“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
– Matthew 4:16
There are plenty of voices to listen to today. Each one begs your attention and seeks to persuade you a certain way. In our media-rich society, we can hear a variety of voices with just a few clicks: blogs, YouTube videos, tweets, and more! With so many voices, it can be difficult to discern the voices that speak truth. Which one is correct? In Matthew 4, we hear two contrasting voices and the messages they have to share.
The chapter opens with the first voice – the voice of Satan the tempter. As Jesus was fasting for forty days and nights in the desert, Satan came three times and attempted to cause Jesus to sin. In his first attempt (), Satan tries to change the purpose of Jesus’ sonship from one of obedience to one of rights. In a way, Satan is saying, “Surely the Son of God should not go hungry!” He is trying to have Jesus turn from obedience to his Father to having a sinful sense of entitlement to food. If Satan can redefine Jesus’ sonship in this way, Jesus would not be living in complete obedience to the Father and would, therefore, not be a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Jesus, however, responds to Satan by using Scripture to contradict Satan’s plans. Jesus knows that he must be in obedience to his Father by listening to “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (v. 4c). This is the only way that man can live – by being obedient to God.
The second time (), Satan picks up on Jesus’ tactics and tries to proof-text his way into making Jesus sin. Satan deliberately twists Scripture in his favor by quoting . He is showing Jesus that if he throws himself from the temple, he will be safe because his angels will protect him – that is if he is the Son of God. The problem is that Satan is only using one part of Scripture to tempt Jesus. Sometimes people attempt to change the correct interpretation of Scripture by only using texts that would support their interpretation instead of the entirety of Scripture. Jesus again uses Scripture to counteract the passage that Satan used. We can learn from this how to use Scripture in an appropriate manner. When we make a biblical claim, it is important to be sure that such a claim agrees with the entirety of Scripture. In order to do this, we must be diligent students of God’s Word and pray for the Spirit’s guidance as we study.
Satan tries one last time () to trap Jesus. Knowing full well that Jesus is the Son of God and the eventual sacrifice he would make, Satan tries to give him another option. It is as if he were saying, “Instead of facing the cross – instead of enduring the suffering and shame – just bow down and worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world!” Jesus, however, understands that his future suffering is obedience to his Father’s will – it is his Father’s voice he must listen to. To worship Satan would have been convenient, but not obedient. If Jesus had done so, he would not be able to die for our sin and be able to provide for our salvation. The kingdoms of the earth are his anyway, he does not need to worship Satan to have dominion over them. It is important for us to understand that obedience to God is always better than convenience. That does not always mean that God’s way is the easiest way, but it is the most fulfilling way.
Jesus did not experience temptation for no reason. tells us that Jesus was tempted so that he could identify with us in temptation. It is for this reason that Jesus Christ could become a perfect sacrifice for our sin – he endured temptation without sinning.
In the second half of Matthew 4, we hear the other voice which contrasts the lies of Satan – the voice of Jesus. When Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist, was imprisoned, Jesus knew it was time for his voice to be heard. Carrying on what John had prepared for him, he proclaimed the coming kingdom just as John had done in . As the prophecy quoted from says, Jesus is the one who brings light to the darkness, but his light was not just for Israel, it extended even to the Gentiles. When Jesus brought the light, he did not do it in a watered-down manner. Jesus boldly preached repentance, just as John had done before him. As was mentioned in the commentary on chapter 3, repentance is a turning away from our sinful behaviors toward the will of God. It is turning from a life of disobedience to a life of obedience to God.
As Jesus began his ministry, he called four men to follow him as his disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. When he called them, he did not say to them, “Go and fish for people.” Instead, he told them to follow him and he would show them how to be fishers of people. Jesus was the teacher and his disciples were students. They needed to learn from the master. As Christ’s disciples, we also need to learn from our master, Jesus Christ. We need to observe his life, teaching, and ministry and put those things into practice. Jesus wanted his disciples to be witnesses, ambassadors, and messengers of his light so that others may see the truth of the voice of Christ.
One thing we notice about these disciples is their quick response to Jesus’ call. says that they instantly dropped everything from their life to follow this new Rabbi. These disciples knew that this was a great privilege to follow a Rabbi and did not hesitate at the offer. Compare their response with the responses of others in . Instead of making excuses or holding on to their former life, Peter, Andrew, James, and John gave up everything to follow Christ. We, too, must leave our pasts behind – past behaviors, past relationships, past sin – to follow the Rabbi who calls, “Come, follow me.”
Jesus continued to be the voice of truth by teaching and proclaiming the good news. One major part of Jesus’ ministry was his healing of those with sickness and pain. Throughout the Gospels, we see him do miracles in the lives of others to testify to his divinity. However, not all the people who experienced his miracles heard his plea for repentance. Some people were drawn to Jesus for what he could do for them. It is sad that some people have the same perspective when it comes to church. There are many people who desire to “be fed” at their church. While spiritual nourishment is important, many people do it for that reason only. Jesus becomes a sort of “feel good”, “self-help” guru instead the Son of God demanding repentance and obedience. Jesus Christ desires your repentance – he desires your obedience – he desires your following.