Matthew 4:1-11
The Wilderness Temptations

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  In verse two it says, "after he fasted for a forty day period, both daytime and night."  This is the phrase, "forty days and forty nights."  It also says regarding Moses of the Old Testament, "Moses stayed there with the Lord forty days and forty nights.  He ate no bread and drank no water," (Exodus 34:28).  The truth is this [paring of narratives] is not some stroke of coincidence.  In The Gospel According To Matthew, many accounts appear which overlap and intersect with the stories of Exodus which is according to Moses.  I say in conclusion, The Gospel Of Matthew depicts the Lord Jesus as if he were a second Moses.  Of course, it never says the Lord Jesus is equivalent to Moses.  It deals with the fact that Moses was a type or form who pointed ahead of time to Christ.

2.  This has some bearing on our understanding of the church.  At one time the people of Israel were lead by Moses, traveled through the wilderness, and at last crossed the Jordan and entered the land of promise.  The church is being lead by Christ, traveling through the wilderness of this world and as [the church] crosses the Jordan of the end [times] it is coming up to the kingdom of God.  At this point there is an understanding of the church as "the people of God heading for the land of promise."  At one time [the Israelites] were saved through the miracle of crossing the Red Sea and were a people heading for the land of promise. And so, the cross and resurrection of Christ correspond to this miracle of crossing the Red Sea.  We are redeemed through the cross and the resurrection and are made into a people heading for the land of promise.

3.  As we are lead by Christ we continue on a journey.  The Gospel Of Matthew takes up the issue of that sojourn.  In other words, [it takes up] quite specifically the way we ought to be in our church life.  In it the most important thing is our understanding first of all more than anything else of the kind of person this one is who is leading us.  Today, I would like us to consider together what kind of person Christ is.  Because by really knowing what kind of person Christ is we will also understand how to follow in obedience.

The First Temptation

4.  So first of all, let's read from verse one to verse four.  "Then, Jesus was lead by the 'Spirit'  for the purpose of undergoing temptation by Satan and went into the wilderness.  Then after he fasted for a forty day period, both daytime and night, he felt hunger.  Thereupon, the tempter came and said to Jesus, 'As the Son Of God, why not command that these stones be turned into bread?'  Jesus answered, 'It is written that Man will not live on bread alone.  He lives by one word after another which comes from the mouth of God,'" (verses one through four).

5.  From the answer the Lord gave let's try to think about the meaning of the first temptation.  This is a quotation from Deuteronomy chapter eight and verse three.  In the original passage it reads like this:  "The Lord inflicted pain upon you, let you go hungry, and fed you manna which neither you nor your forefathers had ever tasted.  This was done to let you know that man does not live on bread alone but man lives by all the words which come from the mouth of the Lord," (Deuteronomy 8:3).  The last sentence is the portion quoted as the answer of the Lord.  At the background to these words is the story of the food called "manna" that was given to the people starving in the wilderness.

6.  This very story is recorded in Exodus chapter sixteen.  [Their] going hungry in the wilderness was a test given by God.  However, the people did not trust in God in dependence upon him, but instead raised their complaints towards Moses, saying, "We would rather have died in the land of Egypt under the hand of the Lord.  At least then we sat before pots with a lot of meat in them and our stomachs were full of bread," (Exodus 16:3).  God gave the manna to them as they were like this.  But, a condition was added, which was that "you will collect only a portion needed for each day."  They were not supposed to collect two day's worth, except that they could collect two day's worth only for the Sabbaths, but they should not attempt to do so on the Sabbath.  It was God's sign.  They were made to seek a way of trusting in the Lord and living according to God's word.  It is paradoxical but, after the people had gotten hungry God gave them manna in order to show that they should not live by only this manna nor should they live by bread alone.  It was done to get them to know that man is a being who lives by the word of God.

7.  Yet, in [our] relationship with God, we often shed away this matter of "man will live by the word of God." Only the fact that God met the need of the starving people takes on [and the rest is forgotten].  In consequence, the relationship between God and a person ends up becoming only a matter of a person petitioning God for his or her needs and God meeting those needs.  In reality that's what happened to the people of Israel.  Some tried to collect two day's worth of manna.  Some even went out on the Sabbath to gather up manna.  The people had gotten their needs met, but they did not understand "living by one word after another which comes out of the mouth of God."

8.  I am going back to The Gospel Of Matthew.  As we've already seen, God was the one who had given the bread in the wilderness.  But, it was the understanding of the Jews back then that Moses was the one who had directly handled [the job of] making the manna come down.  Also, they were made to believe that when the messiah the second Moses appeared, he would do everything the first Moses had done.  We should be able to understand through this thread [of imagery and narrative] the words of Satan, "make the stones into bread."  The words of the Evil Spirit did not just have to do with Christ alone who was right there in front of him.  To get to the point, [the devil] was saying that this matter of [Jesus'] being able to obtain bread for human hunger was a sign that he was the son of God and that he was the messiah.  The understanding of the devil of Christ is shown here and this same understanding is seen in many people.  I don't mean just other people see Christ like this, we do.  We often don't think of salvation by Christ as more than the meeting of the needs that are right in front of us.  Most of us don't show others anything but this type of [understanding].  That's how just like the people of Israel in the wilderness we end up shedding the important point that "man will live by the word of God" without even realizing it.

9.  Christ firmly dispelled that type of satanic understanding and said, "Man will not live by only bread.  He will live by one word after another which comes out of the mouth of God."  We shouldn't forget we are being lead by the one who said this and are progressing on [our] wilderness journey.  What he is trying to give us most of all is a true relationship with God.  We shouldn't forget we were saved to become a people who live by the word of God.

The Second Temptation

10.  Next let's read verse five on down.  "Next, Satan took Jesus to the holy capital, stood him on the end of the temple roof and said, 'It is written, Since you are the son of God, why not jump off?  As God will command the angels on your behalf the angels will support you with their hands so that your foot does not hit against a stone.'  Jesus said, 'It is also written, You should not test the Lord your God,'" (verses five through seven).

11.  We can understand also what this temptation means from the Lord's answer.  What was quoted was Deuteronomy chapter six and verse sixteen.  In the original passage it reads like this:  "You should not tempt the Lord your God as you did when you were in Masa," (Deuteronomy 6:16).  This also has a connection to the story in Exodus.  Whatever in the world did Israel do in Masa?  They complained to Moses.  Because they had no water there with them.  "Why did you lead us up out of Egypt?  Was it so I, my children, and my cattle would die of thirst?," (Exodus 17:3).  Then, they were about to stone him to death.  At that point God instructed Moses to strike one rock with a cane.  It says when Moses did as he was told water came flowing out of the rock and the people were able to drink.

12.  The goodness of God was revealed in a visible form.  The relationship between God and Moses was clearly seen through this as well.  But the Bible has not explained the place where this event occurred as a place where God's love was revealed.  It puts it like this:  "He named the places Masa (testing) and Meriba (arguing).  'Because' The Israelites 'said, Is the Lord really among us?"

13.  God was supposed to be the one who did the testing.  Their trust, love, and obedience were truly questioned during that ordeal.  But, people don't like being tested.  Rather than being questioned by God [people] would take the position of questioning God.  They say "Is the Lord really among us?," and will take the position of testing [him].  Though their trust in God is [what God] looks for, totally opposite to this, they look for a visible sign of God's love and question him.  We might say at that point indeed there is a highmindedness which does not look carefully at one's own state.

14.  Satan said to Christ, "Since you are the son of God why not jump off?"  He was looking for him to show a visible sign of God's goodness.  "People are looking for a sign that you are the beloved son of God, aren't they?   They are seeking for a sign like that that God is gracious towards them, aren't they?  Why not jump off and prove it?"  That's how Satan talks.

15.  But Christ firmly dispelled these words from Satan.  Because obeying the words of Satan would truly lead the people to the same sin as Israel in Masa.  The Lord said, "It is written, 'You should not test the Lord your God."  Also, with this [passage here]  the Lord did not just dispel the temptation from Satan but he drove off the temptation through his life.  This temptation in its final form pointed towards the Lord Jesus on the cross.  The people said, "You should come down from the cross right now.  If so, we'll believe in you.  [You] trust in God, so, if it's God's will, get saved out of this right now.  Because you keep saying 'I am the son of God,'" (Matthew 27:42-43).  Yet, the Lord was not about to come down from the cross.  Thus, the Lord got the victory over the temptation from Satan.

16.  That's just the kind of person the Lord who leads us is.  We should not forget that what he would give us, more than anything, is a true relationship with God.  We should not forget that he saved us not to be persons who test God, but a people who live with obedience and trust in God.

The Third Temptation

17.  Finally let's read from verses eight to eleven.  "Then further, Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their prosperity, and said, 'If you bow and worship me, I will give all this to you.'  Whereupon, Jesus said, 'Go away, Satan.  It is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve only the Lord.'  Then, Satan left.  Whereupon, angels came and served Jesus," (verses eight through eleven).

18.  With this third temptation as well we must understand from the Lord's answers the nature of the temptation.  The Lord Jesus answered while quoting from Deuteronomy chapter six and verse thirteen.  In the original passage it reads like this:  "Fear your God, the Lord, serve only the Lord, take oaths in his name.  Don't follow after other gods, the gods of the peoples of the various surrounding nations," (Deuteronomy 6:13-14).  We understand from these words that the focus of the temptation is not whether or not [one] worships Satan.  It is actually about whether one is worshipping the Lord God or someone else.  Christ chose to worship and serve only the Lord God and that's all, rather than [choosing to] take into his hands all the kingdoms of this world and their prosperity.  As a result of that, the Lord Jesus did not walk the path of authority and prosperity, but as a servant he walked the path that lead to the cross.

19.  Many people in this world surely do not think that they have sold their hearts over to Satan.  Including us, we surely don't think we are serving Satan.  But the problem is not a relationship with Satan.  It is with our relationship with God.  Temptation is at work at that level.  What is the most important thing for us in a relationship with God?  Is it whether we will obtain anything materialistically or mentally in this world?  Is believing in God no more than a means to that?  In a relationship with God will the worship of God itself and the service of God itself become more important than obtaining something in this world?

20.  Our Lord overcame this temptation and it was so this one who progressed on the road to the cross and not the road to the glory of this world [could] give us more than anything a true relationship with God.  It was so the Lord who hung on the cross [could] make us true worshippers.  We should not forget we were saved to become a people who worship only the Lord God.

21.  We have entered the season of the passion [of our Lord].   During this period of time I would like us to carefully reflect upon the road in this world's wilderness.  Thinking about the afflictions of the Lord and looking into what kind of person he was is to think about what it is to follow him.

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