Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in [their] hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.Matt. 4:1-11
The temptation of Jesus is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke. The above scriptures present many thoughts and complexities from which to build a Bible Study upon. In refuting the three temptations of Jesus from the devil, one could write about the scripture Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. Interestingly, these were some of the commandments the ancient Israelites received from the Lord after their time in the wilderness, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness.” [Deut. 8:2]
Another idea for a Bible Study on the temptation of Jesus could be built upon the parallel scenes of the wilderness for Israel and now with Jesus. Does not temptation tend to come to us during our own moments in life in our own proverbial wilderness? There is little wonder to this since a most notable prophet once described the world like a wilderness during the fall and fallout of Satan centuries before, “[That] made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof. “[ Is. 14:17a]
At certain times while reading scripture though, one should ask deeper and more meaningful questions on why these events took place. From there, consideration should be given to see how several different events may actually come together in fulfillment of the overall purpose and mission of Jesus. With these points in mind, let us piece together a few events from previous studies to learn about their collective context on the temptation of Jesus.
First, a woman gave birth to a child as conceived by the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:35]. The child was called Christ the Lord and was destined to save his people from their sins [Luke 2:11, Matt.1:21]. Wise men brought unique gifts to the child called King of the Jews [Matt. 2:2, 11]. John the Baptist led the way for the coming Messiah (Christ) [Matt. 3:1-12]. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to fulfill all righteousness [Matt. 3:15]. The presence of the triune God with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit took place during the baptism of Jesus [Matt. 3:13-17]. Now we have the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness [Matt. 4:1-11], much as the ancient Israelites found themselves in the wilderness as noted above in [Deut. 8:2].
Given this context and with the quest for collective meaning, this study on the temptation of Jesus will therefore expound upon two themes from this week’s scripture. First, we will see that Jesus is the only one who will save his people from their sins since he was the only sinless person who ever existed. We will see how his temptation in the wilderness proved his sinless character. The second point is how the tempter’s attempts at trying to thwart God’s plan of redemption were futile. No surprise in that since God’s plan was preordained before the foundation of the world [1 Pet. 1:20].
Several scriptural references will be used to build upon these two themes. While verses may be plenteous and albeit a bit exhaustive at times, the intent is to curate a congruent line of thought in presenting the Lord Jesus Christ before us in all his glory. With that said, let us embark on the journey of the temptation of Jesus as noted in the Bible.
Readers may wonder at the onset why Jesus was tempted by the devil given that he is the only begotten Son of God [John 1:18, 3:16]. The temptation of Jesus though was pertaining more to his human nature while on earth and not his divine nature, since it is written, “…God cannot be tempted with evil.” [James 1:13]
While the latter part of this study will show the devil’s intent was and always has been evil, let us first delve into scripture highlighting the human nature of Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” [Phil. 2:6-9]
So here after all of the above noted events had transpired, Jesus is now out in the wilderness, made in the likeness of men, facing a barrage of temptations from the devil. But wait, this is not just a mere man, for as Paul writes, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” [1 Tim. 3:16] With this statement now made, we are now going to digress into another subject that readers will find has merit and relevance to the study at hand. It was this very God-man who would ultimately fulfill the plan of redemption as the one who knew no sin, but took our sin upon himself, on the cross at Calvary.
The sacrificial atonement of Jesus as the man without sin needs to be underscored as foundational to the Christian faith. Anyone preaching a version of Christianity that excludes his shed blood, death, burial and resurrection as the complete and only atonement for the sins of mankind is preaching a false religion. In essence, they are placing themselves in the position of being their own God and saviour.
A brief look back on Israelite history will help to support the premise and pattern of sacrifices that preceded the sacrifice of Jesus. Sacrificial offerings, or references to such, are woven throughout scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. They were first noted with the offering of an animal to the Lord as pertaining to a sin atonement, “And thou shalt offer every day a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement.” [ Ex. 29:36a] The book of Leviticus then records extensive requirements for the nation of Israel to atone for their sins, principally involving the shedding of blood from animals for, “…without shedding of blood is no remission.” [Heb. 9:22b]
For centuries, this served as a prelude for God to ultimately redeem mankind through his only begotten Son, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all.] ” [Heb. 10:10] This same writer also drew in the correlation between all the previous ancient sacrificial requirements in comparison to the final sacrifice of Jesus, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us.] ” [Heb. 9:12]
Note how the author is careful to highlight the eternal nature of this sacrifice in comparison to the rather endless and temporal sacrifices that were practiced in the Old Testament, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” [Heb.10:4] Christianity is therefore not about mankind redeeming him or herself before a holy God, it is rather God redeeming mankind through himself, “…which he hath purchased with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28] Looking back now to the temptation of Jesus, it can be seen how this was all part of God’s plan for the eternal redemption of mankind by providing the only acceptable sinless sacrifice before a holy God. Let us reinforce this point a bit more from scripture.
Christ the Redeemer
Note how Paul wrote in his other letters about the importance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for, “…Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” [Eph. 5:2b] The description used here brings us back to the former Old Testament sacrifices. Paul then draws in another correlation from earlier sacrifices by relating Jesus as the passover for our sins, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” [ 1 Cor. 5:7b]
All these points mentioned here are tied together by another apostle, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” [1 Pet. 1:18-21] Now why is this message of sacrifice so important to our faith?
As believers in Christ, this sacrificial act reflects the profound exchange that takes place described by Paul, “For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” [2 Cor. 5:21] How great is our wonderful, merciful and loving God before us, to have taken our sin upon himself and in turn placed his righteousness upon us. Any wonder Paul wrote, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6:11]
The apostle John also wrote this verse proclaiming, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” [1 John 4:9] John further wrote, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” [Rev. 1:5b] Returning back to Paul, he now connects how the temptation of Jesus worked as part of his preparation “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.” [ Heb. 4:14-15]
A Living Sacrifice
This study on the temptation of Jesus is indeed part of a larger picture. We will see this same theme and illustration of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb continuing right into the final book of the New Testament, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” [Rev. 7:17] With Christ having now atoned for the sins of humanity, believers in him are now exhorted to live for him, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” [ Rom. 12:1-2] The temptation of Jesus serves as our example to follow him in obedience to God’s will [1 Cor. 10:13].
Let us transition now back to this week’s scripture reading since a second theme stands out during the temptation of Jesus. This theme is the role of the devil, otherwise known as Satan, or in this case, he was called the tempter. During another event, Jesus referred to the devil’s true character while speaking with Jews who persisted in their unbelief and false accusations against him, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of [your] father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” [John 8:44] Let us just ponder upon this scripture for a moment due to its importance and implications.
In terms of absolutes, to think that if there is no truth in the devil, this is incredibly astonishing because in other words the devil is completely and utterly false in all his ways, lacking any sense of truth whatsoever. Secondly, this harmonizes with the fact that he is the father of lies since nothing else can be produced from him as Jesus noted above. This depraved lack of moral character in the devil is personified from the earliest days of human existence, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? ” [Gen.3:1] The serpent of course was the devil himself as the tempter. Much like the casting of doubt over Eve with the quoting of distorted, or tactfully omitted parts of scripture, the devil employed the same approach during the temptation of Jesus.
The devil is clearly the master of doubt, i.e. “Yea, hath God said”, “If thou art the Son of God”, serving as two quick examples from scripture. Surely the devil knew who he was talking to in the wilderness with Jesus since even the devil’s own minions commonly identified who Jesus was, “Saying, Let [us] alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” [Mark 1:24] Further evidence of this is found in this verse “…and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.” [Mark 1:34b]
Again it was recorded from the devils, “And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, [thou] Son of the most high God? ” [Mark 5:7] Still not convinced? This is further noted once more, “And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking [them] suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.” [Luke 4:41] The evidence therefore demonstrates that if his lower level devils knew who Jesus was, then Satan himself was merely exhibiting his true character of being one who is utterly lacking any sense of truth whatsoever in tempting Jesus with the statement, “If thou art the Son of God”.
Trust in the Lord
To close off this Bible Study on the temptation of Jesus, surely all of us could reflect upon moments in our lives when thoughts of temptation came upon us in this manner. At times, they were perhaps listened to and acted upon, instead of learning to trust God in all his ways. This provides a timely mention of a notable verse, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” [Prov. 3:5-6] Was this not the approach taken during the temptation of Jesus? He completely trusted the heavenly Father in providing for his needs during the various temptations, which no doubt appealed to the appetites of his fleshly human nature.
In a world often filled with temptation, a notable and compelling message was given by the apostle John in living for the Lord. Consider how this could reflect in the lives of all believers to bring glory to the Lord Jesus in doing his will, “Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” [1 John 2:15-17]
Finally, let us reflect on Paul’s declaration of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it was through the collective events noted in the above preamble that led to Jesus’ redemption of mankind and his subsequent exaltation, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Phil. 2:9-11] With that, the Bible Study on the temptation of Jesus now comes to an end!
Bible Study Questions
- In this study on the temptation of Jesus, why do you think Jesus only quoted scripture to the devil during his temptations?
- Explain why it was essential for Jesus to be without sin during his earthly life and what does this mean for us?
- List at least three events that occurred in the life of Jesus before he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.
- Find one Bible verse that illustrates the sacrifice Jesus made for us in comparison to Old Testament sacrifices.
- After learning of the tempter’s deceptive methods, how will this impact your life when temptations are encountered?
- Describe a time in your life when you placed your trust in the Lord to overcome temptation.
- Make a mental note on how you could be a living sacrifice in your life every day for the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1-2).