New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

4:1 Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil- The Lord Jesus was led of the Spirit at His time of testing; and Paul uses just those words of us in our present experience of trial (Rom. 8:14).  His victory in the wilderness therefore becomes a living inspiration for us, who are tempted as He was (Heb. 4:15,16). Note how Mark speaks of Jesus being 'driven' at this time. Being driven by circumstances can be a form of leading- it just depends which perspective we have.

Commentary on what this passage does not mean can be found in my The Real Devil.

4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he hungered- The only other two men recorded as doing this are Moses and Elijah (Ex. 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8). The Lord chose to seek to enter into their experience; it was presumably His decision to fast for this period. And the Father responded to that by giving Him the encouraging vision of those same two men at the transfiguration. We see here how God is in dialogue with man; if we wish to identify with some Bible character, the Father will respond His side to enable us to do so yet more.

With His familiarity with Scripture, Christ would have seen the similarities between Himself and Elijah, whose morale collapsed after 40 days in the wilderness (1 Kings 19: 8) and Moses, who forfeited his immediate inheritance of the land at the end of 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus at the end of 40 days, was in a similar position to them - faced with a real possibility of failure. Moses and Elijah failed because of human weakness - not because of a person called “the devil”. It was this same human weakness, the “satan’ , or adversary, that was tempting Jesus.

The temptations were controlled by God for the Lord’s spiritual education. The passages quoted by the Lord to strengthen Himself against His desires (“devil”) are all from the same part of Deuteronomy, regarding Israel’s experience in the wilderness. Jesus clearly saw a parallel between His experiences and theirs:-

Deuteronomy 8:2 “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments (word), or no.”

Matthew 4 / Luke 4 “Jesus led up of the spirit” “forty days” “in the wilderness”. Jesus was proved by the temptations. Jesus overcame by quoting the Scriptures that were in His heart (Ps. 119:11), thus showing it was the Scriptures that were in His heart.

Deuteronomy 8:3. “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna... that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word...of the Lord...”

“He was afterward an hungered". In John 6 manna is interpreted by Jesus as representing the Word of God, which Jesus lived by in the wilderness. Jesus learnt that spiritually He lived by the Word of God. “He is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word ...of God”.,

Deuteronomy 8:5 “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee”

Jesus no doubt reflected on His experiences. God chastened His Son, Jesus- 2 Sam. 7:12; Ps. 89: 32.

Thus the Lord showed us how to read and study the Word - He thought Himself into the position of Israel in the wilderness, and therefore took the lessons that can be learnt from their experiences to Himself in His wilderness trials. The description of the Lord Jesus as being in the wilderness with beasts and Angels (Mk. 1:13) is another connection with Israel’s experience in the wilderness- they were plagued there by “wild beasts” because of their disobedience (Dt. 32:19-24 and context).


4:3 And the tempter came and said to him- Matthew's record speaks of "the tempter", and the suggestion has been made that this was a technical term used to refer to the Essene priest whose duty it was to test the claims to Messiahship made by people (5). This would confirm the suggestion that the Lord's temptations were at the hands of the Jews. The desert where He was would've been accessible from the Qumran settlement of the Essenes, and the preceding chapter 3 of Matthew has recorded how many of these people appear to have accepted baptism from John the Baptist in the very area where the temptations occured. Perhaps "the tempter" priest stayed around and entered into dialogue with Jesus. In confirmation of the idea that the "devil" was some form of Jewish priestly figure, we note that Mt. 4:4 records that Jesus told him that "It is written...". To the illiterate, Jesus usually said that they would have heard something said in the Old Testament; but to the literate Jewish religious leadership, He prefaces His quotations or allusions by saying that "It is written". The fact He uses this phrase here would suggest He may have been talking to one of that class. The Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20 has a surprising number of similarities to the Lord’s life and death amongst the Jews, suggesting that they did indeed subject Him to tests of His Messiahsip:

“Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our breaches of the law an accuses us of playing false...he claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a son of the Lord. Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down; His way of life is not like other men’s... in His opinion we are counterfeit... and boasts of having God as His father. let us see if what he says is true, let us observe what kind of end he himself will have. If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies. Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of His and put His endurance to the proof. Let us condemn him to a shameful death since he will be looked after- we have his word for it" (Susan Garrett lists several Greek words and phrases found in the Gospel of Mark which are identical to those in this section of the Wisdom of Solomon. It would seem that Mark was aware of this passage in the Wisdom of Solomon, and sought to show how throughout the Lord's ministry, and especially in His death, the Jews were seeking to apply it to Him in the way they treated Him. See Susan Garrett, The Temptations Of Jesus In Mark's Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) p. 68.).

Every other use of the word "tempter" in Matthew is about the temptation / testing of Jesus by the Jewish leadership (Mt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:18,35); and that very group are presented as the 'satan' or adversary to the Lord Jesus and His work. There is nothing sinful of itself about putting someone to the test. The same word is used about Jesus putting the disciples to the test (Jn. 6:6); Paul tested / put to the test [s.w., A.V. "assayed"] the idea of preaching in Bithynia (Acts 16:7); we are to put ourselves to the test (2 Cor. 13:5); God put Abraham to the test (Heb. 11:17), false apostles were to be put to the test by the faithful (Rev. 2:2). It ought to be clear that there is nothing sinister nor sinful about the idea of being 'put to the test' nor of putting another to the test. 

If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread- It's perhaps noteworthy that in the wilderness temptation, the Lord responds to the "If you are the Son of God..." by quoting Dt. 8:3 "man shall not live by bread alone"- and the Jonathan Targum has bar nasha [son of man] here for "man". If we are correct in understanding those wilderness temptations as the Lord's internal struggles, we see Him tempted to wrongly focus upon His being Son ofGod, forgetting His humanity; and we see Him overcoming this temptation, preferring instead to perceive Himself as Son of man. The if... then structure here (a 'first class conditional') effectively means 'Because...' (See Craig A. Evans, Matthew (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2012) p. 83). In this case, we are clearly being given an insight into the internal thinking of the Lord Jesus. 'Because You are Son of God, why not...'. A truly human Jesus would inevitably have had such thoughts, and the record here makes that clear. Seeing that Mary appears to have become somewhat influenced by the surrounding view of Jesus as her illegitimate son, it's likely the Lord too had moments when He wondered whether this could all be true- whether He really was God's Son. 

Command that these stones become bread- This would not in itself have been a sin if He had agreed to it. But it would have been choosing a lower level, by breaking His fast. But the next temptations were to actually sin. If He had agreed to the first suggestion, obedience to the next ones would have been harder. It could even be argued that to put the Lord to the test was permissible on a lower level- for passages like Ps. 34:8 and Mal. 3:10 almost encourage it for those with a weak faith. Gideon likewise put the Lord to the test and was answered. But the Lord chose the higher level: and He knew Scripture which could support it. But the fact He chose the highest level first of all, meant that He was better able to take the higher level again, and to finally overcome the third temptation, which was definitely a clear choice between right and wrong. More than this, anything other than a desire to make the highest maximum commitment can lead to failure. “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left” (Ecc. 10:2 NIV) has been understood as referring not so much to right and wrong, good and evil, as to the highest good and lesser good (cp. how the left hand can stand for simply lesser blessing rather than outright evil, e.g. Gen. 48:13-20). The fool inclines to lower commitment. The wise will always incline to the maximum, wholehearted level.

4:4 But he answered and said: It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God- The  Lord overcame all His temptations by quoting from Deuteronomy, showing that His mind was seeking strength from the words of the Angel leading Israel through the wilderness. There are clear similarities between the Angel's leading of Israel through the wilderness and the Lord's experience in the wilderness:

Deuteronomy 8                


Matthew 4

v. 2 "The Lord thy God [an Angel] led you... in the wilderness"


v. 1 Jesus led by the spirit (an Angel?) into the wilderness.

Forty years in the wilderness


Forty days in the wilderness

v. 3 "He (the Angel who led them in v. 2) suffered you to hunger".


The Angel made Jesus hunger.

The Angel "fed you with manna" (Ps. 78:25)


Jesus was tempted to ask the Angel to provide bread as He did to Israel in their testing.

“Man does not live by bread alone"


v. 4 "Man does not live by bread alone"


Thus the Lord Jesus surveyed His own experience in the wilderness, and saw that He could take to Himself personally the lessons given to Israel. The Angel led Israel through the wilderness "to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no" (Dt. 8:2). God Himself knows anyway, so this must be regarding the Angel, seeking to know the spiritual strength of Israel, as Job's Satan Angel sought to know Job's strength. Similarly, the Lord's  Angel led Him into the wilderness, suffering Him to hunger, to humble and  prove Him, to reveal His real attitude to the word of God. His quoting of the word to answer the temptations surely proved this to the Angel, especially since the Lord showed Himself so capable of thinking Himself into Scripture, and therefore taking the lessons most powerfully to Himself. The Lord was made to realize the importance of His memory of the word, as He would have later reflected that this was the only way He had overcome- that man spiritually lives by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God". As a result of their wilderness temptations, both Israel and Christ were led to "consider in (their) heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God (the Angel) chasteneth thee". The chastenings of the Lord spiritually in  the  wilderness  were therefore arranged by the Angels. There did not have to be Angels actually tempting Christ in the wilderness temptations- because they can act directly on a man's heart, they can lead us into temptation. The fact we pray for Him not to implies that He does- through the Angels, as He Himself tempts no man (James 1:13), although the Angels tempted Abraham, and Israel among others. Thus the Angels may arrange an external stimulus, e. g. the fruit of the tree of knowledge, knowing it must produce certain internal desires within us which tempt us. Note how the temptation to throw Himself off the top of the temple was a temptation to misuse Angelic care. He answered it by a quotation which has an Angelic context: "You (Jesus) shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah" (Dt. 6:16). At Massah the Israelites put the Angel to the test by questioning whether He could provide water (Ex. 17:2-7).

4:5 Then the Devil took him into the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple- The Greek for "took him" is often used in a non-literal sense, with the idea of receiving someone into an office or situation. The same word is used in :8 about the Lord being taken up a high mountain. The idea may well be that He was imagining being received into rulership of the Messianic Kingdom, and was wondering whether that would be possible through accepting 'the devil', be it His own flesh or the Jewish system, who humanly speaking seemed able to offer a path to this. Likewise 'set him' later on in :5 carries the idea of being appointed, established in authority. 

The Synoptics speak of how satan ‘comes to’ and tempts and challenges the Lord Jesus to claim earthly political power, which ‘satan’ can give him (Mt. 4:8,9). But John describes this in terms of “the people” coming to Him and trying to make Him King- which temptation He refused (Jn. 6:15). Likewise it was ‘the devil’ in the wilderness who tempted Jesus to make the stones into bread. But in Jn. 6:30,31, it is the Jewish people who offer Him the same temptation. In the wilderness, the Lord responded that man lives by the bread which comes from the mouth of God. In Jn. 6:32, He responds likewise by speaking about “the true bread from heaven”. The temptation from ‘the devil’ to publically display His Divine powers in front of Israel in the Jerusalem temple (Mt. 4:5,6; Lk. 4:9-12) is repeated by John in terms of the Lord’s brothers tempting Him to go up to the same temple and openly validate Himself “to the world” (Jn. 7:1-5).

4:6 And said to him: If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down. For it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning you, and on their hands they shall carry you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone- Presumably this was to be taken literally- the Angels physically with Him would have literally held Him under the arms if He jumped from the temple. So we see the literal physical presence of the Angels in our lives. The eyes of God, an evident reference to the Angels, are associated with the temple (1 Kings 8:29; Ps. 11:4; Ps. 5:6-8). The implication surely is that the Angel[s] specifically functioned in the temple / sanctuary. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfill their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen.

The ‘devil’ of the Lord’s own thoughts tempted Him to apply Ps. 91:11 in a wrong context, and jump off the pinnacle of the temple. But if the Lord had gone on, as surely He did, He would have found the words: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” (Ps. 91:13). This promise would have been of wonderful comfort, as throughout the wilderness temptations the Lord “was with the wild beasts” (Mk. 1:13). 

4:7 Jesus said to him: Again it is written, You shall not make trial of the Lord your God- The Greek effectively means 'On the other hand, it is also written...'. The Lord Jesus did not try to reconcile the two verses, He accepted them as part of a dialectic whereby this verse says that but this verse says this- which is typical Hebrew reasoning. Geek reasoning would seek to explain that this verse says this, but that is qualified by this other verse, so the truth is a mixture between the two verses. The Hebrew style of reasoning leaves apparent contradictions to the Western, Greek reasoning mind. But they are not this at all, just dialectical style.

4:8 Again, the Devil took him to an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them- The Greek could be translated 'the very highest', clearly a reference to the time of the Kingdom of God on earth. It can hardly be that a fiendish being took the Lord Jesus literally up the highest mountain (Everest) from where He could see all the world. Nor would being up a tall mountain enable the Lord to see "the glory of them". Surely a non-literal event is implied here- within the Lord's mind.

The temptations are hard to take literally:-

- Matthew 4:8 implies that Jesus was led up into a high mountain to see all the kingdoms of the world in their future glory, “In a moment of time”. There is no mountain high enough to see all the world. And why would the height of the mountain enable Jesus to see what the world would be like in the future? The earth, being a sphere, there is no point on its surface from which one can see all the parts of the world at one time.

- A comparison of Matthew 4 and Luke 4 shows that the temptations are described in a different order. Mark 11:13 says that Jesus was “in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan”, whilst Matthew 4 : 2-3 says that “when he had fasted forty days...the tempter (Satan) came to Him...”. Because Scripture cannot contradict itself, we can conclude that these same temptations kept repeating themselves. The temptation to turn stones into bread is an obvious example. This would fit nicely if these temptations occurred within the mind of Jesus. Being of our nature, the lack of food would have affected him mentally as well as physically, and thus his mind would have easily begun to imagine things. Just going a few days without food can lead to delirium for some (cp. 1 Sam. 30:12 ). The similarity between rolls of bread and stones is mentioned by Jesus in Mt. 7: 9, and doubtless those images often merged in his tortured mind - although always to be brought into swift control by his recollection of the Word

- Jesus probably told the Gospel writers the record of His temptations, and to bring home in words the intensity of what He underwent, He could have used the figurative approach seen in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

- It seems unlikely that several times the devil led Jesus through the wilderness and streets of Jerusalem and then scaled a pinnacle of the temple together, all in view of the inquisitive Jews. Josephus makes no record of anything like this happening - presumably it would have caused a major stir. Similarly, if these temptations occurred several times within the forty days as well as at the end of that period (which they did at least twice, seeing that Matthew and Luke have them in different order), how would Jesus have had time to walk (n.b. the devil “led” Jesus there) to the nearest high mountain (which could have been Hermon in the far north of Israel), climb to the top and back down again, return to the wilderness and then repeat the exercise? His temptations all occurred in the wilderness - He was there for forty days, tempted all the time by the devil (he only departed at the end, :11). If Jesus was tempted by the devil each day, and the temptations occurred only in the wilderness, then it follows that Jesus could not have left the wilderness to go to Jerusalem or travel to a high mountain. These things therefore could not have literally happened.

That the temptations were internal to the mind of Jesus is suggested by the way that in Matthew's record, there is a progression from the desert, to the temple pinnacle, to a high mountain- as if in some sort of ascent toward Heaven. It's even possible that Paul has this in mind when he comments that Jesus did not consider rising up to equality with God a thing to be grasped at, He dismissed that temptation, and instead He progressively lowered Himself, even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8).

4:9 And he said to him: All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me- The Lord knew full well that "all things", the Kingdom of God when the kingdoms of this world have been subsumed beneath it, could only be given to Him to God. He was tempted to play God, to assume that by His own action He could grasp it for Himself without the cross. It is perhaps to this that Paul alludes when he writes that the Lord did not consider such equality with God a thing to be even grasped after (Phil. 2:6). Again we see how the essence of the wilderness temptations returned to the Lord on the cross. For Phil. 2:6 specifically speaks of the Lord in His time of dying.

4:10 Then said Jesus to him: Away with you Satan! For it is written: You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve- The record of the Lord’s wilderness temptations is almost certainly a reflection of His self-perception; He spoke to the ‘devil’ / personification of sin which was within Him, He saw Himself as two people, and His spiritual man triumphed gloriously against the man of the flesh. Lk. 4:8 records how “Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve”. He understood that we can only serve two masters: God or the flesh (“mammon” is another personification of the flesh, similar to ‘satan’). He saw His own flesh, His own internal thoughts, as a master begging to be served which He must totally reject. His words are a quotation from Dt. 6:13, which warns Israel to serve Yahweh alone and not idols. He perceived His own natural mind and desire as an idol calling to be served. When the Lord explained what had happened in the wilderness to the disciples and thereby to the Gospel writers, He opened His heart to them. He gave us all a window on how He perceived Himself, as He sought to explain to men the internal struggles of the Son of God. Bringing it all back home, I must ask firstly how much we even struggle with temptation? And as and when we do, would we not be helped by the Lord’s example of talking to ourselves, and personalising Scripture as He did? ‘You don’t want to do that! Give up your place in the Kingdom, for that... drug, that girl, that job? Of course not! Come on. There is a way of escape; Paul told me God won’t try me beyond my strength, He will make me a way of escape’. 

4:11 Then the Devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him- The same words are used of how they minister to us (Heb. 1:14). And the theme of Hebrews 1 and 2 is that the Lord was indeed of our nature, and in essence had the same relationship with us as they had with Jesus.

4:12 Now when he heard that John was imprisoned- It's as if the Lord took the end of John's public ministry as the cue to begin His (“from that time…”, :17). He may have worked this out from the implication of the prophecies about the Elijah prophet. Or it may be that He took John’s imprisonment as the sign to go to Galilee. Whatever, He was acting according to information which came to Him, and structuring His ministry accordingly. We get the impression that this was done without direct commandment from the Father but at His initiative.

He withdrew into Galilee- The Greek definitely implies to withdraw oneself. This seems typical of the Lord during His ministry- to go public for a while and then withdraw.

4:13 And leaving Nazareth- Gk. ‘to forsake’. Perhaps because of the lack of response already apparent in His home town. Again, as commented on :12, we see the Lord making decisions about His ministry on His initiative in accord with how situations developed.

He went and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali- The idea is of 'to reside'. He changed His base from Nazareth to Capernaum in order to give His message more access to Gentiles.

4:14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying- This sounds as if the Lord was consciously attempting to fulfil God's word. He was "the word made flesh" but He had to consciously achieve that. See on 3:15.

4:15 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-"Toward the sea" is "by the way of the sea" (AV). The idea was that John the Baptist was to prepare “the way” for Messiah. Even at this early stage in the ministry, it seems that the Lord recognized that that “way” was going to have to be amongst the Gentiles. 

4:16 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light-Each of the Gospels is somehow personalized to the writer. Matthew, for example, changes the Lord's quotation of Is. 9:9 from "the people which walked in darkness..." to "the people whichsat in darkness saw great light" (Mt. 4:16), because he was sitting at the receipt of custom when the Lord called him (Mt. 9:9). 

And for those dwelling in the region and the shadow of death- As if death is personified, having its own region and shadow. The darkness of the context in Is. 9:2 is that of Is. 8:22- the darkness of condemnation, for the rejected for whom there was 'no dawn' (Is. 8:20 Heb.). We can be condemned in this life and yet still change that verdict- by coming to the light of Christ. Isaiah 8 concluded by speaking of the wicked being sent into the darkness of condemnation (a common figure in Isaiah, e.g. Is. 5:30; 9:19). Those who dwell in the dark shadow of death are therefore those who have been condemned- but for them, the light of Christ arose from despised Galilee and the area around the Sea of Galilee (Is. 9:1- "the sea" surely refers in the context to the Sea of Galilee, not the Mediterranean). 

On them a light has dawned- The light is clearly the Lord Jesus. He uses the same word soon afterwards in speaking of how God makes His light to ‘spring up’ upon both the just and the unjust, the evil and the good (Mt. 5:45). These categories are therefore within the group of those to whom the light of the Gospel has been revealed. Likewise the rising of the sun in the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:6 s.w.) would refer to the beginning of Christ’s public ministry; the various types of ground initially responded to John’s message, but when Christ’s ministry was revealed openly, i.e. the sun sprung up, then persecution began, and they fell away.

4:17 From that time began Jesus to preach and to say: Repent!- The Lord’s first public word was the challenge to change. His opening words were surely carefully chosen to verbatim repeat those of John (Mt. 3:2). He wanted to show the continuity of the message from John to Himself. For He was building upon John’s work, which had been intended to prepare the way for Him to come triumphantly to Zion over the ‘way’ which had been prepared in the hearts of repentant people. The exact repetition of John’s message could suggest that the Lord saw John’s ministry as not having been responded to- and therefore his message and appeal needed repeating.

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand- Gk. 'approaching'. The idea was that John the Baptist had attempted to prepare the way, the highway, over which Messiah would come. So now, Messiah was approaching. "The kingdom of God" was a title for Messiah, seeing that He was the King of the Kingdom; and the term is used like that in Scripture too, e.g. Lk. 17:21. The Kingdom could have been then established, the glory of Yahweh could have come to Zion if John's work of preparing the road for it had been successful. But ultimately, Israel would not. But the Greek can also mean that the Kingdom was being ‘made near’, it was being drawn near by repentance- which is why the Lord was appealing for repentance. This is a significant theme in Bible teaching- that the exact calendar date of the Kingdom’s establishment is dependent upon the repentance of Israel. This repentance appears a prerequisite to the Lord’s coming in glory and the establishment of the Kingdom. Our focus should therefore be upon appealing to Israel to repent.

4:18 And walking by the sea of Galilee- "Walking by" is literally ‘around’. The idea could be that He walked all around the lake. 

He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen- The Lord's call always comes at the most inconvenient moment. It was whilst Simon and Andrew were in the very act of casting their net into the sea, caught in a freeze-frame of still life, silhouetted against the sea and hills of Galilee, that the Lord calls them to go preaching (Mk. 1:17). The Lord surely intended them to [at least later] figure out His allusion to Jer. 16:14-16, which prophesied that fishermen would be sent out to catch Israel and bring them home to the Father. And He called them to do that, right in the very midst of everyday life. Lk. 5:5 gives more detail. Despite having toiled all night and caught nothing, Peter was able to subdue his natural wisdom, his sense of futility, and the sense of irritation and superiority which exists in the experienced working man: "Nevertheless (how much that hides!) at thy word  I will let down the net" (Lk. 5:5). It would seem that the parallel record of this is found in Mt. 4:18, which describes the call of the disciples soon after Christ's triumphant emergence from the wilderness temptations. We learn from Jn. 1:41,42 that it was Peter's brother, Andrew, who first told Peter about Jesus, and who brought him to meet Jesus first of all. The point is that at the time of Peter's call as he was fishing, he had probably heard very few of Christ's words personally. He had heard about Him, and listened to His words for perhaps a few hours at different times in the past. So where did he get this tremendous respect for the word of Christ from, which he demonstrated when Christ called him? The answer must be that he meditated deeply on those words that he had heard and understood, and came to appreciate that the man saying them was worth giving all for. Our far easier access to God's word does not seem to make us more meditative as individuals. We have access to hearing God's word which previous generations never had. We can listen to it on any manner of mobile devices, have recordings of Scripture playing at home, analyse it by computer, hear it sung to us according to our taste in music, read it from pocket Bibles as we work and travel... we can  and could  do all these things. My sense is that we just don't make use of our opportunities as we should. Why has God given our generation these special opportunities to be ultra-familiar with His word? Surely it is because our age contains temptations which are simply more powerful than those of former years. So it is vital, vital for our eternal destiny, that we do make as much use as possible of all these opportunities. We should be cramming, yes cramming, our hearts and brains with the words of God. I certainly get the feeling that Peter would have listened to a recording of Isaiah on his mobile device if he had one, as he went out fishing; that he'd have had tapes of the Psalms going all evening long in his little fisherman's cottage, wife and kids caught up in his enthusiasm too (Mk. 10:10,15 suggests that the incident with the little children occurred in Peter's house). 

4:19  And he said to them: Follow me, and I will make you- One intention of our calling to the Gospel is to bring others to the Kingdom. Evangelism isn’t therefore something intended for only some within the body of Christ. And the Lord has a personal training program for each of us- "I will make you...".

Fishers of men- The Greek halieus is literally ‘a salty one’, from hals, salt. The Lord invites all in Him to see themselves as the salty ones of the earth (Mt. 5:13). The call to be fishers, salty ones, is therefore not only for those men on the shore of Galilee, nor for just some of us- but for us all. The Qumran documents spoke of ‘the fishers of men’ as being those who would condemn Israel in the last day; and yet the Lord clearly had the idea that they were to ‘catch’ people out of the ‘sea’ of the nations and bring them to salvation. So the preachers as ‘fishers of men’ actually have a double role- as Paul put it, to some our preaching is the savour of death, to others, the savour of life (2 Cor. 2:16). Not only does this encourage us as the preachers to plead with men to choose life rather than death; but it is a sober reminder that we too face the impact of the very Gospel which we ourselves preach, and must likewise live lives of ongoing response. We preach, therefore, aimed at a decision- not merely ‘witnessing’, nor simply imparting helpful information.

4:20 And they immediately left the nets and followed him- The Greek word translated “left” is used throughout the Synoptic records of the disciples ‘leaving’ what they knew in response to the Gospel. They left their nets, then their boat and even their father (:22). The same word is translated ‘to forgive’. Because of our experience of having our sins ‘let go’ by God and His Son, we are thereby motivated to ‘let go’ not only others’ sins and debts to us, but all the ties that bind us to the things of this life. The immediacy of their response is a theme of Matthew's; it is he who begins by so stressing how immediately Joseph and Mary responded.

4:21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them- They were intending to continue fishing. There was therefore no theatricism attached to their dramatic leaving of all. 

4:22 And they immediately left the boat and their father and followed him- They became His disciples, that is the meaning of the idiom. The way the Lord called people in the midst of their daily lives, and they immediately “left all and followed Him” is surely recorded to set a pattern for all future response to Him (Mt. 4:22; Mk. 1:18). See on :20. Those fishermen who left their nets had heard the message some time earlier, but the record is framed so as to stress the immediacy and totality of response to Him, in the midst of daily life. In a day when the complexity of modern living can become an excuse to justify almost anything as an expression of discipleship, we need to remember the starker simplicities of Jesus’ first call: “Follow me”. And the immediate response which was made to it. In this sense, Jesus through His word that makes Him flesh to us, i.e. an imaginable person…still walks up to fishermen, into shops, accountants’ offices, school classrooms: and bids us urgently and immediately leave behind our worldly advantage, and follow Him in the way of true discipleship. The immediacy of response is quite a theme (:20, and especially in Mark's early chapters). It continues with the speed at which people were baptized in the Acts. 

4:23  And Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people- "Went about… teaching… preaching… healing" is just what we read of the Lord's followers doing in Acts. The preaching of the apostles (and of ourselves) continues the personal work of the Lord in whom they lived and moved, and therefore often Acts records the preaching work in language lifted from Luke as well as the other Gospel records (e.g. Acts 4:2; 5:12-16 = Mt. 4:23). 

The preaching of the Kingdom is made parallel to preaching the time of acceptance with God and forgiveness of sins now (Lk. 4:43 cp. 19, 2 Cor. 6:2); Rom. 14:17, which seems to teach that the Kingdom of God is more about "peace and joy in the Holy Spirit", both now and eternally, than physical, tangible things. Christ's parables about the Kingdom don't speak of a political Kingdom, but rather about the relationship between God and the believer in the here and now. 

4:24 Then his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them
  The repetition of the word “and...” gives the impression that every kind of illness – physical and mental, understood and not understood – was healed by the Lord Jesus. “Lunatic” translates the Greek selēniazomai – “to be moon struck”, derived from the noun selēnē, the moon. It’s not true that some mental illnesses come from being moon–struck. But the idea is used, without correction – just as the idea of ‘demon possession’ is in the preceding phrase. “Brought” translates a word which was used in the technical sense of bringing sacrifice- and the idea of converts as sacrifices is repeated in Rom. 15:16.

4:25 And great crowds followed him, those from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from the other side of the Jordan- Luke makes the point that His popularity was not only because of the miracles, but because of His teaching. Lk. 4:22 records how people were amazed at the gracious words He spoke; there was something very unusual in His manner of speaking. Because of the gracious words and manner of speaking of Jesus, therefore God so highly exalted Him (Ps. 45:2). The Father was so impressed with the words of His Son. Evidently there must have been something totally outstanding about His use of language. God highly exalted Him because He so loved righteousness and hated wickedness (Ps. 45:7), and yet also because of His manner of speaking (Ps. 45:2); so this love of righteousness and hatred of evil was what made His words so special.