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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 4

 

 

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Verses 1-11

THE TEMPTATION

Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13. Matthew says that “He was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.” Mark says: “The Spirit immediately impels Him away into the desert. And He was there in the desert forty days, being tempted by the devil; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels continued to minister unto Him.” Luke says: “Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost, went away from the Jordan; and was led by the Spirit into the desert, being tempted by the devil forty days. And He ate nothing during those days; and they being completed, He was afterward hungry.” I have gazed much upon the Mount of Temptation, lifting his bleak, rugged summit immediately west of Old Jericho, whose walls fell down responsive to the shouts of Israel, and about twenty miles from the ford of the Jordan where Jesus was baptized. It is a bleak, desolate, rugged, dreary region, inhabited only by wild beasts and robbers, unless the Bedoum, in his wanderings, here pitches his tent. The fact that Matthew and Luke positively state that He became hungry after the forty days, and Mark certifies that the angels were ministering unto Him throughout these forty days, involves the conclusion that He was supernaturally kept, in a state of spiritual rhapsody, like Moses and Elijah, during the forty days, so that He did not realize the sensation of hunger until after their expiration; and the ministering angels retiring, the natural, physical condition returns, and with it an intense sensation of hunger, as He had been forty days entirely without physical nutriment. Mark and Luke both state that the temptation was going on during the forty days, while Matthew states that after the forty days, the tempter coming to Him, said, “If Thou art the Son of God, say that these stones Mark, and Luke, we conclude that during the forty days He was undergoing a temptation by the combined minions of perdition, and the powers of darkness turned loose against Him; meanwhile, the angels are present with Him, and through their sympathetic and consolatory ministrations, He enjoys a heavenly prelibation to such an extent as to fill His spirit with an unearthly rapture, the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom He had received when He descended on Him at the Jordan, so thrilling Him with heavenly ecstasy as to supersede and hold in suspense the physical appetites, so as to suspend the sensation of hunger during the forty days of angelic ministration. During this period, while evidently the powers of darkness are turned loose against Him, and doubtless the monsters of the pit swarm around Him, their hideous howling commingling with the growl and the roar of the wild beasts, yet, amid all, He enjoys a glorious victory, so that His spiritual rapture enables Him so to triumph over the physical destitution and depletion as to utterly suspend the sensation of hunger. At the expiration of forty days, the angels having retreated away, and the roar of the hell-hounds, the hissing of reptiles, and the ferocity of the wild beasts all combine to augment the dismal solitude and the awful peril of the situation, suddenly King Diabolus, having vacated his ebony throne in the Pandemonium, and assuming the form of a great and mighty man, like Napoleon Bonaparte or Alexander the Great, dressed in all the pompous costume of royal majesty, approaches Him, and enters upon a personal interview. The ministering angels have retreated away; His spiritual rhapsody no longer holding in suspense the physical functions, a fearful collapse of exhausted nature now supervenes, the intensity of His hunger, after a fast of forty days, being utterly inconceivable. Here we see Jesus at the greatest possible disadvantage.

(a) He is in the enemy’s territory, surrounded by desolation and horror; the ferocious wild beasts ready to devour Him, and more ferocious demons and hellish monsters on all sides, every angel having retreated away, and the bright glory of heaven mantled in dark eclipse, with the awful intensity of hunger, super induced by a forty days’ fast.

(b) In addition to all this, the prince of the Pandemonium, with the cultured intelligence of an archangel, now meets Him, with a personal order to satisfy His poor body with bread.

We must remember that, as Jesus was free from infirmity and from all physical ailment, which so frequently, in our case, suspends the appetite for food, His hunger subsequently to the expiration of the forty days and the angelic ministry was unutterably intense. While the Divinity of Christ could not be tempted, His humanity was tempted, in all the three great departments constituent to our being; i.e., the physical, spiritual, and intellectual.

(c) You observe from the inspired narrative that Satan made his first assault against the physical nature of Jesus, availing himself of the most superlative case of intensified hunger in order to induce Him to satisfy it by resorting to a miracle, which would be out of harmony with the Divine economy, because in probationary life we must be true to providence as well as grace, the former appertaining to the body, and the latter the soul; hence it was pertinent that Jesus, like every other man, should await the providence of God to satisfy His hunger.

In the case of Adam the First, Satan began with the physical, as now in the temptation of Jesus, it so turned out that he economized two thirds of his ammunition, achieving a complete victory in his first assault; i.e., slaying Adam on the first round. If he had failed in the temptation of his body with the fruit, he would then have proceeded to carry the war with all possible expedition into the dominion of spirit and intellect. Not so in the case of Adam the Second; there, Satan used all of his ammunition and lost it all.

(d) You see here the simple method by which Jesus defeated the devil:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth through the mouth of God.” He is our Infallible Example, who alone has a right to teach the Christian soldier how to fight. If we will follow His example, we are certain to always have victory. You may fight the devil with your creed, and he will run over you rough-shod. Fight him with the plain, simple Word of God, and, like the Salvation Army song,

“If you want to see the devil run, Always shoot him with a gospel gun.”

(e) “Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city, and places Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and says to Him, if Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it has been written, He gives His angels charge over Thee, to hear Thee up, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” (Psalms 91:2)

Satan is a great Scriptorian, always ready to quote it; but never giving it correctly. So you find Satan’s preachers, always twisting and turning the Word of the Lord to suit their creed. In this quotation, Diabolus very adroitly omits the clause, “In all Thy ways.” We can perfectly rely upon the keeping power of God, so long as we are in the Divine order; but when we get out, then the devil drops a lasso round our necks. In this assault — i.e., Satan’s second campaign against Jesus — he directs his ammunition against the citadel of His human spirit, the receptacle of Divine grace and keeping-power through faith. Consequently the enemy makes a gattling- gun attack on His faith, using all of his chicanery to vitiate it, by turning it into presumption, which is the devil’s counterfeit for faith. O how Satan manipulates to supply the pulpits and the pews with this counterfeit at which is but a trap-door to let them fall into hell! The people believe their creed and support their Church, and presume that they are Christians, while experimentally ignorant of that faith which alone can move the mountains of sin out of their hearts. Again, Jesus uses the Sword of the Spirit, responding to Satan, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 6:16.) This consummates the second victory which Jesus won in that memorable wilderness battle. The holy city here, as revealed by Luke, was Jerusalem, whose magnificent temple, so splendidly and artistically built and repaired by Herod the Great, had several lofty towers, to the highest of which Satan now leads Jesus, and having Him now in position and plight to leap away and take chances on the stone pavement several hundred feet below, he makes the bold challenge. It is about twenty-five miles away from the Mount of Temptation in Judea to Jerusalem. I trow, Satan, in gaudy sacerdotal robes, or perhaps royal regalia, in human incarnation, actually became the concomitant of Jesus for a period of time not here specified, but beginning at the end of the forty days. shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of the same, and says to Him, All these will I give unto Thee if, falling down, You may worship before me.” Luke states, “Because it has been given unto me, and I give it to whom I wish.”

Here we see that Satan resorts to a positive and unequivocal falsehood; though he has a false claim on the world, and a dominion over it which he has usurped, and for the time being — for reasons not well known to us, but doubtless lying deep in the probationary economy — he is permitted, in a sense, to reign over the world during the present evil age. (2 Corinthians 4:4.) Where E.V. represents God as calling the devil the “god of this world,” the true reading is the “god of this age,” as the world is to be gloriously redeemed after the Satanic age has come to an end. This is peculiar to Satan’s method of lying, especially to the people of God. While it is a substantial falsehood, it exhibits a phase of truth, in the simple fact of his usurped and temporarily permitted dominion over this world, which, even in the most plausible aspect, is subordinated to the sovereign, discriminating providence of God. We have no specification here as to what mountain this was. Mt. Olivet, east of Jerusalem, is the highest in all Southern Palestine. Mt. Pisgah, in full view, in the Land of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, is the highest in all that region. Mt. Hermon, two hundred miles north, ten thousand feet high, is actually the highest in all the Land of Canaan. As Luke says Satan “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”, he must have resorted to a panorama, in which he exhibited before the eye of Jesus all the time-honored kingdoms and mighty empires possessing and ruling the world at that time. This temptation was an assault against the powerful, unfallen intellect of Jesus. The greatest minds the ages have ever known, have all been embargoed, darkened, and paralyzed by the fall. As an Intellectualist, the Man Jesus stands alone in the world. Do you not see in His life how all the genius and the learning of the world and the fallen Church were laid under contribution to confuse, tangle up, and perplex Him? In all the histories of the ages, no other absolutely imperturbable man has ever been found. All the sophistry of priests, theologians, and politicians combined, signally failed in any case to embarrass or confuse Him. This final assault of the enemy, on the line of human ambition, appeals to His wonderful intellect. Nebuchadnezzar, order to conquer and possess it. These were all powerful intellectualists. The greater the intellect, the more incorrigible the ambition. The Greek proskuneses not only means worship, in the sense of adoration offered to a god, hut it means that homage and civility which we extend to persons of royal rank and dignity.

(g) You must remember that Satan before his fall was a great archangel, one of the brightest that ever shone around the effulgent Throne.

The Son of God is uncreated and co-eternal with the Father. Doubtless, during this interview, which was probably more prolix than we generally think, Satan adverted to their old friendship in the regions of fadeless bliss, and perhaps appealed to His sympathies; as amid those terrible troubles which had already resulted in his ejectment from heaven, he had resorted to an effort to enlarge his dominions by the accession of this world to the contracted regions of woe; and now, “O Son of God, that You have come to dispute my claim to the planet Earth, I propose to compromise the whole matter by surrendering up to You the sole and exclusive dominion of this controverted territory, with the understanding that You shall have it and reign over it forever, while I will reign in the dominion of Hades; meanwhile, I shall enjoin but one condition on Your part, and that is, that You and I shall be friends again, as in bygone ages in celestial worlds.” Of course, any complicity with Satan would have abducted the humanity from the Divinity, which, in that case, would have returned back to heaven, the plan of salvation collapsing forever. “Then Jesus says to him, Get behind Me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord God; Him only shalt thou serve.” (Deuteronomy 6:13.) “Then Satan leaves Him,” as Luke says, “for a season.”

“Behold, the angels came and continued to minister unto Him.” Here you see that a single stroke with the Sword of the Spirit repels Satan, and consummates the victory. There is now good reason for his final and utter withdrawal from the battle-field. Every army retreats the moment their ammunition is all expended. As Satan had no possible access to the Divinity, he could only work on the humanity, which, pursuant to the Divine similitude in which man was created, has but three entities — i.e., the physical, spiritual, and intellectual. When Satan had turned all the battering rams of hell against these three towers of Mansoul, and in every case suffered signal defeat, he could do nothing more than retreat from the field, crestfallen and hopelessly defeated. What a decisive contrast with his first battle against humanity in Eden, where he saved two thirds of his ammunition, Adam falling on the first assault! But now, in his campaign against Adam the Second, you see he used all of his ammunition, and lost it all. Glorious victory for you and me, and all who, through evangelical repentance and humble faith, will receive it!


Verse 12

JESUS GOES TO GALILEE

Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; & Luke 4:14. “And after that John was cast into prison, Jesus came unto Galilee.” Having entered upon His official Messiahship by purifying the temple at the Passover, and preached to the multitudes gathered on the Temple Campus during the great national feast; delivered that wonderful discourse to Nicodemus at night, the Apostle John bearing witness; and having wrought many miracles of which we have no specification; after the Passover, going out into the country north of the metropolis, He continues to preach and work miracles, His disciples baptizing the people, John the Baptist preaching in Enon near by, so that intercommunication between the audiences springs up, all observing that while Jesus is rapidly rising and magnetizing the multitudes, John is waning, — a crisis supervenes, resulting from the arrest of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and king of Galilee and Perea. Immediately after this, Jesus leaves Judea, and goes away to Galilee, apparently because of John’s arrest and imprisonment lest a similar fate shall overtake Him, and thus interfere with the work which He came to do. We see many judicious precautions adopted by Him at different times in order to prevent the interruption of His ministry till His work is done,


Verses 13-16

JESUS REJECTED AT NAZARETH, MIGRATES TO CAPERNAUM

Luke 4:16-31; Matthew 4:13-16. “He came into Nazareth, where he was brought up, and according to the custom to Him on the Sabbath-day, He came into the synagogue, and stood up to read. And the Book of Isaiah the prophet was given unto Him, and opening the book, He found the place where it was written [Isaiah 61:1], The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel unto the poor; sent Me to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind; to send away with liberty those who are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And closing the book, giving it to the officer, He sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were concentrated on Him. And He began to speak to them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Isaiah has been denominated the Messianic prophet, because his writings so copiously, brilliantly, and triumphantly set forth the Christ, the Shiloh of prophecy, the Redeemer of Israel, and the Savior of the world. Jesus now preaches to them these Scriptures, assuring them that they are fulfilled. This is to them, not only astounding, but paradoxical. He had spent His life there. They looked upon Him as one of them, and the idea that these grand prophecies are fulfilled in Him is more than they can receive.

“And all continued to witness to Him and to be astonished at the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth, and said, Is not this the son of Joseph?” When I was in Nazareth, I visited Joseph's workshop, and saw, in beautiful and impressive statuary, Joseph and Jesus working at the carpenter's trade, and Mary sitting by looking at them. The scene was wonderfully sweet and charming, especially the statue of the loving boy Jesus, working with His hands. They had known Him thirty years as the son of the carpenter Joseph. There were no common schools in that country; no educational opportunities except the rabbinical colleges at Jerusalem, the prophetical schools of Elijah and Elisha being institutions of the past. They knew He had never gone away to college. Hence they are astonished, and all eyes centered on Him, and all minds wrapped in bewilderment. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem symbolizes the regeneration of the human heart by the Holy Spirit, while His induement with the Holy Ghost, immediately after His consecration to the official Messiahship by the baptism of John, responds to our sanctification; as you must bear in mind that the negative work of sin’s removal had no place in His experience as in ours. Hence, He only had the positive side born in Bethlehem, and filled with the Holy Ghost at the Jordan. During the thirty years of His minority at Nazareth, His life was perfectly irreproachable, and He was a paragon saint in His disposition, attending the synagogue worship regularly as a faithful Church member. But now they see a wonderful change in Him. Such is His magnetism that all eyes are centered on Him. While they all know Him, having been acquainted with Him all His life, they can scarcely believe their own eyes and ears when they see such a change in the flash of His eye, the tone of His voice, the character and manner of His speech. What is the solution? Why, He has been filled with the Holy Ghost since they saw Him, so that now His words are like flaming fire, burning their way into the deep interior of all hearts, arousing the carnal mind with rattlesnake venom and retaliation.

Doubtless, during the years of His young manhood, He had taken an active part in the synagogue worship; but never before had they realized those fiery thunderbolts, going down into the deep interior of their spirits, producing heart-ache intolerable, and arousing Adam the First to fight for his life.

“And He said to them, Truly do you speak to Me this parable, Physician, heal thyself; so many things as we have heard having been done in Capernaum, do even so here in Thy own country.” As they had heard of His working mighty miracles in Capernaum (of which we have no record except this terse allusion), now they demand of Him to do the same in Nazareth; and as He is a citizen of Nazareth, the old medical problem, “Physician, heal thyself,” is here applied. “As You are a Nazarene, and in healing the Nazarenes, You would heal Yourself.” “And He said, Truly, I say unto you, A prophet is not acceptable in his own country.” He also said He could not do many mighty works there on account of their unbelief. This illustrates the importance of leaving home, pursuant to the Commission, “Go and preach.” We must not forget, that “Go” is a part of the Commission as well as preach. Even our Savior found it necessary to go away from Nazareth to do His mighty works, as their unbelief laid an incorrigible paralysis even on the ministry of Jesus. Multitudes of good preachers blight their own usefulness by staying where they were brought up, and so frequently by remaining too long at any one place.

“But in truth I say unto you, There were many widows in the days of Elijah in Israel, when heaven was shut up, as there was a great drought on all the land; and Elijah was sent to no one of them except to a widow woman in Sareptah of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha the prophet; and no one of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian.” Our Lord here sets forth the sovereign, discriminating mercy of God, as illustrated in the case of Elijah and Elisha, the greatest prophets — the one only sent to relieve one widow, and she not an Israelite, but a Gentile; and the other only healing one leper, and he was not an Israelite, but a Syrian. So we really deserve none of God's mercies. Whatever He does is a sheer gratuity; and if He does not relieve us, we have no right to complain if He simply lets us alone in the sin and misery which we have brought on ourselves.

“And they were all in the synagogue, hearing these things, filled with rage.” They regard His talk as an impudent insinuation against them, as if they were not as good as the people in other cities where He had done these mighty works of philanthropy and benefaction. He had attended service in that synagogue thirty years; they felt that He was one of them; and they had a right to the wonderful benefit of His prophetical services. Now they conclude that He has gotten above them, treated them with contempt, as if they were not as good as other people. Therefore, instead of receiving the truth and getting convicted, they become violently angry.

“And rising up, they were preparing to cast Him out of their city, and were leading Him to the brow of the mountain, on which their city was built, in order to precipitate Him down; and He, going through the midst of them, departed. And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee.” When I was in Nazareth, I visited this synagogue, as they claim, yet standing, a venerable stone edifice, where Jesus worshipped during the thirty years of His minority, and where they finally rejected the burning truth which He preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and, rising up, led Him away, to cast Him down from a precipice, and kill Him. The young men went from this synagogue directly to the Mount of Precipitation. They point out two precipices, both claiming to be the height from which they aimed to cast Him. The one more distant from the city is quite a conspicuous mountain, which we had in full view two days in our peregrinations. We see that Jesus changed his residence to Capernaum, where many of the people believed on Him, and He received much appreciation. The people of Nazareth had gotten along with Him, so far as we know, without any trouble all His life till He got sanctified; i.e., filled with the Holy Ghost. Then His words were like forked lightnings, burning them through and through, and utterly intolerable to the carnal mind. Though you have always gotten along pleasantly in your Church till you go away to a holiness camp and get sanctified, — but do not be surprised or discouraged, when you go home, if they reject your testimony, and even get so mad at you that they “cast you out” — i.e., turn you out of the Church — and feel like killing you. This was precisely the history of Jesus. His example is before you. When they rejected His testimony at Nazareth, He went away from His native home, and never lived there any more. At Capernaum, whither He went and fixed His abode, He received much encouragement. Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Philip, noble apostles, and many disciples, He received at Capernaum.

Matthew: “Leaving Nazareth, having come, He dwelt in Capernaum, by the seaside, in the coast of Zebulun and Naphtali; in order that the word spoken by Isaiah the prophet may be fulfilled, Thou land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people sitting in darkness saw a great light; and to those sitting in the valley and shadow of death, light sprang up.” Capernaum is on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, in the tribe of Zebulun, but near the border of Naphtali, and a short distance west of the Jordan, which was the boundary of the Jews and Gentiles at that place, the country lying east of the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee being occupied by the Gadarenes and the Decapolis. Hence the fulfillment of this prophecy, as our Savior made Capernaum his headquarters. The wonderful influence of His ministry brought a sunburst on all that country, bringing untold blessings to both Jews and Gentiles.


Verse 17

CHAPTER 11

JESUS PREACHING IN GALILEE

John 4:43-45; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; & Luke 4:14-15. “And after two days He went out from thence, and departed into Galilee. For Jesus Himself witnessed that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Now what is the force of this affirmation of Jesus? You must remember that Nazareth, where He was brought up and spent the first thirty years of His life, is in Galilee. So He was denominated a “Galilean.” Having entered upon His ministry in Jerusalem by purifying the temple, and spent the eight days of the Passover preaching to the thronging multitudes, and perhaps a month following in the populous regions of Judea, His fame spreading abroad, and attracting vast multitudes to His ministry; John the Baptist, who had been the sensation about eight months, somewhat waning, while the trend of the multitude is to Jesus. The tendency of His rapidly increasing popularity is to arouse the Jews to crown Him King, which would have interfered with His ministry; whereas it was transcendently important that He should be permitted to finish His work. Consequently He leaves the populous regions of Judea, and goes away into the comparatively thinly populated country of Galilee, where they will not make so much ado over His ministry, nor be so likely to interrupt His work by precipitating His royal coronation. In addition to this fact, His nativity and residence in Galilee had conduced somewhat to render Him common, and would militate against the probability of that great popular excitement which would be likely to result in crowning Him King.

Mark: “He was preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, That the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God draweth nigh; repent and believe in the gospel.” Luke: “The fame went throughout all the surrounding country concerning Him, and He was teaching in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” The seventy weeks of Daniel — i.e., the four hundred and ninety years, according to the year-day system peculiar to prophetical interpretation — had already expired. The scepter had already departed from Judah; besides, there was a general fulfillment of the prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah about that time, John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets, having not only preached Him, but pointed Him out, introducing Him to the people by baptism; while the Holy Ghost from heaven had descended on Him, and the Divine voice, from God the Father, had rung in the ears of the multitude, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Of course, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew all the time says, “Kingdom of heaven,” and Mark, “Kingdom of God,” they being precisely synonymous) is at hand in very truth, because the King is here, and of course having the kingdom with Him; as a kingdom means a government. Hence, all the true disciples of Jesus come under His government, and become citizens of the kingdom.

While repentance was the constant, burning appeal of John the Baptist, we see that when Jesus comes, preaching the gospel, He not only preaches repentance, thus fully endorsing and corroborating John, but He preaches faith, commanding all to repent and believe the gospel. Repentance breaks the yoke of Satan, an indispensable prerequisite to their reception of Christ, as they could not serve two masters. As Luke says, “Glorified by all.” Hence we see that, as His fame went abroad into all lands, a wonderful tide of popular excitement immediately sprang up in all directions, concentrating on this wonderful Prophet of Galilee.

John 4:45. “Then, when He came into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all things which He did in Jerusalem during the feast; for they also came to the feast.” The Jews, from all parts of the world, were accustomed to gather at Jerusalem at the time of the great national festivals; e.g., the Passover in April, Pentecost fifty days afterward, and the Feast of Tabernacles in September. These Galileans, who had witnessed His miracles during the Passover (of which there is no record, this being the only allusion to them), and heard His preaching, now rally to Him from all parts of the country, stirring all the people, telling them that a wonderful Prophet, like unto Elijah and Elisha, had risen in Israel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-4.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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