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Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Summary

Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he quotes the scriptures to resist three tests by the devil to presume on his being "Son of God."

Analysis

Not all goes well in the wilderness. Just as for Israel, so for the Messiah: the wilderness is a place of testing of Jesus in preparation for the mission that lies before him. The testing comes tellingly in threes, each test inviting Jesus to presume on his status as Son of God just confirmed by the voice at his baptism. The devil's, "If you are the Son of God…," carries with it the same cruel irony as the taunts of the mockers at his crucifixion (27:42-43). In anticipation of the faithful obedience that will lead to his death and resurrection, Jesus resists each test with scriptural pronouncements that rely on the word and promise of God. Perhaps in characteristic Matthean style, the Q-sayings material has been reworked (see Luke 4:1-13) to move climactically from concern for personal well-being (hunger) to a grasp for personal power (putting God to the test for safety), to the splendor of ruling a kingdom (worship as a supreme being). The result combines focus on the Gospel's theme of the kingdom of God with the first of the great commands-to love God with all one's being (22:37). With that affirmation the testing ends suddenly as angels come and minister to Jesus as if in affirmation of his obedient faithfulness.

Matthew 4:1-11

The Temptation of Jesus

4Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ 4But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
   but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
   and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
7Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; 9and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.”
11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

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10 February 2011

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