1 Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. 2 After spending 40 days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. 3 Then the Devil came to him and said,
“If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” 4 But Jesus answered, “The Scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’ ” 5 Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the Scripture says: ‘God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’ ” 7 Jesus answered, “But the Scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. 9 “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him!’ ” 11 Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.
The events we read about today happened early in Jesus’s ministry and were under God’s control, as the first verse makes clear. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus on his divine mission, into the desert. He stays there for 40 days and fasts the whole time. Forty is significant as a time of preparation in the Old Testament. It recalls Moses fasting 40 days on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28) and the Israelites spending 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 29:5-6).
Matthew only tells us about three specific temptations. In the first, the Devil tempts Jesus to use his supernatural power to meet his own physical need. Jesus rejects him, identifying with us; we need more than just physical food. The implication is clear that we also need “spiritual food” from God.
Next, the Devil tempts Jesus to prove his divine nature by throwing himself off the temple so God will send his angels to rescue him. Lastly, he offers to give Jesus power over the nations if he will worship him. Jesus really had come to save people from the Devil’s control, but not this way.
These three examples illustrate the core of every temptation: the desire to push God aside, to regard him as secondary and redundant, relying solely on one’s own strength, and to put the world right without God.
The Devil’s cunning deceptions don’t deceive Jesus, even when he uses Scripture itself (Psalm 91:11-12) to tempt him. Jesus in turn rejects every temptation with Scripture, quoting successively from Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16 and 6:13. Authentic interpretation of a portion of Scripture must be consistent with the whole of Scripture.
The essence of all temptation is the offer of an appealing alternative to God’s way of doing things. This is true for Jesus and for us.
What helped Jesus overcome these temptations? What lessons can we learn to help us overcome the temptations we face?
What do you think Jesus means when he quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3 in Matthew 4:4? Do you consider God’s Word an essential part of your daily food? How do you let God’s Word nourish you?
What are the day-to-day temptations that you face?
“Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” – Psalm 51:10, 12. Psalm 51 offers us a way to come before God in repentance and ask for his forgiveness. Read the whole Psalm and allow your own prayer to flow to God.
As we start this season of Lent we look forward to Jesus’s victory on the Cross over sin so that we can enjoy salvation living. Meditate on these wonderful words from Romans 5:15, 17: “… but God’s grace is much greater …”
All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with Him will rule in life through Christ.
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