The Temptation of Jesus

Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (vv. 10–11)

- Matthew 4:1–11

Due to the important work of men such as Athanasius of Alexandria and Anselm of Canterbury in probing the depths of the Scripture’s teaching on the incarnation, Christians have long confessed that Jesus had to become incarnate and live as a man in order to do the work necessary to save us. Yesterday, we saw how the baptism of Christ points to the necessity of the Son of God offering atonement as a human being for the sins of human beings (Matt. 3:13–17). Today we will consider how Satan’s temptation of Jesus also shows us that our Savior’s work as a man redeems us from the curse of sin and death.

Paul tells us explicitly that there is a connection between the first man, Adam, and the second or last man, Jesus. Romans 5:12–21 compares the disobedience of Adam to the obedience of Christ, indicating that it is the obedience of Christ that constitutes for us a righteous status in the eyes of the Lord. The Apostle clearly teaches that in order for us to be saved, Jesus had to succeed where Adam failed. Where Adam as a man broke God’s covenant, Jesus as a man had to keep God’s covenant if we were to be redeemed.

The gospel accounts of the temptation of Jesus present the same truth more implicitly. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit commissioned Him for ministry (Matt. 3:16–17). What was Christ’s first act? Matthew 4:1 gives us the answer: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Of all the things that our Lord could have done after His baptism, He undertook a grueling temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the biblical storyline cannot help but think of Adam’s temptation in the garden when they read of our Lord’s encounter with the devil.

Jesus underwent a test that was similar to Adam’s, but it was actually far more difficult. Adam met Satan in paradise, where life was easy. Jesus met Satan in the desert wilderness where the environment was hardly friendly. Adam enjoyed the company of his wife, Eve. Jesus was alone. Adam was well fed from the trees of Eden. Jesus was fasting. In short, Adam failed even though he had everything going for him, but Jesus succeeded even though, humanly speaking, the odds were stacked against Him (Gen. 3; Matt. 4:1–11).

Like Adam, Jesus was tempted to disbelieve God’s Word, to pit one part of it against another and to think that the Father was not telling Him the whole story. Being fully confident of the Lord’s truth, however, Jesus never gave in to Satan’s lies.

Coram Deo

Because Jesus successfully passed His temptation, He was qualified to be the second Adam and merit a righteous status for us in the eyes of God. We cannot be the second Adam, but we can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the devil how to defeat sin in our own life. Knowing and believing the Word of God is the most effective way to avoid sin and grow in holiness. Let us know Scripture well that we might stand firm against Satan.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 39
Mark 1:12–13
Luke 4:1–13
Hebrews 4:14–16

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