CMC Eps 8 – MATTHEW 4: 1-4 – THE TEST





This is podcast #8..  We will be looking at MATTHEW 4:1-4 . .. 

The Title : The TesT

Reading from the Message version:

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”     Matthew 4:1-4 MSG



In podcast 7 we left Jesus standing in the Jordan river.. John had reluctantly baptized him and The Spirit descended on him and God spoke a blessing in an audible voice over him. John’s preparatory mission is officially over.. and Jesus official Messianic ministry has begun. One might wonder ..  what’s next ? 

I think that sometimes when we read the Bible, we can race past some really interesting stuff and not even begin to give it a second thought … maybe not even a first thought. We just ..  read..  If we are not careful, we can get caught , quote.. unquote “reading the Bible”. Like we read ..say… a novel or blog or an article on the internet.  

To ingest the Bible it will take a lot more than the a casual glance.  We will have to slow way down and start asking real questions to dig into what is really happening if we are wanting to gain understanding.  I must confess that for many years I was pretty satisfied with a nominal understanding of most biblical stuff. I remember having said out loud once.. “ I have read the Bible.. I know what it says.. I don’t need to keep reading it over and over “.  That statement makes me cringe now in embarrassment. 

The messages I heard at church were often helpful and I thought that was enough. After all.. the preacher is a professional. Later on, I was instructed that i should read my bible every day.. or.. read a daily devotional. I did that.. it was interesting and helpful. A nice.. smackeral  .. That’s what my wife, Mary calls a little snack. Who doesn’t love a snack ? It only took a few minutes and I could be on my way.

I say all that as a bit of a set up to this passage that has some pretty interesting language and an out of the ordinary plot line. Let’s start with the first sentence. 

 Quoting : “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”   Matthew 4:1 ESV

Jesus was led up by the Spirit. What does that mean ?  Being led by the spirit ? The being led part is pretty easy to grasp. It’s pretty common for someone to say.. follow me and we do. But the Spirit .. how do you follow the spirit ?  Moments earlier, The Spirit was said to have descended upon him.. in the appearance of a dove. Is Jesus following a Dove ? Don’t laugh.. there are plenty of people who are incredibly literal who could start a whole new religion based on Dove worship around this passage alone. 

So if we think we are safe in saying that Jesus is not running around the desert chasing a dove then what is he being led by ? The answer is surely not a what… but a who. This Spirit of God.. that descended on Jesus is also know as The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also known as the third person of the Trinity. God in three persons. The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.  This is clearly not something we can pretend to fully understand.. We can understand and recount what people teach about the Trinity but to actually grasp three distinct personalities being one at the highest level of knowing is something else. We arrive back at the place where our language stops short of being able to adequately represent ideas outside our current reality. 

Unity is a word that we do comprehend a little better.  Quoting from the dictionary : “ The state of being united or joined as a whole “.  Jesus makes this statement in John 14:9. Abbreviated .. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” We can take great comfort in the Unity of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Unity is a big deal to God and holds a lot of mystery. As an example, it is said that when a man and women are “united” in married, that they become one flesh. Did God mean literally that some how two people melt into one person ? Of course not.. It’s a metaphor describing a level of togetherness and unity of life and purpose that transcends non married relationships. We will cover a lot more on this when we reach John 17:21

Later on in the gospels Jesus will inform his disciples that after he leaves earth, The Holy Spirit will come and inhabit his followers, the spirit will guide them, comfort them and lead them into all truth.  He tells his disciples that its actually better for them that he leaves earth and the spirit comes to them. 

If I am aloud to exercise a little God designed imagination about The Trinity and specifically The Holy Spirit I would say there are significant characteristics of The Holy Spirit that sound maternal. I can clearly see a mother leading a child…. comforting them through every kind of trauma or disappointment and instructing them in the ways of life, wisdom and truth. God did say He created man and women in His image and certainly that includes feminine attributes as well as male attributes. Continuing in that line of thinking it’s not to far fetched to think of The Trinity in the form of a nuclear family as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in what at least appears as a type of Mother.  To be clear, I am not making doctrine or dogma out of this but there is more than a little evidence to indicate that the family unit is God’s idea and he likes it a lot. Be fruitful and multiply was his idea and all of nature mirrors this fact. Romans 1:20 says this : “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. “

I don’t think it does me any damage to think in terms of The Trinity as my family. I am told I have been fully adopted into this family of God with full rights as an heir. This way of relating to God also goes a long way to de-institutionalize my Christianity. I am a member of a family not a club member. I have not joined a religiously based political party, corporation or affiliation. I am a son, a child of God and I am loved as such even though I often misbehave, as children often do and need this leading, guiding and comforting. 

Getting back to the desert ..

So the person of The Holy Spirit is guiding Jesus.. into the wilderness. Specifically the Judea wilderness or desert.  The area around where Jesus was baptized is all desert wilderness. In almost any direction you will find incredibly harsh and inhospitable terrain. Extremely hot and dry. It is ruggedly beautiful in the same way that Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada are beautiful. It’s worth googling “ Judea wilderness “ to add some geographical context. It does not seem like the kind of place where you would want to hang out for 40 days.  I once spent 5 hours hiking in an area near there in 105 degree heat and that was more than enough context for me. 

It should be noted that Moses also was led by God to go up a mountain in the wilderness area of Mount Sinai and fast for 40 days. The distance from Jericho where the traditional site of Jesus temptation took place to Mount Sinai is about 246 miles. 

Quoting Exodus 34:28 : “So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”

God does nothing by accident, though He oft gets blamed for things that man and women do that have nothing to do with him. These parallel 40 day wilderness fasts on mountain tops are not coincidental.  These events mark significant beginnings and forever tie Moses and Jesus together in a powerful expression of God’s mysterious plan to rescue the human race. Moses is an archetype or representation of Jesus who is to follow.  The law in the form of the Ten Commandments is a picture of the nature of God and character that the human race was supposed to emulate, being summarized in this way : Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and Love you neighbor as yourself.  This representation of who God is was given to Moses after his 40 day fast. The fast seems to be a kind of preparation to receiving this monumental and foundational revelation.

In Jesus situation, the 40 day fast was to prepare him for his living representation of who God is and what His character is like. No more stone tablets, this time its God visiting the earth in human flesh. God with us, Emmanuel. This Spirit who is leading him is giving him everything needed to combat the attack from the accuser. The accuser is the true meaning of the word satan and it is what he does. 

In both cases with Moses and Jesus on the mountain tops a miracle occurs, they live! No human being can live 40 days without food and water.  A human can survive about three weeks without food but only three or four days without water. The picture for us to see is that God can and does provide a supernatural sustenance for both Jesus and Moses. They both are left in a circumstance that demands their complete dependence on God’s direct care and intervention.  Don’t try this at home !

So, after fasting..  Jesus was hungry.. That, to me seems like a pretty obvious comment, he hasn’t eaten for 40 days. But it does address a particular issue. Some would say, if God was sustaining him then why was he hungry at all? That has caused me to see God’s hand in the world differently then some may say. It appears to me as though God has an immense respect for the processes and organic nature of life. There are significant ramifications and consequences for the actions of human beings and nature itself. God does not seem to alter these natural laws and consequences on a whim.  Gravity works.. pretty much all the time..if God chooses to defy it.. its usually for a very good reason. 

So God has kept Jesus from dying of starvation and dehydration but has not chosen to  alter the his need and hunger for food. This is indeed a prominent human vulnerability. 

The accuser is well aware of this human need and intends to capitalize on Jesus weakened state, not unlike the rest of us. 

Quoting the verse again..   “he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'””

I think its pretty interesting that the first question out of the accusers mouth is designed to question Jesus identity.  “ If you are the son of God ?” .. Satan knows that identity is core to humans. If you want to get a reaction from anyone.. attack their self image. Make them defend who they are and why they have the right to be where they are. 

I think it also exposes what Satan knows and doesn’t know. He is fishing !  He is wondering.. Is he another prophet ? Is he the messiah ?  He looks acts and smells like a human. What is he ?  Who is he ? I find that a little entertaining..

Satan must have been observing Jesus during this fast because he knows that Jesus is hungry. He prey’s upon the weakened and vulnerable, again insert all of us…  He says to Jesus : “command these stones to become loaves of bread “.  It occurs to me that if Jesus wanted to shortcut the process of this test he could have done so at any time.. but he didn’t. He has subjected himself to the Spirits instruction.. even though it made him hungry. 

Jesus’s answer : It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”” The message version says it this way : “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

This is a direct quote from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8 verse 3, written by.. you guessed it .. Moses. 

The word Bread has enormous metaphorical currency in the Bible.. but in a nut shell it represents the basic needs of human existence. Jesus will eventually be referred to as “the bread of life “. Bread is both a physical substance and a spiritual picture. As a food, it will keep you alive for an indefinite period of time. As a picture it represents an image of God’s sustaining power of life itself. 

Satan’s question addresses the fleshly hunger of human bodies and Jesus reply speaks immediately to a higher plain of human need which is the need for humans to be inseparably connected to God’s every word.  Real living is more than an ample storehouse of all things that keep the flesh appeased, there is a need that transcends the flesh and that is a spiritual need. We are more than just flesh and bone and there is something inside of every human that knows it. We crave the depth and sense of meaning that can only come from hearing our heavenly fathers voice say that he loves us. 

I think that’s a great place to stop and to ponder.. “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

The whole world is undergoing a test right now. It will take more than bread and toilet paper to keep us all alive. It will take a steady stream of words from God’s mouth to our hearts to keep us from faltering. The Spirit of God was there to sustain Jesus, He will be there to sustain us.

Until next time ..  I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary. 

I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :

Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.