JESUS WAS NOT only taking man’s place, He was more particularly taking Israel’s place. Israel was called out of Egypt, then they were baptized to Moses in the cloud and sea, then they entered the wilderness. We have just seen Jesus called as God’s Son out of Egypt, and now He is baptized; then as we open chapter 4 we find the Spirit, who had come upon Him, leads Him straight into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Here we find a contrast, for in the wilderness Israel tempted God and failed in everything. Jesus was Himself tempted and triumphed in everything.
Yet the temptations, wherewith the devil assailed Him, were similar to Israel’s testings in the wilderness, for there is nothing new in the tactics of the adversary. Israel was tested by hunger, and by being lifted up in connection with the things of God—seen more particularly in connection with Korah, Dathan and Abiram—and by attractions that might lead them to worship and serve another beside Jehovah, and they fell, worshipping the golden calf. Jesus met each temptation with the Word of God. On each occasion He quoted from a small section of the book of Deuteronomy, wherein Israel is reminded of their responsibilities. In those responsibilities they failed, and Jesus fulfilled them perfectly in every particular.
The devil always sows doubts of the Divine Word. Contrast Matthew 3:17 with Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:6, and note how strikingly this comes out. No sooner has God said, “This is My beloved Son,” than the devil says twice over, “If Thou be the Son of God.” The little word “if” is a great favourite with the devil! Jesus appropriately met him with the Word of God. That Word is indispensable to Man’s spiritual life just as bread is to his natural life. And man needs every word that God has spoken, and not just a few special passages only.
Are we all finding our spiritual life in “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”?
The temptation of Jesus by the devil makes it plain beyond all dispute that a personal devil exists. From the days of Genesis 3:1-24, he had been accustomed to seduce men by appealing to their lusts and pride. In Jesus he met One who had neither lust nor pride, and who met his every onslaught by the Word of God; defeated consequently, he had to leave Him. His conqueror was a true Man, who had fasted forty days and forty nights, and to Him angels ministered. They had never before served their God after this wonderful sort.
The casting of John into prison, as verse Matthew 4:12 shows us, was the event which led the Lord to enter fully upon His public ministry. Leaving Nazareth, He took up His abode in Capernaum, and Isaiah’s prophecy found its fulfilment, at all events as regards His first advent. If we turn up the passage (Isaiah 9:1-7) and read it, we shall notice that both advents are in view, as is so often the case. His coming shone like a star before the prophets, but they did not as yet know that it was a double star. Galilee will yet see the great light of His glory, just as then they saw the great light of His grace. The forerunner having been silenced by imprisonment, Jesus took up and enforced His message of repentance in view of the kingdom being at hand. John’s Gospel shows us that the Lord was active in service before this time. He had disciples, and He visited Judaea when “John was not yet cast into prison” (John 3:24).
This being so, the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John was not the beginning of their acquaintance with Him. That came earlier, and is recorded in John 1:1-51. Evidently also there were times when they or other disciples went about with Him before they were definitely called to leave their secular occupations and give all their time to Him. Following Him, He would make these fishermen to be fishers of men. By diligence and study men may make themselves into good preachers, but fishers of men are only made by Him. He was supreme at this Himself, and walking in His company they would learn of Him and catch His spirit.
In the three verses which close chapter 4, Matthew sums up the early days of His ministry. His message was “the gospel of the kingdom.” It must be distinguished from “the gospel of the grace of God,” which is being preached today. This has the death and resurrection of Christ as its great theme, and announces forgiveness as the fruit of the expiation He made. That was the glad tidings that the kingdom predicted by the prophets was now brought to them in Him. If they would submit to the divine authority that was vested in Him, the power of the kingdom would be active on their behalf. As proof of this He showed the power of the kingdom in the healing of men’s bodies. All manner of bodily sickness and disease was removed, the pledge that He could heal every spiritual ill. This display of the power of the kingdom, coupled with the preaching of the kingdom, proved very attractive, and great crowds followed Him.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany