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Theology > Jesus > Baptism and Temptations > Meaning of the Temptations   


Satan’s purpose in the temptations was to challenge and destroy Christ’s mission of redemption. Jesus was tempted to deny who He was and what He had come to do, tempted to abandon the way of suffering for the way of power, and tempted to effect salvation through might rather than through affliction.

The temptations reveal the strength of Christ; He was “tempted in all points” yet without sin, thus manifesting Himself as capable of saving sinners. The temptations are really part of His identification with sinners in their plight and a demonstration of the righteousness He provides for them.

The number of temptations is unknown, but three are recorded in Scripture. Consider them and the insight that is provided by them into the Person of Christ and into the wiles of Satan.

First Temptation (Matt. 4:3-4)

If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread (Matt. 4:3).

When Satan spoke these words the Bible states that Jesus “was hungry,” because He had fasted for forty day and forty nights. Satan tempted him with bread, but he also tempted Him to produce the bread, thereby proving who He was. Thus, there was a legitimate need on the part of Christ, but the question is how Jesus is going to meet this necessity.

He refused to satisfy His physical need by His divine power; He rejected the option of using His own capability to provide for His bodily requirements. Instead He rested Himself in the care and provision of the Father, for it is God who is Sovereign (see: God is Sovereign).

Jesus was tempted to doubt God’s providential care; for Jesus to make bread would have meant His denial of the Father’s right and ability to provide for Him. He would have removed himself from the Father’s will. Jesus was also tempted to escape suffering and want by selfishly removing the situation, but He refused to make bread of stones. He was will to remain in the situation that God had determined for Him.

In refusing the suggestion of Satan, Jesus affirmed that the spiritual is more important than the physical. That is, the physical—a physical life that must be protected because of its priority—is not the sum total of life. More important than the physical is the spiritual; while man does not have to have bread, he must have “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4) if he is indeed to experience life.

To Satan Jesus said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Second Temptation (Matt. 4:5-7)

If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down (Matt. 4:5).

In order to prove Himself and to initiate His ministry Satan suggested that Jesus perform a stunning miracle, or at least place the burden upon God to perform a miracle on His behalf. By this means a following could be attracted because Christ would be validating who He was by His supernatural ability. By this action Satan was tempting Christ to use non-spiritual means in order to prove Himself and therefore attract followers.

But when faced with the vain option of Satan, Jesus refused. He repudiated the use of some spectacular act to impress people; He would not put God to such a materialistic and selfish test. He refused to presume upon the Father and the angels to take action for Him, for to do so would have meant that Jesus would be choosing the extravagant display rather than submitting to the Father’s will which was the way of suffering and death.

To Satan Jesus gave the instruction of Scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:7).
Third Temptation (Matt. 4: 8-10)

All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me (Matt. 4:9).

With this temptation Satan comes to the central issue: he desires submissiveness and worship, meaning he desires to replace God—he desires to be God.

In the temptation is seen the lie of Satan. The earth and all that is in it is not his to give; ultimately creation is not under his sovereignty but under God’s Sovereignty (see: God is Sovereign). Later in His ministry Jesus says of Satan: “He is a liar and the father of it” (Jo. 8:44).

Jesus rejected the exchange of obedience for material possessions; He refused to acknowledge that the ends justifies the means. He would not forsake the Father. Jesus refused to worship someone other than God, thereby breaking the first commandment. He declined to sacrifice who He was, the Son of the Father, in order to have physical wealth offered by Satan.

Additionally, Christ rejected the option of securing a kingdom without the cross; again He chose the way of suffering, the way of the cross: the way of death. In doing so Christ demonstrated that suffering, and even death, constitute God’s plan for His creation.

To seek to negate suffering in the life is to attempt to negate the work of God in the life. Suffering should not be shunned but embraced. It is not improper to believe that God designs suffering for His purposes, even using it in the lives of those who follow Him. His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts—but His ways and thoughts are righteous and are not arbitrary. Suffering and death were part of God’s design for His own Son, the Beloved Son.

To Satan Jesus said: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matt. 4:10).

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