Matthew 4:2
This was a serious encounter. One rebuff was not sufficient to drive off the tempter. The devil is most persevering; only persevering resistance can hope to overcome him. The successive temptations were varied in form. The tempter is wily and subtle. If he does not succeed in one way he will try another. Each temptation has its own features; yet there is a common character running through them all. In every case Jesus was urged to use his miraculous powers and Messianic privileges for his own advantage. The great conflict raged round one central position - the life-work of Jesus as the Christ. Should this be degraded to selfish ends? or should it be carried on in self-sacrifice for its highest purposes? Let us consider the first temptation.


1. The tempter waited for Ms opportunity. For forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. All this while the tempter delayed, like a wild beast crouching in the bush and waiting for a favourable moment to pounce on his prey. Would that Christians had Satan's patience in watching for souls!

2. The tempter chose a weak moment. When Christ was exhausted by lack of food. Physical weakness may indicate the moment of approaching temptation; much more probably it will come in times of spiritual weakness.

3. The tempter worked on a strong natural appetite. Hunger. This is a fundamental appetite in all living animals. When it is keenly excited it will turn the gentlest beings into wild beasts. Beware of a hungry man!

4. The tempter suggested an easy satisfaction. The famished man is haunted by tantalizing visions of food. Nothing is more natural than that the stones of the wilderness should suggest the idea of the bread they resembled in form and colour!


1. By an appeal to Scripture. In dark moments we cannot trust our own thoughts, for temptation is sophistical. Then, like Christ, we may find the advantage of a familiar knowledge of the Bible. If he needed this extraneous aid - he the Sinless! much more do we whose thoughts are dark and foolish.

2. By imparting a new current of thought. Here was the use of the recollection of Scripture. So long as his mind rested on his physical condition he could not but fed the terrible force of the temptation. By a great effort of will he turned the current of his thinking into another channel. Knowing the Bible from early days, he found a helpful scriptural idea flashing through his mind.

3. By consideration of the dignity of man. The suggestion of the tempter is degrading. Christ rises above it by considering the true greatness of man. This is not a method which he only can follow, because it is not the dignity of the Son of God, but the dignity of man, that he thinks of. Every man may avail himself of the same bracing thought. There is a higher life than that of the body. Man is more than a feeding animal. In his true self he is not wholly dependent on bread.

4. By a reflection on man's chief food. Man needs more than bread, and man can feed his soul on the better food even while his body is fasting. Probably the very purpose of Christ's fast was that he might give himself wholly to feeding his higher life on the Word, the truth of God. - W.F.A.

Skeletons of Sermons.

II. When Satan tempts, HE CAN APPEAR TO BE INVISIBLE, as suits him best, He tempted Christ invisibly, and then appeared (Luke 4:2, and text, vers. 2, 3).


IV. When temptations are well suited, they are sometimes VERY PLAUSIBLE. TO Jesus — to prove His Sonship; for food, being hungry.

V. Things lawful themselves become SINFUL BY CIRCUMSTANCES.

VI. It is an encouragement to the tempted to see now GOD HAS APPEARED FOR OTHERS. To Jesus, to Elijah, etc. (Deuteronomy 8:3, 4).

VII. He that would prevail against temptation must STAND ON SCRIPTURE GROUND.

(Skeletons of Sermons.)

1. Shall Christ fast for us and net we for ourselves?

2. Shall the Pharisees fast twice a week in hypocrisy, and we not once in our lives in sincerity?

3. Can we cheerfully take us for our bodily health to fasting, and will we do nothing for our soul's health?

4. Can worldly men, for a good market, fast from morning to evening, and can Christians be so careless as to dedicate no time to the exercising of fasting and prayer, to increase the gain of godliness?

5. Is not this a seasonable exhortation? hath not God sounded the trumpet to fasting? (Matthew 9:16.) When the bridegroom is taken away it is time to fast.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)This was the true, the model fast. Fulness of bread, abundance of luxury, makes God's work impossible; but look to it that the fasting be not the substitute for, but the handmaid of, the devotion — not the end, but the means.

(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)

I. The LIMITS of Christ's fast. His fast lasted the same length of time as that of Moses and Elias; thus we may see in Christ the end and explanation of the Old Testament. How often in Scripture this number " forty " occurs. But not simply the length but to the limit of Christ's fast we direct attention. We are not told that our Lord practised austerities, except in the desert. The universality and perfectness of Christ's life did not admit of its being contracted into a single idea or type of holiness. He too would thus have lent support to the idea that holiness is in external practices; whereas it was His great purpose to point to states of mind and. heart as the pith of perfection. Christianity must not in all cases be modelled upon a forbidding asceticism; we must remember the limits of the fast, and that He who sanctioned austerity was present at the marriage festival.

II. The PURPOSES of Christ's fast.

1. Its purpose in reference to the past. The first sin was the violation of the law of abstinence; His fast was an expression of sorrow for that transgression, and for the sins of intemperance which have resulted. Fasting may be a natural effect of sorrow, but this of rare occurrence in a soul burdened with grievous sin.

2. Christ's fast had also relation to the present. He fasted as aa example to teach us one of the means for vanquishing the tempter.

3. Christ's fast sanctified fasting also in relation to the future, as a means for increasing illumination. Coming before His public ministry He sanctioned it as calculated to produce an accession of light in the soul. It will be seen that light springs from mortification if we observe how darkness is the result of self-indulgence.

III. The CONDITIONS of Christ's fast.

1. It must be a real self-denial. The first degree of mortification is the ceasing to gratify fallen inclinations; then the surrender of superfluities; then the withdrawal from the concerns of life; finally it touches even the necessaries of life.

2. It was in secret, in the depths of the desert. It should not be vainglorious.

3. With the enlargement of the motives of fasting, there was also an importation of brightness into the practice. Our Lord was led by the Spirit, and where the Spirit is, there is joy, peace, etc. There is danger of losing sweetness of temper unless the fast be sustained by the Spirit.

(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

The root of sin is within. You may take a city by siege as well as by direct attack; fasting is the weakening of the enemy by the former process — by the withdrawal of supplies.

(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

An hungred.
In warm weather vast numbers of wasps and other insects are caught by bottles of syrup, into which they are easily enticed by the sweet and tempting fluid, but are unable to escape, and so are drowned. Temptation often assails us through our lawful appetites. Christ, whose temptations were types of ours, was invited by Satan to make bread to satisfy His hunger .... As a cunning fowler sets his limed ears of corn to catch sparrows in a hard frost or great snow, when they are ready to starve.


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