Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth.’”
Then the devil took him into the holy city. He set him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 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, so that you don’t dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not test the Lord, your God.’”
Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, “I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and served him. (Matthew 4:1-11, World English Bible)
The word “tempt” has two different meanings, which come from two different sources:
- To try, as God tempted Abraham;
- to entice, as Satan tempted Christ. God’s trials are all for good, Satan’s always for evil. Concerning the Temptation, notice—
I. The Time. It was after the heavens had opened, and the Holy Spirit had come (Matthew 3:16-17). It was after Paul had been caught up to the third heavens that the messenger of Satan was sent to buffet and try him. Note the order:
- Owned by the Father, “This is My Son.”
- Anointed by the Spirit.
- Tempted by the devil. Some know little of the tempting because they know little of the anointing.
II. The Place. The wilderness. Adam was tempted in the garden, surrounded by every outward comfort. Christ in the lonely desert, among the wild beasts. All Christ’s battles had to be fought alone—alone in the wilderness with the devil; alone in the garden with the cup of death; alone on the Cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Soul battles are all solemn.
III. The Tempted One. Jesus, the Son of God. This shows how truly human Jesus was. God cannot be tempted. He was tempted in “all points, like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). But just as highly musical ears feel more keenly painful discords, so much more must He, the pure and undefiled, have felt the force of this trial. The more intense our devotion to God the more intense will we feel the approach of sin.
IV. The Nature. It could only be from without, because Satan could find nothing in Him. It was threefold:
1. To Self-Satisfaction. “Command these stones to be made bread.” The answer of the hungry Christ shows that there is something more precious than bread—the Word of God. Eternal life is in it.
2. To Self-Destruction. “Cast Yourself down.” The devil’s elevations are all with the view of self-destruction. Pride goes before a fall. Satan seeks to destroy in every Christian their sense of divine sonship.
3. To Self-Glorification. “Worship me.” I will give you all. He suggests an easy way whereby He might possess the kingdom of this world without dying for it. An unredeemed world Christ would not fake. Beware of the devil’s easy paths.
V. The Tempter. The devil. He is a person, a person of great power. Was the whole world his to give? Why did Christ call him “the prince of this world?” (John 12:31). Does the whole world not lie in the lap of the wicked one? The world will be Christ’s when He comes again.
VI. The Fight of Faith. The means of Christ’s warfare, the Word of God. “It is written.” He trusted in God. As a tempted man He fell back on the divine promise. Where else can we go? What else need we do? Fight the good fight of faith.
VII. The Victory. “The devil leaves Him, and angels came and ministered unto Him.” His faith is rewarded with strength from Heaven. The Christian’s position, like Christ’s, is between the love of God and the hate of the devil. Greater is He who is for us.
(James Smith, Handfuls on Purpose)