Anchor Sunday School Class
Matthew Chapter 4
Life Application Commentary
SATAN TEMPTS JESUS IN THE WILDERNESS / 4:1-11 / 18
From Jesus' temptation we can learn that following our Lord can bring dangerous and intense spiritual battles. We won't always feel good; we will experience times of deprivation, loneliness, and hostility. Jesus' temptation also shows that our spiritual victories may not always be visible to the watching world. Above all, it shows that we must use the power of God to face temptation and not try to withstand it in our own strength.
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.NKJV The word "then" indicates an important connection of the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. The same Holy Spirit that sent Jesus to be baptized, then sent Jesus into the wilderness. The temptation was a divine necessity to prove Jesus' messianic purpose. Led up by the Spirit, Jesus took the offensive against the enemy, Satan, by going into the lonely and desolate wilderness to face temptation. In the Old Testament, the "wilderness" (or "desert") was a desolate and dangerous place where wild animals lived (see, for example, Isaiah 13:20-22; 34:8-15).
"Devil" in Greek means "accuser"; in Hebrew, the word "Satan" means the same (4:10). The devil tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, and here he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Satan is a fallen archangel. He is a real, created being, not symbolic, and is constantly fighting against those who follow and obey God. The verb "to be tempted" describes continuous action because Jesus was tempted constantly during the forty days. The word "tempted" means "to put to the test to see what good or evil, strengths or weaknesses, exist in a person." The Spirit compelled Jesus into the wilderness where God put Jesus to the test—not to see if Jesus was ready, but to show that he was ready for his mission. Satan, however, had other plans; he hoped to thwart Jesus' mission by tempting Jesus to do evil. Satan tried to get Jesus to declare his kingship prematurely. Satan tried to get Jesus to take his messianic power into his own hands and to forsake his Father's will. If Jesus had given in, his mission on earth—to die for our sins and give us the opportunity to have eternal life—would have been lost. For more on Satan, see 1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:1-2; Luke 10:18; Revelation 20.
The devil's temptations focused on three crucial areas: (1) physical needs and desires, (2) possessions and power, and (3) pride (see 1 John 2:15-16 for a similar list). This temptation by the devil shows us that Jesus was human, and it gave Jesus the opportunity to reaffirm God's plan for his ministry. It also gives us an example to follow when we are tempted. Jesus' temptation was an important demonstration of his sinlessness. He faced temptation and did not give in.
TIME OF TESTING
This time of testing showed that Jesus really was the Son of God, able to overcome the devil and his temptations. A person has not shown true obedience if he or she has never had an opportunity to disobey. We read in Deuteronomy 8:2-3 that God led Israel into the desert to humble and test them. God wanted to see whether or not his people would really obey him. You too will be tested. Because you know that testing will come, you should be alert and ready for it. Remember, your convictions are only real if they hold up under pressure!
4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.NRSV Jesus fasted during his time in the wilderness—going without food and perhaps even water, though some fasts allowed food and water only at night. Fasting was used as a spiritual discipline for prayer and a time of preparation for great tasks that lay ahead.
The number forty brings to mind the forty days of rain in the great Flood (Genesis 7:17), the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18), the forty years of Israel's wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5), the forty days of Goliath's taunting of Israel prior to David's victory (1 Samuel 17:16), and the forty days of Elijah's time of fear in the wilderness (1 Kings 19:8). In all those situations, God worked in his people, preparing them for special tasks.
At the end of this forty-day fast, Jesus obviously was famished. Jesus' status as God's Son did not make this fast any easier; his physical body suffered the severe hunger and pain of going without sustenance. The three temptations recorded here occurred when Jesus was at his most physically weakened state. But Satan could not weaken Jesus spiritually.
Jesus wasn't tempted inside the temple or at his baptism but in the desert, where he was tired, alone, and hungry, and thus most vulnerable. The devil often tempts us when we are at our weakest point—under physical or emotional stress (for example, lonely, tired, weighing big decisions, or faced with uncertainty). But he also likes to tempt us through our strengths, where we are most susceptible to pride. We guard against his attacks when we start the day with prayer, build our attitudes around the Bible's truth, and depend on God's Holy Spirit to keep us from spiritual harm.
4:3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."NRSV "The tempter" is another name for the devil (4:1), Satan. Jesus may have finished his fast, but Satan was not finished with his temptations. In fact, his first effort with Jesus was to tempt him to do the obvious. "You've been fasting and you're famished," Satan said. "Why don't you just turn some of these stones into bread and have yourself a small meal?" What could possibly be so wrong about that? But there was much more going on here than a seemingly compassionate offer for a hungry person to have lunch.
Satan phrased his temptation in an interesting manner. He said, "If you are the Son of God." The word "if" did not imply doubt; both Jesus and Satan knew the truth. Instead, Satan tempted Jesus with his own power. If indeed Jesus was the Son of the one true, all-powerful God, then Jesus certainly could command these stones to become loaves of bread if he so chose in order to satisfy his hunger. "God's Son has no reason to be hungry," Satan suggested. Satan did not doubt Jesus' sonship nor his ability to turn stones to bread. Instead, he wanted Jesus to use his power in the wrong way at the wrong time—to use his position to meet his own needs rather than to fulfill his God-given mission.
In later miracles Jesus did supply baskets full of bread, but he supplied them for a hungry crowd, not to satisfy himself. And he did the miracles in God's timing for God's purposes as part of his mission (see 14:13-21; 15:32-39).
4:4 But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"NRSV Jesus saw through Satan's scheme. Jesus did not attempt to get into a discussion with Satan (as Eve had done); instead, he answered with words from what is written in Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. The words in Deuteronomy describe God's lesson to the nation of Israel. This testing was designed to help Israel depend on God:
Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3 nrsv)
In all three quotes from Deuteronomy, found in Matthew 4:4, 7, and 10, the context shows that Israel failed each test each time. Therefore, Jesus conveyed to Satan that while the test may have caused Israel to fail, it would not work with Jesus. Matthew showed the spiritual superiority of Christ over the nation.
Jesus, God's Son, humbled himself in the wilderness, voluntarily undergoing the trial of extreme hunger in order to learn obedience through suffering. Jesus came to earth to accomplish the Father's mission. Everything he said and did worked toward that goal; nothing could deter or distract him. Jesus understood that obedience to the Father's mission was more important than food—no matter what his physical body said, no matter what Satan said.
To truly accomplish his mission, Jesus had to be completely humbled, totally self-abased. Making himself bread would have shown that Jesus had not quite set aside all his powers, had not humbled himself, and had not identified completely with the human race. But Jesus refused, showing that he would use his powers only in submission to God's plan and that he would depend on God, not his own miraculous powers, for his daily needs. Jesus lived not by bread alone; Jesus truly lived and served by every word that comes from the mouth of God, giving himself completely to God's mission. Matthew shows that we should follow Jesus' example and depend on God.
Jesus was hungry and weak after fasting for forty days, but he chose not to use his divine power to satisfy his natural desire for food. Food, hunger, and eating are good, but the timing was wrong. Jesus was in the wilderness to fast, not to eat. And because Jesus had given up the unlimited, independent use of his divine power in order to experience humanity fully, he wouldn't use his power to change the stones to bread. We also may be tempted to satisfy a perfectly normal desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time. If we indulge in sex before marriage or if we steal to get food, we are trying to satisfy God-given desires in wrong ways. Many desires are normal and good, but God wants you to satisfy them in the right way and at the right time. True discipleship means learning from Christ how to know the right ways and right times. Seek the help of a pastor, youth leader, or mature Christian friend to help you get started.
4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.NIV This temptation is set in the holy city, that is, Jerusalem, the religious and political seat of Palestine. The temple was the religious center of the Jewish nation and the place where the people expected the Messiah to arrive (Malachi 3:1). Herod the Great had renovated the temple in hopes of gaining the Jews' confidence. The temple was the tallest building in the area, and this highest point was probably the corner wall that jutted out of the hillside, overlooking the valley below. The historian Josephus wrote about the enormous height from the top of the temple to the bottom of the ravine below. From this spot, Jesus could see all of Jerusalem behind him and the country for miles in front of him. Whether the devil physically took Jesus to Jerusalem, or whether this occurred in a vision is unclear. In any case, Satan was setting the stage for his next temptation.
4:6 And said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"NKJV Jesus had quoted Scripture in response to Satan's first temptation. Here Satan tried the tactic with Jesus. Satan used Scripture to try to convince Jesus to sin!
Again Satan began with "If You are the Son of God." As in 4:3, Satan was not suggesting doubt, but rather saying, "If you're God's Son, then certainly God will want to protect you from harm. So throw Yourself down from this pinnacle so that God will send his angels to protect you." Then Satan quoted words from Psalm 91:11-12 to support his request. The psalm describes God's protection for those who trust him. Psalm 91:11 begins, He shall give His angels charge over you; verse 12 continues, In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Some scholars believe that Satan wanted Jesus to take advantage of the prophecy in Malachi 3:1; the people believed that this prophecy meant that the Messiah would appear suddenly at the temple. What a spectacular proof of Jesus' messiahship this would be if he suddenly appeared on the pinnacle of the temple before all the people and then jumped off, only to be carefully placed on the ground by God's angels. Surely everyone would believe then.
More likely, however, this temptation did not focus on Jesus proving to the people that he was the Messiah. Instead, Satan was focusing on Jesus' relationship with his Father. Satan wanted Jesus to test that relationship to see if God's promise of protection would prove true.
What a sobering thought that Satan knows Scripture and knows how to use it for his own purposes! Sometimes friends or associates will present attractive and convincing reasons why you should try something that you believe is wrong. They may even find Bible verses that seem to support their viewpoint. Study the Bible carefully, especially the broader contexts of specific verses, so that you understand God's principles for living and what he wants for your life. Only if you really understand what the whole Bible says will you be able to recognize errors of interpretation when people take verses out of context to make them say what they want them to say. Choose your Bible teachers carefully. We have much to learn from others. Capable and wise teachers often present the broader context to help us grow in our Bible knowledge.
Satan was quoting Scripture out of context, making it sound as though God protects even through sin, removing the natural consequences of sinful acts. Neither jumping from the roof in a public display or jumping in order to test God's promises would have been part of God's will for Jesus. In context, the psalm promises God's protection for those who, while being in his will and serving him, find themselves in danger. It does not promise protection for artificially created crises in which Christians call to God in order to test his love and care. We should not test God, as Jesus will explain (see the following verse).
4:7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"NRSV Jesus would not get into a discussion with Satan about this second temptation, as he had also refused to do in the first. Instead, Jesus quoted from Scripture again, but, contrary to Satan's method, Jesus quoted with an understanding of the true meaning. No matter what the words that Satan quoted may have sounded like (that is, they seemed to say that no matter what Jesus did, God would protect him), the facts were that while God promises to protect his people, he also requires that they not put him to the test.
Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah" (nrsv). In this passage, Moses was referring to an incident during Israel's wilderness wanderings, recorded in Exodus 17:1-7. The people were thirsty and ready to mutiny against Moses and return to Egypt if he did not provide them with water. God supplied the water, but only after the people had "quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (nrsv).
Jesus could have jumped from the temple; God could have sent angels to bring him safely to the ground. But for Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple would have been a ridiculous test of God's power, and it would have been out of God's will. Jesus knew that his Father could protect him; he also understood that all his actions were to be focused on fulfilling his Father's mission, even if it meant suffering and death (which, of course, it did).
KNOW THE WORD
Jesus was able to resist all of the devil's temptations because he not only knew Scripture, but he also obeyed it. Ephesians 6:17 says that God's Word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Knowing Bible verses is an important step in helping us resist the devil's attacks, but we must also obey the Bible. Note that Satan knew Scriptures, but he failed to obey them. Knowing and obeying the Bible helps us follow God's desires rather than the devil's.
4:8-9 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."NRSV The obvious impossibility of being able to see the entire world from one mountaintop makes little difference to this story, but it supports the view that this experience may have been visionary. The focus is not on the mountain, but on the kingdoms of the world that were (and are) under Satan's dominion. Presently, Satan is "ruler of this world" (John 12:31 nrsv). Luke records Satan's words at this temptation as: "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please" (Luke 4:6 nrsv). Satan offered to "give" dominion over the world to Jesus. Satan knew that one day Jesus Christ would rule over the earth (see Philippians 2:9-11). The offer wasn't evil, but it challenged Jesus' obedience to God's timing and will. Satan's temptation was, in essence, "Why wait? I can give this to you now!" Of course, he would never really give them away because the offer had a catch. Jesus would have to fall down and worship Satan.
Satan tempted Jesus to take the world as an earthly kingdom right then, without carrying out his plan to save the world from sin. For Jesus, that meant obtaining his promised dominion over the world without experiencing the suffering and death of the cross. Satan offered a painless shortcut. But Satan didn't understand that suffering and death were a part of God's plan that Jesus had chosen to obey. Satan hoped to distort Jesus' perspective by making him focus on worldly power, not on fulfilling God's plans. In addition, Jesus would have to denounce his loyalty to the Father in order to worship Satan. Satan's goal always has been to replace God as the object of worship.
4:10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"NKJV Jesus once again met temptation with Scripture. Quoting from Deuteronomy, Jesus dismissed Satan with the words "away with you." The temptations boiled down to a choice between God and Satan. No one can worship and serve both. For Jesus to take a shortcut to the goal, ruling the world by worshiping Satan (4:9) would be to break the first commandment, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. . . . You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him . . ." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13 nkjv). Jesus would take the path of submission to God. Jesus would worship and serve the Lord alone. Only by doing so would he be able to accomplish his mission of bringing salvation to the world.
The devil offered the whole world to Jesus if Jesus would only bow down and worship him. Today Satan offers us the world by trying to entice us with materialism, sex, and power. The devil would like us to believe that "life is short, get all you can!" Even Christian leaders find themselves tempted to build empires here on earth. But Satan requires people to pay for such success by selling their souls to him. We must resist temptations in the same way that Jesus did. If you find yourself craving something that the world offers, quote Jesus' words to the devil: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Then follow that advice, with the support and prayers of Christian friends.
4:11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.NIV The devil could not stay when Jesus told him to go away (4:10). Jesus is Satan's superior; Satan must do as Jesus commands. So the devil left Jesus. Luke records that Satan "left [Jesus] until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13 niv). This would only be the first of many encounters that Jesus would have with Satan's power.
That angels came and attended him in no way lessens the intensity of the temptations that Jesus faced. The angels may have given Jesus food and drink because the Greek word diekonoun, usually translated "ministering" or "attending," can also mean "serving food" (see 1 Kings 19:5 where angels ministered to Elijah). More likely, the angels' ministry was spiritual in nature—attending to Jesus' spiritual needs. The verb indicates continuous action. As Satan's temptations lasted continuously during the forty days, so did the ministrations of the angels.
Angels, like these who waited on Jesus, have a significant role as God's messengers. These spiritual beings were involved in Jesus' life on earth by (1) announcing his birth to Mary, (2) reassuring Joseph, (3) naming Jesus, (4) announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds, (5) protecting Jesus by sending his family to Egypt, and (6) ministering to Jesus in Gethsemane. Angels are continuously present. Hebrews 1:14 defines angels as messengers for God and ministers to people. They show compassion for human beings. Passages such as Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:10; Acts 12:14-15; and Revelation 19:10 support the idea of guardian angels. As agents of God, angels bring special help to believers (Acts 5:19-21; 12:7-10).
SOURCE OF STRENGTH
Jesus was tempted by the devil, but he never sinned! Although we may feel dirty after being tempted, we should remember that temptation itself is not sin. We sin when we give in and disobey God. Remembering this truth will help us turn away from the temptation. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus "has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin" (niv). He knows firsthand what we are experiencing, and he is willing and able to help us in our struggles. When tempted, turn to God for strength by a short prayer, make a phone call to a Christian friend, or find a quiet place to pull out your Bible and read a psalm.
JESUS PREACHES IN GALILEE / 4:12-17 / 30
Jesus moved from Nazareth, his hometown, to Capernaum, about 20 miles farther north. Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, became Jesus' home base during his ministry in Galilee. The Gospels do not say why Jesus moved, but Capernaum offered better possibilities for ministry. (1) It was farther away from the intense opposition of the Pharisees in Nazareth. (2) It was a busy city, so Jesus' message could reach more people and spread more quickly. (3) It was home to several of the disciples and could provide extra resources and support for his ministry. Matthew explained how Jesus' move had been prophesied in Scripture. Jesus' actions, words, and movements showed his obedience to God's will and fulfilled the Scriptures about him. Matthew continued to assure his Jewish readers that Jesus' life fulfilled Scripture and that Jesus truly was the promised Messiah.
4:12-13 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.NIV Matthew mentioned the arrest of John the Baptist as merely a signal for the ministry of Jesus into Galilee, his home region. He moved from Nazareth (where his family had settled, 2:23) to Capernaum. Luke explained that John had been put in prison because he had publicly rebuked King Herod for taking his brother's wife (Luke 3:19-20). John's public protests had greatly angered Herod, so he put John in prison, presumably to silence him. The Herods were renowned for their cruelty and evil; Herod the Great had ordered the murder of the babies in Bethlehem (2:16). The Herod who had imprisoned John was Herod Antipas; his wife was Herodias, Herod Antipas's niece and formerly his brother's wife. The imprisonment of John the Baptist was only one evil act in a family filled with incest, deceit, and murder. (The full story is told in 14:1-12.)
Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the original twelve tribes of Israel. They had been allotted this territory and had settled it during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua (see Joshua 19:10-16, 32-39). "By the lake" refers to the area around the Sea of Galilee (also called Sea of Tiberias or Lake of Gennesaret).
4:14-16 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned."NKJV Matthew continued to show how all of Jesus' life, even his travel, followed God's plans and fulfilled Scripture. Some Jewish readers may have wondered why Jesus' ministry was not focused in Jerusalem—wouldn't the promised Messiah begin by speaking in the temple itself? However, Matthew explained that Jesus' move to the region of Galilee where Capernaum was located fulfilled [that] which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 9:1-2. Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be a Light to the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.
As noted above, this area had been the territory of these two tribes of Israel after the conquest of Canaan. When the Assyrians invaded and captured the northern kingdom of Israel, these tribes to the north were among the first to fall. "In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria" (2 Kings 15:29 niv). After conquering a nation, usually Assyria would deport all the people living there and then repopulate the area with others. All who resettled the area were pagans, Gentiles—thus Isaiah called the area Galilee of the Gentiles. While Jews eventually moved back into the area, the spiritual darkness over the land would continue for centuries until a great light, in the form of the Jews' Messiah, would come to live among the people. These words foreshadow Jesus' mission: He came to preach salvation by grace even to those in the deepest spiritual darkness, and he brought that message to the entire world—Jews and Gentiles.
4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."NIV Jesus started his ministry with the very word that people had heard John the Baptist say: Repent. The message is the same today. Becoming a follower of Christ begins with repentance, turning away from our self-centeredness and self-control. The next step is to turn the right way, to turn toward Christ and believe in him.
The "kingdom of heaven" means the same as the "kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke. Matthew used "heaven" instead of "God" because the Jews, out of their intense reverence and respect, did not pronounce God's name. The Old Testament prophets often spoke of the future kingdom, ruled by a descendant of King David, that would be established on earth and exist for eternity. Thus, when Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is near," the Jews understood him to mean that the Messiah had come to inaugurate his long-awaited earthly kingdom (see the notes on Matthew 3:1-2).
Of course, this caused great excitement among the people. The problem arose, however, in misunderstanding the nature of this kingdom and in timing its arrival. The kingdom of God began when God entered history as a human being. But the culmination of the kingdom of God will not be fully realized until all evil in the world has been judged and removed. Christ came to earth first as the suffering Servant. When he returns, he will come as King and Judge to rule over all the earth. The kingdom begun with Jesus' birth would not overthrow Roman oppression and usher in universal peace. The kingdom of God that began quietly in Palestine was God's rule in people's hearts. Thus, the kingdom was as "near" as people's willingness to make Jesus king over their lives. As Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21 niv). The culmination of the kingdom may still be many years away for us, yet its spiritual reality is as near as accepting Jesus as Savior.
FOUR FISHERMEN FOLLOW JESUS / 4:18-22 / 33
Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their fishing business and become "fishers of men," to help others find God. Jesus was calling them away from their productive trade to be productive spiritually. All of Christ's followers need to fish for souls. Those who practice Christ's teachings and share the gospel will be able to draw those around them to Christ like a fisherman who pulls fish into the boat.
4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.NRSV Located 650 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee is a large lake—150 feet deep and surrounded by hills. Fishing was the main industry for the approximately thirty towns surrounding the Sea of Galilee during Jesus' day. Capernaum, where Jesus settled (4:13), was the largest of these fishing towns. Simon and his brother Andrew came from Bethsaida, another town on the shore (John 1:44), but they had made their home in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29).
Jesus, walking by the sea, saw two brothers. Jesus did not approach Simon (whom we know as Peter) and Andrew as strangers. We know from the Gospel of John (1:35-49) that they had had previous contact. Jesus was walking on the beach with a purpose—to find certain fishermen whom he wanted to call to follow him. Jesus found them casting a net into the sea. Using nets was the most common method of fishing. A circular net (ten to fifteen feet in diameter) would be thrown into the sea. Then it would be drawn up, and the catch hoisted into the boat. Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were strong and busy men.
When Jesus entered Peter's life, this plain fisherman became a new person with new goals and new priorities. He did not become a perfect person, however, and he never stopped being Simon Peter. We may wonder what Jesus saw in Simon that made him give this potential disciple a new name: Peter, the "rock." Impulsive Peter certainly didn't act rock solid much of the time. But Jesus was looking for real people. He chose people who could be changed by his love; then he sent them out to communicate that his acceptance was available to anyone—even to those who often fail. We may wonder what Jesus sees in us when he calls us to follow him. But we know Jesus accepted Peter. We also know that despite his failures, Peter went on to do great things for God. Keep following Jesus, even when you fail.
4:19 Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."NKJV The first pair of men Jesus called to follow him were brothers, Simon and Andrew. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist, who, when introduced to the "Lamb of God," turned and followed Jesus (John 1:35-39). Then Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus. When Jesus met Simon he said, "'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which, when translated, is Peter)" (John 1:42 niv). These men understood and believed who Jesus was. Jesus arrived on the shore that day to change their lives forever. Jesus told Simon (Peter) and Andrew to leave their fishing business and to follow him. To "follow" means to accept Jesus as authority, to pursue his calling, to model after his example, to join his group. Jesus was asking these men to become his disciples and to begin fishing for people. "Follow" is the major term for discipleship in the Gospels. Disciples in Jesus' day literally followed their masters around and imitated them. Jesus required his disciples to give him their allegiance, daily count the cost of commitment, and serve others as he did.
The Old Testament pictures God fishing for men, harvesting them for judgment (Jeremiah 16:16; Ezekiel 29:4-5; 38:4; Amos 4:2; Habakkuk 1:14-17). Gathering souls is urgent because judgment is coming, so Christ's faithful followers were to bring people in while there was still time. These disciples were adept at catching fish, but they would need special training before they would be able to become fishers of men—to fish for people's souls. The words "I will make" portray Jesus as the empowering agent; these men were simply to follow. Jesus was calling them away from their productive trade to be productive spiritually by helping others believe the Good News and carry on his work after he was gone. This was a radical change from the usual rabbi/disciple relationship. In Judaism, the disciples simply would observe the master and memorize his teaching. Jesus' disciples would have an active role. They would participate in the kingdom as fishers of men.
4:20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.NKJV After their previous meeting with Jesus, Simon Peter and Andrew had returned to fishing. But when Jesus called them to follow him as disciples, they immediately left their nets. These men already knew Jesus, so when Jesus called them, they were willing to follow him. The judgment was coming; they had to respond right away. Their lives had changed; their allegiance was now to their teacher. Their action indicated radical discipleship, total surrender. This first pair left their occupation; the second pair (4:22) also left their father. When Jesus calls, people must be willing to realign previous plans and goals, sometimes leaving something important in order to follow Jesus. Jesus is not satisfied with halfhearted Christians.
4:21-22 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.NRSV Not far down the beach were two other brothers, James and John. Zebedee, their father, owned a fishing business where they worked with Peter and Andrew (Luke 5:10). James and John were sitting in their moored boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. The weight of a good catch of fish and the constant strain on the nets meant that fishermen had to spend a lot of time keeping their nets repaired and in good shape. Holes had to be mended in preparation for the next night's fishing.
John had met Jesus previously. In his Gospel, John records that he and Andrew were following John the Baptist and that then they began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-39). We have no record of James previously meeting Jesus, but he probably knew about Jesus from his brother. The fact that James's name is always mentioned before John's indicates that James was the older brother. When Peter, Andrew, and John left Galilee to see John the Baptist, James stayed back with the boats and fishing nets. Later, when Jesus called them, James was as eager as his partners to follow. James and John were ready for Jesus' call.
Both sets of brothers immediately left behind the lives they had known and embarked on an adventure. Surely Jesus must have made a great impression on them, and knowing that Jesus had chosen them must have motivated them to follow without hesitation. James and John left their father in the boat. They did not leave their father to manage for himself; Mark records that he already had hired men who helped him (Mark 1:20). Zebedee must have been a very understanding father; perhaps he too believed and would have gone along himself in younger days.
TIME TO GO
James and his brother, John, along with Peter and Andrew, were the first disciples that Jesus called to work with him. Jesus' call motivated these men to get up and leave their jobs—immediately. They didn't make excuses about why it wasn't a good time. They left at once and followed. We do not know if such a radical decision is required of each person alive today. Are we all to leave our jobs and homes to follow Christ in ministry? Apparently not, for Jesus had many believers and disciples, but he chose only twelve to leave all and follow him. Even those twelve did not abandon wives or their responsibility to their parents. But we must all evaluate our service and do what Christ requires. Some students may need to change majors and go into ministry; Christ may choose some to change livelihoods and enter different fields of service for him. All of us must be willing and prompt to respond when Jesus calls.
JESUS PREACHES THROUGHOUT GALILEE / 4:23-25 / 36
4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.NIV Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, visiting the various towns and villages. He was teaching, preaching, and healing, the three main aspects of his ministry. "Teaching" shows Jesus' concern that people learn; "preaching" shows his concern for commitment; and "healing" shows his concern for physical wholeness. Jesus' healing miracles authenticated his teaching and preaching; they proved that he truly was from God.
When Jesus arrived in a town, he first went to the synagogue. Synagogues were established during the Exile to give Jews places to assemble and worship because they couldn't go to the temple. Synagogues later became centers for teaching and preaching. Most towns that had ten or more Jewish families had a synagogue. The building served as a religious gathering place on the Sabbath and as a school during the week. The leader of the synagogue was more an administrator than a preacher. His job was to invite rabbis to teach and preach. In the synagogue, there were two types of messages: (1) exposition or teaching—done while the leader sat; (2) exhortation or preaching—done while the leader stood. Thus, Jesus had opportunity to share the good news of the kingdom with the Jews who came to the synagogues. The "good news" was that the kingdom of heaven had arrived. It was customary to invite visiting rabbis like Jesus to speak, but Jesus' earthshaking message and powerful miracles (healing every disease and sickness among the people in each village) set him apart from the others.
4:24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.NRSV Jesus' teaching and healing caused a stir among the people. Those who heard him told family and friends, who told others, so that the news spread throughout all Syria. "Syria" may refer to the area to the north of Galilee, indicating that Jesus' fame had spread beyond the borders of Palestine. The Romans used "Syria" to refer to all of Palestine, except for the region of Galilee, which was under the independent administration of Herod Antipas. Thus, Jesus' fame spread through Galilee and throughout all of Palestine.
Jesus became well known very quickly. Certainly his acclaimed ability to heal people of diseases caused people to bring sick family and friends to him. Jesus cured various diseases and pains (probably undiagnosed by doctors), demoniacs (people possessed by demons), epileptics (those having seizures or other unexplained behavior not related to demon possession), and paralytics (those who had become paralyzed).
Why did Jesus perform physical healings? As Creator, Jesus wanted people to have health and wholeness rather than illness. The healings also showed Jesus' compassion for suffering people and revealed that the kingdom had arrived in power and presence. Although Jesus refused to do "signs" at the whim of doubting religious leaders, he did perform miracles of healing that caused many to believe in him.
4:25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.NIV Large crowds came to Jesus from all over the region of Galilee where Jesus was concentrating his ministry. "The Decapolis" refers to a league of ten Gentile cities east of the Sea of Galilee that had joined together for trade and mutual defense. "The region across the Jordan" most likely refers also to Gentile territory. The city of Jerusalem was in the region of Judea. People came from this region to the south as well as from its leading city. The news about Jesus was out, and Jews and Gentiles were coming long distances to hear him. The words "followed him" may or may not refer to becoming disciples. Some simply followed him from place to place to hear him speak and see his miracles. Some who followed surely also came to believe in him, accepting the Good News about the kingdom.
Life Application Bible Commentary - Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.
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