The Temptation of Jesus

Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness: Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13

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One Reply to “The Temptation of Jesus”

  1. Matthew and Luke provide similar accounts of the time Jesus was tempted just after his baptism.  My first thought is to pay attention to this sequence of events. Many times I have seen someone baptized and shouted with true joy for their public confession, but I cannot recall a single time when I followed-up with the newest of Christians to remind them that Jesus himself was tempted just after his baptism. How does this work? Does Satan target the newest of converts as prime targets for misleading others? Probably one of his greatest victories would be the deception of fellow Christians, some method to dilute their testimony. The first thing I learn from this passage is to take great care for the newly baptized. Lord, help me to turn these words into actions, to remind our newest family members of the temptations that will follow.

    This post became rather lengthy because I decided to include the parallel accounts in groups. I think this alone provides some interesting insight into the passages and I want to have a quick reference for this study as well as for the future when this topic will no doubt be discussed.

    Led by the Spirit

    • Matthew 4:1-2. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
    • Mark 1:12. At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness
    • Luke 4:1. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

    All three let us know that it was the Spirit that led Jesus to the tempter, not Satan. I like the phrase in the NIV Study Bible notes on this section, “God surely tests his people, but it is the devil who tempts to evil,” with references to Genesis 22:1, James 1:13, 1 John 3:8 and Revelation 2:9-10.  Understanding the difference between testing and temptation is worthy of a study all by itself! Lord, please help me to clearly understand the difference!! This is a defining moment for us all. Your grace is sufficient, our hearts and minds are so weak. Give us all great discernment!

    Forty Days of Fasting

    • Matthew 4:2. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
    • Mark 1:13. and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan
    • Luke 4:2. 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.

    Jesus walked this earth in human flesh and bones, one who would be susceptible to earthly needs like hunger. His fasting would have drawn him closer to God during this time, but he would have still been physically week.

    First Temptation — Hunger

    • Matthew 4:3.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
    • Mark does not provide details of the three temptations
    • Luke 4:3. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

    The devil’s first pass is to taunt Jesus with hunger, to remind him that he hasn’t eaten for a while. Satan doesn’t really expect this will work, but he must be hoping he could win him over, at least nudge Jesus in the right (wrong) direction.

    First Reply

    • Matthew 4:4.  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
    • Luke 4:4.  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.'”

    Both refer to Deuteronomy 8:3, the chapter that is titled, “Do Not Forget the Lord.” Jesus points us to the events of the Exodus and encourages us to recall the event,

    Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3

    Second Temptation — Throw yourself down, Do some Magic!

    • Matthew 4:5-6. Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written…”
    • Luke 4:9-10a. The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written…”

    Now Satan takes it up a notch and entices Jesus to do some magic, perform a miracle that everyone could see and confess he is special. But Jesus will not win the hearts through this miracles alone, he will win hearts by patiently teaching and walking among us. It’s ironic that Satan would quote Psalm 91:11-12 in an attempt to support his temptation. Psalm 91 is all about admitting that God is our refuge, our strength in times of need. Pulling these verses out of context is fools-play for Jesus and he refutes them quickly. But this is an important lesson for us to understand. We should carefully study the references that Jesus uses in response to Satan, learn from his example and study scripture completely to understand what we must in order to be effective in leading others to Christ.

    Second Reply

    • Matthew 4:7. Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
    • Luke 4:12. Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (NOTE: Luke includes this as the third temptation, Matthew the second).

    Again, the context of the verse that Jesus quotes seems so significant. This time, he quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16, the chapter that includes “The Shema” or the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book, Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It continues, and I’ve heard this and tried to obey this directive: “Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9). The context is that of a great teaching that all Jews would have been completely familiar with, The Shema was (and I believe is), central to their faith.

    Third Temptation — Fame and Glory

    • Matthew 4:8-9.  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
    • Luke 4:5-7.  The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

    In this day, in this country in particular, the call to fame is a temptation that most cannot endure. From what I’ve seen in church circles, I think this is often felt by pastors who have been faithful and have a growing, effective church, who hear the voice whisper, “write a book…get your name in print…then you will really be successful.” It seems that becoming a best-selling author is the claim to fame these days. The man with the most sales wins! It breaks my heart to see men of God lured into this temptation, especially those men who have studied, preached, pastored and led so many to Christ! I was honored to meet Dr Robert Coleman last year, a man who has written the blueprint for Evangelism for many, a man who has remained a great and humble servant even though his books have sold countless copies. It’s not impossible to sell books and remain faithful, it’s just a temptation. My wife reads books every day (at least one). She has an amazing gift for reading volumes of literature and can tell in a moment which is written to simply be sold and what actually has merit. I trust her wisdom in this regard more than any other reference to a book or author. It is important to leverage relevant words in printed media, but all must be for the glory of God and not for the bank account of the authors and publishers. Lord, again, help us to discern the difference. Keep us humble, Lord!

    Third Reply

    • Matthew 4:10. Jesus said to him, “Away from me Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
    • Luke 4:8. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”

    Both refer us back to Deuteronomy 6 as noted before. At the very least, this should tell us to study Deuteronomy 6! Perhaps this is the follow-on lesson for those who are baptized, to unpack the chapter verse by verse, make this the study plan for growing in faith. The chapter provides a history lesson and simple words of direction for following God.

    Final Response

    • Matthew 4:11.  Then the devil left him, and angels cam and attended him.
    • Mark 1:13b. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
    • Luke 4:13. When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

    When I read these passages in parallel I see that Luke is doing what he said he would do in the beginning–he is providing “an orderly account” (Luke 1:3) of the events in an attempt to be clear about what was going on. The gospels are designed to appeal to different people in different ways.

    It’s interesting that Luke tags on the phrase, “he left him until an opportune time.” Perhaps this is an enticement to the reader to keep reading, the story is not over yet. Indeed we know that Satan is not done with tempting and Judas Iscariot will fall prey to the tempter’s ways.

    Concluding Remarks

    These passages demand further study, much more than a simple morning devotion and reading as the blog post is intended. At the very least I pray that all will be encouraged to learn the Bible well, to know that God is ever faithful and leaning on his word is all we need in times of temptation. I could go on, but the clock reminds me I need to more on. Thanks be to God from whom all blessings flow.


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