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II. Baptism, Temptation, and the Start of Ministry (Matthew 3:1–4:25)

3:1-3 All four Gospels testify to the ministry of John the Baptist (3:1). He was the front man for Jesus, the one who came to prepare his way. John came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and calling people to repent (3:1-2). Here Matthew quotes Isaiah who prophesied that this voice . . . in the wilderness would come to prepare the way for the Lord (3:3).

4:3 The tempter began by saying, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. This tells us the devil had been watching Jesus go without food. He knows what you’re up to, too, and directs his temptations accordingly. In this situation, Satan questioned the provision of God: Jesus was hungry. God hadn’t fed him. Why shouldn’t Jesus just make what was needed?

4:4 How did Jesus respond? By quoting Scripture: It is written. If Jesus, the living Word, needed to use the written Word to deal with the enemy of the Word, how much more do you? He gave you the Bible so you could wield it like a sword (see Eph 6:17).

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In this passage, Moses explained to Israel how they survived through the wilderness: by God’s provision. They didn’t survive merely because of the manna but because of the one who provided it. Was Jesus hungry? Yes. But he was willing to trust God to provide rather than to act independently of him.

4:5-6 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem to the pinnacle of the temple and said, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (4:5-6). Challenging Jesus to jump to his death doesn’t sound like much of a temptation. But notice that he supported his appeal by quoting God’s promise of angelic protection in Psalm 91:11-12 (4:6). Jesus, then, had an opportunity to demonstrate he was the Messiah for all Jerusalem to see. The problem was that doing so ignored God’s plan. Satan urged Jesus to fulfill God’s will for his life in a way that would bypass the cross.

Oh, yes—the devil knows the Bible, and he uses it. If he can’t convince you to act independently of God, he’ll work through your religion. But God doesn’t need Satan’s help to get you where he wants you to go.

4:7 Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: Do not test the Lord your God. In other words, he knew we are never to use disobedience to back God into a corner in order to force him to fulfill his plan.

4:8-9 Finally, the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (4:8). Then he quit playing around and got to the bottom line: I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me (4:9). In the end, Satan wants your worship; he wants you to bow. That’s what he got from Adam and Eve in the garden, and that’s what he seeks from you. He’ll make nice offers to get you to do so, but it’s never worth the price.

4:10 Jesus had finally had enough: Go away, Satan! His absolute authority is on display in this command. Then Jesus quoted once again from Deuteronomy: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him (Deut 6:13). Worship is reserved for the one true and living God.

If you’re a Christian, you have no obligation to the devil, and you have Jesus’s delegated authority against Satan. “Resist the devil [with the word and in obedience to God], and he will flee from you [as he fled from Christ]” (James 4:7). Too often we come to worship God on Sunday and then serve lesser agendas and gods the rest of the week. But if Jesus is the ultimate authority in the universe, he deserves your exclusive worship and service.

4:11 How did this battle end? The devil left him, and angels came and began to serve him. Satan is unable to handle a righteous life that consistently confronts him with God’s Word. The true King has all authority and perfectly obeyed God. So the usurper had to retreat. When the fallen angel left, faithful angels came and fulfilled their rightful role: serving Christ and giving him the worship he deserved.

4:12-17 John the Baptist was arrested by Herod Antipas (see Matt 14:1-12), so Jesus withdrew into Galilee and lived in Capernaum . . . in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali (4:12-13). This fulfilled Isaiah 9:1-2, which said that those living in darkness in Galilee would see a great light (4:14-16). That’s when Jesus’s public ministry officially began, and he preached in continuity with the kingdom message of John: Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near (4:17; see 3:2).

4:18-22 In these verses we have the calling of the first disciples: Peter and his brother Andrew (4:18-20), and James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee (4:21-22). All four men were fishermen. And when Jesus called them to follow him, he said, I will make you fish for people (4:19).

There’s an important principle here. If you’re not fishing, you’re not following. If your Christian life does not involve evangelizing the lost, you’re not functioning like the disciple Jesus intends you to be. Evangelism includes sharing the gospel and intentionally seeking to convert the hearer to faith in Jesus Christ.

When called, Peter, Andrew, James, and John immediately left their jobs and followed Jesus (4:20, 22). Not every believer is called to a full-time Christian vocation, but every believer is called to be a full-time Christian. That means that following Christ must be your number one priority.

4:23-25 Matthew tells us the hallmarks of Jesus ministry as he traveled throughout Galilee: teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people (4:23). Teaching involves clearly articulating the content of the message. Preaching includes calling for a response to what is taught. Healing consists of a visible demonstration of the power of the message. As Jesus did these things, the news about him spread, and large crowds followed him (4:24-25). When he taught, preached, and healed, there was standing room only.

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