12 Matthew 4:8-11 3rd Temptation: Bow Down

by | Apr 28, 2021 | 01 Podcasts, Matthew

Satan offers Jesus a shortcut to gaining the blessings God has promised him. But idolatry is looking to someone or something other than God to grant us Life.

For each of the temptations, we’ll answer 3 questions:

  1. Why is the choice wrong?
  2. Why is the choice attractive?
  3. How does Jesus respond?


At Jesus’ baptism, we have a dramatic heavenly confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. After that, we might expect Jesus to rally an army and march to Jerusalem to claim the throne of David amidst the cheers and adoration of his nation.

Instead Jesus is led into the wilderness, alone, to face starvation and temptation.

  • On the one hand, Jesus has been powerfully confirmed as the Son of God, the Messiah.  On the other hand, God has put him in a place where he is facing great hardship and deprivation. This tension lies behind all these temptations.
  • Satan wants to destroy Jesus personally and more importantly he wants to disqualify Jesus to be the Messiah. 
  • God is testing Jesus and demonstrating that Jesus is, in fact, worthy to be the Messiah.
  • God tests Jesus in a way that echoes the story of Israel’s journey in the wilderness to teach us that Jesus is succeeding where Israel failed. 
  • Jesus shows he understands this parallel between his situation and Israel’s by quoting from Moses’ sermon to the nation before they enter the promised land. 

Why is the choice tempting?

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.  – Matthew 4:8-11

  • Satan is not asking for Jesus’ complete loyalty, but for an act of respect.
  • This word translated “bow down” refers to the physical act of prostrating yourself as a gesture of respect, the kind of homage a subject would give a king (e.g. Revelation 3:9; Mark 15:19).
  • Satan is asking Jesus to perform the physical act of bowing down before him in exchange for the kingdoms of the world.
  • Ruling over the kingdoms of the world is Jesus’ destiny as the Messiah (e.g. Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus must have longed for it insofar as he longs for God’s will.
  • God has promised to give Jesus authority over all the earth, but to realize that promise Jesus must suffer and die. 
  • Satan is offering to “fulfill” God’s promise to Jesus WITHOUT the suffering.
  • Luke 4:6-7 implies that Satan has authority to grant these kingdoms.

Deuteronomy Review

1“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it,  2that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.  3Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” – Deuteronomy 6:1-3

  • The focus in this section is on the future.  Israel is about to cross into the land God promised their fathers.
  • Moses reminds the present generation that in the promised land they will face the same temptation their fathers faced in the wilderness:  Will they be faithful to the Lord or not?

4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-6

  • What does it mean that that Lord is one? Compare with Mark 12:28-34.
  • The scribe in Mark 12 restates the significance as there is no other besides him.  The Lord alone is God.  The Lord is the one and only God.  Therefore, we must love Him with all our heart, soul and strength.  We can reserve nothing for some other god.
  • As they go into the land, the people are to remain faithful to the LORD and the LORD alone.

6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  10And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build,  11and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  – Deuteronomy 6:6-12

  • Since it’s important they remain faithful to the LORD alone, it’s important that take steps to ensure that they remember His commandments.
  • One way of forgetting is to think we accomplished this all on our own. Moses warns them against that. Another way to forget is to start looking to other gods instead of or in addition to the Lord.
  • If they forget that the Lord is one, they forget that there is no other god beside Him and start serving the idols of the land that they are entering.
  • The first thing Moses tells them in this sermon is you shall have no other Gods (Deuteronomy 5:7-10). Moses repeats the warning in the middle (Deuteronomy 8:17-20; Deuteronomy 11:16-17) and ends with the same warning (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
  • Jesus could have quoted any of these sections because they all make the same point.  But he chose to quote Deuteronomy 6:13. 

13“It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.  14You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—  15for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. – Deuteronomy 6:13-15

  • The main point of this sermon is: you shall worship YHWH alone.  You shall not worship other gods.  Your destiny depends on it.
  • The word worship means to bow down before or prostrate yourself.
  • By bowing down, you communicate your understanding of your relationship to the King. He is your superior and you are dependent on him. You need him to take care of you so that you can live your life in peace.
  • Worship is not singing we do on the outside.  Worship is a state of our hearts. 
  • Worship is a deep fundamental inner attitude that I recognize who I am in relationship to God.  I acknowledge that He alone is God and that I am utterly dependent on His grace and mercy.  I bow my knee to Him and acknowledge that He is my provider, my creator and my Lord.

Jesus Response

10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  – Matthew 4:10

  • Kingdoms are places that are ruled by kings who have dominion and authority over the people.
  • Satan is showing Jesus the glory and honor that comes to the one who rules a kingdom.
  • As the Messiah, Jesus can expect that ruling over all the kingdoms of earth is his destiny.  Satan is offering to give it to him without going to the cross. 
  • God has made it clear that Jesus will have to walk a very hard road before he is given the crown. Satan is offering the “easy way” out.
  • For Jesus to bow down would be seeking God’s blessings without walking in the path God called him to walk. 
  • In essence, Jesus answers there is only one source of Life and there is only one to whom I will bow my knee.  God is one and there is no one else beside Him.
  • Idolatry is looking to anyone or anything other than God to meet your needs.
  • Idolatry is not just wrong, it’s foolish.  God and God alone has the power to truly bless you. 
  • Satan can only offer a cheap imitation of the promise of God. Satan’s kingdom is corrupted by evil, broken by rebellion and death, populated by sinful, rebellious men.
  • The kingdom God will grant the Messiah will be pure, undefiled and filled with people who know and reflect the glory of God.


  • The 3 temptations of Jesus confront us with the relationship between the past, the present, and the future.
  • We find good reasons to trust in God in the past.
  • We see the hope and the glorious promises He has made awaiting fulfillment in the future.
  • But now in the present, we experience suffering, tribulation, tragedy and pain. 
  • In the face of this lack and want, we have to decide who we are going to trust.

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: 13 Matthew 4:12-25 Jesus’ Early Ministry

Previous: 11 Matthew 4:5-7 The Second Temptation: Jump from the pinnacle

Series: Gospel of Matthew: Behold, the King!

Resources: Matthew Resources

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