Read Matthew 4
Sometimes, looking at the original language is helpful. Sometimes it is confusing. Language is no currency exchange where on any given day there is an exact exchange rate. Language is always an approximate fit.
Even today, language varies from decade to decade. Sometimes it seems to vary year to year. There are new words and new idioms and of course, there is slang.
When I was in the United Nations, we had officers from 32 different nations. English was the official language. We had 10 radio channels of which not all were assigned. Channel 1 was not assigned, so if a Russian in the Southern Sector wanted to talk with one of his countrymen in the Northern Sector, he would ask that officer to switch to Channel 1 for a national conversation. Then the two officers would speak in their native Russian.
One evening we were passing the time in the desert talking about all manner of things, and I mentioned that the Americans could never have a private conversation because everyone had to speak English and it didn’t matter what channel we were on, anyone could listen in.
I was surprised when many officers told me that when two Americans were talking to each other, nobody else knew what they were saying. Language is not always as straightforward as it might seem. Exploring various translations of the original language can be helpful or sometimes a rabbit trail that does not produce much fruit, but it is interesting to consider some various translations of a few words in this first verse.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
The root word here is anagó. It is a verb that means, by most translations, to be led or led up, but consider the other meanings attached to it: bring, brought, launched, led, put out to sea, putting out to sea, set sail, setting sail.
Last week when I talked about the baptism of Jesus being like the commissioning of a ship, many of your just thought I was using nautical analogies because all of my cruises were canceled. Consider the validity of this analogy.
The ministry of Jesus set sail. He was underway. The Spirit put him out to sea. In this case, the sea happened to be the wilderness, but Jesus was underway in his ministry and his ministry began with a head-to-head encounter with the devil.
Jesus fasted 40 days and nights. That will bring you to the point of physical weakness that none of us have experienced. He was as weak in the flesh as a person can be, and then he faced the temper—the devil.
We know what comes next. Jesus was hungry. There was no way he was not starving at this point and the devil said, why not just make some bread out of these stones? C’mon now. You’re the Son of God. This would be easy stuff for you, C’mon!
You know the response. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Think to his baptism. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. It all comes down to doing what God says to do, even if you are starved and could turn rocks into rye bread.
The devil didn’t pack up and leave, he took Jesus to the highest part of the temple in Jerusalem. He double dog dared Jesus to jump off. C’mon, you know that your Father will dispatch angels to save you. You won’t even hit the ground hard. The angels will set you down gently. C’mon.
The devil knew God’s words as well, at least one psalm.
Jesus Knew his Father’s words as well. Do not put the Lord, your God, to the test. Read all of Deuteronomy 6 to get the full context. Here’s the short version. God gets really angry if you test him by putting other gods before him. Just do what he says.
This part is prelude to the next temptation. The devil took Jesus up on the highest mountain and told him to take a good look around. For the simple act of bowing down and worshipping his tempter, Jesus could have everything that he saw.
C’mon man. This is the deal of deals. Whatever your Father has sent you to do is going to be difficult at times. This is all yours for one simple act of worship. C’mon.
What’s the real offer here? Skip the trip to the cross and take the immediate payout.
Jesus told the devil to hit the road. It is written: Worship the Lord, your God, and serve him only. Deuteronomy 6 was a popular chapter in this encounter.
Perhaps these temptations remind you of Jacob and Esau. Esau was famished and sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Imagine being 40 days famished and staying the course of what your Father in heaven sent you to accomplish.
It would be so much easier to take immediate gratification. Who could blame a starving man for eating? Who among us could have held out a moment longer?
But Jesus would fulfill all righteousness. The devil hit the road and angels came to attend to Jesus.
Understand that Jesus could have done everything he was tempted to do. We know the 4 gospels. Jesus turned water to wine. He fed multitudes with a couple fish and a few loaves of bread. The wind obeyed him.
Jesus could have done a triple backflip off the top of the temple and landed more gently than if he was diving into a pool.
Of greater importance to Jesus was to do the will of his Father. He did. Now it was time to preach and minister. Jesus identified himself as the light of the world in John’s gospel. Isaiah told the world that this light was coming.
Jesus—the light of the world—has come. Hear the message of the Lord as he began to preach.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.