The Lord’s Temptation
Where did the temptation take place? Luke tells us it was in the wilderness, a barren unfertile place. This contrasts dramatically with Adam and Eve, who were tempted of the devil in the beauty and fruitfulness of the most wonderful garden the world has ever seen. Adam failed the test in perfect surroundings, but the Lord triumphed in adversity.
When did this take place? It follows immediately after the Lord’s baptism, when He received the commendation of the Father upon Him, saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The devil immediately takes up the challenge, and seeks to test the reality of the statement that He is the Son of God! Note how he begins in verse 3: “If thou be the Son of God …”
The Spirit descends and remains upon Him in chapter 3.23, and now He returns, full of the Spirit from Jordan and, under the leading of the Spirit as a dependent Man, He goes into the wilderness. Note that he goes prepared in power, and does not shrink in any way from the encounter!
What was the purpose of the temptation? There are at least 3 reasons that could be given:
- To prove that Jesus was the Son of God, as the Father claimed Him to be.
- To prove that here was a Man who would triumph where Adam failed.
- To provide for us an example in overcoming Satan in temptation.
Adam and Eve were tempted in relation to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These answer to the appeal to “Taste,” the fact that the tree was “Pleasant to the eyes,” and also that it was “To be desired to make one wise.” So, the devil follows the same pattern with the Lord, appealing to the need of His body through hunger, appealing to His dependence upon God – which in any other may have become a matter of pride – and appealing through the vision of kingdoms and their glory, which Satan brought powerfully before His eyes. However, the Lord Jesus could not respond to any of these!
What was involved in the temptation itself? Note the order emphasized by Luke: Verse 2 “When they were ended,” verse 5 “And the devil taking Him up,” verse 9 “And he brought Him to Jerusalem.” Note that the Lord was evidently being tempted over the whole 40 day period, and we are only told about the last three temptations, when the Lord was hungry after the long period of fasting.
Concerning verse 3, His ability to make the stone into bread was undeniable. He turned water into wine, so He could make stones into bread! However, this would have been to satisfy His own bodily needs, and the Lord could never perform a miracle for His own self-gratification! Observe how the Lord deals with the temptation. He resorted to scripture, quoting from Deuteronomy, chapter 8.3: “Man shall not live by bread only.” Note that he refers here both to the written word and the spoken word: “… every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” So, in the word of God there is Divine inspiration and also Divine provision. Also, we learn again that man is not only body, but soul and spirit. The physical, bodily needs we have are important, but not all-important!
In the first temptation, it is a test to physical necessity, but now, in the second, it is a test of desire for authority, and in the last it is a test of personal dependency. In verse 5, he shows Him all the kingdoms of this world, and in verse 6 he suggests to the Lord what he will give Him. So, by eye and ear, Satan appeals to the senses. Verse 7 demonstrates that this was not really for the Lord’s benefit, but for Satan’s, as it demanded He fall down and worship the devil before all would be His. The Lord again resorts to scripture, this time from Deuteronomy 6: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Scripture must always be our guide in every situation, no matter how personally beneficial something might appear to be!
Now, in verse 9, the devil sets Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and again challenges “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.” Satan knew that the Lord had put Himself in a position of dependence, and challenges Him to display that dependence by throwing Himself off the temple pinnacle. Picking up the Lord’s adherence to scripture, he also quotes from Psalm 91 to try to imply a justification for the proposed action. However, notice that he inserts 3 words that are not in the original quotation: “… at any time …” Clearly, this was not the time for such an action, and the Lord again quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, 6.16: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” We must not tempt God by playing on His promises. So, the Lord was not going to put God to the test, just for the sake of it!
What an encouragement it is to see how he lived a life of dependence upon God. There were times of hunger and thirst, times of weariness, times when He had nowhere to lay His head, yet through it all, and even through the sufferings of the cross, He trusted in His God, from whom came deliverance.
The temptation gives us confidence that Satan can be overcome, and he departs from the Lord a defeated foe. How good to know that the Lord is not able to succumb to evil temptations, because He is absolutely holy. These forty days of testing show that He was absolutely who God said, none other than the perfect Son of God.