Why was Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness recorded for us in Scripture? What are believers to learn from this account?
The Great Tempter
Jesus was tempted more than anyone that has ever been tempted in all of human history because He was tempted directly by Satan and Satan appeared in person before Christ. I do not believe that any of us could have resisted him if we were placed in such a position as Christ was. Jesus gives us the model though for resisting the temptation of the Enemy and it is found in the temptation in the Wilderness. Jesus had to resist Satan in three great temptations and they are what John says in 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” which are what Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden and which three he tempts us all as he did with Jesus.
Fasting and Resisting the Devil
I believe that fasting is a powerful tool in overcoming sin or an addiction that has a powerful stronghold in a believer’s life. This may be why Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights before He was tempted by Satan in the Wilderness. Isaiah writes about one of the means of overcoming sin by fasting in Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Notice that fasting can help us “undo the straps of the yoke” of sin or an addiction. Fasting can help “to loose the bonds of wickedness” and to “let the oppressed go free.” Fasting is not easy because we are weakened by our lack of physical food but it gives us a greater sense of our total dependency on God and it should make us hunger more for God and His working in our lives so it should not surprise us that Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights prior to the greatest temptation ever (Matt 4:1-2).
The Pride of Life
The first thing Satan did in tempting Jesus was to appeal to His humanity by tempting Him in the desires of the flesh (1 John 2:16) by saying to Him “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt 4:3). Satan knew Jesus had a powerful, gnawing hunger so he tempted his desire for food (the desires of the flesh) by tempting Him to make bread out of stones, which Jesus could have certainly done. Jesus responds to Satan’s temptation in the way that we should when tempted by the Enemy…and that is by quoting the Word of God. Jesus tells Satan “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). When we are tempted, we should already have Scripture memorized to resist sinning by hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
The Desires of the Eyes
The next way in which Satan tempts Jesus is when “the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 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” because “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” but Jesus responds once more by quoting Scripture “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt 4:5-7). Surely it would be tempting to display God’s protective sovereignty over the physical world to put Satan in his place and prove that God gives the angels charge over Him but to put this to the test is to do so with the wrong motive. Just because God has given His angels the charge over us to protect us is no reason to take unreasonable risks just to prove to others that God is with us.
The Pride of Life
The next thing Satan does is when “the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matt 4:8-9). Satan tries to show Jesus an easy out for the cross. If Jesus would only bow down to Satan and worship him then Satan would give over the kingdoms of the world to Jesus and He wouldn’t have to go to Calvary but then we wouldn’t have a way to have our sins forgiven. Here is strong evidence that Satan is the ruler or god of this world (2 Cor 4:4; John 21:31; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19; Col 1:13; 2 Tim 2:26). Satan could not offer to give over the kingdoms of the world if he didn’t have control of them already. He could have easily given this control over to Jesus but if Jesus had worshipped Satan, He would have broken the First Commandment, then He wouldn’t have been sinless, and we wouldn’t have a sinless Savior that lived a perfect life so that God would see us as having Jesus’ own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Once more, Jesus gives us the pattern for resisting temptation by quoting Scripture and the very one that Satan tempted Him to break “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” and by quoting Scripture, the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (Matt 4:10-11).
We are all tempted but it never comes from God (James 1:13). We must stand firm on the truth of God when we are tempted to sin and by hiding God’s Word in our hearts we have a better chance of resisting the Enemy. Even if we do sin, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ by asking for forgiveness and God promises to forgive us each and every time (1 John 1:9). If you have never repented and trusted in Christ, then you are still under the sway and control of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4; John 21:31; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19; Col 1:13; 2 Tim 2:26) and you are helpless to resist him. You need to put your trust in the Savior, confess your sins, and then you too can have the power of God’s Spirit to resist the Enemy and he too will have to depart from you.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon