“Following Jesus Means Leaving Some Things Behind”

Matthew 4:1-25

Last week, in chapter 3, Jesus identified himself with sinners at His baptism. Today in chapter 4, Jesus will identify himself with sinners again, this time in severe temptation. He barely dries himself off from His baptism in the Jordan River, and we read the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted. Quite the contrast, the Spirit had just lighted on Him demonstrating His Father’s approval and immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 

Jesus’ temptation came from His age old angel friend, Satan. You can almost picture the sneering look on Satan’s face as he approaches Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus knew who He was up against. Satan knew Jesus had stepped onto his turf. Can’t you invision Jesus’ look of, “Will you ever learn, my friend?”

Jesus stayed to endure the temptation in order that He could identify with us, Hebrews 2:18 

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”


& Hebrews 4:15. 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

It is important to recognize, the Holy Spirit leads us to temptation, but cannot tempt us, James 1:13

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;”

Why would the Holy Spirit do such a thing? 

Well for one thing, we are no better than Jesus. But like Jesus, there are times we need to prove something to ourselves. Are we walking the walk and or just talking the talk? Temptation will answer that question pretty quickly. 

Temptation is a certainty for everyone, including Jesus. However, His temptation was more severe because the devil himself faced Jesus. There is only one Satan, but he managed to take down a lot of other angels with him when he left heaven and his cronies followed his lead. They too roam around seeking whom they may devour.

Not only had Jesus been led into the desert for this temptation episode, Jesus had to fast for forty days and forty nights. Matthew writes that He was hungry after this. You think? You may recall from our Old Testament reading that the forty day period of testing is familiar. Noah on the ark, Israel in the wilderness. The difference here is that Jesus will succeed where others failed. 

Next Matthew writes, “Now when the tempter came….” 

Take note, it is not a question of if the tempter will come, but when. Temptation is a part of life, from now until we go to glory. Especially when you have just experienced a “mountain top” experience, the kind of spiritual reawakening that comes when you feel really close to God. That’s when devils step in with the test, 

“Just how close to God are you?” 

Let’s look at the circumstance that preceded the temptation of Jesus:

> He was in an especially devout and humble frame

of mind

> He was in the public eye during His act of

obedience to His Father’s will 

> He was blessed by a heavenly assurance of His 


So just when you think you have your Christian walk with God all together, beware. 

Satan presented Jesus with a set of questions that challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God. Satan knew exactly who Jesus was. His challenge was for Jesus to prove it through some miraculous work. Okay, Jesus hasn’t eaten in forty days and forty nights. Satan knew He was hungry. So, the first challenge was for Jesus to command the stones to become bread. Could Jesus do such a thing? Both Satan and Jesus knew He was capable. However, should Jesus do so? It would demonstrate His miraculous power, yet it would also demonstrate His using God’s gifts for selfish purposes. Jesus had the power and the right to provide for His own needs. Satan wasn’t asking Jesus to make himself abundantly rich, or to create a lavish meal, Satan was asking for basic bread. God certainly did’nt want His Son to go hungry? Right? 

Why starve when you have the God given ability to provide bread? 

Jesus understood the test He was undertaking. 

He wasn’t being tested as the Son of God, 

that was a given. 

He was being tested to see if He would fight this battle like every human would have to fight the battle. 

Jesus’ weapon of choice was God’s Word. 

As Messiah, Jesus was called to submit to the Father’s timing and will in all things. He could have trumped the human card at any time but instead He was willing to fight the battle like a human. Jesus chose Deuteronomy 8:3 instead of His own power, 

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

There are appropriate times to proof text. When in the midst of temptation is one of them. Countering the temptations to do something you know God does not want you to do with Scripture works, but only when you know your Scripture well enough. First you need to be aware you are even being told a lie, then you need to know what God’s Word says to counter such lies. Jesus offered the tactic of using God’s Word as the best come back that humans can use in the fight against temptation. 

The second temptation Jesus experienced was an appeal that every human has, the desire to sense approval from God and somehow see it publicly demonstrated. 

Satan was pushing that “prove it” button we all have. You know the one, I see it every day in my 6th graders. One student makes an outlandish statement and immediately another student says, “Prove it!” Without thinking, the first one is doing something crazy that borders on something or someone getting hurt. 

Satan takes Jesus to the top of the pinnacle of the temple, some 200 feet high and dares Him to leap and demonstrate how angels will protect Him. I don’t know about you, but I get this picture in my head of Scrooge being taken around by ghosts to various locations in London.  Then look at what Satan uses to get Jesus’ attention. He comes back at Jesus with His own words, “For it is written.” Jesus wasn’t the only one who had Scripture memorized. One of Satan’s best tactics is to take Scripture out of context and confuse and defeat those he tempts. 

While standing on the pinnacle of the temple Satan comes out with his interpretation of Psalm 91:11-12,

“For he will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

You see, Satan left the part, “in all thy ways.” Quite clever of him. The test Satan had conjured up was definitely not in the way of the Messiah. God’s promise in the first verse was never meant to give God’s protection in sinful ways. 

Jesus wasn’t tricked for one minute. You know why? Because, first, Jesus knew His Scripture, and secondly Jesus knew how to rightly divide the word of truth, something we are called to do in 2 Timothy 2:15

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Sadly, this happens today, someone quotes the Bible and people automatically think they are Christian. It happens in the pulpit, it happens in politics, it happens in our day to day conversations. Today, we have no excuse. Christians have access to Scripture in a moment’s notice. Many of you have multiple versions of the Bible on your phones, with the ability to locate a particular verse at any time. We can even go one step further and read a reliable commentary on that verse by pushing a few more buttons. I remember the day, I was fifteen years old, when I found out there was a book that referenced every word in Scripture, it is called a concordance. It’s about six inches thick. 

I spent hours looking up all the verses that had the word, “love” in them. I thought I had found a treasure. 

Jesus replied to Satan with Scripture, that He applied correctly, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God,”  again from Deuteronomy 6:16,

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”

Satan challenges us today to attempt to force or manipulate God the Father into demonstrating something spectacular from Him to prove His love or concern for us. I hear it all the time. “If God loved me, why would He allow this to happen to me?” or “I just don’t feel like God loves me.” 

This is where not only knowing Scripture but trusting Scripture comes along. God has demonstrated His love for us, Romans 5:8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Satan has one more trick up his sleeve. Jesus was playing the human card, so Satan goes for the jugular, he appeals to the lust of the eyes. Many a human has failed this temptation. Essentially, Satan offers Jesus the chance to shortcut the cross. Satan knows that Jesus has come to earth and taken on humanity in order to win all the kingdoms of the world and their glory back from Him. Satan offers Jesus the opportunity to have all of the kingdoms of the world with one easy step, simply bow down and worship Satan. This had to be tempting, think about it. 

Get the goal 

and eliminate 

the pain, humiliation and death? 

Does Jesus need time to think about it? 

Satan had been allowed by God to function as the god of this age, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

No wonder the fallen world is such a mess. 

But as god of this age, offering the rule of it over to Jesus, reveals Satan’s greatest desire. He was willing to give up control over all the kingdom’s of the earth, for worship and recognition.

This temptation reminds me of the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where Potter offers to hire George Bailey and give him all the things he had dreamed of, travel, money, a better life for himself and his family.  

The responses were the same, “Away from me.” 

Jesus replied again from Deuteronomy 6:13, 

“Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”

Did you notice what happened next? 

Jesus commanded Satan to leave, and Satan left. It worked for Jesus, it will work for us. May I suggest we begin with this defense and not waste time?

No sooner had Satan left, then angels arrived. God will do the same for us. 

The next event Matthew had Jesus doing was going to do ministry in Galilee, after hearing that John the Baptist had been put in prison. Jesus’ ministry had already started. You can read about this in John’s Gospel. Some of the disciples had been gathered and Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana.  He also did His first cleansing of the temple, followed by His secret meeting with Nicodemus. They had heard about John the Baptist and were traveling north to Galilee, through Samaria where they met the Samaritan woman at the well. 

Matthew recognized having Jesus move His ministry to Galilee was the fulfillment of another prophecy. Light was coming into the region, largely populated by Gentiles as foretold in Isaiah 9:1-2


“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.”

In verse 17, Matthew wrote a general description of the message Jesus was sharing, 

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

John the Baptist was now in prison so Jesus picked up where he left off. But Jesus would go further than John, because He was actually the Messiah.

Matthew tells how Jesus picked up four more disciples, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother. They were busy casting their net into the sea when Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately dropped their nets and followed. They continued on their journey and saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother. They too were busy, they were mending nets. But as soon as Jesus called them, they left their father with the nets and followed. Mind you, this wasn’t the first time these men had met Jesus. These men knew who Jesus was and had more than likely been discussing His message with each other. 

Notice Jesus called them while they were doing their daily tasks. This supports the familiar adage if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it. God does. 


There are lots of examples. 

These two sets of brothers were fishing. 

Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock. 

Gideon was threshing wheat. 

Saul was busy looking after his father’s donkeys. 

David was keeping his father’s sheep. 

The shepherds were guarding their flocks. 

Matthew was working at his tax collector’s table. 

Notice they were all busy, but not too busy. Notice that once they heard Jesus ask, the items they were busy with, no longer took precedence. Also notice, those who followed Jesus left things behind. The Samaritan woman left her pitcher, and Matthew left his tax table. What they gained was much more profitable. 


Have you heard the voice of the Master call you? 

Are you busy? 

Or are you too busy? To follow. 

Are you prepared to leave some things behind? 

The irony is, at some point, you won’t be able to take them with you. 

What is more important? 

Let’s pray.