These chapters begin with Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It is important to realise that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. It has to be one of the understatements of the century when it says that after fasting forty days and nights he was hungry. Forty is a symbolic number reminiscent of the many occurrences of forty years in the OT. Once again we need to be familiar with the OT in order to see the connection. The word forty is used 91 times in the TNIV and there are also several occurrences of forty thousand representing a large number. It would be worthwhile to do a study of all these occurrences to see if there is a deeper spiritual significance to the number.
Jesus responds to Satan’s three temptations with quotations from the OT which we should read in context. It is obvious that Jesus was well studied in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). It is also interesting that after Jesus’ first rebuttal Satan turns to quoting scripture himself (Ps 91:11-12) hoping to undermine Jesus but he is not distracted. What is the significance that even Satan acknowledges that the OT applies especially to Jesus? How does this Psalm fit into the life of Israel?
Jesus begins to preach repentance because the kingdom of heaven is near. Indeed he is standing in their midst and begins calling disciples. It is important to know the process by which Jewish rabbis normally gained disciples in order to see how radical Jesus’ actions are. He also begins to heal and large crowds flock to receive physical and spiritual healing. What is then remarkable is that when Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountainside and began to teach them. The Sermon on the Mount is the result. Most secularists would deny the miracles that drew the people but acclaim the Sermon as the greatest human statement. These people did not flock to hear him because they wanted to know about being meek, poor, and hungry. The came because he offered healing! Without the miracles no one would have bothered to come and hear him. What did these listeners think of Jesus message? What did those first disciples think at the time?
In 5:17 he explains his role with relation to Judaism. He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. However, his idea of fulfilling them will run very counter to the ideas of the religious leaders of his day. He goes on to explain his relation to the Law including several of the Ten Commandments regarding murder, adultery and bearing witness.
Sorry there’s just too much in these three chapters to write about in only 200 (or 400) words.