Scriptures

Matthew 4

Introduction

‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ Matthew 4:1

Jesus Is Tested In The Wilderness

Jesus had just been baptised by John and the ‘Spirit of God descending upon Him’, Matthew 3:16, and so now after receiving the Spirit Jesus is now preparing to go about His mission.

This is the way it should be for all Christians, when they receive God’s Spirit at baptism, Acts 2:38, they must be willing to get on with the mission of God in sharing the Gospel with others, Matthew 28:19-20.

It’s interesting that when God is preparing people to begin a mission, those people usually end up in the wilderness, we see this with Moses, Exodus 3:1, John the baptiser, Mark 1:4, Paul, Galatians 1:17, and here we find Jesus being led into the wilderness. When most people think of the word ‘wilderness’ they often think of a barren place where nothing grows, however, the word ‘wilderness’ often means a place where wild beasts live.

When we read that the ‘Spirit led Jesus’, we’re not to understand this to mean that the Spirit was going to tempt Him, because we know that God doesn’t tempt anyone, James 1:13.

This simply means that the Holy Spirit led Him to the place where He was going to be tempted. In Luke’s account, he tells that Jesus was ‘full of the Spirit’, Luke 4:1, which is reference to receiving the Spirit at His baptism by John, Matthew 3:16.

This also tells us that when He received the Spirit, He was fully equipped to do the work God had prepared for Him to do, Philippians 2:6-8.

The reason for Jesus being led into the wilderness was to be tempted by the devil. Remember the devil was thrown out of heaven because he wanted to be God, Jude 1:6 / 1 Timothy 3:6.

He is the Christian’s enemy, Matthew 13:28 / 2 Timothy 2:26, but his power is limited, 1 Corinthians 10:13. He is the accuser and deceiver of all men, Matthew 13:19 / Luke 22:31 / Ephesians 6:11 / 1 Thessalonians 2:18 / 1 Peter 5:8-9 / Revelation 20:7-10.

‘After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.’ Matthew 4:2

Jesus is one of only three people in the Scriptures who are recorded to have fasted for forty days and forty nights, the other being Moses, Exodus 34:28 and Elijah, 1 Kings 19:8. It’s not surprising that Jesus was hungry after eating or drinking nothing for forty days and nights, and it’s not surprising that Satan would come to Him now when He’s at His most vulnerable.

The First Temptation

‘The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Matthew 4:3

The devil is well aware that Jesus is hungry and needs to eat and so he’s about to tempt Jesus in the same way he tempted Eve in the garden, Genesis 3:1-7, he’s now going to offer Jesus the lust of the eyes and flesh, and the pride of life, 1 John 2:16.

Notice that the tempter uses the word, ‘if’, the devil knew who Jesus is, He is the Messiah, and so, he uses the word ‘if’ to try and place doubt in Jesus’ mind as to who He was.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The tempter appeared in this passage as the Lord’s antagonist in three different guises, giving rise to the impression that Satan too has a triune nature. Three names characterise Satan in the book of Revelation. He is called the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, Revelation 20:10. He appears in three guises, as a serpent, Revelation 20:2, as a lion, 1 Peter 5:8, and as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14.’

‘This same triple pattern is seen in the temptation of Adam and Eve, through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, 1 John 2:16. It is noteworthy that the temptation of Christ followed this same three-phase pattern.’

Because the tempter knew that Jesus was hungry, he asks Jesus to turn some stones into bread so that he can have food to eat. The temptation here was for Jesus to perform a miracle so that Jesus could meet one of man’s most basic needs, which is hunger.

The tempter wanted Jesus to perform a miracle for Jesus’ own personal gain, which would mean Jesus wouldn’t be relying on God to meet that basic need, Matthew 6:11 / Matthew 6:25-34, but to become self-reliant.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4

Notice how Jesus’ responds to the tempter, He says ‘it is written’, which is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, when Israel were reminded not to forget God and what He did for them in bringing them out of Egypt.

This is the way all Christians should respond when they find themselves being tempted, we should respond with the Word of God, Acts 20:32 / 1 Thessalonians 2:13 / 2 Peter 1:3.

Jesus came to give us not only life, but life to the full, John 10:10, and whilst we understand that physical life is important, our spiritual life is far more important.

We know we have to eat physical food to help us grow and become healthy people, but we also must feed our soul with God’s Word in order for us to grow into healthy Christians, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 / Hebrews 5:11-12 / 2 Peter 3:18.

The Second Temptation

‘Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Matthew 4:5-6

The place where the devil took Jesus next was the holy city of Jerusalem, Luke 4:9 / Nehemiah 11:1 / Nehemiah 1:18 / Matthew 27:53. Jesus stood on the highest point of the temple, although no-one knows exactly where this is located in the temple, we do know that he was facing the Kidron Valley.

The point here is that this place was high enough for someone to jump off to their certain death unless a miracle prevented them from dying.

In order to prove that Jesus was God’s Son, the devil asks Jesus to throw Himself down. Notice again the devil asks Jesus to preform another miracle to prove who He was.

In other words, in this temptation he’s telling Jesus that He could save Himself a whole load of time and energy in trying to convince people that He is the Messiah. If He jumps from this high point and lives and everyone sees Him, this act within itself will conceive everyone that He really is the Messiah.

Notice that the devil also quotes Scripture to Jesus to encourage Jesus to jump, his quote is taken from Psalm 91:11-12.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matthew 4:7

Jesus once again, responds to the temptation by saying, ‘it is also written’. Notice in response to the devil’s misquotation or misapplication of the Scripture, Jesus didn’t rebuke him for doing so. The reason for this is because the words quoted form Psalm 91:11-12 actually do apply to the Christ.

Jesus didn’t reject the temptation to jump from the temple because the devil misquoted the Scriptures, Jesus rejected the temptation because it would have created an unnecessary presumption and would have been testing God, hence why Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.

If we learn anything from Jesus’ response it simply this, we must always understand any text in its context before applying it to anything else. If we look at the next two verses, Psalm 91:13-14, they tell us that God would in His work in the life of Jesus destroy the works of Satan.

The Third Temptation

‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Matthew 4:8-9

Notice the three places these temptations took place, first there was the wilderness, then there was the temple, and now we have a very high mountain. It appears that the devil tried to tempt Jesus in three different places and in three different ways.

You will also notice that the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and he took Jesus up to the holy city. This tells us that Jesus purposely permitted the devil to take Him to these places to be tempted because Jesus knew this was the will of God, Luke 22:39-46.

How the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour is unknown.

McGarvey, in his commentary says the following.

‘Christ, in some way unknown to us, was transported through Satanic power to a great eminence where the devil made all the kingdoms of the world to pass in review, as it were, before the mind of Jesus. If they were presented only to his mental vision, it might have been accomplished by a vivid description, such as Satan is capable of, aided by the excited imagination of Jesus as he looked abroad from the top of the exceeding high mountain.’

The devil tells Jesus that he will give Him all these kingdoms. The temptation here is that Jesus can rule the world with the devil but Jesus knows that that the Father had already given all things into His hands, John 13:3 / John 17:2 / Mathew 28:18, and that Jesus knew that He was to be King of kings and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:15. When Christ returns He will then hand over His present kingdom reign to the Father, 1 Corinthians 15:26-28.

It’s important to note that the devil is the father of lies, John 8:44, and here, he clearly lies to Jesus because the devil has no control over the kingdoms of the world, although he may use deception to try and rule over them, Luke 4:6.

We know if Jesus had given into this temptation then Jesus wouldn’t have won the kingdoms of the world, but the devil would have won them and God’s plan to save the world would have failed just as quickly as it begun.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:10

It was after the devils, third temptation that Jesus commands him to get away and notice that Jesus calls him Satan. The reason why Jesus calls him Satan is seen in His response where He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, Jesus takes that passage of Scripture and includes the worshipping of Satan.

In other words, Jesus was telling him that it’s not only sinful to worship men or women, Matthew 2:11 / Acts 10:26, but it’s also sinful to worship Satan and his angels, Revelation 19:10, only God is worthy of our worship, Revelation 4:8-9.

‘Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.’ Matthew 4:11

Jesus commands the devil to go away and he obeys, but this wasn’t to be for long, he would come at Jesus again very soon, Luke 4:13 / John 14:30.  As the devil leaves, angels come to attend to Jesus, they came to attend to His physical needs after fasting for forty days and nights.

The devil’s proposal to change stones into bread was as unnecessary as it was sinful. Jesus who is introduced to us in the very first verse of the New Testament is introduced as ‘the son of Abraham,’ Matthew 1:1.

Abraham if you remember on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice his son Isaac said, ‘the Lord will provide!’. Genesis 22:14, and the Lord certainly provided for Christ by sending His angels to Jesus to provide for His physical needs. The father was always with His Son, always there to help Him in His hour of need, Matthew 26:53 / Luke 22:43.

As Christians, we all often face temptations, they come at us from all directions and in different forms. The devil loves to dangle in front of us things he knows will be seriously attractive to us. Even though he knows some things won’t tempt me, he knows exactly what will tempt me.

In the temptation of Christ, we see the devil tempting Christ in various ways, with various things, but the good news is Christ resisted all those temptations, Hebrews 4:15. We must remember that this event wasn’t the only time Christ was tempted, Luke 4:13 / Luke 22:42 / Matthew 26:39 / Hebrews 2:18.

Temptation

The English dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.’ Easton’s Bible dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘solicitation to that which is evil’.

What the English dictionary calls something ‘wrong’ or ‘unwise’ the Bible calls ‘evil’. Let’s be clear here, temptation is powerful enough to lead us into sin.

Temptation And Test

We should note there is a difference between the word ‘temptation’, and the word ‘test’. Satan is the tempter, not God, Genesis 3:1-6 / Matthew 4:1-11 / James 1:13, he tempts us to sin and lure us away from God and to bring out the worst in us, but testing is done by God, to draw us closer to Him and to bring out the best in us, Genesis 21:1 / Genesis 22:16-18 / James 1:2-4.

The Greek word for tempt, ‘peirazo’ is the same Greek word for test but we can understand the difference when we look at the context and what the motivation is.

Satan ‘tempted’ Jesus in order to draw Him way from the Father, but God allowed Jesus to be ‘tested’ in order to allow Jesus to exercise His free will. His choice was to follow His Father’s will or follow Satan’s will.

We should be encouraged in knowing that Jesus experienced temptation as we all do, and so He is more than capable of emphasising with us when we face our temptations, Hebrews 4:15.

We should also be encouraged in knowing that He overcame those temptations, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and we too can overcome our temptations, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

We must remember that it’s not sinful to be tempted, it’s sinful when we yield to those temptations. Doing what pleases God, as Jesus did when He was baptized, doesn’t exempt anyone from temptation but Satan often intensifies his efforts when a person begins to serve God.

Knowing the Scriptures is really important for the Christian because we hear all kinds of text being taken out of context to promote some kind of theory or belief.

We must be aware of what the Scriptures actually say when someone comes along and tries to teach us something ‘new,’ 2 Timothy 4:3-4 / Romans 16:17-18 / Revelation 22:18-19.

Jesus Begins To Preach

‘When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:12-17

Most commentators suggest that a year has passed since verse 11, hence why Matthew doesn’t record the events of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, John 1:43 / John 2:3 / John 4:1-43.

When Jesus heard about the death of his cousin John, Matthew 14:1-13 / Mark 1:14 / Luke 3:20, He left Galilee, Mark 1:14-15 / Luke 4:14-15.

He now goes to live in Capernaum, Matthew 9:1-9 / Matthew 11:23 / Matthew 17:24 / Mark 1:21 / Mark 7:1-2 / John 6:59, to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah 8:22 / Isaiah 9:1-2.

Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew all lived in Capernaum and it would be Capernaum who would reject Christ and be denounced by him, Matthew 11:23. It be would here that the people who lived in darkness would see a great light, that is, Jesus and the good news He brings, John 1:4-9.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘the shadow of death’.

‘In the shadow of death is an expression that occurs a number of times in the Old Testament, Job 10:21 / Psalms 23:4 / Jeremiah 2:6. In this place it is only a further reference to the moral and spiritual condition of the people of Galilee.’

Jesus message was simple ‘repent’, Matthew 3:2 / Luke 13:3, ‘for the kingdom of heaven has come near’. Jesus is speaking of the spiritual kingdom of God, which is about to come, Mark 9:1. He wants the people to start living out God’s Will in their lives, Matthew 6:9-10 / Luke 17:20-21.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

‘As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.’ Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, it’s here He calls His first disciples, Mark 1:16-20 / Luke 5:1-11.

I read the following article from ‘Preserving Bible Times’ which I think is really insightful to what’s actually happening here, when Jesus calls His disciples.

A Contextual Reflection on Jesus’ Call

The quest is a familiar one. A determined high school student sets his or her aim high on a very prestigious, hard to get into university for a college experience. As part of the plan, many high school Advanced Placement courses are taken, the best grades are obtained, and impressive, hopefully, extracurricular activities are intentionally added to the mix. Then great care is taken in composing the essay questions on the college application form.

When the requisite campus visits and interviews are complete, a prolonged waiting period commences. Will the long-awaited letter announce an acceptance, or a rejection?

Only time will tell. From a first-century Middle Eastern context, there were those engaged in a similar quest, that of gaining acceptance to be a disciple of a rabbi and joining his yeshiva, ‘learning community’.

Educating Jewish Boys

Childhood education started early in first-century, observant Judaism. At age five, young boys went to the local synagogue school to learn Hebrew and memorize the Torah. By the time of his bar mitzvah at age 13, a typical Jewish young man was very conversant with God’s Word having memorized the Torah, that is, the Pentateuch, the Neviim, that is, the Prophets and the Kituvin, that is the Writings, which comprised all of the Hebrew Scripture, that is, Tanach, of that  day.

Those young men who showed great promise in this initial phase of learning were encouraged to continue their education following their bar mitzvahs. This would entail studying the wisdom and authoritative interpretation of the Torah by the sages known as ‘The Yoke of Torah’.

After that next multi-year phase, the young men who continued to show great promise were further encouraged to extend their training by spending time, typically from ages 17-20, with a rabbi in a multi-year yeshiva experience. There they would hone their ability to interpret God’s Word as it relates to all the practical issues of daily life.

Choosing Your Rabbi Carefully

Because of the great interpretive diversity and emphasis amongst the rabbis, the decision to ask to be a rabbi’s disciple and receive religious training from him was not made lightly. Some rabbis, like Shammai, interpreted the Scriptures from a literal approach.

Others such as Hillel embraced an interpretive view that emphasized the spirit of the Torah, while still other rabbis taught interpretative approaches that focused on different areas of emphasis, e.g. ritual purity laws.

Obviously, these diverse approaches often led to very different interpretive outcomes pertaining to issues of daily life. Since a rabbi’s interpretation of God’s Word was forever binding on his disciples, great care had to be taken by the disciple accepting ‘the yoke of the rabbi’ to make sure it was an interpretive approach that he could identify with and live out.

Being Very Particular

A rabbi in the First Century would only choose a very elect few, highly promising young men from all the wannabes who asked to be his disciples. He selected only those who he thought could fully measure up to his standard and eventually become just like him.

A rabbi did not want to invest in anyone who did not have this emulation potential. Jesus underscores this objective when He observed that a student is not above his teacher, that is, rabbi, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher, rabbi, Luke 6:40.

As part of the selection process, a rabbi would intensively test, examine, grill, and interrogate any may I become your disciple applicant in his understanding of the Tanach.

What the rabbi was looking for was not just a detailed knowledge of the Tanach and the oral tradition, but the ability of this candidate to ask good questions in order to better understand the interpretive issues resident in that body of knowledge.

Remember, the issue to an observant Jew in the First Century was never what God’s Word says. They all knew what it said. They had memorized it. Rather, the issue was, what does it mean, an interpretation question?

Thus, the rabbi was most interested in choosing disciples who exhibited the mettle, intelligence, commitment, and persistence to become an interpreter of God’s Word just like him.

With this rabbinic ‘testing’ as a contextual backdrop, revisit Jesus in the Temple when He was twelve years old where He astonished the scribes and esteemed teachers of His day with his understanding and his answers.

During this three day interaction with some of the best religious minds of His day, Jesus dramatically established Himself at an early age as having rabbinic DNA!

Inviting A Candidate To ‘Follow Me’

If a rabbi judged a potential disciple to have the capability to become just like him, i.e., to emulate him, then the rabbi would utter those cherished words of acceptance every potential disciple longed to hear, ‘Follow me’. With that inviting phrase, the disciple-to-be knew he had survived the rabbi’s demanding ‘pass-fail’ admission process!

Throughout the Gospels, the phrase ‘follow me’ is a Jewish idiom used by the rabbis to mean, ‘Come and be with me as my disciple and submit to my authoritative teaching. Hearing that meant you had made the last ‘cut’.’ You are now on the varsity. You are good enough to be my disciple!’

We in the West tend to focus mostly on the appealing ‘come and be with Me’ front-end part of that invitation. But contextually, you can’t have one without the other.

Absolute submission to Rabbi Yeshua’s authoritative teaching is a Siamese twin with the ‘come and be with me’ portion of that invitation.

Willing Submission To Authority

By becoming a rabbi’s disciple, the young Jewish lad readily agreed, no coercion needed, to totally surrender to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Scriptures for his life. In fact that submission was something the new disciple truly wanted to do.

Using a computer analogy as regards his understanding of God’s Word, the new disciple willingly deleted everything in his own ‘hard drive’ of what he previously thought was ‘right’ and ‘true’, and started uploading whatever his rabbi held to be right and true, i.e. the yoke of his rabbi.

Parenthetically, we might ask, ‘Is this the way that disciples of Jesus today have embraced His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount?’ In this discipling posture, the rabbi was given special honour and esteem above the disciple’s biological father (who gave him physical life) because his rabbi would be the one to give the disciple spiritual life, the wisdom of God’s Word.

Inverting Rabbinic Protocol

Without understanding the contextual backdrop of this rabbinic selection process, we miss understanding just how much Rabbi Jesus, Yeshua, was a rabbi unlike any other.

In that first-century Semitic culture, rabbis did not take the initiative to approach young men with the invitation to ‘follow me’. But Jesus did. That must have added to the shocking impact on those Jesus called in that paradigm-breaking way.

Think back to Simon in Luke 5 after the great catch of fish or Levi, that is, Matthew, in Luke 6, the despised port tax Collector, port tax collectors were deemed by the rabbis to be the worst of the worst.

One day Jesus looked at each of them and said implicitly to one and explicitly to the other, ‘Follow me’. It is an understatement to say that Simon and Levi were not expecting to be called as Rabbi Yeshua’s disciples.

They would never have envisioned themselves as being worthy to be His disciple. Since Simon was a fisherman, he obviously had washed out of the disciple-making rabbinic process somewhere along the way and as a result had devoted himself to a profession. Levi was the ultimate outcast. He was a person that the religious system not only rejected, but scorned as never able to be forgiven.

Both Simon and Levi knew they had absolutely no ability to emulate Rabbi Yeshua, neither His interpretive authority, nor the miracles He performed. Both were convinced they were not ‘good enough’ to be considered disciple material for his yeshiva.

They knew they could never measure up to His emulating standard and become little Rabbi Yeshuas. And from both of their perspectives, that was a sound and sober assessment.

So when Jesus called them to ‘follow me’, both of them had to be completely incredulous, now there’s an understatement!. ‘You mean this Rabbi Yeshua sees in me the potential to become like Him? He thinks I am good enough to be His disciple! Not only can I not believe that, I cannot even fathom that ever being possible!’

We tend to lose sight of the reality that Jesus has a much higher view of us as His disciples and of what we can become in Him than we could ever dream about ourselves in our wildest expectations. Why? Because Jesus always starts with the eternal end in view.

As part of that, He gave Simon a vision of what his future would be like as a disciple of Jesus when He told Simon there would come a day when he would be a ‘fisher of men’. That had to be more of a shock to Simon than the great catch of fish!

Calling His Disciples

Now we have some context to understand why Jesus deliberately broke rabbinic protocol by calling His own disciples. It would seem He had no choice but to do it that way. Remember, no observant Jewish young man would ever have had the audacity to ask Jesus if he could become His disciple.

We also need to remember that Jesus knew what no one else yet knew. Shortly after His crucifixion and ascension, He was going to send His Spirit, at Pentecost, to indwell each one of His disciples so they would be empowered to do similar things and manifest similar traits, attitudes and values as He, e.g., anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.

This empowerment was going to include external imitation as well as internal transformation. It would empower not only their behavior, but their hearts and minds as well.

Since only He knew that planned outcome at the beginning of His ministry, He therefore also knew that He would have to take the initiative in calling disciples into His yeshiva band. And He is still doing that today! Have you responded to both parts of His call to ‘follow me?’

Simon Peter

Peter was a Galilean fisherman who lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with his wife, his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law.

People at the time worked as a family unit, so the men and women of Peter’s family worked together to catch and preserve, dry fish for export to the surrounding towns. This particular family was probably in partnership with Zebedee and his sons, James and John. Matthew 4:21.

Like his father and brother Andrew, Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade, working on the Lake of Galilee. His family seems to have been caught up in the revival movement led by John the Baptist.

Peter met Jesus at Bethany through his brother Andrew, and was immediately impressed. Jesus called him ‘Peter’, the rock, an odd choice of name since Peter seems to have been passionate and impulsive rather than rock-like. Jesus actually called Peter ‘Cephas’, which is the Aramaic equivalent of ‘Petros’, a rock. John 1:40-42.

Andrew

The name Andrew is a Greek name which means ‘manly’ or ‘of valour.’ Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and son of Jonah.  He was born in Bethsaida in the province of Galilee and was a fisherman like his brother Peter.

Before he met Jesus, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. However, when John pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God he realized that Jesus was greater and immediately left John, found his brother Peter and became a disciple of Jesus John 1:25-42.

After this Andrew and Peter continued to be fishermen and lived at home until being called permanently by Jesus to be ‘fishers of men.’ Matthew 4:18-20.

Later Jesus is teaching the multitudes on the mountainside and he asks Philip where they could find food to feed the crowd and Philip says, ‘eight months’ wages could not buy enough bread’ to feed them.

It was Andrew who brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus which Jesus miraculously multiplies into enough food to feed everyone. John 6:8-9.

And it was Andrew who during the Passover Feast brought a group of Greeks, Gentiles, to meet Jesus which prompts Jesus to remark ‘when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself.’ John 12:20-32.

Andrew knew that Jesus came not only to save Israel but everyone on the earth. The last time Andrew is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts chapter one where he is listed as one of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into Heaven. Acts 1:13.

Because they were fishermen, who were used to fishing for fish, Jesus tells them He will make them fishers of men, they will preach the Good News and share it with others, in order that those they teach will become followers of Christ, Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15-16.

James, Son Of Zebedee

The apostle James was honoured with a favoured position by Jesus Christ, as one of three men in his inner circle. The others were James’ brother John and Simon Peter.

When Jesus called the brothers, James and John were fishermen with their father Zebedee on the Sea of Galilee. They immediately left their father and their business to follow the young rabbi. James was probably the older of the two brothers because he is always mentioned first.

Three times James, John, and Peter were invited by Jesus to witness events no one else saw, the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Mark 5:37-47, the transfiguration, Matthew 17:1-3, and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-37.

But James wasn’t above making mistakes, when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, he and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the place, this earned them the nickname ‘Boanerges,’ or ‘sons of thunder.’ Mark 3:17.

The mother of James and John also overstepped her bounds, asking Jesus to grant her sons special positions in his kingdom. Matthew 20:20.

James’ zeal for Jesus resulted in his being the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred. He was killed with the sword on order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D., in a general persecution of the early church. Acts 12:1-2.

John, Son Of Zebedee

John was the brother of the apostle James, he was also the son of Zebedee, a fisherman of Galilee.  His mother’s name was Salome who is believed to be a sister of Jesus’ mother Mary. John, his brother James and the apostles Peter and Andrew were all partners in a fishing business prior to their calls by Jesus to follow Him, Zebedee was also a partner.

It is said that John owned a home in Jerusalem and that it’s possible that the interview Nicodemus had with Jesus was held there. John with his brother James wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the place, this earned them the nickname ‘Boanerges,’ or ‘sons of thunder.’ Mark 3:17.

The apostle John rose to a position of influence within world-wide Christianity and shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., he moved to Ephesus.

He became the elder of the church in Ephesus and had a special relationship with other churches in the area, as we know from the letters to the Seven Churches in Asia, in the Book of Revelation.

John’s brother, James, was the first of the apostles to die, on the other hand, John was the last. All of the apostles met a violent death, however, John died peacefully in Ephesus, at an advanced age, around the year 100 AD.

There is a church tradition, which says, that while John was living in Ephesus, John had with him Mary, the mother of Jesus, for a few years.

While in Ephesus, by order of the Roman emperor Domitian, John was exiled to an island called Patmos. In what is known as the cave of the Apocalypse, located on this island, the sacred text of the book of Revelation was given to the apostle John by Jesus, it’s here that John recorded what is written in the New Testament Book of Revelation.

Other New Testament books accredited to John are the Gospel of John, along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd John. When he was released from exile, he returned to Ephesus and lived till the time of the Roman emperor Trajan.

It’s said that John, founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eight year after our Lord’s passion and was buried near the same city, Ephesus.

Peter and Andrew drops their nets and followed Jesus, James and John left their nets and their father and followed Jesus too. Think about this, they left their jobs, their family, their comforts immediately to follow Jesus, Matthew 10:37-39 / Mark 10:28 / Luke 9:23.

What does Jesus choosing of Peter, Andrew, James and John tell us about the character of a person who can take Jesus to the world? They all had their strengths and weakness, they were ordinary people who weren’t highly educated people.

Jesus Heals The Sick

‘Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.’ Matthew 4:23-25

As Jesus went through Galilee he was teaching in their synagogues, Ezra 8:1, and preaching the good news about the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 9:23 / Matthew 13:54 / Matthew 26:55 / Mark 1:21 / Mark 6:2 / Luke 22:53 / John 6:59 / John 18:20.

He healed many people with all kinds of ailments, Matthew 8:16 / Matthew 9:35 / Matthew 14:14 / Mark 1:34 / Mark 3:10. He did this to prove He was indeed the Son Of God, John 3:2 / John 20:30-31.

It’s not surprising that Jesus was becoming popular among the people, Mark 1:28, so popular in fact, that many other people came with all kinds of problems to be healed.

Since Jesus created mankind, Colossians 1:16, it’s not surprising that He could heal mankind of their fleshly ailments. Since Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, Hebrews 2:14 / Ephesians 4:8, it’s not surprising He healed those who were demon possessed, Matthew 8:16 / Matthew 8:28 / Matthew 8:33 / Matthew 9:32 / Matthew 12:22 / Matthew 15:22 / Mark 1:32 / Mark 5:15 / John 20:21.

Demon Possession

The topic of ‘demon possession’ is an interesting subject to say the least and I know most people have their own thoughts and ideas about it. Some believe it still happens today and other say there’s no way it can happen today and still others are not sure.

I remember many years ago a friend of mine witnessed someone who was a member of a certain ‘church’ being literally beat up by the ‘pastor’, as he says this was the only way to drive out this ‘evil spirit’ from the young boy.

Anyone who knows anything about the Scriptures will know that ‘beating’ beating up to drive our some ‘demon’ is nowhere found in the Bible.

There was a documentary on TV a few years ago where certain ‘churches’ were being investigated for this very subject. Their pastors were claiming they some members were ‘possessed’ because they stole something from a shop, some were claiming that members were ‘witches’ because since those individuals joined the ‘church’ nothing but ‘bad luck’ has happened to other members.

Our television is filled with programmes which speak about demon possession, films have been made about demon possession, someone heard about someone else in the middle of some far-off country, in the middle of some village, of someone who possessed.

You can go on YouTube and see a video of people who are supposedly possessed and you can see videos of people having those demons driven out.

I mean, it’s everywhere and people’s minds are slowly being filled with all kinds of wonderful ideas about the subject. However, whether we like or not these practises are still rampant within some religious circles today.

Possibly because of ignorance, possibly because some so called ‘pastors’ have a desire for power and financial gain.

The whole purpose of this study is to try compare what people believe is demon possession today with the Scriptures and then you can make your own mind up about the subject in hand. We can either believe ‘people’s testimonies’ or the Word of God.

And please know that I’m not disputing what people are claiming they have seen and witnessed but I am disputing if what they saw and witnessed was genuine. Some people claim that they have been possessed by a demon or they at least, claim they know someone who has been possessed.

Do Demons Exist?

We can’t deny that demons or ‘evil spirits’ exist because the Bible tells us so, James 2:19. We know that demons were under the power of Satan, who is the commander of all evil spirits. This is what the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of in Matthew 12:24.

How Did Demons Operate?

We know from the Scriptures that these demons entered into people’s bodies and controlled their lives, Matthew 8:28-34. They often caused sickness in the people they entered such as not being able to speak or see, Matthew 12:22.

They caused people to become insane and mad, Luke 8:26-36, and they often caused people to conduct personal injuries on themselves, Mark 9:14-27. They often caused other kinds of bodily infirmities, Luke 13:10-17.

What Do Demons Know?

Well, unlike most of the people in Jesus’ day, they certainly knew who Jesus was and they understood why He came into the world in the first place, Luke 4:41. There’s no doubts that they actually believe in God too, James 2:19. They are well aware about the coming Judgement and they fear the Judgment and their eternal punishment, Matthew 8:28-29.

All of the above text shows us that demons are not some kind of diseases like some people have claimed but these demons or evil spirits are just that, they are spirit beings who think, speak, and act.

Who Was Capable Of Casting Out Demons?

Now this is an important question which we’ll get back to later but for now, we see in clearly Scripture that Jesus often cast demons out of people, Matthew 8:16.

Jesus also gave the ability to cast out demons to His early disciples, Luke 10:17, and Jesus also gave the ability to cast out demons to His apostles, Mark 16:17-18 / Acts 5:16 / Acts 8:7 / Acts 16:16-18 / Acts 19:11-12.

The apostles were able to give miraculous gifts to others by laying their hands on them, Acts 6:6-8 / Acts 8:14-21 / Acts 19:1-6.

Please remember that these miraculous powers would have included the power to cast out demons, Acts 8:5-8.

Do Demons Still Possess People Even Today?

1. There is no indication that demon possession occurred before the ministry of Jesus and His apostles. We have no references to it in the Old Testament, Saul was not demon possessed, 1 Samuel 18:10.

And the first we hear of this is in the Gospels during the ministry of Jesus. The last we hear of it is during the ministry of the apostles. This suggests that demon possession was something God allowed for a short time in order to demonstrate the power and authority of the Lord Jesus and of His apostles.

2. There is no instruction in the epistles on how to cast out demons. If demon possession is a problem for the church today, then surely believers need to be able to cast out demons and to do so we must know how.

Because there is no such instruction, suggests this isn’t a problem now. If demon possession continued today, Satan would have more power than God, for he could send his demons into people, but God’s people couldn’t cast them out.

3. What is sometimes called demon possession today doesn’t match up with the accounts we find in Scripture. We don’t find people, for example, who break the strongest of chains, as the possessed man of Gadara did, Mark 5:3-4 / Luke 8:29.

4. Most alleged demon ‘exorcisms’ today are secluded, back-room affairs that are only later publicised. Yet when Jesus expelled evil spirits, his miracles were publicly viewed, by astonished multitudes, Luke 4:36.

When Did Demon Possession End?

Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, spoke of the time when Christ would come, Zechariah 13:1. This fountain was opened when Jesus shed His blood on the cross for the sins of the world.

Following the time when the Lord would die for our sins, prophets, men who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and unclean spirits, demons, would no longer be in the land, earth, Zechariah 13:2.

So, I guess the question is, when did this happen? Like we saw earlier, only the early disciples and just before Jesus ascended back to the Father, only the apostles could drive out demons. Later it was only those whom the apostles laid their hands on had the ability to drive our demons and perform other miracles.

In other words, since no early disciples are still alive today, since no apostles are still alive today and since no Christians of whom the apostle’s laid their hands on to bestow upon the gift of casting out demons are still alive today, we can safely say that demon possession can’t exist today because no one has the power to drive them out today.

We understand that the purpose of these miracles was to confirm or prove that what they were saying was God’s Word, Mark 16:20 / Hebrews 2:2-4.

One of the nine spiritual miraculous gifts in the first century according to 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 was ‘the discerning of Spirits’. We must remember to try to understand these gifts in the context of the historical period during which they were exercised. This verse, which seem so strange to us, would be perfectly understood by the people alive at the time of the writing of Paul’s letter.

For example, his readers would understand that, when he writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37 about those whom he describes as ‘spiritual’. Paul was referring to those who were believed to be possessed by a spirit, because this was the name by which such people were known.

Also, Christians weren’t the only ones who believed in ‘spirit-possession’ i.e. individuals who were regarded as being under the influence of spirits which used them as their ‘instruments’. Both Jewish and Pagan religions also had their prophets, whom they believed were under spirit-control.

Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 12:1-2, but, because men recognised the existence of both good and evil spirits, it was essential to determine by which spirit a person was being ‘possessed’ and ‘controlled’.

We know that during the ministry of the Lord Himself, there were times when He encountered and dealt with people who were possessed by evil spirits.

The man at Gadara, and the spirit-controlled son of the man who came to Jesus because he said, the disciples couldn’t cure the lad, Matthew 17:14-20, Luke records the experience of Paul at Philippi, in dealing with a spirit possessed girl, Acts 16:16-19.

With this in mind, Paul lays down two criteria that must be used in making this judgment.

1. ‘Sanity’.

For centuries about 500 B.C., in fact, the Greeks had flocked to temples where priests or priestesses were believed to contact and be controlled by the gods, for who they acted as ‘mouthpieces’, as the gods spoke through them to deliver messages.

Whether it was real or fake, when these people were under the control of their gods they foamed at the mouth, their hair streaming out, and their limbs wildly flailing, as in an epileptic fit, all of which was taken to prove that they were being ‘moved’ by the spirit of the god whom they served.

Not so the prophets of the church, they did not scream or foam at the mouth, or roll on the ground! The Holy Spirit enlightened their minds and sharpened their vision. They didn’t claim that they were the mouthpiece of God, but the messengers of God.

2. The credit of honour to Christ.

The well-used Christian confession of faith in New Testament times was ‘Jesus is Lord’, and as Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 12:3, this was the formula by which the prophets were to be judged either true or false.

Bear in mind that, beginning with Caesar Augustus, Roman Emperors had begun to regard themselves ‘gods’, and everyone in the Empire was required to recognize and acknowledge this! Citizens had to declare their loyalty to Caesar as a god by saying the words, ‘Caesarea Kyrios’, ‘Caesar is Lord’.

In fact, at the entrance to every Roman Camp there was an altar onto which the soldiers were expected to throw a pinch of incense in the worship of the Emperor, whilst saying those words, ‘Caesar is Lord’, and, woe betide any man who failed to do so!

But when the favour with which Rome had originally looked on Christians turned into persecution, this affirmation of loyalty to Caesar was something that the Christians also were required to make, and failure to make it usually meant death.

At the same time, there was a quite different affirmation that was being freely made by both Jewish and Pagan enemies of the church. They were saying, as Paul records in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ‘Jesus is accursed’, and obviously, only the enemies of Christ would utter those words!

Furthermore, when a Christian refused to speak those words which were taken as an acknowledgment of Caesar’s deity, their refusal was taken as a denial of his deity and that was treason which brought the death-sentence.

Thus, the distinction between the prophet inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the false prophet was, in this way, easily made. The one was happy to say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, whilst the other, because he was under the influence of an evil spirit said, ‘Jesus is accursed’.

John also writes about the importance of making this distinction in 1 John 4:1-3. One needs little imagination to understand that in a pagan world, there were many who pretended to be possessed and controlled by the gods, so that they might claim to be speaking in their names.

The significant contrast between these frenzied fakers, and the calmness of the Spirit-led Christian prophets are, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:26-33.

Notice ‘The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets’. In other words, there was no wild abandonment in the manner in which they delivered their message. Everything was done in an orderly manner, because ‘God is not the author of confusion, but of peace’.

A final observation, the exercise of the ‘gift of discerning of spirits’ was to be used when several prophets spoke in the service, 1 Corinthians 14:29.

Now Paul said these spiritual miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would fail, cease, and vanish away, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. These miraculous gifts would cease when that which is perfect is come. This refers to the New Testament, which is called the perfect law of liberty, James 1:25.

Like we noted a moment ago, one of these miraculous gifts was the power to cast out demons. Therefore, evil spirits possessing men, along with the power to cast them out, ceased when the New Testament was completed and confirmed.

Some people often go to Mathew 7:21-23, but notice that Jesus didn’t say they did prophecy or drive out demons in His name, He was simply saying what they would claim.

And the very fact that He says, He didn’t know them and called them evildoers, suggests that what they were doing was fake, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.

Why Demon Possession In The New Testament?

The New Testament clearly indicates that demons were under the control of divine authority. Jesus, for example, could command them to leave a person, Matthew 8:16, or even to keep quiet, Mark 1:34. The demons that tormented the man in the country of the Gerasenes couldn’t enter the nearby swine herd except by the Lord’s concession, Mark 5:13-14.

Since it’s the case that demons could do nothing except by divine permission, the intriguing question is, why did God allow these spirits to enter into people?

The truth of the matter is, the Bible doesn’t give a specific answer to this question. I personally believe that God permitted demons to possess certain people in the time of Christ and the apostles so that His power could be seen.

Not only did Christ have power over nature, disease, and death, but He also had power over the spirit world. The Devil and his demons were proved to be powerless before the Son of God, Colossians 2:15 / 1 John 3:8.

And we do know that the ability to cast out demons in the first century was given in order to confirm the truth of the Gospel message, Mark 16:17-20.

Demons still exist, but they don’t possess people today. Today, we need to be concerned about Satan, the Devil, who tempts us to sin. We know that the devil is still working today but he doesn’t have the power he once had and so he can only work through lying and deceit.

Lying And Deceit

Note the following passages which speak about how he operates today, John 8:44 / 2 Corinthians 11:3 / 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 / Ephesians 6:11 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 / Revelation 12:9 / Revelation 13:12-14 / Revelation 19:20.

The purpose of the church, especially the duties of elders, preachers, and teachers, is to teach people so that they are not as vulnerable to such deceit, Ephesians 4:12-14.

Like I said at the start of this subject, the whole purpose of this is to try compare what people claim is demon possession today with the Scriptures, in order for you to make your own mind up about the subject in hand.

And to know that I’m not disputing what people are claiming they have seen and witnessed but I am disputing if what they saw and witnessed was genuine.

As a result, of Jesus teaching and miracles, great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him, Mark 3:7-8 / Luke 6:17.

McGarvey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The facts of this section, Matthew 4:12-25, furnish another argument in favour of the claims of Jesus, as the Messiah.’

1. They show that his dwelling place was where the prophet Isaiah had predicted the appearance of a great light.

2. That Christ was such a light.

3. That he was so great a light that some people left all things to follow him.

4. That multitudes came from all surrounding regions to receive his blessing and enjoy his instruction. No clearer proof could be given that he was the Great Light whose rising had been predicted by the prophet.

Go To Matthew 5

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

MENU