Satan, the Devil, tempts Jesus
In brief: Jesus had to face something we all face: temptation.
Satan offered three things to Jesus:
- The ability to survive danger
- Control over Nature
- Absolute power
What did Jesus do? He rejected Satan. He knew that in fact the Devil had no control over any of these things. His promises were empty.
The lesson? The Son of God will always be victorious over the Powers of Darkness.
Into The Wilderness
Before Jesus could teach others, he had to face temptation: 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 Devil encouraged Jesus to
- misuse his divine powers
- gain his purpose in the world by obeying the Devil instead of his Father
- doubt the reality of his Father’s love and care.
The first temptation: stone to bread
Jesus fasted for forty days.
What did that mean?
Fasting probably meant living off the land, not starving.
But there is very little food or water in the desert. Jesus survived, but he was 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 you are tempted by Evil.
The first temptation urged Jesus to use his status as the Son of God to satisfy his hunger.
‘Make these stone into bread’, the Devil said to Jesus. ‘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. The Devil was urging Jesus to upset God’s pattern of creation by making something into what it is not meant to be, and using his power as Son of God for himself, and not in God’s service.
But Jesus would not do as the Devil suggested.
The second temptation
(Luke and Matthew place the temptations in a different order)
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 – probably some projecting turret or rooftop. (See Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem)
With breathtaking blasphemy, the Devil quoted God himself: ‘Jump’ he said. ‘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.’
It was a seductive trick. But Jesus knew the quotation had been ripped out of its context – the Devil was actually mocking God’s words.
Jesus’ response was contemptuous. ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ (Deuteronomy. 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.
The Third Temptation
The Devil/Evil then tried a third ploy.
He took Jesus to the peak of the highest mountain in the world (people at the time 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.
Questions for Bible study groups
- What is the first temptation? Immortality – meaning nothing can hurt you, and you do not fear Death. Would this tempt you?
- What is the second temptation? Power over Nature – in other words, Magic. Would this tempt you?
- What is the third temptation? Power to do anything, have anything you want. ‘I’ll give you the world..’ Would this tempt you?
Which of the temptations is the most seductive for you?
What the Gospels say
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.
2 And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.
3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;
9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit
2 for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”
5 And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.
7 If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.”
8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here;
10 for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’
11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.