high mountain

πειραζω ("tempt", 4.2)  but really:  "μενος" (this is not a word, but is the ending of a word.  Greek participles are complicated, but when you see this five letter suffix, you know you have an present, passive participle; 4.2.)  In this case, the verb for "tempt" is a present, passive participle. This means two things. First, that the temptation was on-going. Second, because "being tempted" is a present participle, this action occurred concurrently with the action of the main verb.  In this case the main or governing verb is "being led" by the Spirit.  (which is a passive and imperfect verb). So while he is continually being led by the Spirit, he is continually being tempted by the Devil. The two are on-going and concurrent actions.

Further, the word here for "test" (4.12) is essentially the same word as tempt (the word has a little preposition to intensify its meaning). Jesus here tells the Devil to stop tempting him basically -- do not put the Lord, ie, me, to the test!

παραδιδομι ("betray" or "give over", 4:6)  The word for "given over" is paradido-mi, which also means "handed over" as in "betrayed."  This suggests that perhaps the devil is not fully honest in his description that all things have been handed over to him.  If they have, it is through betrayal, where people thought they gained someone for themselves only to have the devil take it back.

Grammar:  Since you are the son of God!

ει ("if" or "since", 4:3) The Greek for "if" here (ει) does not necessary translate as "if." Normally, the decision to translate "ει" as "if" or "since" depends on the mood of the verb; if it is indicative, then one translates it as "since." In this case, "to be" is in the indicative. This means "if" could, if not should, read "Since you are the son of God..."

Another grammar tid-bit:
4:4 "Man does not live by bread alone." Interesting here is that the Greek takes this Hebrew imperfect (which connotes it as on-going or future) and puts it in the future: "Man will not live by bread alone." Making it a promise more than a given reality!

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