Satan tempts Jesus – extra ideas

What’s on this page?

  • Key points about the Temptation of Jesus, quoted from books about the Life of Jesus

Who’s in the gospel story of the Temptation of Jesus?

  • Jesus – a teacher from Galilee now facing a decisive moment in his life
  • the Devil – Evil

Jesus certainly took for granted the reality of Satan and spoke about him, sometimes in a poetic manner (Luke 10:18). It is, therefore, possible that he described his inward experience of temptation in dramatic form, as here…

Commentary on Luke

Jesus underwent temptation on other occasions, and that the temptations described here reflect the experience of one who was tempted to prove the reality of his calling by signs and to adjust his ideas of his calling to those of his contemporaries.

Throughout his ministry he was engaged in conflict with the forces of evil. It is by no means impossible that he communicated something of his inner experience to his disciples, and indeed highly likely that he did so.

It is also probable that at the outset of his work he had to face up to the question of the nature of his vocation. The theory that the account of the temptation rests on a historical experience of Jesus fits in with what we know otherwise of his ministry and remains the most satisfying explanation of it.

It has often been argued that the narrative shows Jesus being tempted to be a political Messiah. This interpretation does not do full justice to the narrative which is much more concerned with the personal relation of obedience between Jesus and his Father and thus reflects the attitude of Jesus himself rather than of the early church about him. Behind the story lies the experience of Jesus.

Commentary on Luke, I. Howard Marshall, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Paternoster Press, Michigan, 1978

Jesus is tempted (1:12—13)  This is no minor moral skirmish but Satan’s full-frontal attack on Jesus to capture his soul.  Jesus had been addressed first by God (1:11), now by Satan.

In the baptism, God had reassured Jesus and called him. But now Satan, the enemy of God and his Son, seeks to destroy Jesus before he can begin his assault on the demonic kingdom.

The struggle that begins here will rage throughout the Gospel, reaching its climax when Jesus is on the cross; the cosmic character of that final battle will be symbolized by the day becoming night (see 15:33 — ‘when darkness came over the whole land’). The presence of the wild animals here signals the grave danger facing Jesus in the loneliness of the desert. At Golgotha he will again be alone, abandoned by his friends and, so it will seem, even by God; then, instead of wild animals, ferocious men will bay at the crucified man (15:29—32; of Psalm 22:21-22).

Alongside Jesus’ temptation, however, is his triumph.  The angels attend Jesus in the desert, and he does not succumb to Satan or to the wild animals. Jesus is a new Adam. Like Adam, Jesus is Lord over the beasts (cf Genesis 1:26; 2:19-20) or, in the language of Daniel, a ‘son of man’ who prevails over the evil, beast-like kingdoms (Daniel 7:1-13; cf Revelation 13-14).

Unlike Adam, however, Jesus resists temptation, remaining obedient to God. Thus, implicit in Mark but explicit in Paul is the notion that Jesus is the first man of a new race, the leader of a new humanity (see Romans 5:12-21, Corinthians 15:21-24).

Extract from Paul Barnett’s The Servant King: Reading Mark Today, Aquila Press, 1991, p.23-24


The evil archangel approached a hungry, starving man. Jesus was thin and weak. His skin was blistered by the scorching wilderness sun. He probably looked as if He had not bathed in weeks.

Jesus, A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Using the Lord’s hunger as a point of temptation, Satan said to Him, “If You really are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread and eat.”

Notice that the temptation was to lure Jesus into drawing on His Divine power. Consider Jesus’ response: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that God speaks.””

Look at the dialogue carefully. Satan said,

“If You’re the Son of God . .”  Jesus responded with the word man, as if to say: “I am a man. I am the real human——the new Adam. And by being a real human, I will defeat you. For Adam, who was also a man, was defeated by you. I am God . . ”

As Paul put it, Jesus laid aside, or emptied, Himself, of His divine power, but took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.“

Jesus rejected being a Muscle Messiah. Instead, He truly became human and participated in the limitations and frailty of our humanity. Even to the point of death.

The temptations that Satan leveled against Jesus in the wilderness were targeted at obliterating His true humanity and His solidarity with humans.

If Jesus had taken the bait and drawn on His divine powers as the Son of God, He would have ceased living as a human being. And He would have ceased being the Second Adam, “Adam-gone-right.” Satan wanted Jesus to dedicate His ministry to changing the world, not saving the world.

  • Jesus could inhabit His divine self to save people from their hungers.
  • Or He could inhabit His human self to save people from their sins.

As Paul put it, Jesus laid aside, or emptied, Himself, of His divine power, but took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.

Jesus was living as man anointed by the Spirit of God and living by God’s words and God’s life. In these words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,”79 Jesus gave us an insight He would repeat over and over again: that He was a man who was living by the indwelling life of His Father——the very thing Adam was called to do by eating from the Tree of Life in the Garden.

Extract from Commentary on Luke, I. Howard Marshall, Paternoster Press, 1978, p.165

A detail recorded only by Mark is that Jesus was with the wild beasts in the wilderness.

The Gospel of Mark, Lane

Jesus in the midst of the wild beasts signifies the victory of the New Adam over Satan and temptation so that paradise is restored in which man is at peace with the animals.

As soon as it is recognized that the dominant motif of the prologue is the wilderness, Mark’s distinctive reference to the wild beasts becomes intelligible. In the OT, blessing is associated with inhabited and cultivated land; the wilderness is the place of the curse. In the wilderness there is neither seed nor fruit, water nor growth. Man cannot live there. Only frightening and unwanted kinds of animals dwell there.

Significantly, when the wilderness is transformed into a paradise no ravenous beast will be in it (Isa. 35:9; Ezek. 34:23-28). Mark’s reference to the wild beasts in Ch. 1:13 serves to stress the character of the wilderness. Jesus confronts the horror, the loneliness and the danger with which the wilderness is fraught when he meets the wild beasts.

Their affinity in this context is not with paradise, but with the realm of Satan.

The Gospel according to Mark, William L. Lane, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974. p.61

Jesus according to Scripture, Darrell L. Bock

Each temptation challenges Jesus’ faithfulness.

  • Will he provide for himself independently of God’s direction and draw on his power in self-interest (bread)?
  • Will he insist that God protect him by putting God to the test of his protection of the Son (temple)?
  • Will the Son defect from the Father and worship someone else for his own gain (kingdoms)?

In each text Jesus stresses his loyalty to the Father as he cites Deuteronomy.

  • There is more to life than bread: obedience is more important than food (Deut. 8:3——bread; only Matthew’s version cites the whole verse; Luke leaves the note about obedience unexpressed but implied).
  • Testing God’s faithfulness implies a doubt of him and should not be done (Deut. 6:16—Temple).
  • Worship and service should be given only to God (Deut. 6:15—kingdoms).
  • Honoring God drives Jesus, not self-interest or self-benefit.

In this way Jesus succeeds against Satan where the previous representative of humanity (Adam) failed.

Jesus according to Scripture, Darrell L. Bock, Baker Academic, p.90, 2002

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