After His baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and fasted. “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matthew 3: 2-11 NIV).
We all have been tempted and tested. We are experts at it (for good or ill). So, let’s examine Jesus’ case to see if it was indeed a temptation, and if so how He dealt with it.
The first test is straight forward. Jesus is starving. Satan challenges Him with a taunt. “If you are the Son of God [prove it].” This is a double temptation! Jesus was in all ways human, and as such, the possibility of food was a real temptation – a temptation familiar to all of us [to fill our human needs]. But, to make it more taxing there is the implied dare – “Go ahead show your power . . . IF.” Jesus responds in an exemplary manner. He shows that while human He is still divine by refusing the food, and he also shows that He will not rise to the taunt – but responds with scripture showing that God and His word fulfills needs beyond those of the mere physical. He shows the primacy of God’s provision in our lives, and at the same time in His refusal to give into the physical He reaffirms His son-ship!
The second temptation amounted to a short cut. Have you ever been tempted by the “easy option?” Jesus came “to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).” His mission, His ministry, and message was to call people to righteousness. Satan suggests to Him, if He throws himself off the temple, then all would see His miraculous survival. People will flock to Him because such a public display of His messiah-ship. Satan further challenges Jesus by using the source of His previous answer against Him by quoting scripture himself. Jesus again resists this “easy” route by using a counter-scripture, one which puts Satan’s passage into context. “Don’t test God.” What I like about this response is that it not only rejects the temptation of a shortcut, but also serves as a warning to Satan. In a sense, “Stop testing me [God].”
Third temptation is in many ways the most controversial. Satan offers Jesus another shortcut. This time, however, he adds an offer. He here plays on Jesus’ human fears and survival instinct. Jesus (and Satan) well knew that in the end, Jesus’ mission would require His death. If Jesus was to save a sinful world, He would have to redeem them with His own blood (1 Peter 1:18-20). Here the devil says: “I will give them to you. You don’t have to die. All you need do, is worship me.” I said this is controversial. Here is why. Scripture clearly says this is a temptation, for it to be such it must be within Satan’s ability to deliver. It is a frightening thought that our fate without Christ is in the control of Satan. Jesus’ response is to refuse Satan’s offer, again quoting the Bible. He is in effect saying, I will serve my Father, I will die to fulfill my mission. “Not my will [or yours, Satan], but [His].”
Perhaps too many people lightly wear WWJD slogans. But, the example is clear – What would Jesus do when tempted. He ignored taunts, physical needs, shortcuts, and fears. Instead, He first seeks scripture as guidance, then He follows it, and ultimately does it God’s way.
What are our challenges today? Whatever they are – we have a model to follow.