The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
Matt. 4:1, 2
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil" (Matt. 4:1). It is the Word of God that so speaks. There are many who say there is no personal Devil; God says there is, and that our Lord was led of the Holy Spirit to be tempted by Him. If there is no personal Devil, then the Word of God is untrue; if the Word of God is untrue, then there is no Truth; if there is no Truth, then there is no God, and so it goes. But we know that the Word of God is true, and that the Lord Jesus was led of the Holy Spirit, immediately after His anointing and immediately preceding the beginning of His ministry, into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan.
First, we must look at the word "tempt." It has the meaning, to entice or to allure, especially toward wrongdoing, with the thought that there is response in the object. It also means, to try or to test. Our Lord is and was absolutely holy, there was in Him no sin; He was perfect in His Manhood and in His Godhood. There was no "old nature" in Him, no iniquity; consequently He could not sin. The word tempt here can only mean test.
Suppose one had a lump of pure gold. Gold is tested by being dipped in acid; if it is entirely pure, the acid does not affect it. Such was the testing of our Lord by Satan. He was pure throughout, and the testing resulted in victory for Himself, and defeat for the Devil.
The Word tells us that our Lord was "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). The three temptations with which Satan tried to beguile the Lord Jesus, covered the full field of possible temptations to you and to me, "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16), the temptations under which Adam and Eve fell, in Eden. Satan's whole object was that the Lord Jesus should act for Himself, independently of His Father.
Matt. 4:3, 4
"And when the Tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:3, 4). The first temptation came to the Lord as Man. Satan is very subtle. He did not accost our Lord with an invitation to do some great and obvious evil, but attacked Him with a suggestion that at first glance would hardly seem contrary to God's will. The Lord had been fasting forty days. He was hungry, and Satan suggested that the Lord satisfy that hunger. "If Thou be the Son of God" -- Satan did not doubt Jesus' Deity, for he knew that He was God. That was why he tried through Herod to have Him slain when but a child. It is in the sense of "Since Thou be the Son of God" that he appealed to Him. Now what would be wrong, since the Lord Jesus was God, in His satisfying His hunger? Simply this: He had come to earth as a man, and as Man He was subject to the physical requirements of man. Had the Lord changed the stones to bread to satisfy His hunger, might He not also have refused the agony of the Cross when the time came? And further, there is no recorded miracle ever performed by the Lord Jesus which was not to the glory of God; following Satan's suggestion would have been acting under His own will, not His Father's. So He answered, "It is written," and quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3.
"Then the Devil taketh Him up into the Holy City, and setteth Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over Thee, and in their hands shall they bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" (Matt. 4:5-7). The second temptation came to the Lord as Messiah. Satan suggested to our Lord a way which would assuredly convince Israel of His Messiahship, for if they should see Him gliding slowly through the air and landing safely on the street, they would know that He was God manifest in the flesh. Satan had been defeated by Scripture in the first temptation, therefore he quoted Scripture in the second case. But he did as he and his agents always do; he misquoted, leaving out the important phrase "and keep Thee in all thy ways" (see Ps. 91:11, 12). It is significant that though the Lord Jesus did not descend upon Jerusalem in the way Satan suggested, when He comes again He will descend in glory upon the Holy City, and will be accepted by His own. Our Lord knew the words which Satan left out, "to keep Thee in all Thy ways," and He knew that the Father's way was the way He should come unto His own in humiliation, so again He answered, "It is written," quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16.
"Again, the Devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the Kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto Him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:8-10). The last temptation came to the Lord as King. Satan, the prince of this world, stood there on the mountain top and offered to our Lord the Kingdoms which are his, and which one day will be the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. "All these things," all he had he would give if Jesus would fall down and worship him. He was still the usurper. Before the creation of the world, before his fall, Satan had said, "I will ascend into Heaven. ... I will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:13, 14). It was the worship due to God that he wanted ages before, and it was still his desire. But God has promised that Satan will be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, ... and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10).
The Lord Jesus, having been tempted in all points, apart from sin, said, "Get thee hence, Satan," and again, "It is written." "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Deut. 10:20).
"Then the Devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him." Every child of God has the power over Satan and his wiles that our Lord had. We have been baptized of the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us, and we have the Word of God which is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). The Lord, tested in His humanity, did not take recourse to His Deity, but fought the devil with the very weapons which we have, to defeat him. Yielded to the Holy Spirit, Christ living in us, and feeding on His Word, we may shield ourselves from every fiery dart of the enemy. "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:11).
Thank God, Satan is a defeated foe, his head has been bruised at Calvary. Praise God for the Lord Jesus, "the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sin of the world."
We must always bear in mind that the Author of the Word of God is the Holy Spirit. Critics of the Bible continually call attention to the fact that the chronology of the life of the Lord Jesus is apparently inaccurate, and that the four Gospel records do not agree. Had the Holy Spirit been pleased to give us a full account of the life of our Lord, including every detail in its chronological order, He could have done so. But for His own purposes the Spirit chose to have recorded through the human authors four separate accounts covering certain events in the life of Christ, each of which should portray the Lord in a different character: as the King, as the Servant, as the Man, as God manifest in the flesh, the Only Begotten of the Father. Through Matthew the Holy Spirit has written of the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of the Jews, Who presented Himself to His own who rejected Him. Consequently the Gospel according to Matthew is concerned only with those details of the life of Christ which pertain to His character as King.
There was a very obvious interval of time between that which is recorded in Matthew 4:11, "Then the Devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him," and the twelfth verse, "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee." The events which transpired during this period may be found in John's Gospel, beginning at the thirty-fifth verse in chapter one. It was when our Lord went into Galilee that He began to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom: "Repent: for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." Matthew began the record of the official work of the King after the herald, John, had been rejected and imprisoned. The Lord then left Judaea and went into Galilee. It is the old story over again: there was no room in the inn, and so He was born in a stable; there was no safety in Judaea, and so He had to be taken as a child into Egypt; there was no place for Him in Jerusalem, and so He departed into Galilee.
"Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, ... that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet" (Matt. 4:12-14).
"And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum." That is all that Matthew's Gospel records of Jesus of Nazareth leaving the place where He had lived for nearly thirty years. There is an interesting account in Luke 4:16-30 of the reason for His departure. In the synagogue on the Sabbath the Lord Jesus had been reading from the prophet Isaiah, and He had come to one of those portions in which the prophet had foretold of the coming of Messiah, but where once again the promises of His first and second comings were intermingled, Isaiah 61:1, 2, but our Lord knew the Word, divinely, and He read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." And He closed the book. Why did He stop there? The verse in Isaiah goes on, "And the day of vengeance of our God." He stopped there because those things spoken of Messiah up to that last clause have to do with His first advent; the last clause is still in the future. The Lord Jesus stopped reading at that point, and said: "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." In other words: "I am the Messiah; I am He of Whom the prophet wrote." But when He went on to indicate that only the Gentiles would receive Him, "all they in the synagogue ... were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill ..., that they might cast Him down headlong. But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way, and came down to Capernaum" (Luke 4:28-31).
Matt. 4:15, 16
So God brought it about that our Lord should go into Capernaum of Galilee, the darkest and most depressed province, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet (in Isa. 9:1, 2), saying, "The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (Matt. 4:14-16). The Jews of that day comprehended the contempt in which Galilee was held, and it was there that God chose that our Lord's ministry of the Gospel of the Kingdom should begin; not in the great temples and palaces and cities, but in Galilee of the Gentiles, "a portion of the country which had been overrun more than any other by the foreign invader, and therefore known as the region of the shadow of death." Here it was that the new Light should arise and manifest Himself, the Light that was to be salvation to all that believe on His Name.
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent; for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). Here was the King ready to establish the Kingdom. The Kingdom being "at hand" meant that all had been accomplished which was necessary before the bringing in of the Kingdom. God in His foreknowledge knew that Israel would reject their King and His Kingdom; nevertheless here the King offered Himself, and theirs was the choice, whether they would accept or reject Him. The Kingdom was "at hand;" it was set aside, but there will come another day when heralds again shall announce "The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." In that day "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:7, 8).
In John 1:35-46, while John the Baptist was still at liberty witnessing, before the Lord Jesus had departed into Galilee, is the story telling of Andrew and Simon Peter becoming believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sin of the world. We call attention to this because often the "Follow Me" (Matt. 4:18-20) is used as the Gospel call to these two brothers. The Lord was not calling them in the record of Matthew, for this was at a later date, after John had been imprisoned. "Follow Me" is not the Gospel; "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" is the Gospel. "Follow Me" is the call to the believer for service. And having been called of God, Andrew and Simon Peter immediately answered the call. These were simple fishermen, but the Lord used their vocation to a greater calling: "I will make you fishers of men." Fish were caught to die and be eaten; men were called to live and to be fed. Of all those to whom the Lord Jesus spoke, only the simple folk of Galilee responded; not the lordly Pharisees or the brilliant Sadducees, but fishermen: Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John; "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise" (1 Cor. 1:26, 27). And so we who are His elect should respond to any call to service in His Name, ready to forsake all and count all things but refuse that we may be used to the glory of His Name.
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, ... preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness" (Matt. 4:23). There is much teaching today of healing by supernatural power, a sign that the Lord's return and a new dispensation draw nigh. Healing is associated with the Gospel of the Kingdom, an outward sign that the King is God. "The Gospel of Grace needs no sign outwardly by healing of disease to demonstrate that it is God-given. Nowhere in the Epistles have we the promise that Gospel preaching is to be connected with healing of every bodily weakness and disease" (A.C. Gaebelein).
The Lord Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom from this time until its final rejection by Israel, recorded in Matthew twelve. "And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan" (Matt. 4:25). What a glorious picture? No -- what a sad picture! Our Lord was not deceived by the multitudes; He knew how shallow were their praise and conviction, He knew that within a short time they would revile Him and kill Him. Yet He loved them enough to die for them. Glorious Saviour! "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).