Satan temps Jesus three times in verses 1-11. Before we get into the details of these temptations, notice that verse 1 says that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. These temptations of Christ were something that God desired and were required to strengthen the resolve of Jesus to do His Father’s will and also perhaps to acquaint Jesus with the ways of Satan His adversary.
Temptation 1: Satan tempts Jesus by hunger. Jesus had not eaten in the desert for forty days. Satan invites Him to turn stones into bread to dispel the hunger. Jesus knows this is an appeal to His fleshly appetites and refutes Satan. The statement He makes, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” is from Deuteronomy 8:3 and it means that Jesus trusted that God would take care of Him despite His hunger and that He would not let the hunger lead to accepting an invitation from the devil.
Temptation 2: Satan tempts Jesus by His deity. Satan takes Jesus to the top of the temple and invites Him to jump to the ground, citing Psalm 91:11-12. These two verses imply that God would not allow Him to be hurt from this fall from the temple, but that angels would care for Jesus and catch Him, not even allowing a foot injury. Satan is tempting Jesus to test God and verify that God would not allow Jesus to be injured. Jesus sees through it and ably resists. He knows that such a test is unnecessary and futile in God’s grand plan.
Temptation 3: Satan tempts Jesus by power. Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain where Jesus can see all the world’s kingdoms. If Jesus will bow down to Satan, Jesus could be the ruler of all of the kingdoms. This temptation is very interesting because it demonstrates the idea that Satan has power, influence and dominion in the world. God created the world, but He allows Satan certain liberties on Earth. But one wonders…could Satan have granted this power to Jesus if Jesus had worshipped Satan? In John 8:44 Jesus says that Satan is the father of lies, so Satan could have been lying. On the other hand God permitted Satan to lay waste to Job’s life in Job 1:12. Whether Satan could fulfill the promise of power or not does not matter because Jesus isn’t falling for it. He knows that His place is not to be an earthly king. Satan departs after Jesus’s third rebuttal.
The rest of the chapter introduces us to Jesus’s ministry. He departs to Galilee once He knows that John the Baptist has been imprisoned. Jesus begins to preach repentance in this region, fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah.
Then He recruits four disciples: Peter, Andrew, James and John, saying that instead of fishers of fish, they will be fishers of men. How awesome would it have been to witness this, or any other of the momentous scenes to come? They left all to follow Him.
Lastly, this chapter gives us the description of Jesus teaching, preaching and healing in the synagogues and in Galilee. His fame spread far throughout the region quickly as more and more people were brought to Him so that He could heal them.
The feeling in this chapter of a great beginning is hard to miss. It is easy to get excited imagining Jesus ramping up his ministry in Galilee and performing miracles. But I think the biggest lesson from Matthew 4 is Jesus’s strength in the face of Satan. Jesus still was only just baptized, not yet started teaching, and had no notoriety or fame when He was in the desert with Satan. He had His faith and His confidence that God would care for Him. He is strong and He never doubts. He also relies on the Word of God to be His muscle, His reason and His replies. Jesus was stalwart and strong, offering us a perfect example of strength under pressure.
May we carry this spirit of surety with us when we experienced our own temptations!