When Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan river, continuing to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended in a bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon Him. Magnifying this already awesome event, the voice of God spoke from heaven saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). It was immediately after this that the Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). There Jesus fasted for forty days and was hungry and weak (Matt. 4:2). During these forty days in the wilderness, the tempter came to Him. The following are at least some of the lessons we can learn from this account.
First, the tempter comes to us at our weakest moments. It was not a coincidence that the tempter came to Jesus when He had been fasting for forty days and was surely in a weakened condition. Generally speaking, experience has taught us that forty days nears the limits of man’s ability to safely fast. After this, serious health issues arise and death is a real possibility. Jesus was physically and mentally exhausted. When this particular temptation was over, He apparently needed the assistance of the angels, for they are found ministering unto Him (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13). But even in this depleted and weakened condition, Jesus was still able to overcome these temptations.
Second, the tempter comes to us when we least expect it. These temptations came right after Jesus had received approval from God in heaven. It was a glorious moment for the Lord, quite unlike His time on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:45,46). Here, God proclaimed His approval for His beloved Son, as He did at the the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff). It was similar to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when all men proclaimed Him as Messiah. Yet very soon afterword, they were calling for His crucifixion (Matt. 21:8-11; 27:20-25). It was soon after this emotional, glorious and joyous event that satan attacked. Be sober for your adversary as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour ( I Pet. 5:8).
The tempter hits us at our weakest points. Due to His fasting, Jesus was particularly hungry during His wilderness stay (Matt. 4:2). It is no wonder then that the tempter tempted Him to make bread out of stones. Perhaps, in the Lord’s mind, as hungry as He was, when He saw a stone it resembled bread to Him and the tempter used this association to get Jesus to think about actually giving in to this urge. On another occasion, Jesus was anxious about going to Jerusalem and suffering many things at the hand of the priests and being crucified (Matt. 16:21). When Peter urged Him not to go, it was a great temptation to Him and He rebuked Peter for it (Matt. 16:23). He did not need the further hindrances to His work.
The tempter is the tempter, not God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:13,14). Two things to note. First, the devil actively tempts us. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, not God. God does not tempt any man. It is God Who makes a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Second, man, himself, is also responsible, for it is his own lusts that lure him into situations of temptation.
The tempter does not quit tempting. Luke tells us that the tempter departed from Jesus after these temptations but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus said the apostles had continued with Him in His “temptations,” plural, not singular (Luke 22:18). The devil does not let up on us. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Paul says we need the shield of faith to quench, not just one single dart, but “all” the fiery darts (plural) of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We must resist him steadfast in the faith because he will not let up on his attack (I Pet. 5:9).
The tempter can be resisted. In every case, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations. Some have said He could do this because He was divine. But if that is the reason, then He can no longer be our example, for we are not divine (at least not in the same sense He was). Jesus took on Himself the seed of Abraham, being made like unto His brethren in all things that He might destroy the devil and his work (Heb. 2:14-18). He was tempted in all points “like as we are,” touched with every feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
When the tempter comes, what will we do? God commands us not to sin (I John 2:1). Our human weaknesses, however, often give us trouble. We have the example of our Saviour who overcame temptation. Temptations will surely come but as Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We have but to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
Eric L. Padgett