Last week, we looked at the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and we saw how God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and all who were there heard the voice of God the Father testifying of Jesus. What takes place next is titled “The Temptation of Jesus”. Let’s take a look at this encounter with the enemy and see what Scripture is telling us.
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 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.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 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.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Amen. So what we have here is the conclusion of a 40-day battle. Jesus, the Son of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit was led into the wilderness specifically to be tempted by the devil. He never knew sin, but he was about to know weakness and temptation fully, without falling to it. Is this the only time Jesus is tempted? I think not, but this is the primary battle with temptation directly from Satan, the father of lies. I believe later Jesus continues to be tempted by the weakness of the flesh, my mind jumping directly to His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus never sinned, but it wasn’t for a lack of temptation. In our text for today, we see 3 specific temptations crafted by the devil to attack Jesus. We will look at each temptation individually and then collectively to identify what is going on here.
If you are the Son of God, command these stones…
Right out of the gate, Satan attacks the deity of Jesus Christ in light of His humanity. Yes, Jesus is hungry after His 40-day fast, but that is not the full extent of this particular temptation. Matthew is writing to a Jewish crowd, and the significance of the 40 days in the wilderness pointing to the 40 years that Israel wandered in the desert is plain. However, Satan didn’t challenge Jesus to rain manna from heaven nor did he urge Him to make water spring from a rock. Where did this stones to bread come from? I believe it came from the words of John the Baptist. Why? To point back to the most recent confirmation witness from Heaven that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Let’s review what John the Baptist was preaching before Jesus presented Himself to him.
Matthew 3:7-12 (ESV) 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Satan’s temptation is to have Jesus demonstrate is Deity by satisfying His flesh. When you think about it… it doesn’t really square. Remember, Satan is the father of lies. Remember the lie in the Garden, “…and you will be like God…” (Genesis 3).
It is actually Jesus who refers back to the Law in Deuteronomy to refute Satan. Let us look at the reference.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 (ESV) 1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Amen. It was the Holy Spirit who led Him into the wilderness for testing. Jesus was not going to cut it short simply to feed His flesh. His flesh didn’t need bread only, but it would live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Satan went after the most recent testimony (a fresh word) and Jesus responded in Scripture.
Throw yourself down, for it is written…
Satan knows Scripture, too. Extremely well, in fact, for he is a master at twisting and perverting it and leading man away after idols and doctrines of demons. Satan slams Jesus with a proof-texts from Psalm 91.
91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
This temptation here is where much of the visible, modern-day, seeker-sensitive church resides. It is here where professing Christians no longer know how to read the Bible for what it says, because they’ve grown up feeding on narcissistic eisegesis. They turn to “anointed ones” to hear their lectures and buy up their books to see what “that scripture means for me”. They can’t come to the same conclusions themselves because the texts aren’t about them. It almost sounds right, here. Almost. We know it wasn’t because Jesus quickly dismisses it in a fashion that truly those peddling the Word of Faith heresy should heed.
Deuteronomy 6:13-19 (ESV) 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. 16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.
If you’ve been following our reading of the Book of Hebrews, you will understand that such promises of God point toward Jesus, and that the “good Land” of promise is in-fact pointing to the Kingdom of Heaven. Satan’s final temptation is an attempt to convince Jesus to accept “another way” to accomplish His mission… a shortcut, if you will.
All these I will give you, if…
Satan offered a trade. Jesus would have NONE of it. Jesus declares the truth of the Law in what He would later teach as the First and Greatest Commandment, Deuteronomy 6:4-5;13-14 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might….13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods…”
Then the devil left Him…
The battle is the Lord’s. By His mighty Hand, He has delivered us from the snare of the fowler. You see, Psalm 91 is true, and it points to Christ and the protection, provision, and life that can be found nowhere else but in Christ Jesus. This life is not our home, this isn’t the promised land… for all of this is temporary.
1 Peter 1:2b-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
2 …May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Him until that great day.
In Christ Jesus,