Matthew 3–4: Promises & Light

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 2: Saturday

“THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS
SAW A GREAT
LIGHT,
A
ND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND
AND SHADOW OF DEATH
,
U
PON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.”
Matthew 4:16 LSB

Matthew 3–4 tells the events of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. As he writes, Matthew continues with his authentication of the identity of Christ. Chapter 1 began with the genealogy of Christ to prove Jesus was descended from David. In chapter 1 and 2 Matthew cites Old Testament prophecies five times as authoritative authentication that Jesus is the Messiah.

In Matthew 3–4, he marks the beginning of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus with quotes from Isaiah. John is introduced with, “For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying,” and Matthew then quotes Isaiah 40:3, the famous reference to the voice in the wilderness. As Jesus begins His ministry in Capernaum in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, Matthew writes, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet,” and he quotes Isaiah 9:1–2, verses we just read yesterday! Matthew is again citing Old Testament prophecies as authoritative authentication of identity—of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

As I mentioned in Matthew 1–2: Outcasts & Obedience, this use of the Old Testament is a distinctive of Matthew. R. E. Nixon comments:

More important, however, are his theological interests. Perhaps the most striking thing is his interest in the fulfillment of the OT [Old Testament] and his repeated use of ‘formula quotations’ to bring this out (1:22f.; 2:15, 17f., 23; 4:14–16; 8:17; 12:17–21; 13:35; 21:4f; 27:9f.).1

There were many more Messianic prophecies. Dale and Elaine Rhoton write,

The Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the coming Messiah (Anointed One). Many of these prophecies Christ specifically applied to Himself. The Jews who hated Jesus sought in every possible way to discredit His words and deeds. Yet there is no record whatever that they ever attacked Jesus’ claims on the basis that the prophecies were not really in the Old Testament. All Jews at the time of Christ knew that these prophecies had been recorded.2

Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell, also lists and discusses Messianic prophecies in Chapter 9, “The Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament Fulfilled in Christ.”

The Old Testament is cited by Jesus in chapter 4 as authoritative truth throughout His temptations in the wilderness as he repudiates Satan’s words and lies. When Satan misquotes Scripture to tempt Jesus (have you ever heard the saying, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose”?3 No doubt it is a reference to this.), Jesus exposes his trickery with His answer from Scripture.

Chapter 4 continues with the arrest of John the Baptist; his ministry to prepare the way for the Lord ends. The chapter closes with the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as He goes to Capernaum, calls four fishermen to follow Him, and gathers large crowds as He teaches and heals.

Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled, saying,
“THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI,
B
Y THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES⁠—
T
HE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT,
A
ND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH,
U
PON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.”
Matthew 4:12–16 LSB

Think about that last verse for a minute. They were sitting in darkness, sitting in the land and shadow of death. Then came Jesus: teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

The promised Messiah has come.


Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Christ Teaching in Capernaum, Maurycy Gottlieb: Detail of one of the listeners. Public Domain
1R. E. Nixon, “Matthew,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 814. The verses are linked to the NASB 95 translation. If you make sure the settings include the cross-references, you can find the Old Testament passages that are fulfilled. Nixon cites the same passages as R. T. France with the addition of Matthew 13:35. I went back and check France, however, there’s no mention on page 39 in his introduction as to why he omitted the verse. When France discusses the passage in detail on page 228, he states the purpose of Jesus’ parables, “This practice, which was previously explained from Isaiah 6:9–10, is now seen as the fulfilment of Psalm 78:2.” R. T. France, Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1985) 39, 228.
2Dale and Elaine Rhoton, Can We Know? An Examination of the Claims of Christianity (The World’s Work (1913) Ltd.; Kingswood, Tadworth, Surrey, Great Britain: 1965) 58.
3William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. (1.3.107–110). Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine, Michael Poston, Rebecca Niles, eds (Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, n.d.), accessed January 14, 2023. https://shakespeare.folger.edu/shakespeares-works/the-merchant-of-venice/
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul, producing holy witness,
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
FULFILLED by Christian Felix, in collaboration with Kevin Flerlage, is an interactive map of 44 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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