In Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4 an event from Christ’s life is recorded which details three temptations that He endured directly from Satan. While there are other places within the Scriptures that seem to imply temptations were prevalent in His life (Luke 22:42), only this occasion directly shows Christ interacting with Satan one on one. It is a very intriguing passage, because it proves to us without doubt that Christ went through the same hardships, trials, and temptations that we go through each and every day. Christ also shows us that with God’s help we can avoid sin. No one forces us into sin, and God’s precepts give us guidance in how to overcome temptation. Therefore, we are left with no excuse for sin.
There are many such lessons we could draw from this account. I want to notice five important points that I hope will cause us to think about temptations and trials in our own life.
1) Satan will tempt us at our weakest point
In Matthew 4:2 we read that Christ fasted for 40 days, and “afterward He was hungry.” Men have fasted for longer periods of time, usually resulting in their death. A professor of physiology at the University of Chicago stated that a well-nourished male could live 50-75 days without food, as long as conditions were not harsh. This points to Christ being very close to a breaking point for the human body. Hungry, in our modern understanding, may not fully describe how Christ felt. We skip one meal and we say we’re “hungry.” This is hunger to a degree most have never experienced. His whole body would have felt weak. It is at this point that Satan comes to tempt Him. Satan knows Christ is weak. He knows Christ has not eaten food in 40 days. He knows this is the weakest moment for Christ. Therefore, he takes three opportunities to persuade Christ to sin.
I Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Therefore, we constantly have to keep ourselves sober-minded. We constantly have to be aware that Satan could tempt us at any moment, and what he will use to tempt us will be the very weakest point in our armor. Satan knows exactly what you are lacking, and he is going to seek to exploit that weakness to your destruction. He will always be looking for the opportune moment to tempt us (Luke 4:13).
2) Small, Justifiable actions are still sin if they are against God’s law
Satan tells Jesus to turn these stones into bread. After 40 days without nourishment, bread would be a rather justifiable desire. No one would have questioned Jesus’s reason for turning the stones into bread.
Yet, it was not according to God’s will. Jesus was there to fulfill the desires of His Father’s will, not the desires of His flesh. Turning the stones into bread would have proven Christ to be self-serving. It would have run contrary to the very purpose for performing signs (John 20:31). It would have proven Christ to be proud, because He would be saying, “I’m the Son of God, and if I’m hungry, I will do as I please.”
There are often small ordeals, which we believe are justifiable. We get angry at the vehicle behind us for tailing, so we slow down to 25 to show them we mean business. Someone offends us, and we refuse to forgive them till they apologize. Examples abound in our every day life: how we want to live, how we want to serve God, how we want to organize the body of Christ.
Christ did not allow His hunger, or any of His physical desires to rule over His spiritual responsibilities. Fleshly justifications cannot stand against the will of God. If we desire God, we must choose to serve Him Proverbs 14:12 explains that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the way therein is death.” Choose the Way of life, by trusting fully in the Word of God.
3) God’s Word is sufficient to overcome temptation
Three times Christ overcomes temptation. Three times Christ uses the same method to overcome. Three times Christ said, “It is written…”. He trusted fully in the Word of God. Christ did not turn to His knowledge of Satan, or His own wisdom. The Word of God was sufficient to dissuade Him from sin.
II Timothy 3:15 tells us that the word of God is able to make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” It is the only source we need to turn to for guidance. It has the ability to reprove, correct, instruct, and thoroughly equip us. We do not need the thoughts and pithy phrases of man to overcome sin. We only need the written words of God.
4) Satan knows the word of God
In Matthew 4:6 Satan quotes from a passage in Psalm 91. The passage is prophetic of Christ, and seems to be telling us that Christ will not have the same sort of ailments befall Him that might befall other mortals. Christ was not going to fall off a boat and drowned in the Sea, or have a poisonous snake bite and kill Him. He had a purpose to fulfill, and there seems to be ample evidence (Luke 4:30) that God did not allow Christ to face impending death till the death on the cross.
Satan wanted Christ to test the validity of God’s word. Would God really do as He indicated? Satan was trying to get Christ to doubt His Father, and he was willing to twist the Scriptures in order to accomplish that goal.
Satan knows the Scriptures. The passage indicates he understands their general application. Therefore, he is able to use their truth to his own devices. He encourages men to take passages out of their context, to misuse them to justify evil, and to twist them to fit their own will. II Peter 3:16 explains that we must be wary of men who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction. They were doing it with Paul’s difficult sayings, and they will continue to twist the rest of the Scriptures as well. We must be very careful that we do not fall prey to Satan’s trap. He desires that we use the Scriptures for our own purpose, and disregard the purpose of God.
Study the Word of God. Know what He desires of you. Then turn away from all false teaching, knowing that it originates with the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
5) Christ knows our trials and temptations
Perhaps the greatest lesson brought forth in this account of Christ’s life is that Christ endured the sort of things you and I have to deal with day in and day out. He was hungry (Matthew 4:2). He dealt with wild beasts (Mark 1:13). He was in a somewhat harsh environment (Matthew 4:1). He was tempted by Satan from all points (Matthew 4:1-11; I John 1:16).
Christ knows extreme trial, extreme temptation. Christ understands physical weakness. He is well aware of the powerful appeal Satan can make, and the difficulty in resisting those temptations. He learned self-control. He overcame physical distress.
Therefore, He is able to stand before God, and plead our case. He is able to have compassion on our weaknesses. It is not that He excuses our sin, as He Himself was able to overcome Satan without sinning. He is compassionate in that He shows us long-suffering. He wasn’t harsh toward mankind as He hung dying on the cross. He loves and desires that we love in return. Therefore, we can come to Him with our sinful nature, and He will wash us clean in the eyes of God.
Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”