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Matthew 3:13-4:1 by Robert Dean
Some days trouble barrels toward us like a huge snowball, threatening to overwhelm us. How can we handle those times? Listen to this message to learn how Jesus in His humanity was able to counter the tests of the Devil. See how Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist was an announcement that Jesus was God's Son and find out how God uniquely anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Discover that Jesus never acted independent of the Father's will and demolished the Devil's temptations because of His knowledge of the Word of God.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:48 mins 51 secs

The Inauguration and Authentication of the Messiah
Matthew 3:13-4:1
Matthew Lesson #012
November 17, 2013

By way of introduction I want to remind you of how important it is to understand that Scripture teaches again and again and again the radical inability of man. We just aren't capable of handling life's situations. We are often overwhelmed, often in a state of anxiety; the normative state of the human soul prior to salvation is predicated upon fear. The first emotion that is really brought forward in Scripture is in Genesis chapter three. After Adam and Eve had sinned and God came to walk in the garden they were afraid and they hid. This is a paradigm for all human behavior. The starting point is fear because we know that living in the devil's world is overwhelming. We may not be able to articulate it. That may be part of the truth we are suppressing in unrighteousness, that we are sufficient to handle things, but the reality is that we are totally incapable and incompetent to face the realities of life on our own. We just don't have the resources to do it.

As we get into this section of Matthew we are going to address two things. First of all the inauguration of the Messiah, which is seen in the episode of John's baptism of Jesus. And then this flows almost immediately to the next event, which is the temptation of our Lord. This authenticates Him as Messiah, and also in one of the many ways in which God multitasks it provides a pattern for us in how we are to face and handle the challenges, temptations and tests of life, and that that is based on the Word of God. The Word of God is sufficient, the Spirit of God is sufficient, and the plan of God is sufficient. And only on that basis can we really have the kind of peace and stability and happiness and joy to be able to go forward no matter what the circumstances may be.

Matthew 3:13 NASB "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan {coming} to John, to be baptized by him." In the writing of his Gospel we will see that as Matthew is moving the story along he frequently uses the word "the". That is his style. Mark always seems to be in a hurry and uses the transitional term "immediately". Luke uses a slightly different phrase and so each one is different. This just shows that in the inspiration of Scripture God the Holy Spirit allows each writer to write in terms of their own style, their own vernacular and that sort of thing. What Matthew is simply introducing here is that the next event that he is talking about is the baptism of Jesus. He doesn't really indicate that this is something that happens right on the heels of the other confrontation. It could be a day or two or three later. In fact is seems to be that the Baptist's ministry gains publicity.

Jesus, who is still in obscurity in Nazareth, hears that John is down and at the right time Jesus proceeds to the south. John the Baptist is the forerunner announcing Him in fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament and at the right time Jesus makes His way from Nazareth down south along the Jordan to some area north of the Dead Sea that we know is located somewhere that is located to the east of Jericho. Then He is going to go back to somewhere in the hill country of Judea, which is very barren. But the word that normally translate as wilderness or sometimes desert can simply mean a rural area, an unpopulated rural area. It doesn't necessarily imply a forested wilderness or a barren wilderness but it was some place where there was no population. For a period of forty days and forty nights Jesus will fast.  

" … to John, to be baptized by him." The verb is baptizo and in the parsing we see that it is an aorist passive infinitive. The passive verb in the Greek indicates that the one who performs the action is indicated by the preposition hupo. That is what we have in both places. Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized by John. Jesus came so that John would baptize Him.      

Matthew 3:14 NASB "But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'" What this indicates is an active involvement of the object of the preposition "by" performing the action of the verb. Just so you know why I am stressing this is because in verse one of chapter four we read: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit …" Now that is not the instrumental dative we are used to seeing with "being filled by means of the Spirit". It is indicating that the Holy Spirit following the baptism will actively lead and direct Jesus into the wilderness to go through the fasting period where Luke informs us there was also a testing, to these three ultimate tests that take place. The point of application that we see here is that often when we go through difficult and stressful times of pressure and testing, it is God who is taking us through that so that we can learn something. He is teaching us something and sometimes it is difficult, painful, and it lasts a lot longer than we think it should, but it is the opportunity that God is taking us through—intensified suffering—in order to teach us this kind of radical dependence upon God that we see evident in Jesus in the testing at the beginning of chapter four.

When Jesus came to John we are told that John tried to prevent Him. This is the Greek word diakoluo, meaning to forbid, hinder or restrain. Why is John trying to stop Jesus from getting baptized? It is because John understands that his baptism is a baptism for repentance for the kingdom. Jesus has nothing to repent of. He is not s inner. He is without sin and so John does not see how his baptism applies at all to Jesus. Why should Jesus be baptized unto repentance? This is the perfect Son of God, the perfect man, and there is no sin in Him. Hebrews 4:15 NASB "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin." That is an important thing for us to understand as introduction to the testing in Matthew chapter four because what we see is not that Jesus is tested in every detail with the precise form of testing that you and I face, but in all of the categories of testing He is tested. He is tempted externally. The point is, He is without sin. It is a valid test, though. Even though He is the God-Man and His deity cannot sin, in His humanity He is handling the pressure of the test on the basis of the resources that God has given Him in His humanity—not in His deity.

What Jesus is showing in the testing is that He handles the test from His humanity with the same resources that God has give to you and me. 2 Corinthians 5:21 also states this principle, that "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us …" again stressing the point that Jesus was not a sinner. That is part of the purpose of the virgin birth, that He never received a sin nature. Some might say, well wait a minute, if He didn't have a sin nature of course He didn't sin. But Adam was not created with a sin nature and yet Adam sinned. The first Adam failed the test. He entered into temptation, to testing, and he responded through disobedience. He didn't rely on the provision of God, he tried to handle things from his own resources. He failed, disobeyed, and yielded to the temptation. What Jesus is going to show is that He is qualified to be the Messiah because He passes the test that Adam failed. So as the second Adam demonstrates His qualifications to be the Messiah and to go to the cross to die for our sins. As such, this initial episode emphasizes giving evidence at the beginning of His ministry that He is qualified to enter into that ministry of presenting the kingdom to Israel.

Matt 3:15 NASB "But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit {it} at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him."

The phrase "it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" helps us top understand the difference in Jesus' baptism. Some of us may have been in a baptismal service where we have heard that we are to follow the Lord in baptism. That is not true. This baptism was a unique baptism. The baptism of Jesus was unique to Him because it was related to His public ministry as Messiah. We have to be reminded of Matthew's purpose. Matthew is writing to show the qualifications of Jesus as the Messiah, and so everything must be interpreted ultimately within that particular framework. Jesus is coming to fulfill all righteousness and that has to be understood in terms of His messianic ministry. It happens at the beginning of His ministry so it is related to the inauguration of His public ministry and the nature of that public ministry at the beginning is to be presented as the Messiah, the one who has come to offer the kingdom to Israel. That is God's plan. God's plan, remember, is the cross before the crown. In Israel they had forgotten that the Messiah was going to suffer, they expected the crown, the glory of the kingdom before the cross—if they even understood that there would be suffering for the Messiah.

In summary what we are saying is that Jesus' baptism is an identification with the Father's plan of presenting the kingdom to Israel, but that presentation is based upon the order of events: the suffering Messiah will come before the crown, the glory of the Messiah. In order to fulfill that Jesus goes to John for John to baptize Him as identification with the plan of the Father. 

Matthew 3:16 NASB "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water …" Here we have just one of the few audible, public hearing of an announcement from heaven. " … and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove {and} lighting on Him." [17] and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." So we have a witness, a Trinitarian appearance here at the beginning of His ministry, indicating the approval of Jesus. 

"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." This reminds us a couple of statements made in messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. It is not a fulfillment of these prophecies but they allude to those prophecies. If they were familiar with the Old Testament at all, and many of those Jews there with John the Baptist were, and heard this from heaven it would bring certain verses to their mind. One is psalm 2:7, "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." Then Isaiah 42:1, "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one {in whom} My soul delights…" The Father delights in the Son. So this connects what is happening with John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. What we see in Jesus' baptism is that He is identified with this messianic mission to offer the kingdom, and that that in terms of the Father's plan is to offer the kingdom by way of the cross. This is not going to be fully understood by the Jewish people.

There is one other aspect of this to bring out from Peter's message to the Gentiles in the household of Cornelius in Acts chapter ten.

Acts 10:36 NASB "The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—[37] you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. [38] {You know of} Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit …"

So what happens at the baptism is not that Jesus was living apart from the Spirit previously but there is something unique and distinct that takes place at this point that is called the anointing with the Spirit. The Greek verb for anointing is chrio. From the verb we get the noun christos, appointed one or anointed one. So this relates to His being distinctly anointed by God the Holy Spirit at this point. This brings Him into public awareness and the beginning of His ministry.

To remind us of what we saw earlier in Luke chapter four related to what happens when Jesus leaves here and goes into the wilderness of the temptation we read: "Luke 4:1 NASB "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness." This is different terminology. This isn't being led by the Holy Spirit, hupo, which indicates a direct leading by the Holy Spirit. No church age believer has ever experienced this, outside of the apostles. This is a ministry of direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit and an active directing and leading is unique to His particular ministry. 

But in Luke we learn that He is also filled by means of the Spirit. Now this isn't the filling of the Spirit that you and I experience in Ephesians 5:18. The word that is used there is pleroo; the word that is used here is a similar word, pimplemi. When pimplemi is used it always indicates a strong direct influence of God the Holy Spirit. It frequently precedes any kind of direct revelation. Someone experiences this kind of filling and then they say something. It is related somewhat to divine inspiration but it is a much more direct leadership and influence by the Holy Spirit than we have with the filling by the Holy Spirit that we have in terms of the spiritual life of the church age. 

Luke says that "Jesus having been filled by the Spirit [that is, this anointing of Acts 10:38] "returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit …" That word for leading is the word anago which can mean to take up, to raise, to offer up or to direct or take something from some place to another location. It is done by the Spirit, indicating that the Spirit does this action. It is directive. This is not passage that you or I can ever use to apply to any kind of divine guidance in the church age; it is totally distinct. Only Jesus and perhaps the apostles were ever given this kind of direct guidance because it is related to direct revelation and direct revelation ceased with the closing of the canon in the New Testament.

An overview of what we are going to see here in the next week or so. What Matthew does in chapter four is present the qualifications of the character of Jesus as the Messiah: that He has reached a point of spiritual maturity, and He demonstrates that through the way He passes this testing. So this is an evidential type of testing where Jesus as the Messiah provides evidence before the angels within the framework of the angelic conflict, and before the human race, that He is qualified to enter into His public ministry as the Messiah.

Matt 4:1-3 NASB "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

There are three things that we need to understand in terms of what is going on here because the testing of Jesus is multifaceted. God is a multitasker. He is going to accomplish several things in one thing. This isn't just related to one thing or another.

It demonstrates His messianic character and credentials. Why did Jesus come? First and foremost he came as Messiah to fulfill the messianic role to be the savior of His people from sin. That is the focal point: who He is as the Messiah? There is a lot that is involved with being the Messiah, including the fact that He is the God-Man. But first and foremost His mission is to present Himself to Israel as the prophesied, promised Messiah. So each temptation relates to Jesus' Messiahship. There are elements in each of these temptations that connect to the qualifications of the Messiah from the Old Testament. In these tests Jesus will show His spiritual maturity and that He is qualified to be Israel's Messiah.

We know that this was foreshadowed in the typology and symbolism of the first two reigning kings of Israel. The first God-anointed king is Saul. When Samuel anointed Saul it was a private event. The first thing that happens after that is that Saul goes off following the directions of Samuel and he falls in with these prophets. That indicates that a spiritual regeneration has occurred; he was clearly a believer. Then he is going to lead the people in a victorious conquest of their enemies. That publically show his qualifications to be the king. The same thing happens with David. Samuel anoints David to be the next king of Israel while Saul is still reigning because Saul was in disobedience. It is a private ceremony with only the family there when Samuel anoints David. Then in the next chapter David goes out and defeats and kills Goliath the enemy of Israel. This is a public demonstration of his ability to trust in God and defeat the enemies of Israel. This is what is expected of the Messiah: that He is going to be able to defeat and conquer the enemies of Israel. So He faces this test, this challenge from the devil in the wilderness and He wins. He is demonstrating His credentials and His character to be the Messiah.      

In the first temptation Satan says, "You're hungry". Jesus has been fasting for forty days and forty nights, which any of us can do. We need to have water but we can go that long without food. After the second day the hunger pangs go away. Apparently they will not return until about the fortieth day and then the come back with a vengeance because now life is starting to be threatened. You can go forty days but you are in a state of mental and emotional weakness. You are extremely vulnerable because now that hunger is coming back on you like a freight train. So Jesus is in a state of weakness and His appetite is coming back, and Satan says, "You're God; just turn these stones into bread." Jesus responds by saying something very interesting, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. Matthew 4:4 NASB But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" The word there for "man" that He is applying to Himself is the word anthropos, emphasizing a human being as opposed aner which emphasizes being male. He is identifying Himself as a man. He is identifying Himself with the human race and that He is going to handle the problem not from His deity but from His humanity. So He answers as the God-Man, not as God. God-Man is emphasizing the humanity of the hypostatic union.

The term hypostatic union is from the Greek word hupostasis, which means the essence or actual being of something, and what it describes is how these two natures of Jesus are united—His eternal divine nature united with His humanity. This is a union of two natures in one person. So here one person answers. He doesn't answer from His deity or from His humanity. He didn't have a split person. But the answer is going to be emphasizing that He is doing this from His human side, not from the divine side.

The next term to introduce is one coming out of Philippians 2:7, kenosis, where it says that Jesus emptied Himself. The doctrine of kenosis means that during the incarnation Jesus Christ as the eternal second person of the Trinity willingly restricted the use of His divine attributes so as not to use them to solve problems related to His humanity.

Jesus doesn't say He is not going to access His deity at all, He accessed His deity in order to demonstrate His claims to be God. But He never accesses His deity in terms of His omniscience or His omnipresence in order to handle the spiritual problems His humanity faced. When He turns the water into wine He shows that He is the creator and He as God has the authority to do that. But He doesn't turn the stones into bread because that would solve a personal problem. The turning of the water into wine had nothing to do with His desire to drink wine or His personal desire to handle any kind of temptation or testing. So what we in the union of the humanity and the deity of Christ is that Jesus willingly limits the use of His deity in order to solve the spiritual problems related to His humanity.

So this is the first aspect of this. The first aspect is that He is qualified as the Messiah. The second aspect is that in the humanity of His hypostatic union of the God-Man. He is going to demonstrate as a Man that He is absolutely and totally dependent upon God's provision and protection. As such He shows that He surpasses and passes the test of Adam and that He will not act independently of the Father's plan. So the first way shows that He is qualified in His character to be the Messiah, and second He is showing that as a Man He is going to handle whatever tests are coming in order to demonstrate God's provision and protection is sufficient.

That leads us into the third thing that He accomplishes. He shows to us and to the angels the absolute sufficiency of the power of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the plan of God. This means that God has given us whatever we need to handle whatever comes our way. He is sufficient to sustain us and to enable us to encounter those things no matter what happens in our spiritual life. And in that Jesus is setting a pattern and a precedent for us in the church age that we need to be totally dependent upon Him.

And fourth, He shows us how we do that, and that is we use the Word of God. He shows that we are dependent upon the Word of God, which presupposes that we know the Word of God. We can't use the Word of God if we don't know the Word of God. We can only know the Word of God if we take the time to read it, to study it, and to saturate our life with the thinking of the Word of God. What is it that qualifies Jesus to enter into His public ministry? It is that He has grown to spiritual maturity. He only grows to spiritual maturity by studying and assimilating the Word of God into His life.

Real ministry for us as believers doesn't begin when we are children. It doesn't begin when we are adolescents spiritually. It begins when we become adults. The idea in Scripture is that we need to hurry up and become adults. We can't do that is physical life but we can do that in our spiritual life by studying the Word. Along the way we begin to learn to minister to people but the real ministry that comes our way in people's lives comes when we are spiritually mature, when we have grown up, and from totally saturating ourselves with the Word of God so that whatever comes our way we can respond to it from the Word of God. And part of that means we are to memorize the Word of God. What we will see in each of these temptations is that Jesus responds by quoting Bible verses. This is what David says in Psalm 119:11 NASB "Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." That is how we counter the temptations of life.

Paul says it a little differently in Ephesians 6:17 where he is talking about the armor we are to put on. NASB "And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." The term "word" there isn't logos, it is not in reference to the written Scripture; it is hrema, the spoken or utilized Word.

What we see is that each time Jesus is tempted He parries and counter attacks with the Word of God. And this teaches us that the way we are to handle the problems and the adversities that come our way is to claim the promises of Scripture. We have to know the promises of Scripture and then we cite those and depend upon them—the faith-rest drill. We need to know the Word of God so that we are prepared to handle whatever come sour way. Jesus in His humanity does that. He doesn't do it any other way, it is always a focus on the centrality of the Word of God, the sufficiency of the Word of God, the sufficiency of the Spirit of God, and the sufficiency of God's plan.