JESUS TEMPTED IN THE WILDERNESS.
Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13
- Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit, etc. See Luke 4:1-13.
- To be tempted of the devil. See Luke 4:1-13.
- And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights. A forty days' fast was accomplished by Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18), and by Elijah
(1 Kings 19:8), and it is a significant fact in this connection that
these two men appeared with Christ at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).
Those who share Christ's sufferings shall also share his glorification
(Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11,12). The forty days' fast became a basis for the
temptation. We are told that temptation results from the excitement of
desire (James 1:14), and, as a rule, the greater the desire the
greater the temptation. Viewed from this standpoint the temptation of
the second Adam greatly exceeded in strength that of the first, for
Adam abstained as to a particular fruit, but Christ fasted as to all
- He afterward hungered. Here, for the first time, our Lord is shown as sharing our physical needs. We should note for our comfort that one
may lack bread and suffer want, and still be infinitely beloved in
- And the tempter came and said unto him. Satan is pre-eminently the tempter, for other tempters are his agents. He may possibly have
appeared as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), but the purpose of his
coming is more important than the manner of it. He came to produce sin
in Jesus, for sin would render him forever incapable of becoming our
Savior--a sacrifice for the sin of others.
- If. In the temptations Satan uses three "ifs". The first "if" is one of despairing doubt (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3); the second, one of
vainglorious speculation (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:9); the third, one of moral
and spiritual compromise (Matthew 4:9; Luke 4:7).
- If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. This temptation appealed to the present appetite, the impulse of the
moment, as many of our temptations do. It has been quaintly said of the
"he had sped so successfully to his own mind by a temptation about a matter of eating with the first Adam, that he practiced the old manner of trading with the second."
This first temptation is still Satan's favorite with the poor. He suggests to them that if they were really the beloved objects of God's care, their condition would be otherwise. We should note that Jesus wrought no selfish miracle. Such an act would have been contrary to all Scripture precedent. Paul did not heal himself (1 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 4:13 (2 Timothy 4:20). Denying himself the right to make bread in the wilderness, Christ freely used his miraculous power to feed others in the desert (Matthew 14:15-21), and merited as just praise those words which were meant as a bitter taunt (Matthew 27:42). See Matthew 27:42.
- But he answered and said, It is written. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. It is a saying relative to the times when Israel was sustained by manna
in the wilderness. The case of Jesus was now similar to that of Israel.
He was in a foodless wilderness, but he trusted that as God had
provided for Israel in its helplessness, so would he now provide for
him. Israel sinned by doubt and murmuring, and proposing to obtain
bread in its own way--that is, by returning to Egypt (Exodus 16:1-9).
Jesus avoided a like sin. We should note the use which our Lord made of
Scripture: in his hour of trial he did not look to visions and voices
and special revelation for guidance, but used the written Word as the
lamp for his feet (Psalms 119:105); in the conflict of temptation he
did not defend himself by his own divine wisdom, but used that wisdom
which God had revealed to all Israel through his prophets. Jesus fought
as a man (Philippians 2:6,7), and used that weapon which, as God, he had
given to man (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus used the Scripture as of final,
argument-ending authority. Eve also started with "God hath said"
(Genesis 3:3); but she was not constant in her adherence to God's word.
Jesus permitted Satan neither to question nor pervert the Scripture.
- Man. In using the word "man", Jesus takes his stand with us as a human being.
- Shall not live by bread alone. Called out of Egypt as God's Son (Matthew 2:15), Jesus could well expect that he would be fed with manna
after his forty-days' fast. He trusted that God could furnish a table
in the wilderness (Psalms 78:19). We, too, have abundant reason for a like
trust. God gave us our lives, and gave his Son to redeem them from sin.
He may let us suffer, but we can not perish is we trust him. Let us
live by his word rather than by bread. It is better to die for
righteousness than to live by sin. God fed Israel with supernatural
bread, to show the people that they lived thus, and not by what they
were pleased to call natural means. The stomach is a useful agent, but
it snot the source of life, nor even the life sustainer. Those who
think that the securing of bread is the first essential to the
sustaining of life, will fail to seek any diviner food, and so will
eventually starve with hunger--soul hunger.
- But by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. To satisfy our sense of duty is often more pleasant than to appease the
pangs of hunger (John 4:32-34; Job 23:12; Jeremiah 15:16). The trust of
Jesus that God would speak in his behalf and save him, was like that of
Job (Job 13:15). God can sustain our lives without food if he
chooses. We shall live if God wills it, bread or no bread; and we
shall likewise die at his word (Matthew 6:25; John 6:47-58; Acts 17:28). God
can support our lives independent of our body (Matthew 10:28).
- Then the devil taketh him. Matthew emphasizes the compulsory companionship of Satan. Jesus was in the hands of Satan, as was Job
(Job 2:5,6); but in Jesus' case Satan had the power of life and
death, and he eventually took Jesus to the cross and slew him there.
- Into the holy city. A common name for Jerusalem. The inscription on Jewish coins was "Jerusalem the Holy". Arabs today call it "el
Kuds", "the Holy". The Holy City did not exclude the tempter nor
temptations. The church may be the scene of man's sorest trial to
resist wrong. But in the Holy City which is to come there be no
- And set him. The two verbs "taketh" and "setteth" imply that Satan exercised a control over the bodily person of our Lord.
- On the pinnacle of the temple. It is not known exactly what spot is indicated by the word "pinnacle". Hence three places have been
contended for the proper locality: (1) The apex of the temple structure
itself. (2) The top of Solomon's porch. (3) The top of Herod's royal
portico. As to the temple itself, Josephus tells us that its roof was
covered with spikes of gold, to prevent even birds from alighting upon
it, and, if so, men could not stand upon it. Solomon's porch, or the
eastern portico, faced the Mount of Olives, and has been fixed upon by
traditions as the place from which James, the Lord's brother, was
hurled. The royal portico of Herod was at the southeast corner of the
temple enclosure, and overlooked the valley of Kidron. Here was then,
therefore, the most suitable place for Satan's proposal.
- And saith unto him, If. Godly life rests on faith. The life the devil would have us lead rests on ifs and uncertainties, on doubt and
skepticism. We should note that foolish men doubt the divinity of
Jesus, but the temptations of our Lord show how positively Satan was
convinced of it. The opening scenes of Christ's ministry are redolent
with his divinity. The Baptist asserted his purity and might, the
Spirit visibly acknowledged his worthiness, the Father audibly
testified to his Sonship, and the devil twice assaulted him as the
- If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down. The first temptation was to under-confidence; the second to over-trust and presumption--two
very dangerous conditions of the soul. Men begin by disparagingly
doubting that Jesus can save them from their sins, and end by
recklessly presuming that he will save them in their sins. Comparing
this with Eve's temptation, we find that she was vainly curious to see
if she might be like God (Genesis 3:5), but Christ resisted such
curiously. It is urged by some as to this temptation that there is no
hint of vainglory or display, because nothing is said about casting
himself down in the presence of the people, and that Jesus was merely
taken to the temple because the sacred locality would tend to heighten
his trust in the protecting promise which Satan quoted. But this ground
is not well taken, for (1) The temple presumes a crowd. (2) We have a
right to presume that this temptation would be like others to which
Jesus was subjected. He was frequently invited to work miracles to
satisfy curiosity, and he invariably refused to do so.
- For it is written. This quotation is taken from Psalms 91:11,12 and applies to man generally. Note: (1) The devil's head is full of
Scripture, but to no profit, for his heart is empty of it. (2) By
quoting it he shows a sense of its power which modern rationalism would
do well to consider. (3) Satan's abuse of Scripture did not discourage
Christ's use of it.
- He shall give his angels charge concerning thee. Regarding Satan's words as a quotation, we are struck with the fact that his knowledge
of this particular passage was based upon his personal experience. He
had been confronted by the presence of the guardian angels and had
fretted at it (Job 1:10; 2 Kings 6:8,17; Psalms 34:7; Jude 1:9). As a temptation,
Satan's words appeal to Jesus to be more religious; to put more trust
and reliance upon the promises of the Father; and he puts him in the
place--the temple--where he might argue that God could at least afford
to let his promise fail.
- And on their hands they shall bear thee up. All who love pomp, display of artistic taste, gaieties of fashion, intoxication of fame,
etc., fall by this temptation. Those who truly rest on God's promises,
stand on a sure foundation, but those who rise one bubbles must come
down when they burst.
- Jesus said unto him, Again it is written. Whether "written" or "said" (Luke 4:12), the writings of Scripture are in general the
sayings of God. But the Bible is not made up of isolated texts. To get
a right understanding we must compare Scripture with Scripture. We
could have no higher endorsement of the Old Testament than this use of
it by Christ. It was sufficient for him in his temptations, and with
the addition of the New Testament, it is sufficient for us in all
things (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Colossians 3:3-16).
- Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God. Make experiment upon God, set traps for him, put one's self in dangerous situations, hoping
thereby to draw forth some show of loving deliverance. Had Jesus cast
himself down, he would have demanded of the Father a needless miracle
to prove his Sonship, and would thereby have put the love of God to an
unnecessary trial. All who jeopardize themselves without any command of
God or call of duty, make trial of his love.
- Again, the devil taketh him. Whether naturally or supernaturally, "whether in the body or out of the body" (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), we cannot
tell. But it was a real, practical trial and temptation.
- Unto an exceeding high mountain. It is immaterial which mountain this was; for from no mountain could one see the whole earth with the
- And showeth him. It is not said by either Matthew or Luke that Jesus saw the kingdoms from the mountain-top, but that Satan "showed" them to
him. From any high Judean mountain it would be easy for him to locate
Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia, and Assyria, and as he pointed out their
locality a few brief words of description would picture them to the
imagination of Jesus, and cause their glories to move before his eyes.
But it is very likely that to this description some sort of
supernatural vision was added. It tempted the eye of Jesus as the
luscious fruit did the eye of Eve (Genesis 3:6).
- All the kingdoms of the world. It tempted Jesus to realize the dreams which the Jewish nation entertained. It was an appeal to him to
reveal himself in the fullness of his power and authority as above
generals, princes, kings, and all beings of all ages. An appeal to
obtain by physical rather than by spiritual power; by the short-cut
path of policy rather than by the long road of suffering and martyrdom.
Jesus came to obtain the kingdoms of the world. He was born King of the
Jews, and confessed himself to be a King before Pilate. All authority
is now given to him, and he must reign until he puts all his enemies
under his feet, and until all the kingdoms of the world become his
kingdom. Satan's way to obtain this kingdom differed from God's way. He
might obtain it by doing Satan's will and becoming his worshiper, or by
worshiping God and doing his will. Satan would give the speedier
possession, but God the more lasting. We also strive for a kingdom; but
let us obtain ours as Christ did his.
- And the glory of them. That is, all their resources as well as their magnificence. Their cities, lands, and people, their armies,
treasures, and temples, etc. Many parents in encouraging their
children to seek earthly glory and distinction, unconsciously assist
Satan in urging this temptation.
- All these things will I give thee. From the standpoint of Christ's humanity, how overwhelming the temptation! It was the world's honors to
one who had for thirty years led the life of a village carpenter; it
was the world's riches to him who had not where to lay his head. From
the standpoint of Jesus' divinity the temptation was repulsive. It was
a large offer in the sight of Satan, but a small one in the sight of
him who made all the worlds. Such offers are large to the children of
the world, but small to those who are by faith joint-heirs with Christ
(Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:7,8). But the temptation was, nevertheless, very
specious and plausible. The power of Jesus linked with that of Satan,
and operating through Jewish fanaticism and pagan expectation would, in
a few months, have brought the whole earth into one temporal kingdom,
with Jesus as its head. But the kingdom of Christ rested upon a surer
promise (Psalms 2:8) than that here given by the "father of lies". God
had promised, and, despite the pretensions of Satan, God had not yet
retired from the government of the world. It was true that Satan and
his emissaries had, by usurpation, gained an apparent possession of the
world, but Jesus had right to it as the heir of God (Matthew 21:33-43).
Being stronger than Satan, he had come to regain his kingdom, not by
treaty, but by conquest (Luke 11:19-22). Moreover, he would obtain
it as a spiritual and not as a carnal kingdom. Servants of Christ
should remember this. Every attempt to establish Messiah's kingdom as
an outward, worldly dominion is an effort to convert the kingdom of
heaven into the kingdom of the devil. God's kingdom cannot be
secularized. It should be noted also that Satan omits the words "if
thou art the Son of God" (Matthew 4:3,6) in this instance, for their
presence would have marred the force of the temptation. Note also that
this was the only temptation wherein Satan evinced any show of
generosity. He is slow to give anything, and most of us sell out to him
for nothing (Isaiah 52:3).
- If thou wilt fall down and worship me. See Isaiah 52:3. Satan and God each seek the worship of man, but from very different motives.
God is holiness and goodness, and we are invited to worship him that we
may thereby be induced to grow like him. But Satan seeks worship for
vanity's sake. How vast the vanity which would give so great a reward
for one act of worship! Verily the devil is fond of it. He gives
nothing unless he obtains it, and all his generosity is selfishness.
Worshiping before Satan is the bending of the soul rather than of the
body. He holds before each of us some crown of success, and says: "Bend
just a little; slightly compromise your conscience. Accept the help of
Pharisee and Sadducee, and keep silent as to their sins. Mix a little
diplomacy with your righteousness. Stoop just a little. If you do, I
will aid you and insure your success. If you do not, I will defeat you
and laugh at your failures". It is Satan's sin to make such
suggestions, but it is not our sin until we comply with them. We may
more quickly obtain by his wrong way, but more surely by God's right
way. Let no Christian be humiliated or discouraged by gross temptation,
since even the Son of God was tempted to worship the devil. What Jesus
would not do, the Beast has done, and has received the kingdoms for a
season (Revelation 13:1-9). Note, too, that it is all one whether we
worship Satan, or mammon, the gift which he offers (Matthew 6:24).
- Get thee hence. The passionate utterance of an aroused soul. Indignation is as divine as patience (Ephesians 4:26). Satan's sweetest
temptation was most disgusting to Christ, for its sin was so grossly
apparent. It ran counter to the very first of the Ten Commandments.
Jesus would give it no room in his thoughts; he spurned it, as being as
heinous as the law describes it (Deuteronomy 5:6-11). Temptation must be
peremptorily rejected. Jesus did not stop to weigh the worthiness of
Satan; it was sufficient that God only is to be worshiped. As God,
Jesus was himself an object of worship; but as man he worshiped the
Father privately and publicly. Satan sought to command Jesus, but was
commanded of him. Step by step Satan has obeyed this command, and foot
after foot, earth's spiritual world has been yielded by his departing
- Satan. The first and second temptations were so subtle and covert, and their sin so skillfully disguised, as to suggest that Satan
himself was disguised. If so, his pride and vanity, revealed in this
last temptation, betrayed him so that Jesus tore off his mask and
called him by his right name. When he tempted him in a somewhat
similar matter, Jesus called Simon Peter by this name (Matthew 16:23),
but he laid a different command upon each of them. To Satan he spoke
as an enemy, saying, "Get thee hence". He ordered Satan from his
presence, for he had no proper place there. To Peter he spoke as to a
presumptuous disciple, saying, "Get thee behind me". The disciple is a
follower of his master, and his proper place is in the rear.
- For it is written. Jesus gives a free translation of Deuteronomy 6:13. He substitutes the word "worship" for the word "fear". Fear prohibits
false and induces true worship, and loving worship is the source of all
acceptable service. The three Scripture quotations used by Jesus are
all from the book of Deuteronomy. He struck Satan with that very part
of the Spirit's sword which modern critical infidelity, in the name of
religion, and often aided by so-called religious organizations, seeks
to persuade us to cast away.
- Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. By serving God, Jesus obtained all the earthly authority which the
devil offered him, and heavenly authority in addition thereto
(Matthew 28:18). So much better are the rewards of God than Satan's.
- Then the devil leaveth him. See James 4:7. But Satan left to return many times. Here was the first being endowed with human nature
who had defeated Satan under all circumstances for thirty years. This
was Satan's first defeat under Christ's ministry. His last is yet to
come, and it shall come by this same Christ. Temptations are battles.
They leave the victor stronger and the vanquished weaker. Hence Satan
when resisted is represented as fleeing. But he only flees for a season.
He never despairs of the conflict so long as man is on the earth. Christ
was constantly tempted by the returning devil (Luke 22:28). As Jesus
hung upon the cross, all these three temptations with their accompanying
"ifs" were spread out before him (Matthew 26:39-43).
- And behold, angels came. They had probably witnessed the contest. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:16. Angels do not appear again visibly
ministering unto Jesus until we find him in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
When Satan finally departs from us, we, too, shall find ourselves in
the presence of angels.
- And ministered unto him. See Luke 22:43.
JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE.
A. REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE.
Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:19,20; John 4:1-4
- Now when he. Jesus.
- Heard that John was delivered up. He was in Judea when he heard it.
- He withdrew into Galilee. See John 4:1-4.
JESUS' TEMPORARY RESIDENCE AT CAPERNAUM.
- And leaving Nazareth. This expression means that Jesus now ceased to make Nazareth his home. For description of Nazareth,
see Matthew 4:13-16.
- He came and dwelt. The word "dwelt" means that Jesus made Capernaum his headquarters. He owned no house there (Matthew 8:20). He may have dwelt
with some of his disciples--for instance, Simon Peter (Matthew 8:14-16).
- Capernaum means "city of Nahum", or "village of consolation". Its modern name, Tel-Hum, means "hill of Nahum". See Matthew 8:14-16.
- In the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. Capernaum was in Naphtali, and the border of the tribe of Zebulun was three or four miles south of
it. This part of the country is densely populated, and had in it many
choice spirits such as Jesus chose for his apostles.
- That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet. See Isaiah 8:21-9:2.
- The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali. See Isaiah 9:1. This land or region was the first to suffer in the beginning of those
wars which finally resulted in the captivity of the ten tribes. The
people of this district were smitten by Benhadad (1 Kings 15:20), and
afterwards by Tiglathpileser (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26), some time
before the general captivity of the ten tribes (2 Kings 17:6).
- Galilee of the Gentiles. So called because it was, according to Strabo and others, inhabited by Egyptians, Arabians, and Phoenicians,
as well as by Hebrews.
- The people that sat in darkness saw great light, etc. See Isaiah 9:2. Those who by reason of their ignorance and depravity
suffered the torments of war, and sat as it were under the shadow of
the wing of death, were designated by prophecies as the class among
whom the light of the gospel would spring up in the fullness and
richness of its blessing. Jesus, the "Light of the world" (John 8:12
pretense of its fulfillment. Galilee had its prophets, but the enemies
of Jesus themselves bear witness that none of them were great enough
"light" to fulfill this prophecy (John 7:52).
GENERAL ACCOUNT OF JESUS' TEACHING.
Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 4:14,15
- From that time Jesus began to preach. The time here indicated is that of John the Baptist's imprisonment and Jesus' return to Galilee
(Matthew 4:12). This time marked a new period in the public ministry of
Jesus. Hitherto he had taught, but he now began to preach. When the
voice of his messenger, John, was silenced, the King became his own
herald. Paul quoted the Greeks as saying that preaching was
"foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23), but following the example here set by
Christ, he used it as the appointed means for saving souls. While
Matthew gives us many of the earlier incidents of Christ's life, he
enters upon the account of his "ministry" at the time when Jesus
returned to Galilee. From that time forward he was probably an
eyewitness of the events which he records.
- And to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. See 1 Corinthians 1:23.
JESUS CALLS FOUR FISHERMEN TO FOLLOW HIM.
(Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum.)
Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11
- Walking by the Sea of Galilee, etc. See Luke 5:1-11.
- Come ye after me, etc. See .
- And they straightway left the nets. That is, Peter and Andrew. See .
- James . . . and John his brother. See .
- And they straightway left the boat and their father. That is, James and John. See .
JESUS MAKES A PREACHING TOUR THROUGH GALILEE.
Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44
- Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. See Luke 4:42-44.
- And the report of him went forth into all Syria. Caravans passing through Galilee back and forth between the Mediterranean seaports on
the west and the Persian cities on the east, and between Damascus on
the north and Egypt on the south, would carry the reports concerning
Jesus far and wide.
- Palsied. The term "palsy" included all forms of paralysis, catalepsy, and cramps. See .
- And he healed them. Thus by his actions, Jesus showed that the kingdom of God had come. The wonders of Moses were mostly miracles of
judgment, those of Jesus were acts of compassion. The diseases here
enumerated are still among the most difficult for physicians to handle.
- There followed him great multitudes of people. These popular demonstration, no doubt intensified the erroneous notion of his disciples that the kingdom of Jesus was to be one of worldly grandeur.
- Decapolis. The word is formed from the two Greek words "deka" ("ten") and "polis" ("city"). As a geographical term, Decapolis refers to that part of Syria lying east, southeast, and south of the Lake of Galilee. There is some doubt as to which were the ten cities named, for there seem at times to have been fourteen of them. Those commonly reckoned are Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Sycthopolis, Gadara, Hyppos, Dion, Pella, Galas, and Kanatha. The other four are Abila and Kanata (distinct from Kanatha), Caesarea Philippi, and Gergesa. None of these were in Galilee save Sycthopolis. According to Ritter, these cities were colonized principally by veterans from the army of Alexander the Great. A reminiscence of their Macedonian origin is found in the fact that there was a city named Pella in Macedonia. These cities are said to have been formed into a confederacy by Pompey the Great. In the time of Jesus they were chiefly inhabited by Greeks or heathens, and not by Jews. Josephus expressly calls Gadara and Hyppos Greek cities.
- Beyond Jordan. The land beyond Jordan was called Perea, which means "beyond". According to Josephus, it included territory between the cities of Pella on the north and Machaerus on the south. That is to say, its northern boundary began on the Jordan opposite the southern line of Galilee, and its southern boundary was at Moab, about the middle of the east shore of the Dead Sea.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany