Temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus moves directly from His baptism to His temptation; from the honor and glory of hearing the Father speak from heaven, “This is My beloved Son,” to the conflict and suffering of the wilderness. Sometimes, the transition from great privilege to great trial is a short step. Satan is beginning to sense the collapse of his own kingdom as the prince of this world, and he refuses to yield to the Prince of Peace without a fight. He had successfully overtaken the first Adam in the garden, and he now attempts to corrupt the last Adam as well.
Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (v. 1). This was necessary so that this great adversary of God and man, the one who introduced sin into our world, might be confounded and so that mankind might be rescued from Satan’s dominion. In reality, Satan was not so much challenging Christ as much as God was challenging Satan. The purpose was not to see if Christ would or could sin, but to prove that He is the sinless One. Jesus was really, actually, literally tempted, and as a result of His temptation, “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). JC Ryle said it well: “Christians have a friend in heaven who can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities.”
I. First Temptation: Doubting God as Provider (verses 3-4)
Satan’s primary strategy in this first temptation was to cause Christ to doubt His sonship by tempting Him to verify His sonship by making bread. He was tempting Christ toward impatience, to operate on his time rather than His Father’s. However, no physical craving could lead Christ away from the path of obedience, from accomplishing His Father’s perfect will. Refusing to distrust His Father’s providential care, Jesus remained faithful to the end.
II. Second Temptation: Doubting God as Promise-Keeper (verses 5-7)
Taking Psalm 91 out of context, Satan now tempts Jesus to put God to the test, tempting Jesus to presume on His Father’s protection. There would come a time for this, but it was not at this point in Jesus’ life (Luke 23:46). If the first temptation was to prove His sonship, this one could be categorized as a temptation to abuse His sonship. But God is not on probation; He does not have to prove His faithfulness.
III. Third Temptation: Doubting God as Sustainer and Ruler (verses 8-10)
Satan now tempts Jesus with a half-truth. While it is true that Satan has been granted power and dominion, it is in no way his to give away. That right belongs to the source of all power and dominion. It was Satan’s by permission, not by possession. Christ would be ruling King over all, but not yet—it would come through the cross. Satan was offering a bypass around Calvary to glory. However, Jesus gives no consideration to Satan’s offer and He was willing to make no compromise. He refused to worship Satan; He had no interest in a crown without a cross. His was an eternal kingdom and He outright refused to be a lesser Messiah, ruling over a mere earthly kingdom.
Following the temptations, “the devil left Him” (v. 11), or as Luke records in his Gospel, “he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Satan was hell-bent on bruising Christ’s heel, unaware that his very head would be crushed.
- Satan, by overcoming the first Adam, caused him and all humanity after him to be excluded from God’s presence. But Christ, the Last Adam, by defeating the great adversary has reopened that gate of paradise. Giving in to temptation, the first Adam banished us all to the wilderness; resisting temptation, the last Adam brought us back to paradise. What Adam could not do, what the Law could not do, Jesus Christ did!
- In what ways are you tempted to doubt the goodness of God’s fatherly care and provision? Or to presume on God? Or to seek earthly glory rather than God’s eternal glory? How do you deal with it? Are you following the pattern of Christ? Are you believing the promises of God rather than the lies of sin?