1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.
6 Then the devil came unto him and said, 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.
Something that strikes me about the story of these temptations that Jesus faced is how amazing that we have an account of them at all. Think about it. At this stage in His life, He didn’t have people following Him around and watching His every move. He didn’t have a biographer at His elbow. And too, the temptations were all things that an outsider couldn’t necessarily observe.
So how did we get this account at all? The only way Matthew would have learned about it is if he had been told the story by Jesus or by someone else Jesus had told the story to. Can you imagine how amazing it would have been to have Jesus share the stories of the temptations He faced?! Imagine listening to His first hand account, which might have been like this:
I was led up to the wildness to be with God. And when I had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, I was an hungred. And the tempter came to me and said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But I 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.
Then I was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit set me on the pinnacle of the temple. Then the devil came to me again and said, 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. I said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
And again, I was in the Spirit, and it took me up into an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth me all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. And the devil came unto me again, and said, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then I said unto him, Get thee hence Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left me for a season.
What does it add to our understanding of this story to know that Jesus told other people about His temptations? I think it shows that when we are reading those accounts, we can stop feeling like eavesdroppers on His life, trying to glean His secrets. Instead, He wanted people to know that as perfect as He was, He faced temptation too. I think He wanted people to know what kinds of temptations He faced, the circumstances under which they came, and exactly how He overcame them, to the intent that they would be able to follow His example and practice the methods He used.
One temptation happened when He was weak from fasting. Another temptation happened when He was at the temple! Another temptation happened either during or immediately following a dramatic sweeping vision of the world and the kingdoms thereof. We can see from those circumstances that temptation can follow on the heels of very spiritual experiences. (Satan hits people when they are physically weak, and he wants to bring people down from a spiritual high as quickly as he can.)
We often discuss the types of temptation that Jesus faced—that of bodily appetite, popularity, and power. Does categorizing temptation help us recognize and resist it? Can you think of a case when this helped you?
We also discuss how Jesus resisted temptation by remembering and quoting scripture. I think one of the things that keeps us from resisting temptation better is that we don’t know the scriptures well enough to remember ones that will help us resist the temptations that we face. (I know I don’t.) Deep down, I know what my weaknesses are, so I’m starting to realize that if I really want to have the Lord make my weaknesses strong, I need to give Him some material to work with, by searching for and studying scriptures relating to my weaknesses so that when those temptations come, I will have helpful scriptures the Lord can bring to my memory to help make me strong to resist. Scriptures add knowledge and power behind a simple will to resist temptation. It enables us to resist temptation both by study and by faith.
Also, if we resist a temptation and we’re not sure how we did it, how can we be sure we will be able to do it again if the same temptation comes again? Or how can we help other people resist it? We need to be able to articulate exactly how we resisted temptation (like Jesus was able to do), both for our benefit and for others. There is no temptation but such as is common to man, so sharing stories of how we resisted temptation will help others.
The third temptation Jesus faced in this block of scripture has always been a little bit puzzling to me. If you remember, He is shown all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them through the power of the Spirit, and then Satan said to Him, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
How often have we experienced a temptation to fall down and worship the devil in exchange for the kingdoms of the world? I don’t think I have. Have you?
But when I was pondering those words, I began to focus on the words “fall down.” Why was “fall down” important word choice? Was Jesus invited to literally fall down on the ground to worship? I didn’t think so. Instead, I remembered the fall of Adam, and that immediately suggested to me that Satan was tempting Jesus to fall from His high standards and His sinless state, to come down off His high sinless horse, suggesting that Jesus might have more success in His ministry if He was more like the rest of the world. That sounds much more like a temptation we face, a temptation to lower our standards to be successful and accepted in the world.
Jesus resisted by quoting the scriptures again, saying, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” He was determined to stay completely true to God, whether people liked it or not. He was determined He would never break commandments to succeed in His ministry. That is a lesson we can all relate to. We have to love the Lord so much that we become determined to never break His commandments in order to succeed in the world.
Will you share a temptation that you were able to overcome using the scriptures?