The devil tempts Jesus
At his Baptism, Jesus offered himself and his life to God, and received God’s blessing. That was a glorious moment.
But it was only the start. Jesus had committed himself to God, but now he had to actually live the life – and being human he has to face what we all face – temptation.
Before Jesus could teach others and then save them, he had to meet Satan face to face, confront him and defeat him. The loneliness of this struggle was terrible. There were no friends to support him, only the wild beasts and the harsh desert.
The temptations were all directed against the divine Sonship of Jesus. The Devil encouraged Jesus to
The first temptation: stone to bread
Jesus had fasted for forty days. Note: ‘forty’ is a significant number, reminding us throughout this story of the forty years the Hebrew tribes spent in the wilderness as they travelled towards the Promised Land.
Fasting probably meant living off the land rather than going entirely without food or water. There is not much water and very little food in the desert, but Jesus survived, though he would have been physically weakened and mentally drained. This is when the Devil was most able to entice him - watch yourself and your actions when you are tired and drained. This is when the Devil strikes.
The first temptation urged Jesus to use his status as the Son of God to perform an act of power to satisfy his hunger.
‘Make these stone into bread’, the Devil said to Jesus. ‘You are hungry, and right at this moment your body needs you to do it. You are after all the Son of God. What’s the good of your power if you don’t use it?’
This was not simply about food. It was more subtle than that. The Devil was urging Jesus to upset God’s pattern of creation by making something into what it is not meant to be, and moreover use his power as Son of God for his own ends instead of in God’s service.
Stone to bread, Christ in the Desert, Kramskoi
The second temptation
The Devil/Evil tried a second ploy. He took Jesus to the ‘holy city’- presumably Jerusalem. There he lifted Jesus and placed him on a ‘pinnacle’ of the Temple. This was probably some projecting turret or rooftop. Curiously enough, the punishment for blasphemy at the time was to be thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple.
‘Now jump’ said the Devil. ‘God will surely protect you from harm, since you are His Son. He will send an angel to scoop you up and keep you safe.’ With breathtaking blasphemy, the Devil quoted God himself – a brilliant, seductive ploy. But the quotation had been ripped out of its context so the Devil was, in effect, mocking God’s words.
Jesus’ response was contemptuous, dismissive. ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ – a quote from Dt. 6:14. No-one, said Jesus, not even the Devil, could put God the Creator to the test. We are God’s creatures, He is not ours. Jesus knew, as we do, that a person tests the faithfulness of God only when he no longer truly trusts God.
Keep in mind that Satan/Evil is real, then as now. We ourselves must expect similar conflict, and with Christ’s help we may enjoy a similar victory.
of a stairway leading to the Temple precincts,
The third temptation
The Devil/Evil then tried a third ploy. He took Jesus to the peak of the highest mountain in the world (this story was of course current in a world that believed that the Earth was flat). The world was spread out before them and the Devil, like a prospective seller, pointed out all the kingdoms of the world.
‘Worship me’ said the Devil, ‘give yourself over to me, and I will give you power over all this.’
Once again there are echoes of the Old Testament, when the People of God were dissatisfied with God and were tempted to worship the Golden Calf. Here was the entire world, over which Jesus would exercise complete power. Think of all the good he could do!
But the world, Jesus knew, did not belong to the Devil. It was not his to give. Satan’s promise was not to be trusted. Bowing to him was incompatible with serving God.
The Devil had offered all these to Jesus, and been rebuffed. Jesus knew that in fact the Devil had no control over any of these things, and that his promises were empty.
The Temptation of Christ by Duccio di Buoninsegna
1. The first temptation. Read the blue text
2. The second temptation. Read the green text
3. The third temptation. Read the red text
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Bible Study Guide: Jesus faced three temptations after fasting in the desert. The Devil, Evil, was defeated
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher