Matthew 4: “The Temptation of Jesus”

If there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s my love for dessert! I seriously love dessert so much that I drug my wife out every night of our honeymoon to have dessert. I never met an ice-cream sundae I didn’t like…you just gotta know.

I can remember the evangelist Michael Benson speaking about his son’s eating habits. He said, “this kid would eat everything, except his vegetables.” One night when his son asked for some dessert, his father looked at his plate and said, “Drew, you didn’t eat your vegetables, to which Drew responded, ‘I’m full.'” Of course confused, his father asked, “How can you eat dessert if you’re full, again, his little son responded, ‘the vegetable part of my stomach is full, but the dessert part is completely empty!'”

Of course this is funny, but think to yourself, what’s your greatest temptation? If you were tempted by anything, what would it be? What could satan use in order to try and get at you?

As we saw in Matthew 3, the baptism of Jesus was to initiate and solidify the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. At the end of the story, we find the dove (Holy Spirit) descending upon Jesus, and Jesus hearing the affirming words of his Father, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy (3:17).” Now, the same Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism, is the same Spirit that will now lead him out into the Wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

The Wilderness

Before we get into the significance of the details regarding Jesus’ time in the wilderness, lets recognize the importance of what’s happening. First of all, Jesus, who didn’t need to be baptized, was baptized as an example on our behalf. Now remember we what we learn about Jesus in the words of Paul in Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT) Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave. This same Jesus is now going to be taken out and tempted in every way possible, in order to show that we serve a High Priest who truly understands everything we’re going through. 

Some may be inclined to believe the Jesus is being led out in order to test if He’s ready for ministry, but that misses the whole point of the temptation. The point wasn’t to test if Jesus was ready, the point was to show that Jesus is indeed ready.

The Temptations

Satan’s plan for Jesus, is exactly the same plan he still uses today for us. His hope is to knock Jesus off balance and trick Him into doing what he (Satan) wants him to do. There are really three key areas of Satan’s attack:

  1. Physical Needs/Desires (v. 3: “Command these stones to become bread…”)
  2. Possessions and Power (v. 6: “Throw yourself down…”)
  3. Pride (v. 9: “All of this can be yours…”)

Here’s an interesting connection: Consider the parallel between what Jesus went through and what the writer John wrote regarding the world’s temptation. 1 John 2:15-16 (NLT) 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

Also, think about the parallel between Jesus’ temptation and the leading of Israel out into the wilderness in Deuteronomy 8:2-3. Remember why they were led out? This passage in Deuteronomy says it was to humble and test the people of Israel. The forty days in the wilderness was a time of testing to prove that Jesus truly was the son of God.

The reality for Jesus is the same reality for you and me today; you can’t be proven to be truly obedient unless you have the opportunity to be truly disobedient.