Life is filled with trials and temptations. Sometimes we fail. Jesus too was faced with great temptations, but he succeeded.
Let’s learn how Jesus battled temptations and won.
We will look at the testing of Christ in Matthew 4:1-11.
Matthew 4:1-2 Led by the Spirit
We read in Matthew 4:1-2, Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. In these verses, Jesus was tried. Did he love God1 with all his heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Jesus’ responses2 come from a section of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6-8) that begins with the well-known saying, the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) commanding our love for God. The Greek word for tempted also means being tested. Jesus’ love for God was being tested after a preparatory time of fasting. Would he pass the test?
1Brown, Fitzmyer & Murphy. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice Hall. 1990. 638.
2R. T. France. The New International Commentary of the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew. Wm. B. Eerdmans. 2007. 124-136.
Matthew 4:3 Jesus’ First Test
Matthew 4:3 reveals the 1st of 3 tests on Jesus. We read, “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” In this verse the tempter is introduced. His form is not given. He tries to incite Jesus to do his bidding. If he really is the son of God, he should not need to put up with lack of food. His appetite is tested. Would he use his heavenly powers to satisfy the lusts of the flesh? Would he pass the test? Do we follow the tempter’s untrustworthy words or God the Father’s?
Matthew 4:4 Jesus’ First Test Response
In Matthew 4:4 we read of Jesus’ response to the 1st of 3 tests as the tempter tried to trick him into turning stones to bread. But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” This is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, which tells us the context. God fed ancient Israel manna, so they would learn to be fed by Him and not their own efforts. Even though he had the power to make bread from stones, Jesus had the answer in Scripture and waited for His Father’s timing to be revealed.
Matthew 4:5-6 Jesus’ Second Test
In Matthew 4:5-6 we read, Then the devil took him to the holy city, 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 you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Would Jesus be tempted by the pride of life and take a foolish leap from a Temple wing perhaps 50 meters above ground? How often do we take foolish chances without prayer? How often do we confuse a foolish jump with a Spirit-led leap of faith?
Matthew 4:7 Jesus’ Second Test Response
When tempted by the devil to take a foolish leap from a Temple wing, Matthew 4:7 says, Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” He wasn’t fooled by someone twisting Scripture. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 where Moses and Aaron had tried to take glory to themselves for a miracle involving water, instead of giving God the glory (Numbers 20:7-12). This cuts to the heart of the test. Instead of bringing glory to himself with a big display, did Jesus only want to bring glory to the Father? Do we trust God at His word or provoke Him with our presumptuous self-will?
Matthew 4:8-9 Jesus’ Third Test
In Matthew 4:8-9 is the last of Jesus’ three temptations. Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” This is not as subtle as Jesus’ first two tests. Would he be tempted by the lust of the eyes for worldly power? Satan rules this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:11-12; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9-17). How many people have received great power from the devil?
Who Rules the World?
Who rules the world? Satan is the ruler (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), the god of this world/age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against evil spirits (Ephesians 6:11-12). The world around us is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The devil is the one deceiving the whole world (Revelation 12:9-17). Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18). Christians are rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13).
Matthew 4:10 Jesus’ Third Test Response
Matthew 4:10 states the principle behind Deuteronomy 6:13, “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Notice that Jesus substitutes the word fear from Deuteronomy with the word worship. The fear of God means worship. Jesus also calls Satan by name. Satan means the adversary. In passionately telling the devil to get behind him, Jesus reveals his total aversion to gaining worldly power through compromise with any evil. He will eventually have that power and far more from God and not the devil, for good and only good, without any hint of evil.
Matthew 4:11 Summary of the Temptation of Christ
After Jesus’ temptation, Matthew 4:11 says, Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. Moses taught three tests of our love of God, “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)? John mentioned life’s great temptations, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). False preachers tempt us with misusing miracles, foolish risks and materialism. It’s easy to do the right thing when people are watching. The Temptation of Christ was a victory in the wilderness far away from the watching crowd.
Jesus was more adept at battling the devil’s tactics than any of us. Yet, we can learn from him. He skillfully used the Bible. He used principles rather than the letter and he told the devil to leave.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.