Jesus Shows Us How to Handle Temptations and How to Fulfill our Call in Matthew 4

follow through with your God-given calling

This 8-section devotional study on Matthew 4 looks into the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the beginning of Jesus' public ministry and His calling of the first disciples.

Section 1

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:1

Marked: vs.1

Notes /Impressions:

  • The Lord Jesus’ temptation identifies Him more with mankind in two ways:

- first, being subjected to the same temptations man faces in general (Heb.2:18; 4:15), and

- second, having to show His devotion and obedience to God (Heb.5:8).

  •  The temptation also prepares Jesus for ministry, for clearly this is just the beginning of Him being tempted by the enemy.

  • Here we are introduced to a formula for victory against temptations as well. 

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. Temptations always follow major spiritual decisions and commitments (this was right after Jesus’ baptism).
  2. We can trust Christ to lead us into the right direction when facing temptations, for He Himself faced them, resisted them in obedience to God, and triumphed over them.
  3. Temptations are not necessarily sins. It is only when the person subjected to temptation gives in, that sin eventually develops. So, temptation is just mere affliction when not yielded to.

Section 2

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:2-4

Marked: vs.3-4

Notes /Impressions:

  • These temptations were meant to provoke Christ to use His Sonship (powers) in a way that could ruin His mission (Matt.26:53-54). In this first temptation, the devil used Jesus’ physical vulnerability, His hunger.

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. Temptations are meant to hinder us and ruin our chances of living right for God, as devoted and committed Christians.
  2. Temptations focus on our vulnerabilities, where we are weak at the moment.
  3. Temptations try to take our focus away from spiritual things and on to temporal pursuits (Deuteronomy 8:3). 

- They confuse us of what seems urgent over what needs to be prioritized.

- Fasting is meant for spiritual reasons. It means to forego certain physical needs, activities, enjoyments, or habits, in order to focus on a spiritual need.


Section 3

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:5-7

Marked: vs. 6-7

Notes /Impressions:

  • This quote from Psalm 91:11-12 is actually more of a misapplication than a misquote. The passage refers to anyone who trusts and takes refuge in God. The devil’s suggestion is for Jesus to display His power and authority and put God's promise to the test. Hence, the reason why Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16. 

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. The devil likes to twist the meaning of God’s Word and misapply it. Many times, he uses false teachers and careless preachers to do it for him, misleading many.
  2. Some Christians are guilty of testing God’s promises instead of trusting Him fully in times or real need. God is faithful. We need not test this truth. Testing God means we have doubts about Him and we want Him to prove Himself on our terms.
  3. God doesn’t have to prove Himself to us. He is who He says He is and we can bank on that.

Section 4

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:8-11

Marked: vs.10-11

Notes /Impressions:

  • This particular temptation has more facets to it than just an appeal for power & personal glory.
  •  The devil offered to Christ what has been promised to Him already (Psalm 2):

 1. ahead of its appointed time;

 2. in a temporary form (Christ’s kingdom will be forever- Dan.2:44-45);

 3. in a different and inferior form (Dan.4:32 clearly says the devil doesn’t have full authority over kingdoms and was offering to Christ what he could only at that time; not the future kingdoms);

 4. by very questionable means;

 5. and, by breaking fellowship with God.

  • Such a beautiful picture to see angels ministering (probably for much needed physical sustenance), which is some sort of a celebration after such a spiritual triumph. It wasn’t visible to the human eye, but it was glorious even just knowing it happened.

Lesson(s) Learned:   

  • We sometimes take the blessing out of God’s promises:

 (a) when we don’t wait on God;

 (b) when we look for and settle with temporal gains;

 (c) when we focus on what we desire instead of being open to what God desires for us;

 (d) when we compromise to force things;

 (e) when it becomes our focus and priority over God.

  • Jesus used Scriptures to put a stop to the devil’s temptations. It’s something we also need to do. (Psalm 119:11,105)
  • triumph over temptations -ministering, encouragement, celebration (vs.11)


Section 5

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:12

Marked: vs.12

Notes /Impressions:

  • This was already about a year after Jesus’ baptism. We find two contrasting actions here.

1. John was imprisoned for boldly reproving Herod’s adulterous affair (Luke 3:19-20). The religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t oppose Herod because they also hated John.

2. Jesus, on the other hand, does nothing about this and instead withdraws (escapes even) to another place. Most probably to avoid an untimely confrontation with the religious leaders. Was this why John later asked if He was truly the Messiah?

  • Jesus escaping (while John boldly confronting) was mainly due to preparation for His public ministry. (He did confront them without fear later on.) His forerunner has finished his task and Jesus was now ready for a public appearance. This is the same royal protocol for kings. The forerunner finishes his work first before the king finally appears publicly.

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. John’s boldness was exemplary. He did not fear the possible consequences of confronting evil done, no matter who the person was. It did cost him his head later. This is a boldness we seldom see nowadays among church leaders. Most are afraid to confront sin in fear of offending possible members/givers.
  2. Jesus escaping doesn’t mean He was afraid to confront Herod’s sin. It just wasn’t the right time yet for Him to do so. He still had so much to do first because He had a specific purpose to carry out.
  3. Sometimes, the tyranny of the urgent can really get to us. We can be so distracted by what seems important also that we fail to prioritize the most important matters at hand.
  4. Sometimes, we need to let go of some important things (and allow others to do them) in order to focus on the specific tasks we were called to do.
  5. It is not always true that we need to do as much as we can all the time. We need to do as much as we can on the things we were specifically called to do.

Section 6

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:13-17

Marked: vs.15-17

Notes /Impressions:

  • Jesus’ move to Capernaum was again a fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 9:1), but it again may beg the question: why there? Why a place where many Gentiles lived?
  •  This is where He called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. Their exposure to Gentiles may have somehow helped since this was a foreshadowing of the commission to disciple all nations (28:19), not just the Jews. The people there were also more receptive to Jesus’ preaching, while in Jerusalem, He would have faced right away the hostility of the “religious” leaders.

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. Many things God does in our lives beg questions in our minds, but rest assured that the answers, whether we receive them now or not, would so amazingly quiet our hearts and leave us in awe of how He plans things.
  2. This fulfillment of prophecy leaves us two important things for ministry:

a. we need to be contemplative and more strategic in our approaches. (We don’t go just because we think we need to; we need to look at how God can use us with greater impact.)

b. Christ in us is the light to the darkness around us, which is exactly what people need to see. It is such a Great Light if we let Christ be seen in us.

c. We are here also reminded again of the urgency of shining our light to the world. (vs.17)


Section 7

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:18-22

Marked: vs.19-20, 22

Notes /Impressions:

  • This was not the first time He met these would-be disciples (John 1:35-42), but obviously they have only known Him for a short time at this point.
  •  His call was so compelling that they immediately left behind their work and family responsibilities to go with Him, unlike disciples of rabbis who normally continued their trades.
  •  Normally, would-be disciples were the ones who chose which rabbi to follow. Here, Jesus chose them. 

Lesson(s) Learned:

  • When these disciples were called, they left everything behind, which is the same case with many today, who are called to full-time ministry. But today (in a totally different setting), such radical abandonment of trades and other responsibilities may not always be the case for some called into ministry (like our modern day “tent-makers”). I believe the message here is to totally focus on what you are called to do. Depending on your case, God may ask you to leave behind everything or maybe just certain things, so that you can effectively focus on what He has called you to do.

What is He asking you to leave behind at this point?

  • Just as Jesus chose these men, He also chose you specifically and specially for the task He has for you. He chose you and equipped you with everything you need to be effective. We are all without excuse not to heed His call.

To where or to what is He calling you today? 


Section 8

Devotional Reading: Matthew 4:23-25

Marked: vs.23, 25

Notes /Impressions:

  • Galilee, which covered the whole northern section of the country, was the largest of the three provinces (the other two being Judea and Samaria) that divided Palestine. It had around 204 cities and villages covering an area of about 2,800 miles. (about 70 X 40 miles)
  •  Jesus’ ministry approach involved three aspects, primarily:

  1. Spiritual and Intellectual - as He taught in the synagogues;
  2. Spiritual and Emotional - as He preached hope in the fulfillment of the Kingdom; and
  3. Spiritual and Physical - as He healed the sick, whether tormented by demonic spirits or just simply infirmed or diseased.

Lesson(s) Learned:

  1. Being an itinerant teacher/preacher in the whole of Galilee was such a great and difficult task. It surely required much sacrificial effort. But such is the case for any ministry. Sacrifices and binding commitments have to be made for any ministry to yield the desired results.
  2. Our ministry approaches shouldn’t just be confined to evangelism and getting people to become church members. The great commission requires more than that. The whole idea of Discipleship requires our approach to involve relating people’s felt intellectual, emotional, and physical needs to their real spiritual need, which is a growing relationship with God.
  3. As the next chapters reveal, not all of the great multitudes that followed Him were sincere believers. (Majority of these people later abandon Him; even reject Him.) Many were just there for whatever “blessings” they can get.

Such is the case in many churches today. Many come for what they can get out of the habit of “being in church”.  Many choose comfort, personal satisfaction, personal pursuits, or no binding commitments over true fellowship, true accountability & care, sacrificial commitments, and a real learning relationship with God. Convenience is more sought today and prioritized over Commitment.

More on Matthew:
Matthew 1 on Lessons from Messiah's Family Tree