What were Jesus' desert temptations and what can we learn from them?
In Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13, the Gospels record Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert wilderness following a period of 40 days of fasting, specifically from food. While Jesus was tempted at other times throughout His lifetime on earth, this period of time emphasized how Jesus responded to temptation, both as an example to others as well as to reveal His ability to wrestle with temptation and to overcome it.
Matthew and Luke record the first temptation as one involving food. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was clearly hungry. Satan chose to tempt Jesus by telling Him to turn stones into bread. Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
Matthew then records that the devil took Jesus to the top of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and told Him to jump off (Luke places this temptation third.). Satan quoted the Old Testament passage that stated, "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone" (Matthew 4:6). The idea was that Jesus would miraculously be rescued in public, revealing His great power to those watching. Jesus quoted again from Deuteronomy, saying, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" (Matthew 4:7). He knew that this would be a misuse of power and in direct violation of the mission God the Father had given Him.
In the third temptation, "The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" (Matthew 4:8). The devil then said he would give Jesus authority over all of these kingdoms if Jesus would worship him. Jesus refused, telling the devil to "Be gone" (Matthew 4:10) again quoting Deuteronomy a third time, saying, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." The devil then left Him and angels served Him (Matthew 4:11).
Many observations can be made about the meaning and purpose of Jesus' temptations in these passages. First, Jesus revealed His full humanity. He was hungry and wrestled with temptation. He expressed feelings, thoughts, and words as humans typically do in tense situations.
Second, Jesus revealed His deity. His ability to resist temptation was clearly displayed as superior to other humans. He had strong knowledge of God's Word and even had the power to tell Satan to "Be gone." Jesus was tempted, yet remained sinless, proving Himself divine.
Third, Jesus offered an example of dealing with temptation. During His struggles, He quoted God's Word, recognized the enemy's tricks, and emphasized worshiping God.
These temptations offer a close look at both the humanity and deity of Jesus. However, they also reveal important truth concerning how we can respond to temptations today, relying upon God and His Word in order to stand firm against the attacks of Satan.
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