THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
Matthew 4: 1-11
By Henry Jaegers
In John 1: 33, John mentions briefly, the baptism of Jesus that John the Baptist had performed, but does not mention the event that immediately followed. It is the pattern of John not to list everything that the other gospels contain and he does that for a reason. In this study we will present some important events that John does not mention to add continuity to the life and ministry of our Lord.
We will back up a few days and view some of the details that John eliminated. In Matthew 3:16 we are told:
“And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and coming upon Him, and behold a voice out of the heavens saying, “this is my beloved Son, of whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
The significance of the temptation was that it occurred immediately after His baptism and just prior to the beginning of His public ministry. It was part of the divine program. What happened during this time was used to prepare Jesus for what was similar to a Basic training in the military, where one is equipped and strengthened for future battle. We will consider several important principles when describing the temptation.
I. The purpose of the temptation.
II. The timing of the temptation.
III. The intensity of the temptation.
IV. The nature of the temptation.
V. The message from the temptation
I.THE PURPOSE OF THE TEMPTATION
The purpose for the temptation was to prepare Jesus for the office of faithful High Priest. He was not to be like the ones before Him, who needed to make sacrifices for themselves first. The book of Hebrews shows the superiority of Jesus above all others. He is to become our advocate in heaven representing us before the throne of God. It was in the plan of God that Jesus go through this period of temptation. Although Jesus was the sinless son of God, He also was man in the fullest sense and when He was tempted He felt it like we feel it. Hebrews 2: 17,18, tells us the purpose more fully.
“There fore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things , that He might become a faithful and merciful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation (to become a sacrifice for us) for the sins of the people. For since He, Himself, was tempted in that which He suffered, He is able to come to aid of those who are tempted”
No one can say to Jesus that He doesn’t understand what we are suffering. Some may think that Jesus had an advantage in this hour of temptation, but the truth is, He was at a disadvantage. Being the Son of God required that he did not fail. He felt the full pressure of the temptation. When we are tempted we can come to our faithful and sympathetic High priest and find comfort and strength to overcome. Consider this: When we face temptation it is only for a brief time and then we give in. Jesus never gave in. His victory assures us that He was accepted by God for the office of our advocate.(Our divine defense attorney who wins all of His cases). By being fully identified with our humanity He became fully acquainted with our need.
This temptation prepared Him for the greater one which was to take place in the Garden of Gethsemane when He would struggle once again with His humanity facing the cruelest punishment that men could inflict. He could have reasoned, “I am the son of God. I don’t deserve this”, but the battle was won when He cried out “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done”
No-one so good was ever treated so badly. Jesus understood and faithfully walked through the process until it was complete. None has ever felt the pressure of temptation as Jesus did.
II. THE TIMING OF THE TEMPTATION.
The temptation of Jesus took place immediately after His baptism. This was the beginning of His public ministry. Before He could begin, the next step was crucial. The captain of our salvation must come face to face with the tormenter of our souls. This was a great trial for Jesus but necessary in the economy of God’s program. In Hebrews 2: 7 we are told, ”Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people, for since He Himself was tempted, in that which He suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
It is needful to know that God’s timetable does not always correspond with our expectations. For most of us, God always takes too long to answer, but His ways, His timing and His provision are always perfect. The temptation of Jesus was according to God’s timing and purposes. This trial was the beginning of others that would follow. We might call this “phase 1” of His ministry. It was not easy but was necessary to prepare Him for what was to come. In this temptation we see the encounter between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan, with Jesus coming out as the Victor.
III.THE INTENSITY OF THE TEMPTATION
Prior to the temptation, Jesus fasted for forty days, suffering hunger and dehydration. This left Him in a very vulnerable state, making it easier for Satan to tempt Him. It was a time that it was easy for him to engage in some selfish act in order to meet His own Physical needs. Satan capitalized on this by quoting scripture to convince Jesus it was all right to give in. Never underestimate the difficulty that He faced. If you and I were to go through similar trials, we would cave in after the first few hours. Resistance was required in face of the physical needs that the body cried out to relieve. Here we see Him to be fully God and fully man. Fully man as He felt the impact of the temptation like no other: Fully God In that He proved Himself to be conqueror over the world, the flesh and the devil. There was a man who recently tried to outdo Jesus by fasting for forty one days. (He died of course). The forty days in this case tells us that he went through the greatest trial that no other human could withstand without dying or caving in.
How can we fully understand the pressure that He faced, when we so easily give in to the slightest pain or discomfort?
IV. THE NATURE OF THE TEMPTATION
As we consider the nature of the temptation our thoughts go back to Eve in the garden. It is always Satan who makes the first move. The temptation of Eve was external because the sin nature was absent at that time. So is the case of Jesus. There was nothing from within that would attract Him to the allurements of Satan. We, on the other hand, have all kinds of inward trappings that Satan can use to get us to sin. We are affected by the things we see and listen to and when we willfully engage in sin we give Satan an opportunity against us. The memories of the old life still hang around and Satan uses them to cause our fall. The temptation then, was instigated by Satan and it was from without. One exception to this is that Satan appealed to the inner desire for food when Jesus was hungry and this could be considered internal.
It was when Jesus had fasted for forty days that he was most receptive to the temptation. It is true, that temptation comes when we are most vulnerable and when our defenses are the weakest. This is why Paul invokes us to take advantage of the whole amour of God to fully stand against Satan’s attacks. I find that spending time meditating and digesting the word of God the best antidote against temptation, because my mind is being challenged and constantly cleansed in the process. As each temptation came His way, Jesus countered back with proper scripture. I say that because Satan used scripture outside of its intended meaning and Jesus simply put it back in place.
Having examined the strategy of Satan, which we will continue to do, we notice that he plants doubts in the mind concerning the character of God. For Eve He presented God as a selfish tyrant who was keeping something important from her. He is called “the slanderer”, talking to us negatively about God and talking negatively to God about us (as in the case of Job). He causes us to feel unworthy and makes us think that God has better things to do than to pay attention to our needs. He is always causing us to question the character of God, and in this temptation he continues this method.
The temptation of Jesus is confined to three areas. Some things never change with Satan. He uses the same three areas to tempt eve, and he continues to do so for us today. In I John 2:15,16 John describes the world we are not to love in this way, The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are the three areas in which we are tempted. The lust of the flesh is the desire for pleasure. The lust of the eyes is the desire for possessions, and the pride of life is the desire for power or authority. When engaged in, they have the potential to enslave us.
While Jesus was hungry, Satan tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. There is nothing wrong with being hungry and wanting to satisfy it. The sin is satisfying it in the wrong way at the wrong time Jesus quoted from scripture stating that obeying the will of God was more important that satisfying one’s hunger. While he was at the point of starvation, Jesus placed doing God’s will as most important.
Seeing that he could not get Jesus to yield to the desire to fulfill the flesh he turns to another area. This time he uses scripture to get Jesus to prove that He was the son of God. First Jesus had nothing to prove. That’s where pride takes over. We think that we have to prove ourselves and our worthiness. Satan was trying to place in Jesus mind that He needed to do something to prove who He was. Cast yourself off this high place, for scripture says that God will send his angel to protect you. Do something stupid and God will take care of you because you are His son. The pride of life comes into play now. Jesus answered Him again correctly from scripture, that we should not tempt the Lord. There are people today who try to prove true faith in God by doing foolish things. Tempting God is trying to force Him to act outside of His will and purposes. We see people handling poisonous snakes and others encouraging others to handle their finances recklessly by supporting self indulgent ministries. We see men taking risks and pretending them to be acts of faith when in fact they are putting God into some kind of box and insisting that He is obligated to answer because they used some formula to claim the answer they desire. The “pride of life”, always get us to do something to prove ourselves. It is the desire for self authentication displayed in the desire for power. The temptation comes to us when we are put on the defensive. Truth is the only true defense against this sin.
Finally Satan uses His third arrow in his quiver to tempt Jesus. He takes Jesus up to a high mountain to view all the kingdom’s of the world. He promised Jesus that if He would fall down and worship him all of these would be His. What does God have to offer you? Just think everything that your heart could ever desire could be yours. It’s as easy as saying I will. It is a sad thing when men will sacrifice integrity and principle to have the treasures that the world offers. Men will forsake moral values to have possessions. Offer the modern politician enough money and he will sacrifice principles to get what he wants.. Jesus said something profound in His answer. “Thou shall worship The Lord thy God and Him only shall you serve.” God first in everything is the standard that controls righteous men.
After this we are told that Satan left Him and God sent angels to minister to him.
V.THE MESSAGE FROM THE TEMPTATION
In His epistle John tells us that when we choose to love the world (the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life) it will stifle the love of God in our hearts. Our desire will be to satisfy ourselves and love for others will be absent. Self denial (the denial of self interest) is necessary to exercise true love. Satan always tries to get us to focus on “what’s in it for me”. Jesus did not come for self interest. If we are followers of Christ we are to have that same mindset. Satan tried to get Jesus to act selfishly and that is what he tries to get us to do.
The good news in this temptation is that it did not continue. If we don’t give up and we persevere through, in spite of the pressure, He will go away. I Corinthians 10:13, one we are familiar with tells us that God will be with us in our temptation and will provide a way of escape. Think of this; “Have you ever thought back after having given in to temptation that there was a way that you could have succeeded? If we continue to surrender to temptation we shall become spiritually flabby. Resisting temptation builds up strength against other temptations, .like exercise develops muscles.
Jesus provides for us the encouragement that it is possible to resist temptation. The presence of the Spirit of God within is the Divine enabler to be an overcomer. Despite the failures we may have faced in the past, they are forgivable and should provide the incentive to do better the next time.
REVIEW QUESTIONS FROM THE TEMPTATION.
1. What took place prior to the temptation?
2. Why was the temptation of Jesus important?
3. When does Satan most often attack us? When did he come to Jesus?
4. In what three areas was Jesus tempted?
5. How did Jesus counteract Satan’s attempts?
6. In I Corinthians10:13, What comfort does this scripture give to those facing temptation?
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