The Temptation of Jesus
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ must have set alarm bells ringing in hell. The presence of light spells the end for darkness, and God’s immediate presence on earth as a man would mean the destruction of evil—unless Satan could find a way to destroy Jesus.
His first attempt came through the rage of King Herod, whose murder of innocent children in the region of Bethlehem was an intolerable crime. But when that dark deed failed, Satan was forced out into the open in a direct confrontation with Jesus.
Baptized and Filled with the Spirit
Jesus was thirty years of age when He began His public ministry. He was baptized in the River Jordan, identifying Himself fully with men and women who were seeking to live for the glory of God. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, and an audible voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went into the desert, where He endured a period of intense temptation that lasted for forty days. It is significant that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert (Luke 4:1). Christ was stalking the enemy. He had come into the world to destroy Satan’s work, and the first step in His public ministry was to confront our enemy and triumph where Adam had failed.
Confusion, Presumption, and Ambition
Satan appears to have a limited number of strategies. That much is evident from the parallels between his successful tempting of Adam and Eve and his total failure to compromise the integrity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan’s first strategy in both cases was an attempt to create confusion. In the Garden of Eden he asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). In the desert, the enemy tried to create confusion about Jesus’ identity. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).
His second strategy in the garden was an attempt to promote presumption. Satan tried to convince Eve that she could disobey the command of God without consequence. “You will not certainly die,” he said (Genesis 3:4). He used the same line of argument against Jesus when he led Him to the highest point of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God… throw yourself down” (Matthew 4:6).
The third strategy centered on ambition. Satan promised Eve that asserting her independence would put her in a position of equality with God. “You will be like God,” he said (Genesis 3:5). Having succeeded with this strategy once, the enemy tried the same approach against Jesus: “I will give you all [the] authority and splendor [of the kingdoms of the world]… if you worship me,” he said (Luke 4:5–7).
Satan launched everything he had in his assault against the Lord Jesus Christ, but he could not break Him. After he had exhausted every strategy he knew, he was left with no alternative but to retreat.
Facing the Full Force of the Enemy
Jesus faced the full power of the enemy. Although He had a sinless nature, the temptation he faced was greater than we will ever know.
Imagine three airmen flying jets over enemy territory during a war. They are shot down, captured, and then taken by the enemy for interrogation. One by one they are brought into a darkened room.
The first airman gives his name, rank, and serial number. His captors ask him for the positions of his forces. He knows that he must not give this information, but he also knows that the enemy is cruel and eventually they will break him. So why go through all that? He tells them what he knows.
The second airman is brought in. He also gives his name, rank, and serial number, and they begin to pump him for information. He is determined not to give in. So the cruelty begins. Eventually it overwhelms him. He breaks and tells them what he knows.
Then the third airman comes in and gives his name, rank, and serial number. “You will not break me,” he says.
“Oh yes, we will. We have broken every man who has ever come into this room. It is only a matter of time; you’ll see.”
The cruelty begins, but he does not break. So it is intensified, and still he does not break. It is intensified once more, until it feels unbearable, but still he does not break.
Finally there comes a point when they have tried everything they know. “It’s no use,” they say. “He is not like any other person we’ve had in this room. We can’t break him.”
Which of these airmen faced the full force of the enemy?
The only one to know the full force of the enemy’s assault is the one who did not break. So don’t ever think that Christ’s temptations were less than yours. Only Christ knows the full power of temptation, because only Christ has withstood the full force of the enemy’s assault.
A View from the First Valley
When the Son of God took our human flesh, He became another Adam. Jesus confronted our enemy and triumphed where Adam had failed. Adam’s failure brought the tragic consequence of death to the entire human race. But Jesus’ triumph brings everlasting life for all who are joined by faith to Him.
The forty-day confrontation with Satan in the desert was the first dark valley through which our Lord Jesus Christ had to go. Having faced and exhausted the full force of the enemy’s assault, He was ready to begin a public ministry in which people would see the blessings of life in the kingdom of God.
- What are the biggest pressures that you face in your life? To what extent do you think Jesus can relate to those struggles? Why?