Immediately following the Lord’s baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. It is common for God to test a man whom he plans to use or bless. Just as God tried Abraham when he told him to kill his son, Isaac, God tried his own Son before sending him into the ministry.
The temptation of Jesus was compounded by a fast that lasted 40 days and nights. This 40-day fast matches the fasts of two other men in the Bible: Moses and Elijah. Moses fasted on Mount Sinai 40 days and nights in Ex. 24:15-18. Elijah fasted 40 days and nights on Mount Horeb in 1 Ki 19:8. Mount Horeb is the same mountain as Sinai, 1 Ki 8:9, Mal 4:4. Since Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matt 17, it stands to reason that the place in the wilderness where Jesus was tempted was Mount Sinai.
In Jesus’ temptation, we notice two very important facts:
1. The devil tempted Jesus with scripture, and
2. The devil attacked him in the three main areas in which he attacks everyone.
The First Temptation
Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread to prove that he was the Son of God. The devil questioned Jesus’ deity, just like the Pharisees did, later (Matt 27:40). He said, “If thou be the Son of God…” Evidently, the devil was pushing the Pharisees to question Jesus’ deity just like he pushes modern Bible translators to do the same thing.
This temptation appealed to the lust of the flesh. According to 1 Jn 2:16, this is one of the three places the devil attacks. He tempted Eve by showing her that the forbidden tree was good for food (Gen 3:6). Turning stones to bread was not far-fetched. The devil knew from scripture that Jesus could raise up children to Abraham from stones (Matt 3:9). He had seen Jesus bring forth water out of a rock (Ex 17:5-6). He knew that Jesus is the Rock, 1 Cor 10:4, and that he would become bread, Jn 6:32-35.
The devil was messing with scripture to try to get Jesus to sin. But Jesus didn’t fall for the deception. Instead, he quoted scripture (Deut 8:3) to the devil, applying it correctly. That’s how we are supposed to resist the devil. We defend ourselves with the shield of faith and fight with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:16-17). Rather than give into his appetite, Jesus did like Job, who said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food,” (Job 23:12).
The Second Temptation
Jesus was tempted to jump off the pinnacle of the temple so the angels could catch him. Thereby, he could prove his deity, which was still being questioned by the devil. Again, the devil used scripture to tempt the Lord. He quoted Ps 91:11-12. However, the master deceiver left out the part of the verse that said the angels would “keep thee in all thy ways.” Jumping would have only proved that Jesus didn’t believe the scripture; the angels were already keeping him. Notice that they came to minister to him the moment the devil left him (Matt 4:11).
This temptation appealed to the pride of life, 1 Jn 2:16, the second major area of temptation. This is the same way that the devil tempted Eve. He showed her that the forbidden fruit came from “a tree to be desired to make one wise,” (Gen 3:6). Rather than fall to pride (Prov 16:18), Jesus simply quoted Deut 6:16 to the devil.
The Third Temptation
The devil took Jesus to a mountain so high (like “the mountain of God,” Eze 28:16) that he could view all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory at the same time (Lk 4:5). The devil offered all of these kingdoms to Jesus (Lk 4:6) in exchange for his worship. Again, the devil was working from a scriptural standpoint. According to Rev. 11:15, Jesus will rule over all of the kingdoms of the world following his second coming. The devil was simply offering him a “shortcut” to bypass the cross.
This temptation appealed to the lust of the eyes, 1 Jn 2:16, the third area of temptation common to man. When the devil tempted Eve, she SAW that the forbidden tree was “pleasant to the eyes,” (Gen 3:6). Jesus would not worship the devil to get the kingdoms that were rightfully his, according to the Bible. He was forbidden to worship the devil because Deut 6:13 says, “Thou shalt worship the Lord the God, and him only shalt thou serve.” When Jesus quoted that verse, the devil left him.
Jas 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” That’s precisely what Jesus did. And the devil left him alone after three attempts to knock him out. When you believe the words of God , exactly, and resist the devil by following those words and quoting them, the devil will flee from you, too. However, don’t forget that the devil will use the Bible against you, if he has to, in order to get you to sin. Therefore, pay close attention when someone starts using the Bible to justify sin. You’ll hear them misquoting verses, lifting them out of context, chopping off a part of them, adding something to them, or just plain lying about them. That’s when you need to pull out your trusted King James Bible and set them straight.