"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Matthew 4:1-11 -- The Temptation of Jesus

Matthew 4 is connected to the events in the preceding chapter where we ended with Jesus being baptized and a voice from heaven declaring "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Immediately after this the Spirit of God leads Jesus to a desert in order to be tempted. I was reflecting on this earlier and thought there was a lesson here. Sometimes it's after a crowning moment, a glorious time where we are praised or honored that we are sorely tempted. So beware of this. Never think you have "arrived" and are above the tempter's tactics. The Bible warns us against pride and says when we think we stand, beware ... that whole pride-goes-before-a-fall thing, I guess.

So here is Jesus being honored after his baptism, and immediately being lead into a desert where he fasts for 40 days and nights, is hungry and then tempted. And what does Satan appeal to first? His need for food! "Make these stones into bread," Satan challenges, "Come on, Jesus. Prove that you are the son of God. This won't be too hard for you and you can satisfy your need." How many of us yield to temptation because of our "needs"? Maybe that's not such a struggle, but I think it would be after forty days and nights of not eating! By the way, would it have been wrong for Jesus to make stones into bread? Why is this considered a temptation?

OT references

vs. 4 which refers to Deuteronomy 8:3 -- quoted by Jesus
vs. 6 -- Psalm 91:11,12 -- quoted by Satan
vs. 7 -- Deuteronomy 6:16 -- quoted by Jesus
vs. 10 -- Deuteronomy 6:13 -- quoted by Jesus

Did you see that Satan used OT verses as a challenge for Jesus to prove himself?

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

He appealed to Jesus' pride (basically "prove yourself to be whom you really claim to be" or maybe "prove to be what that 'voice from heaven' said you were at that baptism forty days ago") and God's faithfulness in keeping His promises. Another one of those "has God said?" scenarios like he used with Eve perhaps. Maybe there is a lesson for us about distorting messages and using verses out of context in order to justify many things including war, our pride, unkindness and even God's "side." ("God is on my side, not yours. Here's why...[insert verses used to justify this selfish outlook].")

Verse 8 leads me to ask if Satan owns all the kingdoms of this earth. Do you have an opinion on this? I can tell you what my pastor has said, but I wonder if anyone else has an answer.

It's interesting that Jesus allowed himself to be lead by Satan during this testing period. Do you think Jesus wanted us to know that he, too, experienced temptation and defeated it by knowing the Word of God? Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews could write: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." You can't help but see how Jesus refuted Satan three times by quoting from Deuteronomy. Psalm 119:11 tells us, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." And Jesus showed us how we can do this.

There is more in this chapter, but I decided to break it up into two posts as to not make this one any longer. Do you have thoughts or questions about this chapter or anything discussed? Please share them.


sanil said...

By the way, would it have been wrong for Jesus to make stones into bread? Why is this considered a temptation?

I always wondered this too! I never took the time to look before, though. Yay for your study, it motivates me.

I figured it was because he was fasting, but why was he fasting? Especially a 40-day total fast and especially in the Gospel aimed at Jewish people, who do not have any fast like this? But apparently, Mosesand Elijah both did the same thing. They're both very important, revered prophets in Jewish tradition, and my guess would be that this is done to put Jesus in that same category, to get the readers' attention and respect.

Susanne said...

Sanil, wow, that's interesting. I guess this would have been known to the Jewish readers. Hmmm...you often make me think. :)

I thought maybe this was a temptation because the devil told him to do it (literally!)...and we should never obey the devil! But your answer seems more plausible. Maybe it was supplying his own needs instead of relying on God to do so. Or maybe it was a temptation to prove himself (pride, rights)....I don't know. I'm so glad you chimed in on this though.

Loved your comment - thanks!

Amber said...

'So here is Jesus being honored after his baptism'

Hmmm...I never really thought of it that way. I've always viewed it as just the revelation of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all 'present' in the same place, before people.

Food is a very basic, driving need. What's that saying, 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach'? Yeah. Hunger is a very human thing to feel. It requires no ego, no higher thought. It's basic, so it makes sense that it would be the first temptation. Start at the 'bottom' and work your way up.

And, yes, it would have been wrong for Jesus to make the stones into bread. Simply because he was in the middle of a fast, and so had vowed, essentially, to not eat anything for those 40 days. It's not the changing of the stones, so much as the timing, and the breaking of the vow.

The devil knows the Scriptures, and the devil knows God. He used to be an angel, remember? He knows where we have to have faith. It's part of what makes him so good at temptation, at leading people astray. It can all sound so very reasonable.

The second temptation is a 'higher' one. An insult, in a way. Like when we're kids (or some of us, even now). Someone makes a statement, like, 'my daddy's a ninja!' and there's always that one kid going, 'Prove it!' And I think it's also about tempting God. Like the people who handle snakes, because there's one line in the Bible about believers being able to 'take up serpents'. You're just *asking* to die, because you're testing God.

As for the tempting of Jesus, I think, at least a little, it falls under the heading of, 'that which is not assumed is not healed'. Jesus had to assume all of our human nature, in order to heal it. Including our aches and pains, our temptations. And then rise above them, as we cannot always do.

Susanne said...

Amber, I called it an "honor" perhaps wrongly, but it seemed very honorable to me for God to do this. Hey, I'd think God saying "in whom I am well pleased" about me to be reallllly nice. :-) But likely it's just the first verb that popped into my mind that fit what I was thinking when I composed this post.

Really glad you commented on the first 4 studies. I always enjoy your feedback and what you wrote here was brilliant! Thank you so much!

Amber said...


I didn't mean for it to sound like I thought you were wrong for calling it an honor. Sorry if it came out that way. I meant just what I said, that that was a different way of looking at it than I'd ever had before. I agree that it's a very 'honorable' thing. :)

Susanne said...

No problem! I wasn't angry or anything. :)