Where you spend eternity was riding, in part, upon Jesus’ successfully battling temptation and thereby remaining our spotless Lamb of God. Now it rides on our own personal battles with Satan. What can we learn from Jesus’ temptation that will make us victorious in our own battles? “This temptation was in the sense of testing. The Spirit led the Lord Jesus into the wilderness to seek out this encounter with Satan. The purpose was not to see if the Savior had flaws, but rather to demonstrate once for all His perfections” (Luck, p. 45). When the text says that Jesus was led up by the Spirit, it does not mean that Jesus lost all control of His own will, rather since the Spirit and Jesus are both Divine, they are working together. “Into the wilderness”: “Isolation from the world is no insulation against temptations. Beware of the temptation to desire escape from the desires of the world since you will be taking them along into your isolated retreat” (Fowler, p. 128). Observe the contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam (Jesus) (1 Corinthians 15:45). “Adam had everything in his surroundings it would seem, conducive to victory. He was dwelling in a lovely garden with every need abundantly supplied, yet he disobeyed God and yielded to Satan. Jesus was tempted in a waste howling wilderness. He was not well fed, but weak and hungry after forty days of fasting. Yet He triumphed utterly over the devil” (Luck, p. 42). Various theories exist as to why Jesus met the devil at this time. 1. He must personally conquer Satan and demonstrate to all men that their trust in Jesus is well-founded and meaningful. 2. He must show His tempted followers how to overcome trials, and the power of using Scripture to counter the attacks of the devil. 3. He demonstrated that He can certainly sympathize with our trials (Hebrews 4:14ff). He knows how it feels to be physically suffering, racked with the pains of hunger, while being offered to take the easy way out. 4. He demonstrated that God always provides the way of escape, even in the most severe trials (1 Corinthians 10:13). He clearly proved that God can be trusted.
4:1 “By the devil”: “The devil had laughed in God’s face as, by one seduction or another, he had broken every man of God that had arisen since Adam (Romans 3:23). Before him now stood God’s best. ‘So this is God’s Messiah? I broke the first Adam and his race; I’ll break the Second at once!’” (Fowler, p. 129). “And the tempter came and said to Him”: Satan is a cunning opponent; he only arrives after such hunger has set in. He perceives when we might be in a weakened condition. The word tempted (4:1) is in the present participle, which some say suggests that Jesus was tempted during the entire forty days and that these three temptations are the last three.
The First Temptation
4:3 “If You are the Son of God”: The devil questions the most fundamental truths. If the devil has the nerve to tempt the Son of God, then he is not going to leave us alone (1 Peter 5:8). Satan may equally tempt us to doubt Jesus’ true identity. He knows that once we begin to question this, it is far easier to get us to do what he wants.4:3 “Command that these stones become bread”: “Sometimes what we are tempted to do isn’t wrong in itself. Turning stones into bread was not necessarily bad. The sin was not in the act, but in the reason behind it. The devil was trying to get Jesus to take a shortcut, to solve Jesus’ immediate problem at the expense of His long-range goals, to seek comfort in the sacrifice of His discipline. Satan often works that way – persuading us to take action, even right action, for the wrong reason or at the wrong time. The fact that something is not wrong in itself does not mean that it is good for you at a given time”(Life Application Bible, p. 1673). 4:4 When Jesus said it is written, He used the perfect tense, which means, “It has been written, and stands written”. What God said long ago is still in force and is still valid. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 and answered the devil with the same power that is available to every believer – the Word of God (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 5:14). Will Jesus trust the Father to provide for His needs? Jesus would not end this fast by a miracle, and He would not take matters into His own hands. He would not grumble, complain, or panic as if God wasn’t taking good care of Him. He would wait for the Father to tell Him when to end the fast. The fulfillment of God’s will was more important to Him than intense hunger. “He dwelt with temptation exactly as it came to Him in that circumstance. It is yet another temptation to think when tempted that, were the circumstances different, the response would have been better. But the very purpose of God for letting men be tempted or tried is to produce men who will do God’s will under whatever circumstance (Revelation 2:10)” (Fowler, p. 135). 4:4 “Man shall not live by bread alone”: Because the real foundation of man’s being is not the flesh, but is spirit (Genesis 1:26). Therefore, putting the needs of the soul ahead of the needs of the body makes perfect sense. The main purpose in life is not physical comfort or having our physical needs met, but in obeying the will of God. Jesus here practiced what is preached in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25,33). 4:4 “But on every word”: God expects us to live according to Scripture. Living according to every word means making sure your decisions and life are in harmony with Scripture. Satan wants such to be named “legalism”.
“Often we are tempted not through our weaknesses, but through our strengths. The devil tempted Jesus where He was strong. Jesus had power over stones, the kingdoms of the world, and even angels, and Satan wanted Him to use that power without regard to His mission. When we give in to the devil and wrongly use our strengths, we become proud and self-reliant” (Life Application Bible, p. 1673).
The Second Temptation
4:5 The Holy City is Jerusalem and the Pinnacle of the Temple, was the very tip or edge of the Temple. In Jerusalem the most imposing height offering the longest fall would be the SE corner of the temple court. At this point the tip of the Temple was 300-450 feet from the valley floor of the Kidron valley. 4:6 The devil responds to Jesus’ “it is written”, by giving his own “it is written”. The devil knows Scripture, and quotes from Psalms 91:11-12. Jesus has just demonstrated a trust in God, Satan now seeks to take advantage of the extremes to which man is often tempted. “All right, if you are going to trust God so much, show your faith by something more spectacular, more decisive, than mere patient hunger. Put God’s promise of protection to the test, throw yourself down to the solid rock below, prove your faith in God”.4:7 “On the other hand, it is written”: Jesus is not saying that one Scripture contradicts another, rather, other Scriptures help us keep various Scriptures in context. The Bible has a natural built-in system of checks and balances. 4:7 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”: “If in serving God faithfully danger develops, then we are indeed to depend on Him to deliver us. But never are we to bring ourselves rashly into a position of danger simply to ‘show off’, to demonstrate what a great faith we have” (Luck, p. 45). “Again Jesus shows that He will not run before God, but chooses rather to be led by Him. He clearly will not, of His own choice, create unnecessary dangers, but will avoid them unless they fall in the path of obedience. Though Satan had made it appear otherwise, it took more trust in God not to leap than to do so. Jesus answers simply, ‘testing is not trusting’” (Fowler, p. 137).
The Third Temptation
4:8 The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world and then showed Jesus their glory, that is, their resources, wealth, magnificence, the greatness of their cities, fertile lands, thronging populations, and so on. Luke says that this was done in a moment of time (Luke 4:5). 4:9 “All these things will I give You”: On the one hand, the devil is not the absolute ruler of this world, God is (Daniel 5:21); yet on the other hand, because of sin and human rebellion, in a sense the devil has tremendous influence in every world empire (1 John 5:19). “In these words Satan appears in is true colors as the arch-deceiver and the aspirant after the power and glory which belong only to God. Thus Jesus himself spoke of him as the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Yet He did not mean it in an absolute sense as the arch-deceiver himself pretended. Only to the extent that mankind surrender themselves to sin does God permit him (the devil) to rule over the world”. Hence the devil says, “Seeing you are filled with such good sense, why not simply take the shortest, most direct route to establishing the kingdom of God?” In order to be the King of kings, Jesus doesn’t have to die and suffer an agonizing death, He can have complete control of this world very easy and painlessly. “Humanly speaking, Jesus needed everything that the devil was offering. He had no reputation, no formal religious education or degrees from accredited universities, no powerful friends who could exert their influence in His favor in a world where men advance their causes by treading upon each other” (Fowler, p. 140). Barclay notes, “That is the temptation to compromise. The devil said, ‘I have got people in my grip’. Don’t set your standards so high. Strike a bargain with me. Just compromise a little with evil and men will follow you’... the tendency of the world is to see things in terms of an indeterminate gray; but the duty of the Christian is to see things in terms of black and white (good and evil)... The Christian must be consumed by the conviction of the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin” (pp. 39-40). 4:9 “If You fall down and worship me”: Satan never gives anything away, there is always a catch. “He knows that worship basically involves the acknowledgment of him as true lord and rightful disposer or kingdoms. If he can entice Jesus into admitting His dependence upon him rather than God, then he will have tricked Jesus into transgressing the most basic commandment known (Deut. 5:7-9; 6:4,13)” (Fowler, p. 140). “Jesus could still rule the world by using Satan’s methods: war, political intrigues, and brute force. Satan presents this attractive offer as a real, immediate victory for Jesus, when in reality it would have been His real surrender... It is that old perennial lie: ‘You may be your own king, do as you please, as long as you are my servant!’” (Fowler, p. 141). Jesus knows who rules the world – God does. He refused to validate any of Satan’s claims by worshipping – compromising, dealing or making bargains with him. He knows God’s way will work. Let us learn the same lesson. Alliances with evil are never necessary.