As we continue on in Matthew chapter 4, we meet a new character arriving on the scene: Satan.
(If you are now joining in this study, you are welcome to begin here at Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1.)
This character is given access to Jesus as Jesus is led into the wilderness for the very purpose of being tempted by the devil. And this character knows who Jesus is. In fact, he is the first character in the story to mention Jesus as the Son of God. That’s interesting. Matthew is hinting to us that even Satan knows Jesus is God. The devil tries to manipulate Jesus into proving Himself and His identity as he says, “If you are the Son of God…[then do this]” in verse 3, but Jesus won’t succumb to the devil’s tactics. Jesus doesn’t need to prove Himself.
This recognition of Jesus’ divinity will continue on in Matthew’s gospel as we will read about demons crying out acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. It’s fascinating that the Jews have such a hard time receiving Christ in this gospel, yet the demons themselves who aren’t on God’s side still know that Jesus is God.
So the devil knows who Jesus is. He’s well aware. He’s just not on God’s side. And He wants Jesus to mess up.
Satan despises Christ, the promised one, because he knows in the end where the story is headed.
God has already declared that Jesus would come to crush Satan just as Genesis 3:15 has predicted and Satan is aware. Satan was there in the garden when God said “…he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Christ is the promised one who will defeat Satan in the end and Satan knows it. Yet he still attempts to thwart God’s plan.
This is why I find is strange that Satan would be given access to Jesus like this. Why would God allow Satan near Jesus if Satan would try to mess up the plan? But as we read chapter 4 and notice Satan’s strategy for trying to tempt Jesus, it seems to me that Satan’s approach isn’t that threatening.
All of the offers that Satan tempts Jesus with are things that Jesus will get eventually…sustenance, glory, power…just not yet. So the only advantage Satan has in this is that Jesus has embraced humanity and is physically weak and malnourished at the moment. That seems to be his only advantage. Otherwise, I’m starting to think that Satan doesn’t really stand a chance in winning this.
In terms of his assault plans, the devil seems to be like more of a pest than a threat. As I read about how the devil tempts Jesus and then I read Jesus’ responses, I’m not getting worried for Jesus. Jesus seems pretty calm. Pretty certain. Pretty unshaken. He’s giving me every reason to be confident in His ability to remain resilient.
So why include this temptation narrative in the story if we expect Jesus to win anyways?
Well we must remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience ultimately. And He wants to convince them. He wants them to know that Jesus is the real deal. That Satan himself knows His name. That Jesus has come to proclaim the words of the Lord that were spoken of in the Old Testament. And Jesus will remain victorious against the devil.
Through this temptation narrative, Matthew establishes right here in chapter 4 that Jesus is the Son of God and that God’s plan through Jesus Christ will not be thwarted by anyone.
Matthew wants the reader to be confident in Jesus.
Even when other characters in the story fail to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, fail to believe He can heal, fail to believe He can save them, fail to believe that He is who He says He is… we as the reader already know that we can be confident in Him because of what we have read in chapter 4. Matthew is showing us that we can count on Jesus. He will not fail. He will not give in to the tactics of the devil or anyone else who tries to get in the way of His goal.
Going on in chapter 4, Jesus withdraws into Galilee and in verse 17 begins to preach the same message that John the Baptist had been preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I thought Jesus might be preaching a new and improved message now that He has come along after John… but Jesus embraces this same message that had been entrusted to John the Baptist: preparing hearts to initiate repentance. A simple goal. A simple message. No frills. John preached it. Jesus now preaches it. It’s what He intends to generate both through others and through Himself. Repentance.
Keep this in mind. As Jesus continues to preach throughout Matthew’s gospel, repentance will always be Christ’s main goal. Everything He speaks is for the sake of calling people to repent so that they can receive the kingdom of heaven.
As we read on we see Jesus seeking out people to come and follow Him.
Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee scoping out the scene and He sees two sets of brothers mending their nets. Then Jesus invites them to join Him and immediately they say yes to this invitation and follow Him. Leaving everything behind. Wow. I wonder why they would have been so persuaded to follow this Jesus who they had never met before? Obviously we have more information than these guys did and we know why Jesus is worth following…but they didn’t. They didn’t know who He was.
So why leave everything to follow this Jesus?
What we must remember as we read is that Matthew is trying to establish the difference between 1) those who hear Jesus’ words and follow Him and 2) those who hear Jesus’ words but don’t follow Him.
So the brothers who follow Jesus personify those who hear Jesus’ words and follow Him.
As we read last week in chapter 3, the Pharisees and Sadducees are among those who hear but don’t follow. Thus, they really aren’t hearing at all ultimately.
Jesus will continue to expound upon this idea of what it means to “hear” as we read along in Matthew’s gospel.
In chapter 5 Jesus will say, “You have heard, but I tell you…”. Jesus knows that what they have heard concerning the law has not been penetrating their hearts. So he talks about the heart extensively in chapter 5. We will read about this further next week. Jesus also speaks in parables as we continue on in Matthew so that “hearing they do not hear…” as it describes in chapter 13.
Hearing is a kind of sifting mechanism in this gospel. Keep this in mind as we progress through Matthew. This gospel separates the ones who hear Jesus’ words and repent from those who hear Jesus’ words and don’t repent, and thus must not really be hearing at all.
This is another example of the 2 opposing force we identified in chapter 2: the ones on God’s side and the ones who aren’t…the ones who hear and the ones who don’t.
As we end chapter 4, Jesus has already accumulated a crowd of followers.
So His words are getting through to many people. His words are calling people to repentance. And we see that Jesus’ presence is drawing people to follow Him at the instance of a simple invitation. That’s pretty powerful. As we progress we will see this simplicity mark the course of Jesus’ ministry. Those who follow Him will tend to do so on the spot or at the moment of encountering Him. Those who hate Him will tend do so quickly or at the moment of encountering Him. Jesus causes a sharp response either way.
As we read through Mathew chapter 4 let us read carefully and pay attention that we may get to know Christ better and fall in love with this Jesus who is coming to draw hearts to salvation. The Christ we can count on. The Christ who has shown Himself trustworthy. Who has shown Himself resilient. May our hearts be open and receptive to His Word as we read more about our Savior, Jesus Christ, seeing that He is worth following and worth trusting in.
Summary of Matthew 4
The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil; Jesus fasts for 40 days and 40 nights; the devil asks Jesus to turn stones into break since he knows Jesus is hungry; Jesus responds to the devil with a passage that comes from Deuteronomy 8:3; the devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple at the holy city and tells Him to throw Himself down, quoting Psalm 91:11-12; Jesus responds to the devil telling him he should not test the Lord, which comes from Deuteronomy 6:16; the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain showing Him all the kingdoms of the world, telling Jesus he will give Him all of these kingdoms if Jesus will worship him; Jesus commands Satan by name to be gone and quotes a passage found in Deuteronomy 6:13-14; the devil leaves; angels come to minister to Jesus; Jesus hears about John the Baptist’s arrest and goes into to Galilee; Jesus goes to live in Capernaum by the sea, fulfilling the Old Testament passage found in Isaiah 9:1-2; Jesus begins to preach, telling people that the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Jesus is walking by the sea of Galilee and sees 2 brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, casting nets into the sea; Jesus asks them to follow Him; they leave their nets and follow Him immediately; Jesus sees 2 more brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John, and He asks them to follow Him; the leave their nets and their father, and follow Jesus; Jesus goes throughout all of Galilee teachings in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing people with diseases; his fame spreads throughout all Syria; people bring the sick to Jesus and He heals them; great crowds follow Jesus from the Galilee and the Decapolis, from Jerusalem to Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Jesus in Matthew
Jesus is led by the Spirit (v. 1)
Jesus is taken into the wilderness by the Spirit (v. 1)
Jesus is tempted by the devil (v. 1)
Jesus fasts 40 days and nights (v. 2)
Jesus is hungry (v. 2)
Jesus is human (v. 2)
Jesus is known by the devil as the Son of God (v. 3)
Jesus is tempted by the devil the first time (v. 3)
Jesus is tempted by the devil to turn rocks into bread (v. 3)
Jesus is tempted with premature physical sustenance (v. 3)
Jesus answers the devil the first time with Old Testament scripture (v. 4)
Jesus tells the devil that man cannot live on bread alone but on the words of God (v. 4)
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 (v. 4)
Jesus is taken to the holy city by the devil (v. 5)
Jesus is set on the pinnacle of the mountain by the devil (v. 5)
Jesus is tempted a second time by the devil (v. 6)
Jesus is tempted by the devil to jump off the pinnacle of the mountain to let angels rescue Him (v. 6)
Jesus is tempted with public glory (v. 6)
Jesus answers the devil the second time with Old Testament scripture (v. 7)
Jesus tells the devil not to test God (v. 7)
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 (v. 7)
Jesus is taken to a high mountain by the devil (v. 8)
Jesus is tempted a third time by the devil (v. 9)
Jesus is tempted by the devil to acquire kingdoms in the world and their glory (v. 9)
Jesus is temped with immediate power (v. 9)
Jesus answers the devil the third time by shouting His name (v. 10)
Jesus tells Satan to be gone (v. 10)
Jesus answers the devil the third time with Old Testament scripture (v. 10)
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 (v. 10)
Jesus is left alone (v. 11)
Jesus is met by angels who come to minister to Him (v. 11)
Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested (v. 12)
Jesus withdraws into Galilee (v. 12)
Jesus goes to live in Capernaum (v. 13)
Jesus fulfills the Old Testament scripture found in Isaiah 9:1-2 (v. 14-16)
Jesus preaches (v. 17)
Jesus’ first message is about repentance (v. 17)
Jesus declares that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (v. 17)
Jesus sees two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, while walking along the Sea of Galilee (v. 18)
Jesus invites them to follow Him (v. 19)
Jesus wants to make them fishers of men (v. 19)
Jesus compels their response (v. 20)
Jesus spots 2 other brothers, James and John (v. 21)
Jesus invites them to follow Him (v. 21)
Jesus compels their response (v. 22)
Jesus preaches in the synagogues in Galilee (v. 23)
Jesus preaches the gospel of the kingdom (v. 23)
Jesus heals the sick (v. 23)
Jesus’ fame spreads (v. 24)
Jesus attracts a crowd of followers (v. 25)
“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” -Matthew 4:17-
Questions for Today:
- Why is Satan allowed to tempt Jesus in this story?
- Why is it significant that the brothers respond to follow Jesus when invited to do so?
- What is important about “hearing” in Matthew’s gospel?
- When Jesus preaches, what is He hoping to bring about?
- How am I learning more about Jesus in Matthew chapter 4?
“We Will Not Be Shaken” by Bethel Worship ft Brian Johnson