For my birthday three years ago, my dad and I were in Pahrump, Nevada at a week long gun course. While we were there my dad bought me a blue polo shirt with the logo of the facility we were at. It’s a pretty good shirt, light weight and durable. One day while I was over in Phoenix I was wearing the shirt when I was in Best Buy, and an older lady came up behind me and started asking me questions about some electronic product that she was interested in. When I turned around, she saw the logo on the shirt and apologized, because she thought I worked there. Obviously I didn’t, but we found her an actual employee to help her with her questions.
She thought I worked there because of the blue shirt, which all the workers wear. Have you ever had that happen? Been taken for someone else?
Or maybe something like this. Several months ago I had a man come into my office and ask me if the church could participate in something. I told him that I would take it under consideration and talk with my elders about it. He then said something to me that is the mentality of a lot of people. He said, “Well aren’t you the pastor?” The implication was that since I was the pastor of the church, I should be able to just make decisions and others are supposed to accept them. But I don’t believe that. I believe that, yes, there are decisions that I need to make in the moment, but I try really hard to not always make those decisions without at least the counsel of the elders. I am not God and my word is not law. Rather we are the church, and as God leads, we must follow together and I believe it’s my role to facilitate that movement.
But either by accident or by purpose, people can get mixed up about the roles, jobs, positions, and even identities of people. And it’s this reality of misidentifying who a person is that brings us back into our Matthew series, where we’ll be looking at the first 11 verses of chapter four.
And as we open up to Matthew chapter 4 starting in verse 1, I know it’s been a few weeks since I was last with you, so let’s do a little recap.
In our first six weeks we walked through a lot of information. From understanding the genealogies, to realizing the connections of Jesus to being a successor to Moses, and a King in the line of David. In those weeks we saw the overarching theme of these opening chapters was to help us realize who Jesus was, the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. But throughout these chapters we have seen hints that Jesus is more than that. That Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that he is the unique Son of God the Father, and that Jesus is the eternal God who has come.
This theme of identity continues into chapter 4, where the proclamation of Jesus being the unique Son of God and his Messiahship in the last 3 chapters is called into question. Let’s pick up reading in Matthew chapter 4, starting in verse 1.
“1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’
“4 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
“5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’
“7 Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
“8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’
“10 Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’
“11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
Now we could spend four weeks or more in these 11 verses, but we’re already going to be in Matthew for two years and our goal is not to mine the Scriptures for every nugget in these summer series, but rather to see the overarching themes of the book we’re studying. And to see how each passage builds on those themes.
So with this passage, to placate my own need to dive deep yet still keep us following the overarching themes, I want to give you four aspects of this passage. Two for you to dive deeper into on your own, one that we’ll come back to in a few weeks, and then the overarching theme where we’ll spend most of our time today.
The first two aspects of this passage parallel events in the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus is fasting for forty days, is another one of those connection moments in Jesus’ life that shows him to be a prophet like Moses. These forty days are like the 40 years that the nation of Israel spent in the wilderness during the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It is also a connection to Moses' own 40 days on Mount Sinai in Exodus 34.
The second of these two aspects is a parallel between Jesus’ temptation by the devil and Eve’s temptation by this same spiritual being. Where Adam and Eve are tempted and sinned, we see Jesus overcome the temptation and show himself righteous. This idea of Jesus being the second Adam is what Paul talks about in Romans.
Paul uses this idea of Jesus being a second and righteous Adam. Listen to what Paul states in Romans 5, “14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
Dropping down to verse 18 we get, “18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 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.”
This moment of temptation, is where Adam failed, yet Jesus succeeds leading the first to bring death into the world, and proving the second’s ability to crush it.
That’s as far as we’ll take these two aspects of the passage, and I would encourage you to take a deeper dive into these aspects on your own this week.
The third aspect is the one that we’ll revisit in a few weeks when we get to chapter 5. This aspect is Jesus’ use of “it is written.” This phrase speaks to the need to combat anti-God, both physical and spiritual, forces, with the Word of God. This is both an example for us, in that we need to use the Word of God in our own encounters with anti-God forces, and also speaks to the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7 where Jesus changes “it is written” to “I say”.
We’ll get deeper into this in a few weeks when we start covering chapters 5-7, so I’m going to leave that right there and move onto the big overall theme.
So far in Matthew, the main thrust of the first three chapters is to identify who Jesus is. We are given a lot of parts to that identify. Again, Jesus as a King like David, he’s a prophet like Moses, he’s the unique Son of God, and more if you follow the layers that we talked about before.
But in this passage, we see two of the major identities of Jesus being challenged: his Messiahship and his deity.
In the three temptations that Matthew gives us we see three forms of Messiahship. First there’s the Messiah of Material Supply. This Messiah would come and supply the physical needs of the people. Need food, there’s Jesus over there. Need clothes, go to Jesus. Need help with your rent, there’s Jesus.
But this isn’t the Messiah that Jesus came to be. Does he take care of needs? Yes, we’ll see that several times in places like the feeding of the five and four thousand. Do we see Jesus tell his disciples to take care of others? Yes, we see that in some of the final words Jesus leaves with his disciples in chapter 26. But this Messiah of Material Supply is not Jesus’ primary, nor his most important identity.
In fact, this carries into the disciples ministry where Peter has this encounter with a handicapped beggar in Acts 3:3-8. The passage reads, “3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”
In our own ministry as a church we must be careful to think that our primary work is to make people comfortable in this life; to help with the material needs. But it’s not, our primary work is to point people back to the salvation that is only found in Jesus. Can Jesus supply material needs? Yes, but that’s not the primary function of his Messiahship and therefore the devil’s temptation to become that type of Messiah is rejected by Jesus, and we should reject it as well, though we are to take care of these needs when they arise and if God leads. There’s more here with its connections to the Old Testament use of manna and Jesus’ own teaching in John 6, but let’s move on.
The second temptation sees the devil get Jesus to become a fully Glorified Messiah. One of the key things we’ll see throughout the Gospels is the secrecy of who Jesus is. Though Jesus is out in the public teaching, healing, and doing all sorts of other miracles, he is very secretive of who he is.
In fact, at the center point in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8 verse 27, Jesus has this interaction with the disciples. The passage reads, “27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ 28 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”
Why does Jesus warn them not to tell anyone? Well out of the many reasons why, one reason is this that the term Messiah was seen by many Jews as being a political conquer. But the Messiahship that Jesus was fulfilling was that of the suffering servant. Things had to work themselves out the way that God had intended without the hoopla of what people assumed it to be. And if a person realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, which some did, then they would see that Jesus was a different kind of Messiah. The Glorified Messiah is the conquering king Messiah at which every knee will bow (Phil 2:10-11).
Jesus rejects the temptation of being the Glorified Messiah, because Jesus’ purpose was to be the humble Messiah who dies for the sins of the world, and who will eventually return as the Glorified Messiah.
The final temptation seeks to get Jesus into the position of a Subservient Messiah. In the book of Revelation we get a glimpse at what the devil desires. In Revelation, the devil is called the dragon, and listen to what happens because of the dragon in chapter 13 starting in verse 4. “People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’”
This continues in verse 8, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”
And keeps going in verse 12, “It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.”
The goal of the devil is to move worship away from its rightful place, God, and onto himself. The devil is trying to get Jesus, God come down, to be a servant under him and give the worship that Jesus is deserving to the one who is least deserving of it. This is the devils desire, that he would be as God is. That he would usurp the position of God. Of course Jesus rejects this, because even though he will go through many trials, the most of which is the brutality of the cross, we find out at the end that Jesus reveals, he has all authority in heaven and on earth. And in the final chapters of both Matthew and Revelation, we see Jesus receiving the worship that he is due.
But the devil isn’t the only one who tries to manipulate the Messiahship of Jesus. If we’re honest with ourselves, there are times when we do this as well. Societally, there’s the idea that Jesus is pure love with no judgment. That Jesus would be fine with the sexual promiscuity, the hyper-violent mediums, the vitriol-filled social media, and the injustice that has engulfed our culture. And so there are people who are trying to change Jesus’ Messiahship in our culture into something that would be okay with things that God’s Word says are not. But it’s not just out there in the society, personally, there are times when we ask for things from Jesus and get angry because he doesn’t deliver. Financial, physical, relational desires we have, that we assume God is in agreement with, and when they don’t come about the way we want them to, we get upset. Why? Because Jesus isn’t fulfilling the Messiahship we want him to do.
Yet God wants us to understand his purposes. That, as God states in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”
We must come to the point where we accept Jesus as he is, not the way we desire him to be.
C.S. Lewis has this great quote from the book Mere Christianity in which he states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus rejects any idea that makes him not who he is: the prophesied Messiah who takes away the sins of the world, and the God of Creation come down to do it.
My challenge for you this week, is to walk back through this passage of the temptations of Jesus and for each temptation, ask yourself, “Do I try to make Jesus like that?” Do I try to make Jesus a Messiah who supplies my physical needs? Do I try to make Jesus a Glorified Messiah so I can puff myself up as better than others, instead follow his lead as being a humble servant? Do I try and make Jesus a subservient Messiah who worships me, rather than I who worship him?
It’s easy to fall into these temptations to make Jesus someone other than who he is, because of this we must seek Jesus to be who he says he is. We must read again and again his words, and see who he reveals himself, and then worship him in the truth that he reveals. Let us be a people who’s Jesus is the true Messiah, not the Jesus who the world wants him to be. Amen.