Jesus is incredible. The more I learn, the more I am amazed.
Matthew 4 records the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. I’ve read this over and over before, and I’ve read and heard sermons and commentaries on it that were really good. (One of my favorites is the chapter on it from The Jesus Way.) I was reading it for myself again recently when the whole passage became alive in a whole new way.
The basic thing that I realized (and has again, probably been preached and written on more than I know) is that Satan’s temptations all attack Jesus’ relationship with His Father, His identity as the Son of God, and specific aspects of His deity. This directly follows the baptism of Jesus, at which point He was recognized by the Father as His Son.
The first temptation is to not only satisfy His natural hunger for food, but also to prove that He is the Creator. The second temptation is not only to test God’s promised deliverance, but to prove that He is the Messiah. The third temptation is not only to satisfy the momentary (33 year) lack of glory and recognition, but also to abdicate His rightful place as King of Kings, the One who bows to no one.
The incredible thing is that with each temptation, Jesus answers the temptation and goes beyond to reaffirm Who He is in relationship to His Father. He affirms His role in the Trinity in eternity past as Creator, the present moment as Messiah and Emmanuel, and eternity future as King.
Verses 3-4: Satan tempts Jesus to command [bid, grant] that the stones be made [to cause to be, come into being] bread. Jesus answers that man lives [literally, is alive] by the Word of God. According to John 1, Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus goes far beyond the selfish use of power that Satan tempts Him with to affirm that He is God, the Creator.
Verses 5-7: Satan tempts Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels can deliver Him. Jesus answers with a reference to Deuteronomy 6:16 (You shall not tempt[test] the Lord your God as you tempted [tested] Him at Massah). According to Exodus 17:7, the issue at Massah, shown through the water from the rock story, was that the Israelites were asking, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” Jesus’ answer to Satan says not only that He recognizes the temptation to question God’s faithfulness to His Word, but also that He is the Lord among us. He affirms that He is Emmanuel, God with us, present in the moment.
Several sources say that a common expectation among the Jews was that the Messiah, when He came, would come directly from heaven. Satan may have been tempting Jesus to fit into the cultural expectation so He could be recognized right away and skip the process of the next three years. Jesus knew better.
Verses 8-10: Satan tempts Jesus to again, go the quick route to what was rightfully His. Satan tempts Jesus, in a sense, to come down to his level- to give up His rightful place and gain power instead. (This is what Satan did- left his place in heaven, worshipping God, to gain power temporarily.) Jesus would have had the right to say, “No, you get to worship me, and I get that all anyway!” Instead, He points back to the Father, knowing that He will, in the end, be recognized and glorified for Who He is.
At that point, Jesus says that enough is enough and tells Satan to leave, which he does. I am left amazed again, and pondering what this story means for my own life. 🙂