Matthew 4:1-11 (I Am A Child of God)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Because of Jesus, I never DOUBT IN THE DARK what I HEARD IN THE LIGHT. 💡
Overall Commentary: 🌎
In the overall scope of Scripture, this narrative can be found in two other places: Mark 1 and Luke 4. In Mark 1, the encounter of Jesus and the devil is quickly conveyed. The only thing of note is that Jesus spent time with "wild animals" as well. While this is something we can assume, Mark makes sure we realize Jesus was not out there alone.
Luke 4 tells the same story as Matthew except for one notable exception. Luke switches the last two temptations. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. The point of the text is not the order, but the encounter.
Bottom line- Three of the four Gospels tell of Jesus having a major encounter with the devil at the beginning of His earthly ministry. It is understood that the Gospel of John does not have this encounter because John has a different focus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are focused on telling the story of the life of Jesus. John is focused mainly on the message of Jesus.
Verse-by-verse commentary: 🧐
Preface- This text is difficult to understand without remembering the verse directly preceding it in chapter 3. Chapter three ends with the Father saying to the Son, "This is my dearly loved Son. He brings me great joy." (Paraphrased) This is very important because the text we are dealing with today is all about the devil challenging the identity of Jesus. We must remember the primary focus on this text is Jesus triumph over the enemy is showing His authority and Sonship. The secondary focus of this text is an example for us as well. We can also walk in authority as a child of God, even when walking through the valleys of life.
Led By the Spirit- It is important to realize the devil did not force Jesus into the desert. The Holy Spirit led Jesus to a place for preparation. Many times throughout the ministry of Jesus, He would go to a place of solitude to pray. Therefore, this time of solitude must not be seen as a negative encounter. It can be viewed as a place of preparation.
Tempted- The Greek word is the same as tested. This helps us get a better idea of what is going on here. God is not allowing Himself to be tempted by the devil. God is not the author of temptation. However, He does allow testing.
Devil- Greek word for tempter or accuser. Since the Greek language as an article in front of the word, we know Matthew is referring as Lucifer. This is not just an accuser, but is "the" devil.
Fasting- Fasting, simply put, is a way to remove distractions so we focus on prayer and getting closer to God. Fasting is a continual prayer and reminder that God is the focus of our effort.
40 days and 40 nights- This is a subtle but important distinction. It was a common practice to fast long periods among the religious elites. However, many records indicate they would fast only during the day or only at night. They could claim fasting for 40 days, but they would eat after sundown every day. Matthew is making sure we understand Jesus ate no food for the entire 40 day period. This is possible but not recommended without doctor supervision.
The period of 40 days is significant as well.
Moses fasted for 40 days on 2 different occasions.
Elijah fasted for 40 days.
Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Deuteronomy says they did this so the Lord God could test them and see the condition of their heart. Many scholars believe this is way Jesus was in His wilderness. He was showing us His heart and redeeming the lost time of Israel. He was symbolizing what Israel was supposed to be.
During that time- The most accurate English rendering of this text is, "After that time..." This would indicate the devil came to Jesus at the conclusion of His fasting.
If you are the Son of God- The most accurate English rendering of this text would sound more like, "Since you are the Son of God." He is accusing Jesus of needing prove it.
What is Jesus saying? The temptation is for Jesus to operate in His Divine power independently of God. The devil is tempting Jesus to serve Himself rather than what He had been sent to do. Jesus doesn't take the bait. He says that we do not live by our desires. We live according to the will of God. He is saying He did not come to serve Himself. He came to serve the will of the Father.
Old Testament reference- Deuteronomy 8:3
Was this physical or in a vision? Scholars debate on whether or not this was the devil physically taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple or if this was a vision. The reasoning for this is in asking the question... how exactly did the devil do this? I have no idea but usually lean to the more literal, rather than the more allegorical, interpretation of Scripture.
Highest Point of the Temple: This is likely the built up wall on the outer side of the temple which was approximately 300 ft.
Old Testament reference- Psalm 91
Out of Context- The devil takes this Psalm out of context to tempt Jesus to force the Divine Hand and protection of His Father.
The devil knows the Word of God- It is important to remember the devil has been around a long time. He was there as the Bible was being written. Therefore, he knows how to twist it and skew the context. This is why it is so important for us to read God's Word daily so we can tell the difference between what is right and what is almost right.
What is Jesus saying? Jesus is refusing to take the bait again by saying we should never try to "force God's hand" or manipulate God to do things our way.
Old Testament reference- Deuteronomy 6:16
Location of this temptation: Many scholars believe this is a reminder of when Moses was allowed to go up to a mountain and see the promised land. He was not allowed to go into the promised land with the nation of Israel due to sin. However, he was able to see it before he died. The devil likely took Jesus to this same mountainside (whether physically or in a vision) and offered Jesus a shortcut to glory. This is the eventual plan of God. His ultimate goal is for all nations to come to Him. However, not by partnering with evil.
What is Jesus saying? Jesus is denying the devil his deepest desire... worship.
Old Testament reference- Deuteronomy 6:13
The battle with the devil sends with supernatural provision from Heaven. This is what was waiting on the other side of the testing. The Gospel of Luke says, following this season of testing, "Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit's power." (Luke 4:14)
Almost every attack of the enemy will try and distort your view of God and/or your view of who you are in Christ.
The devil's main goal in these exchanges was to challenge Jesus' identity.
During these exchanges, we can learn how to deal with the attackers of the enemy.
When the enemy attacks my identity, Jesus teaches me that…
1. Verse 3-4: I don’t live by WHAT I SEE. I live by WHO I KNOW. 🙌
When difficult seasons come, it is easy to begin to doubt God's faithfulness because the circumstances do not look good. Perhaps things look hopeless. It is important to realize we don't live by what we see right in front of us. We live by the truth God's Word. God is faithful. Jesus had to have been so hungry. It would have been easy to wondered why His Father had purposed Him to be out there and without food. Thank goodness Jesus shows us what to do when things don't look favorable. When things look bad, we remember God's faithfulness. God has proven over and over that He is faithful. When we cannot trust what we see, we can trust God's faithful track record. He always comes through in His time.
2. Verse 5-7: I don’t live by HOW I FEEL. I live by WHAT I KNOW. 🧠
I love experiences. I love watching movies that have me on the edge of my seat. I love roller coasters that take my breath away. I love listening to a song so beautiful that I forget everything for a moment. These emotional experiences are wonderful. However, I couldn't live in these spaces. Eventually, the movie would become boring, the roller coaster would become dizzying, and the song would lose its touch. Emotions are great friends, but make terrible leaders. When we go through difficulties, our emotions can get way out of wack. Difficult seasons can be the worst time to trust our emotions. Instead, we must trust the truth of God's Word. It is so important to see God's Word as truth because it is a sure foundation. It doesn't move with the winds of time and culture. We can build our life on it when all other things seem untrustworthy.
3. Verse 8-10: I don’t live for what is TEMPORARY. I live for what is ETERNAL. 😇
Most people I know don't like talking about death. We don't like to think about it. We don't like the idea of planning for it. We just want to act like no one will ever die and all things will last forever. This is simply not so. If there is one constant in life, it is all that all of us will eventually die. If you are not a Christ follower and your hope is only in this life, this brute fact is devastating. However, if you have placed your hope in Jesus and have the promise of eternal life, this brute fact is full of hope. God does not offer shortcuts. He offers trustworthy companionship. His friendship outlasts the immediacy of the moment and our fast-paced anxieties. He waits for us. He plays the long game. He is on the slow path fo helping us become perfect, free, and whole. Most shortcuts dont' work. If they did, they wouldn't be called shortcuts. That would just be the way to get there. God is more interested in what you become than what you achieve. Therefore, He will slowly work out your freedom even at the expense of our fast-paced scheduled. Because of this, we must play the long game too.
Difficult seasons are a part of life. However, God uses them to do more in you than you can imagine. So, never doubt in the dark what you heard in the light. In Christ, you are a dearly loved child of God.
Questions for Reflection
- Have you ever thought much about what it means to be a child of God?
- Do you truly live like spiritual royalty? On your best day, what does that look like?
- Do you sometimes wonder why things are happening?
- Do you have a story of how trusting in God’s timing worked out in the end?
- Do you have a baptism story to share?