We are continuing in our series on the events in the life of Christ that are crucial for our understanding of who He is and what He accomplished for us. Last time we looked at His baptism, and immediately after His baptism, Mark tells us that the Holy Spirit ‘drove’ Jesus into the wilderness (same word used when Jesus drove out demons). Perhaps this was to be seen as last of preparatory episodes before public ministry began in earnest. Once He was ordained and anointed for His public ministry, the Spirit leads the Lord Jesus as the Warrior King to march into an all-out assault on enemy occupied territory. This was holy war of the highest and holiest order—against unholiness and utter depravity. It was the devil who trembled and every demon in the world was probably in attendance.
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
I mentioned Jesus being ‘driven’…but is misleading to think of Jesus being dragged along, as if He needed encouragement: no, the idea is that the Spirit and Jesus worked in tandem to relentlessly wreck havoc on the enemy. Indeed the inseparable bond of the two, and the Spirits hovering over Jesus during this event and His entire ministry is important to know. As Basil said ‘they were inseparable companions’. This was holy war against an exceedingly unholy foe. It seems foolish beyond belief that the devil would take Jesus on, but evil is irrational—meaning there is no understanding it.
It is reasonable to assume that Jesus had been the target of Satan from the beginning, and His entire life was spiritual warfare. Indeed, there is no way to adequately understand Jesus’ ministry without realizing that Jesus battled the evil one constantly, and that one of His main foci was to destroy Satan and his works.
It is noteworthy that in the Lukan account, this episode is preceded by a genealogy from Jesus to Adam. This inclusio suggests that the entire human history between Adam and Jesus, and that the temptation and victory of Jesus, are to be interpreted in contrast to Adams previous failure in his capacity as representative of human race. This is a re-run of Eden. Jesus is second/last Adam. We see this in Romans 5. 18 Therefore, as one trespassf led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousnessg leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19) As CS Lewis said, ‘Jesus danced Adam’s steps backwards’.
Contrast between 2 Adams:
Note contrast of location. Adam was in plush garden. Perfect environment; no lack of anything. But Jesus was in the midst of treeless, furnace-like wilderness, where all there is are vipers and scorpions. The location itself was foreboding and inhospitable for human habitation—epitome of fall.
Adam was in company of his wife as helpmate vs Jesus as all alone. Loneliness…and remember that man being alone received first malediction recorded—in garden before Eve created. Think of the torment people go through in solitary confinement, bereft of any human contact. I remember one of the old prisons that is a paranormal investigators hot spot was a place designed to keep people totally isolated—drove many insane. Maybe Transallegany..I can’t remember but I got involved indirectly…mans phone caught on fire.
Adam lived in a gourmet restaurant with countless fruits to eat from, and his belly was content. But Jesus was on 40 day fast… literally starving. Unlike me, He did not live according to feelings, but set his face like flint in this prolonged battle. And the tense in Greek indicates that Jesus was being tempted continually. The last three are the culmination, and He is probably already worn out in every way.
Similarity—point of attack. Adam and Jesus’ temptation centered on the truthfulness, authority and trustworthiness of God’s Word.
To Eve Satan said: “has God said”? At first Satan was very subtle with Eve. “If God puts any restrictions on you, that means you are not free”. Then Satan outright contradicted God and called Him a liar, and said Adam and Eve would be as god. They trusted their senses, their own subjective intuition—became autonomous in their thinking. Adam was passive in his leadership/protection of the family. They gave the devil a foothold and he took full advantage and overwhelmed them with his superior intellect and insidious tempting. 1 Cor. 10:13 is for ‘front door’ temptations not when he’s already been let into your living room. Need to stop temptation in the bud.
It is obvious that Satan was an observer of Jesus’ baptism because he picks up on the very language the Father used to address Jesus-- “IF you are the Son of God, command these stones…” And as we are told in Eph 6 Jesus picks up the Sword of the Spirit and quotes from Deuteronomy-man does not live bread alone…but by every Word… I will starve before I deny My Father’s truthfulness.”
Frustrated Satan, picks up on the tactic and quotes scripture himself—using same word ‘gegrepetai’. And ironically, he quotes from the very psalm that folks in deliverance use all the time, Psalm 91. I’ve used many times in demon infested homes. But so does Satan, but out of context. And Jesus replies:” You obviously forgot the first rule of hermeneutics—don’t set one text of Word against another—compare scripture with scripture..” do not tempt God.” Tempting God means putting yourself in a situation in which it would take a miracle to extract you from it.
Then Satan has the mind boggling audacity to ask God almighty to bow down and worship him—promising the Creator all the kingdoms of the world. Forgetting they were already Jesus’…though Satan had limited authority given him by God. And this agitates Jesus and He informs the evil one that God alone is to be worshipped, and with that He tells Satan to get lost. It was over. He lost. Battle won! And the devil departs, until an opportune time.
Three times Jesus was tempted and each time He replied ‘gegrepetai’…the sense is that, though written in past, it has abiding authority. The Sword of the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit works in and through His Word. We need to realize that while this was a power encounter, it was first a truth encounter, and then the power was unleashed. We need to have same hunger, same worship, same respect for God's Word. Unlike Satan, we need to be willing to humble ourselves before God’s Word and embrace beliefs that, may seem to our pea brains to be irreconcilable—at least unable to explain how both can be true. For example, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.
His whole life Jesus would be tempted off and on by Satan himself. Not a demon, but Satan himself, and I doubt any of us will ever face Satan himself in our lifetimes. His weakest demon is powerful enough to thrash me to shreds if not for God’s protection. I have seen the work of demons in person and I have seen the power of God in abolishing them through His Word and Jesus’ Name.
In applying this, often it is difficult in knowing if temptation emanates from indwelling sin or from outside, demonic source. But quoting scripture outloud can be of immense help in either situation. Sometimes we literally have to run. Last night on FB, I had a friend request and when I turned to it, it was hard core porn. That is something men need to run away from.
The devil hates the truth and so we can expect that he will do all he can to water truth down, and I am trying to expose folks to full counsel of God, rediscovered in the Reformation. It is sad that once what was so common then, and their successors the puritans, the doctrines of grace—are considered by many evangelicals to be aberrations. Martin Luther spoke often of how he was attacked by Satan himself—and I believe it because the precious gospel had been eclipsed in darkness in an anti-millennium from 500-1,500 AD. Is there no end to devils mimicry? Luther stood as single man against the church and Holy Roman Empire and was valiant for truth of gospel of grace alone.
This episode reminds us that God is passionate about sound theology and sound living…orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
In the end, angels came and ministered to Jesus—angels, who with the Holy Spirit, had been there the entire time. Praise God that Jesus did dance Adam’s steps backwards, and this was a prelude to the cross and the ultimate showdown…slaughter of Satan. And ultimately thrown into hell. Christus Victor—the Warrior King! Jesus Christ! Amen.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.