Have you ever thought about the purpose for the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Have you ever wondered why immediately after He is baptized He is driven into the wilderness for 40 days by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil? The temptations themselves seem odd and random, what holds them together?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all present us with the temptation of Jesus. Matthew and Luke provides us with the details of the temptation, while Mark gives us a short summary telling us Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Since Matthew and Luke both provide us with a more detailed account of Jesus’ temptation, we will focus in on those texts; specifically, we will look at Matthew’s account.
Parallel with Israel and More
Besides the obvious parallel with Israel, who was in the wilderness 40 days and failed and Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and succeeded, showing He is the new Israel – the chosen and anointed one, what else can we learn from this event? In looking at the temptations Jesus faces, we see that they all are self serving temptations that would take glory away from the Father. Let’s look specifically at each temptation to see Jesus’ response and what we can learn from it.
Stones Into Bread
Jesus had been in the wilderness for forty days fasting, He would have been extremely hungry. Satan comes to Him and tempts Him to turn some stones into bread (Matt. 4:2-3). But in doing so, Jesus would have rejected God as the sustaining power of life. Look at what He says in response to Satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus was sustained by His relationship with the Lord, He did not need to create something else in order to serve Himself, He knew the Lord would provide and would sustain Him.
The Pinnacle of the Temple
After Jesus refuses to turn the stones into bread, He is taken up to the pinnacle of the temple and is tempted to jump off, so that God will rescue Him (Matt.4:5-6). Jesus was sent to do the will of the Father, which was to go to the cross to die for the sins of mankind, so that man’s relationship with God could be restored, if man believes in Christ as their Savior. To jump off of the pinnacle of the temple, in order for God to have to save Him, would be putting the Lord to the test (Matt. 4:7). More pointedly, He would not be seeking to glorify the Father; rather, He would be serving Himself by seeking to show how important He really is to the plan of salvation.
The Kingdoms of the World
In the last temptation, Satan takes Jesus to the top of a high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He then tells Him He can have all these kingdoms if He will worship him (Satan). To which Jesus says, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve’” (Matt. 4:10). Here Jesus tells us who He is working to glorify and serve, namely, the Father.
Jesus is not concerned with exalting Himself, He is concerned with glorifying the Father in Heaven and serving Him alone. He does not need to exalt and glorify Himself because He is perfectly content in His relationship with the Father and the Spirit. A relationship where mutual love and service has existed before the foundations of the earth. Matthew, Mark, and Luke seek to highlight this fact with their narratives. They want their readers to see that Jesus did not come to serve Himself, but to serve the Lord. In addition, in serving the Lord, He is perfectly content and joyful. He does not need to elevate Himself to a place of glory in order to find joy and happiness because He finds joy and happiness in His relationship with the Lord.
We too can experience this type of love and joy. The gospel tells us that we are more of a sinner than we ever dare thought, but at the same time it tells us that we are more accepted than we ever could imagine. By finding our acceptance in God and not in the world through self-glory or power, we will be more content and happy than we ever thought we could because we are more loved by God in Christ than we ever thought possible. Whereas the world seeks first and foremost to use others for their own benefit, the gospel places service to others at its pinnacle by showing us that Jesus was perfectly content with serving the Lord and seeking His (the Father’s) glory over His own because He loved the Father unconditionally, and He understood the joy associated with His relationship with the Father, as well as the love and service the Father reciprocated to Him.
We too can experience the same lasting eternal joy and love Jesus experiences. All we need to do is believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, that our sin separates us from God and without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins, we could not have a relationship with the Father. If you would like to learn more about the gospel message, you can read an earlier post I wrote by clicking here.