Messiah Tempted – Matthew 4:1-11

Having been baptized, Jesus’ begins His ministry by fasting in the wilderness where He is tempted by the devil. Like Israel of old came through the Red Sea to be tested in the dessert for 40 years, Jesus comes out of the waters of baptism and is led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days. Will he, like Israel, disobey? Or will He fulfill His messianic task and please the Father, where Israel failed to?

Matthew describes the dramatic conclusion of this 40 day fast. Jesus was hungry; so the enemy comes slyly suggesting that if he is the Son of God , He could satisfy his legitimate hunger by making bread from stones. But for Jesus to do so would be put His personal satisfaction ahead of trusting His Father. Jesus turns to Scripture for His response: “It is written …”

Satan’s craftiness is evidenced by his next temptation. By refusing to turn stones into bread, Jesus was demonstrating trust in His Father; so now the enemy would tempt Jesus to demonstrate that trust by throwing himself down from the temple. This time Satan quotes the Scripture as well, albeit, out of context. Once again Jesus returns to quoting the Scripture in context, “It is written, again …”

Having failed in his first two attempts, Satan drops all pretense, and in what amounts to a bribe, he appeals to human ambition for power, promising Jesus the kingdoms of the world in exchange for a simple bow to him. Jesus’ response also drops all pretense as he demonstrates the authority that He has over Satan, by casting him away, “away from me Satan.” Again He quotes the Scripture: “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”

From this text we can learn what a powerful and crafty enemy we have in the devil. We see that temptation is not strange, for if our Lord could be tempted, how much more will we be? But above all, we learn of the power and authority of our chief weapon against Satan – the Scripture. This ought to goad you to read and meditate upon your Bible. As you hide the Word in your heart and use it in times of temptation, you will find it mightier than Satan. The Bible is described as a “sword of the Spirit;” but it is not a useful sword if it remains on your shelf or in your hand. Open it; read it; pray over it; meditate on it; memorize it! And when your enemy seeks to use his craft against you, you can wield your heavenly sword and snuff out his attempts to get you to fall.


2 thoughts on “Messiah Tempted – Matthew 4:1-11


    Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    In order for Christ to come into this world and be the Savior of the entire world, He had to have a completely laid out divine agenda. By this I mean He had to be submissive to His Father, live a perfect life as a human, suffer, rise from the dead and things of this nature. His birth, life, death were so completely against human logic and reasoning that it is impossible to be the invention of man. I remember hearing a Muslim scholar say “you Christians are trying to tell us that God became a baby, pooped in His pants and nursed from a woman”? This poor lost Muslim was correct in his human logic; it just didn’t make any sense to him. However, God from eternity past did in fact decide the only way Jesus could in fact be our propitiation was to become fully human. Fully human involves all aspects of life: birth, growth, temptations and death. This meditation will consider the temptations Jesus endured as once again showing mankind that He was in fact, fully human. The reasons for this are numerous, so this discussion will basically be limited to some Old Testament prophecies and New Testament realities. Satan and our Savior both quote from Old Testament passages.

    In the book of Hebrews it says that in order for Jesus to be our great high priest, He had to fully understand our temptations and weaknesses. For Him to be fully man, He had to fully understand all facets of humanity of which temptation is the oldest of our frailties. Jesus was completely divine, but He also had the human DNA of His mother, Mary, and therefore although He didn’t suffer from original sin, (the Holy Spirit was His earthly Father) He had human weaknesses and temptations. I have heard Charismatics attempt to list specific temptations that Christ had to overcome that are not noted in scripture. I think that is unnecessary and perhaps unhealthy, so I will only deal with the temptations as voiced by Satan and responded to by Christ. It is sufficient to say that all temptations are included in Christ’s temptations; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. However, it is also true that not everyone is drawn to sexual perversions or other types of sins, and unless we are drawn to something, it really can’t be a temptation. I have no urge to kill someone, therefore killing can’t be a temptation for me. That makes sense. But all mankind are tempted in the areas that Jesus was tempted and since Satan himself approached Jesus, as he did Eve in the garden, it is my feelings that Jesus’ temptations were greater than anything mankind can undergo. Lastly, in order for Jesus to be the Messiah, He (His humanity) had to overcome what our first federal head, Adam, did and succeed where Adam failed. Adam succumbed to temptation, Jesus did not. Once again, while this perhaps doesn’t make sense to our way of thinking, it did in the eyes of God.

    I think it is also noteworthy to understand how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations. It today’s world there are many forms of argument, but certainly the most common forms are a sort of give and take interaction. Someone asserts something, the other person disagrees in whole or in part and then attempts at some sort of compromise or middle ground is sought. When Jesus responded to the devil, He did not in any way negotiate or debate Satan’s comments in any way. He simply responded by saying what God wanted Him to do and that was it. I have heard many people in our modern world say that drawing a line in the sand is tantamount to demonizing the others argument. Or they say people shouldn’t say their truths are absolute and if they are unwilling to debate or discuss them their inflexibility can constitute a sort of hate speech. Well, my dear friends, that is exactly what Jesus did and since He is our example that should be our approach to temptations.

    Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
    In verse one it is clear that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of Him being tempted. In order for the Son of Man to be the Messiah, He had to overcome what our first Adam did not achieve, mainly sinless perfection. This temptation was necessary and foreordained of God. Could Jesus have sinned? The answer is of course not, but to show/prove His divinity He had to demonstrate His superiority over sin, and to serve as our example He had to be tempted in all areas that tempt us. A mystery indeed!

    2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

    I don’t believe Jesus’ fast was a spiritual fast in the sense that He wanted to strengthen Himself to withstand Satan’s assault. I believe He was simply in the wilderness and therefore had no food to eat. However, there is nothing wrong with adopting the approach that He was preparing Himself for Satan by not eating for these 40 days. But consider that human weakness heightens temptations.

    3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

    Satan came to Jesus at His weakest moment. This is what occurs whenever the people of God are tempted. I am usually never tempted in areas where I am not weak. It is when I am weak that I am tempted to disregard what the Lord tells me to do or to not trust Him to meet my needs. It is interesting that Satan goads Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God when he certainly knew it and Jesus was certainly aware of who He was. It would have also not been a sin for Jesus if He had in fact turned stones into bread, prior to Satan’s visit but to obey Satan’s suggestion was unthinkable. It would not have even been difficult for Him as even Satan noted. But, it would have been a sin for Jesus to do anything that was not in His Father’s will. If Jesus had turned the stones into bread, He would have been obeying Satan and not trusting His Father to provide for Him. Those who are not in Christ will always do whatever is necessary to survive regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Like the crusaders used to say if they were captured, convert and repent later. Jesus was hungry probably to the point of death, He had the power to solve His problem apart from reliance upon God, but He refused.

    This temptation and Jesus response also was a reference to an Old Testament passage and circumstance that God’s people underwent during the exodus. They failed their test and grumbled against God saying He was not loving and/or sovereign enough to provide for their needs. Jesus did not succumb to this line of reasoning even when He was at the point of death. The lust or needs of the flesh had no power over Him. See below.


    Deuteronomy 8:3 “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

    5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,

    Notice that Satan had the power to take Jesus into the holy city to tempt Him. We may not understand this, but it is the same as in the Garden of Eden and it is also a concept that is clearly revealed in the book of Job. God will not ever tempt us, but He will allow Satan, this world, and our flesh to tempt us when necessary.

    6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON {their} HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ ”

    7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’ ”

    Once again it is odd that Satan would use the term “if” You are the Son of God since it is clear that He fully understood what he was doing, otherwise he wouldn’t have even been there. This was all arranged by the Holy Spirit, so Satan would have been fully aware of what was taking place. Satan was also aware of the Old Testament passage in Psalms where it is noted that God would send angels to protect the Messiah if necessary. Satan will use scripture and truth to accomplish his sinister goals when he can do it. If Jesus had obeyed Satan’s command to throw Himself down, He would have been guilty of tempting God. Yes, God would have protected Him, after all Jesus was the eternal Son of God, but Jesus had laid aside His transcendence and took on the form of a servant to the point of being fully human. In order for Jesus to be perfect in all ways, tempting His heavenly Father would have never been an option. Pride of life was something that was not part of Jesus’ earthly walk and mission. See below for additional scriptures regarding angels and their potential role.

    Psalms 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. 12. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

    Matthew 26:53 “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

    8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;

    9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

    Satan’s final test for our Lord and Savior is probably something that none of us can relate to. Jesus as the Son of God knew and understood that He would have to die for the sins of mankind. It is inconceivable for any of us to imagine absolute perfection suddenly having the sins of the entire world placed on them. When this was done, His heavenly Father actually forsook Him which is also something that is incomprehensible for our human sinful minds to comprehend. Jesus fully knows and understands what will take place since He knew that His mission in this world was to be born, live a perfect life, and then lay down His life in an extremely cruel way. Here Satan is offering Him His reward without the necessity of suffering! Satan is the temporary ruler of this world and in all probability he felt he could have done what he was telling Jesus he would do. Give Him a kingdom without suffering at the expense of you and I. But, of course Satan demanded a caveat along with his offer. Jesus had to fall down and worship him. This was the final straw and Jesus had apparently had enough of Satan’s nonsense. Worshipping anyone other than His heavenly Father was incomprehensible regardless of the reward. Did He even debate this, of course not. “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul”, is something that Jesus Himself warned the rest of mankind. We should all realize that this last temptation also mirrors the temptations that mankind will encounter during the tribulation period. How many will worship the antichrist to gain their lives and collectively gain the whole world? See below verses for additional thoughts:

    Luke 4:5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6.And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

    1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

    Matthew 16:26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

    1 John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

    Deuteronomy 6:13 “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.

    Deuteronomy 10:20 “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.

    John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

    10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’ ”

    Jesus finally shows His power over Satan and by extension over His entire demonic domain. His temptation in the wilderness is over and He has of course perfectly obeyed and worshipped God. The lust of the eyes had no power over our High Priest and Savior. He simply dismisses Satan without fanfare or any semblance of respect. Satan didn’t argue or offer any resistance at all. This will be the characteristics at the end of the age when Christ will say to the lost, “depart from me, I never knew you”. This final dismissal will once again not result in a response from those being dismissed.

    11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and {began} to minister to Him.

    It might be significant to realize here that Jesus was probably at the point of death during His temptations. With that said, God now provides what Jesus needs in a miraculous supernatural way. Jesus could have called upon these angels Himself at any time, but then He would not have trusted in His heavenly Father. No one who has ever lived could have withstood Satan’s attack, but our Savior did it without complaint or even debate. He understood what was to take place and He perfectly obeyed in thought, intent, and deed!

    It is important to make some last comments at this point. Although it would have been impossible for Jesus to have sinned, the legal issue of His perfection had to be played out as part of God’s requirements. Jesus did become fully man and was fully tempted in all ways that we are, but without sin. It is not likely that we will ever be able to fully understand what His temptations meant to Him, but that isn’t important at all. The main thing we should understand it that He was perfect in our place and His temptations were not only to accomplish a legal issue, but also to let us know that He had indeed lived the perfect life in our place. It is simply the Genesis account replayed for our benefit. In the beginning Satan approached Eve and then Adam and led them to rebel against God. In the end Satan was called upon again, but this time our perfect substitute of course did not fail. Whether we can understand it or not, He was fully human and succeeded whereas our first parents did not.

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