Matthew 4:1. Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
He had just been baptized, the Spirit of God had descended upon him, and the Father had borne witness to him, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” yet, immediately after all that, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. So, after your times of sweetest fellowship with God, after the happiest enjoyment of gospel ordinances. After the sealing of the Spirit within your hearts, you must expect to be tempted of the devil. You must not suppose that, in your Christian life, all will be sweetness, — that all will be spiritual witness-bearing. You have to fight the good fight of faith, and your great adversary will not be slow to begin the encounter. You are a pilgrim in a strange land, so you must expect to find rough places on the road to heaven. Yet, since you are so much weaker than your Master was, you will do well to pray the prayer that he taught to his disciples, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 4:2-3. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him,
See how Satan seizes opportunities. When he finds us weak, as the Saviour was through long fasting; — when he finds us in trying circumstances, as the Saviour was when hungry in the desert; — then it is that he comes to tempt us. This dastardly foe of ours takes every possible advantage of us, that he may, by any means, overthrow us.
Matthew 4:3. He said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made into bread.
He begins with an “if.” He tries to cast a doubt upon the Saviour’s Sonship, and this is the way that he often attacks a child of God now. He says to him, “If thou be a son of God, do so-and-so.” He challenged Christ to work a miracle for himself, — to use his divine power on his own behalf, but this the Saviour never did. He challenged Christ to distrust the providence of God, and to be his own Provider; and this is still a very common temptation to God’s people.
Matthew 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, —
That is the only sword that Christ used against Satan, — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” There is nothing like it; and the old dragon himself knows what sharp edges this sword has. Christ said, “It is written,” —
Matthew 4:4. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
God can sustain human life without the use of bread, although it is the staff of life; for bread does not sustain life unless God puts power into it to do so, and he can, if it pleases him, use that power without the outward means. Our Lord thus showed that God could provide for him in a desert without his interference with the plans of divine providence by selfishly catering for himself. So the first victory was won,
Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple. And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written,—
Here he plays with the Word of God, for the devil can quote Scripture when it suits his purpose to do so: “It is written,” —
Matthew 4:6. He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
The devil did not quote correctly from Psalms 91:11-12; he left out the most important words: “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways,” but it was not Christ’s way to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Jesus therefore answered Satan’s misquotation with a true quotation.
Matthew 4:7. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
I know some people, who earn their living in employments which are very hazardous to their immortal souls. They are in the midst of evil, yet they tell me that God can keep them in safety there. I know that he can, but I also know that we have no right to go, voluntarily, where we are surrounded by temptation. If your calling is the wrong one, and you are continually tempted in it, you may not presume upon the goodness of God to keep you, for it is your business to get as far as you can from that which will lead you into sin. God does not put his servants on the pinnacle of the temple; it is the devil who puts them there; and if they ever are there, the best thing they can do is to get down as quickly and as safely as they can; but they must not cast themselves down, they must look to him who alone can bring them down safely. With some professors, presumption is a very common sin. They will go into worldly amusements and all sorts of frivolities, and say, “Oh, we can be Christians, and yet go there!” Can you? It may be that you can be hypocrites, and go there; that is far easier than going there as Christians.
Matthew 4:8-10. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Christ will not endure any more of this talk. When it comes to a bribe the promise that the devil will give him earth’s glory if he will but fall down and worship him, Christ ends the whole matter once for all. Thrice assaulted, thrice victorious, blessed Master, enable us also to be more than conquerors through thy grace!
Matthew 4:11. Then the devil leave him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Regarding it as their highest honour to be the servants of their Lord.
4:12. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
Notice that there were at that time only two great ministers of God, John the Baptist, he must go to prison and to death; — Jesus, the Son of God, he must go to the desert to be tempted of the devil. If any Christians escape temptation, they will not be the leaders of the hosts of God. Those who stand in the van must bear the brunt of the battle. Oh, that all who are called to such responsible positions might be as prepared to occupy them as John was, and as Jesus was!
Matthew 4:13-16. And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might he fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Oh, the tender mercy of our God! Where the darkness is the deepest, there the light shines the brightest. Christ selects such dark regions as Nephthalim and Zabulon that he may dwell there, and shine in all his glory.
Matthew 4:17. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
He was not afraid to give an earnest exhortation to sinners, and to bid men repent. He knew better than we do the inability of men concerning all that is good, yet he bade them repent.
Matthew 4:18-23. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
I like those words “all manner”— that is, every kind and every sort of sickness and disease Christ met. Perhaps you, dear friend, are afflicted in your soul after a very peculiar fashion. Ay, but this great Physician heals all manner of diseases. None are excluded from the list of patients whom he can cure; twice the words “all manner” are used: “Healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
Matthew 4:24. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
Our Lord Jesus lived as in a hospital while he was on earth; wherever he went, the sins and sorrows of men were all open before his sympathetic gaze. But oh, what joy it must have been to him to be able to deal so well with them all! Am I addressing any who are sick in soul? Our Master is used to cases just like yours; your malady is not new to him. He has healed many like you; of all that were brought to him, it is written, “he healed them.” Lie before him now, in all your sin and misery, and breathe the prayer, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” and he will surely hear you, and heal you, for he delights to bless and save all who trust him.