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Saturday, September 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Matthew 4

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

  1. Intro: Led By God - Tempted as man
    1. Sir Isaac Newtons 3rd Law of Motion, Every Action has an Equal & Opposite Reaction.
      1. Action, end of ch.3 heaven was opened. Reaction, start of ch.4 hell opens.
      2. It seems like every action of God, there’s a reaction from the devil.
      3. Fact of life...nothing promotes the reaction of the devil, more than the action of one’s proximity to God.
        1. Oh and...in praying & fasting, the devil knows is where we get our strength, so of course we’re going to be attacked.
    2. In theology, Jesus’ self-humbling is called the kenosis: the emptying.
      1. Paul says in Phil.2:6-8, speaking of Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing (or emptied Himself), taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.
      2. When Jesus entered our world He set aside the power and the privileges of Deity. He consciously limited Himself to live here as a man.
      3. The miracles Jesus later performs was by the power of the Spirit.
      4. The emptying process Paul described is one of progressive humiliation.

        He emptied Himself - was born in man’s likeness - was obedient even when it meant death - accepted even the shameful death of an outcast criminal.
    3. When we read about the temptation of Jesus, we have to read the story against the background of the kenosis.
      1. When a physically weakened Jesus, after 40 days of fasting in the desert, was tempted by Satan, He did not seek strength from His divine nature to resist.
  2. LED BY GOD (1,2)
    1. He was Holy Spirit led - What comes to your mind of someone being led by God?
      1. Did these words come to mind: devil, temptation, desert? Probably not, but thats where the HS leads Jesus here.
        1. The disciples were led by God right into a storm. Jesus led right into Gethsemane to face abduction.
    2. Tempted - Aramaic dnethnasey, to try out. Men often try out their power & ability before they start a hard task. Oxen & horses are also tried out before they are bought & paid for.
    3. Wilderness - a wild, arid, region w/o trees or inhabitants.
      1. Though the desert lacks trees, villages & the attractions which make life happy in populous places...it has its own natural majestic beauty.
      2. George Lamsa, The beauty of the myraid stars, by their seeming closest to the ground near the horizon, fascinates human imagination & reveals an order in the sky unexcelled by anything on earth. Living in these wide-open desert spaces, one is impressed by the vastness of the heavens contrasted with the smallness of the earth and life is revealed in its proper proportion to the universe. Away from the material things of organized civilization, the dweller of the desert feels that God is near, God is everywhere. Gospel Light, George Lamsa
    4. Fasting - is a help in subjecting the body to the soul, the physical to the spiritual
      1. Fasting is not a sanctified diet.
      2. Fasting reduces physical strength but increases spiritual forces and is an aide toward spiritual insight and character.
      3. Here Jesus is on a long fast where hunger goes away after the first few days...but comes back right before you starve to death...this was that time.
    1. Command that these stones become bread - in Eastern countries wheat is never bleached. The color of bread is brown, and when baked, the round loaves resemble stones.
      1. Hungry travelers often see these hot stones and wish they were bread.
    2. The very first words of Jesus in response to Satan’s initial temptation sets the tone...
      1. Man does not live by bread alone. Addressed as the Son of God, Jesus affirmed His intention to live on our earth as a human being.
    3. Subject, as you and I are, to the hungers and drives and needs which throb within us and seek to pull us into sin, Jesus met every one of Satan’s temptations.
      1. Rejecting the privilege that was His by virtue of His deity, Jesus cast His lot fully with you and with me.
      2. It is because of this great act of self-emptying that you and I can find hope.
      3. Jesus overcame temptation...as a human being!
        1. Because Jesus met temptation in His human nature, you and I can find victory too (how?) by meeting our temptations as He met His.
    4. Source - In each temptation, there is a particular human vulnerability which Satan attacked?
      1. The challenge to make bread was a temptation because Jesus was hungry: it was directed against His physical nature and needs.
    5. Victory Principle in OT to act on?
      1. Man shall not live on bread alone, teaches that we are not to let the physical dominate, for as spiritual beings we are attuned to God, and can choose to live by His Word.
    1. Wait, Satan fighting Jesus with the Word? But Jesus is able to parry each thrust of Satan’s plastic child’s sword, with the steel-bladed sword of Gods Word.
    2. Show the pinnacle of the Temple. It’s about 450’ high w/Solomon’s porch/columns.
      1. Even holy places are open to temptation.
    3. Pinnacle of the Temple. According to the Jews, they believed the center of the world is Jerusalem.
      1. They get it from Ezek.5:5 says This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. [navel of the earth, axis mundi, omphalos]
      2. Rabbi’s would say, Israel is the center of the world, Jerusalem is the center of the land of Israel, and the temple is the center of the city of Jerusalem.
      3. So, if you’re at the temple, you’re the very epicenter the earth. So Satan takes in there. Also, in Mal.3:1 Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.
        1. Rabbi’s said he’d show up suddenly on the roof for all to see [to center geographically/theologically]
    4. We all have times when we feel deserted by God; when things have gone wrong and we doubt His continued concern for us.
      1. As the OT passages quoted by Jesus stress, the issue in this temptation was that of putting God to the test, to see is the Lord among us or not? Ex.17:7
      2. We are to be kept in all our ways, but not in our follies.
    5. Source - particular human vulnerability which Satan attacked?
      1. The challenge was to doubt God’s faithfulness: it was directed against His thoughts.
    6. Victory Principle in OT to act on?
      1. Not to put God to the test, teaches that we must trust Him, trust His faithfulness, trust Him not by sight but by faith.
  5. TEST #3 QUICK AND EASY (8-10)
    1. All this I will give You, the tempter enticed, if You will bow down and worship me.
      1. ​​​​​​​The Man born to be King was shown the kingdoms that would be His, and they were offered they could become His now.
        1. All the suffering would be avoided, all the anguish avoided, all the rejection avoided, all the pain of a death avoided (in which the weight of the world’s sins would bear down on the sinless One). No pain, quick gain. aka The Easy Way.
      2. Complete commitment to the will of God was Jesus’ pathway to the throne.

        There could be no shortcuts. There could be no other way.
      3. Can we imagine Jesus at the devil’s feet? What is the devil whispering to you not to wait for? A saved mate. Purchasing that item.
    2. Before Jesus could rule, He had to learn by experience the fullest meaning of submission to the Father’s will. The crown lay beyond the Cross.
    3. (10) Away with you, Satan! - then the devil left him & he scurried off like a cockroach to a dark corner. Lk.4:13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation/testing, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
      1. ​​​​​​​So the devil watches us for an opportune time. He watches to see did he/she wear their wedding ring this morning? He watches do you have wandering eyes? He listens for a slight falsehood.
    4. Angels came - Probably hovering near by, longing to do battle...yet held back!
      1. Jesus didn’t cry, Angels help! Nope. His weapon was the Word.
      2. Luke adds, Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit. 4:14
        1. Heb.4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
    5. Expect Temptation to come, no one is immune to it.
      1. The Temptation to be impatient, to fear, to have your joy robbed, to complain, to flesh out, to not minister to the unlovely, to show unkindness, to be slothful.
      2. Pray that you enter not into Temptation. Watch against it. Remember you can handle it (The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure) And, don’t add to them!
    6. 4 Life Lessons:
    7. In ch.3 we had a picture of Jesus submitting to John’s baptism, identifying Himself fully with humanity. This morning we saw the picture of an emptied Jesus - suffering, tested, opening Himself to the full force of temptation in His vulnerability as a human being.
      1. Jesus truly was determined to be a servant
        1. ​​​​​​​The Incarnation did not mean that Jesus stopped being God, but that He had freely set aside His rights as Deity.
        2. The outward exercise of power and glory was not essential to Jesus’ majesty. In choosing to empty and to humble Himself, Jesus displayed God’s pathway to dominion, pathway to KINGDOM. vs.17
        3. How different from our way. Usually, manipulating people, always was trying to control, selfishness is perfectly opposite to servant.
          1. Our destiny is not to be found in selfishness, but in self-emptying.
      2. Jesus’ full identification with us in our humanity offers hope
        1. If Jesus had overcome the tempter in His nature as God, we could hardly expect to overcome.
        2. So we can dare to trust that our dominion destiny includes power to overcome.
        3. You may feel helpless, or trapped, or overwhelmed by a life that is out of control. Seeing Jesus become vulnerable and victorious can change your outlook.

          Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). In Jesus the human, you and I realize that we may be vulnerable, but we do have hope.
      3. Jesus’ response to the tempter spotlights resources that you and I can draw on to overcome
        1. ​​​​​​​In each case, Jesus went back to the Word of God and found a principle by which He chose to live.
        2. This is important. It is not simply the Word that is our resource. It is the commitment to live by the Word.
        3. It is resting the full weight of our confidence on what God says, and choosing in each situation to do that which is in harmony with His revealed will.
        4. This same resource which Jesus used to overcome is our resource too. But we must use Scripture Jesus’ way.
      4. Jesus is portrayed in Mat.3,4 as a Person in full control...of Himself
        1. ​​​​​​​In fact, we might even view this as the central message of these chapters.
        2. Jesus demonstrated His right to reign over us by proving that He had authority over the worst of man’s enemies...Himself!
        3. Certainly Israel had known in Herod a king who had absolute power over others, but was powerless to control his own hatred and fears.
        4. Since then, in our Hitlers and our Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot’s, we’ve seen again and again that enslaving others brings the ruler no freedom within.
        5. Yet it is exactly here that our dominion rule as kings, under the King of kings, must begin. We must gain power over ourselves: power to humble ourselves, power to submit to God, power to give up our rights, power to obey. Jesus demonstrated just this kind of authority. Jesus alone fully controlled the world within.
    8. Communion:
      1. Bread
      2. ​​​​​​​Cup

Verses 12-25

  1. Intro: Punching Holes in the Darkness
    1. Who needs the gospel the most? Those who are well or those who are sick? Those who are righteous or those who are sinners?​​​​​​​

      Those who have the most light or those who are living the darkest lives?
  2. SUN RISING (12-17)
    1. ​​​​​​​Insert John 1-4 here, in between vs.11 & 12.
    2. Slide7 Galilee - Galuthe, in Aramaic means captivity. [About 40m.w x 70m. long. 204 villages,​​​​​​​ 15,000 each, about 3 mill in region]
      1. This Northern region was known as the region of death.
      2. In 721bc the Syrian’s conquered 10 of Israel’s tribes, brought them into captivity, and settled them in Syria. They brought a large mixed Assyrian and Babylonian pop to settle in Samaria & northern Israel. These new settlers spoke Aramaic. They worship their own gods, practiced their own customs, but they also accepted the God of Israel as their chief god, because he was the God of the land where they were dwelling.
      3. The descendants of these early settlers were called Galileans, considered foreigners by the Jews of the south. So the Jews always despised them and look on them as the descendants of the people that conquered them and destroyed their country. They had nothing to do with them. And they would not tolerate a prophet that came from that region.
        1. It was thus a mixed multitude, filled with mixed marriages. Not pure bred’s.
        2. Down in Jer they considered them the hicks from the North...with funny accents.
    3. Galilee of the Gentiles - Galilia ton ethnon
      1. ​​​​​​​Amazing that Jesus came to earth as a baby, born in a manger, & to a poor family.
      2. But just as amazing, His ministry is not down in the religious epicenter of Jerusalem, not even in the Judean region, but in Galilia ton ethnon.
    4. Capernaum - Jesus set up headquarters here. His beach house (lake-house).
    5. By the way of the sea - Via Maris
      1. Mile Marker - Matthew stood next to, to collect taxes.
    6. (13) Isaiah had prophesied (9:1,2) that light would come to this region, and Matthew saw this movement of Jesus to Capernaum as fulfillment of this prophecy.
    7. This region was the area settled by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali after the conquest of Joshua’s time.
    8. (15,16) Msg Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, crossroads for the nations. People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.
    9. (16) Sat in darkness - Interesting Isaiah wrote about people who walked in darkness, but by the time Matthew wrote, they were sitting in it.
      1. As the Titanic was going down, how strange if some thought, Hey, we can shoot pool for free...come on! - Yet, that’s how some people are living their life here...not even realizing, their boat is sinking, their walking in darkness, their sitting in darkness.
    10. Dark to Light – from death, to the dawning of a new day.
      1. Slide11 Jesus explained this in more detail to Paul in Acts 26:17,18 - I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
        1. ​​​​​​​Slide12 When a Great Light encounters great darkness, Who do you think wins?
        2. Light always wins over darkness. Try it tonight in your backyard with a flashlight. Darkness can’t swallow a light beam.
    11. Death shadows - Scary shadows (But only shadows)
    12. Jesus is the difference between light & darkness, between life & death (2).
      1. Sir Walter Scott tells how as a young boy in Scotland he would stand on the porch of his home and watch the old gas lamplighter switch on the lights throughout the town. As he moved from place to place Scott followed his path by the small pools of light that he left behind. As he got closer to home the young Scott would run in and call to his mother, “Mother, Mother, come and see a man who is punching holes in the darkness.”
        1. ​​​​​​​This is an excellent definition of the mission of God’s people in every age: to punch holes in the moral, spiritual, social, and political darkness of the world and allow the light of the gospel to bring direction and healing.
    13. So Jesus set headquarters up where? Where people talked funny. Where the outcasts lived. Where people on the periphery reside, who weren’t recognized by the crowd.
      1. Do you hear the beautiful message here? You might have felt like an outcast your whole life. Maybe you were never in the inner group, but always in the darkness or shadows.
      2. It’s YOUR heart that Jesus wants to put His headquarters in today.
        1. But I don’t feel religious enough...so Jesus came to Galilee.
        2. But I don’t feel spiritual enough...so Jesus came to those walking/sitting in darkness
        3. But I feel disqualified...so Jesus came to those sitting out their lives in the dark.
        4. But I don’t feel alive...so Jesus came to those dwelling in death’s shadow.
      3. Who needs the gospel the most? Those who are well or those who are sick? Those who are righteous or those who are sinners?

        Those who have the most light or those who are living the darkest lives?
    14. (17) The work of God was rapidly moving toward the establishing of the glorious kingdom of heaven on earth.
    15. Preach - Kerusso (kay-RU-so) is the Greek word for herald, and the herald was the man who brought a message direct from the king. Barclay
  3. MEN CATCHING (18-22)
    1. ​​​​​​​Jesus showing discipleship 101. Invest yourself in a dozen of peoples lives, living relationally, authentically, & transparently.
      1. Yes, He began to preach (17) but immediately began to call others the task.
    2. (18) Jesus previously met them in Judea (Jn.1:35-42)
    3. Casting a net - A net thrown over the shoulders & spreads out in to a circle as it falls upon the water. It had weights & a draw rope around its edge.
    4. (19) Follow Me - Disciples normally chose to become students of a particular rabbi, rather than a teacher calling his own disciples.
    5. This was a call to constant companionship w/Jesus.
      1. Here would be a new twist to teaching others to evangelize: Instead of classes & courses, methods & technics, read a book or attend a seminar, simply just have someone follow you & watch. (nothing wrong with those)
        1. Jesus said, Hang around me, I’ll make you man-fishers.
    6. Fishers of Men was not a new term. For centuries, Greek & Roman philosophers had used it to describe the work of the man who seeks to catch others by teaching & persuasion.
      1. ​​​​​​​This is only one of many pictures of Evangelism: shepherd/sheep, workers in the harvest field, etc.
      2. Yet, He was speaking to 4 Fishermen [poss 7 in his band of merry men were fishermen]
        1. Augustine, Fisherman Peter did not lay aside his nets but changed them.
      3. Why would Jesus pick over 50% of his team from the Fishermen trade?
        1. They were busy people. Either fishing, catching fish, or preparing or mending their nets. They were courageous & patient people.
          1. Saul was looking for his father's donkeys. David was keeping his father's sheep. The shepherds were guarding their flocks. Amos was farming in Tekoa. Matthew was working at the tax collector's table. Moses was tending his father-in-law's flock. Gideon was threshing wheat.
    7. (20) They immediately left their nets - Let no net entangle those whom Jesus calls to follow him.
      1. They came immediately. They came at all cost. They came w/o question. They came to follow the leader. They came w/o stipulation or reserve.
      2. Following Jesus means leaving some things behind. The Samaritan woman left her pitcher, Matt left his tax table, & blind Bartimaeus left his cloak to follow Jesus.
        1. Our prayer: Lord, help me to be this faithful, & unhesitatingly follow you as long as I live. May no nets detain me.
    8. (21,22) Spurg, These would be the briars upon which he would graft the roses of his grace.
    9. (21) John - the disciple...whom Jesus loved (Jn.13:23, 20:2, 21:7,20)
      1. Now, since he wrote that about himself. You might think how boastful!
      2. But, isn’t the real question, why don’t you think that about yourself?
        1. ​​​​​​​If you can’t...Houston, there’s a problem.
    10. (22) Zebedee, Matthew specifically highlights that James and John…left not only their fishing, but also their father to begin following Jesus.
      1. A loss Zebedee? - No, way. Zebedee let both of his sons walk away from his plans for his boys, i.e. the family business. Would you let your son/daughter go to the mission field? [Do you encourage it? Talk about it w/them? Pray about it w/them?]
    11. Recognize this sudden departure as a sure sign of radical discipleship.
    1. ​​​​​​​(23) A summary statement of Jesus’ public ministry.
      1. You could say Jesus cares about: Church, School, & Healthcare.
    2. (24) The presence of multitudes seeking relief at hot springs, like Hammath-Tiberias (near our hotel) in Galilee testifies to the vast numbers who sought healing in the 1st century.
      1. Also note, unlike the 5th-century b.c. Greek Hippocrates who thought epilepsy was due to demonic activity, Matthew here distinguishes the two.
    3. (25) About a 100 mile perimeter.
    4. Jesus’ province was His parish. His interest? man’s mind/teaching & man’s heart/preaching & man’s body/healing.
      1. Teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
        1. Difference between teaching & preaching is 1 of emphasis & manner not of content
        2. Slide23c "Preaching is the uncompromising proclamation of certainties; teaching is the explanation of the meaning and significance of them." Barclay
      2. Healing - Jesus' ability to heal those with all different kinds of diseases demonstrates that He has authentic power over the damage done by the fall of man. His authority over demons (and those who were demon-possessed) shows He has authentic power over all creation.
    5. Our Lord’s main ministry was teaching and preaching, but his compassion moved him to minister to the physical needs of the people. Warren Wiersbe
      1. ​​​​​​​How tragic that most of the people who followed him wanted his services but not his salvation, the gifts but not the giver.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/matthew-4.html. 2017.
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