Sunday, February 14, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: First Sunday in Lent: Invocavit – Temptation: Jesus Tempted by Satan


Matt 4:1-11
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.


Luther's Notes

1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit in to the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 
Jesus . . tempted of the devil. In this example of the Lord Jesus Christ we see that every Christian, as soon as he is baptized, is drafted into the army against the very devil, who persecutes him as long as he lives.

Led by the Spirit. That is, he did not go into the wilderness of his own accord or desire, to strive there with the devil, but the Holy Ghost called him into the wilderness. No one should of his own accord undertake an important work or run into danger, unless he is sure that God has commanded him to do so, by his word, or by men who, in the place of God, have authority over him.

Into the wilderness. Thus it is with us when led and left alone in the wilderness, just as Christ was led into the wilderness and was left alone of God, angels, men and all creatures. There am I in the right school, and learn what I am, how weak my faith is, what a great and strange thing it is about the true faith, and how deep the shameful unbelief lies in the hearts of all men.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 
Fasted forty days. Two kinds of commendable fasting are presented to us in the Scriptures: The one kind is that which we willingly endure, to keep the flesh in subjection to the spir it (1 Corinthians 9:27). The other is when we willingly suffer, on account of want or poverty. 1 Corinthians 4:11; Matthew 9:14-17.

This is true Christian fasting: grieving and mourning; that is, when we endure all kinds of trouble and distress, imposed upon us by God, which is oppressive to us, and of which we would like to be relieved, as when one, with his wife and children, must endure hunger, be banished or imprisoned and the like, of which Saint Paul speaks, 2 Corinthians 6:4, 6.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 
The tempter came to him. Doubtless the tempter approached him in a bodily form, perhaps in the form of an angel. The devil's form he would hardly assume; for he likes to appear beautiful when he intends to lie and deceive.

If thou be the Son of God. He says to Christ, "How fatherly God acts towards thee, that he does not send thee even a crust of bread, and suffers thee to be so poor and needy." With such thoughts he indeed tempts all the children of God, and Christ certainly also felt their force; for he was no stock or stone, although he was pure and without sin, and so continues, as we cannot.

Christ is tried as one who must first be instructed, in order that he may not begin such an important work as an inexperienced neophyte, who might afterwards not be steadfast in the faith. 1 Timothy 4.

Thus also a Christian is tried, especially a teacher, whether he can endure poverty. This trial is very common also with pious people, and is particularly felt by those who are poor and have children and a house, but nothing therein.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 
But Jesus answered. Notice here how cunningly the devil presents his temptations, so that they become too strong for nature, and nature looks upon them as most reasonable and proper. But Christ understands the devil's language very well; he did not intend that Christ should perform a miracle, but he tried to rob him of his faith and confidence in God's goodness and mercy. Then the Lord replies, "Oh, not so, devil !"

Man lives not by bread alone. He takes the sword of the Spirit, God's word; with this he strengthens himself, and strikes down the devil.

This is a thing of the first importance, that we learn to esteem God's word highly, believe it, and do not permit any want or misfortune to move us, or conclude that God is not gracious to us, that he will not help us, or has forgotten us. Against such temptations nothing can strengthen us but the word of God. This is that kind of bread and food, "of which if a man eat, (that is, believes the word) he hath eternal life." Mark this well.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 
Pinnacle of the temple. Here he attacks him neither with hunger nor pain; but he leads him into the Holy Scriptures, and poses as a doctor or teacher of the Scriptures, as he quotes the beautiful text in Psalm 91:11-12.

Cast thyself down. When the devil cannot succeed in making us lose confidence in God, then he seeks on the other hand to fill us with presumption, pride and self-conceit, so that we believe even that which God hath not commanded us to believe.

This temptation seldom succeeds in material, external things, but in spiritual things it hath great power. For the self-righteous and unbelieving hypocrites trust in God with their works, where there is no trace or track of faith and trust, and think that God hath so directed them in the Scriptures.

Angels shall bear thee up. Here the Scripture is quoted; but see what a masterpiece the treacherous serpent and father of all lies makes use of! He quotes Scripture, but omits the most important part. For the passage reads thus, "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways;" but the protection of the angels does not extend farther than the ways which God hath commanded us to go. These last words the knave omits, for they are against him.

Where man goes in the ways of God, that is, attends to the rightful duties of his office, there the angels are commanded to keep him.

Christ is now in the wilderness, not that he shall perform miracles, but that he shall suffer. He shall be a suffering man.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. To tempt God is to deviate from his ordinary command and undertake to do, without regard to God, something new or extraordinary.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. This third and last temptation has reference to worldly fortune, where one is incited to pleasure, honor, and power, and everything that is high. For whom the devil cannot overcome with poverty, want, misery and trouble, he attacks with riches, fortune, honor, pleasure, power, etc., and fights against us from both sides; yea, as St. Peter says, he "goeth about as a roaring lion."

Of this kind are the heretics, who instigate sects and dissentionsin the faith among Christians, that they may lift their heads high, and be held in great honor before the world.

Fall down and worship me. This temptation, whereby the devil under takes to bring us into idolatry by means of honor and power, contrary to the word of God, is very coarse, and contributes much to the delusion that external holiness has such an attraction in the eyes of human reason, and glistens more brilliantly than all obedience to the word of God.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Angels came and ministered unto him. This is written for our encouragement, that we may know that many angels serve us, where but one devil tempts us; if we fight valiantly and stand firm, then God will not let us suffer want; sooner must the angels come from heaven and become our bakers, waiters and cooks and serve us in all our necessities.

In this Gospel the devil is painted in all his colors:

I. The black devil. In the first temptation, about the stones and bread, the black devil is painted. The people know him and call him devil. This is the devil that harassed bodily so many individual Christians, and also nearly the whole of the first Christian Church, with all kinds of trouble, distress, anguish and misery, soon after the ascension of Christ. This persecution of the early Christians lasted over three hundred years.

II. The pinnacle of the temple. Soon after this hunger, massacre and murder, came the other devil — thinking, If I cannot scare them off with my black, ugly color, I will try something else. Then he became the luminous, white and holy devil, and represented himself as an angel of God. He now attacked Christianity, not with bodily persecution, but with its own armor and weapons; that is, the Holy Scriptures, by which they had defended themselves against all his bodily assaults. For soon after Constantine had become a Christian, arose detestable heretics; not the early heretics and their disciples such as Ebion and Cerinthus, but the arch-heretics, such as the Arians, the Donatists, the Gnostics, Euno- mians, Manichseans, etc., who all stormed against Christ. One party stormed against his humanity, and the other party against his divinity. In this way the devil led them out of the desert, but not into the temple, but on the pinnacle of the temple, from which they cast themselves down and broke their necks.

III. Fall down and worship me. The third period of Christianity has been called the time of the Anti-Christ. This was to be the chief broth in which the devil knocked the bottom entirely out of the barrel. (Die grundsuppe, da der Teufel dem fass den Boden gar ausstiess. )

Here he was no more the black devil, as in the first temptation and persecution; nor the cunning white devil, that disputed out of the Scriptures; but on the contrary, an entirely godly, majestic devil, who proclaims himself unreservedly as God himself, saying, Fall down and worship me!

This was the last great calamity of the Christian Church. After the dear fathers had vanquished the roguish devil in the persons of the early heretics, and had put down the arch-heretics, the people had become tired of wranglings over the Scriptures, fell off entirely from the Scriptures, and every one taught and be lieved as he pleased.

Thus the pope fell down and worshipped the devil, and received in return worldly honors, gold, wealth, and power over emperors, kings, princes and lords; and in addition to all this, the name and title of the Most Holy!



Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 20-23.

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