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The Third Temptation of Jesus Matthew 4:8-10

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I. Introduction.

A. Background. We have come in our study of Matthew to the devil’s third temptation of Christ in the wilderness. The Old Testament background of Jesus’ temptations is Israel’s experience in the wilderness. A new nation had been born, which God called his “son” (Exodus 4:22).108 After being miraculously delivered out of Egypt, the people were tested by God in the wilderness to see what was in their heart (Deuteronomy 8:2). Often they failed. They grumbled and would not submit willingly to God’s testing (See Exodus 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 14:2; 16:11, 41). They presumed to test God by demanding water and food (Exodus 15:22 – 17:7). And they worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving the law (Exodus 32:1-35). Finally they refused to enter the land of Canaan that God had promised them because of fear of its inhabitants. For treating Him with contempt, God made them wander in the desert for 40 years until the generation of people that were adults when they left Egypt had died (Numbers 13:1–14:45). In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounted the wilderness experience to the second generation of Israelites as they were at last about to enter the land. From that book – Deuteronomy – came every answer of Jesus to the temptations He would face from the devil.109

At His baptism Jesus also was identified as God’s Son (Matthew 3:17), but in a very special sense – as the King of Israel, the Messiah that had been promised in the Old Testament. The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16). Like Israel, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12). The devil came to Jesus after He had fasted 40 days and nights and tried to get Jesus to use His miraculous powers wrongly. “If you are the Son of God,” said the devil, “tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). In other words, “Jesus, you’re about to die. Take care of yourself. Save your life!” But Jesus replied from Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). He knew that life was more than physical life. He also knew that fasting was part of the test that had been prescribed by God. So He would not use His powers to cut short the test, but trusted that God would provide for Him.

When the devil saw how Jesus countered the first temptation with God’s Word, he decided to use Scripture too. After taking Jesus to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, he said,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6, with the devil referring to Psalm 91:11-12).

Surely, the devil implied, you of all people will be protected! But Jesus saw the evil in that proposal. Forcing God to rescue Him by unnecessarily exposing Himself to danger would be making God obey Him. He would be saying, in effect, “I’m jumping, God. Save Me!” Jesus would not do it, but again turned to Deuteronomy, this time Deuteronomy 6:16. “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). Testing God is counterfeit faith. God may test us because He is God. He may require us to trust His faithfulness and obey. For us to test God is doubt, not trust; presumption, not obedience.110

In Matthew’s account, the first two temptations set the stage for the third one. It is the devil’s final and perhaps most deceptive effort to trap Jesus into disloyalty to God. Let us try to understand this temptation and how Jesus successfully dealt with it.

B. Illustration. In his 1954 novel, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,111 Douglass Wallop tells a funny story about an overweight, out of shape, middle aged man who is an avid major league baseball fan. The team he roots for is the Washington Senators, who can’t ever beat the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. One summer, when the Senators are again trailing the Yankees badly, a stranger offers him an incredible deal: he will be transformed into a major league baseball player and lead the Senators to victory over the Yankees.112

Who is the stranger? None other than the devil himself. And what is the price for giving our fan what he wants? There’s a lot of dodging and shuffling by the stranger, but eventually it becomes clear: he must trade his soul to the devil.

He agrees, of course. The rest of the book is a hilarious account of the experiences of our middle aged man after he has been transformed into Joe Hardy, a 21-year-old baseball phenomenon. In two months, Joe hits 48 home runs, bats .545, and becomes a nationally known star. Every sports page in the United States follows his feats. He gets a fat contract from the Senators. Women chase him. As we might expect, he keeps bumping into his wife, who doesn’t recognize him after his transformation.

Is Joe able to get out of his deal with the devil? I won’t give it away – that’s part of what makes the book funny. Check it out of the library, and read it for yourself.

One of the amusing aspects of the book is that you discover many people who have made the same deal with the devil. Not to beat the Yankees, but to do what they want to do – be a beautiful woman, a millionaire, or a psychoanalyst. It’s a deal the devil will make anytime with anybody. “You can do what you want,” he will say. “And it can be something good, like beating the Yankees. Just sell me your soul.”

II. The Devil’s Temptation.

The devil offered that deal to Jesus, too. Jesus had demonstrated His commitment to be an obedient Son of God by His answers to the first two temptations. Then the devil shifted his strategy. The third temptation did not begin like the first two with the words, “If you are the Son of God … .” As we will see, the devil seems to have conceded for the moment that Jesus wanted to be obedient. So the thrust of the third temptation was this: What would Jesus the Son be willing to do to establish the kingdom of God on earth?113

Although Matthew does not say so, I wonder if Jesus and the devil both had Psalm 2 in mind. That Psalm talks about the Son, the Messiah, ruling the kingdoms.114 Part of it reads:

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Psalm 2:7-9).

How kingly do you think Jesus looked after 40 days and nights of fasting in the wilderness? He was alone, tired, dirty, hungry, and thirsty. Being king over God’s kingdom must have seemed a long way off. The devil seized the opportunity. In essence, he said, “Let me show you a way to fulfill your heart’s desire.” He took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.115 That would have included Rome! At that moment their splendor and Jesus’ appearance would have been quite a contrast. “‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’

There are several things to note here.

A. The appeal. Consider the appeal of the offer from the devil’s viewpoint.

Jesus’ Condition

The Devil’s Offer

Deprived – tired, hungry

Splendor, not suffering

Alone with the wild animals116

Significance, not obscurity

Waiting indefinitely

Instant results, not delayed

Nothing accomplished

Power to do what He wanted

To each condition of Jesus the devil offered a solution. The last one is the key to this temptation. In answering the first two temptations, Jesus had already resisted the first three aspects of the devil’s third temptation. He would not turn stones into bread to stop His suffering from hunger. He would not jump off the highest point of the temple to get instant notoriety. In neither temptation would He succumb to the lure of a shortcut to get instant results. The devil then added another element to make up a new and enticing package: “You can have splendor, significance and instant results, AND you can serve God while you do it. That’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Serve God? What have you done with your life so far, Jesus? Been a carpenter’s son, huh? Look, I’ll give you the kingdoms, and you may do with them as you wish. You’re a king, aren’t you? Inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth, if that’s what you want to do. Free Israel from Roman rule. Establish justice in the world. Take care of the poor. Bring about world peace. Wouldn’t that please God? Do it without suffering! Do it successfully! Do it now! YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!”117

B. The trap. There is always a catch with an offer like that. What is the catch here? The devil also said, “If you will bow down and worship me … .”

The act of prostrating oneself in worship is a symbolic gesture. It appears that the devil attempted to minimize the significance of that act. He did not ask that it be done in public. Apparently the devil would have been satisfied if Jesus had bowed down to him privately on the mountain. There is also the suggestion that the devil presented it as a one time event.118 And the devil did not ask that worship of him be exclusive. Knowing that Jesus wanted to establish a kingdom for God, he could scarcely have asked up front to be worshiped exclusively.

The devil would have liked for Jesus to believe that after bowing down before him, He would be finished with him. Worship signifies several things, however:

  • allegiance to the one who is worshiped (there is a duty of loyalty);
  • the superiority of the one who is worshiped (worship flows from inferior to superior);
  • dependence of the worshiper on the one who is worshiped (the worshiper acknowledges that he is not sufficient without the one who is worshiped).

Jesus realized that the symbolic act of bowing down and worshiping the devil would also carry with it a continuing obligation.

C. Could the devil deliver on his offer? Some think that the devil was lying about being able to give the kingdoms to Jesus.119 After all, we know that God ultimately rules over all things. And we know that the devil is a liar – Jesus called him a murderer and a liar (John 8:44).

Just because the devil is a liar, however, does not mean that he cannot make true statements. To say that the devil must lie at all times makes him a caricature, almost a cartoon character.120 He is in business. You cannot do business if you lie all of the time. While the devil is not committed to the truth, he will make a true statement if it suits his purposes. That seems to be the case here. In Luke’s account of the temptations, the devil claimed that God had given him the kingdoms, and that he could in turn give them to whomever he wished (Luke 4:6). Jesus seemed to accept this. Later on, in John 12:31 and in John 16:11, Jesus called the devil “the prince of this world.” Therefore I take the devil’s statement to be true, as far as it goes. There is more to be said, which we will cover later.

Furthermore, if the devil’s claim had not been true, would not Jesus have just said so? That would have been the easy answer: “Come on, Satan, you know you can’t deliver the kingdoms to me!” Significantly, Jesus did not answer the devil that way.

III. Jesus’ Response.

Jesus’ answer to the devil was simple and to the point. As he did in answering the first two temptations, Jesus referred to the Book of Deuteronomy. He said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:10). (The quotation, at least in part, is from Deuteronomy 6:13.)

It is easy to get caught up in the details and implications of the third temptation and miss the central issue. Jesus did not miss it: God alone is worthy of our worship.

As we have already observed, the devil did not ask Jesus to worship him exclusively. That was his tactic with Israel, too. We read in 2 Kings 17:35-40a:

When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship… .” They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols (emphasis added).

For that reason, the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians and scattered among the nations.

What happens to our concept of God when we worship Him other than as He has commanded? Adding another god, or worshiping an image of God, makes Him in our minds something other than He is – sovereign, one, transcendent. So even if we continue to worship God at the same time as we worship something else, really we are not worshiping the true God. We may still call Him God, but we have reduced God in our minds so that He is just like the idols – a creature of our own imaginations. 121

Other gods need not be idols in the form of images. Money can be an object of worship, as can our families, our jobs, and our nation. Although Israel by the time of Christ had ceased worshiping idols in the form of images, it had not stopped worshiping money. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and Money.”

As the last quote indicates, Jesus also recognized that worship includes service. The devil did not use the word “serve.” But it is important that Jesus did. Whatever we revere, or to whatever we attribute the power to accomplish what we want, will be served by us. And while we may persist in worshiping God and other things for a while, eventually there will be a conflict. We have to make a choice.

IV. Observations and Applications.

What can we learn from the account of the third temptation?

A. Jesus is the faithful Son of God. Unlike Israel the son of God, Jesus is the obedient Son. He did not resent the testing and try to get out of it. He did not test the Father’s love by demanding that it be shown to Him in a certain way. He would not depend upon anything other than God to accomplish the ministry that God had given Him.122

Furthermore, His victory over the temptations demonstrated that Jesus is perfectly qualified for the offices and ministries to which He has been appointed.123 Here are some of His most significant qualifications.

1. He is the rightful King in the line of David. Like no other king of Israel, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the requirements of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. He subjected Himself to God and to His Word in going to the wilderness. He knew the law well and was able to apply it to defeat Satan. And He did not consider Himself above temptation, but suffered through it just like all in the human race must do. He is indeed the King of kings (Revelation 17:14).

2. He is the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus’ moral perfection was manifested by emerging from the temptations unscathed by sin. He therefore perfectly fulfilled the type of the sacrificial Lamb that makes atonement for sin (Exodus 12:5; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). He is a worthy Savior.

3. He is the sympathetic High Priest. The author to the Hebrews says this:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Jesus was offered the whole world, and resisted successfully. None of us has ever been or ever will be tempted to that extent. He is an understanding and compassionate High Priest.

B. Satan is a Liar. Although Satan sometimes tells the truth, he is always opposed to the truth. The Apostle John especially makes use of the word “truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus said, “ I am the way, and the truth and the life.” In 2 John 4, “truth” is the message of the gospel given to the apostles. Satan will always oppose truth in these senses: Jesus and the gospel. That above all else makes him the “Liar.” Even if he sometimes makes true statements, they will always be packaged in a way that is designed to deceive us and to lead us into error, not truth.

C. The seduction of the third temptation is ministry. The third temptation will include things such as control, self-interest, pride, glory and power, to name a few. But they may appear cloaked in the context of ministry, as they did to Jesus. In an article that appeared not long ago in The Dallas Morning News, J.I. Packer said, “Satan seeks to trap God’s servants into doing evil, thinking it to be good… .” 124 The third temptation is one to which those who have demonstrated the desire to do God’s will may be especially vulnerable. The devil tried to disguise the temptation to Jesus by appealing to His desire to establish God’s kingdom. He may disguise the temptation to us by appealing to our ministry dreams. Perhaps it will come in the form of an opportunity for service we have longed for, or the chance to see our spiritual gift have terrific results. The devil will tell us that all we need to do is compromise a little bit. We must always be watchful that we do not unwittingly bow the knee to Satan thinking that we are ministering for God. Eric Graham expresses it like this:

There can be no divided allegiance in spiritual things; so our Lord teaches us. We cannot serve God and Mammon, or God and Satan, or God and any principle independent of him and therefore contrary to his will. Only too often ecclesiastical authorities have failed here; trying to combine the service of the secular power or of their own temporalities or ecclesiastical politics with their service of God. They have employed even against fellow-Christians these methods of force and diplomacy which our Lord in his third temptation set aside so definitely; they have thought that the devil’s weapons could be used on behalf of God; they have even failed to distinguish between God’s ways and the devil’s. They have not been content to serve God alone; it seemed too slow and uncertain a method of achieving results which they were sure – often quite mistakenly – were according to his will. Yet all the time they professed, and indeed believed themselves, to be serving him.

Hence this third temptation – the temptation to leave God out of account just here and there, half unintentionally and for good practical reasons, when we are planning methods by which his kingdom may be set forward – this temptation is the most dangerous, the most frequently and easily fatal to those who call themselves by the name of Christ, and especially to those who hold positions of authority in the Church, or exercise great influence by the strength of their personality, just because it tempts us on our best side – our zeal for the glory of God, and so often goes undetected, unless we are watching and praying and fasting like our Lord in the wilderness, and sensitive, like him, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.125

D. Beware of offers that promise things that God has not promised.

1. Super results. “Follow these methods,” a youth leader is told, “and the size of your youth group will triple.” “Raise your family this way,” parents are told, “and your children will be obedient and follow Christ.” “Use our fundraising plan,” church leaders are told, “and you will raise so much money that your building fund goal will be exceeded.”

2. Instant results. “Your ministry doesn’t have to take years to develop,” a seminary graduate is told. “Get a successful ministry now! Not later!”

3. Recognition and importance. “Be significant for God,” we are told. “Be a leader in your church. Have impact for Christ. That’s what successful Christians do.”

4. No suffering. “God wants you to be blessed,” Christians everywhere are being told. “Expect happiness and prosperity.” Perhaps the most popular form this message takes in our circles today is fulfillment. “Enter this ministry,” we are told, “and find fulfillment like you’ve never had before.” Anytime you are offered a fulfilling ministry in this church or anywhere else, watch out! Somebody is trying to sell you something.

Last week we were asked to read the Book of 2 Timothy, a letter that Paul wrote from a Roman prison where his life may have ended. He was alone, except for Luke. Many were ashamed to be associated with him. He was forced to ask Timothy to bring him a cloak. Many of the churches he had established were struggling. False teachers were popping up everywhere, denying key aspects of the gospel.

Every month we get letters from the missionaries Community Bible Chapel supports. If we got a letter from one of them like 2 Timothy, I wonder if we would continue to support that missionary!

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the persecuted for His sake are blessed (Matthew 5:10-12). He told His disciples that in the world they would have tribulation (John 16:33). Paul exhorted Timothy to suffer hardship as a good soldier would (2 Timothy 2:3). These are the things on which we can count when we are serious about ministry. Carefully examine ministry opportunities that come to you without the prospect of any of these difficulties. Possibly you are being tempted with the third temptation.

E. We cannot serve two masters. As Jesus said, we will hate one and love the other (Matthew 6:24). Anyone or anything that rivals God for our worship demands our service also. Jesus knew what bowing the knee to Satan and accepting Satan’s gift of the kingdoms would mean. Jesus could not serve God alone if He accepted the kingdoms from Satan. Once He gave recognition to Satan and received his help, He would have to serve him. Maybe not immediately, or in the way we might expect. But the day would come.

The Godfather126 is a novel about the Corleone family and their allies, who together formed a fictional crime syndicate. An Academy Award winning movie was based on the book, as were a couple of sequels. One of the episodes in the book is about an undertaker who secretly seeks help from the head of the family, Don Corleone. First the undertaker must pledge allegiance to him. When he does, he gets the help he asks for. Then he does not hear from Don Corleone for a year. One day Don Corleone’s son is killed by a rival crime syndicate. In the middle of the night, the undertaker is called. Don Corleone asks the undertaker to handle the burial. He is petrified with fear. Suddenly it will be known to everybody – his neighbors, his customers, the police, the rival crime syndicate – that the undertaker serves Don Corleone, the mobster. But he has no choice. Failing to honor the request at that point would cost him his life.

That is the way it is with Satan, too. There are no trivial deals with Satan or the things he controls – the world, the world system, the things in the world (1 John 2:15-16). If we bow the knee for an instant to earthly things like our families, our nation, or our ministries – anything we allow to rival God – then one day, sooner or later, we will be required to serve them. And do not be deceived. We will not be able to serve God at the same time. Like the undertaker, we will find that we have already made the choice.127

F. Satan cannot match God. Satan can only deliver that which he has been given. He claimed to Jesus that he had been given all of the kingdoms of the world and that he could give them to Jesus. But think about what that means. The kingdoms of the earth are, obviously, earthly. When asked by Pilate if He was a king, Jesus replied that His kingdom is not of this world. It is heavenly (John 18:36). Plus the kingdoms of earth are temporary. Their splendor will not endure forever and will not compare with the splendor of the kingdom of God. (See the description of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21:1 – 22:5.)

Of course, to us the world looks very, very attractive. How difficult it is for us to think beyond the circumstances in which we live, bound by space and time as we are. But that is how we must think – with a heavenly and eternal perspective. See how the author of Hebrews describes faithful people in Hebrews 11:13-16:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth… . Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.

We should exhibit faith like that, too, and not settle for the earthly and the temporary.

G. Temptation may come from a source that we do not expect. Look how Satan presented himself to Jesus. He accepted Jesus as God’s Son. He believed Jesus could do miracles. He quoted Scripture with approval. He came to Jesus in His time of trial. He seemed to encourage faith in God (although it was really testing God that he encouraged). He offered Jesus a way to fulfill His ministry. He appeared orthodox in his beliefs and very helpful.

That looks like a good Christian friend, does it not? Or a religious leader who can be trusted. In the church, sadly, those are the two likeliest sources of temptation. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Satan will appear as an angel of light, not as a hairy demon with a pitchfork tail. He is a false friend and a false teacher.

H. The end does not justify the means. Recently we have seen more corporate scandals in the United States than we have in many years. Transactions have been accounted for in a way that inflated profits. The justification has been that increasing stock prices are good for the shareholders. But once the knee was bowed to financial success and honesty was ignored, there was no turning back. The demand of stockholders for ever increasing stock prices had to be satisfied. When the fraud was discovered, the financial house of cards crumbled and many innocent people got hurt.

As our church and other churches face financial shortfalls, there will be pressure to cut biblical corners to meet the budget requirements. Be on guard that we do not value successful ministry as a church over obedience to God and thus yield to the third temptation.

I. Worship is not for what we receive in return. Worship is the latest “hot button” of the Christian church in the Western world. In many churches, it is a “celebration” with lively songs and staged excitement. In our own church, people have based their decisions about whether to attend the worship services on what they will get out of it.

The devil tried to make worship a purchase and sale transaction. “Worship me,” he said to Jesus, “and then I will give you the kingdoms of the world.” That is not how we are to approach worship.

Worship of God alone is our highest privilege and our highest duty.128 We should worship Him because of what He has already done for us. Israel was to worship God because He had delivered the nation from captivity in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:6-7). In the same manner, we are to worship God because of the blessings of salvation that we have in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).

V. Conclusion.

A. Did Satan understand the cross? It seems unlikely. The cross would be his undoing (Colossians 2:15). If Satan knew that, why did he incite Judas to betray Jesus? Would Satan knowingly hasten his own destruction?

But Jesus did understand the cross. At His baptism, He was identified by God’s voice from heaven and the Spirit in the form of the dove not only as a King, but also as a Servant who would suffer for the sins of His people.129 Therefore the third temptation presented itself to Him a little differently than Satan intended. Would Jesus bypass the cross to establish God’s kingdom? That was the real appeal of the third temptation to Jesus. R.G.V. Tasker writes:

To escape the way of the cross by being disobedient to the vocation of the suffering Servant despised and rejected by men, upon whom was to be laid the iniquity of us all, was Jesus’ greatest and most persistent temptation… . Jesus was in effect tempted to subscribe to the diabolical doctrine that the end justifies the means; that, so long as He obtained universal sovereignty in the end, it mattered not how that sovereignty was reached… .130

Jesus was always on the path to the cross (Matthew 20:20-28). While He was in the wilderness before His public ministry began, Satan unintentionally tempted Him to avoid it. That He continued on His journey to the end is why He is worthy of our worship.

B. Do we understand the cross? Jesus taught the cost of following Him in this manner:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

Jesus has not left us to wonder what following Him will be like, but has given us the example. Writing about the account of Jesus’ temptation in the Book of Matthew, Donald A. Hagner explains:

In this pericope we encounter a theme that is vital in the theology of the Gospels. The goal of obedience to the Father is accomplished, not by triumphant self-assertion, not by the exercise of power and authority, but paradoxically by the way of humility, service and suffering. Therein lies true greatness (cf. 20:26-28). In fulfilling his commission by obedience to the will of the Father, Jesus demonstrates the rightness of the great commandment (Deut. 6:5) as well as his own submission to it. In his faithful adherence to the teaching of the law, he reveals the fundamental consistency of his own teaching and ministry with the law rightly understood (cf. 5:17) and serves as a paradigm of conduct for the early Church. The sonship of Christians, too, must be expressed in full obedience to the will of God, involving, as it will, difficulties and testings (cf. 10:22,24). Those testings will not be the same as those faced by Jesus, which relate to his unique identity and mission. But they will in principle be similar in that Christians too are called to self-sacrifice, and for them, too, obedience to the will of the Father alone is the measure of true discipleship.131

The cross is a symbol of suffering and death. The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is that we must take up our cross and follow Him down the same path He took. The devil will tempt us to deviate from that path; to avoid the cost of discipleship; to think that we need not die to ourselves and live for Jesus. As he did with Jesus, he may offer us the splendor of the world at his disposal to use as we wish, even for ministry, if we will only acknowledge him. When faced with that temptation, like Jesus we must remember, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.


107 This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 8 in the Studies in the Gospel of Matthew series prepared by Hugh Blevins on April 13, 2003.

108 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

109 See the discussion of the points in this paragraph in Sydney H.T. Page, Powers of Evil, A Biblical Study of Satan and Demons (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1995), pp. 94-95.

110 For elaboration of the points in the foregoing paragraphs, see Robert L. Deffinbaugh, Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, Lessons 5 & 6: “The First Temptation of Jesus” and Lesson 7: “The Second Temptation of Jesus.”

111 Douglass Wallop, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1954).

112 Right now there isn’t a Washington Senators baseball team. Many of you may not remember what happened. The team moved to Texas and became the Texas Rangers. And they still can’t beat the Yankees!

113 See the analysis of the third temptation by Eric Graham, “The Temptation in the Wilderness,” Church Quarterly Review, Vol. 162 (1961), pp. 25-27.

114 Discussed more extensively in a previous manuscript by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, Lessons 5 & 6: “The First Temptation of Jesus,” pp. 4-5.

115 As Jesus was in poor physical shape to climb a high mountain, and in any event there is no mountain from which one may see all of the world’s kingdoms, some conclude that these details should not be taken literally. For example, see Donald A. Hagner, “Matthew,” Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 33A (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1993), p. 68. But the devil is an angel, and we cannot be certain what power the devil possesses to transport a person and expand his field of vision. D.A. Carson’s explanation is, “Standing on a high mountain (v.8) would not itself provide a glimpse of ‘all the kingdoms of the world’; some supernatural vision is presupposed. Moreover a forty-day fast is scarcely the ideal background for a trek to … rugged sites. When we remember that Paul was not always sure whether his visions were ‘in the body or out of the body’ (2 Cur 12:2), we may be cautious about dogmatizing here. But there is no reason to think the framework of the story is purely symbolic … .” D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p. 111.

116 Mark 1:12.

117 In his commentary on Luke, Norval Geldenhuys remarks, “The devil knows that Jesus came to the world to found the Messianic kingdom and to be the Head thereof. Now he declares that if only Jesus will worship him, he will give Him all the kingdoms of the world with all their glory. So he proposes that Jesus should found the Messianic kingdom by making a compromise with him. Then He will be able to achieve His aim without any struggle and suffering.” Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), p. 160.

118 G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1936), p. 191.

119 S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. writes, “Question has sometimes been raised over this offer by Satan. It has been thought that he had no real right to offer the kingdoms to Jesus Christ. Billy Bray used to say, in his quaint way, that the devil was wrong, adding: ‘The old rascal, to offer Christ the kingdoms of the world, why he never possessed so much as a ‘tater skin.’ But, as Denney points out: ‘This saying, which in Luke is put into the lips of Satan, is not meant to be regarded as untrue. There would be no temptation in it if it was untrue.’ (James Denny, Jesus and the Gospel, p. 189). The right apparently belonged to him by virtue of his victory over man, the rightful heir to creation, in Eden.” S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “The Temptation of Christ,” Bibliotheca Sacra, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Theological Seminary, October 1966), p. 349.

120 Such exaggerations about the devil get dangerously close to reviling him, a practice characteristic of false teachers that Peter and Jude warned against (2 Peter 2:1-11; Jude 8-10).

121 “The Pharisees, who would never have dreamed of turning to a god of a foreign religion, in fact transformed the god of their own tradition into something quite foreign to what the true God had revealed of Himself.” Richard Keyes, “The Idol Factory,” No God But God, Os Guinness and John Seel, Editors (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 43.

122 D.A. Carson writes, “The parallels with historic Israel continue. Jesus’ fast…of forty days and nights reflected Israel’s forty-year wandering (Deut. 8:3); both spent time in the desert preparatory to their respective tasks… . The main point is that both ‘sons’ were tested by God’s design… ., the one after being redeemed from Egypt and the other after his baptism, to prove their obedience and loyalty in preparation for their appointed work. The one ‘son’ failed but pointed to the ‘Son’ who would never fail… . In this sense the temptations legitimized Jesus as God’s true Son… . . D.A. Carson, op. cit., p. 112.

123 S. Johnson, op. cit., pp. 351-352. These points about Jesus, or points similar to these, also were made in the Studies in the Gospel of Matthew series in the messages and manuscripts on the first two temptations. See Robert L. Deffinbaugh, Lessons 5 & 6: “The First Temptation of Jesus,” pp. 16-17, and Lesson 7: “The Second Temptation of Jesus,” pp. 1-2. They can hardly be overemphasized, however.

124 J.I. Packer, “Coming to grips with Satan requires knowing God first,” The Dallas Morning News, April 20, 2002, p. 4G.

125 E. Graham, op. cit., p. 27.

126 Mario Puzo, The Godfather (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1969).

127 To avoid idolizing them, we should submit to God’s authorities appointed over us as if performing a service unto Him (Ephesians 5:22-6:9).

128 Transcribed message by John Piper, “You Shall Worship the Lord Your God” (Desiring God Ministries, 1985), http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/85/090885.html

129 R.G.V. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 50. D.A. Carson says, “In other words Jesus had in mind from the very beginning of his earthly ministry the combination of royal kingship and suffering servanthood attested at his baptism and essential to his mission.” D.A. Carson, op. cit., p. 114.

130 R.V.G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 54.

131 Donald A. Hagner, op. cit., p. 70.

Related Topics: Christology, Temptation