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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 4

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Verse 1

Matthew 4:1

To be tempted of the devil.

The possibility and necessity of the temptation

If our Lord had not become incarnate He would never have been tempted, for temptation is not possible to God. God is above the possibility of temptation; the beasts are below it. The possession of an animal nature is not the only source of temptation, or the “angels who kept not their own principality” could never have fallen. The conditions of and moral goodness possible to a creature involve the possibility of its opposite. Was not Christ too good to be tempted?

1. All human goodness needs the strain of temptation to reveal its reality and depth. Even when that goodness, as in the case of the Man Christ Jesus, and in His case alone, is absolutely without fault or imperfection, temptation is still required to prove its strength, and by the proof to reveal the depth and solidity of its foundations in the soul. The ship that lies at anchor in the harbour when hardly a breath of wind ripples the surface of the water, may hold to her moorings, but” this is no proof of the strength and soundness of her cable, for no strain has been put upon it; but if she is out at sea, and caught in a furious storm, and drifting fast on to a lee shore, and then lets go her anchor, and it holds, there is proof enough of the quality of her cable. But temptation strengthens goodness by assaulting it. There are some shells which cling to the rocks in spite of the continual buffeting of the tides, but those shells are thickest and strongest where the tide has smitten them with its fullest might, and so the defences of the soul against evil are strong in proportion to the evil which has been resisted. And this is why no human character becomes stable or strong in goodness until it has been exposed to temptation. Shield it from all the fierce blasts of temptation, preserve it in a forced isolation from the world, and it will remain as unstable as water beneath a summer sky: but let the rough frosts of winter fall on it, and the biting winds lash it, and it will slowly knit itself into compact and solid strength, and, like the ice, will defy the storm which has only given it strength by attacking it. But we have not exhausted the meaning of our Lord’s temptations.

1. They had a representative as well as a personal significance. He was the Head of the human race.

2. It was the first great act of the redemption of the race from sin.

3. The shame and reproach of our first parents are rolled away, as the Son of Man returns from this conflict victorious. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

The reality of the Temptation

1. The evangelists were thoroughly convinced of its reality.

2. The other references to it in the New Testament point in the same direction (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 2:18).

3. Assuming the existence of Satan he is not likely to have engaged our Lord in any unreal way. What is meant when it is said it was impossible for Christ to have sinned? Certainly not that it was a physical impossibility, as when we say that it is impossible for a man of luxury to feel the temptation a starving man feels to steal. It was a moral impossibility; He would not elect to yield. We are certain of Christ’s immovable loyalty to righteousness. Temptation is not in itself an admission of moral imperfection, so was not inconsistent with the holy character of our Lord. All Christ’s temptations came to Him from without, not from within Him. An inward bias to evil is not essential to temptation; temptation may appeal to what is best within us, to satisfy lawful appetites by unlawful means. Thus the reality of Christ’s temptations remain unbroken.

The practical results of this admission

1. The reality of Christ’s temptations affects their entire moral significance. We feel the moral sublimity of His character.

2. It affects us as well as Himself: His sympathy with us and our realization of His sympathy with us.

The Instrument and the Divine ordering of the Temptation

1. We may learn that it is never the will of God we should voluntarily enter into temptation.

2. We ought to pray that God would not “bring” us into it.

3. But should God lead us, as He led Christ, into temptation, then we may confidently appeal to God for grace to overcome. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

The Tempter’s power limited

1. By the fact that he is a mere creature.

2. By the providence of God.

3. By man’s will.

4. We ought not to exaggerate the power of Satan, let us beware of underrating it. (Norman Macleod, D. D.)

Reasons why our Lord was led to be tempted

1. In order that the reality and glory of His Sonship might be made manifest.

2. That He might redeem man from the evil to which he was subjected by the fall of the first Adam.

3. That He might become experimentally acquainted with the evil of sin.

4. The temptation of our Lord was a chief element in His sufferings for us as our Mediator.

5. Evil is compelled to glorify God. (Norman Macleod, D. D.)

What Satan knew of Christ

1. There seems little reason to doubt that Satan knew Jesus to be the promised One, whose advent the prophets had foretold. The artful use he made of Scripture upon the pinnacle of the temple sufficiently shows his acquaintance with Holy Writ.

2. Satan also supposed, apparently, that Christ possessed superhuman powers.

3. But although Satan was thus far m possession of the truth respecting Christ, it does not follow that he “knew the whole truth respecting Him.

4. If Satan had no just view of the person of Christ, of His true divinity, he would necessarily have imperfect views of His perfect holiness. Even if this view be not admitted, if any person should still believe that Satan did understand the divinity, and consequently the immaculate purity, of our Lord, it is not incredible nor surprising, even on this supposition, that he should attempt to lead Him into sin. For it is possible that he was judicially blinded, that he might not see the hopelessness of his attempt. (L. H. Wiseman.)

The entrance into Temptation

The time of the temptation. Immediately after our Lord’s baptism. The time reveals one object of the temptation-the unveiling of the tactics of the Evil One; it was “for a precaution to us.” The opening of heaven from above was followed by the opening of hell from beneath. We have to guard the treasure of grace after it is given. When we are expecting peace and joy we have suddenly to enter into struggles, darkness, and desolation. God has an object in permitting the assaults of Satan at such a time; to keep the soul low when from the presence of Divine favour there may be risk of self-exaltation.

The influence under which Christ was led to the scene of conflict-“led up of the Spirit.”

1. The source of the influence. The Holy Spirit. This in accord with other notices of His relations with the incarnate Lord. Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost; preached under His guidance.

2. The extent of the Spirit’s influence. A stronger term is used by St. Mark-“The Spirit driveth Him.” “We must not enter into temptation unless it be under the guidance of the Spirit of God in the way of providence. The Spirit’s movements are often to be known by their contrariety to our inclinations, and should lead to solitude, mortification, etc.

The place whither Christ was led. Christ called to meet the tempter in the wilderness, that by His unassisted might the victory should be won. Thus He sanctified times of retreat and states of retirement. They should form a part of the preparation for the ministerial office. (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)

The Personality of Satan

The personality of the Evil One. Influence is that which flows out from personality. In proving the existence of God arguments from design are used; so it would be difficult to reconcile the condition of the world in its misery with the Divine goodness unless some other agent be at work in it. All nations in the past have borne witness to a belief in spiritual beings. The evil of the inner life bears the same testimony; no mental law accounts for it. Made clear by revelation. Christ’s words and work proclaim existence of the Evil One. The writers of the New Testament testify to the personality of Satan (Acts 5:3). The temptation makes this clear.

His qualifications for the office of Tempter.

1. Skill; he has an angelic nature; great experience.

2. Power;

(1) rule, power;

(2) does not stand alone in his work;

(3)the third source of power lies in that mysterious relation between fallen man and the Tempter which necessitated redemption, and which justified the expression, “Prince of this world.”

3. Malice: with skill and power is combined unceasing hostility to God and man. But while we note the extent of Satan’s power we must not forget its limits. As a creature he possesses finite capacities. His knowledge is restricted in two ways: he cannot discern our thoughts, nor by himself read the future. True, he has acquired a conjectural knowledge. Also limits placed upon his power: on the Divine side there is the law of permission; on our side, of free will. Formidable as the enemy is, there is no ground for despondency, nor excuse for failure in the conflict. In the history of the Tempter see an instance of the fearful way sin may be permitted to run its course. (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)

Study the Enemy

Among military rules there is one in all authors which brings some advantage with it to study the nature and condition of our enemy. (Hacker.)

The temptation of Christ

A few general considerations upon this subject.

1. That we are to understand the account of the Evangelist as the history of an actual occurrence.

2. It may assist our thoughts to be reminded of the true character of our Lord’s person.

3. That this history represents one great being, as the head of others, employed in the work of tempting men, and frustrating the designs of God.

4. Did Satan know the Person he assaulted? and could he have any hope of success? He knew something of our Lord’s character, as appears from the question, “If Thou be the Son of God.” But wicked minds often commit great blunders and engage in hopeless tasks.

Great practical lessons which the transaction appears designed to teach.

1. The deep humiliation of our Lord.

2. The variety of those temptations by which men are assaulted.

(1) They are subject to necessities.

(2) They are tempted to presumption.

(3) Temptations to the worldly spirit.

3. We see here the means of effectually resisting temptation.

4. That temptation simply considered is not sin. (R. Watson.)

The temptation

The circumstances under which it took place.

1. Time when happened.

2. Influence by which directed.

3. Place where enacted

4. Exercise by which prefaced-“Fasted.”

The particulars of which it consisted.

1. Distrust.

2. Presumption.

3. Apostacy: to renounce His allegiance to God.

(1) The vision.

(2) The offer.

(3) The condition.

The consequences.

1. Satan defeated.

2. Jesus comforted.


1. Warning.

2. Direction.

3. Encouragement. (H. Parr.)

The temptation of Jesus

Why was Jesus tempted?

1. Because He was a man.

2. Because He was the Messiah.

What is the significance of the several temptations?

1. In the first, Christ is urged to satisfy hunger by working a miracle. Christ refused, because miraculous power must not be used simply for personal advantage. Christ recalls the great fact that God feeds man with spiritual food.

2. Satan perceives Christ’s frame of mind: Is Christ filled with confidence in His Father? From the Temple roof Christ is asked to cast Himself down. The act urged would have been presumptuous, ostentatious, and untimely. The third temptation was to sacrifice principle to policy. All His suffering might be prevented by a momentary act.


1. Temptations ply us through the constitutional avenues of our being.

2. Scripture may be misapplied to lead us into sin.

3. Resistance of temptation is aided by familiarity with God’s Word.

4. A Divine peace follows the resistance of temptation. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Christ tempted of the devil in the wilderness

Why our Lord was tempted.

1. “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest,” etc.

2. To convey to all His people an assurance that there is a limit to the power of Satan.

How our Lord was tempted.

1. The time selected.

2. The circumstances skilfully adapted to the temptation.

How to overcome temptations.

1. To have God’s Word in our hearts.

2. To have God’s fear before our eyes. (D. Moore, M. A.)

Christ tempted in the wilderness

The person tempted.

1. See here the depth of our Lord’s abasement.

2. See the height of His love.

The part which God took in our lord’s temptations. “Led by the Spirit.”

The time of our Lord’s temptations.

1. It was immediately after God had put on Him special honour.

2. Just before He entered upon His great ministerial work.

The place where the Lord Jesus was tempted. Look on the exalted Jesus as the once tempted Jesus. (C. Bradley.)

The temptation of Jesus

The sons of God are not exempted from temptation. Many new converts cherish false expectations concerning the peace which, in the Word of God, is promised them.

Temptation is not the same thing as sin. To be tempted may cause us much pain and sorrow, but it is not sin.

Temptations are divinely ordered, both as to time and measure (ver. 1; Job 1:12; Job 2:6).

After a season of special grace, we may expect a season of special trial. “Then” (ver. 1). It is not the vessel in ballast but the vessel richly laden that is in danger from pirates.

Satan adapts his temptations to our character and circumstances. Hence our watchfulness must be intelligent and comprehensive.

The holiest things may be perverted by satan into instruments of temptation (vers. 3, 4, 6).

Though temptations are varied in form, they are few in kind. Jesus was tempted to three things. “Then the devil leaveth Him,” because he had exhausted all his means of assault.

Victory itself may expose “us to assault. We must not think we are rid of him when we have beaten him off. Watch.

In the Word of God we have A sufficient armoury of defence (vers. 4, 7, 10).

In the stress and agony of the conflict, when we are tempted to yield by the fear that resistance is hopeless, let us remind ourselves that god has promised grace to support us in the struggle, and a glorious reward when the victory is won. (Anon.)

Moral testing

The necessity for some moral testing at the outset of life.

Preparations for testing come in our outward circumstances.

Such testings, or temptings, take a great variety of forms.

The essence of all such testing is the finding out whether we really mean to live for Self or to live for God.

The force to resist evil lies in having our will set on God.

The weapons with which to resist evil are God’s Word. Learn:-

1. Well-taught childhood prepares for the temptations of life.

2. Early decision for Christ is the best safeguard against the tempter’s power.

3. Temptations come to men still in the same three forms as they did to Jesus (1 John 2:16).

4. We only conquer as we are strong in God and in His Word.

5. A first conquest of evil should not lead us to think that the Tempter is conquered, nor make us cease to “ watch and be sober.” (W. O. Simpson)

Satan tempts those who are

Beginners with difficulties;

Progressors with languor. Satan makes out the way of holiness to be-

(1) Long;

(2) rough;

(3) uncertain;

The perfect with scruples and anxieties. Satan destroys-

(1) Tranquillity of soul;

(2) All spiritual joy;

(3) All sense of progress. A scruple is metaphorically derived from a small stone, which, getting inside the shoe or sandal, causes pain to the feet at every step. (James Marchant.)

Our great adversary


Poverty. He had nothing to offer Jesus Christ sufficient to allure Him.

Impudence. Repelled once, he returns to the attack. No sense of defeat or shame.

Weakness. He did not cast our Lord down. He had no power to force.

Craftiness. He attacks our Lord’s weakness by fasting. He graduates his temptations.

Is false.

1. Promises that which he cannot give.

2. That which he has no intention of giving. (Matthias Faber.)

The retirement of our Lord into the wilderness teaches

1. Humility when most favoured by God; when most illumined and blessed by His Spirit.

2. The necessity of preparation for every work done for God, if that work is to be really fruitful.

3. All missionary and ministerial work is to be begun with self.

4. Preparation is necessary against the temptations of the Evil One. (S. Baring. Gould, M. A.)


Temptations of Satan are to be feared:

(1) For the skill and method with which he tempts;

(2) Because his warfare is spiritual.

Temptations are successive and variable. Satan

(1) changes the objects and manners of the temptation;

(2) Not tempting in more than one particular at a time.

Temptations are preserved by Satan in order and method.

1. With pleasure, then with vainglory.

2. With riches and ambition.

Temptations and their purposes are often hidden. The serpent is seldom seen in its entire or full length.

Temptations are set like snares. There are many social questions on which he suggests an inversion of God’s moral laws.

Temptations are often made in secret. They lose their power if divulged. Many n plot is overthrown by discovery.

Temptations are suited to opportunity. There are certain moral qualities nearly allied to certain vices; as harshness to cruelty and pride; as softness to luxury and dissipation.

Temptations have opposite methods. Gentle persuasion first, violent constraint afterwards.

All temptations are alike in effect.

1. Some strike the tempted one, laying him low by unexpected occurrences.

2. Others creep into the mind little by little, killing while resisting by soft suggestions.

Temptations are intermittent. The devil departs for a season, but returns to be victorious when least expected. (Claude de Lingeirdes.)

It is not enough for Him to fulfil the law, but He suffers Himself to be tempted to break it. (Farindon.)

How we are to overcome our temptations

We are all tempted. Satan is behind all temptations.

Some occasions are more suitable to the tempter’s purposes than others. Moments of joy, sorrow, or unwatchfulness he often seizes.

The temptation to sin for the sake of bread is common, and many are misled by it. Many who shrink from dark ways are guilty of distrust in their temporal circumstances. What an affluence of victorious power there is in that, “Hence, Satan.” (Dr. J. P. Lange.)

Though the devil come not in person to us, as he did to Christ, yet he comes by his instruments. Balak sent to Balaam.

There be some that will say they were never tempted with kingdoms. It may well be, for it needs not, when less will serve. The devil need never carry us so high as the mount, the pinnacle is high enough; yea, the lowest steeple in all the town would serve the turn. Let us but stand in our window, or in our doors, if he will give us but so much as we see there, he will tempt us thoroughly. We will accept it, and thank him too.

In temptation there is both fire to consume our faith, and a dart to wound our consciences, (Bishop Lancelot Andrewes.)

The temptation of Christ, and its subjective results

1. Succour.

2. Sympathy.

3. Example. (T. McRae, M. A.)

The temptation of Jesus

1. Divinely permitted.

2. Humanly conditioned.

3. Diabolically caused.

4. Cunningly planned.

5. Successfully resisted. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Analogy confirm the doctrine of a tempter

Do not men tempt each other? Sinners entice. Some men are public tempters; tempters of a nation, of an age, to bad feelings, principles, and practices. A Voltaire is a tempter by his wit; a Hume, by his sophistry; a Rousseau, by eloquence; a Byron, by the splendours of poetic genius. Every bad man in an elevated situation is a public tempter. (R. Watson.)

Satan an indirect tempter as the corrupter of our nature

Green wood will not burn; dry wood soon takes fire; he then who, although he does not act the part of an incendiary, dries the wood in order that it may the sooner ignite, has a real share in the cause of the conflagration. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

The soul must select a guiding influence

As when a ship nears land, various pilots are sometimes seen to approach and bid for her guidance; then one, and then another, comes up to the vessel till the terms are settled, after which the successful applicant may be watched as the ship is towed out of the channel into the river. So the soul must agree to accept some guiding influence amongst the different ones which beset her, and to be controlled and conducted afterwards by it. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Spiritual delight varied by severe temptation

This mingling of contraries runs through all our history. The scenery of a human life, like the scenery of nature, has its fertile plains, its grim ravines, its bleak and barren hills. Now it is bathed in the sunlight of a great joy, again it is overcast and saddened by the sorrows whose memory will never fade. (H. Shaw.)

Close to those sunlit heights there yawn downwards at our feet black and awful precipices, and one false step may be fatal. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

Christian maturity a safeguard against temptation

The smallest bird can pick off the blossoms of a tree; if that blossom be not nibbled away, but grow a fair apple, the hurt is small that the fowls of the air can do unto it: so the firstlings of a godly life are in the greatest danger; Satan wants no sagacity to observe his advantages, but is aware that if the camp put their spade into the ground for a few days, and cast their trenches, they will hardly be displanted. (Hacket.)

Christ is no sooner out of the water of baptism than He is in the tire of temptation. (Burkit.)

Temptation a ministerial qualification

Ministers should not only be men of science, but of experience. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Temptation a tes of ability for special work

This is not without the good providence of God, who hereby will prove His servants, to whom He will commit some special work. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The tempter seeks to destroy eminent men

If Satan can foil the leaders, the bands are soon overcome; smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; cast down cedars, and they will crush many shrubs with their fall. (T. Taylor.)

Temptation no evidence of Divine disfavour

Jesus was not less the well-beloved Son of God in the wilderness of Judaea, than when He had just come up out of the waters of Jordan. (D. Bagot, B. D.)

The tempter seeks to frustrate eminent grace

The unfurnished house is safe; danger is to be apprehended only when the dwelling is well-stocked with money, plate, or jewels. The traveller may proceed with immunity, whose empty purse presents no attraction to the robber. (T. Smith.)

The wicked insensible to temptation

The bird that is captured by the fowler’s snare, or overspread by his net, is unaware of her thraldom so long as she ties still, or continues feeding on the earth; but no sooner does she try to soar aloft and seek the heavens, than her perplexity begins, and the more she strives, the more she feels herself ensnared. (T. Smith.)

Temptation conducive to strength

No man was ever worth much who did not pass through some severe ordeals. A mushroom or a cucumber may be raised in the summer-house: not so the oak. When you want that to grow you plant it on the mountain slope, where it strikes its roots deeper into the soil, and becomes more compact in its fibre, because of the resistance it offers to the passing storm. The human frame, if it is to acquire strength, must not be wrapped for years in swaddling clothes, but trained to run in the race, and wrestle in the strife. The good soldier is not made in time of peace. (Dr. Landels.)

Inward purity the best defence against temptation

Put a burning match to tinder or gunpowder, and it will kindle presently; but put it to water, and it will quench it straight: so it fareth in temptations. Our corrupt hearts, like tinder, do easily suffer corruption to kindle in us; but Christ’s most holy heart did presently quench the evil of Satan’s motions. And thus we see how Christ was tempted, and yet without sin. (W. Perkins, D. D.)

Solitude favourable to temp-ration

The lonely tree stands more exposed to the tempest than that which is encircled by its fellows. (W. Perkins, D. D.)

Temptation conducive to beauty

The pebble cannot be polished without friction, nor can the graces of the Christian be fully developed without trials. (L. H. Wiseman.)

A Christian tempted in business is like a ship in a gale; occupation and necessary, duties are the friendly windward headlands which break the force of the gale, under whose shelter the vessel may ride in safety; but he who is tempted in solitude is like the ship which has to encounter the full fury of the hurricane in the unsheltered open sea. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Divine sympathy the outcome of Divine temptation

We read that when King Richard I. had been on the sea near Sicily like to be drowned, he recalled that ancient and barbarous custom whereby the goods of shipwrecked men were escheated to the crown, making provision that those goods should be preserved for the right owners. (Dr. Taylor.)

The tempter’s allies within the sold

If we had no enemies to batter down our wails and holds without us, we have inward and domestic rebels and traitors which continually betray us.

The tempter first seeks to pain a little advantage

As a cunning thief, if he can find room but for the point of a wrenech, will quickly make strong doors to fly open. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

The tempter ignored is the tempter assisted

Some deny the existence of Satan. He knows that he can often work most effectually where his presence is least suspected. As a perfect orator wholly forgets himself, being absorbed in his subject, so Satan, as a consummate tempter, is willing to be himself forgotten, if his ends be accomplished, A thief never wishes to make himself conspicuous. Accordingly, the most subtle and dangerous temptations are precisely those which we least imagine come from the devil. (L. H. Wiseman M. A.)

Verse 2

Matthew 4:2



Satan has the worst designs under the most friendly appearances.

When Satan tempts, he can appear to be invisible, as suits him best, He tempted Christ invisibly, and then appeared (Luke 4:2, and text, vers. 2, 3).

Satan tempts us to doubt some things most plain and certain.

When temptations are well suited, they are sometimes very plausible. To Jesus-to prove His Sonship; for food, being hungry.

Things lawful themselves become sinful by circumstances.

It is an encouragement to the tempted to see now God has appeared for others. To Jesus, to Elijah, etc. (Deuteronomy 8:3-4).

He that would prevail against temptation must stand on scripture ground. (Skeletons of Sermons.)

Sundry motives for religious fasting

1. Shall Christ fast for us and net we for ourselves?

2. Shall the Pharisees fast twice a week in hypocrisy, and we not once in our lives in sincerity?

3. Can we cheerfully take us for our bodily health to fasting, and will we do nothing for our soul’s health?

4. Can worldly men, for a good market, fast from morning to evening, and can Christians be so careless as to dedicate no time to the exercising of fasting and prayer, to increase the gain of godliness?

5. Is not this a seasonable exhortation? hath not God sounded the trumpet to fasting? (Matthew 9:16.) When the bridegroom is taken away it is time to fast. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

This was the true, the model fast. Fulness of bread, abundance of luxury, makes God’s work impossible; but look to it that the fasting be not the substitute for, but the handmaid of, the devotion-not the end, but the means. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

The fast

The limits of Christ’s fast. His fast lasted the same length of time as that of Moses and Elias; thus we may see in Christ the end and explanation of the Old Testament. How often in Scripture this number “forty” occurs. But not simply the length but to the limit of Christ’s fast we direct attention. We are not told that our Lord practised austerities, except in the desert. The universality and perfectness of Christ’s life did not admit of its being contracted into a single idea or type of holiness. He too would thus have lent support to the idea that holiness is in external practices; whereas it was His great purpose to point to states of mind and heart as the pith of perfection. Christianity must not in all cases be modelled upon a forbidding asceticism; we must remember the limits of the fast, and that He who sanctioned austerity was present at the marriage festival.

The purposes of Christ’s fast.

1. Its purpose in reference to the past. The first sin was the violation of the law of abstinence; His fast was an expression of sorrow for that transgression, and for the sins of intemperance which have resulted. Fasting may be a natural effect of sorrow, but this of rare occurrence in a soul burdened with grievous sin.

2. Christ’s fast had also relation to the present. He fasted as aa example to teach us one of the means for vanquishing the tempter.

3. Christ’s fast sanctified fasting also in relation to the future, as a means for increasing illumination. Coming before His public ministry He sanctioned it as calculated to produce an accession of light in the soul. It will be seen that light springs from mortification if we observe how darkness is the result of self-indulgence.

The conditions of Christ’s fast.

1. It must be a real self-denial. The first degree of mortification is the ceasing to gratify fallen inclinations; then the surrender of superfluities; then the withdrawal from the concerns of life; finally it touches even the necessaries of life.

2. It was in secret, in the depths of the desert. It should not be vainglorious.

3. With the enlargement of the motives of fasting, there was also an importation of brightness into the practice. Our Lord was led by the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is joy, peace, etc. There is danger of losing sweetness of temper unless the fast be sustained by the Spirit. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Storming the inward city of sin

The root of sin is within. You may take a city by siege as well as by direct attack; fasting is the weakening of the enemy by the former process-by the withdrawal of supplies. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

An hungred.-

Temptation through the bodily appetites

In warm weather vast numbers of wasps and other insects are caught by bottles of syrup, into which they are easily enticed by the sweet and tempting fluid, but are unable to escape, and so are drowned. Temptation often assails us through our lawful appetites. Christ, whose temptations were types of ours, was invited by Satan to make bread to satisfy His hunger … As a cunning fowler sets his limed ears of corn to catch sparrows in a hard frost or great snow, when they are ready to starve. (Diez.)

Verse 3

Matthew 4:3

Command that these stones.

Implying in these few words

1. That it is an easy thing-say the word.

2. That it is now fit; here is an object ready, here be stones, these stones.

3. That it is harmless, only a proof of the power of the Son of God.

4. That it is a necessary thing; is it not necessary for a man that is ready to starve to eat and procure bread?

5. That it is a glorious thing to command stones.

6. That it is a work of special use, not only for the use of Thyself in this want, but to satisfy me.

7. That it is not unreasonable; to command a few stones to be made bread will be no hurt to any man.

8. The Son of God should demean Himself as the Son of such a Father, therefore by this action manifest that which Thy estate doth not. (Dr. Taylor.)

An inducement to satisfy lawful needs and desires by unlawful means

What is the safeguard against this peril?

1. Not by denying the legitimacy of the desires of the bodily organization.

2. By showing that man’s present life was not the gratification of a bodily need, but the satisfaction of the hunger of the spirit in God. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

Let us beware of acting the devil’s part by discouraging those whom God has afflicted. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Why would it have been improper had He turned a stone into a loaf

1. He would have by that act placed an impassable gulf between Himself and His brethren.

2. It was important that Christ’s miracles should be free from suspicion, that they were not for the gratification of His own wants.

3. The motive constitutes an action good or evil, the circumstances in this case would have determined it wrong.

4. It would have been inconsistent with the whole recorded life of Jesus. (L. H. Wiseman.)

The cunning of Satan in this temptation

1.He skilfully chooses his time.

2. He suggests nothing which appears to be a great sin.

3. He presents this to Christ as an act of necessity.

4. The plea he employs is one which Jesus could not reject.

5. In the proposal there was no appearance of pampering the body, but only of providing for absolute need.

Reply to the first temptation

1. In this answer Satan is left unsatisfied. Uneducated disciples are not bound to answer all Satan’s questions.

2. The snare was avoided.

3. Patience in enduring hunger till God send Him a supply.

4. When we have bread we must still live by the Word of the Lord.

5. When we appear to be without bread the Word of the Lord can sustain us. (L. H. Wiseman.)

The first temptation

The visibility of the tempter. The Evangelists seem to imply that the tempter presented himself before the eyes of Christ. It is objected to this view:-

1. That while good angels are permitted to address men under visible forms, evil angels are not recorded to have done so.

2. That Satan by undisguised appearance would have no prospect of success. But he addressed our first parents under a visible form. The second objection assumes that the visible form of Satan is necessarily unsightly.

Satan’s knowledge of Christ. Satan was not certain about Christ’s Divine Sonship; hence he sought to find out if Christ could create or change substances.

The limits of the temptation.

1. It has been said that Christ’s temptation differs from ours in that His were only external, and ours internal also; that Christ had no susceptibility to temptation, but simply heard what Satan had to say without any inward excitement of desire. This takes from it its essence and removes it from us. We would not limit the temptation to an external trial.

2. We would not reduce it to the general idea of suffering, on account of contact with the tempter. We maintain that each temptation appealed to a desire in the heart of Christ, which His will restrained and refused to gratify.

The true limits of the mystery:-

1. Christ was absolutely sinless.

2. Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, no taint of the Fall was permitted to intermingle with the foundation of His human life. There was a certain impossibility of His sinning; but this must not be so explained as to destroy the faculty of free will, which is a constituent element of human nature. We must not so interpret impossibility to sin as not to permit susceptibility of temptation to co-exist with it. Upon the exercise of free will in Christ depends His merits, the reality of His temptation, the force of His example.

The reality of the temptation. If we subject temptation to analysis we find five ingredients.

(1) Desire;

(2) Law;

(3) Opposition between desire and law;

(4) Suggestion;

(5) Free will.

Desire may be simply natural, the movement of pure nature; or when some morbid quality has been imported into it, which gives it a wrong direction. The former was in Christ; but not the latter. There are two kinds of laws-positive and moral-the natural desires may be restrained by the former, the corrupt desires by the latter. The craving, whatever it be, must come into collision with the law. In the case of a pure creature the clash must be with a positive law; with a corrupt creature it will be also with the moral law. Now in Christ the desire of the body was in opposition to the Divine will; the pure desire of nature was contrary to what He knew to be the Father’s will. In this sense His was inward and real temptation. Several truths must be taken into calculation in, comparing Christ’s temptation with ours.

1. That the desires which are original and form part of our nature are, in the long run, the more intense.

2. The finer sensibilities of His uncorrupt nature. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

1. If every good Christian were satisfied at all times with temporal blessings we should appear to serve God for our profit.

2. God does net always give bread to him that is his son, that he may loathe this world and look for reward in heaven.

3. The good man shall fill his bosom with better fruits. (Hacket.)

Christ and the Christian alike in temptation

The struggle, as far as possible, was the same as in us. The lifeboat must brave the same storm, and plough through the same foaming billows, which threaten to engulph her, as the wrecked vessel to which she bears relief; and though so constructed as to be able to bear up against the fury of the waves, she needs the careful steerage, persevering efforts, ay, and courage, of those who venture forth to save the sinking ship. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Verse 4

Matthew 4:4

It is written.

The infallible book

The uses to which it may be put. Christ used it:-

1. To defend His Sonship;

2. To defeat temptation;

3. As a direction to His way;

4. For maintaining His own Spirit.

How to handle the word:-

1. With deepest reverence.

2. Have it always ready.

3. Understand its meaning.

4. Learn to appropriate Scripture to yourself.

5. Stand by the Scriptures, whatever they may cost you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Bible a moral defence.

We read that Oliver Cromwell had in his army one regiment-a fine, strong regiment-called” The Ironsides.” They were very religious men. And it was quite the custom for almost every soldier to carry his Bible to battle with him. They used to carry their Bible under their dress; and more than once, in a battle, the soldier would have been ,shot through the heart but for his Bible. The bullet went through his Bible, or it would have gone through his heart. The Bible saved the heart! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The Bible a victorious power

This is the sickle which cuts down all the tares which Satan sows among the good wheat; this is the ark of God before which all the idols of the Philistines fail fiat to the ground; this is the trumpet of Joshua whose noise overturneth the walls of Jericho. (Hacket.)

Bread alone.-

The bread of life

There is that condition of being in which man lives by bread.

1. It represents man as utterly subservient to material necessities. The springs of man’s noblest life are planted in necessity. How beautiful is this requisition for labour! A consequence of this law of effort is mutual service. An awful thing when man is reduced to a mere machine for getting bread. The wickedness of systems which tend to intensify such a condition. Such a man lives for something outside himself-for some interest which bread represents. Living by bread alone he estimates everything by the bread standard.

Let me urge upon you the higher life. “Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” “I have bread to eat that ye know not off”

1. Every good man does not live by bread alone, but by that God from whom it comes.

2. He realizes that he is not a mere instrument, but an end in himself.

3. He has a different standard of valuation from that of the mere bread standard. He thinks of utilities in a larger and nobler sense than other men. He values the true in the light of its truth, and not of its profit.

4. How we live upon traditions, upon the mere say-so of other people, the current of popular conviction, instead of coming and taking the word out of the mouth of God!

The point of the most fearful temptation is when men are tempted to sacrifice the interests of the higher life to the claims of the lower. You may lose fortune but gain goodness; you are made one with Christ. (E. H. Chaplin.)

Literally true that man does not live by bread alone

Do we think of the bread alone when it is placed on our tables? Are we not reminded from whence it comes-what wondrous mysteries have conspired to bring it there-the fair sunlight that shone upon the soil-the heavenly dew that moistened the earth-the mysterious processes of nature that brought forth, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear?” Does man live by bread alone, or by Divine wisdom, power, and goodness, which conspire in the wondrous loom of nature to weave the result and form the agency by which we get that bread? (E. H. Chaplin.)

Mentally, man does not live by “bread” alone

Sometimes people go to a rich man’s house and wonder that he pays so much money for a picture. The money they think might bring in interest or might be applied to purposes of utility, and they consider it a waste to expend five or ten thousand dollars for a work of art. Little do they imagine how that picture enriches and refines that man’s soul, elevating it to a higher conception of all beauty; how it enables him to understand why the swamp mists become festoons and upholsteries of glory before the setting sun; why the grass is green, the heavens blue, and the rolling waves of the sea are interlaced with threads of sunlight; because, viewing them as proceeding out of the mouth of God, he comprehends them, and says, “The money that I have given for it, that could not make me richer, because it perfects me, and helps form me for an end.” (E. H. Chaplin.)

The poverty of the “bread” standard of life

He discerns as much the glory of God in the miniature world revealed in a single drop of water, as in a great planet. One man is overawed by the solemn aspect of the mountain, and the glory of the forest waving with the breath of the summer breeze. Another wonders how many hundred acres of land there are and how much timber in it. That is all the universe is to him. So the characters of men are revealed according to their standard of valuation; and, I repeat, if a man’s life is wholly down to the bread standard of life, he sees merely the material interests of this world. (E. H. Chaplin.)

Life in nature needs varied elements for sustenance

It is like saying that a tree cannot live merely upon water. It needs other elements which the rich earth must give. (Phillips Brooks.)

Every word-

Man’s spiritual food

Man has a spiritual as well as a corporeal nature-a spiritual nature which requires food.

The Word of God is the true food of the soul of man. It is spiritual food adapted to man’s spiritual nature, and also to its condition as guilty and impure. (Studies for the pulpit.)

Word of God compared to food

1. The propriety of the metaphor. As it is essential to the life of the soul, and the source of strength.

Its peculiar characteristics. Heavenly and Divine, superabundant, endless variety, gratuitous bestowment, universal communication.

Our duty with respect to it. We should thankfully receive it, believingly feed upon it, grow and improve by it, constantly apply it. (Dr. Burns.)

Verse 5

Matthew 4:5

Pinnacle of the temple.

-Tempted to self-destruction. (Dr. O. Winslow.)

The seceded temptation

Satan’s doubt. “If Thou be the Son of God,” etc.

His purpose. He urged on Christ an act of self-destruction. He was from the beginning the cause of death in all forms.

The argument with which he supported it. A quotation from Scripture.

The passion to which he appealed. The pride of the human heart, to display.

It was a real temptation; it contanned desire, collision between desire and law, suggestion, and free will. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Temptations on the pinnacle

View the temptation itself.

1. The place of this temptation. It was high; it was holy.

2. The first effort of the devil was to sap the foundations of the Saviour’s strength with a doubt-“If Thou be the Son of God.” The point of attack was our Lord’s Sonship.

3. The cunning tempter has paved the way for the Satanic suggestion, “Cast Thyself down.”

4. The suggestion was backed up by a text of Scripture. He misquotes the text and omits “in all thy ways.” God does not promise to keep us in ways of our own choosing.

5. The answer which the Saviour gave.

A few considerations deduced from the whole.

1. Jesus was tempted as I am.

2. Jesus was tempted, but Jesus never sinned.

3. Jesus not only did not fall, but He triumphed gloriously. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The devil may suggest: compel he cannot. (St. Chrysostom.)

It appeals to the trust which had been triumphant over temptation a moment before. Not even trust in God can expect God to save it from the consequences of presumption and disobedience; it must conform to the laws of God.

Subordinate lessons

The apparent teaching of any isolated text of Scripture always needs to be interpreted and limited by the whole of Scripture.

2. There is often the exaggeration and distortion of virtue. Trust becomes presumption. Strike any one note of human goodness and you will be sure to hear its accompanying discord. (G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

Practical reflections

1. No place is so sacred as to be free from the devil’s intrusion.

2. The difference between God’s miracles and Satan’s prodigies.

3. How different is the guidance of our Saviour from the guidance of our adversary; He casts down and then lifts up.

4. Ye who dwell in lofty places remark that Satan is ever near to take advantage of your unwatchfulness and give you a shameful fall.

5. The limitation of his power. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Elevation in order to destruction

On the rocky shore of Cornwall you may see the black cormorant seizing its prey, a shell-fish, flying up with it in the air, and then letting it fall upon some rock, that the shell may be broken in pieces. The great destroyer sometimes deals with those who serve him in a similar way. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Verse 6

Matthew 4:6

Angels charge.

The angelic ministers of the good

Commissioned by God. They are “His angels”-obey His behests, carry out His purpose.

Exercised for the godly as individuals. God does not overlook the individual in the multitude (1 Kings 19:4-8; Daniel 6:22; Acts 12:7-10) …

By means of the exercise of this angelic ministry the godly are enabled to surmount all the hindrances and conquer all the foes that beset their way.

1. Encouragement to trust in God.

2. The dignity of the godly. (W. Jones.)

Verse 7

Matthew 4:7

Not tempt the Lord thy God.

The essential difference between faith and presumption.

The possibilities of presumption.

1. When we undertake to settle questions which axe beyond our range.

2. When we look for bodily health without obeying the laws of nature.

3. When we expect sufficient means without sufficient labour and moderation in enjoyment.

4. When we hope for admission into the kingdom of God, and postpone earnest application for entrance.

5. When we expect steadfastness and growth, while we neglect the sources of spiritual strength.

Its heavy penalties. (W. Clarkson, B. A.)


God is different from tempting Him. (Wiseman.)

Verse 8

Matthew 4:8

Again, the devil.

The third temptation

The preparation for this temptation. Satan suits the external circumstances to the temptation, and draws his snare from them. All the senses may be sources of temptation, but chief amongst them is the eye. It is more closely allied to the imagination than the other senses, and feeds it with objects.

The offer.

1. The altered form of the temptation. He did not preface his assault with the confession of doubt or flattery, “If Thou be the Son of God.” Perhaps he felt the incongruity of such a form of address when the condition he proposed was an act of adoration to himself; or he no longer explored Christ’s Divinity.

2. The passion appealed to-the most powerful-the inordinate love of possessing. Satan offered to resign his power in this world and the next.

The condition.

This is a real temptation to Christ.

1. A warning against worldliness.

2. That such an act should be suggested to Christ may prevent those who are troubled with horrid thoughts from despair. (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)

The persistency of Satan

As an enemy that besiegeth a city will go about it, and espy where the wall is weakest, and most fit for his entrance, and there will be sure to give his strongest onset; and as a man that Would strike fire with a flint will turn it about in his hand, to see what part is fittest, even so the devil: he goes about a man, and, as it were, turns him to and fro to spy out his weakness, and to what sins he is most inclined; and there he will be sure to try him often, and to assault him with the greatest violence. Example: If a man be impatient of poverty, he will seek to carry him to picking and stealing; if a man be prone to covetousness, he will provoke him to fraud and oppression; if he be inclined to ambition, Satan will puff him up with pride and vainglory. (W. Perkins.)

Successive temptations

Like the wave that falls over upon the sea shore, only to be followed by others, perhaps of more encroaching violence. (E. Scobell, M. A.)

The subtlety of Satan

Satan, by the subtlety of his nature and long experience, knoweth our estate, our temper, our hunger, our chief desires; and, accordingly, setteth on us. For though he know not the heart directly, yet he knows our corruption in general, as we are men. Further, by our outward behaviour and gesture he can gather our especial corruptions, as a physician, by outward signs in the pulses and the like, can judge of the particular disease within. Besides, his experience giveth him much light into our weakness, so as like a cunning angler, he can bait his hook, so as he hath experience the fish will take; and though he see not the fish in the water, yet by his gule and cork he can tell when he is taken. So Satan hath for sundry men sundry baits, and can tell by the eye, hand, speech, gesture, whether the man be or will be taken. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

Defeat made subservient to victory by Satan

It is said of the Duke of Wellington, that he knew how to extract from defeat the means of victory. The prince of darkness is well skilled in this art. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Kingdoms of the world.
His aim was to induce Jesus to seek universal dominion in an easier way than the prophets had foretold, and which the Father had marked out. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Satan’s delusive offer of the world

Satan cannot offer us similar greatness; but he tempts by ruling ambition; as in the case of Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon. And how the poor fools ,were betrayed! Alexander dies of drunkenness; Caesar was stabbed in the Senatehouse by a friend; and Napoleon died in exile at St. Helena. He tempts also by mere ordinary worldly blessings. (R. Watson.)

He concealed their vanity.

Reflections on the third temptation

1. The danger attending worldly prosperity.

2. It is a constant device of Satan to present to us a partial and false view of the world.

3. In the example of Jesus we have a perfect instance of deadness to the world.

4. The example of our Lord rebukes covetous and worldly ambition.

5. That Satan is after all a hard master; under the guise of liberality he solicits severe conditions.

6. Our Lord reveals to us the true riches.

7. The Church is destined for universal dominion. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Verse 9

Matthew 4:9

Will I give.

-Abraham, when the king of Sodom offered him some part of his spoils, refused to take so much as a shoe-latchet of him, that the king of Sodom might not say another day that he had made Abraham rich; that men might not say that Abraham had been made rich, not by God’s blessing, but by the king’s means, and that he might thank the king of Sodom for what he had. So a godly man will not gain, or desire to gain, so much as a shoe-string or a shoe-thread by profaning the Sabbath with the Sidonian merchant, by fraud or deceit, by oppression or extortion, by biting usury, the devil’s brokery, by rifling and plundering, or by any other unlawful or indirect means, that the devil may not one day say that he hath made him rich, as he said sometime to our Saviour. (Gataber.)

He never keeps his promises. (Wiseman.)

Verse 10

Matthew 4:10

Worship the Lord thy God.

Divine worship

Divine worship is human instinct. Among all the living occupants of the earth, man is the only worshipper. Man feels after the Divine. Hence, in different ages, different evidences of man’s worshipfulness-sacred grove, mosque, synagogue, temple, church. Man’s natural tendency has never been not to worship; but to worship too many objects. Paganism divided and weakened worship. Christianity concentrates and gives life, force, and unity to the worship.

Christian worship ennobles the worshipper. “The Lord thy God!” In the worship of such a God, man’s own intellect is ennobled, and his heart purified. His whole humanity is raised.

The worship and service of the Christian religion are unending. “Thou shalt worship,” etc. There are no limitations to that command in the Book; none in the human heart. The moral aspirations of the soul are enduring as itself. (Nevison Loraine.)

The object of worship

The qualifications necessary to constitute a being a proper object for Divine adoration.

What is the worship God requires?

Why we should worship God. He commands. Is our Creator, etc. In it consists our happiness. (Anon.)

Worship and service

We must worship.

1. A man can never be too reverent to God.

2. Our religion must be uncovered.

3. The wandering eye must learn to be fastened on Him.

4. Jacob, though he were not able to stand or kneel, yet leaned upon his staff, and worshipped God.

5. This must be done as duty due to God, and in regard of those that be strangers.

We must serve.

1. Bow the soul when we bow the body.

2. We must serve God with our sacrifices.

3. Not with our sins.

4. Not with our iniquities.

5. God must be above all: and of whomsoever a man is overcome, to him he is in bondage. (Bishop Lancelot Andrewes.)

Verse 11

Matthew 4:11

The devil leaveth him.

The end of the temptation

Satan’s departure on the side of Christ. Christ had repelled Satan in the third temptation in quite a different way from that in the previous contests (Luke 4:8). A coercive and indignant dismissal.

Satan also withdrew willingly. He had exhausted his temptations. All the varied forms of temptation are reduceable to three-pride, avarice, and sensuality. Three root-passions (1 John 2:16). So Christ tempted in all points as we are. Had Satan remained he had no more weapons to try. At the fitting moment Christ revealed His hatred of sin. This overthrow was a new experience.

How far this withdrawal was temporary. Satan returned in the Passion, but indirectly through others. He entered into Judas. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Primarily temptations few.

They are like languages which, though many, are divided into groups or families, and are traceable to a few primitive sources. (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Temptation productive of good

Thus it may prove with us as with the oyster, which stops with a precious pearl the hole in its shell which was originally a disease; as with the broken limb, which having been set, may be stronger than if it never had been broken. It may fare with us as islanders of the Southern Ocean fancy that it fares with them; counting, as they do, that the strength and valour of the warrior whom they have slain in battle passes into themselves as their rightful inheritance. The strength which lay in the temptation has shifted its seat, and passed over into the man who has overcome the temptation. (R. C. Trench.)

Christ the Captain of the tempted

In the old Roman times, there was a great Roman general to whom one of his soldiers said: “Oh! the enemy are so many. We are not half so many as the enemy! The enemy is twice as many as we are.” The general said to him, “How many do you count me for?” Do you understand? There are “more with us than there are against us.” Jesus is with us. How many do you count Him for? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The victory

1.It was complete.

2. It was not final.

3. It was the precursor of ether victories, even that of the cross.

4. He has not endured one temptation more than was necessary.

5. The propriety of the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.”

6. It was obtained through self-sacrifice.

7. It supplies an antidote to doubt and despair.

8. It was watched in heaven. (L. H. Wiseman.)

Angels came.-

Ministering angels

1. Thoughts.

2. Friends.

3. Children.

4. Books.

5. Flowers.

Angels came

1. To congratulate Christ after His victory.

2. From a disinterested love of us.

3. Because of their love for Christ.

4. To honour God.

5. To teach us the dignity of human nature when faithful in temptation.

6. Christ by this victory had formed a fresh link with the angels-they had passed through trial.

7. Human nature stands between heavenly and Satanic influences. (W. H. Hatchings, M. A.)

Verse 16

Matthew 4:16

Sat in darkness.

Darkness and light

The deep darkness which envelops the world without the gospel. “Darkness “ and “the region of the shadow of death,” striking emblems of error, ignorance, sin, guilt, misery, danger.

1. The heathen world is in this darkness (Romans 1:18-32).

2. In the very midst of Christendom there is this darkness. Home heathenism, etc. The condition of all unregenerate men.

The uprising of a glorious light for the transformation of the darkness. There is no redeeming principle in man’s apostate nature. But for the prospects opened by the gospel, there must be the darkness of final and absolute despair. Materialism, etc., are as powerless as the ancient systems to reach the conscience and renew the heart (Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 45:8, and others). But glorious is the view in the text, etc. Concerning this light, observe-

1. Its source. The gospel is “light,” and this marks its divinity. “God who commanded,” etc.

2. Its adaptation: To every stage of human society; to the common wants of man-instruction, comfort, etc.; to every order of mind; to every possible condition, etc. The gospel offers pardon for the guilty, etc.

3. Its diffusiveness. A “ great light”-penetrating. Progress of the gospel in apostolic times, etc. In how many dark places has “light sprung up,” etc.

4. Its efficacy. Not a dead letter, but “ the power of God,” etc.

It will finally prevail-“All the ends of the earth shall see,” etc.

1. Has the Sight arisen upon your soul?

2. Are you manifesting it in your life, etc.?

3. Are you doing what you can to communicate it to others? (A. Tucker.)

Light for those who sit in darkness

Some souls are in greater darkness than others.

1. The darkness of ignorance.

2. The darkness of error.

3. The gloom of discomfort and sorrow, attended with fear.

4. Hopelessness, “sat in darkness.”

5. In the region of death.

For those who are in a worse condition than others there is hope and light.

1. In barbarous nations Christ has won great victories.

2. In the worst hearts Christ has dawned.

3. When these have beheld the light, they frequently become eminently useful to others.

4. The conversion of the deplorably dark brings the highest degree of glory to God.

The true light for a soul in darkness is all in Christ.

1. There is light in Christ’s name for a troubled sinner.

2. In His person and nature.

3. In His offices.

4. In His character.

The poor soul in darkness need not despair, for light is all around you. It has already “sprung up.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 17

Matthew 4:17

Jesus began to preach.

The scientific art of preaching

I would insist upon the prominence given to preaching in the Church of God: the text marks the introduction of A new science.

1. Our Lord might have instituted this agency without preaching Himself. He might have sent an angel; but He set us the copy of this new science Himself. Three Greek words are used in the New Testament, and translated “preach” in connection with our Lord’s ministry. One is “evangelize,” which means to declare good tidings; the next word means “to declare as a herald;” a third word implies argumentation. Here, then, we have the science of preaching defined.

2. From these historical facts, in the description of which we gain these words, it will not be difficult to deduce the underlying principles of this Divine science of preaching, that it is the announcement of glad tidings, the presence of an ambassador as the one announcing and pressing upon men by arguments which address the conscience, will, affections, and understanding.

The text gives us the inauguration of A new art. Preaching was original with Jesus Christ.

1. Show that this is a new science. Preaching did not exist in patriarchal times: it was not a Jewish institution: it was not practised among the Gentiles.

2. It was original, because until Jesus lived and died there was no good news to be told.

This was a new responsibility.

1. That preaching is the sole agency for man’s salvation.

2. It is the unlimited privilege of all believers. (S. H. Tyng.)



Its origin.

1. It is of gospel parentage.

2. It is of gracious origin.

Its essentials.

1. Illumination.

2. Humiliation.

3. Detestation.

4. Transformations.

Its companions.

1. Faith.

2. Confession.

3. Holiness.

4. Peace.

Its excellencies.

1. Pleasantness.

2. It is sweet to God as well as to men. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Repentance and the kingdom of God

Repentance signifies a change of mind.

1. There is conviction of sin.

2. Sorrow for sin.

3. Confession of sin.

4. Amendment of life.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” is used only by St. Matthew. Jews did not want a spiritual kingdom. National quiet brings ruin. Our Lord gave Jews an opportunity to repent. (A. Jones.)


The meaning of repentance.

1. The commencement of repentance is a deep sorrow for sin.

2. The utter forsaking of sin.

3. A continuation of the good work begun.

4. The adding on to the whole train of Christian virtues.

What is meant by the kingdom of heaven. The glorious gospel was to be preached.

The necessity of repenting. (E. Thompsom, M. A.)


Repentance is a necessary qualification to fit us for glory.

1. Be it never so troublesome and painful a work, it is richly worth our while.

2. Reward is the life of action.

3. The encouragement of industry.

Repentance does not only give us a future evidence for heaven, but puts us into actual possession.

1. It instates us into our happiness.

2. Is an earnest of future glory. Thus grace is the incohation of glory, and glory is the consummation of grace.

What content must this needs be, to enjoy the morning of our eternity, even in this life; and through the crannies of our mortality to have a glimpse of that broad day of glory, which, unlike our longest days, will never have an end.

If every penitential tear were a diamond, and thou didst nothing all thy lifetime but shed tears of liquid pearl, the kingdom of heaven would still be a cheap practise. Thou shouldst never have cause to complain of thy bargain. (Adam Littleton, D. D.)


This definition may be divided into three parts.

A sorrowing for our sins.

1. This only is the penance whereto all the Scripture calleth us.

2. This penance do I now call you all unto.

3. This must be continually in us, and not merely for a Lent-season.

4. This must increase daily more and more in us.

5. Without this we cannot be saved.

Examining our sins.

1. Outward evil springs out of inward corruption. This must be perfectly and spiritually understood if we will come to the true knowledge of our sins.

2. Therefore let us get God’s law as a glass to look in, and that not only literally, outwardly, or partly, but also spiritually, inwardly, and thoroughly. For, as St. Austin saith, it is a, glass which feareth nobody; but even look what a one thou art, so it painteth thee out.

A trust of pardon.

A purpose to amend, or a conversion to a new life. Let your sorrowing for your evils demonstrate itself by departing from the evils you have used. Let your certainty of pardon of your sins through Christ, and your joy in Him, be demonstrated by pursuing the good things which God’s Word teacheth you.

1. Repent your sins.

2. Believe in God’s mercy for pardon.

3. Earnestly pursue a new life, bringing forth worthy and true fruits of repentance. (John Bradford.)

All who sincerely obey, and do what He hath commanded, may be properly said to serve Him

(1) By acknowledging the justice and goodness of His laws, and

(2) His power and authority over them;

(3) By loving, fearing, trusting, and believing on Him;

(4) By being sober, temperate, for the honour of His image enstamped on you;

(5) By being meek, patient, and thankful in all conditions, in whatsoever happens to you;

(6) By being humble and lowly in your own eyes;

(7) By being bountiful, kind, and merciful to others;

(8) By being just and righteous in all your dealings. (William Beveridge, D. D.)

Kingdom of heaven is at hand.-

The kingdom of heaven is at hand

1. Daily. Somebody dies every day; folks are travelling in and out of this great Inn, the world, continually.

2. Death may suddenly come to your door. Though he hath passed by often without calling, he will knock at last, and when he summons, thou must away. As the angels did with Lot, while thou lingerest he will lay hold upon thy hand, and hasten thee away even against thy will. Therefore-L Think often of thy own end, which is to thee the end of all things. When thou art gone, all is gone.

Then it will be found that the best pillow to lay a dying head on will be a good conscience.

Thou must then bid adieu to earth’s spangled glories. Honours and estates will prove but weak cordials.

A thousand worlds will then be bid for one hour’s respite; and it cannot be bought so, if thou hadst them to give. (Adam Littleton, D. D.)

Verse 18

Matthew 4:18

Sea of Galilee.

-The New Testament snows us that the Sea of Galilee was well stocked with fish, as it still is, and that a considerable portion of the people dwelling on its shores were fishermen. The modes of catching fish were the same as are still in use in all parts of Western Asia. They are taken with the hook, or with a scoop-net fastened around a hoop, and suspended from the end of a pole … Fishing on a larger scale is done by means of a long net, some three or four feet in width, with pieces of lead attached along one side to sink it, and of cork on the other to keep it afloat. The operation is performed by men occupying two boats. To one of these is made fast one end of the net, while the remainder is piled up in the other boat. The latter is rowed rapidly off in a curved line, while one of the crew gradually drops the net into the water. The net is now spread, resting in a perpendicular position in the water. The two boats then, holding each end of it, row quickly to the shore. The fishermen jump into the shallow water, and holding the net-ropes, drag it to shore, where they sit down and slowly and carefully collect all the fish, shell-fish, and refuse, which their net has scooped up, “gathering the good” into their baskets, and “casting the bad away.” (H. G. Van-Lennep, D. D.)

Christ by the Sea of Galilee

That to the eye of Christ the chief object in nature was man.

1. He was unlike those who view it in a merely mercenary spirit.

2. Or those who view it in merely sentimental mood. He regarded man as chief in nature-

(1) Because man is the highest representation of God on earth;

(2) Because he is the only intelligent appreciator of God on the earth;

(3) Because he is the only voluntary servant of God on the earth.

that the chief obligation of man is to follow Christ.

1. The simplicity of His claim.

2. The Divine authority of His claim.

3. The powerfulness of His Word.

That the following of Christ qualifies a man to rescue his fellow-man. The text is an argument against underrating human nature; against mysticism in religion; against indolence in the cause of Christ. (U. R. Thomas.)

Verse 19

Matthew 4:19

Follow Me.

Follow Me

1.Follow Christ as your Teacher.

2. As your Example.

3. As your Friend.

4. If you see to the following what will Christ do? (D. B. Hooke.)

1. These heavenly fishermen follow Christ personally.

2. They follow Him circumstantially.

3. They follow Him singly, with a single eye. (H. Cole.)

The great lesson of the text may be summed up in this-that successful work for Jesus must spring out of a devout imitation of Him. “Follow Me,” etc. In the example of Christ there are two points which it is important to look at.

The estimate Jesus Christ gave to humanity in contrast with all the other objects that engaged His attention. In comparison with the claims of man, everything else was regarded as subsidiary.

His whole career was evolved from this central conception in regard to humanity. To save men-that was His mission. I must work-that was His motto. These thoughts were always present to His mind. Our grand central controlling purpose must be the imitation of the Master, in striving to become the servant of all.

1. Christian work must so far resemble Christ’s work as to be inspired with the soul of earnestness.

2. The possession of yearning pity and interest in humanity.

3. The cultivation of a spirit of large self-denial.

4. Persistency in effort.

5. Prayer. Does this command stir your soul to nobler work and better service, etc.? What is your response? (W. Kelynack.)

Follow Me

Whom? Not simply a human teacher, but Jesus, who qualified Himself by His earthly life, with its temptations, toil, and suffering, to be the efficient leader of men.

How? We cannot follow His person as the disciples did; but we may-Obey His precepts and copy His example.

Why? We cannot direct our own course-there is no leader equal to Christ-if we follow Him we shall be in good company. Only thus can we escape spiritual danger and eternal death.

Whither? To God: “I am the way,” etc. To heaven: “In My:Father’s house,” etc.

When? Now. Always. (Seeds and Saplings.)

The attractive face of Jesus

In lower human forms this magnetic attraction of man on man is not unknown. It is the orator’s power. The orators of revolutions-men like Mirabeau-are full charged with it; they are like jars laden with electric fire; there is that in their words which flashes out, and stirs, sways, and rules mankind. Christ constitutes in a still higher form the great Captain’s power. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Fishers of men.-

Ministers fishers of men

The appropriateness of the figure. The world is the sea, the scene of their labours.

The duty to be discharged. This net must be employed-constantly, diligently, skilfully.

1. Let the Christian fisherman rightly understand his net, and the appointed way of using it.

2. Let success be the grand object of attention.

3. Be cheerfully devoted to the work.

4. Our resources are infinite and exhaustless. (Dr. Burns.)

Fishers of men

1. To fish well, it is necessary to study the peculiarities of fish.

2. You must go to the fish. (Beecher.)

Scientific knowledge not enough for the preacher

It is necessary to know more than the science of ichthyology. What a book can tell a man about fishing is worth knowing, but it is little that a book can do towards making a man a true fisherman. If a man is going to fish for fish, he must become their scholar before he becomes their master; he must go to school in the brook, to learn its ways. And to fish for men, a man must learn their nature, their prejudices, their tendencies, and their courses. A man, to catch fish, must not only know their habits, but their tastes and their resorts; he must humour them according to their different natures, and adapt his instruments according to their peculiarities-providing a spear for some, a hook for others, a net for others, and baits for each one, as each one will. To sit on a bank or deck, and say to the fishes, “Here I am, authorized to command you to come to me and to bite what I give you,” is just as ridiculous as it can be, even though it does resemble some ways of preaching. The Christian’s business is not to stand in an appointed place and say to men, “Here am I; come up and take what I give you as you should.” The Christian’s business is to find out what men are, and to take them by that which they will bite at. (Beecher.)

Fishers of men

Christ came upon these men when they were busy at their everyday work. He saw them casting net into the sea. His eye is upon us in all the work we do in the world. And as:He looks upon us, so He calls us. It is true we may be so absorbed in other pursuits as not to hear the call.

What was His call? They were to leave their work that they might engage in higher work.

How shall we hope to be successful?

1. We must follow Christ.

2. We must submit to His teaching and influence.

3. Christ only can qualify us for the work. (A. Thomas.)

Industry an indication of worth

Whether, as He watched them putting out the net, He saw signs, which were indications to His penetrating and prophetic eye of fitness for the higher work to which they were to be called, we cannot tell. It is possible. For a very small thing will serve as a revelation of character to those who are keen-sighted, and who understand how the little is allied to the great. Just as a student like Owen will construct the entire skeleton if you give him a single bone, so the master, in the study of the human nature, will often be able to give a fair judgment of the whole character if he sees only what many would regard as casual and meaningless acts. (A. Thomas.)

Men miss the call of Christ through over occupation

You cannot attend to many things at once. There may be a glow of heavenly light on the mountain-top, but it will be nothing to the man whose eyes are fixed on the path along which he is painfully toiling. There may be the sound of sweet music carried on the night breezes; but it will be lost upon those who are disputing loudly and striving angrily with each other. (A. Thomas.)

1. A fisherman must be acquainted with the sea-we must know the locality in which we have to work.

2. A fisherman must also know how to allure fish.

3. The fisherman must be a man who can wait with patience.

4. A fisherman is one who must run hazards.

5. The fisherman must be one who has learned both how to persevere and how to expect. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A fisherman must also know how to allure the fish.

I saw on Lake Come, when we visited Bellagio, some men fishing. They had torches burning in their boats, and the fish were attracted to them by the glare of the light. You must know how to get the fish together. You know there is such a thing as the ground-bait for the fishes. You must know how to allure men. The preacher does this by using images, symbols, and illustrations. You must know how to catch the fish, throwing out first. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Church enriched from the ranks of poverty.-

A few years ago, on a wintry morning, a boy in the habiliments of poverty entered an old schoolhouse among our western mountains, and avowed to the master his desire for an education. There was poverty laying one of her richest gifts on the altar of religion, for that boy was Jonas King. On his humble shoemaker’s bench, Carey laid the foundation of British Baptist Missions. John Newton found in his congregation an unfriended Scotch bey, whose soul was then glowing with new-born love to Christ. He took him to John Thornton, one of those noble merchants whose wealth, whose piety, and whose beneficence increased together. They educated him, and that boy became Claudius Buchanan, whose name India will bless when the names of Clive and Hastings are forgotten. John Bunyan was a gift of poverty to the Church. Zwingle came forth from an Alpine shepherd’s cabin; Melanethon from an armourer’s workshop; Luther from a miner’s cottage; the apostles, some of them, from fishermen’s huts. These are the gifts of poverty to the Church. (Dr. d. Harris.)

Verse 21

Matthew 4:21

He called them.

Jesus calls all to follow Him

When engaged in their ordinary occupations. By His Word-Providence-Spirit.

The call.

1. Who calls? Jesus, the Saviour. His right to do so. His love in doing it.

2. The action. A call. Does not compel.

3. The purpose. To bring from toil to rest, from danger to safety, from nature to grace.

The obedience. Immediate-no delay. Thorough. They left, renounced, gave up, not to return: forsook, parted with possessions, relations. The reason was to follow Him-imitate, save. Through humility to glory. What remarkable faith! What ready obedience! (J. R. Taft, M. A.)

The character of St. James.

His thoroughness.

His readiness.

His devotedness. (Preb. Griffith, M. A.)

Forsaking all and following.

Consider the demand made upon the men called.

1. It involved the sacrifice of

(1) Domestic ties;

(2) Property;

(3) Their means of livelihood.

2. It secured

(1) Ridicule;

(2) Persecution;

(3) St. Andrew’s cross. Such was the prospect.

Contemplate their obedience manifested.

1. It was thorough.

(1) They forsook all;

(2) They followed Him-everywhere.

2. It was constant.

Now, as regards yourselves.

1. You have been called to follow Christ-

(1) In your baptism;

(2) Preaching;

(3) Warnings of Providence.

2. You are called to-Renounce evil ways.

3. You are called as they were, to endure loss, pain, death. Test your proceedings:-Sunday-how do you keep it? church-do you value its services? Holy Communion, etc. (G. Venables.)

Verses 23-25

Matthew 4:23-25

Healing all manner of sick.

Moral healing

Christ is able to cure all sorts of sins. Lover of lust, dropsy of drunkenness, stone in the heart, etc.

Christ healed incurable sinners-people who had diseases which were beyond the physicians’ skill. There is hope for incurable sinners.

Jesus healed diseases from all countries, and so He can heal sinners of all lands (vers. 24, 25). He is able to save without any distinction of race, or clime, or time, or place.

Jesus Christ healed sinners without any limitation in numbers-“multitudes.” Christ is as able to save a multitude as to save one.

He received nothing for all that He did, except the fame, and the honour, and the gratitude of their loving hearts. So to-day, poor sinner, Jesus will take nothing at thy hands, and it is a mercy for thee, for thou hast nothing to give. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Healing for all

I remember, when the Master Street Hospital, in Philadelphia, was opened during the war, a telegram came saying, “There will be three hundred wounded men tonight; be ready to take care of them;” and from my church there went in some twenty or thirty men and women to look after these poor wounded fellows. As they came, some from one part of the land, some from another, no one asked whether this man was from Oregon, or from Massachusetts, or from Minnesota, or from New York. There was a wounded soldier, and the only question was how to take off the rags the most gently, and put on the bandage, and administer the cordial. And when a soul comes to God, he does not ask where you came from, or what your ancestry was. Healing for all your wounds. Pardon for all your guilt. Comfort for all your troubles. (Dr. Talmage.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/matthew-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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