What does Matthew 4:2 mean?
ESV: And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
NIV: After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
NASB: And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
CSB: After he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
NLT: For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
KJV: And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
God the Holy Spirit came to rest on Jesus during His baptism by John in the Jordan River. Now God's Spirit has led Jesus, the Son of God, into the wilderness for a time of testing during which Christ will be tempted to sin by Satan. This time of testing demonstrates that Jesus is sinless despite experiencing temptation as any human does (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus' time in the wilderness begins with 40 days and nights of fasting. "Fasting" is often misunderstood as requiring absolutely no food or water; however, there are different kinds of fasts. Commentators suggest that Jesus may well have gone the entire time without any food—or at least with very, very little. However, it's not likely He went without water. Jesus endured all His earthly trials as a fully human man, while also retaining His eternal status as God's Son.
Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness were an intentional echo of the Israelites' 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Matthew repeatedly connects Jesus' experience to that of God's "son" Israel. This includes Jesus' return to Israel from Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15) and several other specific echoes of Scripture. Matthew means for his readers to see that Jesus is both a true Israelite, and the perfect fulfillment of God's relationship with Israel.
Matthew's words about Jesus' condition sound like an understatement: Jesus was hungry. Yet this comment matters. Jesus did not supernaturally do away with his appetite for food. He felt it. He would have been physically weak with a body desperate to eat. The temptations to follow will be presented to Him while He is in that physical condition. These events serve to emphasize that Jesus did not overcome temptation by "cheating;" He endured as a human being.
Matthew 4:1–11 describes Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. After 40 days and nights of fasting, Jesus faces three temptations from Satan. Each one attempts to lure Christ into abusing His power; to take immediately what God the Father has promised to provide later. Jesus resists each temptation with a quote from Deuteronomy, refusing to rebel against the plans of God the Father. Finally, Jesus refuses to worship the devil in exchange for the kingdoms of the earth. He tells the devil to leave, and angels come minister to Him.
Matthew 3 ended with the Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus following His baptism. Now the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness to endure tempting by the devil after 40 days of fasting. Jesus demonstrates His sinlessness by resisting all temptations. He begins His ministry in the region of Galilee, settling in Capernaum and calling some disciples to follow Him. Jesus' work in Galilee includes traveling from place to place, proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of heaven is near and healing every kind of affliction. He soon becomes famous, drawing huge crowds from great distances.
Matthew 3 ends with a great affirmation from the voice of God the Father: Jesus is His Son. Immediately after that, God's Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness for a time of temptation by the devil. Jesus passes that test and then begins His ministry in the region of Galilee. Jesus begins to call His disciples and travel around the region. He teaches in the synagogues and heals people with every kind of affliction. Jesus' fame grows quickly. This provides Him a large audience for the Sermon on the Mount, which Matthew begins to record in chapter 5.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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