Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Matthew 4:1–11

Matthew 4:1–11: The Temptation of Jesus


After Jesus’ baptism (in the last passage), he is led into the “wilderness” (verse 1 (ESV) ), where he is tempted by Satan. (The passage actually says he was tempted by “the devil”—and, later on, by “the temptor.” But I think the term “the devil” is synonymous with Satan.)

At first—because Jesus has been fasting for forty days and nights—Satan tells Jesus to prove that he is the Son of God, by commanding stones to become bread. Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 (ESV) :

Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (verse 4 (ESV) )

(It’s not a word-for-word quote of Deuteronomy, but it’s obviously what he’s quoting.)

Then Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and again tells Jesus to prove that he’s the Son of God by throwing himself down; Satan quotes Psalm 91 (ESV) —specifically verses 11–12 (ESV) —claiming that the Psalm says that God would never let His Son be harmed. However regardless of what that Psalm may or may not say, Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV) , saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (verse 7 (ESV) ).

Finally, Satan tempts Jesus one more time. He shows Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world, and tells Jesus that he will give him these kingdoms, if Jesus falls down and worships Satan. But again, Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 (ESV) and I Samuel 7:3 (ESV) :

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

(verse 10 (ESV) )

After this Satan leaves Jesus, and angels come to minister to him (Jesus).


It is commonly pointed out that when Paul is talking about the armour of God, all of the parts of armour that he mentions are defensive; the only offensive weapon mentioned is the sword, which is the Word of God. Even Jesus, when fighting the devil’s temptations, doesn’t bother to argue with him; he simply quotes scripture.

Satan also seems to know the Scriptures, in this passage, but he is misinterpreting them. Possibly by accident, but my guess is that he’s doing it on purpose. Regardless, misuse of Scripture is a danger even for the Christian; we need to know our Bibles—cover to cover, end to end—or we are in danger of taking isolated pieces of it and coming to incorrect conclusions. For example, take Satan’s use of Psalm 91 (ESV) . Even today, modern-day Christians might take a psalm like that and try and make it mean that a faithful Christian will never be harmed, because God will protect her; that is clearly not the teaching of the New Testament, which teaches that Christians will be persecuted. (In fact, one should be careful when interpreting any psalm, as psalms are poetry; poetry should not be interpreted the same way as, say, epistles, or gospels.)
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