THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW – Lesson 4: Chapter 4

Narrative #1  Continued: The Temptation of the Son of God and the Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

Lord God,
Your Holy Spirit is our shield against the temptations of Satan; it is Satan who calls us daily to conform to the world instead of being transformed by the life of Jesus.  Help us, Lord, to see that the things that appear to be pleasing in this world are only temporary.  Give us a desire for that which is eternal and imperishable.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Chapter 4: Satan Tests Jesus and the Beginning of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry

So you say to Pharaoh: Thus says the LORD: Israel is my son, my first-born. 
Exodus 4:22

St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ … The first man, Adam, he says became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit.  The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life … The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him.  That is why he took on himself the role and the same of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image.  The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end.  The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: “I am the first and the last.”
St Peter Chrysologus,Sermon 117

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea.  All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4

At His baptism, Jesus was proclaimed the Son of God (Mt 3:17).  After His baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to face a three-fold covenant ordeal as Satan tested Jesus’ loyalty and obedience to God (Mt 4:1-3).  A covenant ordeal is a test of faith in God as sovereign Lord and a test of one’s obedience to the will of God for one’s life.  In each of Jesus’ three tests, Satan tempted Jesus to rebel against God.  Each test resembled the tests in which the Israelites, the “sons of God” (Ex 4:22), lacked faith and rebelled against God during their 40 years in the wilderness.  St. Matthew personifies Jesus as the true Israel and the true Son in contrast with Israel the rebellious and disobedient son.  Jesus’ covenant ordeal also reminds us of Adam’s covenant ordeal in the garden Sanctuary in Eden when Satan, disguised as a serpent, tempted Adam, God’s first-born son in the family of man, by inviting Adam and Eve to rebel against God by making their own choices contrary to the will of God (Gen 3:1-13).  Obedience is a characteristic of true sonship.  Jesus is the new Adam and the new Israel; He is the obedient Son who rejected each of Satan’s temptations.

Matthew 4:1-11 ~ The Temptation of the New Adam
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.  3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  4 He said in reply, “It is written:  One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written:  He will command his angels concerning you’  and  with their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'”  7 Jesus answered him,  Again,  You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'” 
8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”  10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written:  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall your serve.'”  11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

After Jesus’ baptism, He crossed the Jordan River.  Immediately after crossing from Perea into Judah, Jesus was led into the Judean desert by the Holy Spirit where He fasted for 40 days and nights.  The number 40is recognized as an important number in Scripture on account of the frequency of its occurrence and the uniformity of its association as both a time of consecration and as a period of trial and testing.

Question: What are some examples in Scripture where the number 40 is found?
Answer: Examples for the Old and New Testaments:

  • 40 day epic periods during the great flood (Gen 7:4,     12, 17,8:6)
  • 40 years was the age of Isaac when he married Rebekah (Gen 25:20)
  • 40 years of Moses in Egypt (do the math, see Ex 7:7; Dt 34:7; Acts 7:30 )
  • 40 years of Moses in Midian before his return to Egypt (Acts 7:30)
  • 40 years from the Exodus until Moses’ death (Dt 1:3; 34:7)
  • 40 years Israel ate manna (Ex 16:35;     Dt 29:5)
  • 40 days Moses was on the Mountain to receive the Law of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:18)
  • 40 days the children of Israel were tested while Moses was on the mountain (Ex 32:1)
  • 40 days Moses was on the Mountain after the golden calf. (Ex 34:28)
  • 40 days after his birth a male child of Israel was dedicated to God at the Sanctuary (Lev 12:1-4)
  • 40 days the Israelite spies reconnoitered the land of Canaan (Num 13:25)
  • 40 years was Caleb’s age when Moses sent him to reconnoiter Canaan (Josh 14:7)
  • 40 years that Israel spent in the wilderness before they camped by the Jordan River (Num 14:33; Dt 1:1-3; 8:2)
  • 40 years from the giving of the Law at Sinai to the conquest of the Promised land (Josh 5:6)
  • 40 year intervals of peace in the age of the Judges (Judg 3:11; 5:31; 8:28)
  • 40 years Eli judged Israel (1 Sam 4:18)
  • 40 years of war between Israel and the Philistines
  • 40 years David ruled as King of Israel (2 Sam 5:5;     1 Chr 29:26-27)
  • 40 years of Solomon ruled Israel. (2 Chr 9:30)
  • 40 days Jonah was in the Assyrian city of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4)
  • 40 years Josiah ruled Judah (2 Kng 12:2)
  • 40 days Ezekiel lay on his right side to symbolize the 40 years of Judah’s transgressions (Ez 4:6)
  • 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before His temptation (Mt 4:2; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2)
  • 40 days Jesus taught His disciples after the Resurrection. On the 40th day He ascended to the Father (Acts 1:3)

At the end of His ordeal of fasting and prayer, Jesus was hungry like any man.  Recognizing His physical weakness, Satan saw an opportune time to test Jesus to see if He was indeed the promised Messiah.  The Greek word diabolos (in the LXX and the New Testament) is usually translated “devil,” but in Hebrew the word is satan, meaning “adversary” or “accuser” as in a court of law.  An example from the book of Job is “the satan” standing in the heavenly court accusing the man Job (Job 1:1-8); and also the use of the word “accuser/satan” in Ps 109:6-7: Find a lying witness, an accuser [satan] to stand by his right hand, that his plea may judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain.  The most frequent use in the Old Testament, however, is in the metaphorical sense of an adversary (for example see 1 Sam 29:4)  Every place the title “Satan” is found in the Old Testament it is preceded by the definite article “the;” the one exception is in1 Chronicles 21:1 where it is a proper name.

Question:  Who is Satan?  See Rev 12:7-9 and CCC 391-95 and 2852.
Answer: He is a created being who was once an angel but who is now the adversary of both God and man.  Revelation 12:9identifies Satan as the same serpent who tempted Adam and Eve into sin and became the “deceiver of the whole world.”

In Isaiah 14:11-15, God promised His people that the day would come when the King of Babylon would be held accountable for the suffering he caused the Israelites, and the people would taunt the Babylonian king concerning his downfall.  Within the lines of the taunt, the king is compared to another evil force, a beautiful creature whose pride led to his downfall when in his 5 “I wills” he declared himself God’s enemy (Is 14:13-14).  A similar passage is found in Ezekiel 28:11-19 where the lament over the king of Tyre also takes on a descriptive dimension of the fall of Satan: In Eden, the garden of God, you were, and every precious stone was your covering … blameless you were in your conduct from the day you were created, until evil was found in you ...Then I banned you from the mountain of God; the Cherub drove your from among the fiery stones.  You became haughty of heart because of your beauty; for the sake of splendor you debased your wisdom.  I cast you to the earth, so great was your guilt … (Ez 13-17).(1)In his first letter to the Church, St. John wrote: Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning.  Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8).

Matthew 4:3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Question: Satan begins the test by asking Jesus to give proof that He is the “Son of God.”  Does this mean Satan knows Jesus is God’s divine Son?  What is meant by the title “Son of God”?  Who else in the Old Testament bore this title?  See Job 1:16; Ex 4:22; Wis 18:3/4; Dt 14:1; Mt 5:9, 45; Ps 2:7; 89:26; 2 Sam 7:8, 12-14; 1 Chr 17:13.
Answer: Satan is not certain that Jesus is the Messiah, therefore, he tests Jesus.  “Son of God” was a title that was also assigned to:

  • Angels of the heavenly host
  • The children of Israel and their leaders
  • King Solomon and the Davidic kings of Judah
  • Righteous believers.

Question: How will Jesus describe His rank of divine sonship as different the others who bore the title previously in salvation history?  See Mt 4:11; 7:21; 22:42-46; Mk 1:13; Jn 10:15, 29-30; 14:9-10,20; 16:15.

  • Jesus calls God “My Father;” it is a claim not made previously by those who bore the title (Mt 7:21).
  • Jesus claims Psalm 110:1 proves that the Messiah is more than David’s son; He is a divine son (Mt 22:42-36).
  • He is ranked above the angels (Mt 4:11; Mk 1:13).
  • He claims to have God for His Father in an intimate way that others can not claim (Jn 10:15, 29-30; 14:9-10,20; 16:15).

Question: What events will confirm Jesus’ claim to the unique title “Son of God”?
Answer: The Resurrection and Ascension.

In His encounter with Satan, Jesus the Son of God is enacting both Adam’s temptation by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Israel’s temptations in the desert after leaving Egypt as God’s “first-born son” among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23).  St. Paul called Jesus the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-47), and the Fathers of the Church called Him the “new Adam” and the “second Adam” (CCC 359 and 504).

Question:  St. John the Apostle wrote: Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn 1:15-16).  St. John has summed up the temptations of the world into three categories: sensual lust (desires of the flesh), enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life (1 Jn 2:15-16).   What comparisons can be made between the temptation of Adam and the temptation of Jesus, and how does John’s list of the world’s temptations compare to Satan’s testing of both Adam and Jesus?  Quote the significant verses.

The Temptations of the First and Second Adams Contrasted
Temptations The first Adam
Genesis 3:1-6
Jesus, the new Adam
Matthew 4:1-10
  The devil’s invitation to rebellion “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees…?” The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God …
  Hunger, a desire of the flesh The woman saw that the tree was good for food    command that these stones become loaves of bread”
  Enticement for the eyes: pleasing to the eyes,and the devil…showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence
  The pride of a pretentious life (power) desirable for gaining wisdom If you are the Son …throw Yourself down … He will command his angels concerning you …
Michal E. Hunt © 2011 (Jesus’ temptations are in the order found in Lk 4:1-13)

Question: What comparisons can be made between the desert testing experiences of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Israelites, the sons of God?

Israel Jesus
  Israel is God’s “first-born son” from among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23)   Jesus is the Son of God (Mt 3:17)
  The Israelites were baptized by passing through the waters of the Red Sea and then, accompanied by God’s spirit in the pillar of cloud and fire, they went into the desert  (Ex 13:21-22; 14:21-22; 15:22)   After Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert (Mt 4:1)
  The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years where they suffered from hunger
(Ex 16:2-3)
  After 40 days and nights in the desert, Jesus was hungry (Mt 4:2)
  God tested Israel (Ex 16:4; Dt 8:2)   God allowed Satan to test Jesus
(Mt 4:1-11)
  The Israelites continually failed their tests of covenant obedience and loyalty, even to the point of worshiping a golden idol
(Ex 32:1-6)
  Jesus passed His tests.  He remained faithful and obedient to God, and He refused to bow down to worship Satan
(Mt 4:10)
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Satan is Jesus’ great adversary.  Jesus describes the devil as “a murderer from the beginning” who “does not stand in truth because there is no truth in him” (Jn 8:44).  Jesus’ mission is not only to free mankind from bondage to sin and death but to “destroy the works of the devil;” the most heinous of his works was to lead man to disobey God (1 Jn 3:8, CCC 394).

In Jesus’ contest with Satan, the devil addressed Jesus three times, quoting Scripture once from Psalm 91:10-12 and using the formula statement “it is written” (verse 6).  In reply, Jesus quoted Scripture three times from Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16 and 6:13, using the formula “it is written” twice in verses 4 and 7.

  • Test #1: Jesus was hungry, but He rebuked Satan: 4 He said in reply, “It is written:  One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’(Dt 8:3).
  • Test #2: Satan: 6b For it is written:  He will command his angels concerning you: and  with their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone'” (Ps 91:10-12).
                   Jesus:7 Jesus answered him,  Again,  You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test'” (Dt 6:16).
  • Test #3: Jesus:   10At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written:  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall your serve'” (Dt 6:13).

Question: What do all of Jesus’ quotations from Scripture have in common?  Read those passages in context in the book of Deuteronomy.  What three similar tests did the Israelite’s face in the desert?  See Ex 16:3; 17:7 and 32:1-6.
Answer: All Jesus’ quotes from Scripture are from passages in Deuteronomy where Moses recalls Israel’s testing in the desert journey from Egypt to Mt Sinai.  Jesus’ temptations recall how He was faced with three similar tests:

  1. Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger (Ex 16:3)
  2. Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:7)
  3. Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry (Ex 32:1-6)

Question: Compare the three tests of the Israelites prior to the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24) to Jesus three tests. What is different about Jesus’ tests?
Answer:  Satan gave Jesus three similar tests; however, unlike the Israelite “sons of God,” Jesus, the obedient and faithful Son, passed His three tests:

Israel Jesus
  1.  Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger; God gave them manna (Ex 16:3, 4)   Jesus was hungry when Satan challenged Him to make bread  out of stones (Mt 3:2-3)
  2. Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah to prove God was with them
(Ex 17:7)
  Jesus refused to put God to the test when Satan challenged  Him to prove He was the Son of God (Mt 3:6)
  3.  Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in the sin of the Golden Calf
(Ex 32:1-6)
  Jesus refused to bow down and worship Satan (Mt 3:9)
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Question: During the desert period, the Israelites often tested God’s faithfulness.  When they were ready to possess the land of Canaan what three warnings/perils did Moses give the children of Israel inDeuteronomy 6:10-16?
Answer:  In Deuteronomy 6:10-16 Moses gave three warnings/perils the Israelites will face when they live in the land of Canaan.  The Israelites will be in danger of loosing the blessings God promised the Patriarchs and will be driven from the land if:

  1. They fail to remember God’s intervention in their history and their commitment to be obedience God’s covenant treaty pledged at Sinai.
  2. They follow other gods.
  3. They continually test God’s faithfulness

Jesus will not fail as the Israelites failed.  He will fulfill all His obligations as an obedient Son of God during His covenant ordeal.

Test #1: 3  The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  4 He said in reply, “It is written:  One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’

In the first test Satan, approached Jesus to test Him to see if He would reveal Himself as the divine Messiah by commanding a rock to turn into bread to feed His hunger “no ordinary “son of God” would have that power over the natural world.  Jesus responded to Satan’s test by quoting fromDeuteronomy 8:3.  In that passage, Moses tells the children of Israel: Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.  He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD (Dt 8:2-3; emphasis added).

Question:  In that passage, what did Moses tell the Israelite “sons of God” was the reason for the 40 years in the wilderness?
Answer: During the years in the wilderness, God tested the Israelites to see if they would be obedient to His commandments by allowing them to be afflicted with hunger and then showed them His faithfulness to provide for their needs by feeding them manna, bread from heaven.

Moses continued his address to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:7-9.  In that passage, Moses told the people if they are faithful that God will give them the land He promised them.  Then Moses describes the Promised Land as a new “Eden” where everything they need will be provided by God.

In the first test, Jesus rejected Satan’s taunt; He did not come to serve His own fleshly desires but to do the will of the Father. 

Question: How can the context of Moses’ remarks in Deuteronomy chapter 8, which links the manna from heaven to a test in obedience to the “word of God” (Dt 8:3), and the description of Canaan as a new Eden give us greater insight into Jesus’ reply to Satan?  Also see Ex 16:1a, Jn 1:1; and 6:28-35, 47-58 where Jesus refers to the manna of the fathers and then to Himself as “the bread which comes down from heaven.”  What is ironic about Jesus’ response to Satan?
Answer: Jesus’ reply is that it is not material bread which nourishes the physical body that ultimately gives life, but the Word of God.  In the Old Covenant “life” meant obedience to the Law of God, but there is more in what Jesus responds to Satan than the meaning of “life” in the Old Covenant.  The irony is that Jesus is Himself the “Living Word” and He is the “Living Bread come down from heaven.”  It is He who ultimately gives life that lasts to eternity, and the “bread” that He will give to provide eternal life is not like the manna that only gave temporal life.  His “manna” is His Body which is “the Living Bread” and the future gift of the Eucharist.  Jesus’ Body becomes the true Tree of Life that sustains man’s immortality, like the Tree of Life in Eden.  Jesus will give man the necessary spiritual nourishment on the journey to the new Eden that is heaven.

Test #2: 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written:  He will command his angels concerning you: and  with their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'”  7 Jesus answered him,  Again,  You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'” 

In the second test, Satan quotes from Psalm 91:10-12.  This passage is proof that even the devil can quote Scripture and twist it to his advantage.  Satan’s taunt is for Jesus to demonstrate He is God’s Son by testing God’s promise to deliver His elect: Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever known my name I will set on high (Ps 91:14).  For a second time Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, this time from 6:16, refusing to “test” God by demanding a supernatural show of power, unlike the Israelites.

Question: What did Moses tell the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:16?  Also see Ex 17:7; and Dt 9:22-23.  What is the meaning of the word “Massah” and how are those passages related to Jesus’ response?
Answer: In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses told the people: You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test, as you did at Massah.  He was referring to the events in Exodus 17:1-7 where the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not? (Ex 17:7). The Hebrew word “Massah” means “testing” (Ex 17:1-7 and Dt 9:22-23).  At Massah the thirsty Israelites challenged God to provide them with water, behaving rebelliously instead of with faith and trust.   Moses’ message to the Israelites was that rather than testing God, Israel should be loyal, diligent and obedient. Yahweh’s promised blessings in the Promised Land were conditional upon Israel’s obedience.  Jesus is God’s faithful and obedient Son.  Jesus’ second test recalls the Israelites’ failure at Massah.  Jesus’ response to Satan is that He will not test God; He will put His trust and faith in His Father’s promises.

Test #3: 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”  10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall your serve.’

In the last test, the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus will bow down and worship him.

Question: Does Satan have the authority to make this offer?  See Jn 12:31.
Answer: Apparently he does have that authority; from the time of man’s Fall from grace when Adam and Eve rejected God’s sovereignty over them, Satan has been the “prince of the earth.”

Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy chapter six again, as He did in the second test, this time quoting from verse 13.  In Deuteronomy 6:12-13 Moses told the Israelites: … be careful you do not forget Yahweh who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave-labor.  Yahweh your God is the one you must fear, him alone you must serve, his is the name by which you must swear (NJB)

Question: In Moses’ warning to the Israelites, what contrast is he making and what is the significance of swearing by God’s name?
Answer: In Moses statement, serving Yahweh stands in contrast to the fact that they had once served the Egyptian Pharaoh (worshiped as a god-king) as vassals (Dt 8:12).  The statement “his is the name by which you must swear” suggests a loyalty oath of allegiance to the Israel’s new king who is also Israel’s God.

Question: What is Jesus’ point in quoting from this passage?  Compare Jesus’ faith and obedience to the failures of Israel and Adam.
Answer: Unlike the Israelites who were the “first-born sons of God” among the nations of the earth, and unlike Adam, God’s firstborn son in the human family, Jesus’ is the true Son whose allegiance cannot be swayed by hardship like the Israelites (who lost faith and worshipped the Golden Calf) or by Satan’s promises of self-glorification to which Adam submitted himself (Satan promised Adam he would be god-like if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit).  Jesus’ loyalty and obedience is to God the Father alone.

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.  After completing His covenant ordeal, the angels of the heavenly court came to minister/serve Jesus.  St. Luke has a slightly different order for the three tests and concludes Jesus’ ordeal with the statement: Having exhausted every way of putting him to the test, the devil left him, until the opportune moment (Lk 4:13, NJB).

Question: When was Jesus’ last test of obedience and Satan’s last “opportune moment”?
Answer: Jesus’ final test came as He prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and made His final act of obedience and submission to the will of God the Father.

Matthew 4:12-17 ~ The Beginning of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.  13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the peoples who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death a light has risen.
17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus stayed in Judea and Perea until St. John was arrested and then He withdrew to the Galilee.  Herod Antipas ruled both Perea (on the east side of the Jordan River) and the Galilee in the northeast.(2)

Question: Who arrested John the Baptist and why?  John was baptizing repentant sinners on the east side of the Jordan River in the territory of Perea.  See Mt 14:3-5.
Answer: Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, arrested him because John publically condemned Herod’s marriage to Herodias, his niece and the wife of his half-brother Philip.

Matthew 4:13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea …   After John’s arrest, Jesus returned to His boyhood town of Nazareth in the Galilee.  Then, He left Nazareth and went to make Capernaum His home and the headquarters of His ministry; in Matthew 9:1 Capernaum is called “his own city.”  Capernaum was a major port for the fishing industry on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee about 23 miles from Nazareth.  One of the reasons Jesus relocated to Capernaum may have been because of its strategic location near the Via Maris, the major trade route that extended from Egypt, passing through the Galilee and on to other centers of trade in Syria, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia.  Jesus didn’t have to go the people; they came to Him on the Via Maris.  Jesus began His public ministry in Capernaum by teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Mk 1:21).

Matthew 4:13b-16 … in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the peoples who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death a light has risen.

Matthew again uses the fulfillment formula, quoting Isaiah 8:23-9:1.  In chapter 7 Isaiah promised that that God would deliver the King Ahaz of Judah from his enemies.  But a year later, neither the kingdoms of Israel or Judah remember God’s merciful intervention and their sins now cause the prophet to condemn them to judgment and to prophesy the rise of the nation of Assyria and the means of their punishment.  The first blow was to fall on the Galilee, but the prophet also promised there would one day be restoration: First he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles.  Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light … (Is 8:23).

In the division of the land of Canaan, the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali occupied the lands north and west of the Sea of Galilee (Josh 19:10-16; 32-39).  When the United Monarchy failed, Zebulun and Naphtali became part of the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel.  In 733-32 BC the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser invaded the Galilee and took the conquered Israelites eastward into exile in Assyrian lands.  The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali became the first Israelites conquered by a foreign power and taken away into exile (2 Kng 15:27-29).  The 8th century prophet Isaiah of Judah describes that terrible time as “darkness” and “death.”

Question: Isaiah’s promise is that after the judgment of the Assyrian invasion and exile there will be a future restoration that will like a “great light,” and a “rising light.”  What is the rest of the prophecy inIs 9:5-6?  Why does St. Matthew say this entire prophecy (Is 9:1-6) is now fulfilled in Jesus and what is the connection to Isaiah’s 7:14 prophecy?
Answer: Jesus is the “light;” He has risen from His baptism in the Jordan River to become the “rising light” that has come to renew and restore His people in the very first place where Israel was torn apart.  Jesus is fulfillment of the rest of Isaiah’s prophecy “He is the child born to Israel from David’s line “upon whose shoulder “dominion rests;” He will be called “Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”  He is the child “God with us/Emmanuel” prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.

Question: In Christian liturgy and tradition, Isaiah 9:5-6 is used to refer to Jesus Christ.  How are the 5 attributes of the “son” given to Israel in verse 5 of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus?

  1. “Upon his shoulder dominion rests”: Jesus’ authority comes from God
  2. “Wonder-Counselor”: Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ wisdom and judgment are beyond the ordinary gifts of other men
  3. “God-Hero”: Jesus is a defender of Him people, like God Himself
  4. “Father-Forever”: Jesus is devoted to His people like a parent loves his children
  5. “Prince of Peace”: Jesus had come to establish the peace of God’s kingdom among His people

Do not miss the part of Isaiah’s prophecy that describes the Galilee as a land of the Gentiles (Is 8:23; Mt 4:15).  Gentiles did not begin to populate Israelite territory in the Galilee until the Assyrian invasion in the 8thcentury BC, and their numbers did not begin to be significant until the 2ndcentury BC.(3)

Question: Why is it that Isaiah is prophesying a Galilee heavily populated by Gentiles that will occur long after his time?  What is the connection to Jesus?  What is the focus of Jesus’ messianic mission?  See Mt 10:6; 15:24; 28:19.
Answer: Jesus’ messianic mission is to restore and renew Israel, as promised by the prophets.  It will be the men and women of the new Israel of the New Covenant that will carry the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentiles.  Jesus’ ministry in the multiethnic Galilee foreshadows the Church’s later mission to call the peoples of all nations to salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 4:17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the official beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  His message is the same as St. John the Baptist (Mt 3:1).  The formula saying “from that time on Jesus began,” found in 4:17 and 16:21, divides the Gospel into three sections.  The phrase in 4:17 signals the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the proclamation of the Kingdom.

  • Section I in 1:1-4:16 identifies the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Section II in 4:17-16:20 is the proclamation of Jesus’ ministry.
  • Section III in 16:21-28:20 recounts the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Matthew 4:18-22 ~ Jesus Calls His first Disciples

18As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  19He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make fishers of men.”  20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.  He called them, 22and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

Question: Was this the first time these men had come in contact with Jesus?  What significant earlier exchange did Simon have with Jesus?  See Jn 1:25-42.
Answer:  No, earlier when Jesus was still in the south after His baptism, all four men had been introduced to Jesus on the shores of the Jordan River and had spent time talking with Him.    Then, that same day in the Galilee when He called them to become His disciples,  they had witnessed Jesus’ supernatural powers in their harvest of fish.   It was a demonstration that left little doubt for them about Jesus’ true identity.

During the earlier encounter on the banks of the Jordan River, Andrew and another of John the Baptist’s disciples (probably John Zebedee) spent a day talking with Jesus at that time (Jn 1:35-38, 40).    The next day Andrew brought his brother Simon (Peter) to meet Jesus, telling Simon that he had found the Messiah  (Jn 1:41-42).  At that time Jesus told Simon he was to be called “Kephas,” meaning “Rock” (1 Jn 1:42).(4)

Note: John 1:39 records that it was the “tenth hour” that Andrew and his friend saw Jesus and stayed with Him “all that day.”  The tenth hour Roman time is 10 AM.  It is unlikely that the time reference is Jewish time since the 10th hour Jewish time is 4 PM and the Jewish day ended at sundown.

Question: What was the response of these fishermen to Jesus’ call when they met Him a second time on the shore of the Sea of Galilee?
Answer: They left everything in their former lives and followed Jesus.

The call of the four fishermen to leave their occupation as fishers of fish to become fishers of men as Jesus promised in 4:19  may be a fulfillment of Jeremiah 16:14-16: However, the days will surely come, says the LORD, when it will no longer be said, “As the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt”;  but rather, “as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of the north and out of all the countries to which he had banished them.”   I will bring them back to the land which I gave their fathers.  Look, I will send many fishermen, says the LORD, to catch them.   After that, I will send many hunters to hunt them out from every mountain and hill and from the clefts of the rocks (emphasis added).

Matthew 4:23-25 ~ Jesus Proclaims the Kingdom and Ministers to the Multitude

23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.  24 His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them.  25 And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.

Like other prophets of God before Him, Jesus cured the sick and cast out demons.  His healing miracles were signs that His authority was from God.  Syria was the Roman province north of the Galilee.

Question for group discussion

Question: How does Jesus’ testing by Satan provide practical applications for Christians who are faced with circumstances that test their faith and obedience?  Give three examples.  See Eph 6:17; Heb 2:18; 4:12, 16; Jn 16:24; Mt 3:16; 28:19; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:4.

  1. Every time Jesus was tested, He used Scripture to ward off the devil’s attack.  St. Paul called Sacred Scripture the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”   Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture and His commitment to live in obedience to the word of God that gave Him an advantage over the devil.  In the every day struggles with the temptations of this world, every Christian should know Scripture well enough to use it as a defensive weapon in spiritual warfare.
  2. We can be assured that Jesus will stand with us in our struggles.  Having endured Satan’s tests, He understands the temptations Christians face and He is able to aid in the struggle if we turn to Him in prayer.  His grace is sufficient to sustain us in our hour of need.
  3. We must remember that Satan has no power over us unless we let him, because just as the Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus at His baptism, through Christian baptism we too have become empowered by God the Holy Spirit.


1.  Also see Job 1-2 where Satan has access to the heavenly court and where he is shown to be the opponent of man and God.  Christian baptism is a renunciation of the devil (CCC 1237).

2.  Herod Antipas was married to Herodias, a granddaughter of Herod the Great and his wife Mariamme, the last Hasmonean princess. Herodias was first married to her uncle Philip-Herod Boethus (Herod Antipas’s half-brother) by whom she had a daughter named Salome (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.2).  Herodias left her husband for Herod Antipas (also her uncle).  Their marriage was forbidden under the Law of the Sinai Covenant (see Lev 18:16 and 20:21) and therefore was condemned by St. John the Baptist.

3.  The Galilee was the homeland of several Israelite tribes until the Assyrian conquest in the 8th century BC.  It was an Assyrian practice to deport the population of a region and to bring in other conquered peoples to take their place; this was the beginning of Gentile populations in the Galilee and Samaria (Northern Israel; see 2 Kng 17:22-24).   With the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th     century BC, the Gentile population increased.  The Gentile population in the region grew significantly between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.  Ten Gentile Greek-culture cities west of the Galilee, in a region called the Decapolis (ten cities; see 1 Mac 5:15), were established as a federation of free cities under Roman rule after the Roman conquest of 63 BC, and the two largest cities in the Galilee in Jesus time, Sepphoris (the capital of the Galilee) and Tiberius, were heavily populated by Greek culture Gentiles.

4.  Jesus will not officially rename Simon “Kephas” (rock in Aramaic) and “Petros” in Greek (masculine) until a significant event in the 16th chapter of Matthew.

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