Temptation And Ministry

Temptation And Ministry

Matthew 4

Who Do You Think You Are?

After his baptism, the Holy Spirit, who anointed Jesus, led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Before his confrontation with the adversary, he fasted for forty days and nights. At the point where Jesus is weak, the enemy begins his attack. Jesus shares the experiences of God's people as he tastes their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They had doubted God’s calling and fell to grumbling and idolatry. Will Jesus succeed where they failed? Satan questions Jesus' identity as the beloved Son—hissing, "If you are the Son of God." The adversary wants to sow seeds of doubt. What does it mean to be God’s Son? And what kind of Messiah must he be?

This opponent tries to entice Jesus to misuse his power in a self-serving way because of his hunger, but Jesus reminds him that real life is not found in bread. Jesus responds by using the word of God to show that people need more than bread to sustain them. True life comes with hearing and obeying God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

In the second temptation, the Devil questions his identity—if you are the Son of God and urges Jesus to leap from the temple to gain knowledge the wrong way. If Jesus throws himself from the top of the temple, will God care? Will he send angels to catch him? The Devil even provides him with a biblical basis for his action, citing Psalm 91. But he distorts the psalm, which promises tranquility and freedom in turmoil, not an entitlement to compel God to respond whenever one pleases. Jesus quickly responded to the Devil with a Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:16 that references Exodus 17:1-7 that we are not to test God.

Finally, the Prince of Darkness takes Jesus to a mountain where he offers something good—for the world’s kingdoms to belong to Jesus. But this time, Satan proposes something inherently sinful: to worship him. He also presents an easy path to glory. Temptations offer promises of quick gratification, which can be hard to resist. Jesus deserves the glory of all kingdoms, but he will accomplish this glory by suffering first. It is a devastating temptation because Jesus has come to win the world. Jesus commands Satan to leave his presence, for God is the only being worthy of worship and demands it exclusively (Deuteronomy 6:13).

This confrontation with the enemy illustrates a much larger picture. Sin entered the world through temptation in a garden because Adam failed his test, and therefore sin ruined all humanity. Here, Jesus is tempted in a wilderness but succeeds where Adam failed. Jesus will bring salvation into the human experience. Jesus felt the full force of the enemy's temptations and resisted every one of them without fail. It is worth noting that Jesus’ resource for confronting these attacks was the Word of God. Scripture is our rule for faith and practice. After the prince of fallen angel departs, other angels arrive and minister to Jesus.


Jesus hears that John the Baptist is in prison. John has been arrested for condemning the king’s adultery. Jesus avoids a similar fate by returning north to Galilee. When reading through the Gospels, I often pay little attention to what region or town Jesus is in. I focus more on what he is saying or doing. But here, even I couldn’t miss all the place names. In verses 12 and 13, five places are mentioned: Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum, Zebulun, and Naphtali. And in verses 23–25, six locations are mentioned: Galilee, Syria, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and Jordan.

If you open a map in the back of your Bible and look at what is described here, you’ll see that Matthew is doing something exciting. Here the whole land of Israel is covered. We have Galilee in the northwest, the Decapolis in the northeast, Jerusalem and Judea in the southwest, and finally, “beyond the Jordan” in the southeast. I can't help but wonder if Matthew is using all this geography to show that Jesus is the greater Joshua. Jesus is Greek for the Hebrew name Joshua. Jesus has come to conquer sin and death and usher in a new and better kingdom, a heavenly kingdom (v. 17), drawing Jews from the north and south and east and west.

Public Ministry

Jesus makes his home in the bustling town of Capernaum, at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. This is where Matthew himself lives and where he will soon become a disciple. He sees another of Isaiah’s prophecies coming true. Gentile Galilee, which had been trampled by armies and darkened by paganism for centuries, is now to receive the light of God’s salvation. Jesus begins to preach a sermon similar to John the Baptist, calling people to repent of their sins. The king announced that the kingdom of heaven had broken through and was now at hand. The public ministry of Jesus has begun.

Calling Disciples

Without many details, Jesus calls two sets of brothers to become the first disciples. They are Simon Peter and Andrew, followed by James and John. These men are fishermen, and when Jesus calls them to follow him, he tells them that he will make them fishers of men. These fishermen respond immediately and drop everything. James and John leave their father to follow this Rabbi. Jesus begins to travel throughout Galilee, where he is welcomed into synagogues and proclaims the kingdom. The kingdom has broken through, and the evidence is undeniable. People are healed of every disease and affliction. It does not matter if it is a disease or pain. Demons flee at his command, and people with epilepsy and paralysis are made whole. Jesus' fame begins to spread, and great crowds follow from the entire region.





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