Luke: Temptation of Jesus — Three Tests

Read: Luke 4:1-13

Tempting Jesus has always seemed like a moot point to me. Each time I read this passage, it seems there’s no way Jesus would actually be enticed by Satan’s offers. The highlight reel of this extended time of fasting includes three specific temptations:

  1. prove God is the ultimate provider
  2. bow down to Satan
  3. test God, make Him prove Himself

Jesus is filled with the Spirit and led by Him into the desert for 40 days of fasting.

where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:2

In contrast, my submission to temptation would probably take about 40 seconds, 40 minutes on a good day, 40 hours on an exceptional week — no way would I last 40 days in the desert!

One commentator on this passage makes a very interesting observation:

Jesus’ testing takes place in an environment opposite to the one Adam faced.NIVAC (see footnote)

This isn’t a lush garden where He is surrounded in comfort–this is a harsh place, void of life, dusty and dirty. Adam’s temptation came during a time of luxury. Life was great! What harm could there be in doing one thing that was off limits?

Jesus’ temptation comes on the heals of His baptism and complete submission to God at the beginning of His ministry. The desert provides a distraction-free zone, no doubt Satan loves to work in places where we feel alone, empty, and hungry.

Prove God is the ultimate provider

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:3-4

Later we read about Jesus feeding thousands with morsels of food, so this must not be about having breakfast. This temptation suggests that God is not enough, that His provision will not happen on time, Jesus should take charge of the situation Himself. Jesus points to God’s word as the source of understanding. Yet another reason to immerse ourselves in the Bible.

So many times I look at a situation and wonder if this is God’s will or my will. Should I wait or act? Do I fully understand that God will provide? I’ve watched God take care of our family in so many situations, some extreme, some subtle. It’s hard to call them miracles, but I’m most thankful for the times when I feel like I’ve completely let God direct my steps.

Bow down to Satan

The temptation of power, position, and prestige. Satan often tempts us with recognition, filling our egos with fame and fortune.

If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Luke 4:7-8

Satan deceives himself by thinking he is actually in control. God is ultimately sovereign. Honestly, I don’t understand why He allows Satan to have any dominion, but He is God, not me! The assertion that “it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:6) is a scary thought to say the least. The kingdom-sized ego of Lucifer would love nothing more than to see people falter.

The solution: let go of worldly recognition. Draw near to God, listen for His voice, go and do what He says — only.

Test God, make Him prove Himself

Ah yes, cherry-picking scripture to make your point! Here we see a perfect example of taking scripture out of context to make a point. If nothing else, perhaps we can learn from this example.

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. … Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Luke 4:9, 12

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t correct Satan here. He doesn’t engage in a theological debate about misuse of the quote. Instead, He simply ignores the indiscretion and makes the stronger point that we should not test God.

The Lesson

The primary lesson I draw from this passage is to spend more time in God’s presence in order to discern His voice, His desire, and His direction for my life. Lord, help us to surround ourselves with like-minded people continuously. It’s not a once-a-week solution! The indwelling of the Spirit in each of us means we have the ability. May we remind each other as a community of believers, the thing You call church.


Note: Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland , David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Location 46740). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.