This is the first encounter that Jesus had right after His baptism, right after beginning His ministry.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
- Jesus went into the wilderness to fast. He had just been baptized. He was praying about His future ministry. For 30 years He had just been working as a carpenter in Joseph’s shop. But now the tenor of His life was about to change. He was now to embark on the ministry for which He was sent to this earth. And so Jesus has been fasting for 40 days.
- You know there are physical as well as spiritual benefits to fasting. How long have you fasted for before? The most that I have ever fasted was 5 days. But Jesus was fasting not for health reasons. He was fasting to know God’s will and to be strengthened for the future plans.
At the end of the 40 days, Christ was already hungry. That’s what we are told in verse 2. It is at this point that the devil comes.
- Matthew 4:3
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
- Turning stone into bread was the first temptation.
First, we have to look at why there would have been anything wrong with turning stone into bread.
- Why would Jesus have “sinned” here if He followed what the devil suggested.
- Let’s start with the words that came before the temptation. It is what the devil started with that made this sound all wrong.
- What did he say?
- “If you are the Son of God.”
- If you are the Son of God, turn the stone into bread.
- So what the devil was asking was proof that He was the Son of God. Why was this wrong though? How come Jesus could not prove that He was the Son of God by this miracle?
- Well, what had happened just before this? Just before Jesus went up to fast for 40 days, what had happened?
- Matthew 3:16-17
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
- Jesus was baptized. And when He came up out of the water, He heard His Father’s voice from heaven saying what?
- “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Jesus already had evidence that He was the Son of God. He didn’t need to turn stone into bread to prove it. His proof was in the voice of His Father that He heard at His baptism. That’s what we call faith!
- Jesus had to exercise faith at this point when the devil came to Him with those words. And it wouldn’t be the last time He would be tempted with those words. But if Jesus had turned the stone into bread, it would have shown that He was doubting the words of His Father at His baptism!
This first temptation that Satan came to Jesus with was such a strong temptation. Many people in the Bible before had fallen to such a temptation. What was it? Appetite. Allowing the appetite to control you.
- Jesus was being attacked on 2 fronts.
- FIRST – the temptation to doubt His Father’s word.
- SECONDLY – the temptation to just simply turn the stone into bread because He was so hungry.
- 1 Corinthians 15:22
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
- Christ had to overcome where Adam and Eve fell, where humanity failed. He had to conquer where Adam allowed sin into the earth.
- Countless millions have been overcome by appetite. And it is on this point that Satan is still so successful today. Majority of the diseases we have today are a result of intemperance – eating and drinking things we are not supposed to, or even over-eating.
- Think about it – tumors, cancers, high-blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes. All this is from the sin of intemperance. They even said that COVID was from something we weren’t supposed to eat!
- In the Bible we see different people that have fallen because of the sin of intemperance:
- Adam and Eve.
- Aaron’s son – Nadab and Abihu.
- Eli’s sons – Hophni and Phinehas.
- For Jesus to turn the stone into bread would be to use His own power for selfish purposes. That was not the reason why He came. He HAD to overcome on this point where Adam failed.
So how did Jesus overcome?
- Matthew 4:4
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.
- He countered the temptation with scripture. We are to live by every word from God. And where did Jesus hear the word of God? It was back at His baptism.
- He had to rely on the evidence that He had there, rather than to prove it all again in time of temptation. Jesus had to live by faith just as we do today.
Now on to the second temptation.
- Matthew 4:5-6
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 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.
- So now the devil hears Jesus quoting scripture and so Satan throws scripture at Him.
- 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.
- Satan knows the Bible. But he won’t give you a Bible study so you can be saved. Oh, he will give you a Bible study alright, just so you can misinterpret the scripture, wrongly apply it and be lost!
- Where did the devil quote the Bible from? Which passage of scripture was it?
- Psalms 91:11-12
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
- Psalms 91:11-12
- Now let’s compare these 2 texts.
- Matthew 4:6 is where the devil speaks.
- Psalms 91:11-12 is where he quotes it from.
- What is the difference? Not word-for-word difference. But where is the difference in thought?
- In Matthew 4, Satan omits something that Psalms 91 mentions. In Psalms 91 it says that God would give us His angels to watch over us “to keep thee in all thy ways.”
- Whose ways? Not our ways. But the ways of God.
- Look, God can only help us when we walk according to His will. Just because we pray for God’s protection, it doesn’t mean that He will protect us.
- What do I mean by this?
- If you go rob the bank, and you pray just before that for protection so that you won’t be caught, do you think that God will protect you? Of course not right!?
- If you pray for protection just before you drive your car, and then you zoom down the road at 300 km/hr, do you think God will protect you? No, it would be presumptuous to think that!
- When we pray, we must pray according to God’s will. And when we live, we must live according to God’s will. When we step out of God’s will, and we still try to apply God’s promises to our lives, how can God answer? That’s what we call presumption.
- In this case, Jesus has been brought up to the pinnacle of the temple and the devil is tempting Him to jump off, and claim Psalms 91. Just jump Jesus! And then call on God to send His angels so they will catch you.
- Look, Jesus in His ministry does walk on water. He does many miracles. But none of those miracles were for Him or for a selfish purpose. Everything that Jesus did in His life was all within the limits of God’s will for Him. He never went beyond what God the Father wanted Him to do or even say!
- Moreover, the devil starts this whole temptation again with what?
- If you are the Son of God. Surely if you are the Son of God, the Father will not allow you to die, He will send His angels, He will protect you right? Go on Jesus, throw yourself off!
How did Jesus reply:
- Matthew 4:7
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
- Once again, Jesus counters with an It is written. The scripture is our only safeguard. That’s the only way that Jesus fought against the devil and won!
What important lesson can we learn from this second temptation?
- If we read scripture, we must make sure we don’t misquote it otherwise we may act presumptuously on something that God didn’t promise. So even though we counter the devils temptation with scripture, we must make sure we quote it correctly!
- In the very beginning when the devil came to tempt Eve. God had said don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When you eat it, you will surely die.
- How did Eve reply the snake? She said God said don’t eat it OR touch it! She added the words touch! And from there, she put herself in a whole lot of trouble that eventually led her to eventually eat the fruit.
And finally the third temptation:
- Matthew 4:8-9
8 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; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
- This time the devil doesn’t even say anymore – IF you are the Son of God. He just tells Jesus to worship him and he will give him all the kingdoms of the world.
- He was trying to tempt Jesus to take the easy way out. Don’t need to die for the world. Tempting Him with power – a path less sacrificial to get the whole world back.
- The devil wanted Jesus to worship him! Something that he had been trying to do from the very beginning before he was thrown out of heaven.
What lesson can we learn from this third temptation of the devil?
- Satan come outright to get Jesus to disobey the ten commandments. Every time we resist temptation, it comes out stronger and more bold in its demands to go against God and His law.
- The first 2 temptations Satan only seemed to insinuate his aims. He didn’t fully unmask who he was yet. He just said – If you are the Son of God.
- But in this third temptation, all disguise is thown away. The devil is desperate. Just bow down and worship me!
Let’s look at the temptations:
- Temptation number 1 – appetite.
- Temptation number 2 – presumption.
- Temptation number 3 – power and riches.
You know, we all have these temptations in our own hearts.
- Many of us just love to eat, not knowing that one day it’s all going to catch up to us. Let’s not deceive ourselves – whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap as well. Appetite is just such a strong temptation for all of us. Why? We need to eat in order to live. And not only that, we need to eat 3 times a day. For some it’s more isn’t it? You can even eat too much of a good thing!
- How does this affect so many of us?
- Well, we want God to be with us. So we read His word. And in the Bible we find so many rich people.
- We want to be like Abraham – 400 servants.
- We want to be like king Solomon – so many wives and concubines.
- We want to be like Samson – so strong!
- We aspire to be like the great men in the Bible that had so much worldly possessions and things that we want today. So we take shortcuts in God’s word. We try to take matters into our own hands.
- We want to be rich like Solomon so we pray for riches, we pray for money, we pray for bigger salaries. We forget that Solomon never prayed for that. He prayed for wisdom!
- We like to take God’s blessings without conditions. And as a result, we begin to pray out of His will. And eventually, we end up not living according to God’s will.
- We want power. We want the easy way out. We like to take shortcuts to wealth, fame and power. And so if we don’t get it at Christ’s altar, so many of us are willing to buy it down at the altar of Satan because we become desperate. We try to tell ourselves that the end justifies the means. It’s ok, so long as I fulfilled what God promised me, it doesn’t matter how I got there.
- But not so with Christ. He stuck to the plan of salvation. He took the only path that would bring true redemption to fallen humanity. It’s not that He took the hard way. But Christ took the ONLY way that was possible.
What is the solution to all of this? How did Christ overcome?
- It is written. He quote scripture!
- Finally at the end Jesus said:
- Matthew 4:10-11
10 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. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
- Matthew 4:10-11
- The scripture is our only safeguard.
- Yes, the Bible can help us with our appetites and passions.
- It can hold in check how much we eat and what we eat if we believe it and are willing to allow those words to reside in our hearts. It will give us strength of will-power to do God’s pleasure even though we have been living a certain way all our lives.
- The Bible can help us with presumption.
- When you pray for wisdom and spend more time in the Bible, you can see clearly how God wants you to live this life. If not, at least He will guide you to someone who can direct you or teach you or show you. When you are spending time in God’s word every day, giving Him the best of your time, He will show you clearly how to live so that you aren’t presumptuous!
- And yes the Bible can help us with our desire of power, fame and fortune!
- When you spend time in God’s word, God can give you a heart that is content, a heart that is humble. A heart that has its priorities correct – focused on God and to worship God.
From the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He gave us the tools on how to overcome the devil and every temptation.
- It is written. It is written. It is written.
- But how can it be practical for us today? Where do we start? Start memorizing scripture. Jesus didn’t have the Bible with Him when He was being tempted by the devil. He quoted it from memory. Which means, He had spent so much time with the Bible and He COULD quote it.
- He didn’t have the Bible memorized because He was the Son of God. Every advantage that Christ had back then is offered to us today. We need to spend that time. We need to be saturated with God’s thoughts and not our own so that we can begin to live His life and not ours.
So as we study into the encounters that Jesus had with different people, may we find ourselves encountering Jesus ourselves. God bless each of you!