Matthew 4:1-11 – The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus is now preparing to begin his ministry and it was the Holy Spirit who led him to a wilderness where he was all by himself. The wilderness areas in Israel are just baffling. No sign of life anywhere it is just rocky hills not even a tree or a blade of grass in sight.
After the very difficult experience of staying alone and fasting, Jesus now faces three ordeals from the Devil.
You can turn these stones into bread and you really can. It was the voice of the Devil. Jesus chooses not to. The Devil is not concerned about the wellbeing of the Son of God but want him to lose control over his needs. Use his power to satisfy his hunger. Jesus rejects this suggestion and defies the devil by saying man shall not live by bread alone by the word of God.
The devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of a temple and suggests that Jesus could jump and then God would command his angels to come and hold him and protect him from injury. Jesus came into the world to get injured, assaulted, whipped, beaten and even be crucified on the cross and die. Devil was trying to test the faith of Jesus. Do you want to see if God cares for you. Jump. If God cares then he would rush his angels to come and protect you. Jesus defies the Devil and says I am not going to test God. God need not prove his love for me, I am confident of God’s love.
The Devil does not leave him but takes Jesus up a high place and tells that if Jesus bows down and worships the devil then the devil will give all the worldly riches to Jesus. The Devil lies as if the world belongs to him, they belong to God. The devil places the choice for Jesus to abandon his mission and be an advocate for the devil. This is too dangerous as the devil wants Jesus to change his identity. Stop being the messiah and make money. We can see Jesus angry at this point and rebukes the devil saying get behind me Satan. It was then the angels came and cared for Jesus.
The loneliness of the wilderness can be a testing time for any one. It is an opportunity to make choices. To turn away. To be misled, to start worshipping false Gods.
Jesus though very tired and exhausted makes the right choice. His choices are made on the basis of his clear self-understanding and a clear understanding of God.
The temptations of Jesus in the wilderness made him strong and more focussed and more determined and this experience of agony becomes the starting point of the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus steps out of the wilderness to be the saviour of the world, walking across Galilea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Teaching, healing, exorcizing, proclaiming the Good news and he walks eventually dragging the heavy burden of the cross to mount Calvary to suffer and die as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. That was what he came to do and he did it.