The Expository Files


That's Very Tempting“

...if you are the Son of God... "

 Matthew 4:1-11

It was just after His baptism by John and just before he began His three year earthly ministry that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There He fasted forty days and nights. Mark describes Him as being "with wild beasts" (Mark 1:13).

It was during this time that Jesus went toe-to-toe with Satan. Two “ultimate fighters” facing one another on a spiritual plane. There was the usurper who had assumed the title “god of this world” and “prince of the power of the air” the bringer of death and destruction versus the Son of God; the Creator and Life -giver; the way, the truth and the life.

We can find the Biblical account of this bout recorded by three different writers of the New Testament (Matthew 4:1-11; see also Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13).

Round One
Satan tempted Jesus to "command that these stones become bread." Having been fasting in the wilderness as led to do by the Holy Spirit, Satan knew that Jesus, as a man of flesh and bones, would be susceptible to hunger. No longer protected in heaven's spiritual realm and surrounded by angels, Satan approached Jesus with a proposition. Jesus was now in what Satan considered “his house”.

The Devil appealed to Jesus' natural needs and invited Jesus to turn the stones to bread and break His fast and soothe His hunger.

Jesus' response was, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," (Matthew 4:4). Jesus quoted the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 8:3), and in doing so, laid out a principle of righteousness so plainly that it would be difficult to miss it. Man does not set aside the commandment of God for convenience sake. God had led Him into the wilderness to fast, and that is what Jesus would do until God released Him. What a profound respect Jesus had for God's word-all of them-in every situation.

Round one goes to Jesus, the Son of God Most High.

Round Two
In the next temptation, Satan took Jesus to the holy city and placed Him on the pinnacle of the temple. Satan told Jesus that if He was the Son of God, He could cast Himself down. In fact, having watched Jesus closely the previous round, Satan sought to exploit what he considered might be a weakness. Jesus had quoted Scripture, so Satan quoted a verse as well. Let's see how Jesus handles this one!

Satan quoted from the Psalms (Matthew 4:6). "If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give His angels charge concerning You'; and 'On their hands they will bear You up, Lest You strike Your foot against a stone.'"

The Psalm that Satan chose was Psalm 91:11-12. It spoke of the security of the faithful under the protection of God. He will provide angels to protect and defend. We recall how the poor man, upon his death, was taken to paradise by angels (Luke 16:22) and how angels are referred to as “ministering servants sent out to render service” to believers (Hebrews 1:14).

Jesus resisted and responded with another verse -- "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matthew 4:7,8). This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16. It was not that these two passages were in conflict with one another, but that Satan had misused the Scripture to justify something that was unjustifiable. The purpose of the passage quoted by Satan had nothing to do with jumping off tall buildings, or any other kind of foolish behavior. To do as Satan had said would be to try to push and manipulate God into action. We are the servants of God; He is not our puppet on a string.

Round two goes to Jesus, the Son of God Most High.

Round Three
Well, having lost the first two rounds, Satan needed a knock out, and so, he went for it. In a third temptation, Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him a vision of "all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time (Luke 4:5), and "the glory of them" (Matthew 4:8). Satan, the “god of this world” offered these to Jesus in exchange for Jesus' worship of him. It was an effort by Satan to appeal to a lust for power. Instead of eventually being put to death by the world, Jesus would simply rule over it-all of it.

Jesus responded by saying, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (Matthew 4:10). Others may worship at the feet of Satan, but the victory this day would go to Jesus, the Son of God!

After these temptations, Satan departed for a while. This suggests that Jesus would be tempted again. But for now, angels ministered unto Him (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:11). Jesus would not relinquish His crown. The Son of God Most High would one day leave this world as undefeated champion.

Some After-Match Commentary
False teachers quote scripture. Scripture can be distorted. Just because someone is quoting Scripture does not mean he is making the correct application of them. “That's just your interpretation” or “Everybody interprets the Bible differently.” Actually, the truth is truth, and there is only one correct interpretation of truth. Satan was not entitled to his own interpretation. That was a MIS-interpretation. It was wrong; it was not an alternative way to be right (2 Peter 3:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 1:6,7).

Temptations appeal to natural human desires. Nothing wrong with desire in itself… no sin in having desires. But to break God's laws to satisfy desire is sin. Satan could not create within Jesus the willingness to even consider violating His Father's will in order to satisfy His desires. Why did Satan fail? Because of Jesus' perfect moral excellence… there was no darkness in Him… not even a momentary confusion about whether He would violate God's command or not (1 John 1:5; John 1:1-4,9). The nearer we get to that same perfect moral excellence, the more successful we will be.

Jesus possessed great power, but did not use it improperly. Just because one has the ability and opportunity to do a thing does not make it the right thing to do. Jesus understood this, but many do not (Herod, Judas, Pilate; Many today… the rightness or wrongness of a thing is determined by God's word (James 1:21,22).
When tempted, Jesus resisted and quoted scripture. He used Scripture properly and so should we (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

Finally, Jesus was tempted in all things, just as we are. This equips Him with experience so that He understands on a very personal level what it is to be tempted, and enables Him to be our perfect High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15).

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.3; March 2009