(Parallel passages: Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13)
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"
5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
12Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (NIV)
1. Jesus’ journey in the wilderness was according to the plan of God (v.1-2).
The phrases ”full of the Holy Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” indicate that 1) Jesus was not acting of his own accord, but submitted himself to the Father’s and Holy Spirit’s direction; and 2) that He was full of the Word of God (compare vv. 4, 8 and 12 with Acts 4:23-31 and Eph 6:17).
Hebrews 2:10-18 sheds a great deal of light on God the Father’s purpose for Jesus in this event (and many others):
- the Father deemed it necessary for Jesus to suffer by being tempted (v. 10), in order that He could identify with others who are tempted (v. 18), and so become a suitable represenative to live and die on their behalf (v. 17).
- the Father sent the Son to “destroy Him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (vv. 14-15). One of many things that needed to happen, if Jesus were to gain victory over Satan, was for Jesus to experience - and yet, resist - all Satanic temptation.
If one asks the question why Jesus’s temptation took on the form of fasting for 40 days, two things are worth considering: 1) those who are in the greatest state of hunger tend to be at their lowest resistance; and 2) the “40 days” invites readers to compare Jesus’ trial with the 40-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex 16:35) in such a way as to show that where the Israelites failed in their obedience to God (Num 14:26-33), Jesus succeeded.
2. Satan’s first temptation was to cast doubt in Jesus’ mind about the care and provision of God the Father, and to assert His own authority (vv. 3-4).
Satan in no way resembles the silly caricature of the red-coloured, two-horned, trident-carrying, wacky figure that popular culture makes him out to be. As the leader of the fallen angels who rebelled against God, he is an enemy of God (Gen 3) who masquerades as an angel of light (2 Co 11:14) and seeks to destroy the faith of God’s people by tempting them (1 Co 7:5), lying to them (Jn 8:44) and accusing them (Rev 12:10). He is subtle, crafty and ferocious.
In this account, Satan has a special interest in throwing Jesus off-course from his mission, precisely because Jesus has come to destroy his work (Col 2:13-15; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8).
Just as he tricked Adam and Eve into thinking they were missing something unless they acted independently of God (Gen 3:1-7), so Satan tries to do the same with Jesus here, by appealing to Jesus’ unmet need of food.
3. Satan’s second temptation was to plant a desire in Jesus to gain glory and honor in a quick and painless way (vv. 5-8).
Was Satan lying when he said that all of the kingdoms of the world were his? No. Having gained control over humanity by bringing about Adam and Eve’s fall (Gen 3), he is now called “the god of this age” and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” by Paul (2 Co 4:4; Eph 2:2) and “the prince of this world” by Jesus himself (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Ultimately, though, his rule is limited – it extends only to the sway he holds over the minds of unbelievers (Ac 26:17-18; Eph 2:2), for “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Ps 24:1-2).
Even though Jesus was destined to have authority over all heaven and earth (Dan 7:13-15; Mt 28:18), Satan’s ploy was to try to entice him into gaining power immediately by abandoning the mission the Father gave him to fulfill – which would involve rejection, suffering, and death (Mk 8:30-33; Heb 12:2).
4. Satan’s third temptation was to encourage Jesus to presume upon God’s care, and promote Him as a flashy wonder-worker (vv. 9-11).
Satan quotes Psalm 91 – which speaks of God’s protection of those who trust Him – but he twists its meaning to make it sound as if God protects those who test Him.
Towards this end, Satan dares Jesus to throw himself off the temple of Jersualem, which sat on a 450-ft. cliff.
5. Jesus prevailed over Satan’s tempations by using the written Word of God as a weapon against unbelief (vv. 4, 8, 12).
It is interesting that the verses quoted by Jesus (Deut 8:3; 6:13 and 6:16) are Moses’ words to a nation who had gone through forty years in the wilderness, and were subjected to tests similar to those of Jesus.
As Jesus did, so believers must use Scripture - “the sword of the Spirit” - to fight sin and Satan (Ps 1:1-2; Ps 119:11; Gal 5:16-17; Eph 6:17), since they are called to grow in the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
1. Some might say that because Jesus is sinless, his experience of temptation was rather phony and inauthentic. How would you respond to that?
2. How does it encourage you to know that our Saviour has experienced great temptation?
3. How does Satan tempt us as Christians in the same way that he tempted Christ in this account? Think of the three particular temptations discussed above, and what “modern versions” of these would look like today.
4. It is possible for use to misuse and misinterpret Scripture? What moments in this account would give evidence for this?
5. How does Scripture help us to resist the devil and flee from temptation?