(Photo by Greta Punch on Unsplash)
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Before Jesus' ministry officially began, He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. If His baptism was His commissioning, then the wilderness was His time of preparation. The only thing we know is that the devil tempted Jesus for forty days and that He ate nothing and became hungry. The devil was waiting for the opportune time much like he does today.
THE FIRST TEMPTATION
The devil is called the tempter for good reason. He and his cohorts wait and watch for when we are vulnerable, and then they set something attractive before us that entices us. Since they watch us, they are aware of the places we are weak. Temptation is always designed to lead us into sin, and away from God.
When the devil came to Jesus, he intended to get Jesus to sin by giving in to the temptation that he set before him. He started with Jesus' hunger. He says, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." But Jesus said, "No! The Scriptures say that people do not live by bread alone" (Deut 8:3). Satan knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but he challenged Jesus to prove He was. Jesus wouldn't do it.
If you think about it, both Adam and Israel are also identified as God's sons (Lk 3:38; Ex 4:22). However, Jesus was the Son of God in the fullest sense, and He succeeded where Adam and Israel failed. When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, they failed, and Israel continually complained about their hunger in the wilderness, but Jesus depended on the Father to strengthen Him.
THE SECOND TEMPTATION
Next, Satan took Jesus up and revealed to Him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. He said to Jesus, "I will give you all the authority and splendor of these kingdoms if You will worship me. They were given to me, and I can give them to whoever I want" Jesus didn't fall for this temptation either. He told the devil, "The Scriptures say you must worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Deut 6:13).
Once again, when we compare Israel to Jesus, we see that Israel turned to idolatry when things got rough in the wilderness, but Jesus stayed faithful to God and refused to worship Satan. All the glory in the world does not compare to glory and majesty of God Almighty!
Satan did indeed gain the kingdoms of this world when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. The New Testament acknowledges or describes the limited rule he has for now (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph 2:2; 1 Jn 5:19). At the cross Jesus defeated Satan, but he will continue to have control in the world until he is bound at Jesus' second coming. Satan has no authority over believers though. And Satan had no power over Jesus.
THE THIRD TEMPTATION
Still, the devil did not give up. He took Jesus to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say He will 'order His angels to protect and guard you, and they will hold you up with their hands so You won't even hurt your foot on a stone' " ( Ps 91:11-12). And Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say you must not test the Lord your God" (Deut 6:16).
Satan knows Scripture! And He will use it if he thinks it will get him what he wants. That's one of the reasons it's important that believers know Scripture so we can recognize when it's being twisted by the devil or others. And so we can use it as a weapon to defeat the enemy when he accuses us or tries to tempt us.
SAYING NO TO TEMPTATION
We don't want to be like the Israelites who tested God, and we don't want to be like Adam and Eve who gave in to temptation. We want to be like Jesus who trusted God and resisted the devil. And just like Satan left Jesus after the third temptation, he has to leave when we resist him. He may come at us with another temptation so we need to be ready. James 4:7 says "submit yourself to God; resist the devil, and he will flee."
As believers, we are never promised our lives will be easy or free of hardship. We will be tempted, but God has promised He will always provide a way out (1 Cor 10:13), and if we look for it, we will find it. The devil may be roaming about seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8); he may have come to kill, steal, and destroy (Jn 10:10), but he has no right to believers. When we resist, and use our weapons (Eph 6:10-18), including speaking the Word of God as Jesus did, we are able through the power of God to win our battles against temptation.