Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992.
“II. Preliminaries to Jesus’ Ministry, 3:1-4:11” pp. 50-79.
Morris identifies differences among the Gospel writers in the way John the Baptist introduces Jesus. “For Matthew the important thing is that the Baptist came prophesying the doom that awaited sinners and calling on his hearers to repent” (Morris 1992, 51). Matthew is not very concerned about chronology at this point, as this narrative immediately follows Jesus’ return from Egypt but is “in those days” (Morris 1992, 51). The wilderness is likely in the hills slightly east of the Jordan (Morris 1992, 52). John’s prophetic message is presented forcefully and requires a change of mind to what is good rather than what is bad (Morris 1992, 52). This requirement is based on the “kingdom of heaven,” a term Matthew uses synonymously with the “kingdom of God” (Morris 1992, 53). The kingdom points to a dynamic rule over people (Morris 1992, 53). The call is to prepare for the coming king.
Morris identifies John’s clothing and diet as rustic in nature (Morris 1992, 55) and observes that many people came to see and hear him. John’s characteristic was that of one baptizing, a term Morris, citing LSJ, defines as dipping or even drowning or sinking (Morris 1992, 55). Jews applied baptism to proselytes but John unexpectedly applied it to Jews (Morris 1992, 56).
Morris notes that Matthew links “Pharisees and Saducees” as one group, something only done in Acts 23:7 outside of Matthew. This likely indicated their opposition to Jesus, not their agreement in other areas (Morris 1992, 56). Morris does describe some of the distinctives of the two parties on pp. 56-57. What is important to Matthew is that these respected members of society came for repentance and baptism but that John recognized their repentance as superficial (Morris 1992, 57). John’s call is for repentance which results in a changed life (Morris 1992, 58). “John tells them that it is within God’s power to raise up privileged people at any time out of the most unpromising material” (Morris 1992, 59). God is able at any time to exclude people, even those descended from Abraham (Morris 1992, 60).
The contrast between John’s baptism and Jesus’ work is enormous. John considers himself not even worthy to be a slave of Jesus. “John at the very least is saying that Jesus’ baptism is no mere ritual affair, but one that involves the effective gift of the Spirit” (Morris 1992, 61). This is something John could never accomplish. Jesus is much greater than John. Jesus will complete the judgment on sin by separating wheat from chaff (Morris 1992, 62).
Morris identifies Matthew 3:13-17 as distinct enough that in its content it would be independent of the passage in the other Gospels (Morris 1992, 63). The discussion between Jesus and John about baptism is very emphatic (Morris 1992, 64). After debating possible understandings of “to fulfill all righteousness” Morris decides Jesus is most likely indicating solidarity with sinful man (Morris 1992, 65). The appearance of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father affirm that God is present, bringing peace and favor (Morris 1992, 67).
After Jesus’ baptism, Matthew presents the start of Jesus’ public ministry (Morris 1992, 69). Morris observes that there are shorter temptation narratives in Mark and Luke. There are various alterations in the accounts, but they share one source. “The account must go back to Jesus himself: nobody else was present when the temptations took place” (Morris 1992, 70). Morris does not see the reason for the temptations as proving to Jesus that he is the Son of God. He did not seem to in doubt of this in any way (Morris 1992, 70). The temptations seem to have been aimed at identifying how Jesus would live as the Son of God on earth. His solution to this difficulty is to live according to the Scripture (Morris 1992, 70).
Morris considers that this temptation of Jesus could not have been God the Father tempting him, as God does not tempt people. At issue was Satan tempting Jesus to deny the Father or even his own deity (Morris 1992, 71). The fasting accompanying the prayer was typical. Morris suggests that the forty day period was reminiscent of Moses.
The conditional statement used by Satan, “If you are the Son of God,” assumes the case to be so. The temptation is not whether Jesus is the Son of God. It rather pertains to what he will do with the fact that he is the Son of God. Jesus’ refusal tells us something of his mission. “He had come to take a lowly place and in the end die on a cross to save others; to use his powers to satisfy personal needs would be to deny all this” (Morris 1992, 73-74). Jesus’ response indicates that it is all Scripture which is profitable (Morris 1992, 74). It comes from the inside of God’s being and is beneficial to all our lives.
The second temptation, that of throwing himself off the top of the temple, likewise admits the condition that Jesus is the Son of God (Morris 1992, 75). Jesus’ response rejects the idea of manipulating God for our own protection or honor (Morris 1992, 76).
The third temptation is that Jesus, by worshiping Satan, would ultimately rule the world. To do this would be “to accord to the evil one the place that belongs to God alone” (Morris 1992, 77). Jesus’ rejection of this idea is in the most emphatic terms.