If thou be the son of God, command these stones to be made bread (Matthew 4:3).
What the devil did to tempt Jesus was to question his position and authority. ‘If you are the son of God…’ When you think that Jesus fully well knew who he was and the glory he shared with the Father from the beginning, and the glory he left behind when he came to down to earth, we realize it would have been easy to get offended and respond to the temptation of the enemy by proving who he really was. He had seen ‘Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18). How dare the enemy question his position and authority in the kingdom of God!
But Jesus was in the world and he had to succumb to the same kind of test and temptation that we have to go through. The temptation wasn’t just a formality that the Father allowed Jesus to go through. It was real; he hadn’t eaten for forty days and he was hungry. He wasn’t just a spirit, he had a body and he needed food to sustain him.
The enemy attacked him at his weakest moment, when the fast had ended, and he could legitimately eat without dishonoring the pact he had made with the Father. There was nothing wrong for him to make stone into bread if the Father had told him to. (Jesus said he only said and did what the Father told him to). But it was clear that God had not told him to turn the stones into bread to appease his hunger, or the enemy would not have challenged him to do it to prove who he was. He had the power to do it but his motive would have been wrong – the miracle would have come form an impure and rebellious heart, which would have glorified himself and not the Father.
Jesus could have felt justified giving in to the temptation because the fast was over, and he was hungry. But the written word sustained him and kept him from succumbing to the devil. He recalled the words, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4 NAS). He knew that his Father had not spoken the words to him to turn the stones into bread. And he found his Father’s words of greater sustenance to him than the physical bread.
In the second temptation the devil lured Jesus up to the highest point of the temple and said, ‘If you are the Son of God throw yourself down…’ (Matthew 4:6 NAS). Satan was challenging Jesus, ‘If you are truly the temple of God, then make it known now that you are greater than this awesome man-made temple where people come to worship. Take center stage now, take the worship yourself now.’ Jesus knew he was the temple of God and that the man-made temple would soon hold little significance, once his task on earth was accomplished. But the time was not yet, nor the manner. He had to draw man to himself through the cross, not through self-acclamation. So again he responded to Satan with the written word, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’ (Matthew 4:7 NAS).
As Christians, the enemy will also come to us and question our salvation or God’s love and faithfulness to us. He will question our position in Christ, whether in fact we are
already seated with him in heavenly places. He might even challenge us to pursue some great task,which God has not purposed for your individual life. The only way to ensure that we have the right response to the enemy - to ensure that God gets the victory, is to know the written Word and the Living Word. We must know the voice of God - the voice of the Holy Spirit within us - and be able to discern between his voice and that of the enemy.
We sometimes picture a form or a being coming up to Jesus and standing in front of him or behind him, and speaking to him directly. But remember that Satan did not appear to Jesus in a visible form. He spoke into Jesus’ mind and thoughts in the same way that he tempts us today. That is why we need to know the word of God and be able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from that of the enemy. We have to remember that Satan does know the Scriptures too, but his voice is not that of the Father and his motives are usually for self-acclamation and not to glorify God.
In the third recorded temptation, in which the enemy tried to lure Jesus with power, Jesus did not tell him that he was lying so I believe we can assume that Satan does have power over the world system. The Bible says that ‘Satan is the god of this world’. This is his kingdom; the kingdom of God is within us.
Again Jesus rebuffed Satan with the Word, but this time he told him to go away. And Satan did, he knew he had to obey the voice of Jesus. Why didn’t Jesus tell Satan to go from the beginning? Jesus was in the world and he knew that he was not above temptation here. But he knew when to order him to leave. May we have the spiritual discernment of Jesus and know how to respond to the temptations of the enemy and when to tell him to go. Because we have the Spirit and power of Christ within us, he must respond to us as he responded to Jesus. We don’t need to fear the enemy because we know who we are.