Matthew 4.1 -The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Aug 28, 2016

CHAPTER (4) SYNOPSIS = Jesus’ Wilderness Temptation (1-11; this event is also recorded in Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13); The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry (12-25; portions of this event is found in Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11 and John 1:40-42).

1. Jesus being led into the wilderness to be tempted immediately following His baptism is what we should expect as Israel’s new representative son and sacrificial scapegoat[1]:

1.1. This is where the Israelites were led to be tested by God after passing (i.e. being baptized) through the Red Sea (Exo 14 w/1Co 10:1-2 w/ Exo 15:22-16:4w/1 – “led up by the Spirit”)

1.2.  This is where the scapegoat was sent to be terrorized by the demonic realm after receiving the sins of the people (Lev 16:10, 21-22[2] w/1 – “to be tempted by the devil”).

“Matthew 4:1 captures and confirms the dual role given to Jesus in His baptism.” – RSJ

2. Jesus’ fasting for “forty days and forty nights” is also an allusion to Israel’s wilderness experience (2 w/Exo 16:35 w/Num 14:26-35)[3].

3. The temptations of the devil were not arbitrary (i.e. random and w/o reason), but a diabolical attempt to bring down the second Adam (Gen 3:1-5 is the context of the devil’s solicitation; see Rom 5:14; 1Co 15:22, 45)[4] through a deliberate attack upon the greatest commandment (Deu 6:1-5[5] is the context of Jesus’ response[6]):[7][8]

3.1. (1-3) = HAPPINESS: You are entitled to have your desires satisfied as the key to happiness (Gen 3:1)//

(4) = Obedience to God must trump all other desires as the only way to be truly happy (Deu 8:3)[9]

3.2. (5-6[10]) = LIFE: You have the right to live the way you want without consequences for your actions (Gen 3:2-4)//

(7) = We are to take responsibility for our decisions and never expect God to bail us out (Deu 6:16; 12[11] = divine sov. does not excuse human resp.; e.g. Neh 4:9, 14, 20)[12]

3.3. (8-9, 10) = LIBERTY: You are free to be the boss/god of your life/world -i.e. to determine what is right/wrong (Gen 3:5)//(10) = God is the rightful Owner of all and therefore the only One Who sb the boss of our life/world and determining right/wrong. We are to function as His happy slaves (Deu 6:13)[13].

4. Pagans are not the only ones vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. God’s people can also be the targets of the demonic realm (e.g. Job – Job 2:7, Judas – Joh 13:2; Peter – Luk 22:31; 1Th 3:5; Rev 13:1-7[14]).

5. Like Jesus, triumphing over Satan’s solicitations to compromise will:

5.1. Require a willingness to suffer the loss of immediate gratification (e.g. satisfying all your present desires – 2-3; Jam 4:1-7//exercising your authority – 3 – “if you are the Son of God…command these stones”; 6 – “If you are the Son of God…throw yourself down”; Phi 2:5-8; 1Pe 5:5-7//living an easy life – 9 – “All these I will give to you if…”; 2Co 8:9; Rev 2:8-10).

5.2. Result in experiencing both Satan’s departure and God’s comfort, confirmation, encouragement and strength (11 w/Luk 22:42-43 w/Heb 1:14[15]; 1Pe 5:8-10; Jam 4:6-7 w/5:7-11).

6. Our actions (good/righteous or bad/evil):

6.1. Never negate/thwart/frustrate God’s purposes or plan. Rather, they always fulfill it (12-16). (IOW): both are a part of God’s sovereign decree (again Herod arresting John; Pro 16:4; Isa 45:5-7; Act 2:23, 4:27-28)[16].

6.2. Can be an indicator of God’s future plans (15-16 w/Isa 9:1, 2, 42:7 = past prophecy regarding God’s blessing to Galilee no doubt indicates what the present actions and spiritual state of the people in that region wb at the time of Jesus’ visitation – in contrast to Judea[17]).

7. Jesus’ choice of location for ministry also reflects/reveals His understanding of the demographical expectations God has placed on all His people as missionaries (13 – “And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea”; urban v. rural; big city v. country bumpkin; the fallacy of the noble savage)[18].

8. Jesus came as a New Covenant prophet preaching the exact same gospel message as the Old Covenant prophet/preacher, John the Baptist (17 w/3:2; Mat 11:13). Therefore, the mechanics of the New Covenant gospel are the same as the Old Covenant gospel[19].

9. Had Jesus come preaching a gospel contrary to the Old Covenant, no Jew would have listened – irrespective of the miracles He performed (Deu 12:32-13:4 = miracle-working is not enough, the message must also match up w/God’s already revealed word – no adding or taking away). His early popularity therefore also testifies to the fact that the gospel mechanics were the same as the Old Covenant (18-25).

10. The response of the first four disciples to Jesus’ proposal (19 – “follow me and I will make you fishers of men…20 – “immediately they left their nets and followed Him…22 – “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him” = left behind their former careers and family w/o hesitation) reveals:

10.1. They understood the urgency of Jesus’ gospel call (17 – “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” = the time to flee from coming wrath and find mercy is now! Heb 3:7-8; Psa 95:7-11; Isa 13:6, 9; Eze 30:3; Joe 1:15, 3:14)

10.2. The place/priority He must hold in our lives if we (too) wb His disciples/followers (Luk 9:57-62, 14:25-35; contra Mat 19:16-30)[20].

[1] See notes on Mathew 3.

[2] According to Jewish tradition, Azazel was the name of a demon. Israel’s sins were (then) being carried back to the demonic realm. This ritual also served as a reminder of where a person would end if their sins remained on them (Bib. Support for this tradition – see Lev 17:7). Additionally, the phrase translated “remote area” (in v22) referring to the place in the wilderness where the goat was to be sent, literally means “the place of cutting off” or place of excommunication.” In light of these two truths, consider the NT’s understanding of excommunication. It is the act of: 1) placing one’s sin back upon them – i.e. the loss of their former justification, 2) putting them in the place of exile outside the protection of the church, and 3) exposing them to the terrorizing/tempting of the devil as a means to testing/determining their repentance and resolve to turn from sin and truly follow the Lord in faithful obedience (1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20; 1Jo 5:18-19).

[3] Recapitulation (repeat for the purpose of development) is actually the word used to describe Jesus’ life, ministry and purpose within God’s redemptive plan (Eph 1:10 – “sum up” = literally, recapitulate – also Rom 13:9).

[4]“The Son of God… was incarnate and made man; and then he summed up in himself the long line of the human race, procuring for us a comprehensive salvation, that we might recover in Christ Jesus what in Adam we had lost, namely the state of being in the image and likeness of God… Just as mankind in Adam lost its birthright, so in Christ mankind recovers its original condition.” – Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses).

[5] Jesus reveals Deu 6:4-5 to be the greatest commandment or summation of all God’s commands (Mat 22:37). What follows in the remainder of chapter 6, including also chapters 7and 8, represent what such love is to look like. Scholars have suggested that the three verses quoted by Jesus represent its three main principles.

[6] It is worth noting how opposite God’s understanding of love is from popular culture (and Christianity). Where God views it as mandatory and consequential for those who refuse; requiring also that such love be defined exclusively on His terms, popular Christianity attempts to view God’s demand for such love as optional and only genuine where there is no penalty to those who refuse (e.g. “Love Me -on My terms, or remain My enemy and suffer Hell” vs. “I hope you will love Me but I won’t pressure you.”)

[7] Take away man’s obedience and you equally take away his power (over sin, Satan) and his ability to conquer the world for Christ. There is a direct correlation between lack of obedience and those who are unfruitful in their witness. Consider: it is not brains or brawn that identifies that champions of Scripture, but their obedience.

[8] Interestingly enough, the three temptations also represent what America’s Declaration of Independence calls the “inalienable rights” given to every human being by their Divine Creator. As such, it sheds light on who specifically, the authors of this historic document were serving when it was constructed.

[9] Example: Sexual fulfillment from my spouse; career fulfillment, etc. (Phi 2:5-8 w/4:11; 1Co 7:17-24 w/Pro 29:18).The difference between these two views of happiness also represents the competing worldviews/philosophies of ministry in the church today (avoidance of pain v. obedience to God).

[10] The devil quotes Psa 91:11-12. In doing so, he becomes the perfect example of what Peter warns against: people who twist the Scripture’s meaning in an attempt to justify lawless living (2Pe 3:15-16). The devil’s ability to quote Scripture should also provide a clear warning to those who naïvely consider someone a sound Bible teacher simply because of such ability. Again, the proof is in their interpretation/application.

[11] For why John was arrested see Luk 3:19-20.

[12] Example: “There is always hope no matter what I do” (Heb 6:4-6//Act 24:25; 2Co 5:9-10; Mat 12:36-37; Pro 19:3).

[13] Example: The Evangelical doctrine of “Christian liberties”; their selective approach to God’s Law and execution of church discipline (Judg 21:25//Luk 17:10).

[14] This text reveals the way in which Satan can torment Christians – through persecution. This then, also represents his limit. Christians can be tempted and persecuted, but never possessed. Only pagans are susceptible to this form of torment.

[15] People today are infatuated w/angels – or the thought of experiencing their “touch” (e.g. Touched By An Angel). To have such an experience however, requires that a person first be a Christian who has experienced the temptations and torments of the demonic realm w/uncompromising obedience to God.

[16] Sometimes this subject is referred to as Theodicy. Contrary to popular opinion, the Church through history has always affirmed God as the author of sin/evil. What is rejected is His culpability (i.e. He is not the guilty author) since human beings are nonetheless still free (and therefore) responsible in their choices. For a good example of both see Isa 10:5-15.

[17] “Sources contemporary with Jesus indicate the Galileans’ essential loyalty to the Law as they understood it and may have been more strict with respect to some traditional customs than Judea was.” – Craig S. Keener (The Gospel of Matthew, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary)

[18] “Although Jesus had grown up in a relatively unpretentious town (Nazareth), the time had come for Him to find a more suitable base for His urgent mission. Thus He found a town with more people.” – Ibid. Nazareth’s pop. = 1-2k; Capernaum’s pop. = 10-12k. In this light consider Johh 1:45-46 – Even the disciples knew God’s focus was on the big city.

[19] By mechanics I mean, the way in which something is done or how it functions. Though the application (in some aspects) has changed from Old to New Covenant, the machinery or mechanics remains the same. In this respect, the gospel has always been a marriage covenant of gain and maintain.

[20] “Jesus’ call to leave profession and family was radical, the sort of demand that only a radical teacher would make. Jesus’ call was costly economically, involving downward mobility. Fishermen, like tax gatherers, were among the more economically mobile of the village culture. Mark declares that Zebedee’s family employed hired servants (Mar 1:20). Thus these fishermen had much to lose economically by leaving their businesses. Jesus had a base of operations in Capernaum, but He also made a broader circuit of ministry that required His disciples to be away from their homes for substantial periods of time. Such abandonment of full-time livelihood is significant. James and John abandoned not only the boat-representing their livelihood-but their father and the family business. In a society where teachers normally stressed no higher responsibility than honor of parents, some people would view such behavior as scandalous. Matthew does not find in Jesus’ teaching an excuse to downplay one’s responsibilities to one’s family. At the same time, God’s call requires true disciples to value the demands of God’s kingdom more highly than the public shame it brings on their families.” – Ibid