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By Jess Holland and Matthew Boffey
On Saturday, they rested. But early Sunday morning, the women leaped into action. Motivated by love, they gathered spices and perfumes to honor the body of Jesus. Little did they know that Sunday morning marked a new day in human history.
God chose a small group of women to share the greatest news of all time. Why? [Read more…]
In Matthew 4:1–11, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Whether you see this passage as a formula for resisting temptation, a glimpse into Jesus’ true character, or something else, there’s a lot we can learn by taking a closer look at this passage.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. —Matthew 4:1
The Faithlife Study Bible says, “God led his people through the desert for 40 years due to their unfaithfulness. The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days so that his fidelity might be set in contrast to the nation’s infidelity.”
In the third layer of FSB notes, you’ll find a link to an article on “The Temptations of Christ” by John McKinley.
McKinley says, “Though sinless, Jesus experienced the moral struggle between the desire to do right and the desire to sin. This internal temptation is a basic experience all people encounter. For his mission of salvation, Jesus stood in the place of sinful people, suffered the onslaught of temptation, and triumphed by never giving into sin. . . . His empathy and willingness to help those undergoing temptation originate in his personal experience of enduring the struggle between desires for right and wrong. Hebrews 4:16 urges Christians to seek Jesus’ help as one who both understands and possesses the ability to provide aid to surmount temptation.”
If you’ve joined the Community Study Bible group, your FSB experience of Matthew 4 includes insights from other believers—academics and laypeople alike.
These notes expose you to insights from a range of people and perspectives, like these notes attached to Matthew 4:1:
David Taylor Jr. explains that in this passage, Christ models how we should prepare for and face temptation in our own lives:
Dale A. Brueggemann shares a related quote from another resource—Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture:
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. —Matthew 4:2
When I first encountered this passage years ago, I thought the 40 days of fasting suggested Jesus was sustained by the Spirit, because that’s a long time to go without food. The FSB points out that this is not what the text is implying or emphasizing:
“Fasting during this time period meant eating nothing at all; people can safely go without food for a long period of time. The text does not seem to imply that Jesus was sustained supernaturally during his fast—instead, it emphasizes that he experienced hunger. His 40-day fast recalls the 40 years in the desert, Moses’ 40 days on the mountain, and Elijah’s 40 days in the wilderness at Mount Horeb.”
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
The FSB notes highlight three key pieces of this verse:
1. The tempter came and said to him
The text does not say whether the devil is in human form.
2. “If you are the Son of God”
The devil uses this challenge for all three temptations. He turns the words of Matthew 3:17 into a taunt.
3. “Command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
This parallels the Israelites’ failure in the desert. They complained that God did not provide enough food for them (Exodus 16:3). The devil preys upon Jesus’ hunger in an attempt to get him to misuse his power.
Dale A. Brueggemann adds a quote from Cyril of Alexandria, examining the devil’s motives for his request of Jesus:
Food for thought: If Jesus was sustained supernaturally in the desert, then the devil’s request for a sign from God in the form of food would actually undermine the very miracle that was already taking place. While as the FSB points out, that isn’t necessarily what the passage is emphasizing or implying, the devil does consistently attempt to pit the Son against the Father, since the Father has already publicly affirmed his Son (Matthew 3:17).
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
The FSB says, “Jesus’ reply comes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In his temptation, he chooses to quote Scripture.”
Brueggemann adds two notes—a quote from Maximus of Turin and a reflection of his own:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple . . . —Matthew 4:5
When you read this verse in the FSB, you’ll find a video of Jerusalem’s Southern Steps, helping you imagine what the scene may have looked like:
The FSB notes say that the highest point “likely refers to a high point on the front of the temple, rather than a point overlooking the Kidron Valley. If the devil is encouraging Christ to make a public display, the city side is likely.”
This public setting would parallel the public baptism, during which God already publicly revealed that Jesus was the Son (Matthew 3:17). By making this test public (and probably more prominent), it is as if the devil is saying that God’s voice was not enough to verify Jesus’ divinity.
Satan is trying to steal God’s thunder.
. . . 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 4:6
The FSB says, “This test of God’s providence is far more extreme than any test Israel underwent in the desert. No biblical precedent exists for God’s choosing to save someone from falling in this way. Nonetheless, the principle mirrors Exodus 17—the people tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’ (Exodus 17:2).”
When he says, “It is written,” Satan cites Scripture, “perhaps mocking Jesus’ quotation. Both lines come from Psalm 91, but are taken out of context. The original sense is that the Lord’s protection is so near and careful that his angels will not even let people hurt their feet while walking. It does not speak of the angels protecting those who make a show of jumping off buildings” (FSB).
The notes go on to say, “Psalm 91 had probably acquired a messianic interpretation in Jesus’ day. The devil is likely saying, ‘If you are the son of God, then these verses about the Messiah apply to you.’ Alternatively, the devil may only mean, ‘If this is the promise to ordinary humans, how much more should it apply to you as God’s Son?'”
In the Community Study Bible, Brueggemann shares a quote from St. Jerome:
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘ —Matthew 4:7
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, “which refers to the Israelites’ testing the Lord in Exodus 17:2–7. The devil tempts Jesus to doubt the Lord’s providence like the Israelites had” (FSB).
But the devil is persistent.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. —Matthew 4:8
There is some ambiguity surrounding the word we translate as “showed.” The FSB notes highlight this term:
“It is uncertain what the evangelist means to describe. The word deiknymi means ‘to show or point out.’ The devil probably simply points out the general direction of the kingdoms of the earth, naming them as he does so. Visions or physical movement may be involved, but this text does not mention such phenomena.”
Brueggemann shares his own insight into verses 8 and 9:
And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ —Matthew 4:9
Despite the truth of Psalm 24:1, the devil is preying on Jewish perceptions in Matthew 4:9.
“By Jesus’ time, Jewish people commonly regarded the nations surrounding them as the domain of the evil one. They recognized that the earth was the Lord’s, but they believed the kingdoms of wicked rulers were in the service of the devil” (FSB).
The FSB also provides clarity about the phrase “worship me”:
“The word proskynēsēs does not necessarily refer to religious worship; it can also be used to describe the honor due to an earthly king in antiquity.”
The second layer of notes goes into more detail:
“Here, the devil tempts Jesus to trust in worldly power rather than the power of God. The Israelites were also tempted this way in the desert (and afterward, in the land of Israel). In Numbers 13, the scouts gave reports that the inhabitants of the promised land were too strong. The Israelites despaired because of their lack of faith. Here, the devil implies that God’s chosen one would need help in coming to rule all things—as the Messiah was expected to do. But Jesus’ kingdom is of a different sort—it is the kingdom of God.”
Brueggemann shares a thought inspired by the devil’s promises:
Finally, Jesus has had enough.
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”‘
“Jesus later says something similar to Peter (Matthew 16:23), who had been speaking against Jesus’ death and crucifixion. Peter probably hoped for the sort of worldly power the devil had offered” (FSB).
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. —Matthew 4:11
“In contrast, Luke mentions that the devil departs only until a more opportune time. . . . Jesus could have simply driven the devil away; instead, he chooses to undergo the temptations. As a result, the author of the book of Hebrews writes that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet is without sin (Hebrews 4:15)” (FSB).
Jesus could have dismissed the devil the moment he appeared, but because he didn’t, we have a Messiah who knows what it means to be weak, tempted, and human (Hebrews 2:18).
* * *
Get the free Faithlife Study Bible today, and start exploring God’s Word with three layers of study notes.
Jesus taught in front of thousands of people throughout his lifetime. Wherever he went, huge crowds followed him (Mark 5:24, Mark 10:1, Matthew 4:25, Matthew 8:1, Matthew 14:13).
But not everyone that Jesus taught continued to follow him. Not everyone that followed him became his disciple. And even within his disciples, Jesus had an inner circle—the ones he invested in the most (Mark 9:2–3).
In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert E. Coleman examines Jesus’ strategy:
Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a kingdom. This meant that he needed people who could lead the multitudes. What good would it have been for his ultimate objective to arouse the masses to follow him if these people had no subsequent supervision or instruction in the Way? It had been demonstrated on numerous occasions that the crowd was an easy prey to false gods when left without proper care. . . .Thus, before the world could ever be permanently helped, people would have to be raised up who could lead the multitudes in the things of God.
As humans, we can’t invest the same amount of energy into our entire church that we invest into our small groups, families, mentors, or disciples. That doesn’t mean we neglect our church, it just means that the way we pour into the 100, 1,000, or 10,000 people that we learn and grow alongside looks very different than the way we pour into those who are closest to us.
Our lives naturally imitate Jesus’ circles of intimacy, because we are physical beings bound by physical constraints—we don’t have all the time in the world, and we can’t be everywhere at once.
We choose who to spend the most time with and who we invest most of our lives into.
Your virtual inner circle
Faithlife Groups are designed to imitate our real-life church structure. Within your church’s group, you can add subgroups, like your small group, your ministry team, or your accountability partners.
In each of these groups, the things you share and the ways you pray for and support each other look completely different. The larger your church, the more important these intimacy circles become.
With the ability to nest Faithlife Groups within larger groups, they’re kind of like Matryoshka dolls:
Within a single church, there could be dozens of smaller groups of people that meet and share life together. Faithlife Groups lets you keep all of those groups under the umbrella of your church.
Small groups and ministry teams can share prayer lists, curriculum, discussions, and announcements in privacy, while your church as a whole can share entirely separate prayer lists, discussions, newsletters, Community Notes, and more.
Faithlife Groups are just one more way you can keep church from feeling like a building and extend your relationships beyond weekly handshakes.
Talk to your church about using Faithlife Groups—the free church communication tool.
If you’ve downloaded your copy of the free Faithlife Study Bible, you already have a great start on deeper Bible study. But did you know the FSB connects directly to other Logos resources in your library, too? If you have another book that focuses on a particular passage, you can read the FSB notes right alongside it.
A great example is The Expanded Bible: New Testament—it’s the perfect supplement to your FSB. In each line, The Expanded Bible: New Testament incorporates the information you’d find in significant Bible reference works, so you can read the Bible and see alternate interpretations of words, phrases, or idioms right in the text.
John Ortberg says, “This project makes the best of biblical scholarship more available to any interested reader of the Bible.”
Christian Monthly Standard calls it “A very useful resource. The Expanded Bible gives its readers quick access to the nuances and deeper meanings in the Scriptures.”
You’ve probably heard about Logos, but if you’re the kind of person who prefers to test the water first, adding The Expanded Bible: New Testament to your Faithlife Study Bible is like dipping your toe in—it shows you how incredible the pool is. For just two more days, The Expanded Bible: New Testament can be yours for just $11.95.
Ready to jump in?
The John MacArthur Study Library gets you 24 books, study Bibles, and Bible studies by one of America’s best-known pastors—for less than $2 per book. This library combines MacArthur’s bestselling Bible study books into one powerful collection.
For over 30 years, John MacArthur has studied the Bible for 30 hours or more per week. That’s over 46,000 hours of Bible study. Who better to study the Word with? For just two more days, you can get all 24 volumes for $34.95.
Of course, to get the most out of your Logos library, you’ll want a Logos base package. The latest edition—Logos 5—can perform hundreds of hours of Bible study in seconds, accessing hundreds (or even thousands) of resources at once to pull out all the information available on a topic or passage. There are even base packages designed to fit your theological background. Pick a base package today!
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In the information age, education is always at our finger tips. When we don’t know something, we can find multiple answers in an instant. We live in a constant state of education—we’re always learning something.
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Not everyone can afford the time and money it takes to get a biblical education at seminary. But you can get the same textbooks Bible colleges use all over the world. Right now, many of these textbooks are on sale for up to 55% off. Whether you’re in school, or you just want to learn, now is the time to grab the world’s best Bible texts.
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Reading your Bible is great, but context is key to understanding what the biblical writers really meant. Few authors have had as much influence on our understanding of the New Testament world as the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. His works offer an unparalleled depiction of the historical context in which Jesus and the Apostles lived and died. During Logos’ Back to School sale, you can save $90 on one of the most referenced historical works in biblical studies. Get it now.
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In the Bible, Jesus performed a lot of miracles. He healed people. He had power over nature. He even overcame death. But what about the miracles he didn’t do? Here are three instances in the Bible where Jesus chose not to do the miraculous wonders he was known for:
1. A miracle without faith
In Mark 6 (and Matthew 13), Jesus returns to Nazareth, his hometown. These people knew Jesus before he started his ministry.
And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him (Mark 6:2–3).
Two verses later: “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:5). The NLT says, “And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”
While the NIV says Jesus couldn’t do miracles in Nazareth, this isn’t suggesting that faith is some sort of fuel for miracles, and Jesus was running on empty. Most likely, the lack of faith meant that people didn’t ask Jesus to help them—or else, because of their lack of faith, Jesus chose not to. The bottom line is, there was no faith, so in this instance, he didn’t.
2. A “sign from heaven”
After Jesus feeds the 4,000 in Decapolis, he and his disciples get into a boat and head to Dalmanutha.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side (Mark 8:11–13).
Miracles are not for our entertainment. They are not a prerequisite for faith. If all of creation testifies about its creator (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1), why should he have to give us a personal sign from heaven on top of that? If you ask God for a sign from heaven like the Pharisees, chances are you’ll be disappointed like the Pharisees.
3. A miracle that contradicted God’s plan
As Jesus hung on the Cross, his divinity was mocked. Again, people wanted to see a sign from heaven, and their requests for a miracle emerged from a severe lack of faith—they did not believe Jesus was who he said he was, and they would not believe him unless the God of the universe did what they asked, right then and there. As he hung there dying, Jesus, who was fully God, could have come down from that cross. Fully man, Jesus may have even been tempted by the prospect (Hebrews 2:18). But he didn’t come down.
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:29–32).
Jesus didn’t come down because the Cross had a purpose. The miracle of his survival would have undermined the greater miracle of his resurrection.
It’s easy to think about the miracles that Jesus did do. In brief interactions, he radically altered people’s lives. But his ways are higher (Isaiah 55:8–9), and because of that, the miracles Jesus didn’t do are equally important in helping us understand the inexplicable.
This wide-ranging and meticulously researched study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts. Keener draws on claims from a range of global cultures and takes a multidisciplinary approach to the topic. He suggests that many historical and modern miracle accounts are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports.
The last week of Jesus’ ministry, often called Passion Week, was packed with action—powerful teaching, bold confrontation, intrigue, and prophecy both fulfilled and made anew. Explore it all with the free Faithlife Study Bible app.
Passion Week begins when Jesus rides into the Jerusalem on a donkey to the adulation and cries of, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The account is recorded in several different places in Scripture, but the most detailed is found in Matthew 21:1–11. The study notes accompanying that passage include an detailed and visually interesting infographic:
In this one event, Jesus fulfilled a number of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, something he did no less than 68 times in his life. This chart details each of them:
Jesus found many opportunities to preach throughout Passion Week. The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28–32), Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33–45), Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1–14), The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34–40), and the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1–36). And whenever Jesus taught, the religious leaders were close by to challenge him. One of their Passion Week challenges came in the form of a trick question about taxes, intended to trap Jesus. The Pharisees asked him if it was lawful to pay Roman taxes—a clever question because whether Jesus answered yes or no, the answer could be used against him. Jesus managed to answer without giving them the ammunition they anticipated. The Faithlife Study Bible notes explain: “Jesus both settles the matter and avoids incriminating Himself. The coin had Caesar’s image and title on it, and therefore by extension, belonged to Caesar—it was his currency. However, if Caesar got his due, God should likewise receive His due—the whole earth is His and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). What they were required to give God was of far greater worth than a coin—their entire lives. The currency of the kingdom of God is based on following Christ.” The Faithlife Study Bible also includes this great image so we can visualize the coin in question:
After this, the religious leaders in Israel began making plans to kill Jesus. Scripture uses a unique word to describe their actions—dolos. It means deceitful, underhanded, or treacherous. The FSB’s study notes point it out and suggest that Matthew used it to contrast Jesus’ innocence and righteousness. I also see a link to A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament, since I have that book in my Logos library (don’t forget that books you get on Logos.com network automatically with your other resources to make them more powerful). The last night of Jesus’ ministry was spent with his disciples celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover. He instituted our New Testament observance of communion in the midst of the Passover celebration. Afterward, Jesus and his disciples walked from the city to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he would be arrested later that evening. We sent a video-production team to Israel to capture images and video of important locations like this. You can take a virtual stroll through the garden in the study notes on Matthew 26:36:
Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, led his enemies to the garden where they could arrest him in secret. Ten of the disciples fled, but Peter jumped to his defense, wounding a servant of the High Priest. Jesus intervened, reminding him that the armies of heaven stood ready to defend them all, but he chose not to call on them. The religious leaders of Israel bribed witnesses to accuse him in a secret trial held in the council chamber. The Faithlife Study Bible includes this image, helping you imagine the setting:
They found him guilty, but lacked the authority to carry out the death sentence they sought, so they brought Jesus to appear before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect in Jerusalem. For years, Scripture was the only record of Pilate. Many skeptics denied his existence until an inscription was uncovered by Robert Bull in 1982. With this archaeological discovery, the details of the biblical narrative were once again confirmed accurate:
Though Pilate did not want to order Jesus’ execution at first, eventually he succumbed to the public pressure whipped up by the religious leaders. Jesus was crucified outside the city walls at a place called Golgotha, which means “place of the skull.” Protestant archaeologists in the nineteenth century identified this hill as the most likely spot because its location fits the biblical description and the rock formation does resemble a skull. The Faithlife Study Bible includes this image:
If the story ended there, we probably would not know it today. But of course, Jesus did not stay dead. Three days after his execution, two women traveled to his tomb to pay their respects and felt an earthquake beneath them. When they arrived at the tomb, they found it empty. An angel told them not to fear, because Jesus had risen from the dead. The account is recorded in Matthew 28, and the Faithlife Study Bible puts it this way:
This chapter contains the most important event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead. In fulfillment of his prediction, He conquers the grave and rises again to life.
So we celebrate, once a week on Sunday and once a year on Easter, the victory that Jesus won over death, hell, and the grave. He is risen. He is risen indeed.
To explore Passion Week and the rest of Scripture in a new way, download the free Faithlife Study Bible on your smartphone or tablet today.
It probably felt funny standing on the Galilean hillside that spring after everything that had happened. The people were all familiar, but not quite the same. I imagine Peter looking over Jesus’ shoulder, expecting the Roman cavalry to crest the ridge any moment and break up their little gathering. John was just happy to be with Jesus once again, and he was determined to savor every moment. There were a few skeptics, even among the 11 remaining disciples, but everyone waited, anxious to hear what Jesus would say this time. He stretched out his arms, raised his voice, and issued a command:
“Go therefore and make disciples . . .” (Matthew 28:19)
After following Jesus for three years, hearing his teaching, and witnessing his miracles, the disciples were told to go recruit.
Were they surprised? Were they scared? These are the questions I wish Scripture answered more often. We don’t really know how those 11 men felt, but we do know how they acted. They obeyed. Their actions in the months and years that followed are recorded for us in another book of the Bible—”Acts” is short for “the Acts of the Apostles.”
While I may never get an answer to how it felt, if I read the passage in my Faithlife Study Bible app, I get extra details not otherwise available, like this picture of Mount Tabor, where Jesus probably spoke these last words of his earthly ministry.
These were the last words Jesus spoke to his followers on earth, and the Faithlife Study Bible helps us understand the context in which they were spoken. Download it free from your favorite app store, and you can start enjoying the extra details in this and many other passages.