The Gospel of Matthew, Part 6
Fr. John Codis offers the sixth class in the series.
The Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 4:1 – 11
The Temptation of Jesus
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
The narration of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness is not only a biographical fact but also a paradigm for Christians. Matthew provides a model for how Christians can triumph over the devil as Christ did.
The presentation of temptations found in Matthew graphically with the devils appearance in physical form and the changes of place (wilderness, temple, lofty mountain) is not intended to be understood as a “perceptible occurrence but to portray a trial undergone by Jesus at the outset of his messianic career.”
Christ is “tested by the devil”
We must understand first the meaning of the word to tempt. The Greek word is peirázei. We need to interpret this meaning as to test far more than it means to tempt.
“What we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin.”
Christ is “led up into the wilderness by the Spirit”
Christ went into the wilderness to be alone. It was this desolate place, which he could be more alone than anywhere in Palestine.
It was in this way the Spirit moved him, to be alone, to think how he was to attempt the task which God had given him to do. He had to be alone.
We make many mistakes because we do not allow ourselves to be alone with God.
The Temptations or rather, The Tests
i.“He was hungry”
- This is a temptation to Jesus to use his powers selfishly and for his own use, and to let his appetite set the addenda for Him.
- “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds through the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3).
ii.“Throw yourself down”
- This is a temptation to Jesus to prove that he can expect special protection from God, and thereby have the psychological security of knowing that he is invincible.
- “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God”’(Deut. 6:16).
iii.“Fall down and worship me”
- This final temptation is one that is timeless; it is to compromise one’s allegiance to God for the sake of worldly gain.
- “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”
We cannot read this story without remembering that its source was Christ himself. No one was with him when this struggle was being fought out. We know of it only because Christ himself must have told his disciples. It is Christ telling us his spiritual autobiography.
When we approach this reading one must approach it with special reverence, for in it Christ is laying bare his inner most heart and soul. He is telling us his struggles. Christ is saying to us that he can help others who are tempted because he himself was tempted.
This is the sixth class in the series. You can enjoy additional classes in the series here.