Friday, May 22, 2009

Matthew 4:18–22

Matthew 4:18–22: Jesus Calls the First Disciples


This is a very short passage; Jesus goes by the Sea of Galilee, and calls his first disciples to join him: Simon (also called—and probably better known as—Peter) and his brother Andrew, and then James and his brother John. All four of them are fishermen; they are all at work, when Jesus finds them, but immediately leave their work to join him.


There’s not much to say about this passage, except that it’s amazing to me that these four fishermen would immediately leave what they’re doing and give up their livelihood to follow Jesus. (The passage uses the word “immediately” in both cases; Jesus calls them, and they “immediately” follow him.) It can’t really be explained other than by the working of the Lord.

The ESV Study Bible points to John 1:35–42 (ESV) , and shows that Peter and Andrew had already been disciples of Jesus for about a year, at this point. I don’t know if James and John were as well; maybe this wasn’t the first time they’d met Jesus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Matthew 4:12–17

Matthew 4:12–17: Jesus Begins His Ministry


In the last passage, Jesus had been tempted by Satan. (And, obviously, resisted the temptation.) In this passage, he hears that John the Baptist has been arrested, and then goes into the region of Galilee, and begins preaching that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (verse 17 (ESV) ), and people need to repent. Verses 14–16 (ESV) cite some Old Testament passages, that illustrate that this was prophesied.


Verse 12 (ESV) tells us that Jesus begins his ministry when he hears that John the Baptist has been arrested. I’m not sure if that just happens to be the time that he begins, or if the arrest of John the Baptist causes Jesus to begin his ministry—was he waiting for this?

Finding a good map will help you understand where Jesus went; wasn’t much help in this case, but the ESV Study Bible had a pretty good map. The passage says this:

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali… (verses 12–13 (ESV) , bold formatting added)

Basically, Galilee is the overall region, and Capernaum and Nazareth are cities in that region. From the context, and the map in the ESV Study Bible, I assume that “the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali” are sub-regions within Galilee, which must have encompassed the cities mentioned. (In other words, the areas where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived.)

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.)