Here in chapter four, we find an interesting turn in the launch of Jesus’ ministry. Having just come off the glorious events of His baptism, Jesus finds a complete turn of events. From the height of the Father declaring, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Jesus finds himself alone, hungry, and tempted by the devil.
In the first temptation listed, the devil strikes at both the humanity and the deity of Jesus. He says, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (v. 3 NASB) He challenges the deity of Jesus by questioning his identity as the son of God and feeds on the humanity of Jesus by playing off the hunger that Jesus is feeling after 40 days of not eating.
In the second temptation, the devil again plays off the humanity of Jesus by offering him an easier way to reach his goal. In verses 6 – 7, he says, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” This temptation is reminiscent of the temptation faced by Adam and Eve when the serpent said to Eve, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:4 – 5) Just as told Eve that they could become like God with a simple action, so too, he is telling Jesus that He can reach full earthly glory through a simple action.
In the third temptation, the devil again challenged Jesus’ deity. In verses 10 – 11 he says, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Here the devil quotes Psalm 91:11 – 12 to re-enforce the power of his challenge to his identity.
Each of these temptations reflects the temptations that we face in life: physical needs, power and glory, and to manipulate God for our benefit. We know how easy it is for us to succumb to these, but Jesus withstands them. We might be tempted to say that he is fully God, so it was easier for him. But to do so is to forget that he is fully man as well, so the temptations were real. This is why Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus’ response to each temptation is not to resist or push back in his own power, but to quote scripture from the book of Deuteronomy: 8:3 “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”; 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”; 6:16 “Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”
This account of the temptations ends with a small phrase that it is easy to overlook. We speak of Jesus being tempted, but we often confine the temptations to this time, but the final phrase shows something different. Verse 13 says that “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” So we to need to realize that just because we resist temptation once, it does not mean that it is over. The temptation can, and probably will return when the timing is right.
From here, Jesus begins his public ministry. Early on in his preaching in Galilee, Jesus finds himself in his hometown of Nazareth in the synagogue for the service. As he reads from the scripture found in Isaiah 61, he finishes by telling the people that it has been fulfilled in their presence. Jesus identifies himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy. The first reaction of the people is amazement and to speak well of him, but that quickly changed after Jesus’ next statement. He knows that they will want to see him do the miraculous things he did elsewhere, there in Nazareth. But he points out that the “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (v. 24) And proceeds to give several examples of God working outside of Israel through great prophets. Now the response of the people is quite different as they seek to kill him, but Jesus is able to slip away.
From here we come to the first accounts of his miraculous works. He finds himself in Capernaum, where it reports that he performed many miracles. Two are specifically described. The first is casting a demon out of a man. What is striking in this story, apart from Jesus casting out a demon is his insistence on silencing the demon when it identifies him as “the Holy One of God!” (v. 34) The passage goes on to indicate that he does this other times as well, but I have to ask why. It would seem to tie back to the temptations and the opportune time. Jesus once again could have allowed this to get out taken the easy way to out and to claim power, but instead, Jesus resists this temptation and follows the path before him.
The second specific miracle described is the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. In these two miracles, Jesus demonstrates His authority over both the spiritual and the physical realms.
Following these events, Jesus slips away to a secluded place. It does not explicitly tell us why, but it should not be surprising. After all that he had done and the people who had come to him, it is reasonable that he would need to get away so he could recharge. But the people tracked him down and seeking for him to continue there. Jesus tells them that he can not because he “must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” (v. 43) And so he began to travel to other cities.
As I look at this, my takeaways from this chapter are 1) Jesus faced temptation just as we have. 2) The only real way to resist temptation is through God’s power, and this can be found in the scriptures. 3) Jesus had power over everything. And 4) We must be faithful to God’s calling, despite what challenges and opportunities may stand in our way.