Matthew 4

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The Temptation of Jesus (1-11)

There are parallel versions of this story in Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13. The version in Mark is only two verses, but the one in Luke is quite similar. This event occurred right after Jesus' baptism and empowering by the Spirit, when Jesus was commissioned for ministry, but before he began to teach and gain disciples. This leaves the question of how we have this text.


Verse 1: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (NRSV)

  • Unlike in Mark, this is a gentle leading from the Spirit instead of a violent act.
  • The wilderness here is probably the Judean desert (Jamieson MT 4:1)
  • ”Tempt” is a verb that refers to putting someone on trial, or testing (Liddell 616). This implies that this was not just temptation for temptations sake, but was a test.
  • This was a purposeful act by the Spirit to bring Jesus into temptation, but the Spirit itself did not do the tempting.
    • By this being a condoned act by God, it makes this more of a trial or a test to examine Jesus' readiness for ministry.


Verse 2: He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. (NRSV)

  • Jesus leaving from everything to spend time with God is a normal aspect of Jesus' ministry, especially in Luke.
  • This would not be a fast without any drinking, but of eating. This is supported not just by human physiology, but also because the devil didn't offer Jesus water, only bread.


Verse 3: The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (NRSV)

  • This is a very intelligent statement from Satan.
    • We already know that Jesus was hungry. He would have been wanting bread already. Satan did not ask for Jesus to do anything he wasn't already wanting.
    • Satan also did not phrase it like he didn't believe Jesus had this power, or even doubt (Blomberg 84), but that if Jesus really was the son of God he should feel free to go ahead and serve himself.
  • This deals with rebellion, and that if he is the son, he should be able to act as a son and not a servant, decide what should be done (Walvoord 2:26).


Verse 4: But he answered, “It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' ” (NRSV)

  • Jesus' response is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3. This is a perfect verse because in its' original context is about the Israelites receiving provision from God (Blomberg 84).
    • God provides we do not take, seems to be what Jesus is saying through quoting this particular verse.
    • He is not refuting that miracles can legitimately provide food, but that he is to trust God and not rely on serving himself.
  • There is no mention about how tempted Jesus was, but he was fully human. We do not give that enough credence usually.
    • After 40 days without food, none of us would be too conscientious when it came to getting food.
    • And so instead of relying on his own judgment, Jesus looked to scripture for his strength when he was weak.


Verse 5: Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, (NRSV)

  • The “pinnacle” of the temple is more literally the portico or wing, “the flat topped corner of Solomon's porch on the southeast corner of the temple complex” (Blomberg 84).
  • There is no indication about how Satan moved them, or whether this was just a vision.
  • This would be the spot to find people who would were already looking for God, lots of them.


Verse 6: saying 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 dash your foot against a stone.' ” (NRSV)

  • This is a quote from Psalm 91:11-12. It originally was about accidentally falling and God not letting it happen, not forcing God to intervene and save someone.
  • Satan adapts tactics, and quotes scripture too.
  • The idea was that people were expecting something huge, so why not give it to them as people thought the Messiah couldn't be hurt (Walvood 2:26).
  • Angels would not rescue just anyone, but only someone truly special to God.
    • This is about a public proclamation of Jesus' importance to God without any of the work.
    • Angels carrying someone at the temple would immediately tell everyone who Jesus was, but it wasn't part of the plan, and so shouldn't happen.


Verse 7: Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' ” (NRSV)

  • It isn't clear if Jesus is God in this quote, or if the father is.
  • This quote is from Deuteronomy 6:16.


Verse 8: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; (NRSV)

  • In order to literally see the entire world this would have to have been a trip of the mind, or a vision (Robertson Mt 4:8). This also makes it possible for all of the temptations to have been taking place in a vision or mentally.
  • Jesus spent his entire life in Jerusalem, a small backwater of the world. This was a chance to reach the entire world.


Verse 9: and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (NRSV)

  • This assumes that Satan controls the entire world, and can give it to others. This is questionable.
  • The temptation here is that someone else can do what God wanted you to do, if you make a small sacrifice yourself. What God wants us to do is for us, not for finding shortcuts through others.


Verse 10: Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' ” (NRSV)

  • This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:13.
  • One of the themes of Mathew is the worship of Jesus, which is important theologically given this verse (Blomberg 85).
  • The passage is not clear whether Satan left because Jesus ordered him, or because he realized that Jesus could not be swayed from following God's plan.


Verse 11: Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (NRSV)

  • Jesus did not request them, they arrived.


Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

 VerseDirectionTopicAudienceOccasionCategory
Puppets:Fishers of Men19A puppet learns that fishing for men is about living so that people can see us.EvangelismGeneralGeneralDramas