Matthew 4: Temptation and beginnings

Matthew Four is broken down into four pieces. The first is Jesus tempted in the wilderness, followed by beginning to preach, then gathering some disciples, then preaching and healing at a larger scale. Let’s look at each section.

The temptation in the wilderness is one of the few times that the terms “Satan” and “devil” are used so far. He is also referred to as the “tempter” in one verse in several translations but “devil” in others. He tempts Jesus three times and each time Jesus quotes the second speech that Moses gives out of Deuteronomy in response:

 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Originally from Deuteronomy 8:3

“Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Originally from Deuteronomy 6:16

 “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Originally from Deuteronomy 6:13

This second speech goes into a lot of detail about how God treated the Israelites in their 40 years of wandering the desert and what their responsibilities were to God and each other. The Ten Commandments and many of the laws are recapped or expounded upon. Several laws were mentioned for the first time. It’s where the most often quoted rules about rape and sexual assault are. It’s also a part of the Law of Moses. This isn’t a simple morality test. The devil is testing Jesus’s willingness to save himself, and willingness to let the difficult things be difficult and testing whether or not Jesus sees Himself as having to prove who He is, but also His knowledge of the Law.

The crazy thing about these tests is that so much of the Law of Moses is about how to act towards other people and the parts that Jesus is tested on are solely about faithfulness to God. The context surrounding these specific passages has to do with God taking care of the Israelites and their lack of faith and loyalty to Him. Chapters 6 and 8 remind them that God took good care of them while they were out there and that they pretty much just complained and demanded more all the time. The devil is trying to get Jesus to do these same things but He won’t. He remembers that God will take care of Him and shouldn’t be tested.

After the temptations, He finds out that John the Baptist had been arrested and went to Capernaum. I got this great book of maps during Biblical times and I think that’s about 25 miles North of where He was in Galilee. This is shown as having fulfilled another old prophecy, again from Isaiah:

15“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Originally Isaiah 9:1-2

The original prophecy goes quite a bit into the expectations for the child to come and I can easily see how the people of Israel may have been expected a different, more traditional kind of king to come.

It’s immediately after citing this prophecy that Matthew mentions that Jesus began to go around, preaching and repeating the words of John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

I do wonder a bit what it means. I get the implication of that statement that most people go with but given that many interpretations have coexisted so long with so many stories and passages, I don’t feel too bad admitting that I don’t really get the implication. It implies that God is coming, but Jesus is a part of God, so is He talking about the kingdom that He is there to create and that it will be filled with the repentant at some later time?

That’s my actual take away. He is the one that was promised and He’s building His kingdom of followers that doesn’t really have a government or army or anything. I mean, I know my history and that it will have a government and an army at some point but not for a while. Anyway, it begs the question, are we the kingdom of heaven? Are we supposed to bring that idea down to Earth and live that way? I’m pretty sure we’re failing if that’s the case but I’m getting ahead of myself too maybe.

The next section of the chapter talks about calling the first four disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. This is an often repeated story. They just get up and leave everything and go with Jesus. We hear it in church often enough that I can’t remember the last time I really sat down and thought about it but seriously, was this a command or request? Was there free will involved? There’s no real way to tell, but I thought I’d throw it out there. They just left everything behind as if nothing meant anything with a single request from a total stranger. It’s worth asking the question.

After this, they must have gotten their answer about whether or not it was worth it to just leave everything. Jesus began preaching and healing people. The crowds grew and so did the distance they were willing to travel. From the maps I found, that would put people coming from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.

For downloadable study guides, click here.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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