Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. — Matthew 4:1
Most of us have heard warnings about the danger of putting gasoline or other flammable fluids on a fire to get it going, but how many of us have done it? If caution was used, perhaps nothing bad happened and no harm was done. If we were successful, we likely tried it again, possibly using just a little less care the next time. This is, in the truest sense, “playing with fire.” A while ago, a friend of mine thought he could get a pile of brush and stumps to burn by pouring gasoline on the brush after the flames from his earlier attempt had seemingly gone out. John’s “harmless” act turned out to be anything but harmless. The gasoline connected with some smoldering embers, and John ended up with second-degree burns on his hands and face. (In reality, it could have been much worse.)
It is also possible to “play with fire” when it comes to temptation. Contemplating seemingly harmless actions can lead to very harmful consequences. In today’s text, the devil’s first effort to tempt Jesus simply involved encouraging Him to turn a stone into bread. One could argue that such an action was of no consequence. We all need food, so what could be the harm? However, if Jesus had listened to Satan, it would have meant that He was being distracted from His purpose. He went to the desert to prepare for His ministry here on earth, and His fasting was part of that preparation.
Notice how the devil’s temptations became increasingly more serious. That is exactly his game plan with us. Just as he tried with Jesus, he looks for little things to get our attention or distract us. If he can get us to listen to him on small, seemingly harmless issues, he will have a foot in the door for other, clearly more harmful ones. Let us follow Jesus’ example of resisting temptation and not become distracted from our spiritual goal and doing God’s will!
The events in this passage took place soon after Christ’s water baptism. Christ went into the desert through the influence of the Spirit of God — the Spirit that had rested upon Him in His baptism. When He was tired, alone, and hungry, and thus most vulnerable, Satan appeared. This still is a tactic Satan employs — assailing one who is already laboring under physical or emotional stress.
Christ’s temptation showed the nature of the environment in which He was to minister. Confrontation with adverse spiritual forces characterized Jesus’ entire ministry on earth. The temptations presented by Satan came in three critical areas: physical desires, power, and pride — the major categories into which our temptations will fall also. Each time Jesus was tempted, He was in a different physical location: the wilderness, the holy city, and an exceeding high mountain.
The record leaves no doubt that Jesus gained the victory. Only Matthew and Luke wrote of the temptations to which Jesus was subjected by the devil, but both Gospels show that He triumphed by appealing to Scripture. In response to the temptation to satisfy His natural desire for food, He used Deuteronomy 8:3. In response to Satan’s second suggestion that He, in essence, dare God to rescue Him, He referenced Deuteronomy 6:16. In response to Satan’s offer of power if Christ would worship him, He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The presentation of the King
C. The certification of the King
2. His temptations (reveals His moral qualifications to be King) (4:1-11)
a. Test of submission (4:1-4)
b. Test of confidence (4:5-7)
c. Test of dependence (4:8-11)
II. The proclamations of the King
A. The ministry of the King (4:12-17)
1. The imprisonment of John (4:12)
2. The withdrawal to Capernaum (4:13-16)
3. The message of Christ (4:17)
Jesus demonstrated both the importance and effectiveness of knowing and applying Scripture to combat temptation. Let us purpose to follow His example!