Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Introduction Prior to the start of Jesus’ public earthly ministry, He was driven by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. As we review His encounter with Satan, we uncover important principles of spiritual warfare. We consider not only when and how Jesus was tempted, but also how He fought-and the ministry that began on the heels of the battle. Present Reality In this present evil age there is one consistent reality that believers face in this world, we all have to deal with the devil. This was the same with Jesus, as our focus passage shows us that Jesus had to deal with the devil Himself. This power encounter in the Judean desert gives the opening volley for our understanding of spiritual warfare, which is what would later prompt Paul to say that, we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).” Both history and experience teach us that the dark side is powerful. But the good news is God’s side is more powerful. Mark 1:2-11 identifies Jesus cousin John the Baptist in his wilderness ministry, as he presented his message to, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:1)!” When it came to the common people, John baptized for the remission of sins, however his message to the Pharisees and their religious attitudes was different. John didn’t trust their motives. Friends, I simply love John’s simple message to them, look at what Matthew records, and incidentally, we are going to go to Matthew often for his greater details in this matter, Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones (Matthew 3:7-9). Jesus came to be baptized Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13-15). This is the crux of the Gospel and the reason Jesus needed to be baptized, Jesus identifies with us, people who are sinful: His baptism prefigures His payment for our sin. Jesus baptism and subsequent wilderness experience serve as the bookend that mirrors the events in the Garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha, the Cross. Look at what happens, the Heavens were opened. A voice was heard and a visible sign was given. These served as proof of God’s favor. Holy Spirit settled on Jesus like a Dove, and the heavens thundered, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17). Note that the events related in vv. 2–13 all occur in the wilderness and are linked by references to Holy Spirit. Vv. 12–13 are replete with scriptural associations. Mark expects his hearers to remember the forty years’ wilderness testing of the Hebrew people, Moses’ forty days on the mountain, and Elijah’s trip to Mt. Horeb. These images will reappear at the transfiguration in chapter 9. This passage carries tones from the Apocryphal Book, Wisdom of Solomon also “We were accounted of him as base metal, and he abstains from our ways as from uncleannesses. The latter end of the righteous he calls happy; and he vaunts that God is his father. Let us see if his words be true, and let us try what shall befall in the ending of his life. For if the righteous man is God’s son, he will uphold him, and he will deliver him out of the hand of his adversaries. He is grievous to us even to behold, because his life is unlike other men’s, and his paths are of strange fashion. He professes to have knowledge of God, and names himself servant of the Lord. But let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is of disservice to us, and is contrary to our works, and upbraids us with sins against the law, and lays to our charge sins against our discipline (Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-13).”
Even as Heaven opened up to Jesus at the Jordan, Hell opened to Him in the Wilderness. Sir Isaac Newton’s natural observation is really a biblical truth, “Every action brings an equal and opposite reaction.” The activities of God served as a invitation for the reaction of satan. Friends, nothing promotes the activity of the devil more than your proximity to God. C.S. Lewis’ captured this principle in his book, The Screwtape Letters, in particular when he identifies the mistakes Christians make regarding the devil like,
- Making too much of the devil: See him everywhere, in everything
- Denying his existence: He’s not a literal person
The devil wants people to believe that he doesn’t exist. No enemy is more powerful than the one you refuse to believe exists. Charles Finney once said this to a man who didn’t believe in the devil: “do battle with him for a while, and you will!” The battle is real. The enemy is real. This is why Peter admonishes us to be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). None of this should be a surprise for us, as we should be anticipating the battle that began when God gave us the original messianic prophecy: And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel (Genesis 3:15).
This is why Mark records the most powerful statement of the three Gospel writers who include this part of Jesus’ life and ministry. Mark emphasizes a close connection between baptism and temptation. Mark says that Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. Matt and Luke use a more benign phrase, saying that Jesus was led. Not Mark. He says there was no delay, no discussion, and no preparation. This is important to note. This narrative underlines the biblical principle that God’s calling must be tested. Jesus has been empowered by Holy Spirit for His mission as God’s son (3:16–17). Now Holy Spirit is the one who is leading Jesus into the wilderness where His call will be tested (4:1, 3, 6).
Matthew expressly informs us that the purpose of the Spirit’s first leading of God’s Son was that he might be tested! Like most of his heroic predecessors in biblical history (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Job), Jesus had to pass a period of testing before beginning his public ministry.
Another difficulty here is that Matthew says that “Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.” Mark says that the Spirit “drives” (ἐκβαλλει [ekballei]) Christ into the wilderness. It was a strong impulsion by the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to think through the full significance of the great step that he had now taken. That step opened the door for the devil and involved inevitable conflict with the slanderer (του διαβολου [tou diabolou]). Judas has this term applied to him (John 6:70) as it is to men (2 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 2:3) and women (she devils, 1 Tim. 3:11) who do the work of the arch slanderer.
Even as Jesus begins His public ministry by being baptized, the devil attempted to steal the blessing that God was giving first to Jesus, and then to us, Adam’s descendants. This is no different than when Herod committed infanticide, killing the babies born in the vicinity of Jesus birth place trying to destroy Him. Or when Pharaoh tried to hint down the slaves who had been freed after Israel was delivered from Egypt. When Hezekiah reinstituted the Passover, Sennacherib surrounded Jerusalem to destroy the people of God. This is as old as the Garden, and as new as today.
Incidentally, the word drove doesn’t involve a dragging of feet on the part of Jesus. It’s accentuating the conviction Holy Spirit gave Jesus concerning the necessity of this encounter.
Also, Verse 13 refers to wild beasts. These beasts could literally be animals, however some commentators see this as an allusion to demonic creatures, since literature written between the Old and New Testament periods uses this language in a similar wilderness setting. If this is the case, what we really have here are two rival kingdoms locked in a violent conflict: satan with his demons against Jesus and His angels. Now that’s cool! Of course, it could also mean that Jesus is with “wild beasts” that do not harm him is a depiction of the curses of Genesis 3 lifted and the harmony of created beings restored. If Mark is written for a Roman audience, certainly “wild beasts” would remind them of the horrors of the arena. That’s really cool also!
When Jesus was weakest I love what Scripture tells us about Jesus after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights. He was hungry. This wasn’t a sanctified diet, nor was it an attempt to manipulate God to get what Jesus wanted. It’s the same for us when we fast. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps you deny your flesh so that you can focus on spiritual things. Isaiah 58 is a great passage that tells us God’s heart about biblical fasting. Jesus wasn’t the only person recorded in Scripture as fasting for 40 days. Moses fasted for 40 days twice. Elijah also fasted 40 days (1 Kings 18). You can say that the fasting for forty days and forty nights is also another link to the past: Israel, redeemed from Egypt, spent forty years in the wilderness ‘tested’ by the word of God (Deut. 8:2). Now Jesus, called out of Egypt, also spends his probation in the wilderness.
When you first begin a fast, it’s difficult. You’re hungry, you ache, and your head really hurts, but then the hunger pains cease at around day 10. When your hunger reemerges, you are at starvation level. This happens somewhere between 30-40 days for most people. Jesus was beginning to starve to death. Also, when you are weak physically, you are often vulnerable emotionally and spiritually. This was no different for Jesus.
Since He had no fallen nature, Jesus’ temptation was not an internal emotional or psychological struggle. This was an external attack by a personal being. I also want us to see the contrasts between the two Adam’s: the 1st was in a Garden with herbivorous animals, the 2nd in a barren desert surrounded by ferocious beasts. Adam was in peak physical condition, Jesus was weakened by fasting. One had a helpmate/companion of like nature (two are stronger than one), the other had no human companionship in a hostile environment. One was the subject of the devil’s initial temptation, the other the recipient of an attack 1000’s of years in the making (practice, practice, practice). Adam should not have fallen but did. Jesus should have fallen but didn’t. With Adam we lost Paradise. With Jesus, Paradise was regained.
Temptation Number One: Aretha Franklin The First Temptation begins with a bang, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” I think the more accurate translation is: Since You are the Son of God. This wasn’t a supposition. It’s an affirmation. Wuest translates it as: In view of the fact that You are the Son of God. The devil wasn’t questioning who Jesus was. He was questioning humanities universal question: God’s provision. This was a direct attack on God’s love, which God had declared at the Baptism. The temptation was seen in the Suggestion that Jesus use his own power independently to provide what the Father didn’t. This would have violated the dependence aspect of Jesus ministry as the second Adam, and it implies that God is indifferent to our needs. It goes back to satan’s original injunction, Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’ (Genesis 3:1)? The violation of dependence would have been a disaster, as Jesus would have forfeited His role as the 2nd Adam by acting independently. Jesus said in John 5:19 that, Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. Think about what has happened when others acted like this, Abram and Sarah thought it would be better to handle it themselves, and we got the ancestors of Mohammed.
This was a test of both Jesus identity and His loyalty to the Father and His purpose for Jesus. It is for this reason, that the writer to the Hebrews says that it was fitting that Jesus should be tempted: ‘Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted’ (Hebrews 2:17–18). Jesus answered by quoting Scripture and reminding the devil that man shall live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus’ resource for meeting these assaults is the Word of God. Interestingly, he finds the Book of Deuteronomy particularly appropriate; and that should not surprise us, since it was given to Israel in the Old Testament. Now, for the true Israel, in the wilderness for his people, the ancient Word of God is the only adequate help. One angel—the devil—recedes, while other angels minister to him.
This ended the snare of doubt.
Temptation Number Two The second temptation begins with the devil quoting two Scriptures that take into account the Jewish Worldview. According to this paradigm Jerusalem, the City of David is the center of the world. This based on their understanding of Ezekiel 5:5 which reads, Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her. In other words, Jerusalem is the “belly button (navel) of the planet.” This reasoning would say that, Israel is the center of the world; Jerusalem is the center of Israel; the temple is the center of Jerusalem. If you are at the temple you are at the epicenter of the Earth. It is no coincidence that satan took Jesus to the center of the earth, as this was the intended destination where Messiah was to come. Some rabbis taught that the Messiah would stand on the roof of the temple, as a way of interpreting Malachi 3:1, The LORD, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple. Matthew 4:5 A question that is often addressed in commentaries asks whether or not Jesus was required to be at the disposal of the devil during the temptations. I would say yes, as Jesus had to endure what we are subjected to in this present evil age. “The temple” (του ἱερου [tou hierou]) includes the whole temple area, not just the sanctuary (ὁ ναος [ho naos]), the Holy Place and Most Holy Place. It is not clear what place is meant by “wing,” but it probably refers to Herod’s royal portico which overhung the Kedron Valley and looked down some four hundred and fifty feet, a dizzy height according to Josephus, Ant. XV. xi. 5). This was on the south of the temple court. Hegesippus says that James the Lord’s brother was later placed on the wing of the temple and thrown down from there.
Matthew 4:6 Cast Yourself down (βαλε σεαυτον κατω [bale seauton katō]). The demand to heave Himself down into the abyss below would intensify the nervous dread that sane people feel when we look down from a really high place. The devil urged presumptuous reliance on God and quotes Scripture to support his view (Psalm 91:11). However, even as the devil quotes the Word of God, he both misinterprets it, and he omits a clause. By doing this, he tries to trip the Son of God by the Word of God. It was a skilful thrust and would also be accepted by the populace as proof that Jesus was the Messiah if they should see him sailing down as if from heaven. This would be a sign from heaven in accord with popular Messianic expectation. The promise of the angels the devil thought would reassure Jesus. They would be a spiritual parachute for Christ… For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Matthew 4:7 You shall not tempt (οὐκ ἐκπειρασεις [ouk ekpeiraseis]). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy again (6:16) as He shows us that the devil has completely misapplied God’s promise of protection. In the second, he wants Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple in order to test whether God will keep his promise; “Throw Yourself down” (450 feet).
Temptation Number Three Jesus is offered the world This is the reality of our present condition, the kingdoms of the world belong to the devil.
Matthew 4:8 And showed him (και δεικνυσιν αὐτῳ [kai deiknusin autōi]). This panorama was a open vision. The devil reviewed, all the kingdoms of the world and their glory before Jesus. Here again we have the vivid historical present (δεικνυσιν [deiknusin]). The devil now has Christ somewhere on a very high mountain. It was from Nebo’s summit that Moses caught the vision of the land of Canaan (Deut. 34:1–3). Luke4:5 says that the whole panorama was “in a moment of time.” This was a clear vision and instantaneous.
Matthew 4:9 I will give You all these things (kingdoms) (ταυτα σοι παντα δωσω [tauta soi panta dōsō]). The devil rightly claims the rule of the world, not merely of Palestine or of the Roman Empire. Jesus affirms this later when He calls him the god or ruler of this world, as the Scriptures record Jesus saying: The ruler of this world will be cast out… and The ruler of the world is coming, and he has no hold on me (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). “The kingdoms of the cosmos” (4:8) are under his influence. This word for world brings out the orderly arrangement of the universe while ἡ οἰκουμενη [hē oikoumenē] presents the inhabited earth. Jesus does not deny the grip of the devil on the world of men.
Let me balance that with this: We are dealing with a defeated enemy because of Jesus. This has us in a position where we are not fighting for victory, we are fighting from a position of victory when we are found in Jesus. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). But this doesn’t mean that the fight is over. It has been said that anything that the devil can ruin, he will ruin.
Matthew has it recorded that Jesus plainly simply needs to “fall down and worship me” (πεσων προκυνησῃς μοι [pesōn prokunēsēis moi]). This is a demand that really involved worship of the devil. Jesus ambitions and dreams as a man is what is appealed to at the price of recognition of the devil’s primacy in the world. It was a complete compromise that involved surrender of the Son of God to the dark ruler of this world. This temptation has three elements to it: 1) gaining a temporal, not a spiritual, dominion; 2) gaining it at once; and 3) gaining it by an act of honor to the ruler of this world, which would make Jesus the vice-regent of the devil and not of God.
Matthew 4:10 Away with you, satan (ὑπαγε, Σατανα [Hupage, Satanā]). The words “behind me” (ὀπισω μου [opisō mou]) belong to Matt. 16:23, and not here. “Away with you or be gone” is the preferred verbage. This temptation is the ultimate limitation of diabolical suggestion. “Satan” means the adversary and Christ identifies the devil as His and our adversary. This is the third time Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, this time 6:13, and Jesus repels the wicked suggestion by Scripture quotation, “Him alone will you serve.” The word here in Matt. 4:10 for serve is λατρευσεις [latreuseis] from λατρις [latris] a hired servant, one who works for hire. Proper alignment in service renders proper worship.
Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left Him (τοτε ἀφιησιν αὐτον ὁ διαβολος [tote aphiēsin auton ho diabolos]). We need to once again note the use of “then” (τοτε [tote]) again and the historical present. The movement is swift. “And behold” (και ἰδου [kai idou]) Matthew often presents a life-like picture. “Angels came (aorist tense προσηλθον [prosēlthon] punctiliar action) and were ministering (διηκονουν [diēkonoun], picturesque imperfect, linear action) to him.” The victory was won in spite of the repeated onsets of the devil who had tried every avenue of approach. The angels could cheer him in the inevitable nervous and spiritual reaction from the strain of conflict, and probably also with food as in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 19:6). The issues at stake were of vast import as the champions of light and darkness grappled for the mastery of men. Luke 4:13 adds, that the devil left Jesus only “until the next opportunity” (ἀχρι καιρου [achri kairou]).
In the third temptation, the devil wants Jesus to obtain what God has promised him (all the kingdoms of the world) but through a illegitimate way, the devil’s way, which would avoid the cross altogether, 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 (Luke 4:6). Paul also calls the devil the god of this age in 2 Corinthians 4:4. This is important, as it eliminates the argument that the devil was entirely vanquished at the cross. Satan received the title deed over this earth environment by the fall of man. Jesus took the deed back; He purchased it by His blood (Revelation 5). Questioning God’s Promise Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession (Psalm 2:8). Jesus will reign, but first He must suffer. The absolute hardest temptation is “You don’t need to do this the hard way, I’ll give you the world, just worship me for a moment.”
angels ministered to Him. Cf. Ps. 91:11, 12. The tense of this Gr. verb, “to minister,” suggests the angels ministered to Jesus throughout His temptation.
Transfiguration of Jesus (See Matthew 17)/demon possessed kid the disciples couldn’t deal with
God’s Son Passes the Test (4:1–11) Scholars’ interpretations of the temptation narrative broadly fall into three primary categories (Theissen 1991:218–19): (1) Jesus’ testing recalls that of Israel in the wilderness; whatever God commanded Israel his child in the wilderness, much more he would require of his Son the Messiah. (2) Jesus provides a model for tested believers. (3) The narrative affirms a correct understanding of Jesus’ messiahship as against contemporary political or militaristic interpretations. Clues within the narrative (such as 4:2) and the rest of Matthew (such as 6:13; 26:41; 27:42–43) indicate that the narrative functions in all three ways.*