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The Temptation of Christ

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Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit come down on him like a dove and he went into the wilderness and did not eat nothing and was tempted by the devil

it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, 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 shall give His angels charge over you,

To keep you,’

11 and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

The devil even quoted Psalm 91:11–12 to show that the Messiah would be kept safe from harm.

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Psalm 91:11–12 NKJV
For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Since Jesus was extremely hungry and in need of food (v. 2), it is not surprising that the devil first tempted Jesus to turn a stone into bread for His sustenance. Jesus countered this temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, in which Moses had reminded the people of the manna which God had given them. Though the manna was on the ground, it still was a test of faith for the people. They had to believe that God’s Word was trustworthy for their existence. If it was not God’s will for them to live they certainly would have died; therefore they did not live by bread alone. Likewise Jesus, knowing God’s Word, knew of the plan which was before Him and was trusting in the Father and His Word for sustenance. Jesus knew He would not die in the wilderness.

4:5–8. What Matthew recorded as the second and third temptations were reversed by Luke. This may indicate that there were continual temptations in these areas. The second temptation Luke recorded was an appeal to Jesus to be in control of all the kingdoms of the world. The condition was that Jesus must worship (proskynēsēs, lit., “bend the knee to”) the devil. Though Jesus would have world rulership, He would be depending on Satan—rather than on God the Father and His plan. Jesus again referred to Moses to combat a temptation. In that passage (Deut. 6:13) Moses warned the people about their attitude when they finally were to get into the land and achieve some glory and dominion. The temptation for them would be to praise themselves and forget to worship God. Jesus, by quoting the verse, showed that He would not make that mistake. He would give God the credit and not take it for Himself. He would not fail as Israel had failed.

4:9–12. The devil tried to get Jesus to change the timing and structure of His ministry. Jesus knew He must go to the cross and die for the sins of the world. He knew that He was the Suffering Servant (Isa. 52:13–53:12). The devil challenged Jesus to throw Himself off the highest point of the temple. This was perhaps at the southeastern corner of the wall overlooking the deep Kidron Valley below. Satan meant that the nation, seeing Jesus’ miraculous protection from such a jump, would immediately accept Him. The devil even quoted Psalm 91:11–12 to show that the Messiah would be kept safe from harm.

However, Jesus was aware of the implication. To receive the acceptance of the people without going to the cross would be to question whether God was really in the plan at all. That was exactly the situation Moses wrote about in Deuteronomy 6:16, which Jesus quoted. Moses referred back to a time when the people wondered whether God was really with them (Ex. 17:7). But Jesus was confident of the fact that God was with Him and that the Father’s plan and timing were perfect. So Jesus would not fall for Satan’s temptation.

The devil even quoted Psalm 91:11–12 to show that the Messiah would be kept safe from harm.

Good verse: The devil even quoted to show that the Messiah would be kept safe from harm.
Psalm 91:11–12 NKJV
For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Jesus was not tempted so that the Father could determine the Son’s character and ability, for the Father had already approved the Son (3:22) and would do so again (9:35). Nor was He tempted to give Satan a chance to defeat Him, for Satan probably did not even want this confrontation, knowing that Jesus could overcome his every tactic. Jesus was tempted so that He could personally experience what we go through and so be prepared to assist us (Heb. 2:16–18; 4:14–16) and to show us how we can overcome the evil one by means of the Spirit of God (v. 1) and the Word of God (v. 4). The first Adam was tested in a beautiful garden and failed, but the Last Adam was victorious in a terrible wilderness.

The sequence of temptations reported by Luke is different from that in Matthew’s Gospel, but Luke’s account does not claim to be chronological. We do not know why Luke reversed the order of the last two temptations, and it is unprofitable to speculate.

In the first temptation, Satan wanted Jesus to use His divine powers to meet His own needs outside of the will of God. It was a question of putting immediate needs ahead of eternal purposes. In the next temptation, Satan asked for the worship that belongs only to God (“I will be like the Most High”—Isa. 14:14), offering Jesus all the world’s kingdoms in return (Ps. 2:7–8). It was actually an opportunity for Jesus to escape the cross, but He said no. In the next temptation, Satan dared Jesus to test the Father’s Word by jumping off the temple; and he backed up his dare with an “edited” quotation from Ps. 91:11–12.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Jesus used the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) to defeat the tempter, quoting from Deut. 8:3 and 6:13 and 16. Jesus did not use His divine powers to win the victory; He used the same spiritual weapons that any of us can use, if we will yield to Him (1 Cor. 10:13).

Ver. 1.—And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness; more accurately translated, in the Spirit. The question of the nature of the temptation has been discussed in the above note. The words, “full of the Holy Ghost,” and “was led by the Spirit,” lead us irresistibly to the conclusion that the Lord, during this strange solemn time—like Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, and, later, Paul and John the beloved apostle—was especially under the influence of the Holy Spirit; that his eyes were open to see visions and sights not usually visible to mortal eye; and that his ears were unlocked to hear voices not audible to ordinary mortal ears. Tradition has fixed upon a hill district bordering on the road which leads up from Jericho to Jerusalem, as the scene of the temptation. The hill itself, from being the supposed spot where the Lord spent these forty days, is named Quarantania. The rocks in this neighbourhood contain many caves.

Ver. 2.—Being forty days tempted of the devil. For some reason unknown to us, the number forty seems to possess some mystic significance. Moses was forty days alone with the Divine Presence on Horeb. Elijah fasted forty days in the wilderness before the vision and the voice came to him. Forty years was the period, too, of the wanderings of the chosen people. The existence of an evil power has been a favourite subject of discussion in those schools of thought who more or less question the authoritative teaching of the canonical books of the two Testaments. Keim, quoted by Godet, well and fairly sums up the present state of opinion of the more moderate and thoughtful schools of free-thought “We regard the question of an existence of an evil power as altogether an open question for science.” Those, however, who recognize the Gospel narratives as the faithful expression of Jesus Christ’s teaching, must accept the repeated declarations of the Master that an evil being of superhuman power does exist, and has a great, though a limited, influence over the thoughts and works of men. Whatever men may feel with regard to the famous clause in the Lord’s Prayer, which the Revisers of the Authorized Version render, “deliver us from the evil one,” they must agree at least with the conclusion of the Revisers, that, in the Christian Church, a large majority of the ancients understood the Master’s words in his great prayer as asking deliverance, not from “evil” in the abstract, as the English Authorized Version seems to prefer, but deliverance from the power of some mighty evil being. And in those days he did eat nothing. In this state of ecstasy, when the body was completely subordinate to the Spirit, the ordinary bodily wants seem to have been suspended. There is no difficulty in accepting this supposition, if the signification of the words, “in the Spirit,” above suggested, be adopted. The whole transaction belongs to the miraculous. We, who receive as God’s Word these Gospel narratives, find no difficulty in recognizing God’s power to suspend, when he pleases, what men regard as fixed natural laws. We believe, too, that on certain occasions in the world’s history it has pleased him to put this power into operation. He afterward hungered. Although still in the Spirit, in order to provide a field for the exercise of the peculiar typical temptation about to be dwelt upon, some of the bodily functions, which during the trance or the ecstasy had been temporarily suspended, were allowed again to play their usual part in the life, as in the case of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and John.

Ver. 3.—And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. It has been quaintly said of the tempter “that he had sped so successfully to his own mind by a temptation about a matter of eating with the first Adam, that he practised the old manner of his trading with the second.” These diabolical promptings have been spoken of already in this Commentary as “typical.” They represent, indeed, some of the principal temptations to which different classes of men and women in all ages are subject; the hard task of bread-winning, after all, suggests very many of the evil thoughts and imaginings to which men are subject, though, perhaps, they suspect it not. Weakened and exhausted by long abstinence from food, the temptation to supply his wants by this easy means at once was great. Still, had he consented to the tempter’s suggestion, Jesus was aware that he would have broken the conditions of that human existence to which, in his deep love for us fallen beings, he had voluntarily consented and submitted himself. Should he, then, use his miraculous power for his own advantage? Then, remembering his own late experience, the long fast from all human food, and yet life enduring through it all; calling to mind the miraculous supply of manna in the old desert days, the preservation of Elijah’s life through a similar fast,—Jesus, all faint and weary, exclaims in reply, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Ver. 5—And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. This temptation was something more than “offering to One who had lived as a village carpenter the throne of the world.” It appealed to his ambition certainly, but in Jesus’ case it was a high, pure, sinless ambition. This much he certainly knew already, that he was destined to rule over men from pole to pole. It was for him a righteous longing, this desire to have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as his possession. No false ambition was this in Jesus, this desire to realize the glorious Messianic hope. Again, how typical a temptation! All ranks and orders are often soon tempted here. A noble end as they think, and in the beauty of the goal they forget that the road leading to it is paved with evil and wrong.

Ver. 7.—If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. Dr. Morrison, on Matt. 4:9, has well caught the thought here. The arch-tempter “as it were said to Jesus, ‘I am indeed the prince and god of this world. Its kingdoms and their glory are at my disposal. I could at once open up thy way to the highest honours that a universal conqueror and a universal sovereign could desire. I could gather at once around thee a host of devoted Jewish troops; I could pave their way for victory after victory, until at no distant period the whole Roman empire, and indeed the whole world, should be subject to thy sway. Only abandon the wild chimera of putting down sin and making all men fanatical and holy; fall in with my way of things; let the morals of the world alone, more especially its morals in reference to God; work with me and under me, and all will go well. But if thou refuse this offer, look out for determined opposition, for incessant persecution, for the most miserable poverty, and for every species of woe.’ ”

Ver. 8.—Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus repelled the offer with stern indignation. He would receive the splendid inheritance which he felt was his at no other hands than his Father’s; he would win all and more than the tempter offered him, but it would be by a slow and painful process—by self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-surrender; the glorious consummation would only be attained at the end of a long vista of centuries. The words, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” do not occur in the older manuscripts containing St. Luke’s Gospel. These are evidently a later addition from the parallel passage in St. Matthew.

Ver. 7.—If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. Dr. Morrison, on Matt. 4:9, has well caught the thought here. The arch-tempter “as it were said to Jesus, ‘I am indeed the prince and god of this world. Its kingdoms and their glory are at my disposal. I could at once open up thy way to the highest honours that a universal conqueror and a universal sovereign could desire. I could gather at once around thee a host of devoted Jewish troops; I could pave their way for victory after victory, until at no distant period the whole Roman empire, and indeed the whole world, should be subject to thy sway. Only abandon the wild chimera of putting down sin and making all men fanatical and holy; fall in with my way of things; let the morals of the world alone, more especially its morals in reference to God; work with me and under me, and all will go well. But if thou refuse this offer, look out for determined opposition, for incessant persecution, for the most miserable poverty, and for every species of woe.’ ”

Ver. 8.—Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus repelled the offer with stern indignation. He would receive the splendid inheritance which he felt was his at no other hands than his Father’s; he would win all and more than the tempter offered him, but it would be by a slow and painful process—by self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-surrender; the glorious consummation would only be attained at the end of a long vista of centuries. The words, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” do not occur in the older manuscripts containing St. Luke’s Gospel. These are evidently a later addition from the parallel passage in St. Matthew.

Ver. 8.—Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus repelled the offer with stern indignation. He would receive the splendid inheritance which he felt was his at no other hands than his Father’s; he would win all and more than the tempter offered him, but it would be by a slow and painful process—by self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-surrender; the glorious consummation would only be attained at the end of a long vista of centuries. The words, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” do not occur in the older manuscripts containing St. Luke’s Gospel. These are evidently a later addition from the parallel passage in St. Matthew.

Ver. 9.—And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple. In St. Matthew Jerusalem is here called “the holy city,” a name still preserved in the East, where it is still termed El-Khuds, the holy. Pinnacle; literally, “wing” of the temple. “Pinnacle” comes from the Vulgate translation, pinnaculum. The part of the great building evidently referred to here was that magnificent southern wing of the Lord’s house constructed by Herod the Great, which was known as the royal portico. Josephus calls it the most remarkable building under the sun (‘Ant.,’ xv. 11. 5). One who stood on the roof of this portion of the temple would look from a dizzy height into the Valley of the Kidron. Such a spectator, writes Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 6. 5), “would be giddy while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.” To this spot, “whether in the body or out of the body” we cannot tell, Jesus was taken by the evil spirit. “Now,” said his tempter, “if you really are what you seem to think, cast thyself down. You know what is written in the Divine writing, how the Eternal would give his angels charge concerning thee, they were to bear thee up, ‘lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ If thou art he of whom all this is written, there will be no risk. You are sure that you are the Son of God: try this once, and see. If you triumphantly come out of this trial, all men will recognize you, and your reign as Messiah will commence forthwith.” This temptation was of a more subtle nature than the other two. It appeals again to all ranks of men, and warns them of the sore danger of selfishly courting danger. The angels will ever watch over us with a tender care when, to accomplish a duty or to perform an act of self-denying love, we confront peril; not so when we presumptuously and for our own ends rush into danger.

Ver. 12.—And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. It is remarkable that in these crowning instances of temptation, which no doubt were originally recounted by the Lord himself to the inner circle of the disciples, and from them passed into the regular course of instruction adopted by the Christian teachers of the first days, the Redeemer, in each of his three answers to the devil, uses words taken from two chapters (the sixth and eighth) of Deuteronomy. It has been suggested that the thoughts and expressions of this book were fresh in the mind of the tempted Christ, as he had probably, specially during his sojourn in the wilderness, used for his own study and meditation a book which told the story of Israel’s wanderings in the desert for forty years. It seems, however, more likely that the Lord simply chose to frame his answers from a book with which every Israelite from his earliest years had been acquainted. The maxims and precepts of Deuteronomy were used in the education of every Hebrew child. Its devout and beautiful maxims were written on the phylacteries or frontlets which so many pious Jews were in the habit of wearing.

.
3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, 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 shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’
11 and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”
13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, 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 shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’
11 and,
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”
13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
The New King James Version. (1982). (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
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