[Note: This is the “Old” version of the Grace Commentary on Luke. It will be updated to the new version soon.]
Luke 4:1-13 contains a description of the forty days of temptation Jesus experienced in the wilderness. The placement fits perfectly in the narrative as it immediately follows the genealogy of Jesus and precedes the beginning of ministry of Jesus. The genealogy concluded with a reference to Adam, the son of God (3:38), which recalls for the reader the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). The second Son of God must succeed where the first son of God failed (Bock 1994:366). Jesus, if He is going to make right what went wrong with Adam, must pass the tests which Adam failed. “If Jesus is the descendant of Adam, he must now face not only what Adam faced but the powers that had been unleashed through human rebellion and sin” (Wright 2004:42). As the genealogy in Luke 3 was technically that of Mary, the temptation of Jesus begins to reveal how God would crush the serpent’s head through the seed of the woman in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.
Once Jesus has passed the temptation and stood against the tempter He was able to begin His mission, that of reversing what went wrong with Adam (See 4:16-21). This period of temptation was like an entrance exam before beginning His ministry. Fidelity to God is proven in the midst of testing (Green 1997:191).
The flow of the narrative reveals that Luke is making many parallels between the life and ministry of Jesus, and the history of the Israelite people (cf. Wright 2004:43; Green 1997:192). The baptism of Jesus by John represented the baptism of Israel by Moses in the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:2), the genealogy of Jesus is like the first census of Israel before they were instructed to enter Canaan (Numbers 1-3), and the forty days of testing in the wilderness represent the forty years of discipline in the wilderness (Num 14:33-34). Other similarities are brought out in Matthew 2. Such parallels help the reader see that Jesus is inaugurating a renewed Israel: His ministry reveals what God desired Israel to be and do for the world. Where they failed; He succeeds. What they were supposed to do; He begins to accomplish.
4:1. The forty days of temptation began when Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is being led, or controlled, by the Spirit. And curiously, in this instance, the Spirit is guiding Jesus into a time of temptation and testing. Generally, it is assumed that being filled with the Spirit brings an absence of temptation and testing, and not being filled leaves one open to the devil and his temptations. However, while God does not tempt anyone (Jas 1:13), He does allow people to be tempted (1 Cor 10:13), and even leads people to places where they will face temptation.
However, God does test people, and in fact, the term used in this passage for temptation are used elsewhere in the LXX of God testing humans (Gen 22:1-19; Exod 16:4; 20:20; Deut 8:2; 13:2ff) and humans testing God (Exod 17:2). Such tests are for the purpose of testing covenant loyalty (cf. Malina 2003:240). Pentecost states that in the case of Jesus, Jesus “forced Satan to put Him to the test so that His true character might be revealed” (Pentecost 1981:97), but this seems somewhat unlikely. Temptation is part of being human, and such temptations come whether we want them to or not. Jesus certainly does not want to be tempted, but since He was in submission to God and led by the Spirit, He is not acting on His own, or according to His own desires (Green 1997:191).
The place where Jesus will be tempted is the wilderness, which was part of the region of Judea, east of Jerusalem. It was 35 miles long by 15 miles wide, and was called Jeshimmon, “The Devastation.” The hills are like dust heaps; the limestone looks blistered; the rocks are bare and jagged (Barclay 1975:43; cf. Pentecost 1981:96). In the Gospels the wilderness is often portrayed as a place of demonic activity, (cf. Luke 8:29, 11:24), but in other situations, it is where Jesus goes to commune with God (Luke 1:80; 3:2; 5:16; 7:24). In this instance, Jesus both communes with God and faces the devil (Bock 1994:369). As indicated previously, Jesus being led into the wilderness for testing is reminiscent of Israel being led by God in the wilderness for their time of testing and refinement.
4:2. Whereas Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted for forty days. Luke’s reference here to forty days also recalls the 40 days spent by Moses on Mount Sinai (Exod 34:28) and the 40 day journey by Elijah to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:48). In all cases, the time period was for the purpose of preparing these men for the next stage in their ministry. It appears by how Luke phrases this that Jesus was being tempted for the entire forty days (cf. Mark 1:13; cf. Barclay 1975:43; Bock 1994:370). If so, then the temptations as recorded here are only summaries, and also explain why the accounts in Mark 1 and Matthew 4 differ in their details and order of events (cf. Evans 2003:87 who argues that Luke transposed the order of events so that they conclude in Jerusalem as a foreshadowing for the life of Jesus, which will also conclude in Jerusalem).
The temptations Jesus faced were brought to Him by the devil. Just as the devil, through the serpent, caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, so also he was now trying to stop God’s plan of redemption in Jesus by also getting Jesus to sin. The reverse the curse God placed upon creation as a result of sin, Jesus must resist the temptations of the devil, and remain sinless (Heb 4:15). In Hebrew thought, the devil (Gk. diabolos; Heb. satan) was “a celestial entity…whose task it is to test a person’s loyalty to God. The original ‘Satan’ was a Persian secret-service agent (like the FBI) who tested loyalty to the king” (Malina 2003:240).
There are three temptations brought by the devil, which fit with the three temptations described in 1 John 2:16 as the primary temptations that people face. These three temptations are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These three temptations are similar to the ways Israel was tempted in the wilderness, and similar to the ways Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:6). Specifically, Eve saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), that it was pleasing to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and that it was desirable to make one wise (the pride of life). Jesus was tempted by the devil in three similar ways. The devil tried to get Jesus to turn stone into bread (the lust of the flesh), to take a shortcut in receiving the kingdoms of the world (the lust of the eyes), and to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in order to easily declare himself as the Messiah and prove that God was working in Him (the pride of life).
Those are the devil’s three primary temptations. It is also seen that the devil has only one tactic in these three categories of temptation. No matter what the temptation is, the devil tries to raise doubt about the Word of God. The devil twists the Word of God by making subtle changes to it such as adding to it, subtracting from it, or quoting verses out of context.
During the time in the wilderness, Jesus ate nothing. Not only was this time of fasting important for Jesus to withstand the testing He was about to enter, but forty days without eating is another way that Jesus is showing Himself to be like Moses and Elijah, both of whom spent forty days fasting while they communed with God and prepared for the ministry God had for them (cf. Exod 34:28; Deut 9:9-11; 10:10; 1 Kings 19:8).
After the forty days had ended, He was hungry. This is most certainly an understatement, as by the end of forty days without food, Jesus was probably nearing starvation (Green 1997:193). His hunger sets up the first temptation.
The Lust of the Flesh (4:3-4)
4:3. The first temptation plays on Jesus’ hunger, which, after forty days of fasting, is a pressing need. When the devil came to tempt Jesus, he begins by recognizing who Jesus is. The If is first class conditional and could be translated since you are the Son of God (cf. also 4:9; Bock 1994:372; Pentecost 1981:100). He is not challenging the identity of Jesus, but is basing the temptation on it.
The identify of Jesus as the Son of God is not equivalent to saying that Jesus is God, let alone the Second Person of the Trinity. Though Paul and later New Testament writers may have infused the term with Trinitarian teaching, the term did not contain this idea in Roman and Jewish culture at the time Jesus lived (see IDB 4:408-413; NIDNTT 3:634-648; Evans 2003:84). The term Son of God is sometimes used of angels, the nation of Israel, as well as Israelite kings (cf Gen 6:2-4, Job 1:6; 38:7; Exod 4:22; 2 Sam 7:14; Psa 2:7; 89:27). In Greco-Roman culture, the title “Son of God” was used in reference to Caesar, who was a mediator between heaven and humanity (Evans 2003:84). In reference to Jesus, it is primarily a kingly title, and is equivalent to “Messiah” or “Christ” (cf. Matt 26:63; Luke 4:41; John 20:31).
So the devil is saying, “Since you are the Son of God, you have certain rights and privileges.” All of the temptations are based on this premise, that Jesus, as the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel, has certain rights and privileges. This first temptation is based on the hunger of Jesus. The devil tells Jesus that to satisfy his hunger, all he has to do is command this stone to become bread. Many of the stones in that region are about 8-10 inches in diameter, round, and sun-baked brown. They look almost exactly like loaves of bread (cf. Barclay 1975:43). The devil uses this similarity to tempt Jesus to turn one stone into bread.
The devil was not asking for anything large and excessive, just one stone to help satisfy the hunger of Jesus. On the surface, the temptation is really quite harmless. He is simply tempting Jesus to (mis)use His power to feed Himself in the wilderness (Evans 2003:84). The sensation of hunger is given by God to help humans know when their bodies require food. It is healthy to eat, and food is a gift from God. “Thus the devil’s estimate of human life is, that the only reason for man’s loyalty to God is that God meets every demand of his need as it arises; and moreover, that man’s happiness consists in the satisfaction of his material nature” (Morgan, quoted in Pentecost 1981:101). So while on the surface the temptation seems harmless, the devil is really suggesting that God has abandoned Jesus by failing to look after His physical needs (Bock 1994:373).
Furthermore, since it appears that Jesus was intentionally portraying Himself as a prophet like Moses and as the one who will renew the people of Israel, it would be natural for Him to do for Himself what God had given to Moses and Israelites when they were in the wilderness. When they got hungry, God sent them manna, “bread from heaven.” The text doesn’t reveal the devil using this approach, but if the temptations as recorded in the gospels are only summaries of the extensive and trying periods of temptation that Jesus faced (4:2 indicates that Jesus was tempted for the entire forty days), then the devil probably used every approach and persuasive argument possible. Few temptations we experience as humans are ever over in a second or two, and the temptations of Jesus were just as strenuous, of not more so, than ours (Heb 4:15).
If this is how the devil tried to persuade Jesus (as it appears to be from the answer of Jesus is 4:4), then the devil is using his one and only tactic to tempt Jesus. He is trying to raise doubt about God’s Word, or twist it to teach something it does not. He is trying to get Jesus to just do for Himself what God did for Moses and the Israelites. However, when the Israelites received bread from heaven to satisfy their hunger, they were relying upon God’s provision. “Though the manna was on the ground, it was still a test of faith for the people. They had to believe that God’s Word was trustworthy” (BKC 2:213), and that if they did things God’s way, He would provide for them daily.
If Jesus were to do what the devil was suggesting, He would be committing the same sin that some of the Israelites committed. In the wilderness, the people were only supposed to collect what they needed for one day, and then on the sixth day, collect enough for two days so they would not have to collect food on the Sabbath. But initially, some of them collected enough for multiple days, and when they woke up, the extra they had collected was rotten and was full of maggots. So then on the sixth day, they failed to collect enough, and so went hungry on the Sabbath when no manna appeared on the ground. The temptation for the Israelites was to attempt to provide for themselves rather than trust in God. If they wanted daily sustenance, they had to daily trust in God to provide it.
This is the same temptation Jesus faces. If Jesus performed a miracle to make bread for Himself, He would be relying on Himself rather than on God. Satan wants Jesus to selfishly use His abilities to meet His own desires. Jesus does similar things later in his ministry when He turns water into wine (John 2), or feeds multitudes of people with just a few loaves and fish (Matthew 14; Luke 9). But in those cases, it was not just Himself He was feeding, and more importantly, He was following God’s guidance. Here, He would be selfishly meeting only His own needs, and the guidance came not from God, but from the devil. Furthermore, as a human, Jesus “had to live His personal life (1) within the limits necessary to man, and (2) in perfect dependance upon God. …Had Christ by a direct miracle fed Himself, He had lifted Himself out of the circle and system of humanity, had annulled the very terms of the nature which made Him one with man” (Fairbairn, quoted in Pentecost 1981:101).
4:4. In all three temptations, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy. Though the devil can twist Scripture, Jesus knows how to use it properly to help Him stand against the temptations of the devil. In this first instance, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, which helps support the idea that this first temptation is related to Jesus being a prophet like Moses, the one who will inaugurate a renewed Israel. Deuteronomy 8 contains a reminder from Moses to the people of Israel about how God provided manna, the bread from heaven, to meet their needs when they were hungry. Moses says there, as Jesus quotes here, that ”Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” The point of Moses, and therefore the point of Jesus, is that feeding the body is not what is important, but obeying God. God did not provide manna to the people of Israel just so they could be fed, but also so they could practice obedience to His word. Jesus knows that “human livelihood consists in more than the mere meeting of daily needs (Bock 1994:374).
Furthermore, in the context of Deuteronomy 8, Moses reminds the people that God promised to bring them into their own land. If He helped them escape Egypt, and delivered them through the Red Sea, He would certainly make sure they didn’t starve in the desert. So also, Jesus knows that God would not protect Him as He was growing up, promise that He would be the Messiah, and then allow Him to starve in the wilderness. Jesus trusts God’s Word, and bases His faith and decisions upon it.
The Lust of the Eyes (4:5-8)
4:5. The implied response of Jesus to the first temptation was that God had promised Jesus would be the Messiah, not only for Israel, but for the whole world. Since God’s promises could be trusted, God would not let Jesus starve in the wilderness. The second temptation of the devil builds upon these Messianic promises. The devil recognizes that Jesus is to be the Messiah, the Son of God (cf. 4:3), and seeing now that Jesus wants to follow the promises of God, takes Jesus up on a high mountain for the next temptation. High mountains were thought to be places one could meet with the gods. This is why shrines and temples were often built on top of mountains (cf. Psa 121:1). The text does not indicate which mountain this was, though some believe it was not a literal, physical mountain, since from it, Jesus was shown the entire earth, and no mountain affords that kind of view (cf. Evans 2003:86). However, it seems more likely that the mountain was a physical, earthly mountain, and while there, Jesus was given a vision of all the kingdoms of the earth. This also fits better with the growing imagery of Jesus being a prophet like Moses (and Elijah) who went up on a mountain to receive revelation and direction from God. Edersheim says that Moses, Elijah, and the Messiah mark the three stages of the history of the covenant:
Moses was it’s giver, Elijah it’s restorer, the Messiah it’s renewer and perfecter. …Moses fasted in the middle, Elijah at the end, Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. Moses fasted in the Presence of God; Elijah alone; Jesus assaulted by the Devil. Moses had been called up by God; Elijah had gone forth in the bitterness of his own spirit; Jesus was driven by the Spirit. Moses failed after his forty days’ fast, when in indignation he cast the Tablets of the law from him; Elijah failed before his forty days’ fast; Jesus was assailed for forty days and endured the trial. Moses was angry against Israel; Elijah despaired of Israel; Jesus overcame for Israel” (Edersheim 1988:294).
While on the mountain, the devil tempts Jesus with the second temptation: the lust of the eyes. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. There is some question as to whether Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the entire world or just those of the known world. The term used forworld is oikoumenes and refers more the inhabited world, or known world, than to all the world (which would be kosmos as in Matt 4:8). Also, is Satan offering all the kingdoms throughout time, or just those in existence at that time? The phrase in a moment of time may refer to the latter, since it could also be translated “at that moment of time.” Otherwise, it is hard to discern the reason for showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. There may also be an allusion here to when God takes Moses to a high mountain to show him the length and breadth of the Promised Land which the people will inherit, but Moses himself will not be able to enter because of his sin (cf. Deut 34:1-4).
4:6. Now that Jesus has seen the kingdoms, the devil offers them to Jesus, and specifically, theauthority and glory that comes with them. “In the place where Jesus has nothing, he is about to be offered everything” (Bock 1994:375). Both the devil and Jesus know that authority over the nations is something that was supposed to be given to the Messiah (cf. Matt 28:18; Php 2:9-10; Rev 19:15). Previously, Luke recorded that “all the world” was under the rule of the Roman Emperor (2:1; 3:1). But this right to rule over the nations was something that God promised to the people of Israel, with the Messiah on her throne (cf. Deut 15:6; Psa 2:8; 22:28). It was also something prophecies in Daniel as something that belonged to “the one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13-14). When the Messiah came, it was expected that He would overthrow all foreign rulers, and sit Himself upon the throne in Jerusalem to rule the entire world.
The devil, however, states that authority over the nations had been delivered to him, and he cangive it to whomever he wants. The devil again twists and distorts the truth. The first part of his statement is true. When Adam listened to and fell before Satan, Adam, in essence, gave up his power, his dominion, to Satan. He forfeited to the devil the right to rule the earth. So he does have authority over the nations, and is the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4). Luke himself has already recorded the words of Zacharias that the world sat in darkness, under the shadow of death (1:78-79), which are clear allusions to sin and the devil. So biblically, “until the earth is redeemed by God’s power, it lies in the hands of the evil one” (Bock 1994:376).
However, it is not true that he owns the nations and can give them to whomever he wishes. Though Satan took control of the earth, it is not Satan’s to give away. That belongs to God alone (Dan 4:32). It is possible that the devil believes that since he rules earth, he owns it, but if so, he is self-deceived (Bock 1994:376). Jesus, during His ministry, was working to gain authority over the earth (cf. Mark 2:10; 10:45).
4:7. The devil, of course, is trying to obtain the authority that belongs to God alone (cf. Isa 14:14; 2 Thess 2:4). Just as the devil was able to wrest away from Adam authority over the earth, in tempting Jesus the devil is trying to wrest authority away from the Messiah, and ultimately, from God.Therefore, the devil says to Jesus that ”If You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” The devil is offering to Jesus what Jesus is on earth for. The Messiah was supposed to gain rulership over the earth.
The one condition was that Jesus had to worship the devil. the devil knows that unless he can get Jesus to kneel before him, the day will arrive when he must kneel before Jesus (Php 2:10). The word for worship (Gk. proskuneses) literally means “to bend the knee,” but could also be translated “honor.” To kneel before someone represented swearing an oath of fealty to them, and look to that person as their patron and provider. To worship the devil by kneeling or bowing before him is akin to defecting from God and swearing allegiance to the devil (Bock 1994:377).
“The devil makes the audacious claim to be God’s broker, saying that both the kingdoms of the world and the right to dispose of their resources in whatever manner he wishes has been given to him” (Malina 2003:241). If Jesus bows to the devil, then the universe, which ultimately belongs to Jesus, would be given to the devil, and that is how the devil could then “give it to whomever” he wishes. So the offer by the devil is a shortcut to the plan of God. Jesus knows that God’s plan includes pain, suffering, ridicule, and scorn. Only after He suffers and dies as a human will Jesus receive the right to rule the world. The devil offers to Jesus a way to the ultimate goal, but through a path that avoids all the pain and suffering.
It is possible that there is a parallel here between what the devil offers Jesus, and what God offers to Moses on Mount Sinai after the people of Israel began to worship other gods (Exod 32:10). God tells Moses that due to the idolatry of the Israelites, God was going to wipe them out, and start over with Moses. Moses declines the offer, and instead, intercedes with God on behalf of the idolatrous Israelites. Jesus knows, as did Moses, that by putting his own desires first, He would be destroying the lives of countless multitudes.
Another possible parallel is when King Nubuchadnezzar commands that all his subjects bow down and worship a golden statue of himself. Some of the young Jewish men refuse, and though they are faced with being burned to death in the fiery furnace, God delivers them from death, and they become leaders in the kingdom (cf. Dan 3:5-15). Jesus is being portrayed like these great prophets and men of faith from Hebrew history.
4:8. The reply of Jesus to this temptation is first of all to command the devil. Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!” This indicates the conviction of Jesus that the devil must follow Him in service, not He follow the devil. To support this claim, Jesus quotes once again from Deuteronomy, this time from 6:13. In this passage, Moses instructs the people that when they get into the Promised Land, and gain the authority and glory that has been promised to them, they must not forget God by worshiping, or bowing the knee to false gods. Instead, they must continue to worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.
Although Moses warned the Israelites about this, Scripture reveals that they did not obey. Instead, they frequently turned after other gods. Jesus is not about to make that mistake. He will not fail as Israel failed. He knew His Bible, and knew that there is no shortcut to achieving God’s promises. If He worshiped the devil, and knelt before him, Jesus would then have to serve the devil, not God.
The Pride of Life (4:9-13)
4:9. In the second temptation, Jesus was able to rebuff the attempts of the devil to gain immediate rulership over the kingdoms of the world. Though Jesus, as the Messiah, will ultimately gain dominion over the earth, He had to obtain it in God’s way with God’s timing. The third temptation builds upon the Messianic understanding of Jesus. The devil tries to get Jesus to proclaim Himself as the Messiah in a miraculous fashion. In order to be the Messiah, Jesus would eventually have to be recognized as such, and so the devil urges Jesus to reveal Himself to the Jewish people.
With this goal, He brought Jesus to Jerusalem, which is the center of Judaism, and the nexus of all the Messianic hopes. It was expected that the Messiah, when He appeared, would proclaim Himself in Jerusalem. And the devil brought Jesus, not just to Jerusalem, bu to the pinnacle of the temple. If Jerusalem was the political and religious center of Judaism, the temple was the center of Jerusalem. The temple itself embodied all the political and religious expectations for the Messiah. It is unclear how exactly the devil brought Jesus here, but by placing Jesus at the the pinnacle of the temple, the devil was symbolically placing Jesus above it, putting Jesus, in a sense, in authority over the temple. Furthermore, there was a tradition in Jewish thought that when the Messiah came, He would announce Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. One writer says, “Our Rabbis give this tradition: In the hour when King Messiah cometh, He standeth upon the roof of the Sanctuary, and proclaims to Israel, saying, Ye poor, the time of your redemption draweth nigh” (Edersheim 1988:293).
This highest point of the temple was probably the southeast corner of the temple which loomed over a cliff of the temple mount. If this is where Jesus stood, He would be about 450 feet above the bottom of the cliff and would be able to oversee all of Jerusalem, and all the people in the Temple courts below (Radmacher 1999:1257; Barclay 1975:44; Bock 1994:379). Josephus records that when he climbed to the top of the Royal Portico, which was part of the temple complex, and looked over all Jerusalem and down into the valley below, he became dizzy with the height (Evans 2003:86). If Josephus was able to climb to the pinnacle of the temple, it seems that there may have been steps up to it, and maybe a platform to stand on. Edersheim confirms this by stating that it was from this pinnacle of the temple that a priest would stand every morning to watch for the rising of the sun in the East, so as to announce the signal for the morning sacrifice (Edersheim 1988: 303). From here, the devil tempts Jesus to throw Himself down. The devil is not tempting Jesus to commit suicide, but to perform a miracle in the sight of all the worshipers below.
Bock contends that since no temple worshipers are mentioned, there were probably no worshipers (1994:380). This is especially true if this temptation took place as a vision, and Jesus was not actually taken to the pinnacle of the temple. If this is the case, the temptation would not be about the desire of Jesus to be recognized as the Messiah by the masses, but a desire to prove that He was righteous. In this way, verses 10-11 (see below) are quoted as proof that if Jesus is as righteous as He claims, God will protect Him. This view, however, requires that the devil has correctly quoted and applied these verses, which as the discussion below indicates, he has not.
4:10. In the previous two temptations, Jesus has used Scriptural quotes to defeat the temptations of the devil. With this third temptation, the devil uses what is written in Psalm 91:11-12 to tempt Jesus. This was a good text for the devil to use against Jesus, since it was traditionally thought that Psalm 91 provided promises from God for protection against demons and evil spirits (Evans 2003:86). To support his suggestion that Jesus throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, the devil quotes a Scripture which says that God will give His angels charge over you, to keep you. This means that God will send angels to protect Jesus.
4:11. The devil continues to quote from Psalm 91 to show what the angels will do for Jesus. He says that “In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The devil is trying to show Jesus that if He casts Himself from the Temple, God will have angels catch Jesus before He hits the ground. According to the devil, Jesus is to let go and let God (Bock 1994:380).
The devil, however, misquoted the text, and in so doing, twisted it to mean what it does not say. Where the devil inserts the word and, he removed several key words from Psalm 91:11. The verse actually says, “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” When properly read in context and applied to Jesus’ situation, the text reveals that the angels are not there to keep Jesus from committing suicide, but to help Him walk in the ways God has laid out for Him, to help Him obey God.
The devil twisted Scripture to try to get Jesus to perform an amazing demonstration of power before the multitudes of people below. It would reveal Himself “to be a Son of Wonder, clothed in marvels, living a life that struck the senses and dazzled the fancies of the poor vulgar crowd” (Fairbairn, quoted in Pentecost 1981:103). To perform this miracle in the Temple would have helped Jesus immediately be recognized as the Messiah. Of course Jesus wanted to be recognized as the Messiah, but again, it had to be done in God’s ways with God’s timing.
4:12. Jesus again responds with Scripture. He does not challenge or question the devil on his misuse of Scripture, but simply quotes a verse used properly in context, from Deuteronomy 6:16. Jesus said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” In this passage, Moses reminds the people of when they doubted whether God was with them or not (Exod 17:7). They had seen God miraculously provide for them time after time. But then the days in the wilderness got long and hot, and they ran out of water, and they began to wonder if God had forgotten about them, or abandoned them. They accused Moses, and therefore God, of bringing them into the desert just to die. But what they were really doing, according to Exodus 17:7, was testing God. In their complaining, they were saying, “If God is really there, and if He really loves us, He will provide water for us.” God did provide water for them – out of a rock – but He was not happy about their lack of trust. Even later, after God had shown the Israelites that He could provide water from a rock, they complain again. This time, it is Moses, however, who also falls into sin. Whereas before, God told Moses to strike the rock, this time God told Moses to speak to it. But Moses struck the rock. The action may have been out of frustration, or he was just doing what he had done before, or maybe he was trying to give a visual demonstration to the people of his own power and authority. Whatever the reason Moses struck the rock the second time, it was not what God had told him to do, and so Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num 20:11-12).
Jesus sees many similarities between this incident with Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness and what the devil is tempting Him to do. Satan is tempting Jesus to test God by saying, “If God is really there, and if He really loves me, He will protect me as I throw myself from the highest point of the temple. It would be a good way to show my power and authority as the Messiah.” But Jesus chose wisely where the Israelites did not. Where the Israelites tested God, Jesus would not. Jesus knows that “the demanding of miraculous protection, where it is not needed, is not faith or loyalty. It is sin” (Bock 1994:381).
4:13. Jesus has overcome every temptation brought against Him, and so the devil departed…until an opportune time. There were several other opportunities for Jesus to sin during His years of ministry. One is when Satan, through Peter, tells Jesus that He will not have to take the road to the cross. There, just like here in verse 8, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Another attempt might have been on the night before his crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:3, 28, 31, 53). But even more subtly, these similar temptations continue to arise during the ministry of Jesus. His family encourages Jesus to declare Himself as the Messiah (John 7:3-5), and the crowds frequently want to crown Jesus as King (John 6:15). As Jesus resisted these temptations the first time, He continues to resist them throughout His career.
The devil’s temptations are, from a human perspective, quite logical. “They are plausible, attractive, and make, as we would say, a lot of sense. God can’t want his beloved son to be famished with hunger, can he? If God wants Jesus to become the sovereign over the world (that is, after all, what Gabriel had told Mary), then why not go for it in one easy stride? If Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, why not prove it by spectacular displays of power?” (Wright 2004:43). But God’s ways are different, and Jesus proves He will follow and obey God, and so Jesus was victorious over all temptations, and having conquered all, He is now ready to begin His ministry.
His defeat of temptations has shown how He will approach ministry. He will steadfastly pursue God’s call, in obedience to God’s will. He will not draw attention to Himself, but will direct people to God’s work and God’s Word. He will not use His power and position to serve Himself, but to meet the needs, both physical and spiritual, of those around Him (cf. Bock 1994:363, 367). All this becomes clear when Jesus declares the goal and purpose of His ministry in Luke 4:14-21.