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Bible: What Does Matthew 4 Teach Us About The Temptation of Christ?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Temptation in the Wilderness


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The Tempter


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Matthew 4: The Temptation of Christ/His Galilean Ministry

Post-Baptism Empowerment

After His baptism (notice the sequential “Then”), “Jesus was led up” by the Spirit (Who was always present, but now takes on a more "significant" role as He empowers Jesus to withstand Satan’s temptations) [v. 1].

[Observe first that John uses the passive voice to show that the Lord submitted Himself to the Spirit’s guidance, and second, that the apostle mentions that the wilderness is higher in elevation than the Jordan].

“Temptations” here are not just trials, but solicitations to evil, even though the devil probably knew that Jesus could not sin.

Then again, it would not surprise me if he did not believe that fact.

[The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky designated this episode in Jesus’ life as the one that convinced him of His deity; I believe he included a discussion of Satan’s temptation inThe Brothers Karamazov.]

Verses two through eleven present another supernatural aspect to Jesus’ life: His ability to endure Satanic pressure while fasting “forty days and forty nights”—a very familiar Biblical time frame (cf. Moses’ excursions on top of Mount Sinai in Exodus and the Noahic rainfall in Genesis.)

[God requires faith from His people.

Once one personally knows the omnipotent God and has acquired a renewed mind (namely, the mind of Christ), one can believe that He can cause anything to happen, no matter how impossible it may seem.]

Yes, God sent this difficult experience into Jesus’ life to prepare Him for the rigors of his future ministry, but He meant it primarily to demonstrate His Son’s sinlessness.

[When Matthew writes that Jesus was hungry after the forty-day period had expired (v. 2), does he mean that the Lord did not feel hunger until that time had elapsed?

What nuance or implication does he seek to communicate with this language?]

Satan's First Temptation

The “tempter’s” first solicitation attempts to move Jesus to satisfy a legitimate human need (that is, hunger) before the Father willed it [vv. 3-4].

The Greek first-class condition here—“Since” is a better translation than “if”—indicates that Satan did not doubt that Jesus was the Son of God (v. 3).

The Lord quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 to demonstrate His dependence upon the word and will of the Father for His sustenance (v. 4).

Satan's Second Temptation

Next, the devil resorts to citing Scripture (Ps. 91:11-12) to try to induce Christ to draw attention to Himself with a spectacular angelic rescue (vv. 5-6).

He thought that Christ’s leaping off the temple’s pinnacle (only to be kept from harm) would surely cause onlookers to worship Him.

Jesus, knowing that the Father would not sanction this worldly method of gaining popularity, did not presume upon God’s will (v. 7; cf. Deut.6:16).

The Third Temptation

The third temptation finds Satan, as the god and ruler of this world (cf. John12:31; Eph. 2:2), seeking to grant Jesus universal kingship if He would only worship him (vv. 8-9).

[The devil had the delegated power to transport Jesus anywhere and show Him every earthly capital in a vision (though the text does not say that that was what Christ witnessed)] [v. 8].

Jesus’ response—a conflation of two texts in Deuteronomy (6:13;10:20)—repudiates Satan’s offer and sends him away defeated. Angels now come to assist the Lord after His long ordeal (vv. 10-11).

Jesus' Galilean Ministry

Matthew then begins his record of Jesus’ Galilean ministry in verse twelve, as the Lord leaves the Judean wilderness, having heard of the Baptist’s imprisonment, and travels to Galilee.

On the way, He converts the Samaritan woman (see John 4), and then arrives in Nazareth where the Jews reject Him in the synagogue (cf. Luke 4:16-30).

Because of their treatment of Him there, He is forced to move to Capernaum, a town near the Sea of Galilee “in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali,” thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that the spiritually darkened people of that region would see “a great light” (vv. 13-16; cf. Is. 9:1-2).

[Zebulun and Naphtali, of course, were two sons of Jacob (Israel)—the former, a son of Leah, the latter, a son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant—who had received this land inheritance from God (cf. Gen. 35:23, 25; Josh. 19:10-16; 32-39).]

Here Jesus continues to preach John the Baptist’s message of repentance (v. 17).



Jesus Calls Four Apostles

The Lord calls two sets of brothers into His service of “fishing” for men —Simon (whom He later renames Peter (petros-rock, stone; cf. Mt. 16:18) and Andrew (vv. 18-19), and James and John (vv. 21-22)—though Matthew records that He only mentioned their new occupation to the former two (v. 19).

The apostle mentions that all four men immediately left their livelihood; entrepreneurs Simon and Andrew were casting nets, while James and John—perhaps “employees” of their father Zebedee—were mending theirs.

They left the boat and their father to follow Jesus (vv. 20, 22).

Despite the high cost of discipleship, the apostles were willing to submit to a higher calling.

They probably already knew about Jesus by this time, so dropping every earthly endeavor for His sake was a “no-brainer” for these men.

The Lord’s commanding presence, His voice of authority, and His intriguing mission (not to mention the work of the Holy Spirit) compelled them to follow.

Christ carried on a three-fold ministry in Galilee: synagogue teaching, preaching “the gospel of the kingdom,” and healing every sickness and disease (v. 23).

[These very activities the prophets foretold would become prevalent in the days before the Messiah set up His earthly kingdom.

Alva McClain’sThe Greatness of the Kingdom is an excellent text to consult.]

News of this great Healer spread to surrounding nations and cities; though besieged with a multitude of diseased people, Jesus restored them all to health (vv. 24-25).

© 2012 glynch1


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