Monday, February 4, 2013

Gospel Blog: Matthew 4

Note: See Introduction for context on this series on the Gospels.

Summary of Matthew 4
Jesus fasts for 40 days in the wilderness and then is tested by the devil. Afterwards he comes back to Galilee and asks four fisherman to join him. He begins preaching about God’s Kingdom and healing the sick. News spreads quickly about Jesus and many come to see him.

Detailed Thoughts about Matthew 4
Immediately after Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit (who came upon Jesus during the baptism) leads him to the wilderness so the devil could test him. I can’t help but wonder if Matthew is being literal here about the Holy Spirit’s reasoning, or if he is merely moving the story forward. I also wonder what it felt like for Jesus to be “led” by the Holy Spirit, if indeed this was the case.

In any case, Jesus fasts for 40 days and nights while there. Jesus had to be very disciplined to do this. He must have had great passion and motivation. I wonder what he was expecting to happen? What did he want to happen? Did he start walking toward the wilderness without any preparation, or did he bring something to hold water? Did he bring anything else with him? These are the little details that I get hung up on when I’m reading these stories.

The story of the devil’s three temptations of Jesus is well-known to me. I remember the evangelical exegesis of the three temptations: each temptation represented one of three categories: (1) lust of the flesh, (2) lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life, as described in I John 2:16. This verse states that all three categories are based in this current world—how the world is now—and do not come from the Father. These categories make sense, especially because Jesus, in stark contrast, preaches about God’s Kingdom after his ordeal in the wilderness. More on that topic shortly…

After his ordeal in the wilderness, Jesus returns to Galilee. (Matthew points out that Jesus heard that John the Baptist was imprisoned.) Jesus goes specifically to “the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,” and in so doing Matthew brings out another one of his proof-texts for Jesus being the Messiah.

This area, which was near Lake Galilee, is where Jesus starts to preach about the Kingdom of God. Matthew first describes (briefly) Jesus’ calling of four fisherman: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Matthew describes the men as immediately going with Jesus once called by him. Perhaps this is a nod to Jesus’ persuasive power, or it is a description of the immediate willingness and obedience of the four men. Perhaps both.

Matthew next describes Jesus going all over Galilee, preaching in Jewish meeting places about God’s Kingdom. He also mentions for the first time that Jesus heals the sick, including those with demons, those who were “crazy,” and those who couldn’t walk. News spread about Jesus and large crowds began to follow him.

It seems to me that Matthew is telling the story as if his readers already know most of the logistics and details. I am vaguely aware that stories like these would be passed orally from generation to generation. Specific details may change according to who is telling the story. I wonder how much of the writing of logistics is purposeful, and how much is Matthew simply breezing through in order to get to the “meat” of the book which is (a) to prove Jesus is indeed the Messiah and (b) to explain Jesus’ message about God’s Kingdom.

The next few chapters of Matthew document the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” with contains much of Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God. I’m looking forward to it, even if I feel a bit intimidated on how to actually blog about it! My approach is simply to continue sharing my real-time thoughts.


Anonymous said...

So this is a very interesting story and I have often wondered the purpose of the 40 day fast was all about and if Jesus was all alone for this time how was it that Matthew was able to account for this. In my opinion of Jesus and from his teachings and the scriptures as a whole one was not to draw attention to ones self while fasting. See Matthew 6:16.

As for the presence or preporation of water and the need there of... Hmmm... Well, after all this is Jesus you are talking about here Kevin. The man turned water into wine. I suspect he could have turned the rocks and dirt about him into water.

With regards to the tempter and temptation; I think Matthews message is to teach us about the importance to be like Christ in this world when temptation is in front of us (perhaps chocolate cake) to be strong and to resist temptation. After all what good can come from temptation anyway. Maybe this is why Jesus decided to fast in the first place because he wanted to show the world that he wouldn't be mastered by his flesh but that he was able to supersede the needs and desires of his earthly body. Ahhh to be like Jesus! I've tried and I've failed over and over again. But I guess this is why God's Grace is so important to the WHOLE WORLD not just the "elect". Whoever they may be???

One last thought here... I feel it is important for me to say that I take Matthews story here at face value I don't discount or disbelieve that Jesus was actually on a 40 day fast nor do I feel that the story is embellished in any way. I just don't see Jesus telling anyone about this 40 day fast in the wilderness becasue in the end that would be boasting of himself and after all isn't this crosswise to Paul's 1 Cor. 13. Love ultimately is more important than giving over your body to be mutilated.

I could go on but need to sleep we can discuss this further in person.

Unknown said...


Love the blog, keep going.

This is one of those cases where I wish there was not a chapter break in the text. In Your previous blog on Matt 3:13-17, you bring up some interest ideas about the text. You ask/suggest that Jesus is being baptized in order to set “us apart in order to love people” and could God be well pleased with us when we are baptized? I would say yes on both accounts. It also seems to me, that it (the text) is also a slap in the face of “religion” notice; Jesus was baptized before entering the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Religion says pass the test and you can come to God, God says (I am pleased with you) let me pour out my spirit on you and I’ll lead you through the wilderness. How many times have I felt In a spiritual sense that I needed to wash up to take a bath before coming to God instead of coming to Him and letting Him wash me with His love and mercy.


Kevin said...

Hey Kevin. Great insights. Your comment reminded me of an awesome post by Addie Zierman: A MUST READ!