2. The gospel of the kingdom, 3:1-4:25

iii] Jesus is tempted


Following his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested / tempted by Satan over a period of forty days.


Jesus, the corporate child of God, on our behalf withstands the test of faith, firm in his belief that the Father will stand by his anointed one.


i] Context: See Matthew 3:1-12.


ii] Structure: The Testing of God's Son:

Setting, v1-2;

The first temptation, v3-4;

The second temptation, v5-7;

The third temptation, v8-10;

Conclusion, v11:

the ministration of the angels.


iii] Interpretation:

The temptation of Jesus is a particular form of gospel literature; it is packed with symbolism, and presents in the form of a three-point sermon. The messianic vocation of the Son of God is tested by the powers of darkness, and this testing is something the people of God face today. The theology of the temptation story finds its source in the Exodus, in the wilderness testing of Israel. Jesus faces a similar test, but unlike Israel, he does not fail.


It is essential to note the typology evident in both the baptism and temptation of Jesus. "Just as the baptism of Jesus represents an identification with the people of God, so also does the narrative of the testing of Jesus. The adopted son of God, Israel, experienced testing in the wilderness for forty years, the newly proclaimed Son of God, Jesus, experienced testing in the wilderness for forty days and nights...... Jesus exhibits the faithful obedience of the Son to the Father where Israel failed", Hagner.

The temptations are most likely a satanic response to the divine revelation at Jesus' baptism ("this is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased", Isaiah 42:1 with Psalm 2:7) where Jesus' messiahship is both announced and defined in terms of a suffering servant and Davidic king. McNeile says of this link, "the first temptation is to doubt the truth of the revelation just received, the second to test it, and the third to snatch prematurely at the messiahship which it involves." Ridderbos takes a similar line, but with a particular emphasis upon messiahship in terms of the suffering servant. Jesus is tempted to grasp at kingship rather than find glory in a cross. Why not get all the trimmings of kingship now, "why should you go hungry? Why should you not call up angels, heavenly ministrants?" The easy way to power and glory, to kingship, is for Jesus to "consent to be the associate and representative of the devil." "Jesus resists all the temptations, because he remained true to the vocation that God had given him. He is to rule through suffering."

Of course, proposed interpretations are legion, see notes, v5. The sample sermon follows a conservative line where the messianic vocation of Christ, as corporate Israel, is tested by questioning the validity of messiah's promised provision, authentication and success. In no way is this the last word, but however we handle the individual temptations, we are best to see each as a test of faith. See Nolland, who focuses on wilderness typology in the temptations, but in particular notes that each exposes the need to rely (have faith, rather than obedience [Hagner]) in the divine pledge (covenant promise) to "do well by his son."


iv] Synoptics:

There are times when the gospels clearly reveal their underlying oral tradition and the temptation story is one such example. It has all the hallmarks of a sermon, of the Christ-story packaged by early Christian preaching - the setting, the three points, the texts ..... all we lack is the local application. The different accounts are also fascinating, particularly comparing Luke with Matthew - the similarities and the differences. We are usually left with the magic "Q" (a possible literary source) to explain the differences, but there always remains the possibility that the gospel writers draw on independent oral tradition, mostly set by this point in time, but still with its local idiosyncrasies. The apostles are dying off, those who were both the source of the tradition and its verifiers, and so the time had come to write down the gospel story.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:1

The temptation of Jesus, v1-11: i] Introduction, v1-2. Matthew links Jesus' testing with his baptism. Jesus moves from the water (as Israel moved from the Reed Sea) and enters the wilderness. The agent of testing is the "devil" who rises up to defend his domain (the kingdoms of this age, Babel, the secular city, the world) against the attack of the messianic king. Jesus' fast for forty days most likely images Israel's forty years journey. At the end of the fast, Jesus is weak and hungry.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb. Matthew drops Marks euqoV, "immediately".

anhcqh (anagw) aor. pas. "[Jesus] was led" - Matthew's choice of word, as distinct from Mark and Luke, probably has exodus overtones. Jesus was led into the wilderness as Israel was led into the wilderness.

uJpo + gen. "by [the Spirit]" - [into the wilderness] by [the spirit]. Instrumental preposition, expressing agency.

peirasqhnai (pairazw) aor. inf. pas. "to be tempted" - to be tested. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to"; Mark and Luke use a participle. Note how Matthew has the temptation after the 40 days, while Mark and Luke has it during.

eiV "into" - to, into. Local preposition, expressing space, movement "into". Mark has en "in" = "into".

tou diabolou (oV) "the devil" - [by] the devil. Diabolos is "the enemy", "the tester", "the accuser", "the evil one" who seeks the destruction of Israel.


nhsteusaV (nhsteuw) aor. part. "after fasting" - [and] having fasted [forty days and forty nights]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV. Note how Matthew fills in the details of fasting, ie., going without food for a period, possibly serving to prompt his readers to the "fast" of Israel in the wilderness, Ex.34:28, Deut.9:9. "After a fast of forty days", Phillips.

u{steron adv. "-" - afterward, after, later on [he hungered]. Temporal adverb; "later on he was hungry."


ii] The first temptation - stones into bread, v3-4. As with all the temptations, this first test is a test of faith. Will God supply Jesus' needs in the journey to the cross, will he supply Manna for the journey, or should Jesus rely on his own ingenuity. Israel failed this very test in the wilderness in that they doubted God's promised provision. So, the first temptation tests Jesus willingness to rely on God's promised provision.

oJ peirazwn (peirazw) pres. part. "the tempter" - the one tempting, testing. Participle serves as a substantive and is descriptive of the devil's persona; he tempts to an evil end. The interesting question is whether he can do more than just tempt. It is likely that a whisper is all he needs to keep "the whole world in his hands!!!", v9.

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "came" - having come, approached [the one tempting said]. Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying "said", "came and said", as NIV.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

ei + ind. "if" - if, as is the case for argument sake, [you are the son of god then]. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be a reality; a real condition / simple conditional assumption, "since", BAGD. "Since you are the Son of God."

tou uiJoV "the Son [of God]" - Predicate nominative. An example of Colwell's rule, not "a son of God." The genitive "of God" is adjectival, relational.

iJna + subj. "[tell these stones to become bread]" - [then speak] that [these stones may become bread]. Here iJna + the imperatival subjunctive, form a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus should command / "speak".


Jesus quotes Deut.8:3. The full potential of human life is not found in physical things - life is more than food. Note Deut.8:2, tying Jesus' answer to the wilderness wanderings of Israel.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "Jesus answered" - [he] having answered [said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", redundant; "he answered and said" = "he answered." Typical Matthean phrase.

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "it is written" - it has been written. The perfect tense indicating a past action with ongoing consequences, so "it stands written." A formal introduction to quotations.

ouk ....... all (alla) "[man shall] not [.......] but [.....]" - Introducing a counterpoint construction; "not ..... but .....". Note that the future "shall [not] live" is usually treated as an imperatival future (ie., a command - the strongest command in the NT), although Jesus' source text is Deuteronomy 8:3 which is clearly a statement and not a command = "Man does not live on bread alone", NET. The point is that real human life is more than food; this is a fact of life. Life is more than the physical operations of the body. So, life is "not" just found in food, "but" by every word revealed from God.

epi + dat. "on" - [not] on [bread alone will man live]. Here with a spacial sense, "on / upon", upon which the action, or result of the action, is based, cf. BAGD.

alla "but" - A strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

ekporeuomenw/ (ekporeuomai) "that comes" - [on every word] coming out, proceeding. The participle is adjectival, attributive, "every word which comes out."

dia + gen. "from" - through, by means of [mouth of god]. Possibly instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", or local, expressing space, "through"


iii] The second temptation - The pinnacle of the temple, v5-7. Jesus is now taken (most likely in a vision, although the means of transportation is unstated, cf. Ezk.8:1-3) to a projecting part of the temple. The devil's test (temptation) is that Israel's acceptance of the messiah can be guaranteed by a powerful sign. For the messiah to rest on signs and wonders is to doubt that God's way to glory through suffering is somehow flawed. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness", 2Cor.12:9. Moses and the people of Israel failed this test of faith in the wilderness (Num.20), but Jesus does not fail. Note that in Luke the order of the second and third temptations is reversed, although Matthew's order seems more appropriate, given the devil's "worship me" is the most serious temptation.

Proposed interpretations:

• The temptation is often seen in terms of Jesus using his powers to prove his messianic credentials (to himself, or to the crowd? but what crowd?) for the purpose of authentication, cf. Morris:

a) authentication of messiahship by a mass demonstration, Lagrange, Beare, Bright, Mounce; "a demonstration of diety", Gundry;

b) self authentication of sonship by testing "God's pledge to protect his own", Carson, Plummer, Filson.

• A more generalized temptation such that Jesus is being tempted to use his powers other than in obedience to God, Davies & Allison;

• Jesus is being tempted to exploit his relationship with the Father for his own advantage, France, Keener;

• Jesus is being tempted to secure his safety / preservation, by forcing God's hand (rather than trust his promises?), Hagner;

• In response to the first temptation, Jesus is being tempted to confirm the validity of God's promise of provision/ preservation, Fenton, Patte, Robinson, a "testing of the divine providence", Hill;

• Jesus is being tempted, on the basis of his privileged status, to demand from God a release from the vagaries of life, Nolland;

• Tying the temptation to Jesus baptism and the revelation from God:

a) Jesus is being tempted to doubt his status as "Son of God", messiah; particularly in this second temptation, to test it, McNeile;

b) Jesus is being tempted to question his role as servant messiah, to seize the crown and its benefits of, provision, ministrants and power, rather than be given his crown by way of the cross (as the suffering servant), Ridderbos.

tote adv. "then" - Matthew's favorite temporal indicator, although primarily serving to indicate a step in the narrative. "Next, the Devil took Jesus with him to the Holy City", Rieu.

paralambanei (paralambanw) pres. "took him" - [the devil] takes [him to the holy city and set him upon]. Historic / narrative present tense. The use of such is much debated. Possibly used to open a new narrative, or even just for vividness / dramatic effect.

to pterugion (on) "the highest point" - the pinnacle. The meaning of this word is unclear, but tip or high-point of a building is commonly accepted. It has been suggested that it simply describes the position of the temple itself, given that it was held to be the highest point in Palestine and also the center of the world.

tou iJerou (on) gen. "of the temple" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or partitive.


Seeing Jesus uses scripture, Satan gives it a go as well, in the terms of "did not the psalmist confidently write about God's deliverance of the righteous I will rescue him?", D & A.

ei + ind. "if" - [and he says to him] if, as is the case for argument sake, [you are son of god then throw yourself down]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true, here used for argument sake.

tou qeou "[the Son] of God" - The genitive "of God" could be classed as adjectival, relational, although a filial relationship between God the Father and Jesus is not the sense being conveyed. "Son of God" is primarily a technical messianic title, "the anointed one of God / messiah", so the genitive is ablative, expressing the basis, source / origin of the anointing, ie., "from God."

autw/ dat. pro. "[he said]" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

gar "for" - because [it has been written]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus is able to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple.

oJti "-" Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech / quotation, although Olmstead argues that it is causal, "because".

toiV aggeloiV (oV) dat. "[his] angels" - [he will command] the angels [of him]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to give a command to."

peri + gen. "concerning [you]" - concerning [you]. Reference / respect; "with respect to you" = "concerning, about you"

epi + gen. "in [their hands]" - [and] upon [hands they will lift you up]. Spacial; "upon".

mhpote + subj. "so that [you will not strike]" - lest [you strike the foot of you]. Introducing a negated purpose clause, as NIV. "To ensure that you will never strike your foot against a stone", Barclay.

proV + acc. "against [a stone]" - Here expressing opposition, as NIV; "against".


Jesus' quotes Deut.6:16, a verse which goes on to refer to the testing of God by Israel at Massa, Ex.17:1-7. It was here that Israel questioned God's covenant promise for their security and sought to dictate his provision. The Deuteronomy reference encourages Israel to do better, ie. trust the Lord's covenant fidelity.

efh (afihmi) aor. "[Jesus] answered" - [jesus] was saying, declaring.

autw/ dat. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

palin adv. "[it is] also" - again. Modal adverb. The normal idea conveyed by this word is back to a previous state, ie., "again", but that doesn't seem to work here. Probably here as an alternative, "on the other hand", BAGD.

ouk ekpeiraseiV (ekpeirazw) fut. "do not put [the Lord your God] to the test" - do no tempt [the lord the god of you]. Obviously an imperatival future tense. The prefix intensifies. In the sense of forcing God to prove himself; "you must not try to see how far you can go with the Lord your God", Barclay. Note that "God" stands in apposition to "Lord".


iv] The third and most powerful temptation - the offer of a kingdom without a cross, v9-10. As Moses once viewed the promised land from Mount Nebo, so Jesus sees the world before him, as in a vision. He came to receive the promised land and establish an eternal kingdom, a new dominion over heaven and earth, Dan.7:14. To do this, "the enemy", Satan, must be defeated, just as Israel had to defeat the Baal-worshipping Canaanites. Since the world is Satan's domain (cf. Jn.12:31, 2Cor.4:4, 1Jn.5:19), Satan offers Jesus a compromise solution. Jesus may have dominion, but on Satan's terms. Israel had long ago compromised their faith and looked to the Golden Calf to help attain the promised land. Jesus will rightly possess an eternal kingdom, his by divine right. Yet, like Israel of old, the way to glory is by a desert path. Satan's compromise will always trouble Jesus, even at the end; "if it is possible, don't let this bitter ordeal come to me", Barclay. Again, we have here a test of faith, either to rely of God and his promise, or satan and his comfortable compromise.

uJyhlon adj. "high" - [again the devil takes him to a very] high [mountain]. Can mean "haughty", obviously here altitude.

deiknusin (deiknumi) pres. "showed" - [and] shows. Probably more in the sense "revealed", exposed the mystery of the secular world. When it comes to understanding human existence, the devil is a sociological (pathological???) expert.

autw/ dat. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object; "and revealed all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to him."

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "[kingdoms] of the world" - [all the kingdoms] of the world. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

autwn gen. pro. "their" - [and the glory] of them. The genitive may be treated adjectival, possessive, "their glory", or idiomatic, "the glory that they = these kingdom display", Olmstead, even verbal, subjective, "and the glory radiated by them."

doxan (a) "glory / splendor" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to show." "Magnificence", Phillips.


dwsw (didwmi) fut. "I will give" - [and he said to him, all these things] I will give. Is all this the devil's to give? To what degree does he have the whole world in his hands?

soi dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition proposed in the if clause (protasis) has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then ...."

proskunhshV (proskunew) aor. subj. "worship" - you may worship, do obeisance. The reader will understand that this word is sometimes translated as if meaning "to serve", but primarily means "to adore." Note how "bow down" virtually exegetes "worship", ie. "to prostrate before."

moi dat. pro. "me" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to do obeisance to / worship"


autw/ dat. pro. "[Jesus said] to him" - [then jesus says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

uJpage (uJpagw) pres. imp. "away from me [Satan]" - go away [satan]. "Go away", BAGD; "Begone", Barclay.

gar "for [it is written]" - for [it has been written]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Satan should be off, "because ...."

sou gen. pro. "your" - [you shall worship lord the god] of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or of subordination, "the Lord your God who reigns over you."

ton qeon (oV) "God" - Standing in apposition to "Lord". Note that "God" is accusative, when we would have expected a dative complement after the verb "to do obeisance to / worship." Arguments abound, see Wallace 72-73, although Olmstead thinks he "oversteps the evidence."

latreuseiV (latreuw) fut. ind. "serve" - [and him only] you shall adore, venerate, worship. The future here for "worship" and "serve" is probably hortatory, so NIV. There is some confusion over the meaning of this verb. "Serve" is an acceptable sense, but it is probably not the intended meaning here. This is reinforced by the parallelism of the text where proskunhseiV, "to fall down before = to do obeisance", reinforces the meaning "worship, venerate."

autw/ dat. pro. "him [only]" - Dative of direct object after the verb latreuw, "to worship / serve".


v] Conclusion, v11. The aid that Jesus was unwilling to ask for himself is now provided by attending angels.

afihsin (afihmi) pres. ind. "left him" - [then the devil] leaves, goes away [him]. Historic / narrative present tense. Note Luke's addition, "until a suitable time."

dihkonoun (diakonew) "attended" - [and behold, angels came and] were serving. Imperfect tense expressing durative, sustained action. Originally of waiting on tables. Both Nolland and France suggest that the Angels actually ministered to Jesus' physical needs, cf. 1Kin.19:5-8; "angel food", Davies & Allison. Hagner says that the angels' presence calls attention "to the victory of the obedient son." "The angels came and took care of Jesus", Morris.

autw/ dat. "him" - Dative of direct object after the verb diakonew which takes a dative of persons / interest, "they cared for Jesus."


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]