“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
God’s son. The voice from heaven spoke and declared its truth at Jesus’ baptism. He was the son of God. Some heard the voice and believed, while others sought more reasonable explanations. It was a ridiculous claim. How could God have a son, in human form, an ordinary man with dusty feet and humble affinities? It didn’t make sense.
While the people debated the validity of the voice, the incident raised the attention of another. In the spiritual realm the voice thundered through the earth, its proclamation reverberated down into the depths and alerted something sinister—a being that did not question the truth of the voice, but rather shuddered at its implications and then awoke, fully conscious and ready to do battle. God’s son was on earth in human form and vulnerable. Now was the time to make a move, a strategic attack against an ancient enemy.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Jesus fasted for several days. “He was hungry” (v. 2). Satan saw his opportunity and approached.
“Are you hungry Jesus? There is a simple solution. Turn from your fasting and focus on your physical need. It is valid. Every man has to eat. And with your supernatural abilities you could solve your problem very quickly. Look at these dry stones. They are everywhere. Strewn about. Why don’t you simply speak the words and change these little pebbles into something more substantial. Perhaps a loaf of bread? You are the son of God. It is within your power to do so. Just a piece of bread? Come on – turn from your prayers and have a little picnic.” But Jesus saw through him and responded, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (v. 4).
Satan changed his tactics. He took Jesus to Jerusalem and brought him to the top of the temple, perched atop its massive wall.
“What are you going to do now Jesus? How are you going to get down? You are a now a mere man . . . the son of God in a lowly human body. You have limitations. How does it feel to be mortal? Does this height scare you, you who made the universe? Isn’t it ludicrous that the one who once held the earth in his hand, and formed the highest peaks and lowest valleys could now be destroyed by a simple fall from a few hundred feet? But you are still God’s son. I’m sure he would take care of you—if you were to jump down. Yes, I’d like to see that. Perhaps you would float to the ground like a feather. Yes, yes, I’m curious how would your father save you? Go ahead and see.”
“He said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (v. 6). Satan cleverly threw in a Scripture reference and now paused, his silky voice briefly silent, waiting for a response. “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (v. 7).
Frustrated, Satan again took Jesus and traveled higher and higher up a steep mountain peak. The view from the top was expansive with city after city and all earthly realms visible and spread out before them. Satan looked out at the impressive sight. “This all belongs to me – the wealth, the power, the inhabitants. They are all mine” he said smugly. And yet he did not appear entirely satisfied. It was not enough. He wanted more. One more devotee. One more conquest. One more soul. He turned to Jesus. “‘All of this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you bow down and worship me’” (v. 9).
The final temptation. Satan played his last and most powerful card. It was, after all, what lured him away from his angelic place beside Jesus’ father. Satan looked at Jesus in anticipation and waited for God’s little lap dog to whimper and crumble before him. But Jesus did not roll over. He did not bow down. No, instead of acquiescing to the dark prince’s demands, “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him’” (vv. 10-11).
From the series, "Matthew: Back to the Beginning."
Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art