“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’ Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.”
At some time or another, we have all felt the pressure of being tempted. Although our temptations may look different from person to person they normally test us either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I don’t know about you but for me, it gives me some peace to know that I am not the only one who has experienced this and It gives me an overwhelming feeling of being loved and truly known to read that Jesus experienced temptation and knows this feeling. It gives me the strength to push on and push through knowing that Jesus understands the pain of temptation. For me, this passage highlights both the humanity of Jesus and His Godship all at once. Let’s take a deeper look at what Jesus experiences during the forty-day in the wilderness and see if we can learn from Him and use His strength in our own times of temptation.
This passage picks up right after Jesus has been baptized in the Jordan River. The spirit of God has just come down onto Him and it led Him to the wilderness where He is met by the devil. During His forty days in the wilderness, Jesus did not eat anything and we read that He becomes very hungry. That just sounds like a recipe for disaster, not only is Jesus being tempted by the expert of sin but He is also experiencing hunger. If you ask me this is a very dangerous place to be. For me, hunger brings out a different side of me, a side that is not always pretty. You probably know what I am talking about because being hangry (hungry+ anger) is a real issue and can lead the most lovely people to do or say ugly things. The devil took Jesus' hunger as an opportunity to test His physical restrain and strength but Jesus knew that even if He did turn the rocks into bread that would not fill Him with what He really needed. What He needed is the same thing that we need, which is the bread of life, and to trust in the previsions of the Lord. Jesus responds to this temptation by referencing scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3 that says, “Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Waiting for the Lord’s provision is a very humbling experience, especially when we think we can stop the waiting by just doing it ourselves but as we learn in Deuteronomy that is not the way of the Lord.
When the physical temptation had failed the devil tempted Jesus' pride by offering Him authority over all the kingdoms on earth. It was right in Jesus' reach, all He had to do was worship the devil. The devil was giving Jesus the chance to have instant gratification and to have dominion over the earth. Of course, Jesus knew better and knew that God has a much bigger plan and kingdom in mind for Him. This temptation is not always so easy for us to overcome, it can be an easy trap for us to fall into. We want to be seen, heard, and respected but what are we sacrificing to get it? What are we serving to gain that respect? Although it might seem small to take our focus off of God and place it on selfish things it costs us our everything because doing so forfeits our place with God. We began to serve the things of this world to get ahead and forget to serve the one and only God that created it all. Jesus’s response to the devil is from Deuteronomy 6:13, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.” Being in service to God is the only thing that will get us the respect that we crave but it does not come instantly. Just as it was for Christ, in due time we will receive our rightful inheritance that is much greater than what the world has to offer. If we respond to this temptation with patience and trust in God’s plan we are given a heavenly inheritance that is much better than what the devil and the world can offer.
Lastly, the devil tried to get Jesus to question the Father by using scripture against Him. Jesus combated scripture with scripture and responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God”. When all of the other temptations had failed the devil attacked the foundation of Jesus' strength, His trust in the Father. If we don’t have our foundation in the Lord we can be tempted to question God’s goodness. Our foundation must be on God, the rock, and not in the world which is sand that will be washed away. As we also see in this part of the passage, the devil has knowledge of the scriptures and attempts to turn them around to convince Jesus to test God. We must not forget that the devil is a fallen angel who once held a high position in the kingdom. He knows the things of God and can use that to his advantage. We must be aware that not all things that seem to be from God are. The devil and his demons are knowledgeable of scripture and how God operates. They have the ability to use that to their advantage and to convince even the most devout followers to go astray.
When the devil knew that he would not successfully be able to tempt Jesus it says that he left “until the next opportunity came.” We might have been successful in resisting the temptation but what about the next time? The devil will not give up trying to tempt us until either we give in and follow his wicked way or Jesus comes back to right all of the wrongs of this world. Since this is the case we must always be on guard for the next temptation and we can equip ourselves for these temptations by studying God’s words and leaning into His promises. As we see in this passage every time Jesus is tempted He responds with scripture to combat what the devil is saying. Our best defense against the devil is knowing God and studying what He teaches us in the Bible.