The Testing in the Wilderness

Matthew 4:1-11


Step One - Acquaintance

English Translations: There was very little difference between the NRSV and the NIV. The Message was significantly different. For the message I decided to only cite the three quotations from Jesus in response to the test.


Vs. 1 Led by the Spirit Led up by the spirit

Vs. 2 He was famished He was hungry

Vs. 3 Loaves of bread Bread

Vs. 5 Had him stand on the highest point Placed on the pinnacle

Vs. 6 Lift you up in their hands On their hands they will bear you up

Vs. 9 All this I will give All these I will give

Bow Down Fall Down

Vs.10 Away from me Away with you.

The Message

Vs.4 It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth.

Vs.7 Don't you dare test the Lord your God.

Vs.10 Worship the Lord your God and only him. Serve him with absolute single - heartedness.

Textual Criticism

Rough Translation: The word for Devil in this text is diabolos - which is where we get our English word diabolical. The word can be translated "the slanderer. This word was from the Hebrew "the Satan" - which is from a Hebrew root that means the accuser or to act as an adversary.

Step Two - Disposition

Genre: The text is a narrative that makes use of three quotations from the Old Testament. The devil attempts to divert Jesus from the mission God has for his life with three challenges. Jesus answers three challenges with the scripture quotations. This resembles, according to the New Interpreters Bible, the haggadic tales of rabbis who battle each other with scripture. The closest parallels in Matthew are the debates between Jesus and the Jewish leaders - i.e. Matt. 21;23-27; 22:15-23:36. The story is told through a dialogue. Matthew wants us to know that Jesus has done battle with and defeated the devil - the kingdom of this world - before his ministry begins. It is a dramatic dialogue in three acts.

Personal Interaction: 1) What role does the spirit play in Matthew's gospel? 2) What roles does the devil play in the gospel? How does Matthew deal with the problem of evil? Can we even talk about the devil in the pulpit today? If so how do we talk about it? 3) What does it mean for Jesus to be tempted? What does the word mean? How are we tempted? What were the temptations Jesus encountered? What was at stake with each temptation? Do we face the same challenges? 4) The forty days and nights resembles Moses story and the time that Israel spent in the wilderness. What is the significance? 5) Why does the story take place after his baptism and prior to his public ministry? 6) What is at stake here for Jesus? Could he fail the test? 7) What does this story say about the humanity of Jesus? 8) My biggest question revolves around the three citations? Where did they come from? What do they mean to Matthew? What do they mean to us? Are they principles that we can bring into our own faith life? 9) I'm curious about the angels at the end of the text. 10) How does this connect to my congregation at the beginning of Lent? 11) Third scripture is the shema. I want to know more about it?

Organization: (1) 3 B, 4 A (2) 3 B, 4 A, 5 C, 6A. (3) 2 B, 2 C, 3 A, 3 B, 4 A. (4) 3 B, 3 C, 4 B. (5) 3 A, 3 B, 4 B. (6) 3 B, 3 C, 4 A, 5 A, 5 C, 6 C. (7) 3 B, 4 A, 5 C, 6 C 8. 5 A. (8) 3 B, 4 B. (9) 3 B, 5 A. (10) 5 C, 6 A, 6 B. (11) 4 B.

Step Three- Context

Immediate Context: The story follows the baptism of Jesus and precedes the public ministry of Jesus. At the Baptism he is introduced as an adult as the Son of God and confirmed. Then the spirit leads him to the wilderness for the testing. After succeeding against the devil he begins his public ministry. It is apparent to me that this was very intentional on part of Matthew. Following his baptism Jesus had to be prepared and tested for the ministry that would follow. I think there is a possibility for failure of Jesus in the text, because of the humanity of Jesus presented in his hunger. Jesus could fail and choose the easy way and avoid the cross. But Jesus succeeds and chooses the way of the cross. It is important for Matthew that he defeats the devil before his public ministry begins. Throughout the text Jesus will encounter other threats, such as the threat posed later by the Jewish Leadership. Ultimately, Jesus will be crucified but vindicated on the third day. Scene connected to 3:1-17 by "spirit", "wilderness," and "son of God."

Organization of the whole Composition: 1) The devil and or Satan is referred to directly in Matthew 4 other times: Matt 12:26 where Jesus is accused of being an agent of Satan. But Jesus says that the devil cannot drive out the devil, which he does. Matt. 13:39 is the parable of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Satan is sowing weeds. Matt. 16:23 Jesus calls Peter Satan for not understanding that he must suffer and die. Matt. 25:41is the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the context of Matthew's Gospel Satan appears to be the one working against Jesus and his ministry. Always sowing seeds and standing in the way of the new kingdom. 2) The role of the spirit has a significant role in the composition of Matthew. The spirit is referred to 16 different times in NIV. The Holy Spirit is the mover and shaker in Matthew. Matt. 1:18 Mary found to be with child through Holy Spirit. Matt. 1:20 Angel tells Joseph Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matt 3:11 John says Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Matt. 3:17 The Spirit descends on Jesus when he is baptized. Then in Matthew 4:1 the spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. Everything important in Matthew happens through Holy Spirit. Interesting to noote the only unforgivable sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in Matt. 12:31. Also in Matthew 28:19 disciples are instructed to baptize in the name of the Holy Sprit. There are some interesting parallels that can be drawn between this story and the story of the Garden of Gethsemane - Matthew 26:36-45. Again the temptation is to depart from the way of the cross to an easier way.

Issues of Authorship: In this text the author wants to demonstrate that the spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness. In the wilderness he was tested and passed the text. These two confirm that Jesus is the Son of God. The allusions here to the forty days Moses spent on the mountain and the forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness make it clear he is showing Jesus as fulfillment of the promise God made to Israel. Also, just as the character of Israel was formed in the wilderness so was the character of Jesus. Matthew might just have been writing to encourage his congregation to enter the wilderness (spiritual) too to be tested and prepared for their mission. Also Matthew wants us to see the resistance of the Jewish leadership through the lens of this text.

Step 4- Context.

Primitive Christianity: 1) Mark tells the same story as Matthew but only that Jesus was tempted and that's about it. Luke tells a similar version as Matthew, but the three temptations are in a different order. In Mark and Luke the temptations occur during the 40 days; whereas, in Matthew they occur after the forty days. Matthew and Luke draw from Q for their sources. 2) The author of Hebrews discusses this in (Heb 4:14-15 NIV) "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." 3) In the text Jesus is tempted to use his sonship for his own advantage, but he does not. (Rom 5:19 NIV) "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Phil 2:8 NIV) "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" (Heb 5:8 NIV) "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." Jesus did not waver from his goals and choose the easy way out. 4) Fasting is also referred to in Matthew 6:16-18 and 9:14-15. It was a reported cultic practice in Matthew's community. Matthew is the only one who says he fasted. 5) In reference to the lectionary this text has been paired with Paul's discussion of the New Adam in Romans 5:12-19. This text says that through the obedience of one man all will be saved where the disobedience of one man condemned all men. 6) The idea of testing God is seen in Acts. "When the apostles and elders from the Jerusalem church came to Antioch and questioned the admission of the Gentiles into the church, Peter said that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentiles: "Why tempt ye God?" (Acts 15:6-11). 7) In regards to the third temptation this text came to mind. (Mat 16:26 NIV) What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 8) Jesus will hear the words of the tempter again in Matthew 27:40 "If you are the Son of Godů."

O.T. and Judaism: 1) The forty days in the wilderness are reminiscent of Moses forty days on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), Elijah's forty days of fasting (1 Kings 19:8), and Israel's forty days in the wilderness (Num. 14:33, Deut. 8:2). 2) Satan uses scripture in this text from Psalm 91:11 and misuses it. 3) The three quotations Jesus uses are from the Old Testament. A. (Deu 8:3 NIV) "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." This comes following the giving of the Ten Commandments. Point is that the people did not survive on their own power, but by the very word of God. B. (Deu 6:16 NIV) Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. This is a reference to Exodus 17:1-7 where people grumbled about having no water and questioned God's presence and Moses struck the rock and made water. Also same story told in Numbers 20:1-13. But in this story Moses is punished for not following God's commands. C. (Deu 6:4 NIV) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deu 6:13 NIV) Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Came to Israel during their time in the wilderness. It is called the shema and it is a summary of the law given to Moses.

SHEMA (shee' mah) Transliteration of Hebrew imperative meaning, "Hear," (Deut 6:4) and applied to 6:4-9, as the basic statement of the Jewish law. The Shema became for the people of God a confession of faith by which they acknowledged the one true God and His commandments for them. Later worship practice combined Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41 into the larger Shema as the summary of Jewish confession. When Jesus was asked about the "greatest commandment," He answered by quoting the Shema (Mark 12:29). (Holman Bible Dictionary.)

4) There are some interesting parallels between the testing of Jesus and the testing of Job - Job 1:6-12. 5) In terms of the lectionary this reading is paired with the story of the failure of Adam and eve in the Garden when they were put to the test. 6) In reference to the OT quotes it is important to note that the texts from Deuteronomy served an important function for Israel. Soon they would be crossing the Jordan River and taking the Land God promised them. When they entered the land they would be tempted to forget the laws of God and be assimilated into the pagan practices of people already living there. These words were written to remind them of their covenant with God, how God promised them a land, how he delivered them from bondage, and how he then gave them a law. The key to thriving in the land was to remember who they were and who delivered them and the laws that they were given. This will help them maintain their identity and keep their land. In a sense Jesus would be leaving the wilderness for the kingdom of God. He would need to remember who he was and what he was called to do. These words for Deuteronomy help him maintain his course. It was a call to keep single-minded devotion to God and to never fall into the lure of other Gods. This would be the temptation Jesus would face, as did Israel. We must fear the Lord, serve Good unswervingly, and never succumb too the lure of other Gods. 7) Big difference here would be between Jesus testing and Israel's testing is that God tests Israel in the wilderness and that Satan tempts Jesus. 8) Whereas Israel failed it's test, Jesus succeeded.

Hellenistic World

Step 5 - Distillation

Salient Features: When Jesus is baptized a divine affirmation is issued. Jesus is God's son and he is beloved of God. But what does it mean to be God's beloved son? What shape will his ministry take? Where will his ministry lead him? Immediately following his baptism he is led by the spirit into the wilderness to explore what it means to be God's beloved Son. The work to be done in the wilderness is the work of preparation. Like a prizefighter prepares for a boxing match, or a long distance runner prepares for a marathon. Any good Jew would know what is going on here. Jesus is identifying with the Jews who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. As there character was formed in the wilderness so will the character of Jesus be forged by his time in the wasteland. There he would come to depend on God. Looking back from the perspective of the cross we know that road ahead would be a difficult one that would lead to a cross. The way ahead would be one of servant hood, self-denial, and ultimately death. The temptation to choose the easier way had to be very great for Jesus. No doubt he was like any other man who desired a family or fame or comfort. Here we really see the humanity of Jesus at play in this text. Jesus was both divine and human and because he was human he could have chosen a different way, but he did not choose a different way. Instead he chose the way of the cross. The devil comes to Jesus at the end of the 40 day fast when he was the weakest. First he puts doubt into his mind by saying "If you are the son of God?" Then he goes straight for the stomach. He appeals to his physical hunger. Next he goes to the miraculous asking Jesus to put God to the test. He was basically asking Jesus to exploit his power. Lastly, he tempts him with the whole world telling him it will all be his if he will only worship him. Satan is doing two things here essentially. First, he is attempting to get Jesus to choose an easier way than the way of discipline and suffering. Second, Satan is attempting to get him knocked off course. Satan even uses scripture to tempt Jesus. One gets the feeling that our very salvation is in jeopardy here. But Jesus resists through the strength he gained in the wilderness. Yes, Jesus is weak physically but strong spiritually. He resists by holding onto the most basic of all truths. 1) One does not live by bread alone. 2) Do not put God to the test. We are to serve God, and not vice versa. 3) Serve God and God only. All three of these teachings would have been familiar to any practicing Jew for they would recognize them as being lifted directly from the Hebrew Bible. One is reminded here of what Jesus said when he talked about the shame of gaining the whole world but losing your soul. In the end Jesus succeeds and the devil disappears. Throughout his ministry Satan would appear in the less obvious forms of the religious leaders of his day and the lure of choosing an easier way. In the confrontation with Satan Jesus succeeds in those places where Israel stumbles and fails.

Hermeneutical Bridge: The first thing I think of is a film Chocalot. The film is set in a French Village during Lent. At the climax of the movie it is Easter Sunday. The priest steps into the pulpit and delivers the message of the movie. Essentially he says, I will not talk about the divinity of Jesus today nor his divine transformation but his humanity. It appears to me we have spent far too much time focusing on what we should not do and who we should exclude. Rather we should focus on what we should be doing and who we should embrace. Lent is a time when we have been taught to abstain and to avoid certain behaviors. I wonder if we should not take the approach seen in this movie. What we shall do and whom we shall include. It seems to me that perhaps the reason we give into temptation is due to our focus on the things we should not be doing. One could argue this is the approach that Christ approaches in this text. His life was focused in the text toward his future of serving and suffering and he would die to include. As well, he focused on the positives. 1) Our Spiritual Hunger. 2) Our need embrace God's plan for our lives in faith. Not to test God. 3) The One true God we should serve. Another thing that comes to mind is Karl Menniger's Book Whatever Became of Sin. How do we talk about temptation and sin in an age where everyone is a victim of their genetics or environment? RLG makes a good point about how we use scripture in his exegesis. A good sermon could be developed on how we use scripture for the advancement of our own causes. The text instead calls upon us to allow scripture to shape us in accord with God's plan for our lives. The real point of the text seems to be that Jesus enters the wilderness to come to terms with what it means to be God's son. As God's son he will be called take a path of servant hood to the cross. He is tempted with the more popular understandings of what it means to be a political messiah. However, he rejects that temptation and obeys God's call for his life. As Christians our popular culture states that to be a Christian is something that is beneficial to us. It will help us be happy, gain possessions, and success. But what God calls us to is not valued by our culture. The time we have in lent is to come to terms with God what called has called us to as servants. To confess our duplicity and our idolatry. And to repent - meaning to be put on the road to the cross with Jesus. Christianity is not for our own personal gain. Another good possibility would be to use the other lectionary text from Genesis 3:1-7, and Romans 5:12-19 We use the other three texts and talk about The Obedience of Jesus brings Life. Could then connect that Obedience brings life too. To ourselves and too others. Another idea would be to build on the concept of evil in the story. In the story in Genesis Eve is not forced to take the apple - she chooses to take it. In the temptation story Jesus is not forced and he does not take it. Satan in both instances only makes the offer but it is our choice to choose. Evil deeds come from our hands and it is dangerous to place the realm of evil external to us. The old phrase the Devil made me do it is a lie. One of the great lies in the church is that we give Satan a lot more authority in our lives than he deserves. We claim that Satan has power over us and our world by making bad things happen to us. When in reality Satan has no power over us - only the power to entice. Ultimately the power over us comes from Satan. Could begin by saying that the phrase the devil made me do it is a big lie. "We are the choices that we have made." We all need to make choices - and face the consequences of our decisions. As Meryl Streep says in the Bridges of Madison County, "We are the choices that we have made." Eleanor Roosevelt said: One's philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility." Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, p. 143. Could begin with a brief story about a decision that someone made that had shaped him. The time in Lent is about making right choices for our future lives. We have the freedom to choose between good and evil. Could also connect here to Romans 5:12 and note that life comes to us through the obedience of Jesus to God's plan for his life. In this text we see Jesus choose the good over evil in this text. Another approach would be to ask the Lenten Question: What is the Spirit trying to teach me during these forty days of Lent?

Smooth Translation:

Step 6 - Contemporary Address

Description of the Audience: A congregation of 600 in a white upper income planned community. The congregation is made up of a people from a variety of theological backgrounds. For many the season of Lent is new to them.

Goals for the Address: My goal is to encourage people to accept responsibility for the choices they make in life. We are the choices that we make.

Contemporary Address: