(Matthew Chapter 4)
This chapter is interesting for we see in it the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and this is interesting because we also see that before he began he was attacked by Satan and tempted in the wilderness. Also note that the devil mocked Jesus for he began his first two temptations with the words, “If you are the Son of God…” The devil knew full well that Jesus was the Son of God and that there was no “if” about it. But using such mockery was an attempt to goad Jesus into doing the devil’s will rather than the will of God. We see this same thing as Christians. People will say, “…and you call yourself a Christian…” when they mock or stand opposed to us. As the devil sought proof’s from Jesus with his mockery so too the devils servants do the same thing to the servants of the Lord. Don’t fall into that trap for that is what it is. Jesus was tempted and attacked at other times too, but this first occasion is interesting as it was to test his faith in a number of key areas.
First (vs. 3-4) the devil tempts him with human and physical needs. After forty days without food Jesus would be weak for the scripture says he was hungry, and the devil knew this. So he offered bread, food for the physical body, in an attempt to lure Jesus astray. What we can take from this is that we too will be tempted and lured by the physical things we may need or want. Also the devil does not play fair for he tempted Jesus at his weakest moment and with the very thing that would solve his immediate need, but that would also have put Jesus into the power of the devil. He will do the same to us and as Jesus fought back with scripture, we too need to use the power of the word to fight back. This then suggests how important it is to learn and understand the word, otherwise you will be unable to fight off the temptations of the devil.
Second (vs. 5-7) the devil tempts Jesus with fanaticism to call on the miraculous power of God. Note here that the devil actually uses scripture to attack Jesus. There are some who do take such fanatical stands and essentially put God to the test, and this is not what we are called to do. There is security and protection in the Lord, but we should not put Him to the test. We are not greater than God and so we have no right to try him or to tempt him through fanatical religious over-zealousness. In this day there are some who seek miracles and the miraculous power of God, but in reality those things are not the most important things. Ultimately miracles will cease to occur for they will not be necessary. Instead we are to seek God’s kingdom and learn to live in His love for love lasts forever. Common sense apart from what the scripture teaches would surely show that what lasts into eternity is much more important and valuable than something that is only temporary. This is a message repeated in a number of places in the Bible and will be dealt with further in those places.
Finally we see the devil tempt Jesus with power, wealth and riches. What we see from this is that the devil is in control of the kingdoms of this world and in the Luke version of this scripture (Luke 4:5-6) we see the devil state that the kingdoms of this earth have been delivered to the devil and he gives them to whomever he wants. To that end then as Christians we should learn not to desire the things of this world for they are not of God. Riches, money, wealth and power in this world are not the things of God but are temporary and exist only for this lifetime. But to attain the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ is eternal and is not of this world but from God. That is where our focus and priority should be.
In all of these temptations the Lord defeats the devil by scripture. We too need a knowledge of the scripture to fight Satan and his attacks. And after the devil was sent packing we see that angels came and ministered to his needs. In the same way when we go through temptation the Lord will strengthen, comfort and establish us in due course.
When Jesus began preaching in Galilee we see that like John the Baptist, he began by preaching for the people to repent. We will see later in Acts that the disciples too began their ministries in this same way and a short review of Hebrews 6:1-2 will show that repentance is one of the six key foundation teachings of the New Covenant. Now whilst I have said above that miracles are not the most important thing, they do have their place. For we see that as Jesus preached the word (vs.23-25) that he did heal the sick and perform many fantastic works. But we see that the key to miracles was explained in Mark 16:17, “…these signs will accompany those who believe.” and in Mark 16:20, “…they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” So miracles have a place as a confirmation of the message. But this is not something that can be taken but must be given by the Lord. When the message is right he will provide the signs and confirm it where necessary.