Dealing with the temptations (Matthew 4)

It has been pointed out that the three temptations by the devil were linked to the sonship of Jesus which had been declared at the baptism when the Father spoke from heaven. The devil began by attempting to get Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God. Then the devil suggested to Jesus that he do something dramatic to show that he was the Son of God. Thirdly, he promised to give to Jesus the inheritance that belonged to him as the Son.

It is likely that the devil imagined the three temptations were his most effective arrows. In the first one, he tempted Jesus to use his position and abilities to meet his needs in a wrong manner. We could say that the temptation was to use his divine nature to help his human nature. The need was hunger, the suggested activity was an act of creation, but the aim was to do the desire of the devil rather than of the heavenly Father.

The second temptation laid bare the heart of the devil and the heart of Jesus and revealed the stark contrast between them. Inside the devil’s heart was grotesque sinful ambition that can only be described as blasphemy – he wanted a divine being to bow to him. It was an expression of pride. He did not have the authority to give anything of the world to Jesus – Jesus is the heir of all things appointed by the Father. In contrast, Jesus revealed his authority by dismissing the devil and also reminded him of his duty as a mere creature, which was to worship God alone. That is the devil’s responsibility, but there was and is nothing in his heart that would lead him to do so. Here he was experiencing a foretaste of the judgement he will yet receive from the Saviour on the Great Day.

In the third temptation, the devil tempted Jesus to perform a spectacular stunt at the temple through which all the people would see that the angels would help him. The devil misquoted a verse from a psalm, but it is interesting that he realised the psalm applied to Jesus. The temptation was to use the Word of God to justify a foolish act rather than an act of faith.

We can see from the answers of Jesus that they were straightforward, scriptural and suitable. The straightforwardness is seen in the simplicity of his answers, nothing complicated. His use of the scriptures is obvious, but it is also obvious that he knew the Bible. And his use of them is suitable in that he only used verses that were relevant to the situation.

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