By Arch Hoercher
Why did Jesus go into the wilderness to be tempted? Why would this even be necessary? After all He is God. What could the purpose of the temptation possibly be? I have come up with three reasons why Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. There are probably more, but these are the three that I came up with. After all preachers will tell you that every good sermon has three points. This is not a sermon but I will use that as an excuse anyway.
Let us first look at the Scripture pertaining to Jesus’ temptation as written in Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV): “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command angels
concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.” The first reason I believe Jesus was tempted by the devil was that even though He was totally God, He was also totally man. Jesus came to this earth as an infant, just as each one of us do. He was a child, a young adult, and an adult. He experienced everything that we experience growing up. None of us can ever say to Jesus, “You don’t know what I am talking about.”. The thing is Jesus does know what you are talking about because He has been there. Temptation is no different. We cannot say that Jesus does not know what it is like to be tempted by the devil. Because He was. He knows exactly what it is like. The first temptation was about satisfying Jesus’ needs. He had fasted for 40 days. He was hungry. Turn the stones into bread so that you can satisfy your hunger. Jesus was tempted to satisfy His personal needs.
The second temptation was to show off in church. He was taken to the highest point of the temple and told to jump. The angels would save Him. If He had jumped, the angels would have saved Him. But He didn’t. He did not need to show off in church. How many of us are tempted to show off in church. How long can I pray without taking a breath? What can I do in church to have people notice me and see how holy and wonderful I am? Church is not the place to show off, it is a place to worship God and exalt Him not us. The last temptation would appeal to one’s greed and lust for power. Satan offered all the kingdoms of the world. This would have had no appeal to Jesus. He created it all to begin with. The only power that Jesus was interested was the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the power that we should seek and strive for, because it is available to us but is so frequently ignored. We tend to seek the power of this world more so than the power of God. In all cases Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations by quoting scripture, even when Satan used scripture himself. Our defense to Satan’s temptations is in the power of the Holy Spirit within us and the Word of God. Remember that scripture tells us that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword.
The second reason I believe that Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil was to expose the devil for what he is. The first thing to note is that if we rely on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the devil has no power over us. Second it exposed Satan for what he really wants. The last temptation shows this. He wanted Jesus to bow down and worship him. That is what Satan has wanted ever since his rebellion against God. He wants to be worshiped.
Isaiah 14:13-14 speaks of Satan: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” Satan is not the only one who may say this in their hearts. Man is also very
capable of doing the same.
The third reason Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness is a little more complex. We first need to look at His baptism by John the Baptist. Luke 3:21-22 (NIV): “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are My Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” This voice was God the Father stating that Jesus was the Son of God affirming that with the Holy Spirit. With the first two temptations made by Satan he began each one with the statement, “If you are the Son of God.” That is important to see and understand. Not only was Satan challenging Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God, there was a much deeper temptation going on. Did you know that there is one other person besides Jesus that in scripture was referred to as the son of God? To find out who this is all you have to do is keep reading in Luke chapter 3. Luke gives the genealogy of Jesus. There is a list of a bunch of “the son of”. The last one list reads, “Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” Adam was a son of God. He was created by God Himself. Adam had no earthly father. Adam, who knew no sin, resided in the Garden of Eden until the serpent (Satan) came along and tempted him to eat of the tree that God had forbidden him to eat of. Adam succumbed to the devil’s temptation and ate of the tree. That was the beginning of all of man’s problems and distress and the birth of our sin nature. After Adam sinned against God, the “flesh” and all its associated sins (anger, lust, self-indulgence) was born. Jesus, the Son of God, was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the same serpent that tempted Adam, the son of God. Jesus resisted and dispatched the serpent to show that He had come to take care of all the sins of man (the flesh) and provide the reconciliation of man back to God as it was before Adam ate of the tree. Why did Jesus come to this world? 1 John 3:8 (NIV): “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The REASON the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” God wants us to know that Satan is alive and well. He will continue to tempt anyone and everyone, no matter if they are Christians or not. But a Christian should have knowledge of Satan and his ways. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV) reads: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not UNAWARE of his schemes.” Jesus was led into the wilderness for a reason. It is summarized in Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV): “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”