The Lenten season, 40 days leading up to the time just before Resurrection Sunday (Easter), is typically a time of fasting and prayer observed by Liturgical Churches. The season commemorates the 40 days following Jesus’ baptism where in preparation for the start of His ministry, Jesus goes into the wilderness area to fast and pray. During this period of fasting and prayer, Satan is tempting Jesus. We read in Luke chapter 4 that Satan appears at the end of this time and tempts Jesus.
Luke 4:1-13 Then Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, He was hungry. The Devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone.” So he took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The Devil said to Him, “I will give You their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. If You, then, will worship me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” So he took Him to Jerusalem, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” And Jesus answered him, “It is said: Do not test the Lord your God.” After the Devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.
Satan tried to tempt Jesus by first appealing to His physical needs. After 40 days of fasting, Jesus is hungry. Satan tempts Jesus to turn stone into bread in order to satisfy this most basic need. Jesus, who was present at the creation of everything in existence as part of the Trinity, could have done this very easily. However, He does not give in to the deceiver’s temptation and instead responds with scripture. The verse that Jesus quotes from is Deuteronomy 8:3. In Deuteronomy, Moses is going over the commandments and the laws given to the Children of Israel by God. Moses is reminding them of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, where God provided manna each day for the Israelites to eat. But Moses uses this verse to remind them that they are not to live on bread (manna) alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. A very fitting response from Jesus, the Word of God Himself, who has just spent 40 days in the wilderness being sustained by God. Just as the law and commandments were given to the Israelites by God, so too Jesus is preparing to give Himself in order to fulfill the Law of Moses and become the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35).
Satan next tried to tempt Jesus by appealing to His pride, the “original sin” itself (Is. 14:12-15). Satan took Jesus to the top of a tall mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of this world in one moment of time. Satan promised Jesus all their splendor and authority if He would only bow down and worship him. Jesus again replies with scripture from Deuteronomy chapter 6 (6:13-15). Moses, proclaiming the laws and commandments of the Lord God, reminds the Israelites that God delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Israel had been slaves, with nothing at all, and were delivered by God out of bondage. They were brought to a promised land flowing with milk and honey, and given great abundance. Moses was reminding them not to fall prey to temptation and return to worshiping the other gods that surrounded them. Moses reminded them that God was a jealous God, and would not tolerate their worship of other false gods. Likewise, Jesus was being tempted by the ultimate false god, Satan, to bow down and worship him in return for splendor and authority of earthly kingdoms, when Jesus already had eternal splendor and authority over everything.
Lastly, Satan tried to tempt Jesus by twisting and manipulating scripture. Satan transports Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Deceiver challenges Jesus to throw Himself down to the ground, proclaiming that if He is indeed the Son of God, angels will be given orders to protect Him and not let even His foot strike the stone (Ps. 91:11-12). Jesus replies again with scripture from Deuteronomy chapter 6 (6:16), admonishing Satan that you must not test God. The scripture that Jesus quotes is again where Moses is speaking to the Israelites and reminds them not to test the Lord as they had done at Massah. At Massah, the Children of Israel had no water, and not trusting in the Lord once again to provide, cried out to Moses and Aaron asking “why did you bring us all the way out here in the wilderness just to die?” Moses went to God and was told to speak to a rock, and water for all the people would pour forth. Instead, Moses gathers the people at the rock and strikes it twice with his staff, disobeying God’s instructions (Numbers 20:1-13; Ex. 17:1-7). It is for this reason that both Aaron and Moses die in the wilderness and are not allowed to enter into the promised land (Deut. 32:48-52). Satan used scripture, quoting directly from the Psalms. However, he manipulated it in an attempt to cause Jesus to act contrary to God’s will. Jesus could have thrown Himself off the top of the Temple, and God’s angels would have protected Jesus from harm just as the scripture proclaimed. But, this was not within God’s will, and was simply testing God and His provision and protection. Likewise, Moses had carried out God’s providing of water for the Children of Israel, but did so in a way that God had not directed, against His will. Also, the manner in which the water was brought forth from the rock did not focus the people’s attention on God’s holiness and provision for them.
Genesis 3:1-6 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’? ” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Satan attempts to deceive and tempt all of us. He has done so from the very beginning of creation, where as the Serpent he tempted and deceived Adam and Eve. Interestingly, Satan used the same method of tempting on the Lord Jesus as he had on Adam and Eve. Satan tempted Adam and Eve by appealing to their physical needs, pridefulness, and by manipulating and twisting the word of God. Satan appealed to their physical needs by questioning why they could not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Bible says that Eve saw that the tree was “good for food.” Satan appealed to their pridefulness by telling them that their eyes will be opened, and they will become like God knowing good and evil. The Bible says that Eve saw the fruit was delightful to look at, and was desirable for obtaining knowledge. Finally, Satan tempted Adam and Eve by twisting and manipulating the word of God. Satan questions what trees they are allowed to eat from in the garden. He mixes truth with lie, telling them that they will not die (a lie), and that their eyes will be opened and they will know good and evil (the truth). The result was man and woman not obeying God’s rules, and deviating from God’s will for them. This resulted in the fall of mankind, and the sin that entered into this world separating us from God. Only the perfect man, Jesus, could lead a sinless life and act as the perfect sacrifice for all our sins, once again providing a way for us to have a relationship with God (Romans 5:12-21).