Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness


Matthew 4:1-11


Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he quotes the scriptures to resist three attempts by the devil to test what it means that Jesus is the “Son of God.”


Not all goes well in the wilderness. Just as for Israel, so for the Messiah: the wilderness is a place of testing of Jesus in preparation for the mission that lies before him. The testing comes tellingly in threes, each test inviting Jesus to take advantage of his status as the Son of God just confirmed by the voice at his baptism. The devil’s, “If you are the Son of God…,” carries with it the same cruel irony as the taunts of the mockers at his crucifixion (27:42-43). In anticipation of the faithful obedience that will lead to his death and resurrection, Jesus resists each test with scriptural pronouncements that rely on the word and promise of God. Matthew differs from Luke (see Luke 4:1-13) in moving climatically from concern for personal well-being (hunger) to a grasp for personal power (putting God to the test for safety), to the splendor of ruling a kingdom (worship as a supreme being). The result combines focus on the Gospel’s theme of the kingdom of God with the first of the great commands–to love God with all one’s being (22:37). With that affirmation the testing ends suddenly as angels come and minister to Jesus as if in affirmation of his obedient faithfulness.