The Temptation of Jesus, Part 2 – Matthew 4

(Greek words can be viewed with symbol font)

February 16, 1992
Scott L. Harris

The Temptation of Jesus, Pt 2
Matthew 4:1-11

This morning we will continue to examine the subject of temptation by looking at how the Lord handled it in Matthew 4:1-11. Temptation is something everyone of us faces everyday. The temptations that men and women face will differ in type and degree from one another. Some are tempted by what we consider gross sins such immorality, illicit and or perverted sexual fulfillment, masochism, sadism, stealing, swindling, alcoholism, drug abuse, even murder. Others are not swayed so much by those kind of things, but fall prey to covetousness, jealousy, hatred, white collar crime, cheating on taxes, boasting, arrogance, gluttony, greed, children being disobedience to parents, and being unloving. Regardless of the particular temptation there are two things true about all temptation. 1) Whether the temptation is to do something acceptable to society (materialism, cheat on taxes) or unacceptable (murder), God says it is sin. All temptation is that it is an enticement to sin. 2) All temptation is resisted and overcome the same way – obedience to God.

In our brief overview of this passage last week we saw that in every temptation brought against Jesus He resisted and overcame the temptation not by quoting a Bible verse, but by knowing the Word of God well enough to know the will of God and then being obedient to God. Some have tried to make it sound like temptation can be overcome just by quoting a verse. That is not true and to teach that reduces the Bible, and in particular memorization of Scripture, into formulas used for magical incantations. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will to us. We hide it in our hearts (memorize it) so that we will know what God’s will is so that we may not sin against Him (Psalm 119:9-11).

A second point I want to bring out in review from last week’s message is that there are two sides of temptation. The testing of our faith and the enticement to evil. In the Old Testament there were two different words used that distinguished the two concepts. One word was used for “testing our faith” as in when God ” tested” Abraham in Genesis 22. The second word meant to deceive with the connotation of being enticed to do evil. We saw that last week in looking at Eve’s fall into sin by the “deception” / “beguiling” of the Serpent (Genesis 3:13). In the New Testament, the Greek word is generic and can mean to “test,” “prove,” “try” or to “entice to evil,” “tempt.”

Scripture makes it clear that God will “test” our faith, but He will never “tempt us,” “entice us to evil” (James 1:13,14). The testing of our faith will mature us if we let it work in our lives properly (James 1:2-4; Rom 5). Temptation plays upon our desires, and when we give into those desires apart from godliness we go into sin (James 1:14,15). In most cases both aspects can be present. There is a test of our faith whether we will hold onto the truths God has given to us and follow Him alone, which will build up our faith if we do. Then are enticements for us to fulfill our own desires by our own means and methods which will result in sin if yield to it. We could define ” temptation” generically by saying it is any challenge to follow God’s will. Such is what we find Jesus facing as we look into Matthew 4. He is going to be challenged to follow God’s will.
(See: The Temptation of Jesus, Part 1)

Jesus has just been baptized. This is in a sense his ” coronation.” Messiah is here and God the Father has bestowed His blessing upon Him saying ” this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (See: The Baptism of Jesus) In addition, Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit for His ministry as a human. Jesus Christ is both man and God in one person. He is 100% man and nothing can detract from that. He is 100% God and nothing can detract from that either. He is one person with two distinct natures. That of man and that of God with neither nature mixed or fused together.

In Matthew 4:1 we find 1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The first thing we note out of this section of Scripture is that the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness for the specific purpose of being tempted by the devil. God is sovereign in the matter. This is not something happening by chance, fate or bad luck. This not something the devil arranged or even stumbled upon to take advantage of it. God the Spirit leads God the Son into the wilderness to face the adversary.

Second, we see here that the devil is real. This is an important point to stress because so many doubt the existence of a real and personal being called the “devil” (Matthew 4:1). He is called other things in other passages including: the “tempter” (Matthew 4:3), “Satan” (Mark 1:13), “Abaddon and Apollyon” (destroyer – Rev 9:11), “the serpent of old” (Rev 12:9), the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Some describe him in terms of a fairy tale such as a guy with a red suit with a long pointed tail carrying a pitchfork. Others seek to diminish him to a ” principle of evil.” There is no personality involved, no one scheming and planning, just an impersonal and random principle of evil. But Satan is a real being, a fallen angel that seeks to usurp God’s glory and honor and take it for himself. He is an evil being with evil desires described in 1 Peter 5:8 as a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” If you are in Christ you need not fear Him, but you do need to be aware of him lest he sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31). “Submit to God, Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

This passage of Scripture presents the devil as a real being. Jesus is to be tempted by the devil (verse 1). In verse 3 we find him presented in the text as a real person. In Mark we find the same thing except he is called by the name “Satan.” In Matthew and Luke we find that Jesus is talking with the devil as a person, not some sort of mystical principle of evil, but to a real personality.

When we take into consideration that the only way for the apostles to have know about this contest between the devil and Jesus was that Jesus told it to them, then the argument becomes either stronger. Either Jesus accommodated His language to a prominent superstition knowing it to be a superstition, in which case Jesus is a deceiver too. Or it is a superstition which Jesus believed and passed on, in which case Jesus is not the revealer of God’s truth, but a man subject to superstitions of his people. Or Jesus is telling the truth which He wants us to know and understand.

Why take this time to stress the point that the devil is a real person? First, there are many who reject the existence of a personal being called the devil. Second, and more importantly to us this morning, it brings us back into the nature of a real battle which we are in. Even though we believe that the devil is real, we do not live in such a manner. We take things like they are happenstance. It was just chance that this or that happened. The truth is we have an adversary that knows us and our weak areas by his observation of mankind and of us as individuals. And he and the angels that follow him will seek to exploit our weaknesses in their efforts to move us away from God. We are in war not with ” flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

I find that though we as Christians believe that Satan and demons are real we tend to pass off stories of demonic activity as sensationalism. True, some of the stories are just sensationalism (National Enquirer, Star, etc.), but a lot of them are not. Demonic activity including apparitions, levitations, black and white magic, healings, automatic writing, channeling, etc. are real. In addition I have no doubt that we will be seeing more of these things as our nation slides farther away from its former adherence to Biblical truth.

However, my concern is not so much about the sensational side of Satan. I am more concerned about its subtle side. In the C.S. Lewis allegory, “The Screwtape Letters,” we find the demon Screwtape criticizing his underdemon Wormwood for letting the human catch a glimpse of him which resulted in the human preparing himself against Wormwood’s efforts to corrupt him. Such is my greater concern and why I stress the fact that we have a real enemy. We are much more on guard when we know what we are facing, but for the most part we are not aware. Satan is real and he is subtle. Can we face what he brings against us? Only if we are on guard against him. In this passage we find Jesus in direct, open confrontation with the devil, but in Matthew 16 Satan even used the words of a friend to tempt Jesus. Peter is resistive to Jesus going to the cross and Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him, “get behind me Satan.” Are you ready for Satan’s assault against you?

Before we continue in the text, let me remind you that temptations Jesus faced were real. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “tempted in all points as we are, yet with out sin.” Jesus was 100% God, but he was also 100% man, and the humanity in Him could feel the full measure of the temptation brought against Him. Yet his human nature always yielded fully to the divine giving full obedience to the will of the Father, and so He was without sin. We overcome in the same manner. If we yield fully to God’s will and be obedient to Him we will gain victory over sin.

Our text goes on and says, 2 “And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.” Jesus had been forty days out in the wilderness. Mark describes this as being “with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). The Judean wilderness is a harsh environment. Dry, little vegetation, steep hills. But because of this it also becomes a good place for solitude, thinking and praying. If you have ever been out in the desert alone you know that you can become engulfed in its immensity, yet you do not see anything and you hear little but the wind. Jesus was out in the wilderness fasting.

There are many types of fasts recorded in Scripture and the text does not say what sort of fast Jesus was undergoing, but from the resulting hunger it appears to have been a long fast without food just as Moses and Elijah had undergone. The purpose of the fast is not specifically recorded but it seems best to see the fast as part of His preparation for ministry. Moses and Daniel underwent such fasts. The text does say that the purpose of being in the wilderness was to be tempted by the devil. The parallel account in Luke indicates that Jesus was probably tempted throughout the 40 days in the wilderness. At the end of this period we find Satan coming in person to tempt Jesus.

3 “And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

The devil comes and entices Jesus in the area of his humanity of physical flesh by telling Him to make stones into bread and satisfy His hunger. But notice the question that comes with the temptation. The devil (diaboloV / diablolos which means “slanderer” ), calls into question in a subtle manner Jesus being the Son of God. The Greek conditional phrase here assumes Jesus is the Son of God, and the devil knows without any doubt who Jesus is, but the challenge is put for Jesus to prove that He is who He claims. There is also subtle slander against God the Father. “If you are the Son of God then why are you out here hungry? Why hasn’t the Father provided for your needs?” Isaiah 33:16 says of the righteous that “His bread will be given him; his water will be sure.” In essence, the devil is saying that God has not provided for you Jesus, even though you are His son, so take charge and provide for Yourself. The temptation is to satisfy the desires of the body though his own means and methods rather than relying upon god to provide (v 3).

Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy. 8:3  4 “But He answered and said, It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Jesus came to do the Father’s will even saying in John 4:34 that “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” Jesus puts his body in subjection to God and in complete trust to wait for His provision.

Satan comes against us with the same type of temptation. He challenges us about being God’s children and calls into question God’s goodness. His slander is “If God is so good and knows your needs, how come He has not given you those things.” Satan wants us to doubt God, take our eyes off of Him and then seek to do things for ourselves.

That challenge comes in many specifics. Sometimes it is food, though not often in our country where there is a bigger preoccupation with how to lose weight. But the temptation can come up that God will not provide for your physical needs. We live in a time of economic downturn. People worry about their jobs, how they will keep enough money coming in to pay the bills and put food on the table. Let me be frank. Scripture commands, “Be anxious for nothing (do not worry), but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, And the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7). Isaiah adds, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in Thee.” If you are worried about the future, then you have forgotten the promise of God in Matthew 6:33 that He will provide for you if you will seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. That worry is sin and the devil is beating you.

How grateful I am for Randy Ryan’s openness about this. He shared with us a couple of Wednesday nights ago in prayer meeting how much he has grown and is continuing to grow as he sees the Lord provide for him and his family. He praised the Lord that through being layed off he is learning to trust the Lord and not worry.

Others can be lead astray about the Lord’s love for them in not providing a good spouse. When I was dealing with singles, the basic temptation was concerning God providing a spouse at all, and so came the enticements to date non-Christians, but dating leads to marriage. It is sad to report, but statistics complied by Josh MacDowell on teenage sexuality within the evangelical church show that there is as much a problem with fornication within the church as there is outside of the church. The 1987 study showed that by age 18, 43% of churched youth have engaged in sexual intercourse, another 18% had engaged in heavy petting, and in a way even more sad, 36% were not able to state that sexual intercourse before marriage is morally unacceptable. They have bought Satan’s lie concerning human sexuality. Contrary to our society’s mad preoccupation with sexuality, the body is not for sexual fulfillment. It is for the Lord! (1 Corinthians 6:13). 1 Thessalonians 4:3 puts it this way, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Do we serve God as creatures created in His image or do we satisfy ourselves like animals whether that is fornication prior to marriage or adultery after marriage?

People come in to talk because they are having problems with their spouse. They complain that he or she is not doing their part, they are not fulfilling their role, they are not following the Lord. Then they conclude that certainly God wants them to enjoy life with a good spouse? Some even think God will allow them to divorce and marry someone else. When I tell them the Bible says no to those things and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which is unconditionally and sacrificially (Ephesians 5), and that wives are to win their husband who may even be disobedient to the word by their chaste and respectful behavior (1 Peter 3), they say God is not fair. They say He is not providing for their needs. They have bought the lie of Satan. Life is not about fleeting happiness but in responding properly to the truth which in turn will lead to persistent joy (Romans 5).

Yes, we have physical needs and physical desires, but all of them are to be in subjection to the will of God in their fulfillment. God’s promise is to provide for us and to take care of us, but that is all within what He has designed for our lives, not according to fleshly desires. Paul says it this way in Colossians 3:2-5, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” We need to do the same thing Jesus did when facing this temptation. We must put our bodies in subjection to God and in complete trust wait for His provision.

Next, Satan attacks in the area of pride. The tempter tells Jesus to perform a great sign and miracle. 5 “Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple.”It is not certain, but the pinnacle of the temple may have been the roof that extended out over Herod’s portico. Josephus reports that the drop to the valley floor at that point was around 450 feet. 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU’; (Ps 91:11) and ‘ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” (Ps 91:12)

In the first temptation the need was already evident – lack of food. In this temptation the need would have to be created. To make the temptation even more persuasive, the devil even quotes Scripture – Psalm 91:11 & 12. Again the challenge to the truth is given. “If you are the son of God,” then prove it and the truth of God’s word by putting it to the test. Throw yourself down and let God fulfill the Scriptures just quoted. The devil is the author of Scripture twisting. Such a display would certainly go a long way in satisfying the demands of the Scribes and Pharisees for a sign. The temptation is for Jesus to prove Himself and gain the following of the people by His own means and methods. In this case a sensational act.

Jesus quotes from Scripture again. 7 “Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'” (Deuteronomy 6:16) Jesus subjects His pride to God and will wait for God to do things in His way and timing. He knows that to put God to the test only demonstrates a lack of trust in God and that is sin.

We can face the same sort of test. We are expected to trust God with confidence in His love and care for us, but that does not mean we are free to live recklessly and carelessly and then expect God to bail us out when we get into trouble. That is to presume upon His grace. I can think of two common examples of this within ” Christianity” today. The first is the presumption that God will keep me healthy and / or heal me, so I won’t see the doctor, and if I do I won’t take the medication. While I am not saying to run to the Doctor every time you hiccup, I am saying that God expects us to take advantage of help that is available. I personally knew two individuals who were diabetic that neglected their diets and taking insulin properly. Though both prayed for healing, one is now dead and the other has lost her leg. Interesting that Paul traveled with Luke who was a Doctor.

The second involves the theology of John Wimber of Vineyard Fellowship. They believe the presentation of the gospel must be accompanied by signs and wonders. That presumes upon God to give people special miracles in order for them to believe. In contrast to that, John 12:37 says of Jesus that, “though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.” Our faith is neither proven by nor strengthened by putting God to the test. Such practice always demands greater miracles and greater sensational acts to keep the natural, carnal heart satisfied.

The third temptation against Jesus is in the area of the lust of the eyes. Seeing something that He would want for Himself. Satan, who is the “prince of this world” and the “god of this age” tries a third time. 8 “Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Perhaps Satan could have used Psalm 2:8 where the Father says to the Son, “Ask of Me, and I will surely given the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.” This is another slander against God. The devil is telling Jesus that God has not come through for Him, but if Jesus would do what Satan says, then Satan would give Him the Kingdoms of the world. In addition, Satan’s way is easier. All Jesus would have to do is give homage to Satan instead of enduring the pain and agony of the Cross. The temptation is for Jesus to gain the world through His own means and methods instead of God’s plan for the cross.

This time Jesus not only quotes another Scripture, but also rebukes Satan. 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” (Deuteronomy 6:13) Jesus subjected Himself to the Father’s will even knowing that it would take Him to the cross.

This type of temptation has made the modern church in America very ineffective because so much of the church has bought his lie. Notice that the temptation here is not for gross materialism, though Satan will certainly tempt us to that. The temptation here is to gain something that God has promised by some short cut method. Jesus will gain the world. Philippians tells us that every knee shall bow to Him, but God’s method for gaining it was through the cross.

The evangelical church in America is weak because it has bought Satan’s lie and is seeking out short cuts to serving God. For the sake of so called Christian unity the evangelical church is increasingly joining hands with those who do not believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. It joins with those who deny salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and with those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Biblical unity must be based on unity of doctrine, unity of spirit, unity of purpose and unity of true agape love and not marshmallow feelings of warm fuzzies. The gospel has become perverted because even the evangelical church has bought Satan’s lie and seeks to evangelize with a gospel that is man centered rather than God centered. It promotes what God can do for you in making your life better, however that is defined, instead of proclaiming that you have offended God and are under His condemnation, but here is what God has done so that you can be forgiven. Madison Ave marketing techniques have replaced preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a message of “Try Jesus and get all these great things for your life” rather than “God created man for His own glory, but man sinned and separated himself from God and is now spiritually dead and is condemned to eternity in hell, but God loved man so much that He sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of man’s sin so that he can be made alive again to God and fulfill his purpose of creation in giving glorify to God throughout eternity.”

Individual Christians have become weak because not only have they bought into our societies materialism, but they no longer give attention to being diligent students of the word themselves. It is easier to read the latest “Christian” self help book or hear the person on “Christian” radio or TV. It is easier to develop and follow a list of legalistic does and don’ts than to learn Biblical principals and precepts and apply them to your life. It is easier to send money to some organization than be involved personally.

Temptation affects all of us. No one here escapes it. There will be both testing of our faith that we may become stronger and more mature in our walk with Christ. And there will be enticements to evil by the devil, the world and our own desires. The enticements may be flagrant of very subtle, but they will come. Slander will be made against God’s goodness that He has not provided and has not fulfilled His promise and in someway holding back on you. We overcome temptation only when we know the truth of God well enough to remember it in the midst of the temptation. We then must be resolved to follow the Holy Spirit and truth rather than emotion and expediency.

Are you equipped to handle the devil’s enticements? 1. You need to be following Christ. If you do not know Him as your personal Lord and Savior then you need to. 2. Continue in your diligence to worship God with other believers and be in fellowship with them (Heb 10:24,25). 3. Take advantage of opportunities to learn the Word of God with other believers (Acts 2). 4 Most importantly, be personally involved in your own Bible study (Psalm 119). I would be happy to sit down with anyone and chart out a plan with you.

(See also: The Temptation of Jesus – May 2013)

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