Jesus Preaches the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 4:3-11)
Rev. David French
Last week, we looked at Jesus’ birth and ended with His Baptism, the starting point for His public ministry. This week we consider Jesus’ teaching ministry. But first, we begin with an important test.
After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He fasted forty days and nights. At the end of those forty days, Jesus felt His great hunger. “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (Matthew 4:3).
It sounded reasonable. I mean how can Jesus save the world if He dies of starvation first? But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus knew Satan was tempting Him to disobey His Father. Jesus also knew His Father and trusted Him to feed Him when the time was right.
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’” (Matthew 4:5–6). Jesus had declared His trust in His Father. Satan replied, “Prove it.” This was a brilliant temptation. In fact, if Jesus didn’t jump, it would look like He didn’t trust His Father. Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). You see, Jesus used the Bible masterfully. He didn’t need to prove the faith and trust in His heart—His Father knew, and that was all that mattered.
“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8–9). Jesus responds “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him (Matthew 4:10–11).
When our first parents, Adam and Eve, gave in to Satan’s temptation and ate the forbidden fruit, they shattered creation, and our whole human family fell from God’s grace. But in Jesus Christ we received a new life. Jesus held firm and obedient to His Father through every single one of Satan’s temptations over that stretch of forty days. His perfect life is what He will offer to pay for our new beginning.
So, Jesus gathered some disciples and returned to Galilee, the northern region of Israel, where He began His public ministry. Jesus’ disciples were an important part of His ministry. Think of them as apprentices or students. Jesus had hundreds of disciples, but He specifically called the Twelve. These would be eyewitnesses of His teachings, of His miracles, and His death and resurrection. Their teachings and writings would be the foundation for Jesus’ New Testament Church, and they would write or oversee the writing of the New Testament.
Matthew describes Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, how Jesus went from village to village teaching and performing miracles. Jesus’ teaching started the same as John the Baptist’s teaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Both taught people to recognize their sins and repent of them, to seek to change their lives in obedience to God. Jesus taught them about God’s mercy and grace and promised them forgiveness for all their sins. Jesus taught His disciples to baptize believers.
Jesus’ pattern was to teach in synagogues on the Sabbath day, Saturday, and then spend the rest of the week teaching in the city squares and visiting people’s homes when they invited Him. Jesus’ teachings focused on God’s grace and love for all sinners and His gift of full and free forgiveness for all.
Jesus’ parables were some of His greatest teaching tools. He told memorable stories of everyday people, places, and events—a farmer scattering seed, a shepherd and his sheep, a man with his two sons. But these stories taught heavenly truths to His followers, truths which often turned the people’s thinking and expectations upside down. He would speak of lowly and despised people receiving God’s grace while wealthy, well-respected, and prominent Jewish leaders were sent away empty-handed by God because they trusted in their own works.
Jesus also worked great miracles which showed God’s kingdom and His Messiah had come among them. His healing miracles foreshadowed the perfect, eternal healing He will bring when He returns on the Last Day to restore creation. He restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to paralytics, and He cured palsied limbs and cleansed lepers.
During His ministry, Jesus drove out demons who seek to destroy God’s creation and turn people from faith. Jesus drove these demons out of people with a word, a command; and since He was their Creator and Lord, they had no choice but to obey Him. This foreshadowed Judgment Day when He will drive the fallen angels from His creation and punish them in hell for all eternity.
Jesus also worked great miracles to demonstrate His authority over creation and His power to completely restore it on the Last Day. He stilled storms and calmed the sea with a word leaving His disciples dumbfounded as they marveled, wondering, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23–27).
Jesus even demonstrated His power over death during His ministry. Three times the gospels record Jesus raising people from the dead. The third involved a family who was close to Him, we read in John, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ … So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.’ When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:38–39, 41–44). These raising of the dead miracles demonstrated Jesus’ power over death, not to mention His own resurrection on the third day after His crucifixion.
Though great crowds gathered around Him, Jesus faced increasing opposition and persecution from Jewish leaders who falsely taught the way to God was by obedience to the customs and rules developed by the Jewish rabbis. Jesus exposed their self-righteous hypocrisy and publicly condemned their useless teachings. But perhaps the thing that angered them the most was when Jesus would perform His miracles on the Sabbath day. A day their traditions insisted all Jews abstain from any form of work. Jesus taught that the Sabbath was a day for God to work giving people rest from the threat of their sins and teaching them about His great love and mercy.
As Jesus’ ministry continued, the opposition from the Jewish religious leaders intensified, setting Him on a collision course when they came together at the great spring Passover festival in Jerusalem. That’s where we’ll meet next week.
In His name, Amen.