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Matthew 4:1-11

Read Matthew 3:13-17

  • There is a lot going on in these few short verses. What images or words particularly stood out to you?

  • Why do you think Jesus wanted John to baptise him? [1]

  • What lasting impact do you imagine this moment would have had on Jesus (and on any of his initial followers who were there that day)?

  • Have you ever had an encounter with God which really shaped how you see yourself? If so, share your stories with one another.

Read Matthew 4:1-11

  • Why do you think the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? Why would the Spirit want Jesus to be tempted? [2]

  • What does the devil tempt Jesus with?

    • And how does Jesus refute the devil's temptations?

  • How do these temptations relate to the revelation of Jesus' identity and purpose in 3:16-17?

    • And how do these temptations relate to the ongoing temptations Jesus faced later in his life (especially the temptation to avoid dying on the cross for the sins of the world)? [3]

What can we learn and put into practice from the example of Jesus?

  • What sorts of temptations do we face in our lives? (we're not the Messiah, so the devil tempts us a little bit differently to the temptations of Jesus!)

  • How do these temptations connect to our calling, our identity and our purpose from God?

  • How does being aware of these connections help us to respond well?

  • What is the importance of knowing scriptures, where we can respond as Jesus did, "it is written..." But what does this actually look like, in our real-life struggles? Do you know any scriptures that have particularly helped you?

  • Read Hebrews 4:15-16 - what does this teach us about our response to temptation?

Spend some time in personal reflection, considering the sorts of temptations you have faced recently, or are facing right now. Bring these to God's throne of grace, asking for mercy and grace to help you right now.

Then close your time together by praying for one another and sharing any scriptures you think might strengthen everyone in whatever struggles they are facing.

[1] Michael Green spends some time explaining a series of answers to this question:

Why was Jesus baptized? John was summoning people to repentance. What reason had Jesus to repent?... Matthew feels the force of that question, and faces it head on with the exchange between Jesus and John. The answer Jesus gave was ‘… to fulfil all righteousness’ (15). In the context here, righteousness refers to that quality of life that was demanded of candidates for baptism by John, who both displayed righteousness in his own life and uncompromisingly challenged others to do the same. By submitting to baptism, Jesus acknowledged God’s claim on him as on others for total consecration of life and holiness of character. It is part of his life of obedience, and John, though his ‘inferior’, should feel no embarrassment about taking part in it.

There were other reasons for Jesus’ baptism. This was the moment in which John was publicly to announce the arrival of the Messiah and the start of his ministry. This was the symbolic anticipation of his full and profound baptism on the cross, which lay in the future, when he would taste for everyone the eschatological wrath of God and would proffer to anyone the unspeakable mercy of God. Just as on the cross he was to be fully and ontologically identified with the sins of humankind, so it befitted him here, at the outset of his ministry, to set his hand to that awesome plough by undergoing its symbol and sacrament in the Jordan.

A further reason Jesus himself was baptized is not hard to guess. At the end of his ministry he urged baptism upon his followers. He is here giving them the example they should follow. It is difficult to understand the logic of those Christian groups today who claim they have no need of baptism or any sacraments. Their Master found them needful. And disciples are not higher than their Lord.

Michael Green, Matthew, Bible Speaks Today, p81-2

[2] Michael Green writes,

Why does God allow temptation? That is a question Christians often ask. Well, he allowed it for Jesus. And after a high spiritual experience, such as the baptism undoubtedly was for Jesus, temptation frequently comes, and properly comes. It sorts out the emotional ‘high’ from the reality of spiritual conquest and growth. We are not meant to live on spiritual highs. We are meant to live on the bread that comes from God alone, even if it is bread in the desert. God deliberately allows temptation. Its arrival does not mean that God’s blessing has evaporated. It simply allows the ephemeral and the emotional to be separated from the lasting. Temptation builds spiritual muscle.

Michael Green, Matthew, Bible Speaks Today, p83

[3] If you're looking for specific examples from Matthew's Gospel, read Matthew 16:21-23 and 27:39-44 and compare these moments to the temptation here in chapter 4.


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