• The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 27 focuses on Matthew 4:1-10.
Ministry wouldn’t be ministry without difficult trials. Jesus knew this all too well. Before we dive into our main text, Matthew 4, some connections should be made from Matthew 3.
At the end of Matthew 3, Jesus is baptized. Have you ever wondered why Jesus was baptized? There are a few answers:
- Jesus’ baptism was a foreshadowing of his own death, burial and resurrection.
- In Jesus’ baptism, he associates himself with all humanity.
- In Jesus’ baptism, we see a “Trinity moment”; all three persons of the Godhead are active in the story.
- In Jesus’ baptism, he officially begins his ministry.
Mark’s Gospel makes it clear Jesus left the baptism scene and was sent “at once” into the desert by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12). This time of preparation is a precursor for the arduous road Jesus would walk in ministry. It is quite telling, because Jesus also taught the redeemed life would be found on a narrow, difficult, less-traveled road.
It wasn’t about food
So, Jesus was sent by God to the desert but tempted or tested by Satan. After 40 days of fasting, Jesus experienced the most natural of human longings—hunger. One would surmise Jesus experienced extreme hunger and weakness. In fact, Matthew is the only Gospel that says “and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:11) at the end of the temptation.
Satan, the tempter as he was called, said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (v. 3). Jesus most certainly was the Son of God. He had the power to change the stone to bread. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was whether he could trust his Heavenly Father to supply his need. Would Jesus trust God as provider instead of trusting his own provision? That was the issue.
Jesus knew he had a serious, physical need. But rather than performing a miracle, a sign he indeed was the Messiah, he trusted in the word of God. Of course, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. Read the entirety of Deuteronomy 8 for the context.
Here is a question you could ask your group: “When God speaks, do we trust him?” An area many people struggle with is giving to God’s kingdom. I’ve met many people who would quickly say, “Yes, yes, we trust God and his word,” yet they don’t give to God’s kingdom, or if they do, they don’t tithe. In these conversations, they offer a million excuses. Some are financial while others are theological. If I were you, I would take your group to this discussion. It will reveal their true trust in God or expose their sinfulness of not trusting in him. Don’t be afraid. It’s good for us to discuss finances from a biblical perspective.
It’s wasn’t about the jump, but about wisdom
The second temptation had nothing to do with jumping off of the temple, but had everything to do with presuming God would rescue Jesus from a bad or foolish situation. And of course, Jesus was wise enough to see Satan’s scheme. He didn’t jump.
The application for us is huge. Many times, I have known people who presume upon God. I’ve heard it in many forms through the years:
• The person who has $25,000 in credit card debt, but expects God will come through for him.
• The college student who doesn’t study well, yet expects God to perform a miracle.
• The married couple who “can’t afford to give to God’s kingdom,” but somehow has money to go out to lunch every Sunday after church.
•The 48-year-old man who eats donuts, McDonald’s, never exercises, but expects a miracle when he is diagnosed with heart disease.
In all these scenarios, I’ve heard people say, “Look, I have a verse to show that God is going to save me from this.” Well, God certainly can save you from it, but God also wants you to display his grand wisdom and not get into these type situations.
So Jesus replies, “Do not put the Lord our God to the test” (v. 7). This would be an excellent discussion for your group. Perhaps you could ask the question: Does God save us from our folly?
In the last temptation, Satan offered Jesus a shortcut. Jesus and Satan both knew the upcoming years for Jesus would be arduous, filled with the onslaught of the very being who was before Jesus, Satan. At that point in history, Satan was defined by John as “the prince of the world” (John 12:31;14:30; 16:11). So, Satan was basically offering Jesus a “shortcut,” meaning Satan was tempting Jesus to not go through the hardship, not endure the beatings, not endure death. It was the temptation to forgo all of the pain.
It seems to follow: “You see, Jesus, this is all going to be yours in the end anyways. Just bow down and worship me.” And once again, Jesus refuted Satan with Scripture.
Satan was offering Jesus a shortcut to lordship. The problem? Jesus already was Lord over everything, including Satan. But it’s that moment of weakness when Satan’s offer must have seemed tempting to Jesus’ humanity. No wonder Satan is called the deceiver.
Oh, how this temptation is alive today:
• “You don’t have to wait until you are married. Go ahead and do it now. You are going to anyway.”
• “Just live together. What can happen? You already own a house together.”
• “No money down? No interest for two years? Come on. Don’t you want to get it now?”
• “Suffering? Just take these drugs. You will feel so much better.”
Consider asking your Bible study group a bold question: “In what ways have you been tempted to get ahead? How has giving into that temptation been destructive?”