For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 7, 2006
Chapter 4 gives us the story of Jesus' temptations and the calling of the first disciples. A lot has been written over the years about these temptations, yet there is still so much that we (or at least I) don't really understand about it. Why was it necessary for Jesus to go out into the desert for 40 days without food? Couldn't Satan just as easily tempted Him while He was going about his daily life? I know it was all part of God's plan. Why would it have been sin for Jesus to change the stones into bread? It can't be simply because Satan told Him to do so. I guess the best answer would be that the fasting was part of God's plan, and the miracle would have been cheating. The other two are simpler for me to understand. Satan wanted Jesus to put on a big show, draw undue attention to Himself, and be tempted with pride. The final temptation was a shortcut to what Jesus and Satan already knew was Jesus' destiny.
Jesus' ministry actually began after the temptation. Jesus was immediately popular. He was a sensation. People came from all over to be healed, verse 24 says even as far as Syria.
A lot of people in our time misunderstand Jesus' disciples. In first century Israel, rabbis were not only the spiritual leaders of a community, they were also the educators. Most boys went to rabbinical school in their community to at least learn to read and write. Those who showed promise or whose parents could afford it lived with the rabbi beyond their elementary, if you will, education and continued their education. Jesus was not the only traveling rabbi in Israel, and He was certainly not the only one to have an entourage of learners following along.
This is the main reason I think the disciples were very young men when they traveled with Jesus, possibly teenagers. John, for example, wrote his five books as late as 65 years after the death of Christ. Obviously John was very old by any measure. But if he was 80 when he wrote the Revelation, that would make him around 15 when Jesus died. If John was the same age as Jesus, he would have been nearly 100 when he wrote the Revelation. We usually picture the disciples as men at least as old as Jesus, but that's mainly because that's the way they are pictured in art produced some 1,300-1,600 years later. For one thing, most people did not live very long lives anyway back at that time. As far as we know, Peter was the only disciple who was married, so he probably was somewhat older. Remember that in John 20 John outran Peter to Jesus' tomb.
It's nothing to quibble about, but it is something to think about.