20 September 2013

Matthew 4:1-22

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” (v. 10)


If the story of the Baptism of Jesus leaves the reader in suspense about what kind of leader Jesus is going to be, then today's passage answers any questions. Jesus leaves the Jordan in the knowledge that God is with him, and that God's power is at his disposal. What an extraordinary understanding to have - and what a temptation! Little wonder that God's Spirit leads Jesus to a place (verse 1) where he can sort himself out and get his head straight for the divine task of reconciliation ahead.

Jesus is alone, so the account we have can only have come from Jesus relating these temptations to his followers at a later point in his ministry. When did he tell them? When they were possibly getting ahead of themselves and throwing their weight around? At the Last Supper? When they argued about who would be the greatest in heaven? I am guessing. What is clear is that at the beginning of this story in Matthew 4, immediately after the Baptism, Jesus had yet to call his disciples. Apart from the presence of God's Spirit, he was alone.

There are so many parallels between Jesus' temptations and the Exodus story. Jesus answers the devil in verses 4, 7, 10 by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13, a book that is like a theological commentary on Israel's time in the wilderness. The temptations of Jesus draw to mind those faced by God's chosen people in the desert; and the 40 days of Jesus is like a very much smaller version of 40 years! What Jesus rejects in Matthew 4 is the use of God-given power for personal glory; and reinforces his faithfulness to his Father God. The specific testing over food, heavenly protection and changing allegiance, all demonstrate Jesus's understanding that the power at his disposal is not for his own glory, but to enable him to serve both God and humanity. His leadership style will be as a servant.

Thus, with his head sorted about what will be at the heartof his leadership, Jesus now calls his first disciples (verses 18-22). They are drawn both to follow him and to serve others. They will have as their example, the servant king.

To Ponder

  • "Lead us not into temptation"; "Save us from the time of trial". What are the situations that are dangers for you today? Know that God's Spirit is there to strengthen you.
  • If you are drawn to follow the servant king, how will that affect your relationships with others today?

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.