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I. When the first Adam fell, by temptation, from a garden to a wilderness, from abundance to want, from empire to slavery, from heaven to hell; and when by the same steps as he descended, our Lord ascended, the first and second Adam were not individuals; each was a representative man; each was the head of a body; each represented multitudes; each drew with him a vast membership. And as in the one many sank, so in the other many rose. We see, then, a beautiful imagery, or reason, why Christ's temptation should be just what it was, and that it should lie at the commencement of His work on earth. It was to teach us that, as a victorious tempter closed the gates of Paradise, so that tempter, conquered, should be the very reason for those gates unclosing.
II. We must always remember that our Saviour's temptation took place immediately after His baptism. So it lay at the foundation of His ministry. First the outpouring of the good Spirit, and then the assaultings of the evil one. First an unction of grace, and then an unction of discipline. And both essential preparations for after-work.
III. They know little who think that they can avoid temptation by flying into solitudes. Expect Satan when you are alone. Stand in your fullest armour when you are alone. But be assured of this temptations make the Christian. They are the trainings on earth for works of usefulness; and they are the trainings for service in heaven. They humble the man. They prove the grace that is in him, by proving his strength. And they are the best schools for after-sympathy. Therefore no believer has cause to regret his temptations. Rather, it is beautiful to see how, in God's discipline, they mellow the character, and draw out the latent forces. If the very name of wilderness associates itself with Satan, it is associated with Satan's downfall. If he is there, so is his Conqueror.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th scries, p. 61.
The baptism of Christ was the culminating point of the spiritual development of His inner life. It was a moment of ecstatic joy, of the highest consciousness of inspiration. We make a mistake, when we think that those forty days in the wilderness were all days of temptation and sorrow. They must have been, on the contrary, days, at first, of peaceful rest, of intense joy.
I. But now we meet the question: How did this become test temptation? To understand this we must recall the two great ideas in His mind; the first that He was at one with the Father that gave Him His perfect joy; the second that He was the destined Redeemer of the race, the Messiah long desired by men. (1) But and here is the point at which suffering and test entered these two voices directly contradicted one another. As soon as Christ turned to the world, with the greeting of His love, He heard coming from the world an answering greeting of welcome, but the ideas which lay beneath it were in radical opposition to His own. The vision of an omnipotent king, and an external kingdom, was presented to His spirit as the ideal of the Jewish people. It came rudely into contact with the vision in His own heart of a king made perfect by suffering, of a kingdom hidden at first, in the hearts of men. It is no difficulty to see the depth and manifoldness of the tests which arose from the clashing of these too opposed conceptions. (2) Christ's humanity was plunged into the deepest sorrow, engaged in the pain of a tremendous struggle against the evil conception formed by men of His mission and His work.
II. The temptation of Christ in the wilderness represents the great law of the history of man's nature that every one of us must, in order to realize our true work and moral position in this world, meet and contend with the powers of evil. Christ is the King by victory of all the warrior-host of God. No truths can be dearer to a human heart than these two the sympathy of the Son of man in temptation; the victory of humanity in the Son of man over evil.
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, p. 251.
I. It was necessary that our Saviour should undergo this conflict, as a part of our redemption. But there can be no doubt that the temptation of our Lord occurred as it did, and has been related as it stands in Scripture, to serve as a model for us, who are still struggling with our subtle foe. And it is of the highest value to us, to trace His conduct under these solicitations, that we may make it our own also, to mark how He handles the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, that we may learn and practise its use for ourselves.
II. Consider the possibility of the temptation. Granted, we may suppose it said, that such a conflict with, and victory over, the tempter was necessary for our Lord; yet how could it in Him assume the form of temptation to sin? Was He not sinless? In answering this question, we must bear in mind, first, how entirely, in our Lord's case, all these solicitations were from without. No motions towards sin can spring up in a person who is sinless. The possibility of the temptation lay in this, that the tempter found in Jesus the same physical tendencies and the same desires which had in our case furnished the inlets to sin. On these he wrought. The enfeebled bodily frame of our Redeemer the challenge to prove His Divine Sonship the subtle use made of the fact that He came into the world to be a King all these seemed to promise success, but all these were tried in vain; for the enemy had nothing in Him.
III. Consider the nature of the temptations. Though they are threefold, yet one ruling idea pervades them all, and it is this, the accomplishing the lawful ends of His mission by unlawful means. The whole was a subtly contrived and consistent endeavour to divert our Saviour from the spiritual course of becoming the Lord of the dead and living, into another and a carnal course; from that path which, steep as it was and unpromising, was the one chosen by Divine wisdom for the salvation of the world, into that which, however it might surely issue in discomfiture and the enemy's triumph, was yet for the present level and alluring. It was a bold and crafty attempt to set aside the true Messiahship of Jesus, and to substitute for it another false messiahship, which might be received by the Jews, and enjoy a short-lived popularity and a rapid access to fame.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 137.
No sooner had Jesus been baptized, while He was yet full of the Holy Ghost, than temptation came. Was that a fall? No, temptation is no fall: it is simply the mark of a true humanity; it is the test which brings out what is highest in human nature; it is the measure and gauge of its noble qualities; you may call it the very mark in man of his diviner being.
I. Observe that temptation assailed Christ first on that very spiritual ground on which He stood. "If thou be the Son of God." Two snares beset Him on that ground; two subtle temptations, addressed, the one to the active, the other to the passive, side of His Divine relationship; the one to that sense of power which He derived from His entire union with and trust in God; the other to that very trust from which it sprang. The first was to put forth the miraculous power He possessed as the perfect Son of God, but so as to assert His independence of God, not His trust in Him. "Command that these stones be made bread."
II. We can understand that our Lord was left by the failure of the first assault upon Him in a very high state of blessedness and exaltation, more than conscious of God's favour and more than ever devoted to His will. Now, that very exaltation of spirit is to be turned into a snare. He had planted himself firmly upon the principle of self-renunciation and dependence upon God. Nothing was ever likely to shake Him from that ground. But might not His trust be corrupted into presumption, and His spirit of filial self-surrender into a fanatical throwing of Himself away? This I conceive to be the meaning of the second temptation. In Christ's view it was not all sacrifice that would be pleasing in God's sight, not every form of trust that would prove a childlike spirit, and give Him the title to be called the Son of God. Life was too holy, and God's providence was too holy, to be trifled with, even to produce a great impression.
III. In passing to the third temptation of Christ we are struck at once by the change of ground on which it rests, as compared with the two which preceded it. In both of these it was seen that there were spiritual grounds for the course suggested. The third temptation was a temptation to substitute the material for the spiritual world, to take this, and not the other, for the field of His ambition and the object of His work; to banish from His thoughts, as a mere day-dream, the idea of a God to work for in the world, a God who claimed men for His own, and whom it was His special mission to declare to them. And the bribe held out was worldly power. When the temptation comes to us, as it is sure to come, in one form or other, may we have grace to act upon the instinctive horror which the first notion of it stirs, for the instinct is true that it is devil-worship; may we stand as Christ stood, and say, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
A. Young, Cambridge Review, March 4th, 1885.
The temptations of the devil were all skilfully directed to try the question whether Jesus was so thoroughly one with the Father as He professed to be, and as it was necessary that He should be; whether His Father's business really was the one interest of His heart and the great business of His life; whether His delight in doing God's will was so strong that it could not be overcome by any intense feeling; whether, under high pressure, some discord might not be revealed between Him and the Father.
I. Can He be tempted to use His power for any unwarrantable act of self-indulgence? He is faint and hungry through long fasting, and the craving for food is intense. Though He has no food in His hands, He has ample power of producing it. He has power to turn the very stones into bread. Why should He not use that power? In some way or other this thought is instilled by the devil into Jesus' mind. But Jesus intuitively apprehends that this course is not in accordance with the Father's will. The miraculous power which He has received is a for sign to the world, not a mere convenience to Himself; His miracles are to be symbols of men's deliverance from the thraldom of evil, not mere sources of ease or comfort to the worker. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
II. Baffled here, the tempter tries another device. He cannot tempt Jesus to any act of self-indulgence, but may He not tempt Him to an act of self-display? What if the crowd of worshippers were to see Him descending unhurt from the pinnacle of the Temple? Would not that give them a new sense of the honour in which they should hold Him, and gain for Him an attention not to be otherwise secured? It was a subtle temptation to put self in the centre. Such a course could not but be regarded by Jesus as showing a discord with the Father, as decided, though not as flagrant, as if He had directly disobeyed His will. It was a proposal He never could entertain. Never of His own accord would He plunge into danger to let the world see how God protected Him. He would do His work quietly and steadily, avoiding all display, neither seeking nor desiring the applause of men.
III. But even yet the tempter has not exhausted his wiles. He knows the greatness and the difficulty of the work which Jesus has undertaken; He knows that He has got the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. Inch by inch the Messiah must push His conquests, encountering in each case the natural opposition of the heart, and from time to time the confederate forces of all His foes. Might not the desired result be reached in a shorter way? Satan offers to make over to Jesus his whole power and interest in the world on one small condition. Jesus must do obeisance to him as a sovereign transferring his rights; He must fall down and worship him. "Get thee behind Me, Satan." The immediate possession of the whole world is not for a moment to be dreamed of at the cost of even one act of disloyalty to God. Jesus would encounter ten thousand battles, would spend centuries in pain and disappointment, rather than so much as breathe a thought out of keeping with the claims of the great Lord of all.
W. G. Blaikie, Glimpses of the Inner Life of our Lord, p. 74.
The Missionary Trials of the Church.
All who are earnestly striving for the spread of Christ's Kingdom on earth are exposed from the very earnestness of their seeking and striving to one great temptation, the one which really underlies all the three temptations of our Lord, and to which He was exposed all His life long the temptation to promote His Kingdom by means which are not in agreement with that one fundamental law according to which alone it can truly develop itself. That law is the law of conquest by self-sacrifice.
I. First, there is the trial of the wilderness. The first temptation is a proposal to preserve the human life of Jesus by means of His Divine power; that is, to preserve it by violation of that law of His Kingdom which forbade Him thus to save Himself. Had He clone thus He would have refused the Cross.
"Man doth not live by bread alone." This is the martyr spirit of the Church. In this spirit the early Church conquered the world. Thus beneath this banner of the Cross her warriors went forth to victory, and it was not until the wilderness trial had ended that her missionary zeal abated, her first love grew cold, and she left the heathen half won, the uttermost parts of the earth unclaimed for her Lord.
II. Let us follow our Lord from the wilderness to the temple, from lowliness to prominence, from weakness to power, from fear to security. As in the wilderness the region of the natural the temptation was mainly to the flesh, here in the region of the spiritual the temptation is altogether to the spirit: "Cast Thyself down, for angels shall bear Thee up."
The history of the second temptation is written at large in the history of the visible Church. The pinnacles of success, the high places of spiritual triumph, are giddy and slippery places. Ever as our Churches grow will grow their difficulties from these sources. False doctrines, heresies, schisms have yet to be encountered. The struggle of the earlier Church is for existence; as she grows, her trial is to order her life aright.
III. The tempter's offer in the third temptation was nothing less than the surrender to Christ of all the power he had possessed and all the glory he had usurped the power to rule men, the glory of the empire over the beings whom God had made in His own image. It was this empire not merely material but moral over the kingdoms of men, that the tempter offered the Son of man.
And ever from that hour the tempter tries, by the same temptation, the souls of Christ's disciples. Truly it is possible for any of us to have some larger portion of the world if we will only pay the devil's price for it. And it would seem as if the temptation to compromise with the devil for the possession of God's world is the great temptation of Christian Churches and Christian nations in these latter days.
Bishop Magee, The Gospel and the Age, p. 57.
The life of Jesus is the example of His people. What He did, we must do; what He suffered, we must suffer. As Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness of Judæa, to be tempted of the devil, so are we led by the same Spirit through the wilderness of this world, and all our life here is a tempted life.
I. It was after He had partaken of two great means of grace, Baptism and Fasting, that Jesus was tempted. Great spiritual blessings are often followed by very severe temptations.
II. The three kinds of temptation which were offered to our Lord correspond very closely with the enemies with whom we all have to fight; the flesh, the world, and the devil.
III. Try to encounter the devil's attack with the weapon of Holy Writ. There is written down what a Christian's duty is; hold fast to that.
IV. Do not willingly put yourselves in the way of temptation. As says an old writer, "Do not shout in the ear of a sleeping temptation." When it is the Holy Spirit who leads us, however severe our trial may be, God will, with the temptation, provide a means for our escape.
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 140.
I. All good men who had ever been in the world had believed that they were in some way or other united to One whom they could not see. They were good and right and true, so far as they trusted in Him, and guided their steps by the light He gave them. But every man knew that there was something in him which hindered him from exercising this trust, something which said, "Thou canst live without it." Each man was fighting with himself, fighting with his own evil inclinations; it seemed as if he had nothing to do with his neighbours; it seemed as if the desire to resist was one that no one else could possibly share in. Every one was alone in this war, and yet it was the common war, the war of all mankind.
II. What fight could our Lord have to fight, seeing that the very thing which all other men had been contending with in themselves was not in Him? Do you not see that He would be able to feel fully what each one had felt imperfectly, that He was fighting the common enemy fighting an enemy who was entirely separate from Him, who was the most entirely unlike Him, and who, therefore, was assaulting Him more directly than he had ever assaulted any other being? He that was perfectly separate from sin would see down to the root of each particular sin, and would know that it was this which was seeking to destroy Him, and which He was come to destroy. His conflict, therefore, would be with the very spirit of selfishness, and division, and disobedience. This is the awful battle which you hear of in the Gospel of today.
III. Our Lord's fast was not to gain anything for Himself, but to maintain a glory which belonged to Him; to fit Him for engaging with His enemy; to fit Him for going about doing good. Even so must it be with His disciples. When they fast it must not be to obtain a privilege, but to realize one which God has freely bestowed on them; not to save themselves from temptation, but to prepare themselves for it; not to separate themselves from others, but to fit themselves better for helping others.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 142.
References: Matthew 4:1 W. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 1; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i., p. 146; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 51; E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 200; C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 61; J. M. McCulloch, Sermons, p. 95; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 344; H. Wonnacott, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 59; vol. xvi., p. 72; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 91; J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 70; E. G. Charlesworth, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 46; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 20; H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 1.Matthew 4:1 , Matthew 4:2 . E. B. Pusey, Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, p. 391; H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p. 77.
The record of our Lord's temptation, which is specially commended to our consideration in Lent, must needs be momentous, first, in its import for the comprehension of the spirit of His ministry, and secondly in its example to ourselves.
I. Consider especially the first temptation, to turn the stones into loaves of bread. This, as we are expressly told, was addressed to our Lord's sense of physical necessity and suffering, combined with His consciousness of the possession of miraculous power by which He might have relieved them. And in what did the evil of the suggestion consist? There were, it has been observed, other times in our Lord's life and ministry when He did not hesitate to have recourse to His miraculous powers, even for His own preservation, as when He passed through the hostile crowd at Nazareth; and there seems obviously nothing essentially wrong in the exercise of such powers. But our Lord's answer, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," points to the fact that the use of His miraculous power on this occasion would have been inconsistent with the express will and words of His Father. His endurance, for reasons beyond our full comprehension, had been imposed upon Him by the Spirit of God, and He would, therefore, have been acting in disobedience to an express direction of His Father if He had used the power with which He was endued to escape from the trial.
II. Now it would seem obvious that this is an example of the earliest and simplest and yet, in some respects, the most persistent temptation by which ordinary human beings are beset. The commonest temptations of life are aroused by physical cravings, together with the opportunity of gratifying those cravings in some manner which is contrary to the declared will and ordinance of God. Man's only safety lies in grasping the principle which our Lord here asserted in answer to the tempter, that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." So far as it is necessary for him to live here, all natural provision that is essential for him will be made by his Father in Heaven. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto us.
H. Wace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 145.
Reference: Matthew 4:1-4 . C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., pp. 109, 177.
I. One cannot help thinking and wondering why this temptation should take place, and though all the reasons cannot be known, some of them we think we can see. We know there is a devil. Perhaps the most clever of all Satanic schemes is that in which he persuades men that he does not exist. What would suit a general better than to persuade the troops he is seeking to destroy that he is a mere creature of the imagination, that all the stories told about his being seen are mere inventions, and that, therefore, there is no need to take any precautions?
II. If Christ had not been tempted, we should have heard the old mocking laugh of Satan, as when God spoke of Job, "Thou hast set an hedge about him." If Satan had not been worsted in the struggle how cleverly would he have insinuated that the Saviour was not perfect. Satan cannot now say that Christ is untried.
III. Then, it has been proved that a man can resist sin in its strongest forms, for it was not as God that Jesus was tempted, but as the Son of man. It was the human nature that was tempted. Where would be the force of reasoning in Hebrews 4:13 if we are to believe that it was the Divine and not the human which fought and won the battle?
IV. As we read the story of the temptation, we cannot but be struck with the ignorance of Satan concerning Jesus. He did not understand Him. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the arch-enemy is not omniscient. He learns quickly, but there are many things he has yet to learn. Besides, he, like bad men, is ready to think that every one is as bad as himself. The fact is, Satan cannot appreciate goodness, and makes as many mistakes as ever.
V. Jesus has taught us the use of the Bible in self-defence. The Captain of our salvation girded Himself with the sword of the Spirit. It is useless to expect to conquer without the heavenly brand. You will be mortally wounded if you are not able to parry the strokes of the enemy. Search out the meaning of God's word, and what you know, use. There was great vehemence in the words of Jesus. He was not content to parry the stroke; He cut with the edge of His blade. And the wounds He made have not healed to this day.
T. Champness, New Coins from Old Gold, p. 55.
References: Matthew 4:1-11 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 57; vol. ii., p. 419; vol. viii., p. 68; T. Collins, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 248; R. C. Trench, Studies in the Gospels, p. 1; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 96; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., pp. 44, 161; A. Macleod, Talking to the Children, p. 21; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., pp. 99, 109; A. M. Fairbairn, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 321; J. J. Murphy, Ibid., 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 312; G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, p. 126. Matthew 4:2 . J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 44; W. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 32.
I. the depth of the intention of Satan's question. It opens at once a dilemma. Canst Thou be thus without bread, and yet be the Son of God? Nay, the thing is contradictory. "Give up the thought of Thy Sonship." Satan's great aim is to cut off the sense of sonship, for he knows well how the peace and the holiness of every man depend upon the feeling himself the child of God. Therefore, he does everything in the world to check that confidence in a man's soul.
II. What would have been the result if Christ had followed Satan's advice? It would have been (1) to do what Christ never did, to work a miracle for Himself, and exert His omnipotence only for His own gratification; (2) it would have been distrustful of the Divine providence, to go out of His way to obtain by the supernatural that which God could and did supply by natural means; and (3) it would have placed the material above the spiritual, the well-being of the body above the welfare of the soul.
III. Our Lord's answer takes us at once to this high thought, not only that God will provide as He did by the manna what is necessary for the body, but that He is the food for the soul; the food of truth truth in Scripture, truth in Christ; a food far more important than material bread; as much more important as spirit is more important, and if you fell, there was a point where you did precipitate yourself.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, pp. 77, 85.
References: Matthew 4:2-4 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 150; H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 13.
I. The first recorded trial of our Saviour connects itself no doubt with His recent fast or extreme abstemiousness of forty days. He was afterwards an hungred. "If Thou be the Son of God," said the tempter, "command that these stones be made bread." "Devote," in other words, "the first exercise of those Divine gifts and miraculous powers, with which Thou art endowed, to the supply of the bodily and material necessities." Before expending this miraculous faculty in the most direct, and normal, and habitual service of the Heavenly Father, why not inaugurate its exercise by employing it for the first time in creating a treasure, easily convertible into bodily supplies, that can at all times be conveniently resorted to, and which shall place Himself and His indigent followers in a position independent of the sordid cares of life, and keep the Divine work from being checked or choked by the miserable anxieties of material existence?
II. And yet, if we may without irreverence for a moment imagine the Saviour to have listened to that suggestion, He would have deranged thereby the whole economy of the Kingdom of God. The power with which He was gifted, or which rather He brought with Him from the throne of God, was sufficient, and no more, for the purpose of effecting His sublime mission upon earth. In visiting this earth the Redeemer laid aside not only His Divine glory, but His Divine power also, except so much of it as was needed for effecting works of mercy upon other people. For Himself He never permitted the smallest employment of that mysterious faculty, for the supply of one fragment of bread, nor of one cup of water, nor for the assuagement of one throb of pain. To have placed Himself in a position of superhuman security against the wants and infirmities of human nature; to have reserved for His own personal behoof a fund from which every want could be easily supplied, would have been to place Himself outside the circle of humanity. It would have been to defeat, to neutralize, to cancel that profound and that sublime self-sacrifice which constitutes the essence and heart of Christianity.
W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 252.
I. The danger of spiritual temptations is that they do not look like temptations. They do not look ugly, absurd, wrong. They look pleasant, reasonable, right. The devil, says the Apostle, transforms himself into an angel of light. If so, then he is certainly far more dangerous than if he came as an angel of darkness and horror. Our worst temptations sometimes look so exactly like what is good, and noble, and useful, and religious, that we mistake the evil for the good, and play with it till it stings us, and we find out too late that the wages of sin is death.
II. How shall we get to know these temptations? The root of them all is pride and self-conceit. Whatsoever thoughts or feelings tempt us to pride and self-conceit are of the devil, not of God. The spirit of pride cannot understand the beauty of humility, and the spirit of self-will cannot understand the beauty of obedience; and, therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that the devil could not understand our Lord. The temptations were clearly meant to tempt our Lord to pride. Whenever we, in like manner, are tempted to do or say anything rash, or vain, or mean, because we are the children of God; whenever we are inclined to be puffed up with spiritual pride, to fancy that we may take liberties which other men must not take, because we are the children of God, let us remember the words of the text, and answer the tempter, when he says, "If Thou be the son of God, do this and that," as our Lord answered him. If I be the child of God I must behave as if God were my Father. I must trust my God utterly, and I must obey Him utterly. I must do no rash or vain thing to tempt God, even though it looks as if I should have a great success and do much good thereby. I must worship my Father in heaven, and Him only must I serve. My business is to do the little, simple, every-day duties which lie nearest me; and then, if Christ will, He may make me ruler over many things, and I shall enter into the joy of my Lord, which is the joy of doing good to my fellowmen.
C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day and Other Sermons, p. 65.
I. Where was the evil of the thoughts which the tempter placed before Jesus? And why would our Lord (if He had given heed to them) have yielded to that spirit which He came to conquer? (1) "If Thou be the Son of God." It is not, then, certain that He is the Son of God. That voice from heaven, the seal of His baptism, the descent of the Spirit, were not sufficient to prove Him so. He must get some other evidence of it than this. You see here is distrust. But what is the life of the Son of God? It is the life of faith, the life of trust. In the act of proving Himself to be the Son of God He would have renounced the name. (2) "If Thou be the Son of God command. " He was to use His power, and He was to show Himself a son, by showing what He was able to do. But the life of the Son of God was the life of obedience. (3) "Command that these stones be made bread. " Here was an exhortation to do something for Himself, to use the power wherewith He had created the world for the satisfaction of His own wants. But the power of God, the power which goes forth from the Father and the Son, the power which breathed life into all things, is the power of love, the power of diffusing blessedness. If our Lord had used His creating power for Himself, He would have been giving up this life of love which He had as the Son of God.
II. The answer. Our Lord would not separate Himself from the creatures which He had formed, He would speak as if He were one of them. His answer was as much as saying, "My glory, as the Son of God, shall consist not in the power that I use over these stones to make them bread, but in the power that I have received to go through whatever my people have gone through in all past time, so that men of every age shall own in Me one who has perfectly entered into their feelings and undergone their trials, and has cheerfully endured whatever My Father has been pleased to lay upon them."
III. If by this answer our Lord made Himself one with us in our humiliation, and claimed for us the privilege of being one with Him in His blessedness, He also teaches that we are partakers in His temptation.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 154.
References: Matthew 4:3 . Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 9; M. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 69. Matthew 4:3 , Matthew 4:4 . Ibid., p. 104.
I. God has appointed, under all ordinary circumstances, that we should sustain life by the secondary means of earthly food; but where He has placed man under special bonds of duty, and pointed out before him a course of action higher and nobler than the mere sustaining of the body, He can and will nourish him in this course of duty; or even if it should in its fulfilment wear out and bring to dissolution this physical frame, He can and will provide for that man's true life in a better and more exalted sense. His real life, his real sustenance, is not to be found in bread alone, but in God's appointment, God's service, that which cometh out of the mouth of God. What a noble example have we of such a spirit in our blessed Lord! He came into the world to serve the Father, with a definite path of duty marked out before Him. Though He was the Son of God, He submitted Himself to hunger and pain, to tears and sorrow, to insult and rejection, rather than for one instant transgress the limits which He had marked out for Himself. He lacked the bread of the world, but it was that He might feed the world with the bread of life. He was deprived of the comforts of this world, but it was that He might be the Everlasting Comforter of this world's mourners. By His rejection of all unworthy and secondary means of attaining His end, and following simply His Father's will, He showed us that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
II. The tempter comes to each of us, and tries to make us swerve from our true work into selfish and worldly courses. We have not, it is true, supernatural power to abuse, but we have each of us talents, faculties, worldly means, to be laid out on this our work. And the temptation comes to us in this form: Take thy talents, take thy faculties, take thy worldly means, lay them out for thyself. These are our temptations, and it is for us to remember that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 152.
I. Since man has a complex nature, his life must inevitably be a failure in so far as he neglects to bring that nature in its entirety to the greatest possible perfection. For this it is necessary that the lower principles be guided and controlled by the higher. Neither the narrow desires of sense, nor the wider and more comprehensive desires, such as love of wealth and power, are to be eradicated; but their original character of independence is to be changed. Complete self-development requires that we regard our nature as a whole estimating at their proper value all its various elements, and using them according to their respective characters of subordination and supremacy.
II. But further, complete self-development requires that we remember the next life as well as the present. It is imperative on us all to remember that the "grave is not our goal," and that our life on earth is but an elementary stage in our existence. Though there is not required from us any irrational rejection of pleasure, there is required from us the reasoning and reasonable rejection of it where it would be incompatible with our complete all-round development. Though there is not required from us any hypocritical profession of contempt for the world in which we live, there is required from us serious reflection upon the fact that we carry latent within us "the power of an endless life." Though we should not ignore, nor attempt to destroy, the lower elements of our nature, we should and, if we would be perfect, we must subdue them, and press them into the service of the Spirit.
A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, p. 135.
This text offers an answer to the question, How shall we live? It strikes out in a sentence a theory of living. Satan, as the prince of this world, announces his theory, and tries to win Christ's assent to it: "Man lives by bread and by bread alone." Christ replies, "Man lives not by bread, but by God. Man lives by God's gifts, only as God is behind them. Man's real support is not in the gifts, but in the Giver."
I. What is covered by this word "bread"? It covers the, whole visible economy of life, all that range of supplies, helps and supports upon which men usually depend to keep themselves alive and to make life comfortable and enjoyable. The world's commonly accepted theory is, "By these things we live. We cannot get on without them." Now I am not blind to men's natural and pardonable anxiety about such things. Food and garment and home are parts of God's own economy of life in this world; and Christ Himself says, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." The Kingdom of God includes bread; and hence, in the Lord's Prayer, immediately after the petition, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done," comes the prayer for daily bread.
II. If our Lord had yielded to this first temptation, He would have committed Himself to the bread theory as the law of His Kingdom, no less than of His own life. He would have said, by changing the stones into bread, "As I cannot live without bread, so My Kingdom cannot thrive so long as men's worldly needs are unsupplied. My administration must be a turning of stones into bread. We know that this has not been Christ's policy. He abjured it in this answer to Satan. This is what Christ asserts, that society no less than man as an individual truly lives only as it lives by dependence on God. Social prosperity is based on righteousness. Man lives by God's gifts, but not by the gifts only by bread, but not by bread alone. Bread is nothing without God. Bread gets all its power to feed from God. Bread points away from itself to God. Bread has a part in the Divine economy of society, but it comes in with the Kingdom of God, under its law and not as its substitute.
M. R. Vincent, God and Bread, p. 3.
The Food of Man.
I. Consider what it is for which consciousness and the best experience of our race unite in saying that the immediate advantage and pleasure of the senses must be surrendered. Jesus described it to His tempter as "the word of God." And the word of God includes two notions one of revelation and one of commandment. Whenever God speaks by any of His voices it is first to tell us some truth which we did not know before, and second to bid us do something which we have not been doing. Every word of God includes these two. Truth and duty are always wedded. There is no truth which has not its corresponding duty. And there is no duty which has not its corresponding truth. He, then, who lives by the word of God is a man who is continually seeing new truth and accepting the duties that arise out of it. And it is for this, the pleasure of seeing truth and doing its attendant duty, that he is willing to give up the pleasures of sense, and even, if need be, to give up the bodily life to which the pleasures of sense belong.
II. In consciousness and in experience man finds the witness of his higher nature. But consciousness and experience both of them are weak in all of us. Here is where the revelation of Christ comes in. Christ is both the Revealer of a man's life to himself and the Revealer of the world's life to all of us. It is when Christ is in you that the highest motives become practically powerful upon your life. We think of Christ as the Liberator. But we do need to know what the character of the liberation which He brings us is. He wants to awaken your dead conscience, and to quicken into life and aspiration the apparently dead and depressing experience around you, so that you shall feel in yourself the response to higher motives, and recognize in all history the loftier and more spiritual possibility of man. That is true liberty. It does not cast the lower things away. Man shall live by bread, but not by bread alone. The things that supplied the lower wants are not thrown away, but they are used no longer to enslave and bind, but simply to sustain and steady, the life which moves now under spiritual impulse.
Phillips Brooks, Sermons, p. 265.
References: Matthew 4:4 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1208; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 259; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 27; C. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 261.
I. Our Lord was carried from the wilderness to the holy city. Understand by this how all our circumstances in the world may be changed, and yet the tempter be with us still. Hundreds of men have gone out into the desert thinking that in that way they should escape temptation, but it has found them out. The spirit of evil has shown them that they do not escape from him by escaping from men. Then they have run back into the holy city; they have thought that they were exposed to danger because they were away from the ordinances of God. But there, too, they have found there was no security; it has only been a change from "Command these stones to be made bread," into "Cast thyself down from hence."
II. Consider what was the particular temptation of our Lord when He was brought into the holy city. I have no doubt that when our Lord was reflecting on the iniquities of the holy city, the devil suggested to Him the thought, "What avails it to be a Jew, to be a citizen of God's city, a member of the holy nation, when holiness and purity and unity have utterly deserted it? If Thou be the Son of God set an example of throwing away these vain privileges." Precisely this temptation is presented to all of us this day.
III. Understand next from this history of our Lord's second temptation that we are not to plead love to our brethren as any excuse for going out of God's way or doing work which He has not set us to do. Our Lord was urged to cast Himself down from the Temple, that He might convince the Jews of their unbelief. He who urged Him to it wished Him in that very thing to commit an act of unbelief. Thousands of such acts have been committed by men who thought that they were honouring God and helping their brethren. They were doing neither: To be working together with God is our highest honour. When we are not doing this we cannot be working any good to ourselves or to any other man.
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 171.
I. It was a master-piece of Satan to take Christ to the Temple. There was the spot which God loved best in the whole earth, that He had fenced around with most special and jealous care. It had been the scene of the most glorious manifestation of Jehovah. And because of all this Satan bore our Saviour thither. What spot so proud, of earth, on which to rear his trophy?
II. The object of the second temptation was a proud and ambitious display of supernatural power. It was an act of self-aggrandisement, done in a false confidence, for an apparent good; and the word which would sum up the whole would be presumption. Presumption is the expectation of an end without the means, an ungrounded hope of a Divine interposition, an abuse of a privilege, a departure from a general law for a selfish end.
III. In quoting a verse from Psalm xci. Satan does as he is ever wont he destroys the force of the promise by making it vague. And where there is no accuracy there never is power. He omitted the four words "in all thy ways." The promise is only to thy way.
IV. It is evident that the tempter had no power to cast Christ down from the Temple, or to force Him to take the flight; but he plies his argument, and then he says, "Cast Thyself down." There is no sin which is not voluntary. Those points where the power to do, or the power to forbear, still lives are sometimes very small. But they are the crises of every man's moral history.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, p. 69.
References: Matthew 4:5-7 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 689; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 377; F. W. Farrar, Church Sermons, vol. ii., p. 296; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 151; H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 25; W. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 141.Matthew 4:6 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 361; T. Birkett Dover, Lent Manual, p. 31.
I. In this temptation, as in the last, our Lord's situation is ours. Placed here to do God's work, we are assured, while in that work, of His gracious protection. No danger can assail the servant of God of which he need be afraid. His bodily frame is in the gracious charge of His Heavenly Father, and much more his spirit that for which and by which his flesh lives, and from which it derives its aim and its dignity. Let the servant of God be found in His ways, and his ultimate safety is assured.
II. But as in our Master's case, so in ours, it is even on this safety that the tempter founds his attack. His aim ever is, to turn the Christian's security into a carnal security; to deprive it of its right character a holding on by faith to the everlasting strength of God and turn it into presumption, into a dependence upon God's protection without His warrant, to persuade us to cast ourselves into danger, relying on that help which, out of God's course, we have no reason to expect.
III. Do Christians never thrust themselves into spiritual danger, presuming on the Divine help? What are, for example, all their very near approaches to sin, as they suppose with a safe conscience? What is it but tempting God to be bound under a vow to renounce the world and the flesh, and then to lead a life of entire dedication to the world and indulgence of the flesh? What is it but tempting Him to be going carelessly on as if life were nothing but a spending of so much time, as if hours and days and years were not speeding away to their account, with all their mercies and opportunities and judgments recorded against us, if not for us? He who walks not circumspectly is tempting God, casting himself on the ocean of life without chart or compass, and looking to Him who has provided both for his use, to bring him safe to heaven without them.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 168.
The Inductive Study of the Scriptures.
I. In prosecuting a systematic and inductive examination of the Scriptures, there are three things in reference to which we must always be on our guard. (1) We must see that all the passages brought together for the purpose have a real bearing on the subject in hand. (2) We must see to it that we give to each passage its own legitimate weight no more, no less. (3) We must see to it that our induction of passages is complete.
II. Look at a few subjects in the consideration of which the importance of the application of these principles will be seen. (1) The doctrine of the Trinity. While there are many passages in both the Old Testament and the New which give the strongest emphasis to the unity of God, "It is written again," and frequently, that the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; while in such formulæ as that of baptism and that of the apostolic benediction, each is so named as to indicate that there is in each something that is unique and distinctive; I dare not reject either side of the apparent inconsistency without failing to take note of some of the Bible statements on the subject; and if I do that I am guilty of setting myself above revelation, and making my reason, not Scripture, the infallible standard of my faith. (2) The same principles may be applied as regards the doctrine of the Person of Christ, of the Atonement, of the difficult questions which cluster about the sovereignty of God and the free agency of man and of prayer.
III. Note three important inferences. (1) Every heresy has in it a certain modicum of truth. (2) The truth thus mixed up with error is very generally something that has been too much overlooked. That which has been neglected revenges itself at length by claiming more than its due share of importance. (3) Error is to be most effectually met by recognizing the portion of truth which it contains. Bring that back to its proper importance, then supplement it by putting it along with those other sides of the truth which are needed to give it full-balanced completeness. Let it be acknowledged fully and frankly "it is written;" but then let it be added, "it is written again."
W. M. Taylor, Contrary Winds and Other Sermons, p. 260.
I. The root of the third temptation lay in the thought that the kingdoms of the world were the devil's kingdoms, and that it was he who could dispose of them. If our Lord had believed this, if He had acknowledged this claim, He would have been falling down and worshipping the evil spirit, He would have been confessing him to be the Lord. But for all that He beheld the horrible vision of human misery and human crime; for all that He found men actually doing homage to the spirit of evil, actually serving him with their thoughts, and words, and deeds; in spite of all this, He believed and knew that these kingdoms were not the devil's kingdoms, but God's kingdoms. He knew that men's sins began in this, consisted in this, that they thought and believed the devil to be their king, when God was their King.
II. It is a hard thing to believe this, when there are so many things that seem to contradict it, but believe it we must, if we would be honest men. Holy men have been betrayed into sins which make one weep and blush when one reads the history of Christ's Church, because they have thought that falsehood and evil were the lords of the world, and that if they were to overcome the world they must do it by entering into some bargain or compromise with these masters of it. The devil was saying to them, "These are mine, and I give them to whomsoever I will." They believed him. He asked this token of homage from them, and they paid it. The mischiefs that have followed from every such faithless act have been more than I can tell you, and though they are no warrant to us in condemning others, they are most terrible warnings to ourselves. Such temptations can only be resisted, as the enemies of saints and martyrs were resisted, by the might of Him who said, "Get thee behind Me, Satan."
F. D. Maurice, Christmas Day and Other Sermons, p. 185.
True and False Ascensions.
It would have been an ascension if our Lord, on that exceeding high mountain, had taken, at Satan's hand, all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. For to take the same kingdom and the same glory Christ did actually ascend from the Mount of Olives. The difference was not very great in the fact of the refused and the accepted ascension. Consider in what consists the difference between the two.
I. Wherein would have lain the sinfulness of the act, if Christ had complied with Satan's desire? (1) In the first place, He would have made that His own act which was not to be His own act, but the Father's through the Son. (2) He would have accepted good at the hands of the enemy of good. (3) He would have done for His own sake, without further reference, what He was to do for the Church's sake. (4) It would have been premature, a beginning which ought to be an ending. (5) He would have assumed an end without going through the means. (6) He would have been elevated by a guilty compact; there would have been the sacrifice of a principle, a present evil committed to arrive at an ultimate good. (7) The honour would have gone in the wrong direction; it would have been to His own glory and Satan's glory, but not to the glory of the Father.
II. To ascend, that is, to get higher and higher, to possess more, to be capable of more, to have more honour and greater power, is an impulse of our nature; Every Christian, like his Master, is born to an ascension. Therefore, because it is right, it is certain that it may be a matter of great temptation to do it in a wrong way, or at a wrong time, or with a wrong motive, or by wrong means. Look well to it how you go up any height, what road, at what time, by whose bidding, for whose glory. It will be a sad thing if the bad, early fiction rob you of the grand reality of the close. There is a grand ascension coming, but now our path lies with our Master, through the plains of Galilee, the valleys of Hinnom, to the garden of Gethsemane. We have to work, and we have to bear. We must go through the last penalty of sin, and glorify God in our dying. For that road down to those "lowest parts of the earth" is the path, the only path, that leads up to the everlasting hills.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 227.
References: Matthew 4:8 , Matthew 4:9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 153; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 294.
I. There is no falsehood on the face of the earth so dangerous as truth when that truth comes distorted, placed in wrong order, or laid in false proportions. This was exactly the character of the last temptation. All the kingdoms of the would, and all the glory of them, were Christ's; and He was even at that moment at the commencement of the path by which He was going to take possession of them. But to that kingdom there was an appointed time, a prescribed way, and covenanted conditions. And could the time, or the way, or the conditions be violated, even by a shade, the character and the very existence of that kingdom would have been nullified and destroyed.
II. In the journey to heaven, beware of taking the line which seems often the shortest. Whatever bright things are before you, and however near they look, depend upon it you have to go lower before you can go higher. A heaven we could go to at once would not be half as pleasant as the heaven we wait, and strive, and suffer for. And a heaven which we could purchase by our own good works would be as nothing compared to the heaven which we shall owe all to the blood of Jesus Christ.
III. Observe our Lord's mode of dealing with the suggestion which would do an evil that a good might come. He lays down one great fixed principle: "God, only God, must be worshipped." Whatever trespasses on His solitary majesty, whatever detracts in one iota from Him that must never be. Therefore, you are to take this general law: There is something better than the kingdom, and higher than happiness; higher than the highest it is the glory of God. Admit of no possession, no joy, no privilege, no honour, temporal or spiritual, which does not, in some way or other, glorify God. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 11th series, p. 100.
References: Matthew 4:8-10 . W. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 182; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 392.Matthew 4:8-11 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 152.Matthew 4:8-22 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. v., p. 152.Matthew 4:8-22 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 507. Matthew 4:9 . J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 135; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 249; F. W. Aveling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 20; G. Calthrop, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 177.
It was by this time evident that our blessed Lord was not to be tempted to either distrust or presumption. But what if He were once more tried, with a temptation which should coincide with the direction of that path itself? How if He could be induced, in the fulfilment of His mission on earth, to take a shorter and less toilsome way than that on which He appeared to be entering?
I. Desperation made the tempter bold. He dares to aim at winning the Prince of the Kingdom of Light to be a vassal of the kingdom of darkness. Strange as are the promise and the assertion, still stranger is the condition annexed, "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." Here spoke the true character of him who fell through pride, and through exalting himself against the Most High. Satan stands forth impiously exulting in his name as God's adversary, and vaunting his rebellion against Him. No longer, therefore, does Jesus condescend to answer the fool according to his folly, or condescend to deal with his offer or his assertions, but meets him with, "Get thee hence, Satan." Yet not relinquishing even now the sword of the Spirit, He adds for our profit and to complete His testimony to His own position as the Son of man, placed under obedience to the Father, "For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
II. There are many blessings, many advantages even of a temporal kind, within our reach and forming legitimate objects of our desire. But such things are often offered us from objectionable quarters and on objectionable conditions. In such cases the Christian's duty is plain. First, he must never be so carried away with the pursuit of the world's advantages as that his better reason should be overcome; but he must be watchful and temperate in all his desires, knowing that this is not his rest, but that he looks for another country, even a heavenly. This being secured, he must, in the temperate and lawful pursuit of worldly advantage, take heed that he receive nothing on conditions which touch his allegiance to his heavenly Father.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 184.
Culture and Temptation.
I. Education meaning by that the putting into the hands of any being, or class, a power, a knowledge, before unattained can have no force to abolish temptation or to diminish its strength. All it can do is to remove the recipient from one stratum of temptation to another. Temptation is inducement to sin; and sin is not vice. Sin is the failure to do our duty, whatever that duty be, to God. Cultivation creates new responsibilities; and, therefore, while it lessens the hold of certain temptations, continually brings us into the presence of new ones. Culture brings its own temptations; shows new paths by which to "crawl away from heaven," as well as new avenues to that kingdom. Education is worthless as a moral discipline, till it has developed in the ripening intellect the conviction that in the worship of God that is not the lip-service of religious ceremonial, but the devotion to His glory and kingdom is its reasonable service, its privilege not less than its bounden duty, the only true fulfilment of its God-given purpose. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
II. As our Lord's life is the pattern of every life, so is His temptation the type of every temptation presented to every man born into this world. He (I use the phrase with all reverence, deliberately) was a man of culture. "And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing and asking them questions; and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." Such a being was He on whom the tempter had to exercise His influence. "Fall down and worship me," he said, "and everything shall be yours." The reply which the Saviour made is still the only safe, the only complete and all-embracing, reply. The kingdoms of the earth are good, but for a soul, which came from God and returns to Him there is but one living, lasting satisfaction, and that is the kingdom of heaven. The end of all education, the end of all religion, is the bringing of a soul into harmony with perfect righteousness.
A. Ainger, Sermons in the Temple Church, p. 225.
The final repulse of the tempter was accompanied by a command, "Get thee hence, Satan." And we may well conceive that this command was to the enemy a word of power, which he might not disobey. He who henceforth cast out the evil spirits with a word here proved His authority on their chief. And now His present conflict is over. He stands victorious, while the tempter has fallen. He, the Second Adam, has brought in and secured righteousness for us. Let us endeavour to gather up the general instruction to be gained from the history of the temptation.
I. He has, by His example under temptation, taught us how to resist it. Our weakness is, when any unlawful course is proposed to us, to be ever on the search for separate excuses to shield us in each case. He shrunk from applying general principles which may cover every attack. We are ashamed too often to stand at once in God's ways and refer to His will. Here we have an eminent example in our blessed Lord. He did not enter into the separate circumstances of each form of temptation, but applied to them all, as His means of resistance, His position as the servant of God, subject to His law, and from it taking the maxims of His conduct.
II. His example shows us the proper use of God's word. Let our Lord's example keep us from rash or random application of Scripture texts. With what precision is each brought forward by Him. We must study the Bible, and we must study it devotionally, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but to ascertain the mind of the Spirit of God a search which requires spiritual discernment, the fruit of a communion with Him in singleness of heart and a holy life.
III. But unquestionably the greatest lesson for the disciple of Jesus to learn, from the temptation of his Master, is one of encouragement, tending to draw him closer to Christ, and to make Him more precious. When One is set before us as our ever-present Helper, who Himself has passed through the struggle; when we know that we are not alone in the bitterness of our spirits, and that in the darkest place in our course we shall find His footsteps; what a different matter does each Christian's appointed conflict become how full of sympathy, how full of promise, how full of Christ!
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 201.
References: Matthew 4:11 . W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 49; W. H. Hutchings, Mystery of the Temptation, p. 230. Matthew 4:12 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 310. Matthew 4:12-17 . Ibid., Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., p. 129. Matthew 4:14 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 28. Matthew 4:15 , Matthew 4:16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1010. Matthew 4:16 . D. Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 27:114.
The text invites us to look at two things:
I. The Preacher. "Jesus began to preach." Jesus was the Son of man and the Son of God. Who, then, can equal Him in sympathy and in wisdom? It should be understood that very much depends upon the preacher as well as upon the doctrine preached. (1) There was more human nature in Jesus Christ than was ever in any other man. He needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin without that one defilement which impairs and ruins the finest qualities of human nature. Preachers must be intensely human if they would reach with good effect the hearts of men. (2) There was more intellectual ability and spiritual insight in Jesus Christ than ever distinguished any other preacher. Look at the answers which He gave to cavillers. Look at the keenness of His discrimination as to moral differences hypocrisy, falseness, half-heartedness. Look at His love of truth simple, pure, eternal truth.
II. The Subject of His Preaching. That subject was repentance. Hear this marvellous Preacher Repent! That is one of the most solemnly suggestive words in all human language. (1) Repent then men are in a wrong moral condition. But for this Jesus would never have come. (2) Repent then there is a work which men must do themselves. One man cannot repent for another. See the power and the weakness of human nature in this particular. One man can suffer for another; can pay for another; can work for another; can even die for another, but never can one man repent for another. (3) Repent, then, until this special work is done; everything else that is seemingly good is worthless. If Jesus preached repentance, then ( a ) all true preachers will do the same; ( b ) it is certain that repentance is vitally necessary for all mankind; ( c ) if repentance is the first act needed, it is vicious and absurd to attempt to make religious progress without it.
Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 116.
The Privilege of Repentance.
I. There are two different words used in the New Testament, both of which are translated into the English word Repentance; one of them conveys especially the notion of being sorry for having done wrong; the other conveys specially the notion of changing one's mind as to things, seeing things in a different light, and then shaping one's conduct accordingly, trying to mend one's life. It is this second word which Christ used; which you can see is the fuller and larger word, including substantially the meaning of the first word too; taking in the being sorry for the wrongdoing and ashamed of it; coming to right views, beginning afresh, and trying to do better.
II. The religion Christ taught was the first which offered forgiveness without suffering, on the part of the penitent, or inflicted by the penitent. All the suffering was borne, long ago, and once for all, that brought our salvation. And now, "if we confess our sins" that is all God "is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Christ's preaching starts from a fact; the fact that there is something wrong; the fact that men are sinners. Now repentance is just the right and healthy feeling of the awakened soul that sees its own sin. Once a man is made to see he is a sinner, then, if his mind be in any way healthy and true, the state of feeling which arises in it is what we call Repentance.
III. Is it not strange that repentance should be so commonly thought a painful duty? It is a grand and inexpressible privilege. There is nothing degrading in it; the degradation is all in the state it takes us out of. It is degrading to stay in sin, not to get out of it. And there is no humiliation, beyond the fact that it is a humble thing to be a human being, in confessing that we have been wrong. That Christ's Gospel invites us to repentance just means that man is not tied down to go on in his wrong and misery. It means that he has not got into that miserable lane in which there is no turning.
A. K. H. B., From a Quiet Place, p. 32.
References: Matthew 4:17 . J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 87; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 329; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 209. Matthew 4:18 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 276. Matthew 4:18 , Matthew 4:19 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 702.Matthew 4:18-20 . H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit, p. 469.
Jesus and the Fishermen.
I. Jesus called the Galilean fishermen. There was nothing novel in the calling of men from a lowly condition to the performance of a high and holy task. The men who were to stand at the head of this great movement were men of the people, men who had not enjoyed any special privileges. It ought to be enough to establish the certainty of the heavenliness of Christ's Kingdom, that He used no artificial means in laying its foundations so firmly in the consciousness of the world, and that this was done through the instrumentality of fishermen, and that He appealed to them as He does to all, to the willing mind and the responsive conscience, and did this through furnishing them with a new and holy ideal of human life.
II. He called them for a specific purpose. "I will make you fishers of men." Thus He spake to them in familiar words; but familiar words when used by Him were charged with unfamiliar meaning; they contained the revelation of God's heart and of man's destiny. He who knew as no man knew enlisted the ordinary in the service of the extraordinary, and without injury to His theme translated the spiritual into the terms of the material. Christ promised that His disciples should catch. "I will make you fishers of men." They would have to vary their manner of using the net He furnished them with; they would not catch as many as they desired, but would at length succeed, because the net was the right kind of net, and they themselves would be prepared for its use.
III. How they were to be fitted for this work: "Follow Me." They were to wait on Him, to go in and out with Him from the beginning, to apprehend the meaning of His words and the spirit in which they were conceived. They must know Him; this was their first, their great, business in life. He taught His doctrine in the practice of it, and the practice of it in the patience and heroism of His own life. They were to know all they needed to know, be all they ought to be, and do all required of them to be done, by following Him.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 3.
References: Matthew 4:18-22 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 17; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 283; H. W. Beecher, Sermons (1870), p. 311.Matthew 4:18-25 . Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. i., p. 139.
Christ's Training of the Ministers of the Word.
I. Who are they that are chosen by our Lord to receive the signal benefit of training in His school? Not one of the twelve is a priest or a priest's son. There is not a man with Pharisaic relationship among them. They were all "provincials" of a very decided type, plainly as strange to the springs of metropolitan power and habit as though they had never been to the chief city of the people. In the possession of faith and hope and love they were all alike and in nothing else. Christ did not, never does, call duplicates, but men, individuals, having an absolutely original "make," bent, bias, or personal force in them.
II. Note the means adopted by our Lord in equipping the Apostles for His service: (1) A constant and habitual companionship with Himself; (2) the Gospel accounts fully demonstrate that unselfish and helpful work for men formed a most essential factor in the education of the first disciples for the duties of the apostolate; (3) a third potent agent in the upbuilding of the character of these first Gospel fishermen is disclosed in the sharp sorrows, sudden shocks, and painful and repeated sufferings they encountered in the way of their useful and helping work for men; (4) these men were fitted for their work by their deepening experience of the power and riches of the life of Christ.
III. And for what is all this prolonged and varied discipline? What is the Teacher's aim? Clearly, concisely, and comprehensively is it stated in this guiding word of the Preacher. It is to catch men. The aim is directly at men. Man fills the whole vision; the steadfast gaze is on him, the anxious work is for him, the lengthened discipline is for him. As Jesus came to save men, so His servants are sent out on precisely the same errand. He lives for men. We have to do the same. It is each man for Christ, and the whole of each man for Christ. That is the aim of every minister who knows what He has to do, as it is the well-defined purpose of Christ in calling him and training him for the ministry.
J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 257.
Christ's call to us is essentially that which He addressed to these first disciples.
I. What was His call to them? It was this they were to leave their work that they might engage in a higher work. The secular was to be exchanged for the spiritual. They were fishers. Henceforth, they were to be something more than fishers. They were to become fishers of men. And that, I say, is the call He addresses to us.
II. "How is that so?" you may ask. "Are we all to abandon the work which we are doing? Is the child at school to leave his books, and the clerk his desk, and the workman his tools, and the painter his brushes and easel? and are we all to become preachers or missionaries?" Of course that would be impossible. We should not be too quick to conclude that because we do not like the drudgery of our secular work, or meet with indifferent success in it, we are therefore designed for something higher and more sacred. Other things being equal, it is more likely that Christ will call to His side those who have prospered in their worldly undertakings, than those who have not prospered. Do not suppose that it was because Peter's heart was not in his work, or because he was clumsy with his net, that he was called to be one of the twelve. In the Kingdom there is need for the capable men, as well as room for the feeble and the incompetent. The summons to all men is not to forsake altogether their secular work. In what sense, then, is their work to be given up and exchanged for a higher work? In this sense, that it is no longer to be the end of their life, the final object of ambition and endeavour. What was an end becomes, in the case of those who hear the call of Christ, no more an end, but a means.
III. "Fishers of men" that is what we must be if our Master's ends are to be ours. For this is what He was a Fisher of men. And His disciples are to follow Him, and they are to follow Him not merely that they may be safe under His protection, or that they may be happy in His companionship and sympathy, but that they may share in His work, that they may make His holy mission their own. And how shall we hope to be successful in it? Note these two conditions which, really, are one: (1) We must follow Christ, and (2) we must submit to His teaching and influence.
Arnold Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 8.
References: Matthew 4:19 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1906; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 12; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 240; vol. vii., p. 279; H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 17; D. B. Hooke, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 261; J. de Kewer Williams, Ibid., p. 132; J. H. Shakespeare, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 278; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,673.
The Attractive Force of Jesus.
I. The Lord had but one method with all classes. He could only bless the rich by making them feel that a man's heart was beating, and a man's needs were crying to God, under their purple. And He had no other means of blessing the poor. It was the common humanity that He touched and drew after Him by the magnet of His attraction, and, as He drew it, the class vestments and badges were dropped and left behind in the way.
II. In lower human forms this magnetic attraction of man on man is not unknown. It is the orator's power. It constitutes, in a still higher form, the great captain's power. This power, which under the highest conditions man exercises within limits over his fellows, the Lord exercises absolutely and royally over mankind. For He is the King of men their natural, heaven-born King. Deep down in every man's nature there is that which has an eye and an ear for His Kingship; a sense of His Royal authority and right with which, when it is once awakened, nothing in this wide universe can compete. A glance, a word, as the Lord passed by, a. transient gleam from that fountain of attractive force, and merchants left their gains, workmen left their tools, fishers left their nets, scholars left their lore, leaders left their thrones, and cast no longing, lingering look behind them, as they pressed on in the footsteps of the poor, weary, helpless, excommunicated Christ. "Lord, we have left all, and followed Thee," was the word of every one of them.
III. Nor has the spell lost its power. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Our Lord in these words reveals the power which lies at the root of all the grandest movements in the history of the world. Behind all that can be accounted for, all that can be weighed and measured by the act of the understanding in the spread of Christ's Gospel, there lies that which cannot be accounted for, which cannot be measured, the attraction of Christ Jesus. It is the spell which the Lord the King cast upon His subjects, in right of His ancient, universal royalty, and by the might of His newly revealed and transcendent love.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 97.
Reference: Matthew 4:20 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xix., p. 278.
I. St. James may be regarded as affording an example and encouragement to those who follow Christ, in two sorts of trials, more particularly those which arise from a thriving condition in the world, and those which attend, sometimes, on a quiet and comfortable home. To obey our Lord's call, he left both "the ship and his father:" both the business to which he had been brought up, and on which he might depend, if not for wealth, at least for a comfortable maintenance; and the consolation of being with his parents, and living peaceably at home with them.
II. It might seem almost presumption for such as we are to take to ourselves, as if intended for our pattern, the example of so great and holy a saint, one brought so very near the person of our Divine Saviour Himself. But we know that it is not presumptuous, since even Christ's own example, and that of the Eternal Father, are set before us for our study and imitation. Does any man ask how he can imitate St. James, he, a private Christian, not called to be an apostle, not summoned by the providence of God to any one great sacrifice, which might gather, as it were, into one the self-denials of a whole life? Let such a one think this within himself, that there may be, there probably are, occasions in which his worldly business, whatever it be, is apt to interfere, more or less, with his duty to our Saviour. The memory and fancy of his shop, his plough, his garden, or his loom mingles unseasonably with his prayers and holy readings, and tries to hinder him from attending to his Saviour's voice, inwardly whispering, "Follow Me." Well, on all such occasions, let us manfully put aside the intruding thought, saying as Felix did, but with a better meaning, "Go thy way now, and come again when I shall have a convenient season."
III. Persons who, in sincerity and truth, make sacrifices of this kind, who really prefer not their own fancy, but Christ's will, even to family comfort, may find great encouragement in the favour which our Lord showed to His holy Apostle St. James. Their prayers for light and strength, they have every reason to hope, will be bountifully answered. "Christ will make Himself present to them, in all His works, both of mercy, of wonder, and of judgment." Whether He raise the dead, or show Himself in agony or in glory, or come to judge Jerusalem, those who have made great sacrifices for Him will be favoured and honoured witnesses.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vi., p. 142.
References: Matthew 4:21 , Matthew 4:22 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 24; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 305.
I. Christ was dispensing, then, the gift of healing, marvellously, for an example to all who should believe on Him thereafter, for ever, as long as the world should stand. Healer of the diseases of the body, as he was Healer of the diseases of the soul, Jesus Christ, anointed Saviour, this was His mission to heal, to save. He was Himself the Good Samaritan, who went out of His way to help the wounded traveller who lay half dead by the wayside, and who provided everything that was needful for him lodging, attendance, provision until he should be quite recovered. What was this but to teach us that the poor and needy in anywise are committed to the care and charge of every one who sees their hard case and has power to relieve it? Given the opportunity, the duty follows; cannot be neglected without sin the sin, at least, of leaving undone what we ought to have done.
II. The duty of giving is one of the simplest duties of all life, and because it is so simple the Apostle has fenced it with the warning, "Be not deceived in this thing; God is not mocked." Our own day of sickness and trial is not far off. To have considered the poor and needy, to have been, as it were, eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, strength to the weak in body, will be a thought of comfort when we shall feel in our own bodies the need of every consolation which God vouchsafes to His servants in the day of their calamity.
Bishop Claughton, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 738.
References: Matthew 4:23 , Matthew 4:24 . H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 75; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 164.Matthew 4:23-25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 333.Matthew 4:24 . J. Oswald Dykes, Manifesto of the King, p. 3.Matthew 4:0 Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 219.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29