Matthew 4:1 – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
The first 11 verses of this chapter are the temptation of Christ. It is an incredibly important and complex portion of scripture with many significant ties to the Old Testament law and the original fall of man.
We should not be surprised that Jesus was tempted to sin because Satan tempts all people, however, this was no ordinary temptation. The outcome of all that God had pledged to do for mankind hung upon this encounter. If Jesus failed/sinned, he was no longer fit to be the Messiah. The eternal outcome of all mankind was on the line that day in the wilderness.
The problem of sin started back in the Garden of Eden. As you recall, Adam was in perfect relationship with Father God. He lived in a place of beauty. He had all he wanted to eat. There was no such thing as sickness or death. In this state of perfection, Satan came to tempt him.
The temptation of Adam contained the three principle classes of sin: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Adam failed in all three categories, bringing sin and death upon all men.
1 John 2:16 –For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father, but is from the world.
The temptation of Jesus must also include the three classes of sin. He must also face temptation as a man, but he must overcome it, so that he can be the perfect blood sacrifice for sin. Praise be to God, Jesus was victorious over Satan! Because of this victory, we can be justified by faith in the sight of God.
Romans 5:19 – For as by the one man’s disobedience (Adam) the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.
While Jesus’ victory over sin allowed him to be our savior, it also had another benefit. The temptation allowed Jesus to experience and understand what it is like for you and I to be tempted. Since he knows what it is like to be tempted, he can help us in our times of temptation.
Hebrews 2:18 – Because he [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Not only does he sympathize with us, he also makes a way of escape for us!
1 Corinthians 10:13 – There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Think about that for a minute… when we are tempted, we are not doomed to fail, rather we are set up to win! Jesus has made it possible for us to resist sin and send the devil away empty handed. How can we accomplish this? Let’s take a look at how Jesus did it.
Matthew 4:2-3 – And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter cam and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Interestingly, Moses fasted 40 days up on Mount Sinai, before God gave him the old covenant/law (see Exodus 24). Now Jesus fasts 40 days before embarking on the ministry that would bring us the new covenant.
Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry, which would end in his sacrifice on the cross. It makes sense that immediately after his baptism, he separated himself for a time, in order to prepare himself for the three year ministry that he was about to perform. In preparation, he spends 40 days in fasting and prayer.
Obviously, at the end of this period, Jesus is starving!
It is during this time of weakness that Satan tempts Jesus with the first temptation, the lust of the flesh. And the temptation is very tricky, isn’t it? Jesus has just recently been declared the Son of God. He has power and authority. He is very hungry. What could be easier than turning the stones into bread? What could be sinful about using his power to satisfy his own needs? After all, it wasn’t God’s will for him to starve to death, was it?
By telling Jesus to turn the stones into bread, Satan implies that God is not a good Father; that he does not care about Jesus or his needs and that he cannot be trusted. If that is the case, then the logical thing is for Jesus to use his power to take care of himself in the way that seems best to him; Jesus should rely on himself and not the wisdom and provision of his heavenly Father. Essentially, this is rebellion against God.
Notice how closely this mimics the fall of Adam and Eve! Satan came to them in the Garden of Eden and got Eve to point out that there was a single tree they were not permitted to eat from. He tells Eve that they would not die if they ate its fruit, in fact, they would become as gods, knowing good from evil.
Satan implied to Eve that God was not a good Father. He was holding out on her – he had wisdom and knowledge that she needed but he would not allow her to have it. Therefore, she should take matters into her own hands. She should use her power to pick the fruit and eat it. Thus, she and Adam were both convinced to rebel against God and sin entered the world.
Jesus, however, was not so easily fooled. Jesus was fully convinced that his Father cared for him and would not refuse to give him any gift or provision that would be good for him. He also knew that God would deliver those provisions at the perfect time; to use his own power to make it happen sooner would be to short circuit the plan of God and it would be tantamount to rebellion. Also, Jesus was not taking council or orders from Satan. He consulted God, he waited for God and he would receive all that God had for him at the perfect time, including bread.
Hint: Satan tempts us in the same way. For example, maybe you are looking for a spouse to share your life with. There is nothing wrong with that desire, in fact the Bible says it is a good thing. But maybe, even though you have prayed about it, the right person has not come along.
At that point, Satan is likely to come and whisper things in your ear like these: God isn’t very good to you, is he? It’s God’s fault that you are lonely. He could give you the perfect spouse right now but he won’t because he is keeping all the good stuff from you. Or maybe he hasn’t given you a spouse because he forgot to make one for you! How careless of him! Since God does doesn’t care about your and isn’t stepping up for you, why don’t you just take matters into your own hands? Why not relax your standards a bit and find a fun exciting new mate on your own! You can be married by the end of the year, if you want!
Sometimes the thing Satan tempts you with is not an evil thing.
Sometimes it is a good thing (like bread or a spouse), but if you try to obtain it in a sinful way or through sinful means, it becomes a sin and a snare to you.
Matthew 4:4 – But he answered, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Jesus shows us how to recognize and repel this attack of Satan. We do it through the word of God. Notice that in all the temptations of Satan, Jesus uses the word to defeat him.
Interestingly, Jesus himself was the word of God incarnate, yet he does not quote himself to defeat Satan. Instead, Jesus quotes the Old Testament law, which was the current covenant during his temptation. There were no secret unattainable documents – he used a resource that was available to everyone.
In the same way, we can use the word of God, the Bible, to repel the attacks of Satan. The truth of the word will give us that ‘escape hatch’ whenever we are faced with temptation.
The key is that you have to know it! You can’t wait until the time of the temptation and then wonder what the scripture has to say. You have to read it now and hide it in your heart as a weapon to be used in combat.
Psalms 119:11 – They word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.
Why not begin today? Pick up your Bible and read it consistently, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. You have 15 minutes don’t you? You can access the bible on your tablet, cell phone, computer or you can use an old fashioned paper copy. No matter how you access it, make the time to read it on a daily basis. Use it to fill up your arsenal of weapons against the enemy.
Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle o the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and, “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus said unto him, “Again it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
This second temptation involves the sins of pride and presumption. Satan and Jesus are at the tallest point of the temple, a holy building which was revered and admired by all people. Satan is encouraging Jesus to do as he wishes or to do what he ‘feels like’ doing (in this case, jump off the pinnacle) regardless of what God’s will was for him. Presumably, if Jesus jumped, it would force God to come to his rescue because of the promise of protection in Psalms 91.
Notice that in this case, Satan is the one quoting scripture. However, he actually misuses it. Some of what he says is correct, while some of it is wrong or missing.
Satan correctly states that God has ministering angels which protect the saints of God. However, he leaves out a key phrase in the promise of Psalms 91 which is “to guard you in all your ways’. In other words, the promise of protection is for children of God who are walking in the ways or paths of righteousness that God has laid out for them. It does not apply when we are intentionally sinning and going against what we know to be God’s will. We cannot manipulate God into performing for us by twisting his word. If we could, it would be like blackmailing God. Therefore, since it was not God’s will for Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, the promise would not apply and Jesus may have jumped to his death.
This brings up a couple of important points for our consideration. First, you need to know the scriptures, because Satan knows them too and if you are not knowledgeable, you can be tricked by him. There are even ministers and teachers who twist the word of God, so be on your guard against false teachings even when they come from a pulpit! Make sure that everything you are being taught is lining up with the Bible.
Second, don’t try to manipulate or blackmail God to do your bidding. Do not presume to sin thinking that all will be well because you can run into grace. The scriptures are very plain that as Christians, we are to lead lives of personal holiness, following God’s plan for our lives. Only then can we lay claim to his many life-giving promises.
Matthew 4:8-9 – Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
We do not know exactly how Satan did this, but we can be sure it was done and that it was a very real and difficult temptation for Jesus.
Imagine the dazzling things that Satan showed him. All the glory, splendor, adoration, power and pomp of the mighty kingdoms of earth. All the food, entertainment, wealth and luxury imaginable. How wonderful it all must have looked!
The ‘lust of the eyes’ is one of the three major categories of temptation that Satan uses (pride is also at work in this temptation as well). Our eyes have a habit of being dazzled by vanity or empty promises while being blind to the sorrow and horrible consequences that come along with sin.
The truth is that all Satan has to offer are ‘baits’. They look flashy and good, but when you latch on to them, you are ensnared by false promises (just ask any fish!).
Such was the case here. Satan’s bait really contained three snares:
Satan was offering dominion of the earth. However, that was a lie because he could only offer Jesus a temporary dominion over the earth, while Father God was going to grant Jesus an eternal kingdom that was spiritual and also physical.
Satan was offering immediate gratification – Jesus could be king right now presumably without any pain or work involved. However, that was not God’s plan. Jesus would be the eternal, almighty King of Kings, but that honor and title came only through obedience to the cross. It came with a price.
Satan did his best to tempt Jesus to worship him. If Satan could get Jesus to gain a kingdom by bowing down to him, that would make Jesus a servant of Satan and all his rule and authority would come from Satan, not from God. What a tiny, limited, futile kingdom that would be!
Satan offers us a similar deal. We are willing to bow down to false idols of money, pleasure, entertainment and other things as well. There is nothing wrong with these things, but we must acknowledge that all good things come from God, and they must be kept in their proper perspective – secondary to the will of God for our lives. If they take precedence over God, they become an idol and worshipping an idol is the same as worshipping Satan.
Matthew 4:10-11 – Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Jesus again uses the word to rebuke Satan. You can almost hear the disgust in his voice as he strikes the winning blow and sends Satan away. In this case, the scriptures he used were Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20. These are scriptures that we should remind ourselves of daily!
Three times Satan had tempted Jesus and three times he was soundly defeated. Victory over sin is ours, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength: Temptation does not have to be a losing battle. Through the Word of God and the blood of Jesus, you can resist the devil and he will flee from you!