In all three Synoptic Gospels, the temptation immediately follows Jesus’ baptism. Matthew’s more gentle expression -“was led up” indicates how entirely voluntary this action of Jesus was. The Spirit guided and accompanied Him into the wilderness to have His faith tried. The Spirit does not tempt Jesus, the tempting is done by Satan. The Greek word peirazo mean tempt or test. To tempt is to entice a person to do what is wrong; to test is to give a person the opportunity to choose what is right. To tempt is to expect failure; to test is to expect success. The Spirit is testing Jesus while Satan intends to tempt him, to compromise him, to break him. Jesus is tempted throughout His ministry. Peter will tempt Jesus to avoid the cross (Matthew 16:23). At Gethsemane, He will struggle with temptation once again (Luke 22:42-44).

Testing has precedents in the Old Testament. God tested Abraham by asking the life of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). God tested the Israelites forty years in the wilderness. Israel failed the test, following other gods. God punished them but did not abandon them. Punishment was intended to redeem the people rather than to destroy them (Numbers 14:1-45). God allowed Satan to test Job, a virtuous man (Book of Job). God provided the opportunity for his people to choose good or evil and will bless those who made the choice pleasing to Him.

Jesus neither complains nor tries to cut short the test. He answered all temptations of Satan with “It is written” in the Scriptures. Jesus does not claim that we do not need bread, but that we do not live on bread alone. Satan tempted Jesus to worship him, with the lure of kingdoms of the world. Jesus rejected the offer, firmly with disgust. The enemy is subtle, spiteful, and bold; but can be resisted. We need to constantly be on our guard and rely on the Word of God in relation to our apparent condition. Our determination and faith will waver unless we are fed and strengthened by the word of God consistently. Our priority is to be fed by and to feed others on the word of God.

A man can have his head full of bible knowledge, and his mouth full of scripture verses, while his heart is full of hostility to God and to goodness. Satan and his disciples can similarly quote scripture but for evil purposes. The enemies will try to coax us to do, not what we know is wrong, but what we think is right. We need to discern what was said, not only by hearing what is said but by assessing the person saying it. Is the person an adviser or a tempter? A builder or a destroyer? Does the person have a hidden agenda? Does the person live his or her life displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)? We are often tempted to make decisions based on the outcome and disregard that the end does not justifies the means.

It is comforting that Jesus knew by experience, how agonising it is to be tempted. We should thus trust in His mercy when we fail to resist temptations and fall into sins. “For the high priest we have is not incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves, apart from sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). He who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7) is subject to every human experience, hunger, pain, grief, and anger. A saviour who cannot endure our everyday temptation cannot save us. Jesus was assisted by an angel after the temptation. We can be sure He will not abandon us in our temptations, if we turn to Him. The route to power will not be kneeling before Satan but being lifted on a cross.

We often pridefully console ourselves that we will never fall to such temptations. We will not make a golden calf; we will never fall on our knees and worship any other but God. We then need to ask ourselves, are we vigilant towards our thoughts and actions; not “will never” but just “not yet”? Does the world or God occupy the first position in our lives? Are we good stewards of what we have been given to us; the gifts and resources?


Joyous Praise,