By sis Sophia Tay
Temptation 1 – Aren’t you hungry
In Matthew 4:2, we read, “And when he [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.” Satan “came to him” and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matt 4:3).
What was Satan really saying? Satan was saying to Jesus, “if you have power over the material world (which you do), why not use it? After all, you are starving.” How would we react if we have been going hungry for 40 x 3 meals? Here, the temptation to Jesus was immense. Esau rather infamously made the statement, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”. This was after he had returned “exhausted” from hunting and greatly wanted to eat the stew Jacob was cooking (Gen 25:29-32). It was effortless and automatic for Esau to forget himself when he was hungry. Perhaps Esau did not understand what his birthright meant at that point, but Jesus clearly understood what His purpose on earth was.
In His physical state, Jesus still remembered that His divine power was not to be used for His own satisfaction, not even if it could get Him out of His present situation (His state of hunger). He was very firm in his answer: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4). He was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3 - “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”, meaning to say, it is God who sustains our lives.
Temptation 2 – Prove how great you are
Next, Satan “taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Matt 4:5-6)
What was Satan trying to get at? Satan was trying to provoke Jesus into jumping off the pinnacle and surviving that jump – doing the impossible which no other human could. Jesus’ reply shows that He recognised Satan was trying to tempt Him into using His divine power again, to show off His own importance and superiority. “Jesus said unto him, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matt 4:7) Satan tried to appeal to Jesus’s ego, His pride in being the Son of God (1 John 2:16).
Satan even quoted an Old Testament testimony about Jesus, that even the angels are charged to protect Jesus. Why did Satan think it would work? Perhaps because it is very tempting to want to prove ourselves superior and better than somebody else, especially towards a provoker whom we wish would leave us alone. Someone weakened by hunger and further provoked would have found it difficult to think rationally, but Jesus’ reply shows that He did think it through. He recognised the temptation and stopped it.
Temptation 3 – Believe what you can see
Finally, Satan “taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt 4:8-9)
Why Satan did so is something of a mystery to me. Clearly, he did not really have the power to give “all the kingdoms of the world”. Perhaps it did not matter that he was lying; he simply needed Jesus to believe that he had the power to give Jesus all the physical, glorious things in the world that Jesus was seeing at that moment. However, the catch was too great. Jesus replied, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt 4:10). The audacity of the terms seemed to have angered Jesus, as His answer was to demand that Satan leave. His answer was a reference to Deuteronomy 10:20 - “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.”, meaning to say, God is the only one we are to fear, revere and serve.