Now that Jesus has been baptized, it is almost time for him to begin his earthly ministry. Yet first he is “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (verse 1). It is important to distinguish here the difference between temptation and testing. God’s character does not deliberately attempt to cause people to sin, but he does test our character through the allowance of circumstances. Satan is the actual being whose role is temptation, and he is the one who tempts Jesus. Verse two reminds us of two things: the relationship of the old and new covenants, and the humanity of Jesus. “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry”. The time period of forty days and forty nights is how many days it rained while Noah was in the ark. And the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after leaving Egypt. It is continually interesting to see how many themes tie together in the Bible over the Old and New Testament. Just as the Israelites desired substance, Jesus too desired food in the wilderness. Jesus being hungry assures us as the audience that he was in fact human, and that just like us, Jesus desired to be fed. Now being God, Jesus could have had food if he so desired. And Satan knew this. “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (verse 3). Satan always seems to be whispering in our ears when we are at our weakest moments, yet Jesus is unyielding and gives a wonderful response. “But he answered, ‘It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (verse 4). The easy way out is almost never beneficial or constructive. Jesus could have fed himself, yet he recognized that being tested was invaluable. Imagine going 40 days without food. And imagine the type of strength it must have taken Jesus to give a response when he was that hungry. It’s incredible. The temptation by the devil continues in the next few verses. “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 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 “’on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”’ (verses 5-7). As we can see here, context is incredibly important. Knowing scripture is beneficial, yet if we don’t know the correct context, we are incidentally manipulating the message of God’s Word. I’ve heard people say there are Bible verses that support the KKK, gay marriage, marijuana, and other controversial issues. While I believe none of those arguments have any support, I use them simply to show that if someone takes a verse out of context, they can use it for their own selfish agenda and then pass that agenda off as if it were divinely supported! And this is what Satan is trying to do here. He is trying to manipulate force Jesus to do something which goes against God’s timing and ultimate redemptive plan. Jesus could have jumped and been saved by angels. And many people would have followed him. Yet we see in Jesus’s response an admission of a greater authority being in control. Jesus wasn’t going to jump because his Heavenly Father didn’t plan that for him. We can learn from this to consciously be aware of God’s plan for us, and think through our decisions carefully with His will in mind, not just the end result which gives us the most glory or immediate attention from man. A third and final temptation by the devil to Jesus is given, and Jesus’s response is the same to this test as it was to the others. Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world as a trade for Jesus’s worship of Satan (verses 8 and 9). Jesus again stands strong and offers his support for God and His plan. “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “’You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve”’ (verse 10). Jesus is tempted three times, and all three times, he turns to God in response to what Satan says. It is simple yet not easy, and it is a model we should attempt to emulate when we are tempted.
After Jesus’s temptation is complete, he begins his earthly ministry. John is arrested, and Jesus moves from Nazareth (his hometown) to “Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali” (verses 12 and 13). Jesus fulfills a prophecy spoken in the book of Isaiah, chapters 9 and 42. He will bring light to many people, both in terms of his physical healing and his spiritual awakening. Verse 17 has Jesus echoing John the Baptist’s message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (verse 17). While it is important to remember that Jesus and God equally love us unconditionally, the call for repentance is crucial when we turn to Christ, because it is only when we consciously turn away from our sin that we can fully follow Christ as disciples and live the lifestyle he called us to live.
The next few verses describe Jesus calling his first disciples, Simon and Andrew. Simon and Andrew were fishermen, yet they were about to be called to much more than that by Jesus. “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”’ (verse 19). What a calling! And how to these two simple fishermen respond? “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (verse 20). Our response to Christ frequently isn’t immediate, but for these disciples, it wasn’t even worth thinking about staying in their normal lives. I tribute that to the impact that Jesus left on people. No one interacted with Jesus and came away exactly the same. Jesus next calls James and John in a similar fashion, and they too immediately follow Jesus (verses 21 and 22). Primed by the message of John the Baptist, people were responding to Jesus and were beginning to follow him. The next section of this chapter see Jesus “teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (verse 23). And this verse keys three important qualities of Jesus that we find in the Gospels repeated as a theme: Jesus was a teacher, a healer, and a servant. Now obviously Jesus is much more than those three attributes. At the end of his gospel, John writes that if everything that Jesus had done had been written down, the world couldn’t contain the amount of books written! I can’t break Jesus down or write an equation for him. He’s simply too wonderful and indescribable for me to do that. These three attributes are submitted humbly as three identifiers that remind me of why I love Jesus so much. The end of this chapter shows Jesus healing all who were brought to him, and “great crowds” following him (verse 25). This is the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Yet as we and those who were following him are about to see, Jesus was going to bring a different message than what anyone could have anticipated.