Temptation of Jesus
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Observations & Reflections
The temptation of Jesus right after the baptism and theophany is following what should be a familiar story telling narrative; known as the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is a format of story telling that has a distinct pattern and was well known in ancient story telling. Mesopotamian stories such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Greek stories like Hercules, use this format. The pattern can be seen also in modern day stories such as The Lion King, Avatars, Star Wars, and just about any other movie with a hero role. The format should be similar to the one below, though, not always a perfect match.
The Hero’s Journey
- The Call
- Refusal of the Call
- Supernatural Aid
- Crossing the First Threshold
- Belly of the Whale
- The Road of Trials
- The Meeting with the Goddess (or devil)
- Atonement with the Father
- Apotheosis (Climax)
- The Blessing Given to the Hero
- Refusal or Reluctance to Return
- The Crossing of the Return Threshold
- Master of Two Worlds
- Freedom to Live (New Life)
As we venture through the book of Luke one will notice that both he and Matthew have a tendency to highlight these elements more than the other gospel writers. Luke, in particular, tells a skillful story that paints a vivid picture of the hero of the story.
Another interesting feature of Luke’s story is that Jesus’ temptation does not follow the same order as Matthew’s. The 3 different temptations come in a slightly different order. Are the two accounts contradictory? In this case, I believe not.
Only one of the accounts is a chronological account. Matthew uses standard chronological phrases such as “then”, “after that”, etc. Luke just used a generic conjunction “and”, indicating that he is less concerned about the chronology as he is the actual events. The two accounts are ordered as shown below.
- If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread
- If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down
- All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me
- If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread
- If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours
- If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here (the pinnacle of the temple)
One thing to consider as we go through Luke is that Luke tends to emphasize two things, the Temple and Jesus as High Priest. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Luke ends the testing of the Lord with a point he wishes to emphasize later. Also, keep in mind that Luke’s audience was likely reading this gospel while the Temple in Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, around 70 CE.
Jesus was the only one who had the power to withstand the temptation of the devil. When we read this passage, we often assumed that the devil only tempted him those three times. However, those are just the only type of temptations that we read about. Verse two indicates that Jesus was tempted by the devil for all forty days!
How amazing it is to see Jesus set the example of what it means to be resilient to the devils snares. We do not know what other temptations that the devil brought to Jesus during that time but we can assume they were probably just as difficult from the three interactions that we do read about.
Taking a look at these three temptations that the devil brought to Him, we can see that the devil tempted Him with three very likely things that we too face today. Hunger, power and safety are areas of our life that we too desperately seek to fill. Physical hunger is something that can alter ones senses and mood if not met right away. It can also lead to malnutrition if one does not eat properly. Satan, knowing just how deep His physical hunger must have been, tempts Him with exactly what His physical body needed. Yet, the reason for Jesus’ refusal probably wasn’t because He didn’t want to eat. His main point was that we cannot live off what the world has to offer us. The only thing that can truly sustain us in this life is and that is more important then physical hunger is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The other two temptations also target what every human wants. Power was something that we know Jesus already did have but He knew that He was going to forsake all of that when He went to the cross. Amongst society and the people that He was about to minister too, He was going to be looked at as poor, powerless and someone who was not of society’s high ranking. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus needed to be in order to win over the lives of those who were lost and poor in a spiritual sense.
Finally, safety and security is the last but I think most important struggle that we face today. Jesus still being man but having the power of God, knew that nothing could hurt Him. However, He was not going to use the power He had to save Himself. His power as God but in the human form of Christ was going to be used to heal and give hope to those who were in great need. He also exemplified when it means to truly trust in God’s love and control when we are faced with a dangerous and difficult circumstance.
At the end of this passage we read the most crucial part of the text “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” This s a foreshadowing of what was to come when Jesus goes to the cross and dies for our sin. This also shows just how in control Jesus was about how to handle the temptations and the timing in which He would face His enemy and conquer it. We can find comfort in following after Jesus’s example in handling temptation. By speaking the truths of God’s word and remembering that what Jesus has to offer is far better, then we will likely succeed in overcoming any temptation that the enemy throws at us.