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The Temptation of Jesus Part I (Luke 4:1-13)

I have never had an occasion to see stone turned into bread. I have, however, seen bread turned to stone. Years ago when my sister and I were in college, our college class at church had a special turkey dinner for the class. My wife-to-be and a friend fixed the turkey (leaving all the “parts” in that little bag inside). This was no disaster, and no one besides the preparers of the meal ever knew about it. The “dinner rolls” were another matter. My sister fixed one of my favorite recipes, a recipe which my mother (and my wife) have successfully used for many years. I can’t explain what happened to the rolls. They didn’t rise, but they also somehow came out of the oven petrified.

I can still remember the puzzled looks on the faces of those kids. They poked at the “things” with their forks. Some foolishly tried to break them in half. Eventually everyone gave up and left them alone. Sizing up the bewilderment of all I said aloud, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” That seemed to break the tension and we all had a good laugh. I actually tried to save one of those petrified rolls for posterity.

Turning bread into stone was no miracle, only a mishap which gave us an occasion for a good laugh. In our text, our Lord Jesus Christ is challenged by Satan to turn stone into bread, a miracle indeed. This proposition is the first of a series of three “temptations” of our Lord by Satan, at the very outset of His public ministry. These are not the only temptations which occurred during that 40 day testing period, but they are the three which both Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) record, and to which Mark (1:12-13) alludes. We must therefore conclude that these temptations are of significance to these writers, and thus to the gospel, and ultimately to us.

The Importance of the Temptation Account

There are several reasons why the temptation accounts are of importance to us. Let us consider these as we seek to prepare our hearts and minds for the instruction God has for us from our passage.

(1) First, the temptation accounts confront the student of the New Testament with some tensions within the biblical text. If our Lord taught the disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” (Matt. 6:13) why then did the Spirit lead our Lord into temptation, as our text indicates (cf. Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1)? Furthermore, if James informs us that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) and we know that Jesus was fully God, how then could He be tempted (the temptation accounts, cf. also Heb. 2:18; 4:15)?

(2) Second, from the standpoint of our Lord’s ministry and calling, His entire mission is contingent upon His victory over every temptation of Satan.59 Jesus is being tested as the “Son of God,” Israel’s Messiah and King. To fail these tests would be to nullify all of God’s purposes and promises which were to be realized through the Son of God.

(3) Third, by studying the temptation of our Lord by Satan, we learn a great deal about our adversary, Satan. To know the mindset and the methods of our enemy, the Devil, we are forewarned and forearmed as to the temptations by which he will seek to destroy us. “… in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).

In the three challenges and solicitations of Satan in the temptation accounts of Matthew and Luke we find the three primary avenues by which Satan seeks to make inroads into our lives so as to devastate our spiritual walk with God through Christ. Our survival as saints depends upon our knowing Satan and ourselves, and thereby putting on the “full armor of God” so as to be able to withstand his attacks:

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Eph. 6:10-13).

(4) Finally, we see in our Lord’s successful resistance to Satan’s solicitations those very means which God has made available to us to withstand Satan’s attacks. Our Lord exemplifies the use of the Word of God in recognizing the error of Satan’s solicitations and the course of obedience to the will of the Father. Our Lord’s example in facing temptation is vital to every Christian who desires to live a life which is in conformity with the will and the word of God.

The Uniqueness of Our Lord’s Temptation

While Satan’s temptation of our Lord has much similarity to his attack against the Christian, it must be remembered that our Lord’s temptation was a unique event in history. It was Satan’s attempt to nullify the purpose of Christ’s first coming, to prevent the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, where God’s will would be done, even as it is done in heaven. It was also the temptation of our Lord as God. The temptations of our Lord were those which could be pressed on one who was divine. Mere man could not be “tempted” to make stone into bread for this is something which only God can do. Satan’s temptation was direct and obvious. It was evident that Satan was the source of the temptation. Our temptations are more indirect, coming most often through the world and the flesh. Finally, our Lord’s temptation was unique in that He, unlike all of us, provided Satan with no “inner ally,” no “fallen flesh” to which Satan could appeal. There was no inner inclination to rebel against God and no inner desire to sin. For us it is entirely a different matter, as Romans chapter 7 makes abundantly clear.

We must recognize, then, that the term “temptation” is employed in two very different senses, which can be seen from the temptation of our Lord. Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God. Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous. Thus, in the case of Job (cf. especially chapters 1 and 2) Satan sought to bring Job to the point of forsaking his faith, to the point of sinning, but God’s purpose was to deepen Job’s faith, as well as to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for God was not based upon the material blessings which God bestowed upon him. These two meanings of the same term have long been recognized by biblical scholars.60

We might therefore maintain that Jesus was “tempted” in two senses in our text. From the vantage point of Satan’s intended purpose, our Lord was tempted. Satan wished to prompt the “Son of God” to act in disobedience to the Father, thus terminating His ability to fulfill His mission. From the viewpoint of God, and the author (Luke), this was a “test” of Jesus Christ, proving Him to be suited and qualified to fulfill His mission as the Son of God.

The Testing of Our Lord
in the Context of Luke’s Gospel61

Luke has set out to depict the good news in a very orderly way (1:3), and thus we would expect him to have prepared us for the temptation of Christ in the context of his gospel. Both the deity and the humanity of the Lord Jesus have been documented. Jesus was prophesied to be born of a woman, but also a product of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit (1:26-38). The account of His birth in chapter 2 shows this to have happened. That Jesus knew of His heavenly origin is evident by His presence in “His Father’s house” (1:41-51).

In chapter 3, John the Baptist began his public ministry, preparing the people for the coming of Messiah, who was greater than he. Besides the testimony of John, the Father and the Spirit bore witness to the identity of the Lord Jesus. The Father’s words, “Thou art My beloved Son … ” identified Him as the King of Israel, who would sit on the throne of His father David (cf. 1:32). The descent of the Holy Spirit was the enduement of power for this task. It was as the “Son of God” that Jesus was put to the test by Satan. Thus Satan’s two-fold challenge, “If you are the Son of God … ” (4:3, 9).

The genealogy of the Lord in Luke’s account immediately precedes His temptation. If the baptism of Christ showed Him to be the “Son of God,” the genealogy shows our Lord to be the “son of Adam” (3:38). Thus our Lord is both God and man. As man Jesus was both a descendent of David, but also a son of Adam. I believe that Luke is showing our Lord’s qualifications for His task of redeeming fallen man. As the “Son of God” and the “Son of man” Jesus could die in man’s place and provide an eternal redemption. The temptation of our Lord seems to be an effort to play the deity of our Lord against His humanity in such a way as to “divide and conquer.” Our Lord’s victory here shows that His perfect blend of humanity and deity are not at odds, and thus He is fit for the task God has given to Him to accomplish.

Two Assumptions
Which Need to be Challenged

There are two assumptions which are widely held by Christians which need to be challenged, and at least re-thought. The first is the assumption that our Lord was really “tempted” by the offers of Satan. Some hold that even though (better, because) our Lord had no inner inclination to sin He was greatly tried by Satan’s solicitations.62 I do not personally see any hesitation on the part of our Lord, nor any great agony preceding His response to Satan. The agony which I do find in the Bible is that of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemene, when He struggled with the reality of the wrath of God which He was about to experience. I realize that the writer to the Hebrews refers to the “temptation” of our Lord (2:18; 4:15), but I think that we must be careful to distinguish the way these offers would appeal to us from their appeal to the sinless Son of God.

The second assumption is that Satan’s words are to be accepted at face value. The Word of God describes Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan is, in psychological terminology, a pathological liar. Such persons lie whether or not it appears necessary, and even when it may prove detrimental. I am not at all certain that just because Satan claims to possess all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5-6) that he really does have the right to offer them to Christ. In my opinion, Satan is always offering others that which he does not possess. For example, he encouraged Adam and Eve to help themselves to the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus to a new level of knowledge. Our Lord offers men what He possesses, what He has purchased (e.g. salvation by His blood), but Satan is always giving away what is not his. He is always offering to give away the “Brooklyn Bridge,” as it were.

Satan does not seem to be any more truthful or obedient in God’s presence than anywhere else. For example, Satan “demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Satan’s sin has distorted his thinking and has warped his character and deeds, even when standing before God. I therefore urge you to be careful about believing anything Satan might say, even in the presence of God.

Our Approach

Our approach to the temptation of our Lord will be to study it in several segments. In this lesson we will focus on the setting of the temptation (Luke 4:1-2) and on the first temptation, to challenge to make bread of stone. We will analyze this temptation in terms of the setting (the occasion, the need), the mindset of Satan, the Lord’s response, and the scriptural principle underlying our Lord’s response. We will then seek to see how the principles which guided our Lord in His response can be found repeatedly in His teaching and ministry. Finally, we will seek to discover the forms in which this same temptation can be identified in our own culture, and how they should be dealt with.

The Setting of Christ’s Temptation
(4:1-2)

The temptation of our Lord took place “in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). It was also in the wilderness that John grew up and ministered (1:80; 3:3-4). So, too, it was in the wilderness that Israel tempted God (Ps. 78:41, 56; 106:14). In contrast, it was in the idyllic setting of the garden that Adam and Eve were put to the test (Genesis 2 & 3). While the animals in the garden were tame, those in the wilderness were, according to Mark’s account, “wild beasts” (Mark 1:12-13).

While Matthew’s account highlights the fact that our Lord was led of the Holy Spirit to the wilderness, Luke wants his reader to understand that the Lord was Spirit led through the wilderness. In Luke’s words, the Son of God was “led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days.” Furthermore, Luke informs us that all this while our Lord was being tempted by the devil. The Lord went out to the wilderness to confront Satan, or at least to be confronted by him, and to return victorious. Even in His temptation our Lord is in control, not Satan. While Satan sought to undermine our Lord’s mission, God sought to underline it by having the Son of God emerge sinless as the second and last Adam.63 Just as Adam brought sin upon the entire race, so the victory of Christ made salvation available to all who are in Him (cf. Rom. 5:12-21).

We should at least note that our Lord’s hunger in the wilderness was self-imposed. Our Lord fasted for forty days and nights (Matt. 4:2; Luke 4:2). If there were “wild beasts” around, it would have been possible for our Lord to have killed something to eat (e.g. a rabbit), or at least to have eaten locusts and wild honey, like His forerunner John (Matt. 3:4).

The “wilderness” setting is clearly intended to bring to mind the parallel situation of the nation Israel which wandered in the wilderness. Israel was in the wilderness 40 years, even as our Lord was in the wilderness for 40 days. Israel hungered even as our Lord did. In both cases God was testing man. In the case of Israel, they also put God to the test, demanding to be fed, and sometimes threatening to return to Egypt. Our Lord is the antitype of Israel (cp. Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15), fulfilling the will of God where Israel failed.

The three temptations which are recorded are Satan’s final attempt, at least in this campaign. There were, by inference (cf. Luke 4:13), many other temptations during those 40 days. These represent Satan’s “best shot,” his most powerful offers, in his mind at least. They also represent those temptations most “common to man,” those temptations which we are most likely and most frequently going to face.

The scene is therefore set. Jesus as the “second Adam” will be tempted of Satan and prevail. Jesus as the “true Israel” will be tested in the wilderness and return victorious. Thus the Son of God, Israel’s King, will be shown to be fit to fulfill His divinely ordained task, qualified by the declaration of God and the descent of the Holy Spirit, and by His proven holiness.

The First Temptation:
Make Stone into Bread
(4:3-4)

Jesus had fasted for 40 days. Our Lord was understandably hungry. More than just hunger is involved, however. We can miss a mere meal and feel a strong sense of hunger. Our Lord’s hunger, if prolonged, would inevitably lead to death, apart from divine intervention. Satan’s challenge that Jesus turn stone to bread64 was one which sought to cause our Lord to bring about that divine intervention from His own power, that power which had just been bestowed upon Him through the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord’s condition was this, then. If He continued not eating, He would die. Thus, Satan challenged, He must act. Whether or not He must act as Satan had challenged, by miraculously converting stone to bread, is doubtful, for it would seem that there would have been other means of satisfying His need for nutrition.

Satan’s premise, on which he based his proposition, seems to be something like this:

NEED + POWER TO MEET THAT NEED = SATISFACTION OF THAT NEED

In other words, Satan could not conceive of our Lord having a vital need, having the power to satisfy that need, and not using His power to meeting the need. Surely one’s power could be used to meet one’s needs, especially a need so vital as life itself. Satan seems to be appealing to that basic human instinct of self-preservation.

Previously it seemed to me that Satan was advocating self-indulgence here, but if that were the case he would have called for “steak and ale,” not mere bread. Bread was a basic essential of life, not a luxury food item. It is not self-indulgence, then, but self-preservation which Satan is seeking to induce our Lord to accomplish through His divine power.

On the face of the matter, such an offer seems innocuous. After all, is there anything so wrong with meeting basic human needs? Not at all! Hunger is a need which our Lord would later meet in His public ministry. Did He not feed the 5,000, who were in the wilderness and without food (cf. Luke 9:10ff., esp. note v. 12)? For our Lord, serious hunger even justified setting aside normal rules. Thus He defended the fact that His disciples “harvesting” grain on the Sabbath by referring to the precedent of David, who met his hunger and that of his men by eating the “consecrated bread” (Luke 6:1-5).

What was the evil, then, which caused our Lord to resist Satan’s solicitation, and to continue to hunger, even though death might be the result? The answer was to be found in the Word of God itself. Jesus responded to Satan in the words of Deuteronomy: “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE … ” (Deut. 8:3; Luke 4:4).

Our account does not complete the sentence, as does Matthew, with the words, “BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

This, I believe, is due to the fact that Luke’s gospel is written to a Gentile audience primarily, rather than to a Jewish one.

Jesus’ words must be understood in the light of the quotation from Deuteronomy, and from the context in which it was originally spoken. Israel was about to enter into the promised land and God was, through Moses, reminding His people of the basis on which His blessings would be bestowed in the land.

We have already noted the parallel which the gospel accounts draw between the experience of Israel in the wilderness and that of our Lord in the wilderness. Our Lord knew this best of all, and thus deals with His own situation in the light of God’s Word concerning the lessons which Israel should have learned from the experience of their forefathers. I believe that we can see a very clear logical argument in Luke’s account of our Lord’s response, based upon the book of Deuteronomy.65

First, our Lord understood that God uses deprivation to test man’s faith, as reflected by his obedience when doing so appears dangerous or even deadly. The verse which immediately precedes the words cited by our Lord reads,

“And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has lead you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2).

Second, our Lord understood that testing through deprivation is often God’s preparation for future blessing. In Deuteronomy God is referring to the lessons which God has taught Israel in order to prepare her for the blessings of the land. If Satan was subtly suggesting that hunger was inconsistent with divine presence and blessing, Jesus knew from Deuteronomy that it was the evidence of divine love and care, in preparation for blessing.

Third, our Lord refused Satan’s proposition, not because He could not achieve it, but because He should not do so. The only reason that Jesus did not make the stone into bread was because it would have been wrong to do so. Jesus had the power to change His circumstances, to satisfy His hunger, but He refused to employ it in such a fashion. It would be no test of our Lord’s character to make such a challenge as Satan had unless Jesus was capable of turning stone into bread.

Fourth, our Lord’s presence and His hunger in the wilderness, like that of Israel of old, was the will of God, the result of God’s leading. God made it abundantly clear to Israel that when they complained about their circumstances, they ultimately complained against God, for it was He who led them. If our Lord was hungry, indeed, if our Lord’s life was in danger, it was the will of God for it to be so. For our Lord to have acted as Satan proposed would have been an act of disobedience.

Fifth, the only motive for making the stone into bread would have been distrust regarding the goodness and the guidance of God. Ultimately, the only reason for our Lord’s disobedience (making the stone into bread) would have been unbelief—distrust of the Father’s care, of His goodness, of His divine provision. As I understand the Bible, unbelief is the ultimate root of most, if not all, disobedience. Satan caused Adam and Eve to doubt God’s goodness and to disbelieve His word concerning judgment for eating of the forbidden fruit. Israel grumbled against God in the wilderness and demanded that God prove Himself because they doubted His goodness and guidance. So it would have been in our Lord’s case as well.

Sixth, Life is more than mere physical survival and thus must be sustained by more than food. Luke stops after the words, “Man does not live by bread alone,” thus emphasizing the fact that life is more than a matter of food. Surely the Old Testament (not to mention the New Testament) makes this abundantly clear. God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the forbidden fruit, yet they continued to live physically after their disobedience. We know that the death they experienced included physical death, but involved much more. So, too, life was much more than physical existence. Intimacy with God was one of the things which was lost, for the evening walks in the garden were ended, along with life in the garden.

In the early chapters of Deuteronomy, God reminded the Israelites that His blessing was contingent upon their obedience, and further clarified His blessings as including “long life”:

“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, in order that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you” (Deut. 4:1).

“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may lean to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children’” (Deut. 4:10).

“So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time” (Deut. 4:40; cf. 5:33; 6:2-3).

Life, then, is sustained by more than eating, but more importantly for the Israelites, it was sustained by obedience to God’s commandments. So it was for Adam and Eve as well. So much so is this true that sometimes true life is sustained by means of death. The Old Testament gradually unveils the truth that “life” with God extends beyond the grave. The promises God made to Abraham will still be fulfilled, and thus Abraham is not just a person of the past, but will be raised from the dead. Abraham had to trust God by being willing to sacrifice his only son, believing that God would continue life beyond his death (cf. Heb. 11:19).

This Temptation and the Gospel

This temptation struck at the very heart of the gospel, for the Lord Jesus had come to the earth in obedience to the will of the Father, to die on the cross for sinners, so that they might be forgiven and have eternal life:

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8).

The Old Testament sacrificial system taught the Israelites that life could be sustained by a blood sacrifice. Thus the sacrificial system put off the death penalty for sin. And the Lord Jesus, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) was to be the sin-bearer, whose sacrificial death would bring life to all who were in Him.

Would Jesus save His own life, contrary to the will of His Father? Then He could not achieve eternal life for all men. Would Jesus act on His own behalf, distrusting and disobeying the Father? Then He would pursue the path of death, not life, for life requires obedience to God, even more than the feeding of the body. To have turned the stone into bread would have been to have turned from the path which led ultimately to the cross. Our Lord’s obedience to the Father and our salvation was on the line. Jesus’ rejection of Satan’s proposition meant that He was determined to accomplish the will of God, even unto death, which paradoxically, was the way to life, for Him and for all who are found in Him. The apostle Paul put it this way:

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

To have exercised His divine power to meet His human needs would have meant the loss of His power to save. But as a result of our Lord’s obedience to the Father, He emerged not only sinless, but mighty to save. Immediately following His triumph over Satan’s temptations we are told,

… and they all were continually amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority (Luke 4:32).

And amazement came upon them all, and they began discussing with one another, and saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out” (Luke 4:36).

The priority of the spiritual above the physical, of obedience to the Father’s will above mere existence shaped the teaching of our Lord. The result was that Jesus’ continually stressed the priority of man’s spiritual condition over his physical state. In Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the hungry were blessed (6:21), while He pronounced woe upon those who were well-fed (6:23). The disciples were sent out without provisions (10:1ff.). The Lord’s Prayer included a petition for daily bread (11:3). Jesus taught that life was more than food (12:23).

Given the priority of the spiritual over the material, Jesus taught that men should “seek first the kingdom of God,” and that all of the other things—the necessities for physical life—would be added (12:31). Men should be laying up treasure in heaven, and not on earth (12:33).

In the final analysis, perhaps summing the whole matter up, Jesus taught that men must give up their lives in order to save them:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25).

It is therefore much more important to fear the One who can destroy the soul (the spiritual dimension of man) than the body (the physical):

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

Self-preservation is a basic human instinct, but also one that is often contrary to trust in God. Throughout the Bible men got themselves into trouble by trying to save themselves. Abraham, in an effort to save his life, put his wife in the position to have been sexually violated. Abraham’s life was in God’s hands, and he did not need to fear. Furthermore, Abraham’s future rested in the child which he and Sarah were to bear. His self-saving acts threatened his life and his future. The ultimate test of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, through whom Abraham’s future and his blessings would be brought to pass. When Abraham was willing to obey God, even when it appeared that doing so would be the end of his future, Abraham was proven to be a man of faith and obedience.

The Meaning of the First
Temptation for Luke’s Gentile Readers

For Luke’s Gentile readers, the first temptation of our Lord had great relevance. The mindset of the Gentiles was that physical appetites were to be met if one had the power to do so. Thus, they were inclined toward indulgence, both in food and in sexual matters. Paul found it necessary to underscore the same priority of the spiritual over the physical as our Lord had taught. Paul wrote,

Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body (1 Cor. 6:13).

Thus, what one did with his body was a great spiritual significance. The spiritual ramifications of one’s bodily actions thus governed the satisfaction of one’s physical appetites.

The Meaning of
the First Temptation for Us

How significant that He who would not make bread to save His own life presented Himself to Israel as “the bread of life” (John 6:35). By believing in Him anyone may pass from death to life, they may find life in its fullest sense, not mere existence. Thus Jesus alone could claim to be the only way, the only truth, the only life (John 14:6). Satan has nothing to offer but crumbs, and even these are not his to give. Jesus Christ offers Himself to all who will believe in His, He offers Himself as the source of life eternal. If you have never trusted in Him, I urge you to experience the bread of life.

The first temptation of our Lord should instruct us that man has ultimately only one need—God. To know Him and to have fellowship is to possess life in its fullest, even if the path of following him leads to physical death. Satan is always attempting to create the false perception of other, more pressing, needs. Adam and Eve had everything one could ask for, and were kept from but one thing. Satan set about to convince Eve that this one forbidden fruit was her one greatest need, a need so great that she could disobey God to attain it.

How foolish, and yet this same deception is going on all about us, and even within us. I have recently read an excellent book by Tony Walter entitled, Need, The New Religion.66 Walter’s thesis is that our culture has subtly re-defined “wants” as “needs,” and as such justified our whole-hearted pursuit of these things. I believe that Walter is correct. Satan has, once again, succeeded in focusing our attention on what we do not have, rather than on the sufficiency of God and the bounty of our relationship with Him.

Think about it for a moment. What characterizes your prayers, petition for what you do not have, or praise for what God is, for your blessings in Him. Don’t answer. I know all to well from my own experience. But God is enough. He is sufficient. To be found in Him is all we should want, or need. Even physical life should be gratefully set aside for the intimacy of knowing and obeying God. That is why Paul found it difficult to determine how he felt about the outcome of his trial (Phil. 1:19-26). If Christ is our life, our sufficiency, our all, then surely He should be our preoccupation, our highest priority. The materialism which dominates our society, even the church (e.g. the prosperity gospel) informs us that we have been led astray by Satan. Let our Lord’s priorities become our own.

Not only does our text lead us to the conclusion that death is not the end of life, it informs us that death is the way to life. The death of Christ became the way in which men could have eternal life. His death meant that He suffered and paid the penalty for our sins. By believing in Christ we become identified with His death, burial, and resurrection, which is symbolized by baptism (cf. Rom. 6:1ff.). But not only is death the way to life (dying in Christ to sin), it is, for the Christian, the way of life. We are taught that we must daily “take up our cross,” we must die to self-will and self-interest. The way of life is death to self. It is the way of the cross.

In the final analysis, the ultimate issue is our definition of “life.” For Satan, “life” was but mere physical existence. In order to maintain this kind of “life” it was necessary, according to Satan’s value system, to disobey the will of the Father, to act independently and in rebellion against God. Christ’s definition of “life” was life in its fullness, life in fellowship, harmony, and union with God. In order to maintain this kind of “life” our Lord found it necessary to obey God, even it that meant experiencing death.

What does “life” mean to you? The beer commercials (not to mention others) portray a very superficial view of life. For the Christian, Christ is our life (Col. 3:4). More than this, for the Christian, life is Christ (Phil. 1:21). May you experience this kind of life, and never settle for anything less, which is all Satan has to offer. To follow him is to pursue the path of death.


59 “Nevertheless the temptations in the wilderness were special temptations. They were not merely intended to tempt Jesus as Man, but to attack Him as the Messiah. This is evident from the fact that the temptations came immediately after His baptism when He had finally taken upon Himself His vocation as Saviour, and when God, by means of the heavenly voice, had given His approval to His decision and conduct, and had also equipped Him for carrying out this vocation by the special impartation of the Holy Ghost in all His fullness.”

“These temptations were, therefore, not the ordinary temptations such as Adam, the head of the old fallen humanity, had also to endure, but the special temptations which Jesus as Head of the new humanity had to experience. ‘And it is not simply a question here, as in our conflicts, whether a given individual shall form part of the kingdom of God; it is the very existence of this kingdom that is at stake. Its future sovereign, sent to found it, struggles in close combat with the sovereign of the hostile realm’ (Godet, in loc.).” Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament Series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975 [reprint]), pp. 157-158.

60 Unger writes that both the Hebrew and the Greek terms rendered “tempt” are “… used in different senses; not always involving an evil purpose, as an inducement to sin.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), p.1082. He goes on to point out that God tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1) and Israel (Exod. 16:4), without inciting them to sin. Satan, of course tempts men in an effort to encourage them to sin (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:5). Men can also tempt God by demanding that He prove Himself real to them (Ed. 16:2, 7, 17; Num. 20;12; Ps. 78:18, 41).

61 “The baptism, the genealogy, and the temptation are linked formally by the repetition of the expression “Son of God” (3:22; 3:38; 4:3,9); the baptism, temptation, and concluding summary are formally connected by references to the Holy Spirit (3:22; 4:1; 4:14). If one reads the temptation story aright, therefore, it will be heard in the context of3:21—4:15.” Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1984), p. 44.

62 “Plummer rightly observes in this connection that ‘the fact that the solicitations came wholly from without, and were not born from within, does not prevent that which was offered to Him being regarded as desirable. The force of a temptation depends, not upon the sin involved in what is proposed, but upon the advantage connected with it. And a righteous man, whose will never falters for a moment, may feel the attractiveness of the advantage more keenly than the weak man who succumbs; for the latter probably gave way before he recognized the whole of the attractiveness; or his nature may be less capable of such recognition. In this way the sinlessness of Jesus augments His capacity for sympathy: for in every case He felt the full force of temptation’ (in loc.). And Westcott remarks at Hebrews ii. 18: ‘Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin, but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.’”

“If we bear these considerations in mind we shall realize that the Saviour experienced the violence of the attacks of temptation as no other human being ever did, because all others are sinful and therefore not able to remain standing until the temptations have exhausted all their terrible violence in assailing them.” Geldenhuys, p. 157.

My difference with Plummer’s position, as espoused by Geldenhuys, is that there was no great (external) advantage in the offer of Satan, just as there was no inner urge. When you stop to think about it, when one sees sin for what it is, there is no great advantage to it, except for the inner promptings of the flesh to indulge self and to rebel against God. Adam and Eve were enticed to partake of the forbidden fruit because the consequences of disobedience were denied, the character and goodness of God was questioned, and the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit were overstated. In the final analysis, Adam and Eve believe Satan and not God. Our Lord, however, saw things as they really were, and thus Satan’s offers held no great attraction, so far as I can see.

63 “Luke 4:1-13 must be read against the background of Jesus as the culmination of all that God had been doing in the history of Israel and as the second Adam … The temptations of Jesus thereby become antitypical of the experience of Israel in the wilderness and of the original pair in the garden: whereas those who came before fell, Jesus, as the second Adam and the true culmination of Israel’s heritage, shows the way to victory, reversing Adam’s fall and Israel’s sin. Thanks to the power of God’s Spirit, he has become the first of a new humanity, the leader of the faithful among the people of God. Because he has won the victory and has poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:33), his followers have the possibility of similar victory in their spiritual warfare.” Talbert, p. 47.

64 While in Luke the challenge of Satan is to “tell this stone to become bread” (4:3), Matthew’s account reads, “command that these stones become bread” (4:3). The change from singular to plural is not troubling, nor is it difficult to explain. Each account summarizes in very few words a temptation which may have occurred over a period of time. Thus Satan likely repeated this challenge several times in several places. In one place there may have been one stone, which may have looked like a loaf of bread. In another place there may have been several small stones, which could have had the appearance of several small loaves or rolls. Thus, each account is both accurate and true, and yet both accounts depict the same temptation.

65 I think it would be a serious mistake to think that our Lord was referring to but one verse in Deuteronomy, as opposed to the lesson of the entire book as it bore on the wilderness experience of Israel, particularly chapters 1-8, which draw upon lessons which could be learned from the past.

66 Tony Walter, Need, the New Religion (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1985).

Related Topics: Christology, Temptation