Analysis of Context.
Analysis of Literary Structure.
Analysis of Major Themes.
Analysis of Theological/Interpretive Significance.
What one reads and sees in Matthew 4:1-11 may lead an uninformed Christian to think that Jesus may have been punished for doing wrong. However, the essential purpose behind sending Jesus to have his own experiences in the wilderness has a much larger significance than that. The temptation in the wilderness is an important event in Jesus Christ's life and serves not only as an important life lesson for all Christians but also as an excellent example of how Christ himself was found in tempting situations and how he resisted those temptations and came out triumphantly. At first, glance, reading the events may appear vague and of little or no relevance to Christians, however, on a deeper reading and understanding, one comes to realize the essential message that is being carried out in these events.
Temptation is not new to human beings, as one often faces temptations daily. What sets the temptations of Jesus apart from every-day normal temptation is that in this, Jesus is confronted with evil with the devil's power. And since Christ does not sin, one sees that throughout the scriptures, the wilderness on its own serves to represent a place for preparation, where God sets out to plan his next move. Jesus remained in the wilderness for forty days and nights where he consumed no food as he prepared for what was to follow. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit following his baptism. Jesus faces severe temptations because he was tempted directly by the devil himself, however, Jesus never did yield to the temptations as he is not a sinner.
The purpose of the gospel of Matthew is to display to Christians that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The gospel of Matthew shows the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Old Testament by doing this. Jesus is the promised ‘Son of David” as stated in Matthew 1;1, 9:27, 15:22, and in 21:9 as well. Jesus is the son of God and he has come as the Son of Abraham (1:1) to be with his people and to fulfill everything that the seed of Abraham was meant to do. One may see direct parallels between Jesus and Israel in chapters 1 to 4 where chapter one's genealogy significantly echoes the last books of Israel's scriptures.
Of all the four gospels, the gospel of Matthew sheds light on and explains the significance of Jesus’s name. The name of Jesus reflects God’s intentions of saving Israel. When Jesus goes into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, he is neither brought there by the devil himself nor does Jesus go there on his own, but he is rather led to the wilderness by the Spirit. When man chose the fruit over God, God sent them into exile by sending them off into the wilderness. Although Jesus had not sinned, the purpose of the Holy Spirit leading Jesus into the wilderness is to teach a man how to reply upon on no one else and nothing else but his word.
Part of the test that Jesus undergoes during his stay in the wilderness is to check his humility. Central to the passage of Deuteronomy is the idea of humbleness. The word humble, although not used in Matthew's account, serves as the central idea of the passage in Deuteronomy as seen in 8:2: "to humble you", At 8:16 again one may read: "that he might humble you". Hence, the clear motif appears to be an intentional test to check whether or not Jesus has true humility. Moreover, “and fasting forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry” is a continued allusion to Deuteronomy 8: “He led you these forty years… and allowed you to hunger” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). This passage clarifies the fact that Jesus was fasting for the entire duration of his stay in the wilderness and not just in certain points during his stay there.
The devil aims to tempt Jesus to leave his identification with human beings: "And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the son of God, say that these stones may become bread." The devil's temptation comes as a disguise where the devil assumes the truth about Jesus as one who performs miracles. He accepts this fact simply for the sake of the argument. By asking Jesus to prove himself for what he claims to be and to "say that these stones may become bread" he essentially aims to imply that: “If you were the son of God (which you are not), then you could make stones into bread.” Additionally, he tried to tempt Jesus again by offering that "All these I will give to you if you fall down and worship me."
The prevailing these of Matthew chapter 4:1-11 is essential that of the triumph of good over evil, and the triumph or resistance over temptations. The devil tempts Jesus at his weakest by asking him to "command that these stones become bread" knowing fully well that Jesus is facing compelling hunger at this point. A person who is deeply starved usually hardly has the willpower to turn down food. A famished person would go to any length for food. However, Jesus still resists. Additionally, one may also derive from this that the Devil may have wanted to tempt Jesus to turn the stones into bread not just for him a bit for everyone else. Jesus being compassionate and heavily hungry at the time could have been tempted but he was not.
Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy by saying “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” Furthermore, it states: “He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh” Here, Jesus directs his words to the Israeli. When faced with hunger and wilderness, the Israelites complained about God’s negligence and his failure to look after the people, and in accusing God and questioning his ways, the Israelites failed the test. However, by responding differently and displaying unshakeable faith in God, Jesus neither complains nor does he try to escape of short-circuit his test. This serves as an example of the unwavering faith that Christians ought to have in God, their creator.
Jesus will provide bread and all else that is needed by mankind. He will do so by using all his power to feed the hungry, however, he will never do it by turning his back on god. In other words, it is only by following God and having unwavering faith in him that he can thrive and fulfill his purpose on earth. Jesus cannot begin his ministry by following the devil. The centrality to this is that the Church and Christians alike ought to remember the word of God for it is only in showing faith in God that Christians can be redeemed and saved from temptation. By having faith in difficult times, God tests Christians. When one faces difficult and challenging life situations that may seem hard to bear, one ought to remember how Jesus remained faithful to God and did not question him, unlike the Israelites who failed his test. Having unshaken faith is among the key themes here.
No place is so desolate, challenging, distant, or difficult that Jesus has not faced. However, the gospel promises that the one who is "with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20) is already ahead of his followers and is waiting at the finish line. No test of time or that of temptation is so great that Jesus has not overcome but is only by having faith in the word of God that he manages to overcome each temptation.
In his response to the Devil for asking Jesus to turn stones into bread, Jesus says: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Additionally, a worthy point to note us that Matthew writes “when the tempter came” and not “if the tempter came”. This means that temptation is an inevitable part of life and God is bound to test every one of his followers, Hence, when temptation comes, one has to face it and withstand it until the day of glory because glory is indeed promised if one manages to keep faith and resist temptation.
Questioning the existence of God during difficult times is a common trend in modern society. This is, more often than not, among the key reasons why modern society sees many atheists and agnostics. This is completely against the word of God and very much resembles the way Israelites handled their difficult times which eventually led them to fail the test for not having faith in God’s will. Christ was tempted directly after he was declared the Son of God and right after his baptism. He was tempted regardless of his great privileges and special place as and the relationship he shared as the Son of God himself. Hence, no one can escape temptation. However, if the Holy Spirit, as one who leads into temptation, witnesses the faith one upholds during these times, will save the tempted and deliver them from evil. Hence, the key theme of Matthew 4:1-11 is to have such deep faith that remains unchanged under the most difficult of circumstances. Instead, one is to follow the footsteps of Christ and resist temptation and be redeemed by God.
The types of temptations that Jesus was made to face are generic types of temptations that human beings face even today. The poor face temptations of theft and robbery to feed themselves and their families, those in higher places in the social order face temptations of bribery, others face temptations of adultery, drug abuse, and alcoholism. There are various types of temptations that human beings face on a daily basis. The themes of Matthew is to teach Christians the kind of reward that comes with resisting all forms and types of temptations and hanging in there while having faith that their situation is temporary and they will be delivered from their temptation soon if they resist it and turn to God for guidance.
The temptation of Jesus is linked with his baptism as the symbolism of the water used in the baptism is used to move Jesus from water to the wilderness  just as Israel moved from the Reed Sea to the wilderness. Using the resistance to temptation of Christ as a direct parallel to the failure of the Israelis, Matthew aims to provide a stark contrast of both the situation under similar circumstances and the outcome of both. While the Israelis chose to not show patience and faith in God failed the test of temptation, Jesus came out of his forty-day and forty-night temptation in the wilderness with glory due to his unshaken faith in God.
The theological significance of Matthew lays in the underlying teachings it aims to teach Christmas about temptations of the devil. The power to resist temptation comes not from the individual himself, but rather from God. This power to resist comes from one showing faith in God and believing that this is only a test and thus not give into it but rather tune to God for guidance and power to resist it. The significance of this teaching is to highlight the key underpinnings of the Christian faith and as directed by God through the Bible – that God is the only supreme power and all that one needs is God. Hence, to show respect and faith in him, one has to turn to him in times of difficulties and not question him but rather ask for power and blessings to be guided through a difficult time such as times of temptation.
Matthew chapter 4:1-11 forms a key highlight in the life and experiences of Jesus Christ during his time on Earth. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit right after his baptism. Jesus's stay in the wilderness lasts for forty days and forty nights where he spends each and every day without food resulting in extreme hunger. However, even in a state of mind and body where Jesus is extremely hungry, he gives not into temptation. Unlike the temptations faced by human beings, Jesus is tempted directly by the devil with food and status, however, with the condition that he abandons his people and his faith in God but worships the devil instead. Even in his worst condition, Jesus chooses to have faith in God and displays his faith by not giving in to the temptations and going though each situation with great patience.
What Matthew chapter 4:1-11 aims to teach Christians is to have unwavering faith in God regardless of difficult situations. Difficulties will come and human beings will continue to be tempted, however, in such times it is important to not question or abandon God but to turn to him for guidance and to ask for strength to resist those difficult and tempting times. Each temptation is a test by God and resisting each temptation is one’s way of showing faith in God which will eventually result in their ultimate redemption.
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