Gospel of Matthew Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Temptation and His Call
Verse 1: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Matthew 3 contains a true and beautiful message for people everywhere—Jesus Christ, God's Sacred Ambassador to humanity, has also become humanity's Representative before the Father. Jesus was baptized—He did it for us, not for Himself because He is innocent. And here He was, immediately after He went beneath and then up from the waters of the Jordan River, deliberately led by God's Holy Spirit into a wasted place to be tempted. He personally knows what temptations are like for you and me. The first representative of humanity was Adam, who, along with Eve, succumbed to temptation and failed the test of faithfulness. Adam was only a man. It is written in 1 Corinthians 15:45—"The first Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit." Jesus, the "last Adam," succeeded, granting forgiveness and new life to all who will trust in Him.
Verses 2-4: "And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, '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 on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" I don't know about you, but I like to eat, and "forty days" of fasting is too long for anybody. Irish captives, in the guerilla war with England, often fasted in prison, starving themselves as a means of protest. But after thirty or so days, they went blind and then died. And here is Jesus, who now "became hungry," after a dangerous length of time, ardently praying to the Father, for prayer is what true fasting is all about. To someone that hungry, the rounded stones of that region would have resembled loaves of bread, and the "tempter" attacked in the weakness produced by the lack of nourishment. In response, Jesus took up "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11-17). Fill yourself with the Scriptures, the Bible, and when tempted, retaliate with the "Word of God," which in this case is from Deuteronomy 8:3—"...man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."
Verses 5-7: "Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand 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 will command His angels concerning You'
and on their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.' 7 Jesus said to him, 'On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" The "tempter" of Verse 3, is "the devil" of Verse 5. Notice that the limitations of physical space do not inhibit the actions of this "devil" who entered into this sword fight with enthusiasm, quoting Psalm 91:11-12. It's also interesting that this "devil" recognized and inadvertently acknowledged that the Scriptures speak of Jesus Christ. The Psalms are about Jesus, as is all of what we call the "Old Testament," and so is the "New." King Jesus has always been and always will be the fulfillment of Scripture, and the tempter was now faced with a quote of Deuteronomy 6:16 from Jesus: "You shall not temptthe Lord your God." The fight, this duel of Scripture was on.
Verses 8-10: "Again, the devil took Him to a very 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 fall down and worship me.' 10 Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" There is great deception that fills this world. The enemy of God and mankind, this "devil," also called "Satan," disguises himself within religious and political counterfeits produced by the creature who was now continuing to tempt the Lord Jesus. The devil gave up trying to use Scripture as a weapon; simply appealing to the baser instincts of humanity, but Jesus did not give up. The enemy wants to be thought of as a "god," and his very enmity toward Jesus, and through Him, toward all of us, reveals how false his claim of deity is. The Sword thrust of Jesus in this verse is best seen in the Septuagint (Greek) version of Deuteronomy 6:13—"You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only," an essential need for us all.
Verse 11: "Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him." Note that by using the "whole armor of God," (Ephesians 6:10-18) especially, in this instance, the "sword of the Spirit," the enemy was defeated. Jesus has revealed to us how life can be better and victories can be won. Put on the armor of God armor today—and every day—you'll be glad you did. Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. You may or may not detect it, but angels are ministering to you right now.
Verses 12-13: "Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali." Jesus CARED for John the Baptist, and He will continue to care for him—forever. To think it was because John was His earthly cousin, misses the character of the Lord. Yes Jesus became a man, but He always was and is—God. You and I can essentially only think about one or a few people at a time, but He thinks individually of everyone and loves us each nano-second of every day. As was His custom, while a human on this earth, Jesus withdrew for rest, prayer, and because He loves not only His Father, but also His people. We need His intercession, His prayers, and He is indeed praying for us right now (Romans 8:34).
Verses 14-16: "This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 15 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.'" Jesus Christ, appearing in the center of history, FULFILLED the Old Testament, the Psalms, prophets, historical books—all of it. This verse is an observation that He fulfilled Isaiah 9:1-2, quoted here by Matthew. And note Verse 17—"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say,'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Those are precisely the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-2. God is consistent in revealing our need to change our ways. The world, every one of us—we need to repent before our Holy God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, holy, just, graceful and full of love—we need Him and we need the prayers of 1) The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:27), and 2) the Son (Romans 8:34), who continually intercede for all of us.
Verses 18-22: "Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." Jesus, in selecting an inner circle of those who were to be disciples (learners) and then become apostles (sent ones), could have selected any number of people on earth. He could have even reached into the future or the past because He is not limited like we are. Notice that He chose uneducated fishermen, workers to carry His message and blessings into the future. Education resulting in college degrees can be helpful and study can be good, but best of all is a true relationship with the Lord. His call is infinitely better than a mere career choice. And when we do get His call, it's time to leave our nets behind and follow Him.
Verses 23-25: "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan." The Lord's battle with the enemy earlier in this chapter was like a sword fight that most in the world cannot see or understand. Yet it was a triumphal victory, as the Son of God who suffered, was weakened, but then defeated the enemy on his own ground. The battle is on, and the Lord's strategic and loving offensive in war is reflected by these verses. He brings healing to you and me. The enemy fires "bullets" of unbelief and unfaithfulness. The Lord fires back with faith, hope and love. God can and will heal any disease or sickness, mental disorder or paralysis. The greater need, however, is a soul brought out of despair, hopelessness, pride and anger. Sometimes not healing the outer person will cause us to reach out and find the faith we so desperately need, now and forever. A seeming lack of an answer can be the response that is perfect for you and me. And just like the fishermen and "crowds followed Him," let's follow Him now.
Father, I need You so. Much like Jesus became hungry, so am I—hungry for You. Please forgive my sins. I repent before You. I trust in You, Lord. Please give me the strength and courage to follow You, wherever I am to go. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.