Our lesson this week picks up right where we left off in our Sunday School lesson last week. You may recall that I stated in last week’s lesson that I would cover the final verses of last week’s lesson in this week’s lesson. The final two verses of last week’s lesson picked up immediately after Jesus’ baptism with Him going into the wilderness for forty days. It would be after this that Jesus would be tempted by Satan.
Tempted by Satan
In Matthew’s gospel, we are specifically told that Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Spirit where He had fasted forty days and forty nights (vss.1-2). There are a couple of things that I do want to touch on from these two verses.
Jesus’ human nature
The first thing I want to point out about the temptation of Jesus is how human Jesus appears here. We know that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, but something I always point out about Christ is that He, on earth, was God in the flesh. The significance of Jesus being God in the flesh was something we spoke of last quarter with Jesus being our High Priest.
The writer of Hebrews said that our High Priest is one that can sympathize with our weaknesses as He was in all points tempted as we are (Heb. 4:15). Yes, Jesus, in the flesh, was holy and divine as He is God, but while in the flesh, He was still flesh and blood. So, I love when scripture points out the human side that after fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry – He was starving! You see, this is something that all of us can relate to because we know how we would feel if we were to go on a forty day and forty night fast.
Something else I want to point out about this side of Jesus is how He was led, like we are, by the Spirit. Again the Spirit’s role in our life is to be there for us and guide us on our journey (John 14:15-18). Where the Spirit leads us, we should certainly go.
Now, what’s very interesting about Jesus’ temptation is that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil. Some may wonder, did the Spirit lead Jesus into temptation?
Some may believe that the Lord led Jesus into temptation but let us remember what we learned from James’ letter, God does not tempt anyone to sin (Jas. 1:13). However, as we learned, we are all going to have trials and tribulation that requires us to remain faithful and trust in the Lord. In those trials and tribulations, we learned that God will comfort us and that we will overcome. As we know through Job, the Lord does permit us to have afflictions, trials, and tribulation so that He may be glorified through our overcoming.
So, we are told that after forty days and forty nights, when Jesus was hungry, that the tempter – Satan – came to Him (v.3). Let us not overlook when the devil came to tempt (entice) Jesus; he came when Jesus was in a physically weakened state.
Peter, I believe, described the way the devil attacks the best. Peter said that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Lions, you should understand, much rather hunt and stalk their prey in a weakened state so that the kill is an easy kill. The devil saw Jesus in a physically weakened state and thought the time was right for him to go on attack but little did he realize that Jesus was still incredibly strong.
Think back again to what I have referenced recently about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Paul prayed on his affliction three times because he thought he was in such a weakened state that it hindered him. Though he may have been weak physically, the Lord said that He was strong in our weakness and will lift us up (2 Cor. 12:7-10). You and I can be going through some things physically, mentally, and emotionally that may weaken us but through our faith, spiritually, we will always be strong.
So, the devil thought he was attacking someone who was weak, but he was going to learn that in His physical weakness, Jesus was still very strong to withstand him.
Temptations of the devil
Let us look at the devil’s temptations because in each of these temptations, we will see how he tempts us. In his first temptation of Christ, the devil tempted Jesus to end his hunger by turning stones into bread. So, the devil enticed Jesus with a test that was of the flesh to see if Jesus would give in to the flesh in a weakened state. This, again, is a test that the devil tempts us with to see if we will cave and give in to the lusts of the flesh.
At this temptation from the devil, Jesus chose to live by the word of God and said to Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (v.4).” To overcome temptation that is of the flesh, we must live by the word of God. When I say live by the word of God, I mean that we should be obedient to the Lord’s instructions and give in to disobedience.
The devil, again, thought that Jesus was in a physically weakened state but he immediately learned that he was not nearly as weak as he thought. So, the devil took Jesus on the pinnacle (the top) of the temple and tempted Him to test the Father (v.5). The devil said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up…(v.6)’”
This temptation of the devil was no longer about a test of the flesh; it was more so a spiritual test of the faith. The reason I say this is because Satan was enticing Jesus to put His life on the line to see if the Father would protect Him. When I think about it more, I consider that in this temptation of faith, the devil was putting God’s love to the test as well.
To this temptation, Jesus responded, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God (v.7).’” Again, notice that Jesus remains faithful by living by the word of God. When we live by the word of God, then something we know is that the Lord loves us and that He is always going to be with us. So, in this spiritual test of our faith, it’s not really a test when you know the Lord; the Lord has already done so much for us that there would be no need for us to ever test Him.
Sadly, some people do give in to this temptation and they end up putting God to the test. Should the Lord not move in a manner that they desire, then they will say that the Lord does not love them; this is the exact type of response that the devil desires. I mentioned Job earlier, and in his trying of Job, this was the kind of response the devil desired from him – to curse God (Job 1:9-11). Let me tell you, when you begin to think that the Lord does not love you, you are essentially cursing Him.
Since he could not entice Jesus through the flesh or spiritually, we will see the devil tempt Jesus in one more effort. Satan took Jesus, this time, to an exceedingly high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world (v.8). The devil then offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he were to bow down and worship him (v.9).
The devil, I would suggest, combined his efforts from the first two tests in what would now become more of a mental challenge to break Jesus. I say a combination of the first two temptations because the devil clearly offers something that is of the flesh by offering Jesus the riches of the world. Then, the devil challenged Jesus spiritually by saying he would give him the world if he committed the ultimate sin of worshiping someone that is not the Lord.
Do you see how mentally taxing – psychological – this test is? The psychological test is one I believe we are often faced with because life can become so mentally taxing on us that even the little things can get to us. This is why I often tell you to pray for your health in every facet of your being – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – because we must be in the best health we can to withstand the devil.
To this test, notice that Jesus, again, remained steadfast in the word of God. Jesus said to Satan, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (v.10).’ ” After hearing this, the devil left Him because he could not prevail against Jesus.
Strengthened by the Lord
By the word of God, if you remain steadfast in it and live by it, you can and will prevail over Satan. If you’re not living by the word of God, you will inevitably be overcome by Satan. Now, truthfully, we as believers are going to falter along the way but through our faith, the Lord will uphold us. As the proverb says, a righteous man may fall seven times but he will rise again while the wicked will fall by calamity (Prov. 24:16).
Jesus was tempted while He was in the flesh but He did not sin. Even though He did not sin, we will see that after Satan’s temptations, the angels came and ministered to Him (v.11). Though we may not see them, I believe that we are also ministered to by angels and through the Spirit when it comes to our temptations, afflictions, and burdens. It is said in Isaiah, those that wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed and they shall run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint (Is. 40:31).
After He was tempted, scripture tells us that Jesus moved forward in the strength of the Spirit (Luke 4:14); we should move forward through life leaning and depending on the same strength of the Holy Spirit. Our lesson closes out with Jesus choosing not to minister in the wilderness of Judea. Jesus, we are told, had heard John the Baptist had been put in prison (v.12).
Let us remember that John the Baptist preached and baptized in Judea, near the Jordan, which is where Jesus had just been baptized about a month and a half ago. So, during that stretch of time, the religious leaders finally made their move against John the Baptist. Guess who would be at the forefront of ministering the name of God and who would now face the brunt of the religious leaders.
Jesus’ time was nowhere near to being up at that point, in fact, His ministry was just beginning. We are told that Jesus left Judea and went to Galilee. In Luke’s gospel, Luke speaks of how Jesus began ministering there and news of Him began to spread through all the surrounding regions (Luke 4:14).
Matthew’s gospel makes a brief mention of Jesus leaving Nazareth and going to dwell in Capernaum to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy but something happened in Nazareth that I want to mention (vss.13-14). In Nazareth, Jesus read prophecy from Isaiah that spoke of the Messiah and said to the people that said scripture was fulfilled. The people of Nazareth were “filled with wrath” and they threw Him out of the city and were ready to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-31)!
Jesus was rejected by His own hometown! He passed through that angry crowd and then made His way to Capernaum and ministered there. So, Jesus’ ministry did not get off to the easiest start did it? Right after He was baptized, He was tested by Satan! Satan always seems to test us right away after we have achieved a spiritual high, doesn’t he? Then, after all this, when He began to minister, He faced opposition from His own people!
Yet, the Lord was with Him and He overcame. Let that be the lesson we learn today: through everything we go through, the Lord is always going to be with us. Because the Lord is always with us, we should not worry about Him forsaking us but we should be concerned about not forsaking Him. It is when we would forsake the Lord that the devil will have his way with us and we will be defeated.