Lectionary Year A
February 17, 2002
Matthew 4:1-11

Step V: Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

(JFC) The theological focus of this passage is Jesus and His maintaining the high paradigm of His convictions. The scriptural standards quoted, even by the Devil, are also major concerns in this story. God's Spirit must be the Spirit of God who leads Jesus into this confrontation. This narrative begins to seem to be a story trying to illustrate some Old Testament truths that seek to describe, if not define, the community's calling to be followers of Jesus who refuses to become disloyal to God's will for human lives. The Devil is almost too figurative to have a key role in this text. Jesus' fasting in the wilderness is secondary since it merely sets the stage for this drama. Other minor matters include the various scenes, the wilderness, including the holy city and the temple. They are incidental. The angels at the end are also minor parts, too, because they are expected at the end of such a story even if the Devil hadn't referred to them.

B. Smoother Translation

(JFC) 1 Then the Jesus was led into the wilderness by the spirit to be tested by the Devil. 2 And He was fasting forty days and forty nights. Thereafter, He was hungry. 3 And the Temptor was approaching and said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, say to the stones they are to become bread." 4 But responding He said, "It is written, 'Not by bread alone shall we live, but by every word coming from the utterance/mouth of God'." 5 Then takes Him the Devil to the holy city and sets/puts Him on the highest point of the Temple, 6 and says to Him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from up here to the ground; for it is written that
'The angels of God will be ordered to care for You and upon their hands/power they will carry you, lest you should stumble upon your foot.
7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Not shall you tempt the Lord your God'."
8 Again the Devil takes Him up onto a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, "All these to you I shall give, if you fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus says to him, "Get away, Satan; for it is written, 'the Lord your God shall you worship and Him only/alone shall you serve'." 11 Then leaves Him the Devil, and behold angels come and take care of Him.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(JFC) Eduard Sweizer states, in GNAM, "The crucial point is the unique way in which the question of God is posed. We encounter God, the community is saying, in Jesus, that is, in the man who totally renounced the temptation to use God for his own purposes and entrusted his entire life and death to God. We encounter the 'true God' in the one who rejected the superhuman temptation to 'be like God' (Gen. 3:5) to have power and score successes, the one who proved himself to be 'true man.' This happened sometime in the life of Jesus, sand our section (Matthew 4:1-11) simply concentrates it into a few hours. . . Will we invoke God for our own goals, to be achieved through tactics and violence, or will we allow ourselves to be won by him for the true humanity, which took form in the life of Jesus - that is the real question posed by this narrative."

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