Jesus starts his ministry
Satan tempts Jesus1 Right away, God’s Spirit led Jesus into the badlands, where the devil would tempt him. 2 By the time Jesus had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, he was famished. 3 That’s when the tempter came. The devil said, “If you’re the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It’s in the Bible:
‘It takes more than bread to keep people alive.
We devour every word God speaks.’”
‘God will order his angels to protect you.
With their own hands they’ll catch you and lift you right back up.
Not so much as a foot will hit the stone.’”
‘Don’t mess around with the LORD your God by trying to test him’”8 Then the devil took Jesus to a high mountain. He showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world in all their splendor. 9 The devil told Jesus, “I’ll give you all of this. Just drop to the ground and worship me.” 10 Jesus answered, “Get the devil out of here. It’s in the Bible:
‘‘You’ll worship the LORD your God.
You won’t serve anyone but him.’”
Jesus launches his ministry12 When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he went back to Galilee. 13 He left his hometown of Nazareth and moved to the lakefront village of Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee. This was in the territory that had been assigned to the Jewish tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali.
14 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“In the territories of Zebulun and Naphtali,
between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,
live the Gentiles of Galilee.
will see the light—a powerful light.
For those people who live in this land,
under the shadow of death
it’s dawn, for the light has come.” 17 Jesus started telling people, “Reject your sinful way of living. The Kingdom of Heaven has come—and it’s here, right now.”
Jesus nets four fishermen18 One day when Jesus was walking alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two fishermen throwing a net into the lake. They were brothers. One was Simon, better known as Peter. The other was Andrew. 19 Jesus told them, “Come and follow me. When I’m done with you, you’ll be fishing for people.” 20 They didn’t hesitate. They left their nets and off they went, following him. 21 A little later, he saw the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee. They were in their fishing boat with their father, working on their nets. Jesus called out to them. 22 They didn’t hesitate. They left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus draws a crowd23 Jesus traveled to towns all over Galilee. He preached in their synagogues his good news about the Kingdom of Heaven. He also healed every kind of sickness and disease that the people brought to him. 24 Word spread about Jesus. It reached at least as far as Syria. Before long, sick folks started showing up. Jesus saw all kinds of diseases and pains. Some folks were possessed by demons. Others suffered from epilepsy or paralysis. Jesus healed them all. 25 Crowds started following him wherever he went. These people came from all over: Galilee, the Ten Cities of Decapolis, Jerusalem, the province of Judea, and even lands east of the Jordan River.
These were two of the 12 tribes of Israel. After Joshua and his militia conquered much of the highlands in what is now Israel, he divided the land among the 12 tribes. Zebulun and Naphtali were assigned territory in Galilee in what is now the northern part of Israel.
Isn’t it strange? Jesus goes from baptism—which today signifies the beginning of a new direction in life, rejecting sin and following Jesus—to temptation. Why this itinerary for Jesus? Why not skip the temptation and send him directly into ministry?
Matthew says the Holy Spirit “led Jesus into the badlands” (4:1), which tradition says were the Judean ridge of hills that rise above the western side of the Jordan River Valley. How do you think the Holy Spirit does that kind of thing? Physical manifestation? Inside the head? Suggestion by someone else, such as John the Baptist?
Matthew says Jesus fasted for “40 days and 40 nights” (4:2). An article in the 1997 issue of the British Medical Journal, by Michael Peele, says there are well-documented studies of people surviving hunger strikes for up to 40 days. A skinny Mahatma Gandhi at age 74 survived 21 days of complete starvation, drinking only sips of water. Do you think Luke literally meant 40 days, or was he using a round number to mean it was a long time—as in a couple of weeks or more?
Perhaps this is the most memorable line in the discussion between Jesus and Satan, when Satan is tempting him: “It takes more than bread to keep people alive. We devour every word God speaks” (4:4). The New Testament wasn’t written yet, and Jews were still arguing over what books to include in their Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. So what do you think Jesus meant by “every word God speaks”?
The message Jesus starts preaching is that people should repent of their sins. He says, “Reject your sinful way of living. The Kingdom of Heaven has come—and it’s here, right now” (4:17). Some Bible versions say the “Kingdom of Heaven is near” (New Living Translation). In either case, are you inclined to think he was talking about himself, or perhaps the religious movement he was starting, or maybe the Holy Spirit at work in the world, or possibly the fact that there were true lovers of God all around the region?
As Matthew reports it, Andrew and his brother Simon, better, known as Peter, instantly accepted the invitation of Jesus to become one of his disciples. “They didn’t hesitate. They left their nets and off they went, following him” (4:20). Ditto for the brothers James and John (4:22). Really? What would you guess is the back story here? Why did these disciples drop everything and follow Jesus like it was some kind of emergency?
LIFE APPLICATION. The devil told Jesus to test God by taking one of God’s promises that was expressed in a metaphor and see if God would honor it literally. Jesus is to jump to his death and God’s angels will catch him. Jesus said, “Don’t mess around with the LORD your God by trying to test him” (4:12). How do we test God? Have you known of people who tried to mess around with God in this way—putting him to the test, perhaps by taking a Bible promise written as poetry and expecting God to honor it literally?
LIFE APPLICATION. It seems interesting to many people that Jesus had a Bible verse to fight off every temptation that came to him. Do you think that would be helpful for us today to memorize Bible sayings? For example, if we find ourselves tempted with one particular behavior, could we latch onto Bible passages to help us overcome the temptation whenever it surfaces?
LIFE APPLICATION. Matthew says the devil came to Jesus and communicated with him in some way, perhaps talking out loud or maybe putting thoughts in the head of Jesus. Do you think Satan does this to people today? Or are we more likely to blame Satan for temptations that grow out of bad decisions we make on our own?