(I took this photo of the Judean Wilderness in 2011)
After the baptism of Jesus, in preparation for His public ministry, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. The Judean Wilderness is a harsh place and is dry, barren, and desolate. The Bible says after He had fasted for 4o days and 40 nights, the tempter approached Him. He presented our Lord with three specific temptations. The temptations are examples of three common types of temptations we face.
The first temptation appealed to Jesus’ humanity by tempting Him in the desire of His flesh. Jesus had been fasting 40 days and 40 nights. Satan challenged Jesus to command the stones to become bread. Jesus in response quoted from the Word of God, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:3. One of the best ways to gain victory over temptation is to grow deep in the Word of God, and draw the sword for your defense when the enemy attacks.
The second temptation was when the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and challenged him. He told Jesus that if He was the Son of God, to throw Himself down and the angels would bear Him up. This was on old trick the enemy used, to question and twist what God had said. Again, Jesus quoted Scripture and said, “Do not test the Lord your God” Matthew 4:7.
The third temptation was when Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He said Jesus could have those immediately, if he would fall down and worship the enemy. The devil was offering an out for the cross, for Jesus to avoid suffering, and to experience an immediate payoff in exchange. Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him” Matthew 4:10.
In overcoming temptation, Jesus as God in the flesh accomplished several things. He destroyed the power of the enemy (Hebrews 2:15). He is our merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God (Hebrews 2:17). He intercedes on our behalf and provides the grace of forgiveness.
We face many temptations because of the flesh, the world, and the devil, and we often succumb to them because our flesh is weak and we are wretched sinners. Our hope is that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses! “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. Jesus’ response to temptation in His experience in the wilderness, and throughout His life show us how to respond to sin.
Temptation is certain. How we respond to it is up to us, and more importantly up to where our power comes from in resisting it. Look to God, appeal to His Word, and rely on the power of the Spirit in your life! God gives us a great and enduring promise in His Word:
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”
Victory over temptation is possible because of the finished work of Jesus. God expects His servants to live holy lives and to lead others to do the same. Take your holiness serious, because God certainly does!