"The Temptation of Christ" is how we often refer to the story told in Matthew 4: 1-11, but the word "temptation" doesn't ring true. Not fully, anyway. The Greek word used--peirazo--means "tested" as one would test a thing to see if it is true to its nature. Precious metals are tested. Gemstones are tested. And, at times, we are put to the test, challenged, so that the real "us" comes out.
Jesus had been baptised by John, then went out into the Judean wilderness, a daunting uninhabitable place that stretches as far as forever, capped with dunes and ravines and wadis cutting through. If one wishes to be alone, this is the place to do it.
During His time cloistered, Jesus neither eats nor drinks, and after 40 days and nights the Word tells us, He is hungry. The devil, recognizing His weakened state, sees an opportunity and pounces.
This is certainly not Satan's first attempt at "testing;" he had done the same with Adam and Eve when he slithered into the Garden of Eden with his lies and innuendos. But unlike mankind's parents, Jesus will not fail. He had come for a purpose which was far greater than anything Satan could offer.
Forty days and forty nights without food or water. Again, this is not a first. Moses did the same on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). After this time away with God while fasting, he received the Law of God. Jesus, on the other hand, became the fulfillment of that Law.
If you have spent time in Israel, you know that some stones, buried deep and flat in appearance around the cracked earth, give the look of pita bread.
But before we get to the temptation of food, I want to go back and carefully study what Satan said to Jesus at the start. "If you are the Son of God ..."
There was no "if" here. Satan knows exactly who Jesus is. They go back to the beginning. Way way back to the beginning. Before sun and moon. Before stars. Before water divided from the land and fish swam in the sea and birds flew in the air. Satan has wanted what Jesus has and to be who Jesus is since "before." So, the words are not "if you are the Son of God" but "because you are the Son of God . . ." This is not a question, but a statement.
Satan will do the same with us. Notice that the words in Matthew say: the devil came to tempt/test Him . . ." Not "if" the devil came but more "when" the devil came. What he did with Adam and Eve, what he did with Jesus, he continues to do today. But we should not look to how Adam and Eve handled the situation; let us look only to how Jesus responded.
Jesus answered, "It is written in the Scriptures, 'A person lives not on bread alone, but by everything God says.'"
Where had He gotten this? Precisely from Deuteronomy 8:3: He took away your pride when he let you get hungry, and then he fed you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever seen. This was to teach you that a person does not live on bread alone, but by everything the Lord says.
Well, that didn't work, did it, Satan? So, he tries to beat Jesus at His own game. He took him to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem where all of the holy city and its surrounding landscape stretched before them. "Jump," he implored. "After all, the Scriptures say, 'He has put His angels in charge of You. They will catch You in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.'"
And where had he gotten this, that little devil? From the Scriptures--Psalm 91: 11, 12.
Then, Satan tried a final time: he led Jesus to a high mountain where Jesus could see the "kingdoms of the world and their splendor." Where the first testing had been physical (food) and the second had been pride (Jesus could have so easily proven His being part of the Godhead), the third was lust for the eyes. For ownership. These three reflect perfectly the temptation of Adam and Eve (food, knowledge, and the beauty of the apple) and Jesus was about to undo the damage in a like fashion.
"All you have to do is bow down and worship me and I'll give you all this . . ." (Well, guess what, Lucifer, He already owns it all. He created it all! What nonsense you speak!) Jesus commanded His rival, "Get away from me, Satan! It is written, 'You will worship God and serve only Him" (Deuteronomy 6:13).
When tested, Jesus combated with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). His tested was and is an important factor for Christians. Something we should spend adequate time studying.
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted(Hebrews 2:18). This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
We can have no greater example than this--when we are tested, tried for proving, we must remember what the Word says. But to remember it, we must know it.
My people perish for lack of knowledge, God said (Hosea 4:6). Let us not perish; let us pass the tests.
Painting: The Temptation of Christ by the Devil, Félix Joseph Barrias (1822 - 1907)
Photo of "Pita Bread Stone" along The Jesus Trail outside of Cana, Israel by Eva Marie Everson
Photo of The Pinnacle of the Temple From the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, Israel by Eva Marie Everson
Photo of The Elah Valley, Israel (where David fought Goliath) by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh