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.)


Sweep said...

I've also found myself, once or twice, reading the Bible, looking for a specific answer. I end up finding it because I've already decided on what the answer should be. I interperate the passage around my own answer, instead of what the passage is actually saying. To truly learn from the Bible, we have to set aside our thoughts of what we want it to say. We have to read the Bible with a mind open and ready to learn. Ready to accept it and want what it says.

sernaferna said...

Sweep makes a good point. It can be easy to come into the Bible with our pre-existing baggage, and read the text in the context of what we already believe. But, as he says, we should be opening ourselves up to read what the Bible actually says, rather than what we would like it to say, or what we already assume it will say.

It’s even more complicated because some of our presuppositions are good. For example: I know that God is good (to take an obvious example). If I read a passage that seems to indicate that He is not good, then it means I’m reading it wrong, or not taking the larger context of the passage into account.

There is only one way to tackle this problem: Keep reading the Bible. All of it. On a regular basis. Soak it in; pray that the Holy Spirit will help you understand what you’re reading. Read longer passages—entire books at a time—and read shorter passages, to really delve into the message. The more context you already have in your head, when you read any passage, the better you’ll be able to understand that passage.

The Pifer's said...

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Tiffany Pifer