Matthew 4:1–11 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
After the account of Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. This preparation period was an example to us. Perhaps not everyone needs to fast forty days to get prepared for ministry and calling, but it was part of Jesus’ process. He showed the example of getting the flesh under the control of the Holy Spirit. Many point to the three weaknesses of mankind when categorizing the temptations of Christ: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
This first temptation falls into the lust of the flesh arena. Jesus was hungry. He desired food, something His flesh longed for. Satan tempted Him at the point of His need and desire. Jesus, however, responded to this temptation with a response from God’s word. The Bible, God’s word, is a powerful weapon against the enemy, Satan. His response answered the tempation and His own desire by showing that there are other things more important than satisfying one’s flesh. Instead, one should satisfy the need of one’s spirit with the bread of life, God’s word. This interchange between Jesus and Satan establishes the power of God’s word!
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, 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 shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
The second tempation speaks to Jesus’ pride. He tempted Jesus to jump off the highest spot on the temple and allow the angels to catch Him. This would be a demonstration of Jesus’ power and the awesomeness of His position and privilege. A neat element of this exchange is that Satan uses Scripture as part of the temptation, seeking to win Jesus over. But Jesus rebuts the tempation with Scripture that negates Satan’s prideful reasoning and reminds him that one should never tempt (test) God. That, in itself, is enough to send Satan away in defeat. What Satan said was not wrong, but to take advantage of the angels for prideful reasons would be.
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
The third temptation appeals to the lust of the eye. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, hoping to tempt Him with their vast beauty and value. If Jesus saw them, then He would want them. However, the caveat was that Jesus would have to worship Satan in exchange. While this would definitely appeal to the Man Jesus, this tempation makes no sense to the the Son of God. He already owns the earth and everything in it. However, Satan, the prince of the power of the air, did have authority over the earth due to the fall, and therefore felt he could offer this to Christ. This shows the absurd lengths to which Satan will go in order to pull you into sin. In this case, Jesus responds with the truth that no one should worship Satan, but only the one true God.
After the third temptation was rejected, the angels then came and ministered to Jesus, which seems like an “in-your-face” to Satan’s second tempation! Jesus established not only His supremacy, but also a path to victory over Satan paved with the power of the Word of God. Get in the Word, for it is your weapon against the devil. The word is your sword to cut the enemy to shreds. Without a weapon, one is defenseless. Get into the Word and learn how to fight!