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Matthew 4

January 9th, 2011 by Vic

January 9, 2011

“Tempted like us”

Matthew 4

Right after Jesus was baptized He heard the voice of His Father.  He had this fantastic spiritual experience then He was tempted.  Satan does that to us.  He knows we can get a little arrogant after we have a fantastic experience or receive a complement.  God has given us some gifts.  When we do what God designed us to do, it feels good and pride is at the door.  When does temptation come?  It came after a very special time with God.  It came before He started His ministry.  Satan knows when we are the most vulnerable.

At the baptism God assured Jesus that He was pleased.  He told Him He loved Him, but He did not give Jesus a job description or precise time line.  He did not specify how Jesus was to change the world.  How would He turn the hearts of men to God?  Maybe start welfare or a food bank?

Today we can learn about temptation from listening to Jesus describe His temptations.  He must have wanted us to know about His temptations because He was the only one there.  No one else witnessed it.  We are not getting an observer’s account of the story.  We are getting the story as Matthew remembers Jesus telling it.

In verse 1 Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted.  We can be walking with God in perfect fellowship with the Spirit of God and be tempted.  Jesus was in the center of God’s will.  He had heard the voice of God tell Him audibly that He was His son.  John had called Him the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

With John now in prison, Jesus had a job to do and instead of getting started the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness.  He was alone.  He must have been wondering about getting started with His mission.  So how does Satan tempt Him?  Jesus was tempted to finish what He had come to do.  He was tempted to hurry up and get started.  He was tempted to run ahead of God.

In our English translations there is a little confusion between temptation and testing.  In the Greek they are two different words.  To tempt means to try to prove someone or something is false.  To test means to try to prove someone or something is true.  The words in verses 1, 3, and 7 are all the word for tempt.  God does not tempt us, but he can use the temptation of the Devil to test us so tempting and testing are related and can be indentified in the same situation.

Satan tempts us through our own unique gifts and abilities.  Satan would not tempt you to make bread out of stone.  Jesus had the ability to do that.  That was a temptation for Jesus.  Should He wait for God’s timing or should He help God out a little?  You may have some natural beauty or skills.  How should you use your abilities?  Your smile may get you anything you want.  How do you use your smile?  Your gift with words may allow you to make up great excuses.  How do you use your words?  You may be gifted with a creative imagination.  How do you use it?  It is a fact of life that our strengths can be our weaknesses.  They are the points of our vulnerability.

Temptations do not come from gifts, people or money.  Temptations come from within.  We are tempted when our own lusts and desires draw us away from God’s Way.  Adam and Eve were surrounded by everything good that brings fulfillment to living, but their disobedience turned the garden into a wilderness.  Jesus reversed that disobedience.

Hebrews 4:15 said Jesus was tempted in all ways like we are.  These 3 temptations are three areas of temptations that represent all of our temptations.

4:2  He ate nothing.  Fasting was a common means of worship and devotion.  Have you noticed how an important decision or event or illness in your family removes your appetite?  Mark’s gospel says that angels ministered to Him.  It is natural at times to fast.

4:3  Satan spots his opportunities quickly.  This first temptation is physical.  Use your powers and gifts to give you instant satisfaction.  If (since) you are the Son of God, and I know you are…if you have this close relationship with God, and I know you do…turn this stone into bread.

Do you hear what satan is saying?  You are not like other people.  The rules don’t apply to you.  You can get anything you want now.  The world owes you a living.  Keep yourself above everyone else.  You can be a superman.  You have power to meet all man’s needs.  You don’t have to serve man.  You can bribe man into serving you.

Jesus was the Son of God.  The Son of God should never be hungry should he?  It seems foolish that he should be hungry when he has the power to satisfy his own need.  Doesn’t God help those who help themselves?  (No. We learned in the prophets that is pagan thinking.)  John had said that God could make children of Abraham out of these same stones.  Shouldn’t Jesus be allowed to make some bread?  The suggestion sounds benevolent, sensible, and almost religious.  The need is real, the remedy is possible, the result is desirable, and no one has any objections.

This is the first temptation.  We can be tempted to sell our birthright for a bowl of porridge.  We can be tempted to compromise our morals for instant gratification.  This temptation can be applied to all our physical temptations.   The temptation to moral impurity, to gluttony, to pleasure, to alternate states of consciousness can all be physical.

In Genesis 3 God said, I have created everything good and beautiful, but to test your discipline and strengthen your obedience, don’t eat the fruit of this tree.  Everything else is yours for the taking.  God tests us and satan used that test to tempt us.  Satan says, “If it feels good, do it now.  You do not have to do it God’s way.  You are a special person.”  Sometimes it does not feel good to obey God.  Sometimes it really hurts.  Look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  He did not feel good, but He said, “Not my will but Thine be done.”  And He had power to avoid the suffering.

4:4  How did Jesus respond to this temptation for an instant breakfast?

He knew and the devil knew He had power to turn the rock into bread.  But this was not God’s time for him to eat.  Maybe He quoted Prov. 15:17 and 17:1.  Eating does not always bring pleasure.

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy in all 3 temptations.  Deut 6-8 are a review of the temptations the children of Israel had in the wilderness.  They disobeyed.  Jesus said, “It has been written and stands written..”   “MAN shall not live by bread alone.”  Jesus claimed manhood.  As man, Jesus chose to be content as God provides.  To use His miraculous powers to provide food would be to distrust God and place Himself above man.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live only for the satisfaction of physical desires.”

Satan replied, “But God would not give you all this power and all these resources if you were not suppose to use it would He?  Come on let’s get out of this wilderness and go where the people are.  Let’s demonstrate your power to some people so they will know that God sent you.”

4:6  Now just like in the garden of Eden, the devil takes God’s words out of context and distorts them for his purposes.  He is still using that trick today, through preachers.  He is not threatened by preachers speaking about shallow truths from isolated texts.

Look closely.  Satan does not misquote this Psalm, but he ignores the context and so his application is faulty and inaccurate.  He uses the text to mean presumption and not trust.  What could be more religious than a spectacular act of daring based on faith in God’s word and God’s promises?

This sounds good but Faith can be perverted.  God’s promised protection is available, not in paths of our choosing, but in His steps.  Faith in God is not presumption.

This is the temptation to instant popularity, instant thrills.  We serve an orderly God; don’t presume on him to deliver you from your recklessness.  Many are bored with life.  They are searching for cheap thrills.  “Jump off the wall.”  “Go for the gusto.”  “Live on the edge a little more.”  When all the people see you floating down in angel arms they will proclaim you king.

If Jesus had said, “Yes, you’re right.  I have not had any fun since my folks played hide and seek with me in the temple.”  He would have yielded and lost fellowship with His Father.

People who don’t trust God’s plan for their life get bored and bored people make life miserable for everyone around them.  They are targets for satan’s tempting.

This temptation was met by Christ with another Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:16.  Jesus points out that testing God is not trusting God.  He will wait.

4:8  In a split second of time the devil showed Christ all the world.  The first temptation was to use His power over creation.  The second was to use His power over angels.  This temptation is to use His power over people.

Satan said, “You do not have to provide atonement to get the world to serve God.  You can use your new powers to force them to serve You.  Be sovereign not savior.  Let’s have a coronation not a crucifixion.  Let God have his heavenly kingdom.  You can have an earthly kingdom and have it now.”

4:9  Satan claims rule of the world and Jesus does not deny his claim.  Adam’s disobedience gave satan his copy of the title deed.  Now satan offers Jesus a share in the domain.  This is the temptation to instant power without the cross.  The temptation concerns our ambitions, our plans for life and the methods we intend to use to reach these goals.

God’s kingdom comes only by self-sacrifice, gentleness, and goodness.  Christ is King of all because He is servant of all.  His cross is His throne.  Weapons of force have no place in this kingdom and never will.  His only weapon is love.

This is the temptation of adults to get ahead in the world.  If you would lie a little you’ll get a promotion. You are insecure, self-centered, and you fear failure.  You have trouble sharing with others because things are more important.

The temptation for Christ was to get an instant kingdom instead of waiting for God’s way.  Jesus responded again with Scripture.  Deuteronomy 6:12-13.  He resists the Jewish idea of an earthly Messiah.  He refused to be a slave of the people’s expectations.

Satan says this one little thing won’t hurt anyone.  Do it now.  You do not have to wait.

Jesus wanted us to know about His temptations.  He did not want us to be unprepared for satan’s distortions.  Every temptation was to make Jesus act independently of God’s will for His life.  He had the ability to do it His own way.  God has not let you eat…make your own sandwich.  God wants you to rule in His kingdom…rule your own.  God wants you to change the world but there is nothing in that for you so just use the world.

If you have yielded to temptation and you have sinned before God, confess your sin and He will forgive you and cleanse your heart from all unrighteousness.  If you have sinned against a friend, you may need to go to that friend.  If you have sinned against a group, you may need to confess to that group.

4:12-17

The ministry of the forerunner was over.  It’s time for Jesus to take over.  Jesus went to Galilee, an area about 70×40 miles.  Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled.  This is God’s plan.  Jesus preached the same message that John had preached (17) in the place where Isaiah said a Light will come.

Josephus says there were 200 villages each with over 15,000 people.  Galilee was surrounded by Gentiles.  The ‘way of the sea’ was the north to south Roman road from Damascus to Egypt.  The east west Roman road also went through Galilee.  “Galilee was on the way to everywhere.  Judea was on the way to nowhere.”  This is the one place in Israel where a new teacher with a new message had any chance of being heard.

4:18-22

The Sea of Galilee is about 13×8 miles with 9 towns on its western shore.  Maybe it was like Lincoln City used to be from Road’s End to Taft.  Jesus called fishermen.  Fishermen have patience.  They know about finding the right bait, the right place, and the right time to catch fish.  They know they should not be seen.  Some fishermen are more successful than others.

Jesus calls them to follow Him and promises to equip them.  Normally a disciple would ask the rabbi if he could follow the teacher and be a learner.  But here Jesus calls and these common fishermen respond immediately to leave all and follow Jesus.  He first loved us.

4:23-25

In the Temple you presented your sacrifices.  In the synagogue you heard prayers, the reading of the Law and the Prophets, and teaching and preaching.  Matthew summarizes Jesus’ successful ministry throughout Galilee.

People came to hear Jesus from all of Syria, Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan.  Jesus immediately had an effect on people outside Israel.

Jewish tradition believed that sickness resulted directly or indirectly from sin and living in a fallen world.  Jesus’ miracles demonstrated that God was dealing with sin at a basic level.  The Lamb of God had come to take away the sins of the world.

God has not changed.  He is still working through the Spirit of Jesus to turn the hearts of mankind to God.  Sometimes He uses preaching and teaching.  Sometimes signs and wonders.  God is still speaking.   His Word is still living and active.  Are we listening and seeing?

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