Temptation of Jesus: Introduction

Monastery of Temptation
Monastery of Temptation, where Jesus is believed to have been tempted, Photo 159164069 © Dreamstime.com

16 For everything that belongs to[a] the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.

~1Jn 2:16 (HCSB)

John writes that there are three basic categories of temptation. Each of these was used in the initial temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh] and delightful to look at [lust of the eyes], and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom [the pride of life]. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

~Ge 3:6 (HCSB)

Each of these is also evident in the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness. More will be said about that in each section about the individual temptation.

For now, let’s look at Matthew’s account in full and make some general observations:

Satan Tempts Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’


‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not [a]tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus said to him, [b]“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

~Mt 4:1-11 (NKJV)

You will likely notice right off the bat:

  1. Satan keeps saying, “If you are the Son of God ….” It isn’t like he doesn’t know Jesus is the Son of God, but rather it is an attempt to get to Jesus via the pride of life. You and I are likely to say, “‘If’? What do you mean ‘if’? I’ll show you!” It is also an attempt to make Jesus doubt the vision He saw after His baptism by John we can read about in the previous chapter.
  2. Not only is Satan trying to interject doubt in Jesus’ mind that He heard correctly, but Satan also wants Him to doubt His importance to the Father. Surely, if He really were the Son of God, He would not be allowed to suffer hunger, injury or death on a stake. The devil wants Jesus to take the short-sighted view rather than the long-range view.
  3. In Matthew’s account, one of the things that makes it evident it is in chronological order is that the devil ramps up the level of temptation each time. He would not have started with idolatry, for that would have made it too evident what he was up to.
  4. Each time, Jesus counters with Scripture. This is an important example as to how we are to deal with temptation.
  5. Not only does Jesus quote the Bible, but He quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy. He quotes from the Law! Would Jesus be giving us an example of quoting from the Law if the Law were done away? Obviously, the Law was valid then, and the Law is valid now, else we have no defense to Satan’s wiles.

Now, you might be wondering why it is important to study this topic. It gives us a lot of information about the enemy and how to defeat him. It is important in many respects, as we need to know the enemy and his tactics. In fact, we are expected to know Satan’s tactics!

10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

~2Co 2:10-11 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

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