A Current Bible Study:
Matthew Chapter 4
"Welcome at the Beginning of
Christ's Earthly Ministry"

        If you go into a gift shop or most any card store, you can find large "Welcome" banners or signs. We celebrate new arrivals and ventures today, together with our families, friends or maybe fellow employees. Some who love the person and others who are duty-bound or have a special interest may well attend one of these welcoming functions.
        In this chapter of Matthew, beloved, we are reading about the "Welcome" that Jesus received just after He was baptized and ready to set out on His three-year earthly ministry. He had been a child, young man, and carpenter in Nazareth, but now He was entering a new venture as an itinerant minister. He wasn't really just a minister. He is The Minister.
        Look at who gets up to the front of the Lord's greeting line:

Verses 1-4 -"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of god, command that these stones be made bread. But he (Jesus) answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
        Unfortunately, this was not Satan's first attempt to "greet" Christ. Thirty years earlier he had attempted to assassinate Jesus through Herod, the King (see Matt. 2:16). Now he will try to charm Him with temptations and a little Bible study that he has cooked up. Did you know that the Devil shows up in church meetings today, too? He'll use any of us he can fool to try and wreck and ruin the Work of the Lord. But Jesus is showing us here how to respond, not just with the Word of God, but with the Word of God "rightly divided" by the Holy Spirit of God. Satan moves on to a second temptation:

Verses 5-7 -"Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
        Did you notice how brazen the Devil is being here? He never approached Jehovah this way in the Old Testament times. At least, not that we know of. But, like many in our world today, and like all of us if we aren't careful, the Devil doesn't fully recognize Jesus as God. God in the flesh. The flesh of a Nazarene carpenter. It does sound kind of wild when you say it that way. A Jew. A man. The God-Man. Satan sees Him somehow as a weaker version of God. Why else would he talk to Him this way. This makes me reflect on how I treat Him. Christ is meek. Meeker than any other man. But He is not weak, beloved. Just think about it. Could you or I square off with Satan directly like this? Jesus made so much of His ministry look so easy that we can loose sight of the Truth. He was God, and He IS GOD!

Verses 8-10 -"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written., thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
     This conversation between God, in the flesh, and the Devil worries me. It should be of concern to all believers, I think. We are now the spiritual descendants of Christ. Surely Satan is still trying to ply us with this same basic argument. Review his main points again (see verses 3, 6, and 9). Why, he's presenting his version of the New Covenant. And, sadly, aren't we adopting the Devil's Gospel today? Look at it. He says, God's power is there for your selfish comforts. Part of me wants to live the Christian life that way, friend. But listen to what our Lord and Captain, our "Big Brother," has to say in response. He'll have none of it. He'll not go along with the Devil on this, no, not for a second. Jesus knows the true will of God, and the true mind of God. Look at His responses (I'll paraphrase):

"Put God's Word at the very top of your list of NEEDS!"
"Do not play games with Almighty God."
and
"No matter WHAT you have to give up, GIVE it up,
and Worship God ALONE!"
Now THAT'S the REAL NEW COVENANT, brother! It always was just that. Straight from our Savior's lips, right down to this very hour.
        Later on in Christ's ministry (see Matt 16:21-22) one of His disciples would come up and whisper into His ear that He must not proceed to talk about being crucified. And Christ gave him a startling reply, look at this:

Matt. 16:23- "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thou behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
The Savior knows the REAL meaning of Salvation. Beloved, it's time for you and me to grow up. It's time to stop listening to, and speaking, and living the Devil's Gospel. We' re on a mission. There's comfort, great comfort. I could not be sharing right now if it wasn't for the love and comfort I've received from the Lord. But there's duty, too. It's not ALL comfort. Keep reading in Matthew 16. Read verse 24, and 25, and on, and on. We can't escape it, beloved. Not and be true, as He is true. Some of this that we have called the Gospel today, is just the Devil's old lie. Think on these things.



        Second in our Lord's welcome line are Angels:
Verse 11 -"Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."
Were these Holy messengers dispatched, or did they come on their own after witnessing the way the Devil was treating the Lord of All? That's a question we can't answer until we get over on the other side.

        Next came the outcasted people. They were outcasts to society, but not to God. God was on earth now, and none of His creatures were outcasts to Him:
Verses 12-16 -"Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed unto Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Naphthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up."

        Are you some kind of outcast, today, beloved? Has something you've done separated you from the good graces of society? Or were you born an outcast? Or do you just feel like one (I know I have at times). Well, this passage tells me that none of us are outcasts to our Creator. In fact the FIRST stop on His welcome tour is to be with outcasts. And He has a message for these outcasts, for they were outcasts because they did not believe in Him:
Verse 17 -"From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
This message holds true today, too. If you are on the outside of God's Family, looking in, in other words, if you do NOT believe in Him, then this is Christ message to you, right now.

        Christ's next greeting is an invitation to His OWN people (Jews of the flesh).
Verses 18-22 -"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And immediately they left the ship and their father, and followed him."
This message also remains ever in effect today, for all who believe. YOU, believer, are every bit as CALLED by Jesus as Peter, Andrew, James, and John! We' re ALL on a mission, beloved! When I get to heaven, I want to know if Jesus spoke to just these 4 believers, at this time or were others asked and these were recorded because they are the only ones who said "Yes." We aren't told here.



        Finally, we have the most tender welcome of all. It's really a reunion:
Verse 23 -"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people."
2,000 years ago in Galilee, the sick and needy found themselves in the physical presence of their Creator with total and direct access to God! From almost total hopelessness, these people found healing and restoration was just a handshake away, there in the touch and the words of Jesus. A REAL party was breaking out, beloved:
Verse 24 -"And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them."
        God had been long separated from His human creation by the fall of Man into sin (see Genesis 3). But now they are reunited. Have you ever experienced a reunion of long separated lovers, maybe at an airport? It's a privilege just to watch, isn't it? A soldier returns, a child finds their real parent. I wish I could have been there in Galilee, even if I couldn't participate, just to watch. I could see Jesus asking, "My darling, what is wrong with you, what has happened to you?" And then BOOM! With a touch, a word, a glance, as if He had hit a rewind button on a music player, they were restored and whole, just as if they had never been separated from their Lord. Can you see why they started to throng Him?
Verse 25 -"And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan."
      I would not argue about it, but I really don't believe that this is a model of the healing power a Christian or Christian Leader should have today. I'm not Jesus, beloved. And I can't apologize or shy away from that fact. Nor should we avoid miraculous passages like this one in the scriptures. Jesus was One of a kind, for all time. This passage isn't a model of our behavior and power (our model is found in the next chapter, but that's the subject of another message). What we are seeing here isn't a model of us, it's a model of Heaven. When Christ showed up in Galilee, HEAVEN came down to the earth! Wouldn't you like to have been there, to be healed, restored to the condition God initially conceived for you, or just to watch the tenderness pass between the others and their Maker? Well don't despair or be jealous, because the truth is, HEAVEN is coming back to the earth!
        Certainly God heals today, through His Holy Spirit and His love, but not ALWAYS physically. Wonderfully for us, however, His Spirit is on the earth, right now, and fully available to touch the soul (Spirit to spirit) of any person who believes with their whole heart. We can experience Heaven TODAY in that sense. And if you believe, and your soul is reborn by God, there is a wonderful welcoming in your future. For on "The Day of the Lord" Jesus is coming BACK to the earth! And God will be, once again, just a handshake away, as He was back in Galilee so long ago. As He was, in a sense, in Eden even longer ago. And you and I will be touched in a way that we can only dream of now. And there will be great rejoicing for all who are present. Greater than before, greater than ever! For this time, God and man will never part again. If you are still a spiritual outcast, come into the Kingdom now, beloved. Come into the Kingdom of Heaven.
   May Jesus Christ richly bless you-JKD 9/30/06
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