Summary: The temptations of Jesus and the Christian walk. "Man does not live by bread alone". What does this mean.
The Temptations of Jesus and the walk of the Christian
Life provides us with defining moments, moments which set the course of our lives, whether for good or evil. We can see such defining moments in the lives of men and women in the Bible. Joseph experienced a defining moment when he chose to reject the advances of his master’s wife. Daniel’s defining moment seems to be described in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel, where he purposes, along with his three friends, not to be defiled by the king’s choice food. Peter’s “great confession” was one of his defining moments. Even Judas had his defining moments (cf. John 12:1-8; 13:18-30).
I believe that our Lord’s baptism and temptation was a defining moment in His life and ministry. Here, the course of His life and ministry was proclaimed, tested, and confirmed. Every one of the Synoptic Gospels includes an account of our Lord’s baptism and temptation. John’s Gospel also includes an account of our Lord’s baptism, but does not mention His temptation. This may be due to the fact that John emphasizes the deity of our Lord, beginning in the very first verses of his Gospel and God cannot be tempted.
Since this study is about the "Temptations" we will not be giving much space for the baptism but only a casual visit. The baptism and temptation of our Lord not only provide a defining moment in the life of our Lord, they are also a crucial prerequisite to the saving work of our Lord. In addition, through the temptations of Jesus we will learn much about Satan and how to deal with temptation in our lives. As our Lord Himself says in our text, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” These verses in Matthew, including the words spoken by our Lord, are “words that have come from the mouth of God.” Therefore, they are life-giving words.
Many interpretations of the baptism of our Lord have been suggested and in the final analysis we can conclude two things for certain.
The baptism of our Lord was a testimony to John, identifying Jesus as Messiah.
The baptism of our Lord was a confirmation to the Son of His high calling.
Even if only these two suggestions are accepted, surely we could agree that this event fulfilled all righteousness. Here all the righteous program of God was coming to culmination.
The two events, the baptism and temptation of our Lord, cannot be separated. They are linked together both chronologically and logically. Chronologically, the temptation of our Lord immediately follows His baptism. Matthew connects the two events by the word, ‘then,’ Mark and Luke ‘and.’ Logically, the two events are inseparable. At the baptism our Lord’s calling and testing is told. In the wilderness, our Lord’s fitness for such a mission is tested. In the temptation, Satan never assails the identification of Christ as Israel’s Messiah He simply attempts to divert Him from His task. In the wilderness experience the Bible has recorded a trinity of tests which reveal the character and cunning of Satan and the perfections of Messiah which qualify Him to die for the sins of His people.
Now coming to the temptations of Christ we find that Satan’s first line of attack concerns the hunger which our Lord experienced due to His 40-day fast:
“And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:3-4).
Satan’s suggestion was based on several erroneous premises or presuppositions. Let’s read between the lines to get them on the record.
First, a God Who is good would not deprive one of His creatures of food when he is hungry . Going without food cannot be the will of God. Such was the insinuation in the temptation of the first Adam in the garden. “Surely a good God would not withhold such a good thing as this fruit,” Satan suggested.
Second, Satan supposes that men serve God and submit to His will because God bribes them to do so with material blessings. Remember Satan’s statement to God concerning Job: “Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’” (Job 1:9). Satan simply could not conceive of the Lord Jesus submitting to the will of the Father when it meant personal discomfort.
Had our Lord followed Satan’s solicitous advice several situations would have been inevitable.
First of all, if personal pleasure comes before God’s will our Lord would never have gone to the cross of Calvary. If submission and obedience did not involve personal sacrifice, the atonement would never have been accomplished. Then, too, if physical needs have priority over spiritual necessities, then our Lord would never have preached the gospel. All His life would have been spent feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The only result of our Lord’s coming would have been some kind of ‘great society’ with no salvation wrought for men. Also, our Lord could never have spoken on the subject of discipleship and self-denial ( cf. Matthew 10:31-39; Luke 9:23, 57-62) unless He Himself had experienced it.