The duel in the desert.


Having shown us who the Branch of Jesse is, Matthew brings us back to the thoughts on chapter one. He is going to establish that Jesus as the very son His Father takes delight in.

Unlike Luke he doesn’t trace Jesus’s ancestry back to Adam but to David. David was a king who succeeded. Adam a king defeated.

Having established that Jesus was the judge of Israel by calling Him the Branch of Jesse, Matthew now introduces Jesus as our champion.

He does this by showing us that Jesus was actually led into a desert.

Matthew 4:1

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

So Matthew lays down the condition of the duel. It’s in a desert. It is a place of desolation. It is hot. It is a place of scarcity.

This is intentional. Moses had recorded for us the first duel of the first man and the serpent.

Genesis 1:29
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed- bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

It was a place of lavish. A place of supply. A place where the wether was perfect.

It was where they met the Lord in the “cool” of the day.

Genesis 3:8
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day …

The conditions for Adam’s duel was perfect. The condition for Jesus was the worst as it could be.

He was alone, hungry and tired. Adam was in a place where he was surrounded by creation his wife abundance and fresh.

Some have suggested that it was his fasting that made him strong. Matthew disagreed. It was His fasting that made Him weak. He says, “it made Him hungry.”

Matthew 4:2
2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

The fasting was necessary to show what the abundance of humanity cannot do but the least of the divine can do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As such it was necessary now for a new son of God to be placed in the worst of situation to be tempted.

The subject is the same. God’s word. “Did God say?” The subject matter is also the same. “The issue of Sonship”.

Whilst you may not agree with me, and say it’s about the temptation to eat, it really about “being like God”.

Genesis 3:5
5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Matthew 4:3
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

“Becoming like God” and “If you are the Son of God”.

Matthew had just recorded the voice from
Heaven saying “this is my Son whom I am well pleased.”

It’s about identity. Jesus saw through it. Eve did not. Adam worst. Both Adam and Eve were already like God in image and in spirit.

Jesus knew who He was. He was the radiance of His Father. Hence this was his reply.

Matthew 4:4
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. ’ ’”

In short He ways saying “I am defined by what God says about me and not the miracles I performed.”

His identity came from what God says about Him and not what His performance says about Him.

The devil having failed in his first attempt now brings Him to the pinnacle of the Temple. He then quotes Psalm 91 and challenges Him to test God’s protection by using God’s word against Him.

The subject matter is now God’s character. To Eve, the snake had portrayed God as a selfish judge who had been most jealous of His glory. He accuses God of having the exclusivity of the knowledge of good and evil.

He now accuses God of not being faithful to His Word. The surprising fact is this. Jesus was taking the very tip of Herod’s temple.

Matthew 4:5
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

What is Matthew’s point here?

I have always been fascinated by this. Was Matthew trying to tell us that Satan took him to a place where Jesus could feel that He would absolute confidence in the Judaistic faith to trust that God would be faithful in His Word.

Perhaps the nature of the temptation would be get Jesus to show himself to be public miraculous performer that would gain fame immediately.

Jesus’s reply was simple. “God’s faithfulness is not to be undermined”. You don’t to put God into a test to prove that He is faithful.

So Jesus in a simple reply tells us God can be taken as His word. His Sonship is as good as the promise announced to Him.

So now Satan brings Him to a higher hill. He showed Him the kingdoms of the world.

Matthew 4:8
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.

What is different here is, there is no question here about Sonship anymore. He was now offering Jesus the position of the anti Christ. The person who would rule the earth. A God in the Kingdom of the Dragon.

He now plays on the possible vanity of Jesus knowing His identity.

He is saying why be God’s son and be obedient? Why not be mine so that all the glory may belong to you without shedding a drop of blood?

What people do not realise here is that once you worship the devil, you may have everything you want, but he has you. He still has everything.

Jesus says no. He knows His identity is defined by what His Father said about Him not the possessions and positions He has.

Thrice He had mentioned. It is written. When I was young I had thought that’s how you use the Bible as your weapon.

I don’t think that was the point. Jesus said the Scriptures was about Him. In other words, His identity is defined by what the Scriptures said about Him.

His Father has just told Him that He was pleased with Him. That was His identity. The Scriptures confirm this.

Matthew wanted a community of people in Galilee to know who they are in Christ.

He wanted them to know their identity is base of what Jesus had said to them and not what the Law of Moses wanted them to be.

I guess that’s why Jesus was brought up to the top of the Temple. It was Satan’s way of telling Him that it was the Law that would secure the Angels catching you.

Jesus’s victory at man’s worst as opposed to Adam’s defeat at man’s best shows us that it is not our circumstances that defines us.

Jesus said “No, it is His Word”. His delight in Me.

So this is how we are to define ourselves. Not by the conditions you are in. Not by what people say about you. Not even when God’s promises seem to fail.

You are defined by God’s pure delight with you.


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