The Three Temptations of Jesus

Prior to embarking on the public ministry, Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. That He was tempted in the wilderness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit illustrates that all our life’s trials and tribulations are under divine providence (Matthew 4:1). What were His temptations and how did He overcome them? Jesus’ first temptation was turning stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). This was about satisfying His fleshly need. The devil’s message to Chris was very clear “You may be the Son of God but you are now experiencing hunger. Use your God-given power to satisfy your fleshly need.” However, Jesus refused to fulfill His physical desire. Instead, He overcame the temptation through the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). He made it clear that only the Word of God, not physical desires or needs, is absolute. This verse was the message given to the Israelites upon their entrance into the wilderness.Common sense dictated that millions of Israelites who escaped into the wilderness from Egypt would most likely perish due to lack of food and water.Nevertheless, Moses in obedience to the Word of God led his people into the wilderness and ensured their survival through God’s provision. The devil often tempts us using our very basic bodily needs when we are ready to believe in Christ. That is when we must resist his temptation and rebuke him: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The second temptation by the devil was to have Jesus throw himself down at the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5-6). This was the true test of humility for our Lord was tempted to use His authority which is equal to the Father’s. There are some believers who attempt to invoke God’s power solely for their own glory. If you are using such gifts of the Holy Spirit as prophecy, healing, and miracles for self-display and self-glorification, you have already succumbed to the devil’s temptation. If you are using these profound spiritual gifts for moneymaking, you have already succumbed to the devil’s temptation. If you are rendering your selfless service to church not to glorify God but to make yourself conspicuous, you have already succumbed to the devil’s temptation. Jesus Christ had an uncompromising view of His power and authority.  His response to the devil may be summed as follows: “Power and authority are the means only the Father uses through and for me. I do not use them for myself.” In other words, Jesus did not use His God-given power and authority for self-glorification. Ultimately, Jesus Christ overcame this temptation with the Word of God: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7).

The third temptation by the devil was to have Jesus bow down before him (Matthew 4:8-9). This was the devil’s attempt to compromise worship rightfully due to God alone. The devil claimed that an agreement has been made between God and him that God will rule the heaven and he will rule the earth (Luke 4:6). Now that the Son of God is on the earth, the devil’s territory, he insisted that Jesus has to bow down before him. In exchange, he promised his power and glory to Jesus. Here, we must take notice of the devil’s lies. God has never given the world over to him. The devil is merely occupying the earth using the sin of humanity and deceit. He will one day be expelled from the illegally occupied territory. Knowing that his reign can come to an end any time, he sought to have his sovereignty recognized by the Son of God through his submission and permanently rule the world. How did Jesus Christ respond to his temptation? “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus Christ succinctly points out that praise and worship are due to God in all circumstances. He deserves our praise not only when we are happy and delighted but also when we are in despair. He is not a worthless being who deserves our attention only when we are in a good mood. Instead, He is our God and Creator whom we must honor, glorify, and worship at all times.

There is one of the fastest growing internet companies in China. It is called Alibaba and currently valued at $30 billion. Its founder Jack Ma is now the richest man in China. However, he said in an interview with CNBC: “This month I am not happy. I think too much pressure. Maybe the stock goes so up, maybe people have high expectations on you, maybe I think too much about the future and have too many things to worry about.” How true that is. Wealth does not always entail happiness. Only a personal encounter with Jesus Christ brings happiness. We must examine and test ourselves to see if we have faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus overcame temptations through the Word of God. He was well-versed in the Old Testament, studied it, memorized many passages, and quoted them. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” is from Deuteronomy 8:3. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” is from Deuteronomy 6:16. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” is from Deuteronomy 6:13. Just as we need our daily bread to survive physically, we need both the Old and the New Testaments to survive spiritually. The Word of God is our spiritual food. Lest we give in to temptations by the devil impulsively, we must hold fast to the Word of God in humility and pray always. Then, we will vanquish the temptations of the devil and attain triumphant faith.

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