Satan Left. Angels Came.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 4:11a Then the Devil left Him, . . .
Having thrown everything, including his deadliest artillery, at Jesus, Satan gave up. “The defeated foul fiend fled” (Ironside). The hell-dog knew his Master, and fled (Spurgeon). Satan exhausted his arsenal. With no more guns to fire, and with all powder and cannonballs spent, Satan left. The sky looked bluer. And without the sulphur smell, Jesus found it easier to breathe.
Having met more than his match, Satan slithered off the battlefield, but only temporarily. Luke (4:13) said he left “for a time”. The war was only beginning. A terrible battle in that war was over, but the conflict continued.
Satan came again through Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadduccees. He used Peter, one of Jesus’ friends, against Him. He used a co-laborer, Judas.
Calvary’s crowd was Satan’s. He instigated Gethsemane’s “hour of darkness”. Jesus had said “the ruler of this world is coming” (John 14:30).
Christ was always being tempted. Sometimes the temptations were worse than at other times, but through it all, Jesus stayed true to the end. We too will always be tempted. Never let down your guard. Remain prayerful.
In the Wilderness, Satan came at Jesus from every angle to find a defect in His character. He tried to draw out some form of self-seeking.
His attacks against every vulnerable spot were repulsed. Overcoming hunger, trusting the Father, submitting to duty, showing endurance—when these are held, there are few other paths through which Satan can trip us.
Satan encapsulated every form of temptation. Jesus excelled in His humanity by being a man totally dependent on God. Jesus won by using the same power given us. We Christ-followers have His power available to us.
Matt. 4:11b . . .and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.
Angels came after, not before, the victory was won. Jesus could have called “more than 12 Legions of angels” (MT 26:53), but did not. Wanting to use only the power we can use, He leaned on the Father. Had angels come before Jesus won, we might be tempted to pray to them to obtain their help.
Don’t miss the lesson here. Our Master truly did become human. This victory actually did drain and exhaust Jesus. The strain was huge. In Canada on vacation, I saw a Pastor, after he preached a strong sermon, return to his seat. In seconds, his head and shoulders slumped. I know the feeling. I felt it with him. Ours is a warfare. Our job is to spend and be spent. To spend—to give all we have. To be spent—if anything is still left, Lord, pour it out.
The angels came, as visible to Jesus as Satan had been. They were probably furious at Satan, wondering what right he had to be there. The devil had been one of their leaders, and took one-third of their comrades with him.
Satan had struck at the Trinity, and separated angels. How could he be audacious enough to approach this close to their pure Master? The good angels, the ones that had stayed true in Lucifer’s rebellion, sought to comfort Jesus here, to show their respect, and to prove their readiness to meet His every need. They wanted Jesus to know His Father was still caring for Him.
The Bible teaches us; angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). They help believers. This does not mean they help God do His job. Angels are near us, serving us in order to help us earthbound creatures know spiritual beings are near.
The omnipresence of God is too cranial for us humans to grasp. Knowing angels are near helps His omnipresence be more understandable. In our thoughts, they become for us, as it were, God’s hands, feet, and ears.
This angelic gathering was a precious time for Jesus. The trial had been terrible, but the victory won had made it worthwhile. Having won, He was at peace with His Father, rejoicing and being ministered to by friends.
In the midnight of Jacob’s soul, angels on a ladder appeared to him (Genesis 28:12). When Elijah was in the throes of his worst depression, “an angel touched him” (1 Kings 19:5-6). For Daniel, an angel “shut the lions’ mouths” (Daniel 6:22). The angel Gabriel spoke to Joseph and Mary about the virgin birth. An angel told Cornelius to seek help from Peter (Acts 10:3).
When it seemed all hope was gone, an angel stood by Paul (Acts 27:23). An angel of God opened the prison door for the Apostles (AC 5:19).
Enough! Point made! Now the question. Did these angels love God’s servants more than God did? No, serving at His beck and call, angels do not love us as much as God does. Our highest praise must ever go only to God.
He commissioned them. Was God absent while they were present? No. He was there. The angels pressed this truth deep into people’s psyches.
I have never consciously seen an angel. However, friends, kind deeds, unexpected events, Bible verses, sermons, songs—these have often come in the nick of time, their timing having been too amazing to be coincidental.
Matt. 4:12a When He heard that John had been arrested,. . .
John will soon die. How can God’s work possibly go on when its best workers die? “God buries His workmen, but carries on His work” (Wesley).
John had infuriated King Herod and his unlawfully wedded wife Herodias by condemning their illegal marriage. When John was beheaded, I’m sure some wondered where God was in this farce. God was in Jesus, who took note of John’s suffering and death. Our Master was not impervious to the hurts of His servant. He is not distant from our hurts either.
Jesus moved fast. Little time lapsed. No one must think John failed. Jesus chose to gather John’s followers, and build on the foundation he laid.
John lived long enough to bless his successor. Have we blessed ours? Are we training anyone to take our place? The Lord has recently gripped my heart with a verse we have read often. “Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18). At some point, our life must consciously become more about those coming behind us than about us.
Matt. 4:12b . . .He withdrew into Galilee.
Jesus wanted to be safe for a while. It was not yet time for Him to die. Herod had killed John, but was not Jesus’ enemy. Thus Jesus felt safest in Herod’s kingdom. Jesus’ enemies were the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He did not want to confront them. It was too early to light messianic blazes.
Galilee, the northernmost part of Palestine, foreshadowed in two ways its own future when under Joshua it failed to expel all the Canaanites (JS 19). One, it forecast failures in war. Every conqueror that passed through Israel laid Galilee low. It was repeatedly unpopulated, depopulated, and repopulated. Two, it forecast a large citizenry of non-Jews. As the armies came and went, mixed marriages produced mixed ethnic groups. Pagan influence was strong. Samaritans, Phoenicians, and Syrians surrounded it.
One reason Jesus picked Galilee was; it sociologically pictured His worldwide mission of winning sinners. Boasting no famous religious leader or Bible scholar, Galilee was famous for producing good soldiers and bad Bible teachers. Being in the far north, Galilee was far away from the temple.
Jesus came to the marginalized, to the ones that most needed His message. How many “Galileans” do you and I know? How many people like these disenfranchised ones do we often interact with, and have in our home?
Here in the Bible belt, it’s easy to farm out this duty to others. For instance, here in Greene County, we boast 400 churches. True, but 80% are growing and thus not having influence with unbelievers. If people are not individually told the Gospel, they rarely understand it. Rather it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, whose voice always sounded like “Wah wah wah.”