In the Fulness of Time/Part 6
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|Dr. Figart examines the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, and draws a comparison with the temptation of Eve in the Garden—and with the manner in which the Tempter had approached Christians throughout history. What was so important about the fact that Jesus did not yield to the temptation?|
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were forbidden by God to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Three very interesting things describe the temptation from Satan: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise . . .” Genesis 3:6). These same three areas of temptation are mentioned by the Apostle John in the same order: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). It is surprising that the one sin of Adam and Eve included all three areas, and perhaps equally unusual that John uses a singular verb to describe the three things as “all that is in the world,” which “is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Then, just as striking, when Satan tempted Jesus the Messiah he used the same three areas, but took them one by one in his attempt to defeat Jesus. The Gospel of Luke uses the same order as in Genesis and First John. When Matthew presents the same three areas of temptation, he departs from this sequence and uses the following order: lust of the flesh (stones into bread), pride of life (cast thyself down; angels will lift you up), and lust of the eye (showed Him all the kingdoms of the world). Why is this? This can be explained in two ways: first from the standpoint of Satan, he attempted to defeat Christ on a personal level, namely, the need for food after a forty-day fast. When that did not succeed he appealed to the more intense suggestion, that the Jews would accept Jesus if He would perform a spectacular miracle. Finally, the most intense suggestion, promising all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for a single act of worship in submission to Satan. The second approach is from God’s viewpoint; He was permitting His Son to be tested in a successively enlarged scope. First it was personal, then national and finally universal; or, to use another sequence, the first test was physical, the second was political and the third was spiritual. Victory in these three areas would prove that Christ was morally fit to rule on the throne of David.
The Physical Temptation. Matthew 4:2-4.
For forty days Jesus had fasted, He was hungry, and He had the power to change stones into bread. It was no sin to be hungry, but Satan’s motive was to persuade Jesus to satisfy normal human hunger apart from the will of the Father. Note that Jesus did not deny the legitimacy of His need for food, nor that He could create bread from stones. What He did assert was a much higher motivation and source for life; the will of God as revealed in the Word of God. In John 4:31-34 when His disciples brought Jesus something to eat, He said, “I have food to eat that ye know not of . . . my food is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” This is essentially what Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” The real issue in the first test was obedience to the will of the Father.
The Political Temptation Matthew 4:5-7.
Again Satan approached Jesus on the basis “If thou be the Son of God” and challenged Him to cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the Temple, urging this on the basis of the Word of God, that angelic protection would be there (Psalm 91:11-12). Some have reasoned that Satan wanted Christ to commit a presumptuous act and then expect a miraculous fulfillment of the Word of God. This would show a lack of trust in God and Jesus would be defeated morally. But this fails to account for the political and Messianic aspects of this test. Satan brought Jesus to Jerusalem the holy city and to the Temple where many people may well have been gathered. Why? He could just as well have taken Jesus to a cliff in the wilderness. But in the Temple compound the Jews who gathered there on a daily basis would be impressed with the Messiah casting Himself down an estimated 400 feet, into the valley and then witness the angels lifting Him up unharmed. This would also concur with Malachi 3:1-2 which predicts that Messiah “shall suddenly come to his temple.”
Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16 the reply of Jesus is simply this: “You cannot test the faithfulness of God by a presumptuous act of putting Him to the test.” This very thing was Israel’s mistake on many occasions during their wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan. In actuality, Jesus would soon begin to perform many miracles to “manifest forth his glory” (John 2:11), but to attempt to gain the favor of the Jews in Satan’s way would have defeated the purpose of God to show forth His glory in His way and in His time.
The Spiritual Temptation. Matthew 4:8-11.
There should be no doubt that Satan’s power included the ability to show Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (Luke 4:5). As far back as the days of Job, Satan caused terrible storms and calamities, and in the future he and his cohorts will perform great signs and wonders beyond human comprehension (Revelation 13). We are not told where the exceedingly high mountain was located nor any details about the method Satan used. He added: “All this authority will I give thee, and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it” (Luke 4:6). If Satan had been lying at this point, Jesus would have known, and it would have been no temptation to Him. But since Satan is the god of this world-system, and since Christ knew that He had been promised “the uttermost parts of the earth” as His possession (Psalm 2:8), it was a real temptation to Christ. However, this was a promise of the Crown without the Cross, and would have nullified the great prophecies of the crucifixion in Psalm 22:1-21 and Isaiah 53:1-10.
The requirement to “fall down and worship” Satan is a phrase which signifies a single act; just one small step and the world is yours, Jesus. No need to suffer agony and the burden of sin! Jesus replied by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20: First, Jesus can only do the will of the Father, and second, Satan must recognize Jehovah as the only true God!
The Devil then left, but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Satan would return when Christ struggled in Gethsemane, saying “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39) and even at the Cross, Satan prompted some who passed by to use the same words the Devil used here in Matthew 4 “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). But since He was the Son of God, He did not come down, but obeyed that which had been decided from the foundation of the world, namely that He was to be the Lamb of God (Revelation 13:8).
The Messiah has now proven His moral right to the throne of David; immediately He began to preach the gospel of the Kingdom and to perform many miracles so that “there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:25). In the fulness of time the next part of His mission was to present details of His program for the Kingdom of Heaven.