STUDY FOUR: MATTHEW 4:1-17 - THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS; MATTHEW 4:18-24 - JESUS BEGINS HIS MINISTRY

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2012

A. THE PURPOSE OF GOD  

Matthew 4:1 states that Jesus ‘was led by the Spirit into the dessert to be tempted by the devil’. 

This is a puzzling statement until we understand that to act as our mediator and representative in the presence of God it was necessary for Jesus to experience the same pressures that we experience.  

Read Hebrews 2:9-18 and 4:14-5:10. What do they teach us about:

The extent of the pressures experienced by Jesus:

  

The reason Jesus had to undergo these pressures:

 

 

The temptation of Jesus took place in line with and as part of God’s plan and purpose by which we are saved through Jesus Christ.

God did not himself tempt his Son; the scripture tells us that God does not tempt people [James 1:13]; but God, by his Spirit, led Jesus into the wilderness, and there God makes use of the evil intent of Satan and weaves that evil intent into his good eternal purpose. 

B. THE DEVIL’S KNOWLEDGE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD AND THAT HE IS THE RIGHTFUL KING OF ALL WHOLE WORLD

Notice in the first two temptations the devil says ‘If you are the Son of God’ [4:3,6]. The meaning of the ‘if’ is not indefinite [maybe you are maybe you are not] but ‘since …’ What the devil is saying is ‘since you are the Son of God …’ 

He knows Jesus is the Son of God.

He knows that Jesus has the ability and the authority to command stones to become bread.

He knows the biblical promise that God the Father will not let anything happen to the Son.  

He also knows, as is evident in the third temptation, that Jesus is the rightful king of the whole world.

C. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TEMPTATIONS 

[1] The first temptation – make stones into bread [4:3,4] 

Jesus was very hungry and the devil suggested he turn stones into bread. 

Note the similarity with the Genesis 3 temptation: ‘When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food …’ [Genesis 3:6] 

Similarly, Jesus’ reply from Deuteronomy 8:3-5 was originally spoken to the Israelites recalling the incident in the wilderness when they were hungry and God supplied their needs.

This temptation focuses on the physical, distracting the attention away from the spiritual, away from the command of God, away from the promise of God. Away from trust and into independence. 

At a deeper level this temptation puts before Jesus the prospect of taking the easy way out – of being a physical saviour, and jettisoning God’s eternal plan, the hard way, the way of the cross, that would provide spiritual salvation.

 

[2] The second temptation – throw yourself down [4:6].  

Here the pressure is again to side step the difficult way. Here is the option of a spectacular, mind-boggling but otherwise pointless and arbitrary miracle … an option that would attract people to him and gain him countless followers, but would not achieve the purpose for which he came.  

But Jesus rejected the way of the spectacular. When he later performed miracles he never did it just for the sake of performing miracles. All through his ministry he was very cautious about miracles, often commanding those healed to not speak about it. He knows that the sinful human heart makes an immediate but shallow response to the miraculous. He does not want such followers. Nor did he want to put God to the test … to presume on the promises of God, to coerce God into action on his behalf in behaviour that has no valid connection to the eternal saving purpose of God.  

[3] The third temptation – bow down and worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour [4:8-9]. 

Here Satan leaves off trying to trick Jesus into choosing the easy option and comes straight out with his real agenda, the agenda hidden behind the first two. Satan wants to turn Jesus away from God the Father. Satan wants Jesus to give him the glory and honour that is due to God alone.

At each point of pressure Jesus responds by quoting the Word of God.

 

D. THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ MINISTRY [4:12-25] 

Read the verses. Answer the questions.

How does the prophecy from Isaiah 9:1,2 refer to Jesus’ teaching?

 

How does Matthew summarize what Jesus taught?

 

What was Jesus’ purpose in calling the disciples?

 

What three parts of Jesus’ ministry does Matthew list?

 

Notice in particular: 

‘Repent’ – [Greek = metanoeo] – is a command to change one’s mind. It is not primarily a change of behaviour, but a change of thinking, a change of purpose, a change of perception. It relates to what we think. Here we are commanded to change our mindset, to change our worldview, to change our paradigm. Here we are commanded to see everything from a changed perspective. 

The reason for the command to repent is ‘the kingdom of heaven is near’. The fact of the kingdom, the fact that in the coming of Jesus Christ the kingdom of heaven has come, demands that we change our perspective. Christ is the king of the kingdom: when we see this, when we know this, when we believe this, nothing can ever be the same again. Once we know Christ the King our whole outlook on everything must change.