After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit sent him into the wilderness to fast for forty days. Forty days. We don’t know how exactly he occupied Himself during that time, but He doubtless did a lot of praying.
At the end of that time, the Bible says Jesus “was hungry.”
I imagine so.
Then along comes the devil. Satan doesn’t play by the rule of never hitting a fellow when he’s down. On the contrary, that’s his favorite time to strike.
So Satan comes to Jesus, and his first taunt is “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Interesting–is it not?–that his first temptation involves food. The same thing he used to tempt Eve all those years ago in the Garden of Eden. God created our bodies to need and delight in food, so there’s nothing wrong with food itself.
But the devil does a thorough job of corrupting anything that God originally called “good.” That includes food. We shouldn’t let our bodies rule us.
Yet look at the first part of what Satan says: “If You are the Son of God.”
Food isn’t the true issue. Satan is trying to make Jesus doubt His identity and mission. After all, the Son of God has never been starving in the desert before. It’s enough to make a man wonder if he missed his calling. Maybe God doesn’t know what He’s doing. Maybe He’s playing some cruel joke.
Maybe Jesus should perform a small, practical miracle to make sure He really is the Son of God.
Which would prove that Jesus lost faith in His own Father.
But Jesus has His focus on God, and He answers, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)
The physical bread doesn’t matter. The spiritual word of God does.
So the devil tries a different tactic. He transports Jesus to the pinnacle of temple and says, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” (Matthew 4:6)
Wait. It’s the same tactic. “If You are the Son of God…” Doubt.
There’s more at play, too. Get your eyes off God and His plan, and instead focus on your terrible situation and God’s seeming desertion of you. Then create a situation that forces God to come through or else He’ll break His promises. In other words, back God into a corner and attempt to manipulate Him.
Which proves that you don’t trust Him.
But Jesus sets Satan straight right away. “It is written, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'” (Matthew 4:7)
No matter how painful the situation, you don’t test the LORD. It’s a plain command that a person can stand on.
So the devil tries once more. He takes Jesus to an exceedingly high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he says, “All these things I will give You if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:9)
Jesus is the Son of God. He owns everything. But Satan tries to make Jesus forget that He rightfully rules beside God in heaven; tries to make Him focus on the misery of His current situation; tries to make Him desire the physical, immediate glory.
Which would trick Jesus into worshiping another.
(Ridiculous, of course, since Jesus created everything. But after forty days in the desert, it might be hard to remember that.)
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”
Earthly things aren’t important. Only God is worthy of worship.
Jesus knew where to turn. He kept his focus on God, so He was able to defeat the devil’s temptations.
Satan wanted Jesus to doubt His Father’s goodness and His Father’s plan. Satan tried to make Jesus see only the physical suffering of the current situation, not the eternal perspective of His mission on earth. Satan implied that Jesus could bypass His life as a human on this sin-cursed earth and receive glory right now.
And Jesus countered each lie by quoting Scripture, refocusing Himself on the Lord.
If it was a good plan for Jesus, it must be a good plan for me.