Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s, Come, Follow Me podcast. Today, we’re looking at Matthew 4 and Luke 4 and 5, and the theme is The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me.
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So today we’re going to be talking really about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He’s about 30 years old, He has been baptized, and now not far away He is going into the wilderness to fast for 40 days. In fact, even today, the Mount of Temptation, the traditional spot, is not far from the baptism spot. We’re going to look at this story in Matthew chapter 4. What is interesting about this is the Joseph Smith Translation, or the JST, makes many clarifications to this story that we’re going to talk about today. And what is so interesting is as we watch Satan tempt the Savior, we learn some things about the patterns of the temptations he makes not only to the Savior, but to all of us. He is a well-practiced tempter, and he knows the kinds of things that will bring us down. And so he practiced these tools over the centuries and we see them in full blown array right here in Matthew chapter 4. So we start with the first verse, which says:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1).
Now, of course, we get this wonderful clarification in JST: Jesus went up into the wilderness, “to be with God” (JST, Matthew 4:1).
In His childhood and as He matured, He certainly had a rising Messianic consciousness in His life. Other times He is pulling Himself aside. Surely in Nazareth He was going up on the hills, and as a boy and then as a young man, and He would look out over the valley below. If you’ve been to Nazareth, or you can picture this with us, the valley is below and it’s very large and the hill in Nazareth looks down over this very, very beautiful verdant valley, which is the Jezreel Valley. And, of course, this is the same as Har Megiddo, which is Armageddon, the place where Armageddon will be fought. And surely, as He was looking out over this, He started to feel like He understood who He was and He began to understand the scriptures and see that they were talking about Him. And that consciousness would rise in Him as He began to mature and grew nigh to His ministry.
And so that makes such perfect sense that He would go into the wilderness to be with His Father and learn more about Himself. And it’s interesting that we see Him retreating to be with His Father many times during His ministry.
Luke 5:16 says,
“And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
And Luke 6:12-13 say,
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles[.]”
So He is going out in the wilderness to be with His Father.
And, of course, He is not going into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. No one, and especially not the Savior, would go put himself in a position to be tempted. But now we learn in verse two that when He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights He was afterward “an hungered” (Matthew 4:2). And then the JST adds this line: “and was left to be tempted of the devil.”
Now, the number 40 is a really interesting number. We see it so many times in the scriptures, and it usually means a period of hardship or testing. We see 40 in their 40 years in the wilderness where the Children of Israel are wandering. We see 40 years from the crucifixion of Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem. We see 40 days of Moses on the mount receiving the law. So this 40 days is a really important idea, and it means a very, very long time.
So I guess the question arises for all of us: how can we be protected from being tempted of the devil? Because we want that protection here in this vulnerable experience called mortality.
In D&C 10:5 we learn, here’s one of the keys:
“Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (D&C 10:5).
And in D&C 93:49 it says, “What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place” (D&C 93:29).
Well, I have a question then. What does it mean to pray always? It seems like it’s a really important thing to do, but our lives are so full of other things. Other things are on our minds. We’re full of distractions and busy tasks. How do we pray always?
I think we have a prayer in our heart all the time. There may be something that’s on our mind. Well, we keep it in our heart and in our mind all day long. That’s part of praying always: we’re constantly thinking about Him, we’re constantly thinking about our relationship with our Heavenly Father and with the Savior. And that is inside of us all the time. That’s part of the process of praying always.
Well, it seems, too, that we can be asking for guidance all the time. What do I do now? What is the proper way to act in this instance? How do I show love right here? I mean, it’s a constant interaction with the Lord all day long. And I love what He says to Enoch.
That’s right. In Moses 6:34 He said,
“[A]nd thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me” (Moses 6:34)
I love that. The Lord invites us to walk with Him.
So the tempter is going to come to the Savior with three temptations. And of course, the first one addresses this hunger that the Lord would feel after fasting for 40 days. And he says,
“If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3).
And it’s interesting that these temptations that he gives are following a certain pattern. In the first one, he is appealing to His appetites. He’s saying, forgo what you know. Forgo the principles by which you live and turn these stones into bread. It’s so interesting that I think this appeal to our appetites sometimes happens when we’re worn out, when we’re tired, and that’s when Satan seems to say, oh, do this and it doesn’t matter; or do that, it doesn’t matter; you’re bored; you’re tired; you’re worn out. These appeals to appetites are one of Satan’s great temptations.
I love the way the Savior answers. He says,
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
So Christ answers with a scripture. And He knew the scriptures from His youth. This shows a lot about Him here. As He’s in the midst of temptation, He’s pulling out the scriptures. And what a great pattern for us.
It’s interesting that this is also, this particular scripture, is part of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:
“For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44).
This is a wonderful commandment for us: that we live by every word which proceeded out of the mouth of God.
So He wasn’t taken by that temptation. So Satan tries again, verse five:
“Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple” (Matthew 4:5).
Well, we have a wonderful JST correction there, too, because Satan is not going to take Jesus anywhere. That is not what is going to happen. So we learn from the JST,
“Then Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple” (JST, Matthew 4:5).
“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.” (Matthew 4:6)
Now what’s a pinnacle?
Well, that’s a good question. Some people think it might be the southeast corner of the temple platform. It’s a very large and tall corner of the wall. In fact, at that time period it’s probably the largest manmade height from the top of that wall to the base of the Kidron Valley. So, some people think that’s the pinnacle of the temple. Others think—and that’s the southeast corner of the platform. The southwest corner of the platform is, I think, probably a better candidate because there He would have been looking out over the marketplace. There would have been thousands of people, potentially, in that market and had He then thrown Himself off of that, there would have been a divine snatch, if you will, or a catch by the angels, and everyone would have seen it at once, and that would have appealed to something that was important to man, which is pride.
In fact, again, that’s so interesting because that is the very temptation that Satan uses on us. He wants to urge us to seek praise. He says, make sure that you’re good and everyone knows it; be special; be better than other people. And that appeal has a great corrosive effect, and Satan uses it all the time on us.
It’s also interesting that Satan uses scripture to respond to the Lord. And when he does this, he always tries to make evil look good. This is the way he handled it with the Lord here, and he handles it with us in our lives. He tries to say evil is good. In fact, we know from Isaiah 5:20:
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
But what interests me, for example with Laman and Lemuel when they are going into the wilderness, they are complaining all the way, and one of the things they say is, we know that the people in Jerusalem were good (1 Nephi 17:22). See they didn’t say, ah we like evil. No. Satan always says, what I’m giving you is good. And Laman and Lemuel said, we know these people are good—which is so ironic because we know that the people in Jerusalem at that time were sacrificing children to the god Molech just outside of the walls of Jerusalem. These are good people? But, what we find is that Satan uses this approach: what I’m giving you is good; it’s so much better. He says, what I’m giving you is modern; it’s more inclusive; it is more charitable. So Satan always poses his temptations that way.
So, to this temptation, Jesus answers him:
“It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
Again, quoting scripture.
Well, again, “the devil taketh him up unto an exceedingly high mountain” (Matthew 4:8).
No, the devil did not take Him, again, anywhere. The Joseph Smith Translation says, and the spirit taketh Him up into a high mountain and He beheld all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them (JST, Matthew 4:8).
And then Satan says to the Lord,
“All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).
What a scam. First of all, Satan has really nothing that he can give to the Savior.
Yes. What a silly thing to say this to the Creator of worlds without numbers. I will give you the kingdoms of this world. What a perfect liar he is. And of course, Jesus does not fall for this.
“Then saith Jesus unto him,”—in verse 10—“Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).
I love that.
Then there is a tender verse, verse 11. It says,
“Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:11).
Well, that would be a tender verse, but the JST gives us something even better. And it says:
“And now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him [unto John]” (JST, Matthew 4:11-12).
So in this hour of desperation and tiredness that surely the Lord is facing, having been fasting for so many days, it is not Himself that He’s thinking of, but this wonderful John the Baptist who has been cast into prison by Herod Antipas. So He sends angels to comfort him in that hour. I love that.
Now we’re talking about this interesting pattern of temptations, but there is one idea that permeates all the others, I think, in this exchange.
And you have to see it in proximity. Remember at the baptism of Jesus, at the end of the baptism when He comes up out of the water—we talked about this last time—, He hears the voice of the Father saying, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But there He’s been told and people witnessed it that He is the Beloved Son. And now, Satan over and over again says to Him, “if thou be the son of God.” So He had just come from His Father saying, “thou art my beloved son,” and now Satan says, “if thou be the son of God.” That juxtaposition is fascinating. And He’s striking right at the core of His identity. That’s the bigger temptation.
Yes. He’s trying to introduce doubt about who He is. And again, do we see this as one of the primary temptations that Satan sends to us? He tempts us in relation to our identity all the time. He says things to us and we hear it in our minds. You’re never good enough. You will never have what you want. You don’t measure up. You’re a loser. You’re always on the line. Life is about being measured all the time. Everybody else is better than you do. It’s too late. You make a mistake and you hear, you’ve blown it now. One strike, why not two? He’s always suggesting that we are nothing, that we don’t matter, that we are somehow lost in this race called life. He even suggests that it’s a race and that there are only some winners and that we’re definitely not one of them. What a temptation that he showed us right here. And he does it again all the time to us.
Let’s not get the false idea that these were the only temptations that Christ had in His life. We learn in Luke 22:28,
“Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations” (Luke 22:28).
In fact, can you even imagine what power Satan and all his minions would have directed toward Jesus to try to make Him fall?
No one would have been dogged more by the devil than the Savior of the world; and yet He never sinned.
He triumphed. He conquered over all of that.
Now we learn in Luke 4 that Jesus goes back to the Galilee, and He travels from place to place, from synagogue to synagogue. And we are told He is being glorified of all. His fame is spreading because He does these wonderful, good works. He performs miracles, He heals the sick. And then He comes back to Nazareth. And there, “as His custom was,”—which I think is a wonderful phrase, because He, of course, He always went to the synagogue on Shabbat—”he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16).
Obviously, He’s an active member of the synagogue. And the Sabbath day, it is worth noting, is Saturday. In His time, it would have been on Saturday. And of course, it would continue to be so until He was resurrected on a Sunday. But the Shabbat, and Shabbat still in Israel, is on a Saturday. And even our own kids at the BYU Jerusalem Center celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday to be in compliance with the way it is in Israel. So that is what is happening.
Let me describe just a little bit about a synagogue in that time period. We’ve been to many 1st century synagogues in Israel. They’re rectangular in shape. You have an entrance in the one end that usually faces to the south. And as you walk in, you would look straight in and on your left and on your right are these steps or benches that you can sit on, and there are columns that hold the ceiling up. And in the front, there’s usually a small table and there the Rabbi, or the one who is going to read the scriptures or discuss the scriptures, will sit or stand by this table. So now in verse 17 of Luke 4, we see that the scroll of Isaiah is delivered to Jesus. It says in the King James Version it’s a book that’s delivered to Him, but it’s really a scroll. And He unrolls the scroll as He starts to read in verse, what we have as verse 18,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4: 18-19)
This outlines wonderfully His mission. Of course, He’s quoting from Isaiah 61, and this outlined so much of His mission and some beautiful verses here are worth just noting for a moment.
And I think it’s wonderful that it is all so Atonement-centered.
Of course, He’s preaching good tidings, which is the same word in the Greek as the gospel. And tell us, Maurine, about proclaiming liberty. I love that.
Yes, because what He says in the synagogue is “to preach deliverance to the captives.” In Isaiah it says “to proclaim liberty to the captives.” But isn’t it interesting that we’re talking about setting captives free? Of course, that puts our minds immediately to those spirits who are in spirit prison that He is going to be releasing. But it would also have some other meaning to those who were listening because proclaiming deliverance would have reminded them of the Jubilee year. Now, in ancient Israel, the number seven was very important because every seventh year was the sabbatical year, like the year of the Sabbath. And on that sabbatical year, all those who were in debt would have their debts canceled. Talk about going free! But seven sets of seven made 49, and then in the 50th year, it was a Jubilee year, and that is when the captives would go free. Not only are debts canceled, but those who are in slavery are released to be free, which I think is absolutely a beautiful thing. In Leviticus 25:10 it says,
“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” (Leviticus 25:10).
So when we think about proclaiming liberty to the captives, that’s all of us. All of us are captives. All of us are in bondage. And He has come to set us free.
That’s beautiful. So back in the synagogue there in Nazareth where Jesus was raised, He rolled up the scroll, He finished reading these verses, and He said, and all the eyes of the people in the synagogue were upon Him,
“And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).
Make no mistake. They understood what He was saying. This verse is so Messianic that He was saying to them: I am the Anointed One. I am the Messiah. And that was almost more than they could stand. They said, “is not this Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22)? They’ve known Him all of His life. They’re discussing back and forth, and they say He’s proclaiming these things, and He has wonderful letters, but they knew Him all of His life. And yet, He’s proclaiming that He is the Anointed One?
And Nazareth is a tiny place, maybe as small as 400 people in that time period. So this boy who has grown up among them, they say, isn’t this Joseph’s son? Another time when He’s in Nazareth, they say, isn’t this Mary’s son? Which kind of acts as if there’s a shadow over His parentage a little bit. And so they see this is absolute blasphemy.
And it’s interesting, just a little aside here, we always think of Jesus being a carpenter and being trained by Joseph to be a carpenter. But what the Greek says here is that Joseph and Jesus were téktōn, which means a builder. And so, some say this means He was a stonemason and would have made more sense if they were working on the kind of cities that were being built around there. There was a Roman city called Sepphoris that was being built not far from there. And if they got any work from there, it would have certainly been stone masonry, which is interesting.
So back to our story. They know Him too well, perhaps, because they think that anyone who grew up there could certainly not have been the long-awaited Messiah.
So “when they heard these things”—and realized what He was saying,—”[they] were filled with wrath, And [they] rose up, and [they] thrust him out of the city.” We’re in verse 29 of Luke 4. “And [they] led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong” (Luke 4:28-29).
Now you have to understand what this means. They are going to stone Him to death. We always picture stoning as someone standing in the street and people all backing up a little ways and start throwing rocks until someone falls over and then you keep throwing rocks until they’re dead. But that’s not what an official stoning was. A stoning is you cast the person off a cliff headlong and they get smashed into the rocks below. And if they’re still moving, you still cast stones at them until they stop moving. That was the official ritual stoning, and that’s what they were about to do. “But he passing through the midst of them” in verse 30, “went his way”.
So He left by miraculous means, all these people that He had known all His life, and went back into the Galilee to preach and to bring souls to Him.
You know, that must have been very painful to have people He’s known all His life treat Him like that.
Now let’s go to Luke 5, and we’re going to talk about some fishermen that we know well on the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus is there, and He sees Simon and Simon has been cleaning his nets. And he tells Simon, of course who is Peter, to “launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” (Luke 5:4). Then Simon says, you know I can’t do that because “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5).
So what a discouraging thing. You know, you fish at night on the Sea of Galilee and many other places. You fish at night and you work very hard and then if there is nothing in the morning, how discouraging it is. But the Lord said specifically to put his net down someplace else. Now that reminds us of a story that happened to us when we were in Israel.
Many years ago we were taking some pictures one early morning, and we wanted to get a wonderful shot of some fish coming out of the Galilee from the fishermen. And so we had all of our camera equipment gathered there along the place where the boats come in to the restauranteurs. And as we sat there with our camera ready on the tripod, this one fisherman was a little concerned about us being there, and he was asking the others, what’s he doing here? He said he’s trying to get some pictures of some fish. And he came up to us. He was kind of a burly man. He kind of looked like you might picture the Apostle Peter.
Oh, yes. I felt like we were transformed back into time.
And he came up to us and in broken English he said, “if you want picture of fishermen, you can have. But if you want picture of fish, you cannot, for we have none.” And they had also toiled all night long and had not caught anything. And it brought that whole story to us so clearly.
But in this case with Peter, we know that when he had cast his nets out, that finally there was a multitude of fish, so much so that their net broke. Now we see this similar story again after Christ is resurrected. And some people assume that this is the same story told twice. Others assume that this is a story at the beginning of His ministry and one at the end and is a message that where the Lord is, there is abundance.
“And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:7)
Oh, my goodness. What abundance! That many fish.
Now, let’s just jump over to Matthew 4:18-22 just for a second because this is another scene. As Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee He sees Simon, or Peter, and Andrew “and He saith to them,” you know the story, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). But I love the Joseph Smith Translation addition here because He says this,
“I am he of whom it is written by the prophets; follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (JST, Matthew 4:19)
So He testifies that He is the Messiah. They’re all looking for this Messiah, but He tells them that He is the Messiah.
“Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway leave their nets” (Matthew 4:19-20).
They immediately leave their nets, they leave their fishing business and they come. And they understood when a rabbi calls you in those days, they understood this was a lifetime calling, just as it is today for the modern-day apostles.
That term “straightway” is so moving to me. They didn’t say, let us just get in this season’s fish, or let us store enough fish for our family that they are OK, and then we’ll come. No, they left straightway. And Elder Neal Maxwell said something wonderful about this. He said,
“Suppose Peter had not left his nets “straightway”? He might have become the respected president of the local Galilean fishermen’s association. But he would not have been on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, Moses, and Elias and heard the voice of God.” (Neal Maxwell, “Willing to Submit”, April 1985)
He’s suggesting here that all of us need to learn what it is to straightway follow the Lord and put aside all our hesitations. He said,
“[If we hold back it’s] like leaving Egypt without journeying all the way to the Holy Land, or waiting in Nauvoo for the railroad to come through, or staying permanently at Winter Quarters.”
No. We are invited to leave straightway.
And you know, we have impressions to do things. I’m sure they had the immediate impression that they should follow the Savior. And we have those same kind of impressions in our life, don’t we? We have that thing that comes into our mind that says we should do something. And then right after there might be another voice that said, nah, you don’t need to do that right now; maybe you can do it tomorrow, or maybe you shouldn’t be thinking about this right now; you don’t have enough time. Whatever it is.
We had a wonderful person who came to our stake just recently. His name was President Loren Dalton, and he is in our mission presidency. And he talked to us about this idea of “the bing”. It’s this thing comes into your mind—bing! It’s an idea that comes quickly and you think, oh, I should do that. And then there’s another one—bing!—that comes into your mind that says, no you don’t need to do that. And sometimes we’re in that little battle, but you have to pay attention to that first impression that comes into our mind.
In fact, Joseph Smith had something to say about that. He said,
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.151).
Well, I love what Elder Rasband says about this. He said,
“We must be confident in our first promptings. Sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings—and we all have—we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten. Now a caution: don’t expect fireworks because you responded to the Holy Ghost. Remember, you are about the work of the still, small voice.” (Elder Ronald A. Rasband, “Let the Holy Spirit Guide,” April 2017)
Oh, I love that. And nobody taught this better than President Thomas S. Monson. This is what he said:
“I have learned, as I have mentioned in previous messages, never to postpone a prompting. On one occasion many years ago, I was swimming laps at the old Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City when I felt the inspiration to go to the University Hospital to visit a good friend of mine who had lost the use of his lower limbs because of a malignancy and the surgery which followed. I immediately left the pool, dressed, and was soon on my way to see this good man.
“When I arrived at his room, I found that it was empty. Upon inquiry I learned I would probably find him in the swimming pool area of the hospital, an area which was used for physical therapy. Such turned out to be the case. He had guided himself there in his wheelchair and was the only occupant of the room. He was on the far side of the pool, near the deep end. I called to him, and he maneuvered his wheelchair over to greet me. We had an enjoyable visit, and I accompanied him back to his hospital room, where I gave him a blessing.”
“I learned later from my friend that he had been utterly despondent that day and had been contemplating taking his own life. He had prayed for relief but began to feel that his prayers had gone unanswered. He went to the pool with the thought that this would be a way to end his misery—by guiding his wheelchair into the deep end of the pool. I had arrived at a critical moment, in response to what I know was inspiration from on high.
“My friend was able to live many more years—years filled with happiness and gratitude. How pleased I am to have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands on that critical day at the swimming pool.” (President Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings”, October 2012)
We get our chance to leave our nets straightway and follow the Lord. Many times it is when He gives us personal revelation. It’s when we’re asked to do something that may not always be easy for us. We have that same opportunity that Peter did, and Peter gave us the perfect example of what to do.
What a wonderful lesson for us to end on today. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music again that opens and closes this podcast. Now next week will be studying John chapters 2-4 and the lesson is called Ye Must Be Born Again. Thanks for listening.
We’ve loved being with you.