Matthew 4 and Luke 4 both record a very interesting confrontation between Jesus (our Advocate) and Satan (our Adversary). These passages tell us that very early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, in fact immediately following His baptism, He faced a series of temptations from Satan himself. However, Mark 1:12 explicitly states that Jesus was sent by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for that very purpose. We ought to remember that Satan is nothing more than God’s lackey. He can only do what God allows. We would do well to remember that we are better off because there is a devil than if there were none. That is a hard truth, but truth it is. Everything God does is for our benefit, whether we understand it or agree with it or not. Because God created Satan and controls his every move, we can be certain that we are better off because he exists. We can learn much about dealing with temptation from how Jesus dealt with it.
Satan hated the path that Jesus walked, seeking the will of the Father. We can be sure that if we attempt to walk the same path, that Satan’s attacks will come against us also. Notice that the temptation from Satan came right after a spiritual high, Christ’s baptism and public affirmation from the Father. It also came right before Christ would be starting His all-important public ministry. Please note also the long duration of the temptation accompanied by the physical stresses of hunger and weariness. We would be wise to diligently protect ourselves by taking extra precautions against temptations during these times in our lives.
In the first temptation, Satan tried to instigate suspicion, to introduce doubt. Satan tried to get Jesus to worry that perhaps the Father was not sincere when He proclaimed at the just-having-occurred baptism that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Or maybe Satan wanted Jesus to think that maybe the voice didn’t really say what He thought He heard. Maybe the Father wasn’t going to provide satisfaction for His hunger after all. This is a common first approach for Satan. All anxiety for daily necessities is a temptation to manipulate situations for our personal benefit. The solution to this temptation is to trust in God.
In the second temptation, Satan tried to convince Jesus not to risk being rejected by men. Satan wanted Jesus to seek after man’s approval rather than the Father’s approval. This is another common approach by Satan. If he cannot get us to doubt God’s intentions, he tries to get us to believe that God’s approval is not enough, that we ought to seek man’s approval also. Real faith does not attempt to put itself on display, otherwise it becomes presumption. If we attempt to prove to others that we have faith, we in fact prove just the opposite, that we do not have faith.
In the third temptation, Satan tried to convince Christ to go ahead and be the Messiah, just bypass the Father, don’t bother Him with it; make it happen yourself. Satan wanted Jesus to seek the kingdom (which by the way the Father intended to give Him) rather than seeking after the Father. These three temptations teach us that any and all temptation is designed to keep us from walking the path of seeking God and of trusting God. Satan designs his temptations to turn us away from God but God uses those same temptations to crowd us back to Him.