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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
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Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Hunger; Jesus Continued; Man; Quotations and Allusions; Satan; Temptation; Word of God; Scofield Reference Index - Inspiration; Thompson Chain Reference - Battle of Life; Bible, the; Weapons; Word; Word of God; The Topic Concordance - Life; Man; Word of God; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ, Character of; Devil, the; Life, Spiritual; Manna; Scriptures, the; Temptation;
Verse Matthew 4:4. But by (or, upon, επι) every word — ρημα, in Greek, answers to דבר dabar in Hebrew, which means not only a word spoken, but also thing, purpose, appointment, c. Our Lord's meaning seems to be this: God purposes the welfare of his creatures - all his appointments are calculated to promote this end. Some of them may appear to man to have a contrary tendency but even fasting itself, when used in consequence of a Divine injunction, becomes a mean of supporting that life which it seems naturally calculated to impair or destroy.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-4.html. 1832.
17. Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
Immediately after being appointed to his messianic ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan to use his messianic powers in the wrong way. (For the identification of the devil with Satan see Revelation 20:2.) Satan’s aim was to make Jesus act according to his own will instead of in obedience to his Father.
Jesus had gone many weeks without eating and was obviously very hungry. Satan therefore used Jesus’ natural desire for food to suggest that he should use his supernatural powers to create food and eat it. Jesus knew that food was necessary for a person’s physical needs, but he also knew that obedience to God was more important. God alone would decide when and how his fast would end (Matthew 4:1-4).
Living in a world of unbelievers, Jesus could be very frustrated at their refusal to accept him. He was therefore tempted to perform some spectacular feat that would prove once and for all that he was the Son of God. For instance, he could jump from the top of the temple in front of the people, asking God to keep him from being hurt. But to call upon God to save him from an act of suicide would be sin. It would be putting God to the test by demanding that he act in a certain way merely to satisfy an individual’s selfish desire (Matthew 4:5-7).
Then came the temptation to gain worldwide rule through compromising with Satan and using his methods to gain power. As the Messiah, Jesus had been promised a worldwide kingdom, but the way to that kingdom was through laying down his life in sacrifice. God wants people to enter his kingdom because they have a willing desire to serve him, not because they are the helpless subjects of force or cunning (Matthew 4:8-10).
In each case Jesus answered the temptations by quoting principles taken directly from the Scriptures. All the references were to the experiences of Israel in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 6:13,Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 8:3), suggesting again the identification that the Messiah felt with his people in their varied experiences.
These were not Satan’s only temptations (Luke 4:13). Jesus continued to be tempted with suggestions to put his physical needs before his Father’s will (see John 4:31-34), to prove his messiahship to unbelievers by performing miracles (see Matthew 16:1-4) and to gain a kingdom through any way but the cross (see Matthew 16:21-23; John 6:15).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-4.html. 2005.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Jesus' answer to temptation was, "It is written ... it is written ... and again, it is written!" Fortunate are the Lord's followers when they are able to meet every crucial test of life with a like response. This places the highest stamp of approval upon the Bible. It is simply unthinkable that the Christ of God would have relied upon a merely human and fallible book in his encounter with the Prince of Evil. Jesus' use of the Scriptures in this situation plainly marks them as the words OF GOD! Indeed, in this very verse, this principle is dogmatically asserted, "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Man shall not live by bread alone, etc. ... This has a wealth of significance. Mere physical existence apart from the true life of the spirit is not really LIFE (John 10:10). The quotation Jesus used in this reply is from Deuteronomy 8:3. The Christian should receive as his never-to-be-rejected authority in spiritual matters, the word of God, the word only (Matthew 8:8), every word (Matthew 4:4), and nothing but the word (Matthew 15:9). Note the three places of these temptations, the wilderness, the temple, and the high mountain. The extremes were employed by Satan in a strong effort to win this encounter. Having lost the first round, Satan switched both the scene and the approach. Since Christ trusted the Father, Satan would try to make that very trust the basis of sin, presumptuous sin. The scene is also changed from the roaring wilderness to the sacred precincts of the temple, indicating that there are peculiar temptations to sin in close proximity to faith.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
But he answered and said ... - In reply to this artful temptation Christ answered by a quotation from the Old Testament. The passage is found in Deuteronomy 8:3. In that place the discourse is respecting manna. Moses says that the Lord humbled the people, and fed them with manna, an unusual kind of food, that they might learn that man did not live by bread only, but that there were other things to support life, and that everything which God had commanded was proper for this. The term “word,” used in this place, means very often, in Hebrew, thing, and clearly in this place has that meaning. Neither Moses nor our Saviour had any reference to spiritual food, or to the doctrines necessary to support the faith of believers; but they simply meant that God could support life by other things than bread; that man was to live, not by that only, but by every other thing which proceeded out of his mouth; that is, which he chose to command people to eat. The substance of his answer, then, is: “It is not so imperiously necessary that I should have bread as to make a miracle proper to procure it. Life depends on the will of God. He can support it in other ways as well as by bread. He has created other things to be eaten, and man may live by everything that his Maker has commanded.” And from this temptation we may learn:
1. That Satan often takes advantage of our circumstances and wants to tempt us. The poor, the hungry, and the naked he often tempts to repine and complain, and to be dishonest in order to supply their necessities.
2. Satan’s temptations are often the strongest immediately after we have been remarkably favored. Jesus had just been called the Son of God, and Satan took this opportunity to try him. He often attempts to fill us with pride and vain self-conceit when we have been favored with any peace of mind, or any new view of God, and endeavors to urge us to do something which may bring us low and lead us to sin.
3. His temptations are plausible. They often seem to be only urging us to do what is good and proper. They seem even to urge us to promote the glory of God, and to honor him. We are not to think, therefore, that because a thing may seem to be good in itself, that therefore it is to be done. Some of the most powerful temptations of Satan occur when he seems to be urging us to do what shall be for the glory of God.
4. We are to meet the temptations of Satan, as the Saviour did, with the plain and positive declarations of Scripture. We are to inquire whether the thing is commanded, and whether, therefore, it is right to do it, and not trust to our own feelings, or even our wishes, in the matter.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-4.html. 1870.
4.Man shall not live by bread alone. He quotes the statement, that men do not live by bread alone, but by the secret blessing of God. Hence we conclude, that Satan made a direct attack on the faith of Christ, in the hope that, after destroying his faith, he would drive Christ to unlawful and wicked methods of procuring food. And certainly he presses us very hard, when he attempts to make us distrust God, and consult our own advantage in a way not authorized by his word. The meaning of the words, therefore, is: “When you see that you are forsaken by God, you are driven by necessity to attend to yourself. Provide then for yourself the food, with which God does not supply you.” Now, though (312) he holds out the divine power of Christ to turn the stones into loaves, yet the single object which he has in view, is to persuade Christ to depart from the word of God, and to follow the dictates of infidelity.
Christ’s reply, therefore, is appropriate: “Man shall not live by bread alone. You advise me to contrive some remedy, for obtaining relief in a different manner from what God permits. This would be to distrust God; and I have no reason to expect that he will support me in a different manner from what he has promised in his word. You, Satan, represent his favor as confined to bread: but Himself declares, that, though every kind of food were wanting, his blessing alone is sufficient for our nourishment.” Such was the kind of temptation which Satan employed, the same kind with which he assails us daily. The Son of God did not choose to undertake any contest of an unusual description, but to sustain assaults in common with us, that we might be furnished with the same armor, and might entertain no doubt as to achieving the victory.
It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. The first thing to be observed here is, that Christ uses Scripture as his shield: for this is the true way of fighting, if we wish to make ourselves sure of the victory. With good reason does Paul say, that, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God,” and enjoin us to “ take the shield of faiths” (Ephesians 6:16.) Hence also we conclude, that Papists, as if they had made a bargain with Satan, cruelly give up souls to be destroyed by him at his pleasure, when they wickedly withhold the Scripture from the people of God, and thus deprive them of their arms, by which alone their safety could be preserved. Those who voluntarily throw away that armor, and do not laboriously exercise themselves in the school of God, deserve to be strangled, at every instant, by Satan, into whose hands they give themselves up unarmed. No other reason can be assigned, why the fury of Satan meets with so little resistance, and why so many are everywhere carried away by him, but that God punishes their carelessness, and their contempt of his word.
We must now examine more closely the passage, which is quoted by Christ from Moses: that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live, (Deuteronomy 8:3.) There are some who torture it to a false meaning, as referring to spiritual life; as if our Lord had said, that souls are not nourished by visible bread, but by the word of God. The statement itself is, no doubt, true: but Moses had quite a different meaning. He reminds them that, when no bread could be obtained, God provided them with an extraordinary kind of nourishment in “manna, which they knew not, neither did their fathers know,” (Deuteronomy 8:3;) and that this was intended as an evident proof, in all time coming, that the life of man is not confined to bread, but depends on the will and good-pleasure of God. The word does not mean doctrine, but the purpose which God has made known, with regard to preserving the order of nature and the lives of his creatures. Having created men, he does not cease to care for them: but, as “he breathed into their nostrils the breath of life,” (Genesis 2:7,) so he constantly preserves the life which he has bestowed. In like manner, the Apostle says, that he “upholdeth all things by his powerful word,” (Hebrews 1:3;) that is, the whole world is preserved, and every part of it keeps its place, by the will and decree of Him, whose power, above and below, is everywhere diffused. Though we live on bread, we must not ascribe the support of life to the power of bread, but to the secret kindness, by which God imparts to bread the quality of nourishing our bodies.
Hence, also, follows another statement: by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall men live. God, who now employs bread for our support, will enable us, whenever he pleases, to live by other means. This declaration of Moses condemns the stupidity of those, who reckon life to consist in luxury and abundance; while it reproves the distrust and inordinate anxiety which drives us to seek unlawful means. The precise object of Christ’s reply is this: We ought to trust in God for food, and for the other necessaries of the present life, in such a manner, that none of us may overleap the boundaries which he has prescribed. But if Christ did not consider himself to be at liberty to change stones into bread, without the command of God, much less is it lawful for us to procure food by fraud, or robbery, or violence, or murder.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-4.html. 1840-57.
Then was Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness ( Matthew 4:1 )
Immediately, He is now being led by the Spirit, walking after the Spirit. The New Testament has so much to say to us concerning the life of the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. There are so many people that put the emphasis upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit; where in reality, the emphasis should be upon the walk of the Spirit, not the gifts, not the phenomenon, not the excitement, not the manifestations. But the real Christian emphasis should be the walk in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit, because Paul tells us in Romans( Romans 8:0 ), "And as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
I don't care how excited you get, and how high you jump under the anointing of the Spirit. What I am interested in is how straight you walk when you land. I have known too many people jumping that are not walking straight, and to me it is invalid. The excitement that you may have in the manifestation of spiritual gifts is not as important as your walking after the Spirit. Your walk in the Spirit, that is what is vital and what is important. And that is what God is looking for, for you to walk in the Spirit, not just to have spiritual excitement because of spiritual phenomenon, but to be walking in the Spirit.
Now I'm not opposed to the spiritual excitement and spiritual phenomenon, but I am opposed to walking a crooked line in the flesh. And I think that is where our emphasis needs to be laid. And when we lay the emphasis just upon the spiritual phenomenon, but not upon the walk in the Spirit, then we get into all kinds of difficulty.
So Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness [for what purpose?] to be tempted of the devil [to be tested]. And when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungered ( Matthew 4:1-2 ).
It is interesting. Dr. Wilder-Smith, who was with us, was talking about sensual deprivation and I found that extremely interesting. Our minds are so busy interpreting to us all the stimuli around us; the sight, the hearing, the tasting, the feeling. And these sensory receptors that we have are constantly sending their little messages to the brain, the olfactory and the smelling and all; so are constantly interpreting all of this sensual data and the brain is processing it.
It is saying, man, this seat is getting hard. I wonder how much longer he's going to go? It's saying, why don't you move your position just a little bit, distribute the weight in a little different place, get a little more comfortable. At the same time your eyes are sending these little photographs at eighteen frames per second into your brain, that is interpreting these vibrations into the color and the forms and so forth. At the same time your ears are picking up the sound vibrations, and the little bones in there, the incus and the stapes, and so forth are tuning onto these vibrations and sending the vibrations in your brain. And it is unscrambling these vibrations into words. At the same time you may be perspiring, and maybe you've put a piece of mint into your mouth, and so something, so all of these sensory things are coming into your brain, and your brain is unscrambling, and interpreting for you all of this stimuli. And as a result our brains are glutted with information.
It is interesting when Dr. Wilder-Smith said that as they began to put the astronauts into the, what they call sensual deprivation, by putting them into dark rooms, into a weightless situation in the water, floating in water, so you get this sense of weightlessness, in warm water, body temperature water so you are not interpreting hot or cold and by taking away so many of the darkness of the room, the quietness that is in the room, the sterility of the room without any smells or anything within it. As they were in this position of sensual deprivation, that is the brain was not having to deal with all of the messages that were being sent by the various sensory perceptive parts of the body; that the astronauts began to have visions and spiritual experiences as God began to communicate through the sixth sense. The sixth sense that we usually do not pick up upon because the brain is glutted with all of the information from the five senses. And I found that extremely fascinating.
In fasting, your brain is being deprived of one of the normal senses, that is the taste sense. So your going through a period of time where the brain is not having to interpret the taste: sweet, bitter, flat, salty or whatever. The brain is freed from the interpreting of the senses from the taste buds. So you are giving an empty circuit in the brain, opening a line, so to speak, that that sixth sense might begin to get some messages through.
They say that after five days you lose the sense of hunger when you go on a prolonged fast. And that you do not experience hunger again until you actually start to starve to death. That usually comes between the thirty-fifth and the fortieth day that you start getting hungry. And they say that when you start getting hungry again, it's vitally important that you eat, because now you are starving to death and if you don't get some nutrition you will soon die.
It is significant that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterwards was hungry ( Matthew 4:2 ). It would indicate that He was not hungry during the period of the forty days and forty nights, but after that, He was hungry. Satan taking advantage of that hunger and that starving condition came to Him and said,
If you are the Son of God ( Matthew 4:3 ),
This is not "If" in the indicative, but "If" in the subjunctive, which is translated more properly, "since you are the Son of God."
There was no doubt in Satan's mind who He was. The demon said, "We know who thou art; the Holy One of God." And Jesus said, "Be quiet. It's not time yet." ( Luke 4:34-35 )
Satan is not saying, "If" indicative: "If you are the Son of God." He is saying, Since you are the Son of God, why don't you use your divine powers to satisfy your own fleshly needs? That is something that Satan is often tempting people with who have received gifts of the Spirit. Why don't you use your divine powers in order to satisfy your own sensual needs; your own hunger, your own appetite, your own desires? Why don't you turn these stones into bread? You've got the power to do it. You're God. You're hungry. Why don't you perform a miracle to satisfy your own desire?
Jesus answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God ( Matthew 4:4 ).
He answered the temptation of Satan with the Word of God. "Thy word", the Scripture say, "have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you." ( Psalms 119:11 )
The Word of God is our strength and our power against temptation. If you want to be strong against the temptation of the enemy, then you must get into the Word, and you must study the Word of God and hide it away in your heart.
John wrote in his first epistle, "I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong and have overcome the evil one" ( 1 John 2:13 ). And then he said, "I have written unto you, young men, because you have overcome, because the Word of God abides in you" ( 1 John 2:14 ). That's how they overcame, by the Word of God. That is how Jesus overcame the temptations, by the Word of God. It is so important that we hide the Word of God in our hearts.
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him there on the pinnacle of the temple ( Matthew 4:5 ),
Tradition says it is the corner of the temple mount, which at that time was some two hundred feet down from the corner.
And he said unto him, Since you are the Son of God, jump: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee concerning thee: and they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone ( Matthew 4:6 ).
Jesus said, "It is written," answered Satan with the Word. So what does Satan do? He comes right back to Him, perverting the Word. He says, "Why don't you jump? Because it is written, He will give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They'll bear thee up lest you dash your foot against a stone". You won't hurt down there. The angels will bear you up. Jesus said, and it's so important to compare Scripture with Scripture,
It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God ( Matthew 4:7 ).
There are a couple of interesting Scriptures in Mark concerning the signs following those that believe. It says, "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them" ( Mark 16:18 ).
There was a pastor back in the hills of Kentucky who took cyanide around to his members and made them drink to prove their faith. Two of them died and he was charged with manslaughter. They had doubts. There are those snake handlers. They get out the rattlesnakes and pass them around the circle. Every once in awhile we're reading of someone who is bitten by the snake and who dies. But they are doing it on the basis of Mark's gospel, chapter sixteen. But again, if they would only compare Scripture with Scripture.
Basically, this is what Satan is suggesting to Jesus, that He put Himself in personal jeopardy to prove the Scriptures. Jump, prove it, He'll give His angels. That is what it says. But Jesus was wise enough to compare Scripture with Scripture. He said, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt." You are not to put ourselves deliberately, purposefully in jeopardy to prove the Scriptures. Thus these people down in Kentucky are absolutely wrong. In fact, there is a sect of them over in Long Beach. There are not all of them back there in the hills of Kentucky. They have been doing that over in Long Beach. But it is wrong to put yourself deliberately, purposefully in jeopardy just to prove the Scriptures.
Again, the devil took him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them ( Matthew 4:8 );
We'll deal with this more completely when we get to Luke's gospel.
And He said unto him, All of these things will I give you, if thou will bow down and worship me. And Jesus said, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve ( Matthew 4:9-10 ).
So the three temptations, each one answered by Jesus with the Word of God.
And the devil left him, and, behold, the angels came and ministered unto him. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed to Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and he lived in Capernaum ( Matthew 4:11-13 ),
Capernaum is one of my favorite places there in the Holy Land, because the majority of the ministry of Jesus was accomplished there in Capernaum. And I just love that beautiful spot next to the Sea of Galilee; it's always so peaceful and so restful. There's just a good vibe all over the place, except for the priest that keeps the thing and he is sort of a bore. He got after us for filming because we didn't write in advance and get permission, and all that kind of stuff. It was absolutely stupid. He had to show his authority.
So leaving Nazareth, they came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim ( Matthew 4:15 ),
That is the area where the two tribes were apportioned, the land Zebulun and Naphtali. Naphtali had the area just north of that, so you are on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali.
by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, the Galilee of the Gentiles; [So you are Decapolis, cities up there in the north.] The people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand ( Matthew 4:15-17 ).
The same message that John the Baptist was declaring is now echoed by Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is at hand; the Messiah will soon be revealed; the kingdom has the potential of being set up, but of course, they rejected the Messiah.
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and they were casting the net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And immediately left their nets, and followed him ( Matthew 4:18-20 ).
This was not their first encounter with Jesus, as we will find from the other gospels. But this is when Jesus came and called them to discipleship.
And going from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, and they were mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left their ship and their father, and followed him ( Matthew 4:21-22 ).
"No man has left father, mother, brothers, sisters, homes, families, for my sake, and the gospel's, but what they will not receive in this world a hundredfold; and in the world to come life eternal." ( Mark 10:29-30 )
And Jesus went about all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and he was healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all of Syria [clear on up north beyond the Golan into Damascus]: and they brought unto him all of the sick people that were taken with many types of diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those which had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, [wherever He would go people from the area of Galilee, Decapolis, those ten cities in the northern Galilee region] and from Jerusalem, and Judaea, and from beyond Jordan ( Matthew 4:23-25 ).
A vast multitude of people were being drawn by the miracles that Jesus was performing. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-4.html. 2014.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
The first words of Jesus’ public ministry declare the authority of scripture. By quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, He says man is more than flesh and bones with physical needs: he is a spiritual being (Genesis 2:7). Though the outward man perishes, the inward man must be renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
In quoting the Pentateuch, Jesus demonstrates the verbal plenary inspiration of the Old Testament. He further shows the importance of committing God’s word to memory. David says, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee" (Psalms 119:11).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-4.html. 1993-2022.
3. Jesus’ temptation 4:1-11 (cf. Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
". . . Jesus’ testing in the wilderness of Judea is one of the most significant indicators of His uniqueness. In fact it may not be stretching the point to say that the very purpose of the temptation narratives is to underscore His uniqueness." [Note: Garlington, p. 285.]
Jesus’ genealogy and virgin birth prove His legal human qualification as Israel’s King. His baptism was the occasion of His divine approval. His temptation demonstrated His moral fitness to reign. The natural question a thoughtful reader of Matthew’s Gospel might ask after reading God’s attestation of His Son (Matthew 3:17) is, Was He really that good? Jesus’ three temptations prove that He was.
"By the end of the baptismal pericope, the Jesus of Matthew’s story stands before the reader preeminently as the Son of God who has been empowered with the Spirit of God. So identified, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert to engage the devil, or Satan, in conflict in the place of his abode (Matthew 4:1-11). . . . Ultimately, the substance of each test has to do with Jesus’ devotion, or obedience, to God. The intent of Satan in each test is to entice Jesus to break faith with God, his Father, and thus disavow his divine sonship. Should Satan succeed at this, he succeeds in effect in destroying Jesus. In testing Jesus, Satan cunningly adopts God’s evaluative point of view according to which Jesus is his Son (Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:6)." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 55.]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-4.html. 2012.
Satan attacked Jesus when He was vulnerable physically. The form of Satan’s question in the Greek text indicates that Satan was assuming that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 3:17) It is a first class conditional clause.
"The temptation, to have force, must be assumed as true. The devil knew it to be true. He accepts that fact as a working hypothesis in the temptation." [Note: Robertson, p. 1009.]
This temptation was not to doubt that Jesus was God’s Son. It was to suggest that as the Son of God Jesus surely had the power and right to satisfy His own needs independent of His Father. Satan urged Jesus to use His Sonship in a way that was inconsistent with His mission (cf. Matthew 26:53-54; Matthew 27:40). God had intended Israel’s hunger in the wilderness to teach her that hearing and obeying God’s Word is the most important thing in life (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). Israel demanded bread in the wilderness but died. Jesus forewent bread in submission to His Father’s will and lived.
"The impact of Satan’s temptation is that Jesus, like Adam first and Israel later, had a justifiable grievance against God and therefore ought to voice His complaint by ’murmuring’ (Exodus 16; Numbers 11) and ought to provide for Himself the basic necessity of life, namely, bread. Satan, in other words, sought to make Jesus groundlessly anxious about His physical needs and thus to provoke Him to demand the food He craved (cf. Psalms 78:18). In short, the devil’s aim was to persuade Jesus to repeat the apostasy of Adam and Israel. Satan wanted to break Jesus’ perfect trust in His Father’s good care and thereby to alter the course of salvation-history." [Note: Garlington, p. 297. Cf. Davies and Allison, 1:362.]
The wilderness of Judea contains many limestone rocks of all sizes and shapes. Many of them look like the loaves and rolls of bread that the Jews prepared and ate daily.
Jesus’ response to Satan’s suggestion (Matthew 4:4) reflected His total commitment to follow God’s will as revealed in His Word. He quoted the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 8:3. Its application originally was to Israel, but Jesus applied it to everyone and particularly Himself. By applying this passage to Himself, Jesus put Himself in the category of a true "man" (Gr. anthropos).
Jesus faced Satan as a man, not as God. He did not use His own divine powers to overcome the enemy, which is just what Satan tempted Him to do. Rather He used the spiritual resources that are available to all people, including us, namely, the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:1). It is for this reason that He is an example for us of one who successfully endured temptation, and it is this victory that qualified Him to become our high priest (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 3:1-2).
"Matthew here shows that Jesus is not God only, but an unique theanthropic person, personally qualified to be King of Israel." [Note: Toussaint, p. 76.]
Everyone needs to recognize and acknowledge his or her total dependence on God and His Word. Jesus’ real food, what sustained Him above all else, was His commitment to do the will of His Father (John 4:34).
In this first temptation Satan’s aim was to seduce Jesus into using His God-given power and authority independently of His Father’s will. Jesus had subjected Himself to His Father’s will because of His mission (cf. Philippians 2:8). It was uniquely a personal temptation; it tested Jesus’ person.
"Obedience to God’s will takes priority over self-gratification, even over the apparently essential provision of food." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 131.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-4.html. 2012.
THE TESTING TIME ( Matthew 4:1-11 )
Step by step Matthew unfolds the story of Jesus. He begins by showing us how Jesus was born into this world. He goes on to show us, at least by implication, that Jesus had to perform faithfully his duties to his home before he began on his duty to the world, that he had to show himself faithful in the smaller tasks before God gave to him the greatest task in all the world.
He goes on to show us how, with the emergence of John the Baptist, Jesus knew that the hour had struck. and that the time had come to enter upon his work. He shows us Jesus identifying himself with a people's unprecedented search for God. In that moment he shows us Jesus' realization that he was indeed the chosen one of God, but that his way to victory lay through the Cross.
If any man has a vision, his immediate problem is how to turn that vision into fact; he has to find some way to turn the dream into reality. That is precisely the problem which faced Jesus. He had come to lead men home to God. How was he to do it? What method was he to adopt? Was he to adopt the method of a mighty conqueror, or was he to adopt the method of patient, sacrificial love? That was the problem which faced Jesus in his temptations. The task had been committed into his hands. What method was he to choose to work out the task which God had given him to do?
THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST ( Matthew 4:1-11 continued)
4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he had deliberately gone without food for forty days and forty nights he was hungry. So the tempter came and said to him, "If you really are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread." He answered: "It stands written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds through the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the Temple. "If you really are the son of God," he said to him, "fling yourself down, for it stands written, He will give his angels orders to care for you, and they will lift you upon their hands, lest at any time you should strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it stands written, 'You must not try to put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again the devil took him to a very lofty mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and said to him, "I will give you all these things, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it stands written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him alone you will serve.'" Then the devil left him alone, and behold, angels came and gave him their service.
There is one thing which we must carefully note right at the beginning of our study of the temptations of Jesus, and that is the meaning of the word to tempt. The Greek word is peirazein ( G3985) . In English the word "tempt" has a uniformly and consistently bad meaning. It always means to entice a man to do wrong, to seek to seduce him into sin, to try to persuade him to take the wrong way. But peirazein ( G3985) has a quite different element in its meaning. It means to test far more than it means to tempt in our sense of the word.
One of the great Old Testament stories is the story of how narrowly Abraham escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac. Now that story begins like this in the King James Version "And it came to pass after these things that God did tempt Abraham" ( Genesis 22:1). Quite clearly the word to tempt cannot there mean to seek to seduce into evil. It is unthinkable that God should try to make any man a wrong-doer. But the thing is quite clear when we understand that it means: "After these things God tested Abraham." The time had come for a supreme test of the loyalty of Abraham. Just as metal has to be tested far beyond any stress and strain that it will ever be called upon to bear, before it can be put to any useful purpose, so a man has to be tested before God can use him for his purposes. The Jews had a saying, "The Holy One, blessed be his name, does not elevate a man to dignity till he has first tried and searched him; and if he stands in temptation, then he raises him to dignity."
Now here is a great and uplifting truth. What we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, it is meant to make us good. It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us emerge stronger and finer and purer from the ordeal. Temptation is not the penalty of being a man, temptation is the glory of being a man. It is the test which comes to a man whom God wishes to use. So, then, we must think of this whole incident, not so much the tempting, as the testing of Jesus.
We have to note further where this test took place. It took place in the wilderness. Between Jerusalem, on the central plateau which is the backbone of Palestine, and the Dead Sea there stretches the wilderness. The Old Testament calls it Jeshimmon, which means The Devastation, and it is a fitting name. It stretches over an area of thirty-five by fifteen miles.
Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled over it, describes it. It is an area of yellow sand, of crumbling limestone, and of scattered shingle. It is an area of contorted strata, where the ridges run in all directions as if they were warped and twisted. The hills are like dust heaps; the limestone is blistered and peeling; rocks are bare and jagged; often the very ground sounds hollow when a foot or a horse's hoof falls upon it. It glows and shimmers with heat like some vast furnace. It runs right out to the Dead Sea, and then there comes a drop of twelve hundred feet, a drop of limestone, flint, and marl, through crags and corries and precipices down to the Dead Sea.
In that wilderness Jesus could be more alone than anywhere else in Palestine. Jesus went into the wilderness to be alone. His task had come to him; God had spoken to him; he must think how he was to attempt the task which God had given him to do; he had to get things straightened out before he started; and he had to be alone.
It may well be that we often go wrong simply because we never try to be alone. There are certain things which a man has to work out alone. There are times when no one else's advice is any good to him. There are times when a man has to stop acting and start thinking. It may be that we make many a mistake because we do not give ourselves a chance to be alone with God.
THE SACRED STORY ( Matthew 4:1-11 continued)
There are certain further things we must note before we proceed to detailed study of the story of the temptations.
(i) All three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations followed the baptism of Jesus. As Mark has it: "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness" ( Mark 1:12).
It is one of the truths of life that after every great moment there comes a moment of reaction--and again and again it is in the reaction that the danger lies. That is what happened to Elijah. With magnificent courage Elijah in all his loneliness faced and defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel ( 1 Kings 18:17-40). That was Elijah's greatest moment of courage and of witness. But the slaughter of the prophets of Baal provoked the wicked Jezebel to wrath, and she threatened Elijah's life. "Then he was afraid, and he arose and went for his life and came to Beer-sheba" ( 1 Kings 19:3). The man who had stood fearlessly against all comers is now fleeing for his life with terror at his heels. The moment of reaction had come.
It seems to be the law of life that just after our resistance power has been highest it nose-dives until it is at its lowest. The tempter carefully, subtly, and skillfully chose his time to attack Jesus--but Jesus conquered him. We will do well to be specially on our guard after every time life has brought us to the heights, for it is just then that we are in gravest danger of the depths.
(ii) We must not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul. The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the kingdoms of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.
It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack is launched in our own minds. It is true that that attack can be so real that we almost see tile devil. To this day you can see the ink-stain on the wall of Luther's room in the Castle of the Wartburg in Germany, Luther caused that ink-stain by throwing his ink-pot at the devil as he tempted him. But the very power of the devil lies in the fact that he breaches our defences and attacks us from within. He finds his allies and his weapons in our own inmost thoughts and desires.
(iii) We must not think that in one campaign Jesus conquered the tempter for ever and that the tempter never came to him again. The tempter spoke again to Jesus at Caesarea Philippi when Peter tried to dissuade him from taking the way to the Cross, and when he had to say to Peter the very same words he had said to the tempter in the wilderness, "Begone Satan" ( Matthew 16:23). At the end of the day Jesus could say to his disciples, "You are those who have continued with me in my trials" ( Luke 22:28). And never in all history was there such a fight with temptation as Jesus waged in Gethsemane when the tempter sought to deflect him from the Cross ( Luke 22:42-44).
"Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." In the Christian warfare there is no release. Sometimes people grow worried because they think that they should reach a stage when they are beyond temptation, a stare at which the power of the tempter is for ever broken. Jesus never reached that stage. From the beginning to the end of the day he had to fight his battle; that is why he can help us to fight ours.
(iv) One thing stands out about this story--the temptations are such as could only come to a person who had very special powers and who knew that he had them. Sanday described the temptations as "the problem of what to do with supernatural powers." The temptations which came to Jesus could only have come to one who knew that there were amazing things which he could do.
We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts. The person who is gifted with charm will be tempted to use that charm "to get away with anything." The person who is gifted with the power of words will be tempted to use his command of words to produce glib excuses to justify his own conduct. The person with a vivid and sensitive imagination will undergo agonies of temptation that a more stolid person will never experience. The person with great gifts of mind will be tempted to use these gifts for himself and not for others, to become the master and not the servant of men. It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we must be for ever on the watch.
(v) No one can ever read this story without remembering that its source must have been Jesus himself. In the wilderness he was alone. No one was with him when this struggle was being fought out. And we know about it only because Jesus himself must have told his men about it. It is Jesus telling us his own spiritual autobiography.
We must always approach this story with a unique and special reverence, for in it Jesus is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. He is telling men what he went through. It is the most sacred of all stories, for in it Jesus is saying to us that he can help others who are tempted because he himself was tempted. He draws the veil from his own struggles to help us in our struggle.
THE ATTACK OF THE TEMPTER ( Matthew 4:1-11 continued)
The tempter launched his attack against Jesus along three lines, and in every one of them there was a certain inevitability.
(i) There was the temptation to turn the stones into bread. The desert was littered with little round pieces of limestone rock which were exactly like little loaves; even they would suggest this temptation to Jesus.
This was a double temptation. It was a temptation to Jesus to use his powers selfishly and for his own use, and that is precisely what Jesus always refused to do. There is always the temptation to use selfishly whatever powers God has given to us.
God has given every man a gift, and every man can ask one of two questions. He can ask, "What can I make for myself out of this gift?" or, "What can I do for others with this gift?" This kind of temptation can come out in the simplest thing. A person may possess, for instance, a voice which is good to hear; he may thereupon "cash in on it", and refuse to use it unless he is paid. There is no reason why he should not use it for pay, but there is every reason why he should not use it only for pay. There is no man who will not be tempted to use selfishly the gift which God has given to him.
But there was another side to this temptation. Jesus was God's Messiah, and he knew it. In the wilderness he was facing the choice of a method whereby he could win men to God. What method was he to use for the task which God had given him to do? How was he to turn the vision into actuality, and the dream into fact?
One sure way to persuade men to follow him was to give them bread, to give them material things. Did not history justify that? Had not God given his people manna in the wilderness? Had God not said, "I will rain bread from heaven for you"? Did not the visions of the future golden age include that very dream? Had not Isaiah said, "They shall not hunger or thirst"? ( Isaiah 49:10). Was the Messianic Banquet not a settled feature in the dreams of the kingdom between the Testaments? If Jesus had wished to give men bread, he could have produced justification enough for it.
But to give men bread would have been a double mistake. First, it would have been to bribe men to follow him. It would nave been to persuade men to follow him for the sake of what they could get out of it, whereas the reward Jesus had to offer was a Cross. He called men to a life of giving, not of getting. To bribe men with material things would have been the denial of all he came to say and would have been ultimately to defeat his own ends.
Second, it would have been to remove the symptoms without dealing with the disease. Men are hungry. But the question is, why are they hungry? Is it because of their own foolishness, and their own shiftlessness, and their own carelessness? Is it because there are some who selfishly possess too much while others possess too little? The real way to cure hunger is to remove the causes--and these causes are in men's souls. And above all there is a hunger of the heart which it is not in material things to satisfy.
So Jesus answered the tempter in the very words which express the lesson which God had sought to teach his people in the wilderness: "Man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" ( Deuteronomy 8:3). The only way to true satisfaction is the way which has learned complete dependence on God.
(ii) So the tempter renewed his attack from mother angle. In a vision he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple. That may mean one of two things.
The Temple was built on the top of Mount Sion. The top of the mountain was levelled out into a plateau, and on that plateau the whole area of the Temple buildings stood. There was one corner at which Solomon's porch and the Royal porch met, and at that corner there was a sheer drop of four hundred and fifty feet into the valley of the Kedron below. Why should not Jesus stand on that pinnacle, and leap down, and land unharmed in the valley beneath? Men would be startled into following a man who could do a thing like that.
On the top of the roof of the Temple itself there was a stance where every morning a priest stood with a trumpet in his hands, waiting for the first flush of the dawn across the hills of Hebron. At the first dawn light he sounded the trumpet to tell men that the hour of morning sacrifice had come. Why should not Jesus stand there, and leap down right into the Temple court, and amaze men into following him? Had not Malachi said, "The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple"? ( Malachi 3:1). Was there not a promise that the angels would bear God's man upon their hands lest any harm should come to him? ( Psalms 91:11-12).
This was the very method that the false Messiahs who were continually arising promised. Theudas had led the people out, and had promised with a word to split the waters of Jordan in two. The famous Egyptian pretender ( Acts 21:38) had promised that with a word he would lay flat the walls of Jerusalem. Simon Magus, so it is said, had promised to fly through the air, and had perished in the attempt. These pretenders had offered sensations which they could not perform. Jesus could perform anything he promised. Why should he not do it?
There were two good reasons why Jesus should not adopt that course of action. First, he who seeks to attract men to him by providing them with sensations has adopted a way in which there is literally no future. The reason is simple. To retain his power he must produce ever greater and greater sensations. Wonders are apt to be nine day wonders. This year's sensation is next year's commonplace. A gospel founded on sensation-mongering is foredoomed to failure. Second, that is not the way to use the power of God. "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test," said Jesus ( Deuteronomy 6:16). He meant this; there is no good seeing how far you can go with God; there is no good in putting yourself deliberately into a threatening situation, and doing it quite recklessly and needlessly, and then expecting God to rescue you from it.
God expects a man to take risks in order to be true to him, but he does not expect him to take risks to enhance his own prestige. The very faith which is dependent on signs and wonder is not faith. If faith cannot believe without sensations it is not really faith, it is doubt looking for proof and looking in the wrong place. God's rescuing power is not something to be played and experimented with, it is something to be quietly trusted in the life of every day.
Jesus refused the way of sensations because he knew that it was the way to failure--it still is--and because to long for sensations is not to trust, but to distrust, God.
(iii) So the tempter tried his third avenue of attack. It was the world that Jesus came to save, and into his mind there came a picture of the world. The tempting voice said: "Fall down and worship me, and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world." Had not God himself said to his chosen one, "Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession"? ( Psalms 2:8).
What the tempter was saying was, "Compromise! Come to terms with me! Don't pitch your demands quite so high! Wink just a little at evil and questionable things--and then people will follow you in their hordes." This was the temptation to come to terms with the world, instead of uncompromisingly presenting God's demands to it. It was the temptation to try to advance by retreating, to try to change the world by becoming like the world.
Back came Jesus' answer: "You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve him and swear by his name" ( Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus was quite certain that we can never defeat evil by compromising with evil. He laid down the uncompromisingness of the Christian faith. Christianity cannot stoop to the level of the world; it must lift the world to its own level. Nothing less will do.
So Jesus made his decision. He decided that he must never bribe men into following him; he decided that the way of sensations was not for him; he decided that there could be no compromise in the message he preached and in the faith he demanded. That choice inevitably meant the Cross--but the Cross just as inevitably meant the final victory.
THE SON OF GOD GOES FORTH ( Matthew 4:12-17 )
4:12-17 When Jesus heard that John had been delivered into the hands of the authorities, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Galilee and came and made his home in Capernaum, which is on the lake-side, in the districts of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was done that there might be fulfilled that which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, when he said, "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and a light has risen for those who sat in the land and in the shadow of death." From that time Jesus began to proclaim his message and to say, "Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heavens has come near!"
Before very long disaster came to John. He was arrested and imprisoned in the dungeons of the Castle of Machaerus by Herod the king. His crime was that he had publicly denounced Herod for seducing his brother's wife, and making her his own wife, after he had put away the wife he had. It is never safe to rebuke an eastern despot, and John's courage brought him first imprisonment and then death. We shall come later to the details of that story which Matthew does not tell until Matthew 14:3-12.
For Jesus the time had come when he must go forth to his task.
Let us note what he did first of all. He left Nazareth and he took up residence in the town of Capernaum. There was a kind of symbolic finality in that move. In that moment Jesus left his home never again to return to live in it. It is as if he shut the door that lay behind him before he opened the door that stood in front of him. It was the clean cut between the old and the new. One chapter was ended and another had begun. Into life there come these moments of decision. It is always better to meet them with an even surgical cut than to vacillate undecided between two courses of action.
Let us note where Jesus went. He went into Galilee. When Jesus went into Galilee to begin his mission and his ministry, he knew what he was doing. Galilee was the most northerly district of Palestine. It stretched from the Litany River in the north to the Plain of Esdraelon in the south. On the west it did not reach the sea coast of the Mediterranean, because the coastal strip was in the possession of the Phoenicians. On the north-east it was bounded by Syria, and its eastern limit was the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Galilee was not large; it was only fifty miles from north to south, and twenty-five miles from east to west.
But, small as it was, Galilee was densely populated. It was by far the most fertile region of Palestine; its fertility was indeed phenomenal and proverbial. There was a saying that it was easier to raise a legion of olives in Galilee than it was to bring up one child in Judaea. Josephus, who was at one time governor of the province, says, "It is throughout rich in soil and pasturage, producing every variety of tree, and inviting by its productiveness even those who have the least inclination for agriculture; it is everywhere tilled; no part is allowed to lie idle, and everywhere it is productive." The result of this was that for its size Galilee had an enormous population. Josephus tells us that in it there were two hundred and four villages, none with a population of fewer than fifteen thousand people. So, then, Jesus began his mission in that part of Palestine where there were most people to hear him; he began his work in an area teeming with men to whom the gospel proclamation might be made.
But not only was Galilee a populous district; its people were people of a certain kind. Of all parts of Palestine Galilee was most open to new ideas. Josephus says of the Galileans, "They were ever fond of innovations, and by nature disposed to changes, and delighted in seditions." They were ever ready to follow a leader and to begin an insurrection. They were notoriously quick in temper and given to quarrelling. Yet withal they were the most chivalrous of men. "The Galileans," said Josephus, "have never been destitute of courage." "Cowardice was never a characteristic of the Galileans." "They were ever more anxious for honour than for gain." The inborn characteristics of the Galileans were such as to make them most fertile ground for a new gospel to be preached to them.
This openness to new ideas was due to certain facts.
(i) The name Galilee comes from the Hebrew word galiyl ( H1550; compare H1551 and H1556) which means a circle. The full name of the area was Galilee of the Gentiles. Plummer wishes to take that to mean "heathenish Galilee." But the phrase came from the fact that Galilee was literally surrounded by Gentiles. On the west, the Phoenicians were its neighbours. To the north and the east, there were the Syrians. And even to the south, there lay the territory of the Samaritans. Galilee was in fact the one part of Palestine that was inevitably in touch with non-Jewish influences and ideas. Galilee was bound to be open to new ideas in a way that no other part of Palestine was.
(ii) The great roads of the world passed through Galilee, as we saw when we were thinking of the town of Nazareth. The Way of the Sea led from Damascus through Galilee right down to Egypt and to Africa. The Road to the East led through Galilee away out to the frontiers. The traffic of the world passed through Galilee. Away in the south Judaea is tucked into a corner, isolated and secluded. As it has been well said, "Judaea is on the way to nowhere: Galilee is on the way to everywhere." Judaea could erect a fence and keep all foreign influence and all new ideas out; Galilee could never do that. Into Galilee the new ideas were bound to come.
(iii) Galilee's geographical position had affected its history. Again and again it had been invaded and conquered, and the tides of the foreigners had often flowed over it and had sometimes engulfed it.
Originally it had been assigned to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali and Zebulun when the Israelites first came into the land ( Joshua 9:1-27) but these tribes had never been completely successful in expelling the native Canaanite inhabitants, and from the beginning the population of Galilee was mixed. More than once foreign invasions from the north and east had swept down on it from Syria, and in the eighth century B.C. the Assyrians had engulfed it completely, the greater part of its population had been taken away into exile, and strangers had been settled in the land. Inevitably this brought a very large injection of foreign blood into Galilee.
From the eighth until the second century B.C. it had been largely in Gentile hands. When the Jews returned from exile under Nehemiah and Ezra, many of the Galileans came south to live in Jerusalem. In 164 B.C. Simon Maccabaeus chased the Syrians north from Galilee back to their own territory; and on his way back he took with him to Jerusalem the remnants of the Galileans who were left.
The most amazing thing of all is that in 104 B.C. Aristobulus reconquered Galilee for the Jewish nation, and proceeded forcibly to circumcise the inhabitants of Galilee, and thus to make them Jews whether they liked it or not. History had compelled Galilee to open its doors to new strains of blood and to new ideas and to new influences.
The natural characteristics of the Galileans, and the preparation of history had made Galilee the one place in all Palestine where a new teacher with a new message had any real chance of being heard, and it was there that Jesus began his mission and first announced his message.
THE HERALD OF GOD ( Matthew 4:12-17 continued)
Before we leave this passage there are certain other things which we must note.
It was to the town of Capernaum that Jesus went. The correct form of the name is Capharnaum. The form Capernaum does not occur at all until the fifth century A.D., but it is so fixed in our minds and memories that it would not be wise to try to change it.
There has been much argument about the site of Capernaum. Two places have been suggested. The commonest, and the likeliest. identification is that Capernaum is Tell Hum, which is on the west side of the extreme north of the Sea of Galilee; the alternative, and the less likely, identification is that Capernaum is Khan Minyeh, which is about two and a half miles to the south-west of Tell Hum. In any event, there is now nothing but ruins left to show where Capernaum once stood.
It was Matthew's habit to find in the Old Testament something which he could use as a prophecy about every event in Jesus' life. He finds such a prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2. In fact that is another of the prophecies which Matthew tears violently from its context and uses in his own extraordinary way. It is a prophecy which dates back to the reign of Pekah. In those days the northern parts of Palestine, including Galilee, had been despoiled by the invading armies of the Assyrians; and this was originally a prophecy of the deliverance which would some day come to these conquered territories. Matthew finds in it a prophecy which foretold of the light that Jesus was to bring.
Finally, Matthew gives us a brief one-sentence summary of the message which Jesus brought. The King James Version and Revised Standard Version both say that Jesus began to preach. The word preach has come down in the world; it is all too unfortunately connected in the minds of many people with boredom. The word in Greek is kerussein ( G2784) , which is the word for a herald's proclamation from a king. Kerux ( G2783) is the Greek word for herald, and the herald was the man who brought a message direct from the king.
This word tells us of certain characteristics of the preaching of Jesus and these are characteristics which should be in all preaching.
(i) The herald had in his voice a note of certainty. There was no doubt about his message; he did not come with perhapses and maybes and probablys; he came with a definite message. Goethe had it: "Tell me of your certainties: I have doubts enough of my own." Preaching is the proclamation of certainties, and a man cannot make others sure of that about which he himself is in doubt.
(ii) The herald had in his voice the note of authority. He was speaking for the king; he was laying down and announcing the king's law, the king's command, and the king's decision. As was said of a great preacher, "He did not cloudily guess; he knew." Preaching, as it has been put, is the application of prophetic authority to the present situation.
(iii) The herald's message came from a source beyond himself; it came from the king. Preaching speaks from a source beyond the preacher. It is not the expression of one man's personal opinions; it is the voice of God transmitted through one man to the people. It was with the voice of God that Jesus spoke to men.
The message of Jesus consisted of a command which was the consequence of a new situation. "Repent!" he said. "Turn from your own ways, and turn to God. Lift your eyes from earth and look to heaven. Reverse your direction, and stop walking away from God and begin walking towards God." That command had become urgently necessary because the reign of God was about to begin. Eternity had invaded time; God had invaded earth in Jesus Christ, and therefore it was of paramount importance that a man should choose the right side and the right direction.
CHRIST CALLS THE FISHERMEN ( Matthew 4:18-22 )
4:18-22 While he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew. his brother, casting their net into the sea, for they were fishermen. He said to them 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men:' They immediately left their nets and followed him. He went on from there and saw other two brothers, James, Zebedee's son, and John, his brother. They were in the boat with Zebedee their father getting ready their nets for use. So he called them. They immediately left their boat and their father, and followed him.
All Galilee centered round the Sea of Galilee. It is thirteen miles long from north to south, and eight miles across from east to west. The Sea of Galilee is therefore small, and it is interesting to note that Luke, the Gentile, who had seen so much more of the world, never calls it the sea (thalassa - G2281) , but always the lake (limne - G3041) . It is the shape of an oval, wider at the top than at the bottom. It lies in that great rift in the earth's surface in which the Jordan valley runs, and the surface of the Sea of Galilee is six hundred and eighty feet below sea level. The fact that it lies in this dip in the earth's surface gives it a very warm climate, and makes the surrounding countryside phenomenally fertile. It is one of the loveliest lakes in the world. W. M. Thomson describes it: "Seen from any point of the surrounding heights it is a fine sheet of water--a burnished mirror set in a framework of rounded hills and rugged mountains, which rise and roll backward and upward to where Hermon hangs the picture against the blue vault of heaven."
In the days of Josephus there were no fewer than nine populous cities on its shore. In the 1930's, when H. V. Morton saw it, only Tiberias was left and it was little more than a village. Today it is the largest town in Galilee and steadily growing.
In the time of Jesus the Sea of Galilee was thick with fishing boats. Josephus on a certain expedition had no difficulty in assembling two hundred and forty fishing boats to set out from Tarichaea; but nowadays the fishermen are few and far between.
There were three methods of fishing. There was fishing by line.
There was fishing with the casting net. The casting net was circular, and might be as much as nine feet across. It was skillfully cast into the water from the land, or from the shallow water at the edge of the lake. It was weighted with pellets of lead round the circumference. It sank into the sea and surrounded the fish; it was then drawn through the water as if the top of a bell tent were being drawn to land, and in it the fish were caught. That was the kind of net that Peter and Andrew, and James and John, were handling when Jesus saw them. Its name was the amphiblestron ( G293) .
The drag net was used from a boat, or better from two boats. It wag cast into the water with ropes at each of the four corners. It was weighted at the foot so that, as it were, it stood upright in the water. When the boats were rowed along with the net behind them, the effect was that the net became a great cone, and in the cone the fishes were caught and brought into the boat. This kind of net is the net in the parable of the dragnet; and is called the sagene ( G4522) .
So Jesus was walking by the lakeside; and as he walked he called Peter and Andrew, James and John. It is not to be thought that this was the first time that he had seen them, or they him. As John tells the story, at least some of them were already disciples of John the Baptist ( John 1:35). No doubt they had already talked with Jesus and had already listened to him, but in this moment there came to them the challenge once and for all to throw in their lot with him.
The Greeks used to tell how Xenophon first met Socrates. Socrates met him in a narrow lane and barred his path with his stick. First of all Socrates asked him if he knew where he could buy this and that, and if he knew where this and that were made. Xenophon gave the required information. Then Socrates asked him, "Do you know where men are made good and virtuous? "No," said the young Xenophon. "Then." said Socrates, follow me and learn!"
Jesus, too, called on these fishermen to follow him. It is interesting to note what kind of men they were. They were not men of great scholarship, or influence, or wealth, or social background. They were not poor, they were simple working people with no great background, and certainly, anyone would have said, with no great future.
It was these ordinary men whom Jesus chose. Once there came to Socrates a very ordinary man called Aeschines. "I am a poor man," said Aeschines. "I have nothing else, but I give you myself." "Do you not see," said Socrates, "that you are giving me the most precious thing of all?" What Jesus needs is ordinary folk who will give him themselves. He can do anything with people like that.
Further these men were fishermen. It has been pointed out by many scholars that the good fisherman must possess these very qualities which will turn him into the good fishers of men.
(i) He must have patience. He must learn to wait patiently until the fish will take the bait. If he is restless and quick to move he will never make a fisherman. The good fisher of men will have need of patience. It is but rarely in preaching or in teaching that we will see quick results. We must learn to wait.
(ii) He must have perseverance. He must learn never to be discouraged, but always to try again. The good preacher and teacher must not be discouraged when nothing seems to happen. He must always be ready to try again.
(iii) He must have courage. As the old Greek said when he prayed for the protection of the gods: "My boat is so small and the sea is so large." He must be ready to risk and to face the fury of the sea and of the gale. The good preacher and teacher must be well aware that there is always a danger in telling men the truth. The man who tells the truth, more often than not takes his reputation and his life in his hands.
(iv) He must have an eye for the right moment. The wise fisherman knows well that there are times when it is hopeless to fish. He knows when to cast and when not to cast. The good preacher and teacher chooses his moment. There are times when men will welcome the truth, and times when they will resent the truth. There are times when the truth will move them, and times when the truth will harden them in their opposition to the truth. The wise preacher and teacher knows that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent.
(v) He must fit the bait to the fish. One fish will rise to one bait and another to another. Paul said that he became all things to all men if by any chance he might win some. The wise preacher and teacher knows that the same approach will not win all men. He may even have to know and recognize his own limitations. He may have to discover that there are certain spheres in which he himself can work. and others in which he cannot.
(v) The wise fisherman must keep himself out of sight. If he obtrudes his own presence, even his own shadow, the fish will certainly not bite. The wise preacher and teacher will always seek to present men, not with himself, but with Jesus Christ. His aim is to fix men's eyes. not on himself, but on that figure beyond.
THE METHODS OF THE MASTER ( Matthew 4:23-25 )
4:23-25 Jesus made a circular tour of Galilee, teaching in the Synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and healing all kinds of diseases and ailments among the people: and the report of his activities went out all over Syria. So they brought to him an those who were ill, those who were in the grip of the most varied diseases and pains, those who were possessed by demons, those who were epileptics, and those who were paralysed; and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, and from the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
Jesus had chosen to begin his mission in Galilee, and we have seen how well-prepared Galilee was to receive the seed. Within Galilee Jesus chose to launch his campaign in the synagogues.
The synagogue was the most important institution in the life of any Jew. There was a difference between the synagogues and the Temple. There was only one Temple, the Temple in Jerusalem, but wherever there was the smallest colony of Jews there was a synagogue. The Temple existed solely for the offering of sacrifice; in it there was no preaching or teaching. The synagogue was essentially a teaching institution. The synagogues have been defined as "the popular religious universities of their day." If a man had any religious teaching or religious ideas to disseminate, the synagogue was unquestionably the place to start.
Further, the synagogue service was such that it gave the new teacher his chance. In the synagogue service there were three parts. The first part consisted of prayers. The second part consisted of readings from the Law and from the Prophets, readings in which members of the congregation took part. The third part was the address. The important fact is that there was no one person to give the address. There was no such thing as a professional ministry. The president of the synagogue presided over the arrangements for the service. Any distinguished stranger could be asked to give the address, and anyone with a message to give might volunteer to give it; and, if the ruler or president of the synagogue judged him to be a fit person to speak, he was allowed to speak. Thus, at the beginning, the door of the synagogue and the pulpit of the synagogue were open to Jesus. He began in the synagogue because it was there he would find the most sincerely religious people of his day, and the way to speak to them was open to him. After the address there came a time for talk, and questions, and discussion. The synagogue was the ideal place in which to get a new teaching across to the people.
But not only did Jesus preach; he also healed the sick. It was little wonder that reports of what he was doing went out and people came crowding to hear him, and to see him, and to benefit from his pity.
They came from Syria. Syria was the great province of which Palestine was only a part. It stretched away to the north and the north-east with the great city of Damascus as its center. It so happens that one of the loveliest legends passed down to us by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 1: 13) goes back to this time. The story goes that there was a king called Abgar, in Edessa, and he was ill. So, it is said, he wrote to Jesus: "Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus, the most excellent Saviour, who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem--greeting. I have heard of you and of your cures, performed without medicine and without herb; for, it is said, you make the blind to see and the lame to walk, you cleanse the lepers, you cast out evil spirits and demons, you heal those afflicted with lingering diseases, and you raise the dead. Now, as I have heard all this about you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true; either, you are God, and having descended from heaven, you do these things, or else, you are a son of God by what you do. I write to you, therefore, to ask you to come and cure the disease from which I am suffering. For I have heard that the Jews murmur against you, and devise evil things against you. Now, I have a very small but an excellent city which is large enough for both of us." Jesus was said to have written back: "Blessed are you for having believed in me without seeing me. For it is written concerning me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, while they who have not seen me will believe and be saved. But, as to your request that I should come to you, I must fulfil all things here for which I have been sent, and, after fulfilling them, be taken up again to him who sent me. Yet, after I am taken up, I will send you one of my disciples to cure your disease, and to give life to you and to yours." So, the legend goes on, Thaddeus went to Edessa and cured Abgar. It is only a legend, but it does show how men believed that even in distant Syria men had heard of Jesus and longed with all their hearts for the help and the healing which he alone could give.
Very naturally they came from Galilee, and the word about Jesus had spread south to Jerusalem and Judaea also, and they came from there. They came from the land across the Jordan, which was known as Peraea, and which stretched from Pella in the north to Arabia Petra in the south. They came from the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a federation of ten independent Greek cities, all of which, except Scythopolis, were on the far side of the Jordan.
This list is symbolic, for in it we see not only the Jews but the Gentiles also coming to Jesus Christ for what he alone could give them. Already the ends of the earth are gathering to him.
THE ACTIVITIES OF JESUS ( Matthew 4:23-25 continued)
This passage is of great importance because it gives us in brief summary the three great activities of Jesus' life.
(i) He came proclaiming the gospel, or, as the King James and Revised Standard Version have it, he came preaching. Now, as we have already seen, preaching is the proclamation of certainties. Therefore, Jesus came to defeat men's ignorance. He came to tell them the truth about God, to tell them that which by themselves they could never have found out. He came to put an end to guessing and to groping, and to show men what God is like.
(ii) He came teaching in the synagogues. What is the difference between teaching and preaching? Preaching is the uncompromising proclamation of certainties; teaching is the explanation of the meaning and the significance of them. Therefore, Jesus came to defeat men's misunderstandings. There are times when men know the truth and misinterpret it. They know the truth and draw the wrong conclusions from it. Jesus came to tell men the meaning of true religion.
(iii) He came healing all those who had need of healing. That is to say, Jesus came to defeat men's pain. The important thing about Jesus is that he was not satisfied with simply telling men the truth in words; he came to turn that truth into deeds. Florence Allshorn, the great missionary teacher, said, "An ideal is never yours until it comes out of your finger tips." The ideal is not yours until it is realized in action. Jesus realized his own teaching in deeds of help and healing.
Jesus came preaching that he might defeat all ignorance. he came teaching that he might defeat all misunderstandings. He came healing that he might defeat all pain. We, too, must proclaim our certainties; we, too, must be ready to explain our faith; we, too, must turn the ideal into action and into deeds.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-4.html. 1956-1959.
As it is written . . The common introduction to OT quotations (cf. Romans 1:17; Romans 2:24; Romans 3:4; Romans 3:10; Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4:6-7, Matthew 4:10). The tense of the Gr. verb stresses continuity and permanence, and implies its divine authority. - MSB
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/matthew-4.html. 2021.
But he answered and said, it is written,.... The passage referred to, and cited, is in Deuteronomy 8:3 the manner of citing it is what was common and usual with the Jews; and is often to be met with in the Talmudic writings; who, when they produce any passage of scripture, say דכתיב, "as it is written". The meaning of this scripture is; not that as the body lives by bread, so the soul lives by the word of God, and doctrines of the Gospel; though this is a certain truth: or that man lives by obedience to the commands of God, as was promised to the Israelites in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan; but that God, in satisfying man's hunger, and in supporting and preserving his life, is not tied to bread only, but can make use of other means, and order whatever he pleases to answer these ends; as, by raining manna from heaven, which is mentioned in the passage cited; and therefore there was no occasion to change the nature of things, to turn stones into bread; since that was not so absolutely necessary to the sustenance of life, as that it could not be maintained without it. Our Lord hereby expresses his strong faith and confidence in God, that he was able to support him, and would do it, though in a wilderness, and destitute of supply; whereby he overcame this temptation of Satan. Christ, in this, and some following citations, bears a testimony to, and establishes the authority of the sacred writings; and though he was full of the Holy Ghost, makes them the rule of his conduct; which ought to be observed against those, who, under a pretence of the Spirit, deny the scriptures to be the only rule of faith and practice and at the same time points out to us the safest and best method of opposing Satan's temptations; namely, by applying to, and making use of the word of God.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-4.html. 1999.
|The Temptation of Christ.|
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
We have here the story of a famous duel, fought hand to hand, between Michael and the dragon, the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, nay, the serpent himself; in which the seed of the woman suffers, being tempted, and so has his heel bruised; but the serpent is quite baffled in his temptations, and so has his head broken; and our Lord Jesus comes off a Conqueror, and so secures not only comfort, but conquest at last, to all his faithful followers. Concerning Christ's temptation, observe,
I. The time when it happened: Then; there is an emphasis laid upon that. Immediately after the heavens were opened to him, and the Spirit descended on him, and he was declared to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, the next news we hear of him is, he is tempted; for then he is best able to grapple with the temptation. Note, 1. Great privileges, and special tokens of divine favour, will not secure us from being tempted. Nay, 2. After great honours put upon us, we must expect something that is humbling; as Paul has a messenger of Satan sent to buffer him, after he had been in the third heavens. 3. God usually prepares his people for temptation before he calls them to it; he gives strength according to the day, and, before a sharp trial, gives more than ordinary comfort. 4. The assurance of our sonship is the best preparative for temptation. If the good Spirit witness to our adoption, that will furnish us with an answer to all the suggestions of the evil spirit, designed either to debauch or disquiet us.
Then, when he was newly come from a solemn ordinance, when he was baptized, then he was tempted. Note, After we have been admitted into the communion of God, we must expect to be set upon by Satan. The enriched soul must double its guard. When thou has eaten and art full, then beware. Then, when he began to show himself publicly to Israel, then he was tempted, so as he never had been while he lived in privacy. Note, The Devil has a particular spite at useful persons, who are not only good, but given to do good, especially at their first setting out. It is the advice of the Son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus ii. 1), My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thyself for temptation. Let young ministers know what to expect, and arm accordingly.
II. The place where it was; in the wilderness; probably in the great wilderness of Sinai, where Moses and Elijah fasted forty days, for no part of the wilderness of Judea was so abandoned to wild beasts as this is said to have been, Mark 1:13. When Christ was baptized, he did not go to Jerusalem, there to publish the glories that had been put upon him, but retired into a wilderness. After communion with God, it is good to be private awhile, lest we lose what we have received, in the crowd and hurry of worldly business. Christ withdrew into the wilderness, 1. To gain advantage to himself. Retirement gives an opportunity for meditation an communion with God; even they who are called to the most active life must yet have their contemplative hours, and must first find time to be alone with God. Those are not fit to speak of the things of God in public to others, who have not first conversed with those things in secret by themselves. When Christ would appear as a Teacher come from God, it shall not be said of him, "He is newly come from travelling, he has been abroad, and has seen the world;" but, "He is newly come out of the desert, he has been alone conversing with God and his own heart." 2. To give advantage to the tempter, that he might have a readier access to him than he could have had in company. Note, Though solitude is a friend to a good heart, yet Satan knows how to improve it against us. Woe to him that is alone. Those who, under pretence of sanctity and devotion, retire into dens and deserts, find that they are not out of reach of their spiritual enemies, and that there they want the benefit of the communion with saints. Christ retired, (1.) To make his victory the more illustrious, he gave the enemy sun and wind on his side, and yet baffled him. He might give the Devil advantage, for the prince of this world had nothing in him; but he has in us, and therefore we must pray not to be led into temptation, and must keep out of harm's way. (2.) That he might have an opportunity to do his best himself, that he might be exalted in his own strength; for so it was written, I have trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me. Christ entered the lists without a second.
III. The preparatives for it, which were two.
1. He was directed to the combat; he did not wilfully thrust himself upon it, but he was led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the Devil. The Spirit that descended upon him like a dove made him meek, and yet made him bold. Note, Our care must be, not to enter into temptation; but if God, by his providence, order us into circumstances of temptation for our trial, we must not think it strange, but double our guard. Be strong in the Lord, resist stedfast in the faith, and all shall be well. If we presume upon our own strength, and tempt the devil to tempt us, we provoke God to leave us to ourselves; but, whithersoever God leads us, we may hope he will go along with us, and bring us off more than conquerors.
Christ was led to be tempted of the Devil, and of him only. Others are tempted, when they are drawn aside of their own lust and enticed (James 1:14); the Devil takes hold of that handle, and ploughs with that heifer; but our Lord Jesus had no corrupt nature, and therefore he was led securely, without any fear or trembling, as a champion into the field, to be tempted purely by the Devil.
Now Christ's temptation is, (1.) An instance of his own condescension and humiliation. Temptations are fiery darts, thorns in the flesh, buffetings, siftings, wrestlings, combats, all which denote hardship and suffering; therefore Christ submitted to them, because he would humble himself, in all things to be made like unto his brethren; thus he gave his back to the smiters. (2.) An occasion of Satan's confusion. There is no conquest without a combat. Christ was tempted, that he might overcome the tempter. Satan tempted the first Adam, and triumphed over him; but he shall not always triumph, the second Adam shall overcome him and lead captivity captive. (3.) Matter of comfort to all the saints. In the temptation of Christ it appears, that our enemy is subtle, spiteful, and very daring in his temptations; but it appears withal, that he is not invincible. Though he is a strong man armed, yet the Captain of our salvation is stronger than he. It is some comfort to us to think that Christ suffered, being tempted; for thus it appears that temptations, if not yielded to, are not sins, they are afflictions only, and such as may be pleased. And we have a High Priest who knows, by experience, what it is to be tempted, and who therefore is the more tenderly touch with the feelings of our infirmities in an hour of temptation, Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15. But it is much more a comfort to think that Christ conquered, being tempted, and conquered for us; not only that the enemy we grapple with is a conquered, baffled, disarmed enemy, but that we are interested in Christ's victory over him, and through him are more than conquerors.
2. He was dieted for the combat, as wrestlers, who are temperate in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25); but Christ beyond any other, for he fasted forty days and forty nights, in compliance with the type and example of Moses the great lawgiver, and of Elias, the great reformer, of the Old Testament. John Baptist came as Elias, in those things that were moral, but not in such things as were miraculous (John 10:41); that honour was reserved for Christ. Christ needed not to fast for mortification (he had no corrupt desires to be subdued); yet he fasted, (1.) That herein he might humble himself, and might seem as one abandoned, whom no man seeketh after. (2.) That he might give Satan both occasion and advantage against him; and so make his victory over him the more illustrious. (3.) That he might sanctify and recommend fasting to us, when God in his providence calls to it, or when we are reduced to straits, and are destitute of daily food, or when it is requisite for the keeping under of the body, or the quickening of prayer, those excellent preparatives for temptation. If good people are brought low, if they want friends and succours, this may comfort them, that their Master himself was in like manner exercised. A man may want bread, and yet be a favourite of heaven, and under the conduct of the Spirit. The reference which the Papists make of their lent-fast to this fasting of Christ forty days, is a piece of foppery and superstition which the law of our land witnesses against, Stat. 5 Eliz. chap. 5 sect. 39, 40. When he fasted forty days he was never hungry; converse with heaven was instead of meat and drink to him, but he was afterwards an hungred, to show that he was really and truly Man; and he took upon him our natural infirmities, that he might atone for us. Man fell by eating, and that way we often sin, and therefore Christ was an hungred.
IV. The temptations themselves. That which Satan aimed at, in all his temptations, was, to bring him to sin against God, and so to render him for ever incapable of being a Sacrifice for the sins of others. Now, whatever the colours were, that which he aimed at was, to bring him, 1. To despair of his Father's goodness. 2. To presume upon his Father's power. 3. To alienate his Father's honour, by giving it to Satan. In the two former, that which he tempted him to, seemed innocent, and there in appeared the subtlety of the tempter; in the last, that which he tempted him with, seemed desirable. The two former are artful temptations, which there was need of great wisdom to discern; the last was a strong temptation, which there was need of great resolution to resist; yet he was baffled in them all.
1. He tempted him to despair of his Father's goodness, and to distrust his Father's care concerning him.
(1.) See how the temptation was managed (Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:3); The tempter came to him. Note, The Devil is the tempter, and therefore he is Satan--an adversary; for those are our worst enemies, that entice us to sin, and are Satan's agents, are doing his work, and carrying on his designs. He is called emphatically the tempter, because he was so to our first parents, and still is so, and all other tempters are set on work by him. The tempter came to Christ in a visible appearance, not terrible and affrighting, as afterward in his agony in the garden; no, if ever the Devil transformed himself into an angel of light, he did so now, and pretended to be a good genius, a guardian angel.
Observe the subtlety of the tempter, in joining this first temptation with what went before to make it the stronger. [1.] Christ began to be hungry, and therefore the motion seemed very proper, to turn stones into bread for his necessary support. Note, It is one of the wiles of Satan to take advantage of our outward condition, in that to plant the battery of his temptations. He is an adversary no less watchful than spiteful; and the more ingenious he is to take advantage against us, the more industrious we must be to give him none. When he began to be hungry, and that in a wilderness, where there was nothing to be had, then the Devil assaulted him. Note, Want and poverty are a great temptation to discontent and unbelief, and the use of unlawful means for our relief, under pretence that necessity has no law; and it is excused with this that hunger will break through stone walls, which yet is no excuse, for the law of God ought to be stronger to us than stone walls. Agur prays against poverty, not because it is an affliction and reproach, but because it is a temptation; lest I be poor, and steal. Those therefore who are reduced to straits, have need to double their guard; it is better to starve to death, than live and thrive by sin. [2.] Christ was lately declared to be the Son of God, and here the Devil tempts him to doubt of that; If thou be the Son of God. Had not the Devil known that the Son of God was to come into the world, he would not have said this; and had he not suspected that this was he, he would not have said it to him, nor durst he have said it if Christ had not now drawn a veil over his glory, and if the Devil had not now put on an impudent face.
First, "Thou has now an occasion to question whether thou be the Son of God or no; for can it be, that the Son of God, who is Heir of all things, should be reduced to such straits? If God were thy Father, he would not see thee starve, for all the beasts of the forest are his,Psalms 50:10; Psalms 50:12. It is true there was a voice from heaven, This is my beloved Son, but surely it was delusion, and thou was imposed upon by it; for either God is not thy Father, or he is a very unkind one." Note, 1. The great thing Satan aims at, in tempting good people, is to overthrow their relation to God as a Father, and so to cut off their dependence on him, their duty to him, and their communion with him. The good Spirit, as the Comforter of the brethren, witnesses that they are the children of God; the evil spirit, as the accuser of the brethren, does all he can to shake that testimony. 2. Outward afflictions, wants and burdens, are the great arguments Satan uses to make the people of God question their sonship; as if afflictions could not consist with, when really they proceed from, God's fatherly love. They know how to answer this temptation, who can say with holy Job, Though he slay me, though he starve me, yet I will trust in him, and love him as a Friend, even when he seems to come forth against me as an Enemy. 3. The Devil aims to shake our faith in the word of God, and bring us to question the truth of that. Thus he began with our first parents; Yea, has God said so and so? Surely he has not. So here, Has God said that thou art his beloved Son? Surely he did not say so; or if he did it is not true. We then give place to the Devil, when we question the truth of any word that God has spoken; for his business, as the father of lies, is to oppose the true sayings of God. 4. The Devil carries on his designs very much by possessing people with hard thoughts of God, as if he were unkind, or unfaithful, and had forsaken or forgotten those who had ventured their all with him. He endeavored to beget in our first parents a notion that God forbade them the tree of knowledge, because he grudged them the benefit of it; and so here he insinuates to our Saviour, that his Father had cast him off, and left him to shift for himself. But see how unreasonable this suggestion was, and how easily answered. If Christ seemed to be a mere Man now, because he was hungry, why was he not confessed to be more than a Man, even the Son of God, when for forty days he fasted, and was not hungry?
Secondly, "Thou hast now an opportunity to show that thou art the son of God. If thou art the Son of God, prove it by this, command these stones" (a heap of which, probably, lay now before him) "be made bread,Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:3. John Baptist said but the other day, that God can out of stone raise up children to Abraham, a divine power therefore can, no doubt, out of stones, make bread for those children; if there thou has that power, exert it now in a time of need for thyself." He does not say, Pray to thy Father that he would turn them into bread; but command it to be done; thy Father hath forsaken thee, set up for thyself, and be not beholden to him. The Devil is for nothing that is humbling, but ever thing that is assuming; and gains his point, if he can but bring men off from their dependence upon God, and possess them with an opinion of their self-sufficiency.
(2.) See how this temptation was resisted and overcome.
[1.] Christ refused to comply with it. He would not command these stones to be made bread; not because he could not; his power, which soon after this turned stones into bread; but he would not. And why would he not? At first view, the thing appears justifiable enough, and the truth is, the more plausible a temptation is, and the greater appearance there is of good in it, the more dangerous it is. This matter would bear a dispute, but Christ was soon aware of the snake in the grass, and would not do any thing, First, That looked like questioning the truth of the voice he heard from heaven, or putting that upon a new trial which was already settled. Secondly, That looked like distrusting his Father's care of him, or limiting him to one particular way of providing for him. Thirdly, That looked like setting up for himself, and being his own carver; or, Fourthly, That looked like gratifying Satan, by doing a thing at his motion. Some would have said, To give the Devil his due, this was good counsel; but for those who wait upon God, to consult him, is more than his due; it is like enquiring of the god Ekron, when there is a God in Israel.
[2.] He was ready to reply to it (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:4); He answered and said, It is written. This is observable, that Christ answered and baffled all the temptations of Satan with, It is written. He is himself the eternal Word, and could have produced the mind of God without having recourse to the writings of Moses; but he put honour upon the scripture, and, to set us an example, he appealed to what was written in the law; and he says this to Satan, taking it for granted that he knew well enough what was written. It is possible that those who are the Devil's children may yet know very well what is written in God's book; The devils believe and tremble. This method we must take when at any time we are tempted to sin; resist and repel the temptation with, It is written. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, the only offensive weapon in all the Christian armoury (Ephesians 6:17); and we may say of it as David of Goliath's sword, None is like that in our spiritual conflicts.
This answer, as all the rest, is taken out of the book of Deuteronomy, which signifies the second law, and in which there is very little ceremonial; the Levitical sacrifices and purifications could not drive away Satan, though of divine institution, much less holy water and the sign of the cross, which are of human invention; but moral precepts and evangelical promises, mixed with faith, these are mighty, through God, for the vanquishing of Satan. This is here quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, where the reason given why God fed the Israelites with manna is, because he would teach them that man shall not live by bread alone. This Christ applies to his own case. Israel was God's son, whom he called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1), so was Christ (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:15); Israel was then in a wilderness, Christ was so now, perhaps the same wilderness. Now, First, The Devil would have him question his sonship, because he was in straits; no, says he, Israel was God's son, and a son he was very tender of and whose manners he bore (Acts 13:18); and yet he brought them into straits; and it follows there (Deuteronomy 8:5), As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. Christ, being a Son, thus learns obedience. Secondly, The Devil would have him distrust his Father's love and care. "No," says he, "that would be to do as Israel did, who, when they were in want, said, Is the Lord among us? and, Can he furnish a table in the wilderness? Can he give bread?" Thirdly, The Devil would have him, as soon as he began to be hungry, immediately looking out for supply; whereas God, for wise and holy ends, suffered Israel to hunger before he fed them; to humble them, and prove them. God will have his children, when they want, not only to wait on him, but to wait for him. Fourthly, The Devil would have him to supply himself with bread. "No," says Christ, "what need is there of that? It is a point long since settled, and incontestably proved, that man may live without bread, as Israel in the wilderness lived forty years upon manna." It is true, God in his providence ordinarily maintains men by bread out of the earth (Job 28:5); but he can, if he please, make use of other means to keep men alive; any word proceeding out of the mouth of God, any thing that God shall order and appoint for that end, will be a good a livelihood for man as bread, and will maintain him as well. As we may have bread, and yet not be nourished, if God deny his blessing (Habakkuk 1:6; Habakkuk 1:9; Micah 6:14; for though bread is the staff of life, it is God's blessing that is the staff of bread), so we may want bread, and yet be nourished some other way. God sustains Moses and Elias without bread, and Christ himself just now for forty days; he sustained Israel with bread from heaven, angels' food; Elijah with bread sent miraculously by ravens, and another time with the widow's meal miraculously multiplied; therefore Christ need not turn stones into bread, but trust God to keep him alive some other way now that he is hungry, as he had done forty days before he hungred. Note, As in our great abundance we must not think to live without God, so in our greatest straits we must learn to live upon God; and when the fig-tree does not blossom, and the field yields no meat, when all ordinary means of succour and support are cut off, yet then we must rejoice in the Lord; then we must not think to command what we will, though contrary to his command, but must humbly pray for what he thinks fit to give us, and be thankful for the bread of our allowance, though it be a short allowance. Let us learn of Christ here to be at God's finding, rather than at our own; and not to take any irregular courses for our supply, when our wants are ever so pressing (Psalms 37:3). Jehovah-jireh; some way or other the Lord will provide. It is better to live poorly upon the fruits of God's goodness, than live plentifully upon the products of our own sin.
2. He tempted him to presume upon his Father's power and protection. See what a restless unwearied adversary the Devil is! If he fail in one assault, he tries another.
Now in this second attempt we may observe,
(1.) What the temptation was, and how it was managed. In general, finding Christ so confident of his Father's care of him, in point of nourishment, he endeavors to draw him to presume upon that care in point of safety. Note, We are in danger of missing our way, both on the right hand and on the left, and therefore must take heed, lest, when we avoid one extreme, we be brought by the artifices of Satan, to run into another; lest, by overcoming our prodigality, we fall into covetousness. Nor are any extremes more dangerous than those of despair and presumption, especially in the affairs of our souls. Some who have obtained a persuasion that Christ is able and willing to save them from their sins, are then tempted to presume that he will save them in their sins. Thus when people begin to be zealous in religion, Satan hurries them into bigotry and intemperate heats.
Now in this temptation we may observe,
[1.] How he made way for it. He took Christ, not by force against his will, but moved him to go, and went along with him, to Jerusalem. Whether Christ went upon the ground, and so went up the stairs to the top of the temple, or whether he went in the air, is uncertain; but so it was, that he was set upon a pinnacle, or spire; upon the fane (so some), upon the battlements (so others), upon the wing (so the word is), of the temple. Now observe, First, How submissive Christ was, in suffering himself to be hurried thus, that he might let Satan do his worst and yet conquer him. The patience of Christ here, as afterward in his sufferings and death, is more wonderful than the power of Satan or his instruments; for neither he nor they could have any power against Christ but what was given them from above. How comfortable is it, that Christ, who let loose this power of Satan against himself, does not in like manner let it loose against us, but restrains it, for he knows our frame! Secondly, How subtle the Devil was, in the choice of the place for his temptations. Intending to solicit Christ to an ostentation of his own power, and a vain-glorious presumption upon God's providence, he fixes him on a public place in Jerusalem, a populous city, and the joy of the whole earth; in the temple, one of the wonders of the world, continually gazed upon with admiration by some one or other. There he might make himself remarkable, and be taken notice of by everybody, and prove himself the Son of God; not, as he was urged in the former temptation, in the obscurities of a wilderness, but before multitudes, upon the most eminent stage of action.
Observe, 1. That Jerusalem is here called the holy city; for so it was in name and profession, and there was in it a holy seed, that was the substance thereof. Note, There is no city on earth so holy as to exempt and secure us from the Devil and his temptations. The first Adam was tempted in the holy garden, the second in the holy city. Let us not, therefore, in any place, be off our watch. Nay, the holy city is the place where he does, with great advantage and success, tempt men to pride and presumption; but, blessed be God, into the Jerusalem above, that holy city, no unclean thing shall enter; there we shall be for ever out of temptation. 2. That he set him upon a pinnacle of the temple, which (as Josephus describes it, Antiq. 15. 412) was so very high, that it would make a man's head giddy to look down to the bottom. Note, Pinnacles of the temple are places of temptation; I mean, (1.) High places are so; they are slippery places; advancement in the world makes a man a fair mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. God casts down, that he may raise up; the Devil raises up, that he may cast down: therefore they who would take heed of falling, must take heed of climbing. (2.) High places in the church are, in a special manner, dangerous. They who excel in gifts, who are in eminent stations, and have gained great reputation, have need to keep humble; for Satan will be sure to aim at them, to puff them up with pride, that they may fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Those that stand high are concerned to stand fast.
[2.] How he moved it; "If thou be the Son of God, now show thyself to the world, and prove thyself to be so; cast thyself down, and then," First, "Thou wilt be admired, as under the special protection of heaven. When they see thee receive no hurt by a fall from such a precipice, they will say" (as the barbarous people did of Paul) "that thou art a God." Tradition says, that Simon Magnus by this very thing attempted to prove himself a god, but that his pretensions were disproved, for he fell down, and was miserably bruised. "Nay," Secondly, "Thou wilt be received, as coming with a special commission from heaven. All Jerusalem will see and acknowledge, not only that thou art more than a man, but that thou art that Messenger, that Angel of the covenant, that should suddenly come to the temple (Malachi 3:1), and from thence descend into the streets of the holy city; and thus the work of convincing the Jews will be cut short, and soon done."
Observe, The Devil said, Cast thyself down. The Devil could not cast him down, though a little thing would have done it, from the top of a spire. Note, The power of Satan is a limited power; hitherto he shall come, and no further. Yet, if the Devil had cast him down, he had not gained his point; that had been his suffering only, not his sin. Note, Whatever real mischief is done us, it is of our own doing; the Devil can but persuade, he cannot compel; he can but say, Cast thyself down; he cannot cast us down. Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and not forced, but enticed. Therefore let us not hurt ourselves, and then, blessed be God, no one else can hurt us, Proverbs 9:12.
[3.] How he backed this motion with a scripture; For it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee. But is Saul also among the prophets? Is Satan so well versed in scripture, as to be able to quote it so readily? It seems, he is. Note, It is possible for a man to have his head full of scripture-notions, and his mouth full of scripture-expressions, while his heart is full of reigning enmity to God and all goodness. The knowledge which the devils have of the scripture, increases both their mischievousness and their torment. Never did the devil speak with more vexation to himself, than when he said to Christ, I know thee who thou art. The devil would persuade Christ to throw himself down, hoping that he would be his own murderer, and that there would be an end of him and his undertaking, which he looked upon with a jealous eye; to encourage him to do it, he tells them, that there was no danger, that the good angels would protect him, for so was the promise (Psalms 91:11), He shall give his angels charge over thee. In this quotation,
First, There was something right. It is true, there is such a promise of the ministration of the angels, for the protection of the saints. The devil knows it by experience; for he finds his attempts against them fruitless, and he frets and rages at it, as he did at the hedge about Job, which he speaks of so sensibly, Job 1:10. He was also right in applying it to Christ, for to him all the promises of the protection of the saints primarily and eminently belong, and to them, in and through him. That promise, that not a bone of theirs shall be broken (Psalms 34:20), was fulfilled in Christ, John 19:36. The angels guard the saints for Christ's sake, Revelation 7:5; Revelation 7:11.
Secondly, There was a great deal wrong in it; and perhaps the devil had a particular spite against this promise, and perverted it, because it often stood in his way, and baffled his mischievous designs against the saints. See here, 1. How he misquoted it; and that was bad. The promise is, They shall keep thee; but how? In all thy ways; not otherwise; if we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God's protection. Now this word made against the tempter, and therefore he industriously left it out. If Christ had cast himself down, he had been out of his way, for he had no call so to expose himself. It is good for us upon all occasions to consult the scriptures themselves, and not to take things upon trust, that we may not be imposed upon by those that maim and mangle the word of God; we must do as the noble Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily. 2. How he misapplied it; and that was worse. Scripture is abused when it is pressed to patronize sin; and when men thus wrest it to their own temptation, they do it to their own destruction2 Peter 3:16. This promise is firm, and stands good; but the devil made an ill use of it, when he used it as an encouragement to presume upon the divine care. Note, It is no new thing for the grace of God to be turned into wantonness; and for men to take encouragement in sin from the discoveries of God's good will to sinners. But shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? throw ourselves down, that the angels may bear us up? God forbid.
(2.) How Christ overcame this temptation; he resisted and overcame it, as he did the former, with, It is written. The devil's abusing of scripture did not prevent Christ from using it, but he presently urges, Deuteronomy 6:16, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. The meaning of this is not, Therefore thou must not tempt me; but, Therefore I must not tempt my Father. In the place whence it is quoted, it is in the plural number, You shall not tempt; here it is singular, Thou shalt not. Note, We are then likely to get good by the word of God, when we hear and receive general promises as speaking to us in particular. Satan said, It is written; Christ says, It is written; not that one scripture contradicts another. God is one, and his word one, and he is one mind, but that is a promise, this is a precept, and therefore that is to be explained and applied by this; for scripture is the best interpreter of scripture; and they who prophesy, who expound scripture, must do it according to the proportion of faith (Romans 12:6), consistently with practical godliness.
If Christ should cast himself down, it would be the tempting of God, [1.] As it would be requiring a further confirmation of that which was so well confirmed. Christ was abundantly satisfied that God was already his Father, and took care of him, and gave his angels a charge concerning him; and therefore to put it upon a new experiment, would be to tempt him, as the Pharisees tempted Christ; when they had so many signs on earth, they demanded a sign from heaven. This is limiting the Holy One of Israel. [2.] As it would be requiring a special preservation of him, in doing that which he had no call to. If we expect that because God has promised not to forsake us, therefore he should follow us out of the way of our duty; that because he has promised to supply our wants, therefore he should humour us, and please our fancies; that because he has promised to keep us, we may wilfully thrust ourselves into danger, and may expect the desired end, without using the appointed means; this is presumption, this is tempting God. And it is an aggravation of the sin, that he is the Lord our God; it is an abuse of the privilege we enjoy, in having him for our God; he has thereby encouraged us to trust him, but we are very ungrateful, if therefore we tempt him; it is contrary to our duty to him as our God. This is to affront him whom we ought to honour. Note, We must never promise ourselves any more than God has promised us.
3. He tempted him to the most black and horrid idolatry, with the proffer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. And here we may observe,
(1.) How the devil made this push at our Saviour, Matthew 4:8; Matthew 4:9. The worst temptation was reserved for the last. Note, Sometimes the saint's last encounter is with the sons of Anak, and the parting blow is the sorest; therefore, whatever temptation we have been assaulted by, still we must prepare for worse; must be armed for all attacks, with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.
In this temptation, we may observe,
[1.] What he showed him--all the kingdoms of the world. In order to do this, he took him to an exceeding high mountain; in hopes of prevailing, as Balak with Balaam, he changed his ground. The pinnacle of the temple is not high enough; the prince of the power of the air must have him further up into his territories. Some think this high mountain was on the other side of Jordan, because there we find Christ next after the temptation, John 1:28; John 1:29. Perhaps it was mount Pisgah, whence Moses, in communion with God, had all the kingdoms of Canaan shown him. Hither the blessed Jesus was carried for the advantage of a prospect; as if the devil could show him more of the world than he knew already, who made and governed it. Thence he might discover some of the kingdoms situate about Judea, though not the glory of them; but there was doubtless a juggle and a delusion of Satan's in it; it is probable that that which he showed him, was but a landscape, an airy representation in a cloud, such as that great deceiver could easily frame and put together; setting forth, in proper and lively colours, the glories and the splendid appearances of princes; their robes and crowns, their retinue, equipage, and lifeguards; the pomp of thrones, and courts, and stately palaces, the sumptuous buildings in cities, the gardens and fields about the country-seats, with the various instances of their wealth, pleasure, and gaiety; so as might be most likely to strike the fancy, and excite the admiration and affection. Such was this show, and his taking him up into a high mountain, was but to humour the thing, and to colour the delusion; in which yet the blessed Jesus did not suffer himself to be imposed upon, but saw through the cheat, only he permitted Satan to take his own way, that his victory over him might be the more illustrious. Hence observe, concerning Satan's temptations, that, First, They often come in at the eye, which is blinded to the things it should see, and dazzled with the vanities it should be turned from. The first sin began in the eye, Genesis 3:6. We have therefore need to make a covenant with our eyes, and to pray that God would turn them away from beholding vanity. Secondly, That temptations commonly take rise from the world, and the things in it. The lust of the flesh, and of the eye, with the pride of life, are the topics from which the devil fetches most of his arguments. Thirdly, That it is a great cheat which the devil puts upon poor souls, in his temptations. He deceives, and so destroys; he imposes upon men with shadows and fast colours; shows the world and the glory of it, and hides from men's eyes the sin and sorrow and death which stain the pride of all this glory, the cares and calamities which attend great possessions, and the thorns which crowns themselves are lined with. Fourthly, That the glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary, and that by which men are most imposed upon. Laban's sons grudge Jacob all this glory; the pride of life is the most dangerous snare.
(2.) What he said to him (Matthew 4:9; Matthew 4:9); All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. See,
First, How vain the promise was. All these things I will give thee. He seems to take it for granted, that in the former temptations he had in part gained his point, and proved that Christ was not the Son of God, because he had not given him those evidences of it which he demanded; so that here he looks upon him as a mere man. "Come," says he, "it seems that God whose Son thou thinkest thyself to be deserts thee, and starves thee--a sign that he is not thy Father; but if thou wilt be ruled by me, I will provide better for thee than so; own me for thy father, and ask my blessing, and all this will I give thee." Note, Satan makes an easy prey of men, when he can persuade them to think themselves abandoned of God. The fallacy of this promise lies in that, All this will I give thee. And what was all that? It was but a map, a picture, a mere phantasm, that had nothing in it real or solid, and this he would give him; a goodly prize! Yet such are Satan's proffers. Note, Multitudes lose the sight of that which is, by setting their eyes on that which is not. The devil's baits are all a sham; they are shows and shadows with which he deceives them, or rather they deceive themselves. The nations of the earth had been, long before, promised to the Messiah; if he be the Son of God, they belong to him; Satan pretends now to be a good angel, probably one of those that were set over kingdoms, and to have received a commission to deliver possession to him according to promise. Note, We must take heed of receiving even that which God hath promised, out of the devil's hand; we do so when we precipitate the performance, by catching at it in a sinful way.
Secondly, How vile the condition was; If thou will fall down, and worship me. All the worship which the heathen performed to their gods, was directed to the devil (Deuteronomy 32:17), who is therefore called the god of this world,2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 10:20. And fain would he draw Christ into his interests, and persuade him, now that he set up for a Teacher, to preach up the Gentile idolatry, and to introduce it again among the Jews, and then the nations of the earth would soon flock in to him. What temptation could be more hideous, more black? Note, The best of saints may be tempted to the worst of sins, especially when they are under the power of melancholy; as, for instance, to atheism, blasphemy, murder, self-murder, and what not. This is their affliction, but while there is no consent to it, nor approbation of it, it is not their sin; Christ was tempted to worship Satan.
(2.) See how Christ warded off the thrust, baffled the assault, and came off a conqueror. He rejected the proposal,
[1.] With abhorrence and detestation; Get thee hence, Satan. The two former temptations had something of colour, which would admit a consideration, but this was so gross as not to bear a parley; it appears abominable at the first sight, and therefore is immediately rejected. If the best friend we have in the world suggests such a thing as this to us, Go, serve other gods, he must not be heard with patience, Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:8. Some temptations have their wickedness written in their forehead, they are open before-hand; they are not to be disputed with, but rejected; "Get thee hence, Satan. Away with it, I cannot bear the thought of it!" While Satan tempted Christ to do himself a mischief, by casting himself down, though he yielded not, yet he heard it; but now that the temptation flies in the face of God, he cannot bear it; Get thee hence, Satan. Note, It is a just indignation, which rises at the proposal of any thing that reflects on the honour of God, and strikes at his crown. Nay, whatever is an abominable thing, which we are sure the Lord hates, we must thus abominate it; far be it from us that we should have any thing to do with it. Note, It is good to be peremptory in resisting temptation, and to stop our ears to Satan's charms.
[2.] With an argument fetched from scripture. Note, In order to the strengthening of our resolutions against sin, it is good to see what a great deal of reason there is for those resolutions. The argument is very suitable, and exactly to the purpose, taken from Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Christ does not dispute whether he were an angel of light, as he pretended, or not; but though he were, yet he must not be worshipped, because that is an honour due to God only. Note, It is good to make our answers to temptation as full and as brief as may be, so as not to leave room for objections. Our Saviour has recourse to the fundamental law in this case, which is indispensable, and universally obligatory. Note, Religious worship is due to God only, and must not be given to any creature; it is a flower of the crown which cannot be alienated, a branch of God's glory which he will not give to another, and which he would not give to his own Son, by obliging all men to honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, if he had not been God, equal to him, and one with him. Christ quotes this law concerning religious worship, and quotes it with application to himself; First, To show that in his estate of humiliation he was himself made under this law: though, as God, he was worshipped, yet, as Man, he did worship God, both publicly and privately. He obliges us to no more than what he was first pleased to oblige himself to. Thus it became him to fulfil all righteousness. Secondly, To show that the law of religious worship is of eternal obligation: though he abrogated and altered many institutions of worship, yet this fundamental law of nature--That God only is to be worshipped, he came to ratify, and confirm, and enforce upon us.
V. We have here the end and issue of this combat, Matthew 4:11; Matthew 4:11. Though the children of God may be exercised with many and great temptations, yet God will not suffer them to be tempted above the strength which either they have, or he will put into them, 1 Corinthians 10:13. It is but for a season that they are in heaviness, through manifold temptations.
Now the issue was glorious, and much to Christ's honour: for,
1. The devil was baffled, and quitted the field; Then the devil leaveth him, forced to do so by the power that went along with that word of command, Get thee hence, Satan. He made a shameful and inglorious retreat, and came off with disgrace; and the more daring his attempts had been, the more mortifying was the foil that was given him. Magnis tamen excidit ausis--The attempt, however, in which he failed, was daring. Then, when he had done his worst, had tempted him with all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and found that he was not influenced by that bait, that he could not prevail with that temptation with which he had overthrown so many thousands of the children of men, then he leaves him; then he gives him over as more than a man. Since this did not move him, he despairs of moving him, and begins to conclude, that he is the Son of God, and that it is in vain to tempt him any further. Note, If we resist the devil, he will flee from us; he will yield, if we keep our ground; as when Naomi saw that Ruth was steadfastly resolved, she left off speaking to her. When the devil left our Saviour, he owned himself fairly beaten; his head was broken by the attempt he made to bruise Christ's heel. He left him because he had nothing in him, nothing to take hold of; he saw it was to no purpose, and so gave over. Note, The devil, though he is an enemy to all saints, is a conquered enemy. The Captain of our salvation has defeated and disarmed him; we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory.
2. The holy angels came and attended upon our victorious Redeemer; Behold, angels came and ministered unto him. They came in a visible appearance, as the devil had done in the temptation. While the devil was making his assaults upon our Saviour, the angels stood at a distance, and their immediate attendance and administration were suspended, that it might appear that he vanquished Satan in his own strength, and that his victory might be the more illustrious; and that afterward, when Michael makes use of his angels in fighting with the dragon and his angels, it might appear, that it is not because he needs them, or could not do his work without them, but because he is pleased to honour them so far as to employ them. One angel might have served to bring him food, but here are many attending him, to testify their respect to him, and their readiness to receive his commands. Behold this! It is worth taking notice of; (1.) That as there is a world of wicked, malicious spirits that fight against Christ and his church, and all particular believers, so there is a world of holy, blessed spirits engaged and employed for them. In reference to our war with devils, we may take abundance of comfort from our communion with angels. (2.) That Christ's victories are the angels' triumphs. The angels came to congratulate Christ on his success, to rejoice with him, and to give him the glory due to his name; for that was sung with a loud voice in heaven, when the great dragon was cast out (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 12:10), Now is come salvation and strength. (3.) That the angels ministered to the Lord Jesus, not only food, but whatever else he wanted after this great fatigue. See how the instances of Christ's condescension and humiliation were balanced with tokens of his glory. As when he was crucified in weakness, yet he lived by the power of God; so when in weakness he was tempted, was hungry and weary, yet by his divine power he commanded the ministration of angels. Thus the Son of man did eat angels' food, and, like Elias, is fed by an angel in the wilderness, 1 Kings 19:4; 1 Kings 19:7. Note, Though God may suffer his people to be brought into wants and straits, yet he will take effectual care for their supply, and will rather send angels to feed them, than see them perish. Trust in the Lord, and verily thou shalt be fed,Psalms 37:3.
Christ was thus succoured after the temptation, [1.] For his encouragement to go on in his undertaking, that he might see the powers of heaven siding with him, when he saw the powers of hell set against him. [2.] For our encouragement to trust in him; for as he knew, by experience, what it was to suffer, being tempted, and how hard that was, so he knew what it was to be succoured, being tempted, and how comfortable that was; and therefore we may expect, not only that he will sympathize with his tempted people, but that he will come in with seasonable relief to them; as our great Melchizedec, who met Abraham when he returned from the battle, and as the angels here ministered to him.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 4:4". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-4.html. 1706.
God has been pleased, in the separate accounts He has given us of our Lord Jesus, to display not only His own grace and wisdom, but the infinite excellency of His Son. It is our wisdom to seek to profit by all the light He has afforded us; and, in order to this, both to receive implicitly, as the simple Christian surely does, whatever God has written for our instruction in these different gospels, and also by comparing them, and comparing them according to the special point of view which God has communicated in each gospel, to see concentrated the varying lines of everlasting truth which there meet in Christ. Now, I shall proceed with all simplicity, the Lord helping me, first taking up the gospel before us, in order to point out, as far as I am enabled to do, the great distinguishing features, as well as the chief contents, that the Holy Ghost has here been pleased to communicate. It is well to bear in mind, that in this gospel, as in all the rest, God has in nowise undertaken to present everything, but only some chosen discourses and facts; and this is the more remarkable, inasmuch as in some cases the very same miracles, etc., are given in several, and even in all, the gospels. The gospels are short; the materials used are not numerous; but what shall we say of the depths of grace that are there disclosed? What of the immeasurable glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, which everywhere shines out in them?
The undeniable certainty that God has been pleased to confine Himself to a small portion of the circumstances of the life of Jesus, and, even so, to repeat the same discourse. miracle, or whatever other fact is brought before us, only brings out, to my mind, more distinctly the manifest design of God to give expression to the glory of the Son in each gospel according to a special point of view. Now, looking at the gospel of Matthew as a whole, and taking the most enlarged view of it before we enter into details, the question arises, what is the main idea before the Holy Ghost? It is surely the lesson of simplicity to learn this from God, and, once learnt, to apply it steadily as a help of the most manifest kind; full of interest, as well as of the weightiest instruction, in examining all the incidents as they come before us. What, then, is that which, not merely in a few facts in particular chapters, but throughout, comes before us in the gospel of Matthew? It matters not where we look, whether at the beginning, the middle, or at the end, the same evident character proclaims itself. The prefatory words introduce it. Is it not the Lord Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham Messiah? But, then, it is not simply the anointed of Jehovah, but One who proves Himself, and is declared of God, to be Jehovah-Messiah No such testimony appears elsewhere. I say not that there is no evidence in the other gospels to demonstrate that He is really Jehovah and Emmanuel too, but that nowhere else have we the same fulness of proof, and the same manifest design, from the very starting point of the gospel, to proclaim the Lord Jesus as being thus a divine Messiah God with us.
The practical object is equally obvious. The common notion, that the Jews are in view, is quite correct, as far as it goes. The gospel of Matthew bears internal proof that God specially provides for the instruction of His own among those that had been Jews. It was written more particularly for leading Jewish Christians into a truer understanding of the glory of the Lord Jesus. Hence, every testimony that could convince and satisfy a Jew, that could correct or enlarge his thoughts, is found most fully here; hence the precision of the quotations from the Old Testament; hence the converging of prophecy on the Messiah; hence, too, the manner in which the miracles of Christ, or the incidents of His life, are here grouped together. To Jewish difficulties all this pointed with peculiar fitness. Miracles we have elsewhere, no doubt, and prophecies occasionally; but where is there such a profusion of them as in Matthew? Where, in the mind of the Spirit of God, such a continual, conspicuous point of quoting and applying Scripture in all places and seasons to the Lord Jesus? To me, I confess, it seems impossible for a simple mind to resist the conclusion.
But this is not all to be noticed here. Not only does God deign to meet the Jew with these proofs from prophecy, miracle, life, and doctrine, but He begins with what a Jew would and must demand the question of genealogy. But even then the answer of Matthew is after a divine sort. "The book," he says, "of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." These are the two principal landmarks to which a Jew turns:- royalty given by the grace of God in the one, and the original depository of the promise in the other.
Moreover, not only does God condescend to notice the line of fathers, but, if He turns aside for a moment now and then for aught else, what instruction, both in man's sin and need, and in His own grace, does thus spring up before us from the mere course of His genealogical tree! He names in certain cases the mother, and not the father only; but never without a divine reason. There are four women alluded to. They are not such as any of us, or perhaps any man, would beforehand have thought of introducing, and into such a genealogy, of all others. But God had His own sufficient motive; and His was one not only of wisdom, but of mercy; also, of special instruction to the Jew, as we shall see in a moment. First of all, who but God would have thought it necessary to remind us that Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar? I need not enlarge; these names in divine history must speak for themselves. Man would have hidden all this assuredly; he would have preferred to put forth either some flaming account of ancient and august ancestry, or to concentrate all the honour and glory in one, the lustre of whose genius eclipsed all antecedents. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are our ways His ways. Again, the allusion to such persons thus introduced is the more remarkable because others, worthy ones, are not named. There is no mention of Sarah, no hint of Rebecca, no notice whatever of so many holy and illustrious names in the female line of our Lord Jesus. But Thamar does appear thus early (v. 3); and so manifest is the reason, that one has no need to explain further. I am persuaded that the name one is sufficient intimation to any Christian heart and conscience. But how significant to the Jew! What were his thoughts of the Messiah? Would he have put forward the name of Thamar in such a connection? Never. He might not have been able to deny the fact; but as to bringing it out thus, and drawing special attention to it, the Jew was the last man to have done it. Nevertheless, the grace of God in this is exceeding good and wise.
But there is more than this. Lower down we have another. There is the name of Rachab, a Gentile, and a Gentile bringing no honourable reputation along with her. Men may seek to pare it down, but it is impossible either to cloak her shame, or to fritter away the grace of God. It is not to be well or wisely got rid of, who and what Rachab publicly was; yet is she the woman that the Holy Ghost singles out for the next place in the ancestry of Jesus.
Ruth, too, appears Ruth, of all these women most sweet and blameless, no doubt, by the working of the divine grace in her, but still a daughter of Moab, whom the Lord forbade to enter His congregation to the tenth generation for ever.
And what of Solomon himself, begotten by David, the king, of her that had been the wife of Uriah? How humiliating to those who stood on human righteousness! How thwarting to mere Jewish expectations of the Messiah! He was the Messiah, but such He was after God's heart, not man's. He was the Messiah that somehow would and could have relations with sinners, first and last; whose grace would reach and bless Gentiles a Moabite anybody. Room was left for intimations of such compass in Matthew's scheme of His ancestry. Deny it they might as to doctrine and fact now; they could not alter or efface the real features from the genealogy of the true Messiah; for in no other line but David's, through Solomon, could Messiah be. And God has deemed it meet to recount even this to us, so that we may know and enter into His own delight in His rich grace as He speaks of the ancestors of the Messiah. It is thus, then, we come down to the birth of Christ.
Nor was it less worthy of God that He should make most plain the truth of another remarkable conjuncture of predicted circumstances, seemingly beyond reconcilement, in His entrance into the world.
There were two conditions absolutely requisite for the Messiah: one was, that He should be truly born of a rather of the Virgin; the other was, that He should inherit the royal rights of the Solomon-branch of David's house, according to promise. There was a third too, we may add, that He who was the real son of His virgin-mother, the legal son of His Solomon-sprung father, should be, in the truest and highest sense, the Jehovah of Israel, Emmanuel God with us. All this is crowded into the brief account next given us in Matthew's gospel, and by Matthew alone. Accordingly, "the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." This latter truth, that is, of the Holy Ghost's action as to it, we shall find, has a still deeper and wider import assigned to it in the gospel of Luke, whose office is to show us the Man Christ Jesus. I therefore reserve any observations that this larger scope might and ought, indeed, to give rise to, till we have to consider the third gospel
But here the great thing is the relationship of Joseph to the Messiah, and hence he is the one to whom the angel appears. In the gospel of Luke it is not to Joseph, but to Mary. Are we to think that this variety of account is a mere accidental circumstance? or that if God has thus been pleased to draw out two distinct lines of truth, we are not to gather up the divine principle of each and all? It is impossible that God could do what even we should be ashamed of. If we act and speak, or forbear to do either, we ought to have a sufficient reason for one or other. And if no man of sense doubts that this should be so in our own case, has not God always had His own perfect mind in the various accounts He has given us of Christ? Both are true, but with distinct design. It is with divine wisdom that Matthew mentions the angel's visit to Joseph; with no less direction from on high does Luke relate Gabriel's visit to Mary (as before to Zacharias); and the reason is plain. In Matthew, while he not in the least degree weakens, but proves the fact that Mary was the real mother of our Lord, the point was, that He inherited the rights of Joseph.
And no wonder; for no matter how truly our Lord had been the Son of Mary, He had not thereby an indisputable legal right to the throne of David. This never could be in virtue of His descent from Mary, unless He had also inherited the title of the royal stem. As Joseph belonged to the Solomon-branch, he would have barred the right of our Lord to the throne, looking at it as a mere question now of His being the Son of David; and we are entitled so to take it. His being God, or Jehovah, was in no way of itself the ground of Davidical claim, though otherwise of infinitely deeper moment. The question was to make good, along with His eternal glory, a Messianic title that could not be set aside, a title that no Jew on his own ground could impeach. It was His grace so to stoop; it was His own all-sufficient wisdom that knew how to reconcile conditions so above man to put together. God speaks, and it is done.
Accordingly, in the gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of God fixes our attention upon these facts. Joseph was the descendant of David, the king, through Solomon: the Messiah must therefore, somehow or other, be the son of Joseph; yet had He really been the son of Joseph, all would have been lost. Thus the contradictions looked hopeless; for it seemed, that in order to be the Messiah, He must, and yet He must not, be Joseph's son. But what are difficulties to God? With Him all things are possible; and faith receives all with assurance. He was not only the son of Joseph, so that no Jew could deny it, and yet not so, but that He could be in the fullest manner the Son of Mary, the Seed of the woman, and not literally of the man. God, therefore, takes particular pains, in this Jewish gospel, to give all importance to His being strictly, in the eye of the law, the son of Joseph; and so, according to the flesh, inheriting the rights of the regal branch; yet here He takes particular care to prove that He was not, in the reality of His birth as man, Joseph's son. Before husband and wife came together, the espoused Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Such was the character of the conception. Besides, He was Jehovah. This comes out in His very name. The Virgin's Son was to be called "Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." He shall not be a mere man, no matter how miraculously born; Jehovah's people, Israel, are His; He shall save His people from their sins.
This is yet more revealed to us by the prophecy of Isaiah cited next, and particularly by the application of that name found nowhere else but in Matthew: "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Verses 22, 23.)
This, then, is the introduction and the great foundation in fact. The genealogy is, no doubt, formed peculiarly according to the Jewish manner; but this very shape serves rather as a confirmation, I will not say to the Jewish mind alone, but to every honest man of intelligence. The spiritual mind, of course, has no difficulty can have none by the very fact that it is spiritual, because its confidence is in God. Now there is nothing that so summarily banishes a doubt, and silences every question of the natural man, as the simple but happy assurance that what God says must be true, and is the only right thing. No doubt God has been pleased in this genealogy to do that which men in modern times have cavilled at; but not even the darkest and most hostile Jews raised such objections in former days. Assuredly they were the persons, above all, to have exposed the character of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, if vulnerable. But no; this was reserved for Gentiles. They have made the notable discovery that there is an omission! Now in such lists an omission is perfectly in analogy with the manner of the Old Testament. All that was demanded in such a genealogy was to give adequate landmarks so as to make the descent clear and unquestionable.
Thus, if you take Ezra, for instance, giving his own genealogy as a priest, you find that he omits not three links only in a chain, but seven. Doubtless there may have been a special reason for the omission; but whatever may be our judgment of the true solution of the difficulty, it is evident that a priest who was giving his own genealogy would not put it forward in a defective form. If in one who was of that sacerdotal succession where the proofs were rigorously required, where a defect in it would destroy his right to the exercise of spiritual functions if in such a case there might legitimately be an omission, clearly there might be the same in regard to the Lord's genealogy; and the more, as this omission was not in the part of which the Scripture speaks nothing, but in the centre of its historical records, whence the merest child could supply the missing links at once. Evidently, therefore, the omission was not careless or ignorant, but intentional. I doubt not myself that the design was thereby to intimate the solemn sentence of God on the connection with Athaliah of the wicked house of Ahab, the wife of Joram. (Compare verse 8 with2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21; 2 Chronicles 24:1-27; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23.) Ahaziah vanishes, and Joash, and Amaziah, when the line once more reappears here in Uzziah. These generations God blots out along with that wicked woman.
There was literally another reason lying on the surface, that required certain names to drop out. The Spirit of God was pleased to give, in each of the three divisions of the Messiah's genealogy, fourteen generations, as from Abraham down to David, from David to the captivity, and from the captivity to Christ. Now, it is evident, that if there were in fact more links in each chain of generation than these fourteen, all above that number must be omitted. Then, as we have just seen, the omission is not haphazard, but made of special moral force. Thus, if there was a necessity because the Spirit of God limited Himself to a certain number of generations, there was also divine reason, as there always is in the word of God, for the choice of the names which had to be omitted,
However this may be, we have in this chapter, besides the genealogical line, the person of the long-expected son of David; we have Him introduced precisely, officially, and fully as the Messiah; we have His deeper glory, not merely that which He took but who He was and is. He might be styled, as indeed He was, "the son of David, the son of Abraham;" but He was, He is, He could not but be, Jehovah-Emmanuel. How all-important this was for a Jew to believe and confess, one need hardly stop to expound: it is enough to mention it by the way. Evidently Jewish unbelief, even where there was an acknowledgment of the Messiah, turned upon this, that the Jew looked upon the Messiah purely according to what He deigns to become as the great King. They saw not any deeper glory than His Messianic throne, not more than an offshoot, though no doubt one of extraordinary vigour, from the root of David. Here, at the very starting-point, the Holy Ghost points out the divine and eternal glory of Him who deigns to come as the Messiah. Surely, too, if Jehovah condescended to be Messiah, and in order to this to be born of the Virgin, there must be some most worthy aims infinitely deeper than the intention, however great, to sit upon the throne of David. Evidently, therefore, the simple perception of the glory of His person overturns all conclusions of Jewish unbelief; shows us that He whose glory was so bright must have a work commensurate with that glory; that He whose personal dignity was beyond all time and even thought, who thus stoops to enter the ranks of Israel as Son of David, must have had some ends in coming, and, above all, to die, suitable to such glory. All this, it is plain, was of the deepest possible moment for Israel to apprehend. It was precisely what the believing Israelite did learn; even as it was just the rock of offence on which unbelieving Israel fell and was dashed to pieces.
The next chapter (Matthew 2:1-23) shows us another characteristic fact in reference to this gospel; for if the aim of the first chapter was to give us proofs of the true glory and character of the Messiah, in contrast with mere Jewish limitation and unbelief about Him, the second chapter shows us what reception Messiah would find, in contrast with the wise men from the East, from Jerusalem, from the king and the people, and in the land of Israel. If His descent be sure as the royal son of David, if His glory be above all human lineage, what was the place that He found, in fact, in His land and people? Indefeasible was His title: what were the circumstances that met Him when He was found at length in Israel? The answer is, from the very first He was the rejected Messiah. He was rejected, and most emphatically, by those whose responsibility it was most of all to receive Him. It was not the ignorant; it was not those that were besotted in gross habits; it was Jerusalem it was the scribes and Pharisees. The people, too, were all moved at the very thought of Messiah's birth.
What brought out the unbelief of Israel so distressingly was this God would have a due testimony to such a Messiah; and if the Jews were unready, He would gather from the very ends of the earth some hearts to welcome Jesus Jesus-Jehovah, the Messiah of Israel. Hence it is that Gentiles are seen coming forth from the East, led by the star which had a voice for their hearts. There had ever rested traditionally among Oriental nations, though not confined to them, the general bearing of Balaam's prophecy, that a star should arise, a star connected with Jacob. I doubt not that God was pleased in His goodness to give a seal to that prophecy, after a literal sort, not to speak of its true symbolic force. In His condescending love, He would lead hearts that were prepared of Him to desire the Messiah, and come from the ends of the earth to welcome Him. And so it was. They saw the star; they set forth to seek the Messiah's kingdom. It was not that the star moved along the way; it roused them and set them going. They recognized the phenomenon as looking for the star of Jacob; they instinctively, I may say, certainly by the good hand of God, connected the two together. From their distant home they made for Jerusalem; for even the universal expectation of men at the time pointed to that city. But when they reached it, where were faithful souls awaiting the Messiah? They found active minds not a few that could tell them clearly where the Messiah was to be born: for this God made them dependent upon His word. When they came to Jerusalem, it was not any longer an outward sign to guide. They learnt the scriptures as to it. They learnt from those that cared neither for it nor for Him it concerned, but who, nevertheless, knew the letter more or less. On the road to Bethlehem, to their exceeding joy, the star re-appears, confirming what they had received, till it rested over where the young child was. And there, in the presence of the father and the mother, they, Easterns though they were, and accustomed to no small homage, proved how truly they were guided of God; for neither father nor mother received the smallest of their worship: all was reserved for Jesus all poured out at the feet of the infant Messiah. Oh, what a withering refutation of the foolish men of the West! Oh, what a lesson, even from these dark Gentiles, to self-complacent Christendom in East or West! Spite of what men might look down upon in these proud days, their hearts in their simplicity were true. It was but for Jesus they came; it was on Jesus that their worship was spent; and so, spite of the parents being there, spite of what nature would prompt them to do, in sharing, at least, something of the worship on the father and mother with the Babe, they produced their treasures and worshipped the young child alone.
This is the more remarkable, because in the gospel of Luke we have another scene, where we see that same Jesus, truly an infant of days, in the hands of an aged one with far more divine intelligence than these Eastern sages could boast. Now we know what would have been the prompting of affection and of godly desires in the presence of a babe; but the aged Simeon never pretends to bless Him. Nothing would have been more simple and natural, had not that Babe differed from all others, had He not been what He was, and had Simeon not known who He was. But he did know it. He saw in Him the salvation of God; and so, though he could rejoice in God, and bless God, though he could in another sense bless the parents, he never presumes so to bless the Babe. It was indeed the blessing that he had got from that Babe which enabled him to bless both God and His parents; but he blesses not the Babe even when he blesses the parents. It was God Himself, even the Son of the Highest that was there, and his soul bowed before God. We have here, then, the Eastems worshipping the Babe, not the parents; as in the other case we have the blessed man of God blessing the patents, but not the Babe: a most striking token of the remarkable difference which the Holy Ghost had in view when inditing these histories of the Lord Jesus.
Further, to these Easterns intimation is given of God, and they returned another way, thus defeating the design of the treacherous heart and cruel head of the Edomite king, notwithstanding the slaughter of the innocents.
Next comes a remarkable prophecy of Christ, of which we must say a word the prophecy of Hosea. Our Lord is carried outside the reach of the storm into Egypt. Such indeed was the history of His life; it was continual pain, one course of suffering and shame. There was no mere heroism in the Lord Jesus, but the very reverse. Nevertheless, it was God shrouding His Majesty; it was God in the person of man, in the Child that takes the lowliest place in the haughty world. Therefore, we find no more a cloud that covers Him, no pillar of fire that shields Him. Apparently the most exposed, He bows before the storm, retires, carried by His parents into the ancient furnace of affliction for His people. Thus even from the very first our Lord Jesus, as a babe, tastes the hate of the world what it is to be thoroughly humbled, even as a child. The prophecy, therefore, was accomplished, and in its deepest meaning. It was not merely Israel that God called out, but His Son out of Egypt. Here was the true, Israel; Jesus was the genuine stock before God. He goes through, in His own person, Israel's history. He goes into Egypt, and is called out of it.
Returning, in due time, to the land of Israel at the death of him that reigned after Herod the Great, His parents are instructed as we are told, and turn aside into the parts of Galilee. This is another important truth; for thus was to be fulfilled the word, not of one prophet, but of all "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." It was the name of man's scorn; for Nazareth was the most despised place in that despised land of Galilee. Such, in the providence of God, was the place for Jesus. This gave an accomplishment to the general voice of the prophets, who declared Him despised and rejected of men. So He was. It was true even of the place in which He lived, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
We enter now upon the announcement of John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:1-17) The Spirit of God carries us over a long interval, and the voice of John is heard proclaiming, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Here we have an expression which must not be passed over all-important as it is for the understanding of the gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist preached the nearness of this kingdom in the wilderness of Judaea. It was clearly gathered from the Old Testament prophecy, particularly from Daniel, that. the God of heaven would set up a kingdom; and more than this, that the Son of man was the person to administer the kingdom. "And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." Such was the kingdom of heaven. It was not a mere kingdom of the earth, neither was it in heaven, but it was heaven governing the earth for ever.
It would appear that, in John the Baptist's preaching it, we have no ground for supposing that either he believed at this time, or that any other men till afterwards were led into the understanding of the form which it was to assume through Christ's rejection and going on high as now. This our Lord divulged more particularly inMatthew 13:1-58; Matthew 13:1-58. I understand, then, by this expression, what might be gathered justly from Old Testament prophecies; and that John, at this time, had no other thought but that the kingdom was about to be introduced according to expectations thus formed. They had long looked for the time when the earth should no longer be left to itself, but heaven should be the governing power; when the Son of man should control the earth; when the power of hell should be banished from the world; when the earth should be put into association with the heavens, and the heavens, of course, therefore, be changed, so as to govern the earth directly through the Son of man, who should be also King of restored Israel. This, substantially, I think, was in the mind of the Baptist.
But then he proclaims repentance; not here in view of deeper things, as in the gospel of Luke, but as a spiritual preparation for Messiah and the kingdom of heaven. That is, he calls man to confess his own ruin in view of the introduction of that kingdom. Accordingly, his own life was the witness of what he felt morally of Israel's then state. He retires into the wilderness, and applies to himself the ancient oracle of Isaiah "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." The reality was coming: as for him, he was merely one to announce the advent of the King. All Jerusalem was moved, and multitudes were baptized by him in Jordan. This gives occasion to his stern sentence upon their condition in the sight of God.
But among the crowd of those who came to him was Jesus. Strange sight! He, even He, Emmanuel, Jehovah, if He took the place of Messiah, would take that place in lowliness on the earth. For all things were out of course; and He must prove by His whole life, as we shall find by-and-by He did, what the condition of His people was. But, indeed, it is but another step of the same infinite grace, and more than that, of the same moral judgment on Israel; but along with it the added and most sweet feature His association with an in Israel who felt and owned their condition in the sight of God. It is what no saint can afford lightly to pass over; it is what, if a saint recognize not, he will understand the Scripture most imperfectly; nay, I believe he must grievously misunderstand the ways of God. But Jesus looked at those who came to the waters of Jordan, and saw their hearts touched, if ever so little, with a sense of their state before God; and His heart was truly with them. It is not now taking the people out of Israel, and bringing them into a position with Himself that we shall find by-and-by; but it is the Saviour identifying Himself with the godly-feeling remnant. Wherever there was the least action of the Holy Spirit of God in grace in the hearts of Israel, He joined Himself. John was astonished; John the Baptist himself would have refused, but, "Thus," said the Saviour, "it becometh us" including, as I apprehend, John with Himself. "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
It is not here a question of law; it was too late for this ever a ruinous thing for the sinner. It was a question of another sort of righteousness. It might be the feeblest recognition of God and man; it might be but a remnant of Israelites; but, at least, they owned the truth about themselves; and Jesus was with them in owning the ruin fully, and felt it all. No need was in Himself not a particle; but it is precisely when the heart is thus perfectly free, and infinitely above ruin, that it can most of all descend and take up what is of God in the hearts of any. So Jesus ever did, and did it thus publicly, joining Himself with whatever was excellent on the earth. He was baptized in Jordan an act most inexplicable for those who then or now might hold to His glory without entering into His heart of grace. To what painful feelings it might give rise! Had He anything to confess? Without a single flaw of His own He bent down to confess what was in others; He owned in all its extent, in its reality as none did, the state of Israel, before God and man; He joined Himself with those who felt it. But at once, as the answer to any and every unholy misapprehension that could be formed, heaven is opened, and a twofold testimony is rendered to Jesus. The Father's voice pronounces the Son's relationship, and His own complacency; while the Holy Ghost anoints Him as man. Thus, in His full personality, God's answer is given to all who might otherwise have slighted either Himself or His baptism.
The Lord Jesus thence goes forth into another scene the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and this, mark, now that He is thus publicly owned by the Father, and the Holy Ghost had descended on Him. It is indeed, I might say, when souls are thus blessed that Satan's temptations are apt to come. Grace provokes the enemy. Only in a measure, of course, can we thus speak of any other than Jesus; but of Him who was full of grace and truth, in whom, too, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt even so, of Him it was fully true. The principle, at least, applies in every case. He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be there tried of the devil. The Holy Spirit has given the temptation to us in Matthew, according to the order in which it occurred. But here, as elsewhere, the aim is dispensational, not historical, as far as intention goes, though really so in point of fact; and I apprehend, specially with this in view, that it is only at the last temptation our Lord says, "Get thee hence, Satan." We shall see by and by why this disappears in the gospel of Luke. There is thus the lesson of wisdom and patience even before the enemy; the excellent, matchless grace of patience in trial; for what more likely to exclude it than the apprehension that it was Satan all the while? But yet our Saviour was so perfect in it, that He never uttered the word "Satan" until the last daring, shameless effort to tempt Him to render to the evil one the very worship of God Himself Not till then does our Lord say, "Get thee hence, Satan."
We shall dwell a little more upon the three temptations, if the Lord will, as to their intrinsic moral import, when we come to the consideration of Luke. I content myself now with giving what appears to me the true reason why the Spirit of God here adheres to the order of the facts. It is well, however, to remark, that the departure from such an order is precisely what indicates the consummate hand of God, and for a simple reason. To one who knew the facts in a human way, nothing would he more natural than to put them down just as they occurred. To depart from the historical order, more particularly when one had previously given them that order, is what never would be thought of, unless there were some mighty preponderant reason in the mind of him who did so. But this is no uncommon thing. There are cases where an author necessarily departs from the mere order in which the facts took place. Supposing you are describing a certain character; you put together striking traits from the whole course of his life; you do not restrain yourself to the bare dates at which they occurred. If you were only chronicling the events of a year, you keep to the order in which they happened; but whenever you rise to the higher task of bringing out moral features, you may be frequently obliged to abandon the consecutive order of events as they occurred.
It is precisely this reason that accounts for the change in Luke; who, as we shall find when we come to look at his gospel more carefully, is especially the moralist. That is to say, Luke characteristically looks upon things in their springs as well as effects. It is not his province to regard the person of Christ peculiarly, i.e., His divine glory; neither does he occupy himself with the testimony or service of Jesus here below, of which we all know Mark is the exponent. Neither is it true, that the reason why Matthew occasionally gives the order of time, is because such is always his rule. On the contrary, there is no one of the Gospel writers who departs from that order, when his subject demands it, more freely than he, as I hope to prove to the satisfaction of those open to conviction, before we close. If this be so, assuredly there must be some key to these phenomena, some reason sufficient to explain why sometimes Matthew adheres to the order of events, why he departs from it elsewhere.
I believe the real state of the facts to be this:- first of all, God has been pleased, by one of the evangelists (Mark), to give us the exact historical order of our Lord's eventful ministry. This alone would have been very insufficient to set forth Christ. Hence, besides that order, which is the most elementary, however important in its own place, other presentations of His life were due, according to various spiritual grounds, as divine wisdom saw fit, and as even we are capable of appreciating in our measure. Accordingly, I think it was owing to special considerations of this sort that Matthew was led to reserve for us the great lesson, that our Lord had passed through the entire temptation not only the forty days, but even that which crowned them at the close; and that only when an open blow was struck at the divine glory did His soul at once resent it with the words, "Get thee hence, Satan." Luke, on the contrary, inasmuch as he, for perfectly good and divinely given reason, changes the order, necessarily omits these words. Of course, I do not deny that similar words appear in your common English Bibles (in Luke 4:8); but no scholar needs to be informed that all such words are left out of the third gospel by the best authorities, followed by almost every critic of note, save the testy Matthaei, though scarce one of them seems to have understood the true reason why. Nevertheless, they are omitted by Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists; by High Church, and Low Church; by Evangelicals, Tractarians, and Rationalists. It does not matter who they are, or what their system of thought may be: all those who go upon the ground of external testimony alone are obliged to leave out the words in Luke. Besides, there is the clearest and the strongest evidence internally for the omission of these words in Luke, contrary to the prejudices of the copyists, which thus furnishes a very cogent illustration of the action of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. The ground of omitting the words lies in the fact, that the last temptation occupies the second place in Luke. If the words be retained, Satan seems to hold his ground, and renew the temptation after the Lord had told him to retire. Again, it is evident that, as the text stands in the received Greek text and our common English Bible, "Get thee behind me, Satan," is another mistake. InMatthew 4:10; Matthew 4:10, it is, rightly, "Get thee hence." Remember, I am not imputing a shade of error to the Word of God. The mistake spoken of lies only in blundering scribes, critics, or translators, who have failed in doing justice to that particular place. "Get thee hence, Satan," was the real language of the Lord to Satan, and is so given in closing the literally last temptation by Matthew.
When it was a question, at a later day, of His servant Peter, who, prompted by Satan, had fallen into human thoughts, and would have dissuaded his Master from the cross, He does say, "Get thee behind me." For certainly Christ did not want Peter to go away from Him and be lost, which would have been its effect. "Get thee [not hence, but] behind me," He says. He rebuked His follower, yea, was ashamed of him; and He desired that Peter should be ashamed of himself. "Get thee behind me, Satan," was thus appropriate language then. Satan was the source of the thought couched in Peter's words.
But when Jesus speaks to him whose last trial thoroughly betrays the adversary of God and man, i.e., the literal Satan, His answer is not merely, "Get thee behind me," but, "Get thee hence, Satan." Nor is this the only mistake, as we have seen, in the passage as given in the authorised version; for the whole clause should disappear from the account in Luke, according to the weightiest testimony. Besides, the reason is manifest. As it stands now, the passage wears this most awkward appearance, that Satan, though commanded to depart, lingers on. For in Luke we have another temptation after this; and of course, therefore, Satan must be presented as abiding, not as gone away.
The truth of the matter, then, is, that with matchless wisdom Luke was inspired of God to put the second temptation last, and the third temptation in the second place. Hence (inasmuch as these words of the third trial would be wholly incongruous in such an inversion of the historic order), they are omitted by him, but preserved by Matthew, who here held to that order. I dwell upon this, because it exemplifies, in a simple but striking manner, the finger and mind of God; as it shows us, also, how the copyists of the scriptures fell into error, through proceeding on the principle of the harmonists, whose great idea is to make all the four gospels practically one Gospel. that is, to fuse them together into one mass, and make them give out only, as it were, a single voice in the praise of Jesus. Not so; there are four distinct voices blending in the truest harmony, and surely God Himself in each one, and equally in all, but, withal, showing out fully and distinctively the excellencies of His Son. It is the disposition to blot out these differences, which has wrought such exceeding mischief, not merely in copyists, but in our own careless reading of the gospels. What we need is, to gather up all, for all is worthy; to delight ourselves in every thought that the Spirit of God has treasured up every fragrance, so to speak, that He has preserved for us of the ways of Jesus.
Turning, then, from the temptation (which we may hope to resume in another point of view, when the gospel of Luke comes before us and we shall have the different temptations on the moral side, with their changed order), I may in passing notice, that a very characteristic difference in the gospel of Matthew meets us in what follows. Our Lord enters upon His public ministry as a minister of the circumcision, and calls disciples to follow Him. It was not His first acquaintance with Simon, Andrew, and the rest, as we know from the gospel of John. They had before known Jesus, and, I apprehend, savingly. They are now called to be His companions in Israel, formed according to His heart as His servants here below; but before this we have a remarkable Scripture applied to our Lord. He changes his place of sojourn from Nazareth to Capernaum. And this is the more observable, because, in the Gospel of Luke, the first opening of His ministry is expressly at Nazareth; while the point of emphasis in Matthew is, that He leaves Nazareth, and comes and dwells in Capernaum. Of course, both are equally true; but who can say that they are the same thing? or that the Spirit of God had not His own blessed reasons for giving prominency to both facts? Nor is the reason obscure. His going to Capernaum was the accomplishment of the word of Isaiah 9:1-21, specifically mentioned for the instruction of the Jew, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, "The land of Zebulun, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." That quarter of the land was regarded as the scene of darkness; yet was it just there that God suddenly caused light to arise. Nazareth was in lower, as Capernaum was in upper Galilee. But more than this, it was the seat, above all others in the land, frequented by Gentiles Galilee ("the circuit") of the Gentiles. Now, we shall find throughout this gospel that which may be well stated here, and will be abundantly confirmed everywhere that the object of our gospel is not merely to prove what the Messiah was, both according to the flesh and according to His own divine intrinsic nature, for Israel; but also, when rejected by Israel, what the consequences of that rejection would be for the Gentiles, and this in a double aspect whether as introducing the kingdom of heaven in a new form, or as giving occasion for Christ's building His Church. These were the two main consequences of the rejection of the Messiah by Israel.
Accordingly, as in chapter it we found Gentiles from the East coming up to own the born King of the Jews, when His people were buried in bondage and Rabbinic tradition in heartless heedlessness, too, while boasting of their privileges; so here our Lord, at the beginning of His public ministry, as recorded in Matthew, is seen taking up His abode in these despised districts of the north, the way of the sea, where especially Gentiles had long dwelt, and on which the Jews looked down as a rude and dark spot, far from the centre of religious sanctity. There, according to prophecy, light was to spring up; and how brightly was it now accomplished? Next, we have the call of the disciples, as we have seen. At the end of the chapter is a general summary of the Messiah's ministry, and of its effects, given in these words: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan." This I read, in order to show that it is the purpose of the Spirit, in this part of our gospel, to gather a quantity of facts together under one head, entirely regardless of the question of time. It is evident, that what is here described in a few verses must have demanded a considerable space for its accomplishment. The Holy Ghost gives it all to us as a connected whole.
The self-same principle applies to the so-called sermon on the mount, on which I am about to say a few words. It is quite a misapprehension to suppose that Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29 was given all in a single, unbroken discourse. For the wisest purposes, I have no doubt, the Spirit of God has arranged and conveyed it to us as one whole, without notice of the interruptions, occasions, etc.; but it is an unwarrantable conclusion for any to draw, that our Lord Jesus delivered it simply and solely as it stands in Matthew's gospel. What proves the fact is, that in the gospel of Luke we have certain portions of it clearly pertaining to this very sermon (not merely similar, or the same truth preached at other times, but this identical discourse), with the particular circumstances which drew them out. Take the prayer, for instance, that was here set before the disciples. (Matthew 6:1-34) As to this, we know from Luke 11:1-54 there was a request preferred by the disciples which led to it. As to other instruction, there were facts or questions, found in Luke, which drew out the remarks of the Lord, common to him and Matthew, if not Mark.
If it be certain that the Holy Ghost has been pleased to give us in Matthew this discourse and others as a whole, leaving out the originating circumstances found elsewhere, it is a fair and interesting inquiry why such a method of grouping with such omissions is adopted. The answer I conceive to be this, that the Spirit in Matthew loves to present Christ as the One like unto Moses, whom they were to hear. He presents Jesus not merely as a legislating prophet-king like Moses, but greater by far; for it is never forgotten that the Nazarene was the Lord God. Therefore it is that, in this discourse on the mountain, we have throughout the tone of One who was consciously God with men. If Jehovah called Moses up to the top of one mount) He who then spake the ten words sat now upon another mount, and taught His disciples the character of the kingdom of heaven, and its principles introduced as a whole, just answering to what we have seen of the facts and effects of His ministry, entirely passing by all intervals or connecting circumstances. As we had His miracles all put together, as I may say, in the gross, so with His discourses. We have thus in either case the same principle. The substantial truth is given to us without noticing the immediate occasion in particular facts, appeals, etc. What was uttered by the Lord, according to Matthew, is thus presented as a whole. The effect, therefore, is, that it is much more solemn, because unbroken, carrying its own majesty along with it. The Spirit of God imprints on it purposely this character here, as I have no doubt there was an intention that it should be so reproduced for the instruction of His own people.
The Lord, in short, was here accomplishing one of the parts of His mission according toIsaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 53:1-12, where the work of Christ is twofold. It is not, as the authorized version has it, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;" for it is unquestionable that justification is not by His knowledge. Justification is by faith of Christ, we know; and as far as the efficacious work on which it depends is concerned, it is clearly in virtue of what Christ has suffered for sin and sins before God. But I apprehend that the real force of the passage is, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant in struct many in righteousness." It is not "justify" in the ordinary forensic sense of the word, but rather instructing in righteousness, as the context here requires, and as the usage of the word elsewhere, as in Daniel 12:1-13, leaves open. This seems to be what is meant of our Lord here.
In the teaching on the mount He was, in fact, instructing the disciples in righteousness: hence, too, one reason why we have not a word about redemption. There is not the slightest reference to His suffering on the cross; no intimation of His blood, death, or resurrection: He is instructing though not merely in righteousness. To the heirs of the kingdom the Lord is unfolding the principles of that kingdom most blessed and rich instruction, but instruction in righteousness. No doubt there is also the declaration of the Father's name, as far as could be then; but, still, the form taken is that of "instructing in righteousness." Let me add, as to the passage of Isaiah 53:1-12, that the remainder of the verse also accords with this: not " for," but, "and He shall bear their iniquities." Such is the true force of it. The one was in His life, when He taught His own; the other was in His death, when He bore the iniquities of many.
Into the details of the discourse on the mount I cannot enter particularly now, but would just say a few words before I conclude tonight. In its preface we have a method often adopted by the Spirit of God, and not unworthy of our study. There is no child of God that cannot glean blessing from it, even through a scanty glance; but when we look into it a little more closely, the instruction deepens immensely. First of all He pronounces certain classes blessed. These blessednesses divide into two classes. The earlier character of blessedness savours particularly of righteousness, the later of mercy, which are the two great topics of the Psalms. These are both taken up here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." In the fourth case righteousness comes in expressly, and closes that part of the subject; but it is plain enough that all these four classes consist in substance of such as the Lord pronounces blessed, because they are righteous in one form or another. The next three are founded upon mercy. Hence we read as the very first "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Of course, it would be impossible to attempt more than a sketch at this time. Here, then, occurs the number usual in all these systematic partitions of Scripture; there is the customary and complete seven of Scripture. The two supplementary blessednesses at the end rather confirm the case, though at first sight they might appear to offer an exception. But it is not so really. The exception proves the rule convincingly; for in verse 10 you have, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake;" which answers to the first four. Then, in verses 11 and 12, you have, "Blessed are ye . . . . . for my sake;" which answers to the higher mercy of the last three. "Blessed are ye, [there is thus a change. It is made a direct personal address] when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Thus it is the very consummation of suffering in grace, because it is for Christ's sake.
Hence the twofold persecutions (10-12) bring in the double character we find in the epistles suffering for righteousness' sake, and suffering for Christ's sake. These are two perfectly distinct things; because, where it is a question of righteousness, it is simply a person brought to a point. If I do not stand and suffer here, my conscience will be defiled; but this is in no way suffering for Christ's sake. In short, conscience enters where righteousness is the question; but suffering for Christ's sake is not a question of plain sin, but of His grace and its claims on my heart. Desire for His truth, desire for His glory, carries me out into a certain path that exposes me to suffering. I might merely do my duty in the place in which I am put; but grace is never satisfied with the bare performance of one's duty. Fully is it admitted that there is nothing like grace to meet duty; and doing one's duty is a good thing for a Christian. But God forbid that we should be merely shut up to duty, and not be free for the flowing over of grace which carries out the heart alone, with it. In the one case, the believer stops dead short: if he did not stand, there would be sin. In the other case, there would be a lack of testimony for Christ, and grace makes one rejoice to be counted worthy of suffering for His name: but righteousness is not in question.
Such, then, are the two distinct classes or groups of blessedness. First, there are the blessednesses of righteousness, to which the persecution for righteousness' sake pertains; next, the blessednesses of mercy or grace. Christ instructs in righteousness according to prophecy, but He does not confine Himself to righteousness. This never could be consistent with the glory of the person who was there. Accordingly, therefore, while there is the doctrine of righteousness, there is the introduction of what is above it and mightier than it, with the corresponding blessedness of being persecuted for Christ's sake. All here is grace, and indicates manifest progress.
The same thing is true of what follows: "Ye are the salt of the earth" it is that which keeps pure what is pure. Salt will not communicate purity to what is impure, but it is used as the preservative power according to righteousness. But light is another thing Hence we hear, in the 14th verse, "Ye are the light of the world." Light is not that which simply preserves what is good, but is an active power, which casts its bright shining into what is obscure, and dispels the darkness from before it. Thus it is evident that in this further word of the Lord we have answers to the differences already hinted at.
Much of the deepest interest might be found in the discourse; only this is not the occasion for entering into particulars. We have, as usual, righteousness developed according to Christ, which deals with man's wickedness under the heads of violence and corruption; next come other new principles of grace infinitely deepening what had been given under law. (Matthew 5:1-48) Thus, in the former of these, a word detects, as it were, the thirst of blood, as corruption lies in a look or desire. For it is no longer a question of mere acts, but of the soul's condition. Such is the scope of the fifth chapter. As earlier (verses 17, 18) the law is fully maintained in all its authority, we have later on (verses 21-48) superior principles of grace, and deeper truths, mainly founded upon the revelation of the Father's name the Father which is in heaven. Consequently it is not merely the question between man and man, but the Evil One on one side, and God Himself on the other; and God Himself, as a Father, disclosing, and proving the selfish condition of fallen man upon the earth.
In the second of these chapters (Matthew 6:1-34) composing the discourse, two main parts appear. The first is again righteousness. "Take heed [He says] that you do not your righteousness before men." Here it is not "alms," but "righteousness," as you may see in the margin. Then the righteousness spoken of branches out into three parts: alms, which is one part of it; prayer, another part; and fasting, a part of it not to be despised. This is our righteousness, the especial point of which is, that it should be not a matter of ostentation, but before our Father who sees in secret. It is one of the salient features of Christianity. In the latter part of the chapter, we have entire confidence in our Father's goodness to us, counting upon His mercy, certain that He regards us as of infinite value, and that, therefore, we need not be careful as the Gentiles are, because our Father knows what we have need of. It is enough for us to seek the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: our Father's love cares for all the rest.
The last chapter (Matthew 7:1-29) presses on us the motives of heart in our intercourse with men and brethren, as well as with God, who, however good, loves that we should ask Him, and earnestly too, as to each need; the adequate consideration of what is due to others, and the energy that becomes ourselves; for the gate is strait, and narrow the way that leads to life; warnings against the devil and the suggestions of his agents, the false prophets, who betray themselves by their fruits; and, lastly, the all-importance of remembering that it is not a thing of knowledge, or of miraculous power even, but of doing God's will, of a heart obedient to Christ's sayings. Here, again, if I be not mistaken, righteousness and grace are found alternating; for the exhortation against a censorious spirit is grounded on the certainty of retribution from others, and paves the way for an urgent call to self-judgment, which in us precedes all genuine exercise of grace. (verses Matthew 7:1-4.) Further, the caution against a lavishing of what was holy and beautiful on the profane is followed by rich and repeated encouragements to count on our Father's grace. (verses Matthew 7:5-11.)
Here, however, I must for the present pause, though one can only and deeply regret being obliged to pass so very cursorily over the ground; but I have sought in this first lecture to give thus far as simple, and at the same time as complete, a view of this portion of Matthew as I well could. I am perfectly aware that there has not been time for comparing it much with the others; but occasions will, I trust, offer for bringing into strong contrast the different aspects of the various gospels. However, my aim is also that we should have before us our Lord, His person, His teaching, His way, in every gospel.
I pray the Lord that what has been put, however scantily, before souls may at least stir up enquiry on the part of God's children, and lead them to have perfect, absolute confidence in that word which is of His grace indeed. We may thus look for deep profit. For, although to enter upon the gospels before the soul has been founded upon the grace of God will not leave us without a blessing, yet I am persuaded that the blessing is in every respect greater, when, having been attracted by the grace of Christ, we have at the same time been established in Him with all simplicity and assurance, in virtue of the accomplished work of redemption. Then, set free and at rest in our souls, we return to learn of Him, to look upon Him, to follow Him, to hear His word, to delight ourselves in His ways. The Lord grant that thus it may be, as we pursue our path through these different gospels which our God has vouchsafed to us.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 4:4". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-4.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20