Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry
(Matthew 4:1-2 ESV)
Just yesterday we read about the successful beginning of Jesus’ ministry wherein God declared that He (God) was pleased with His Son. The very next picture we have of Jesus is today’s verse in which He is in the wilderness being tempted by the devil.
It’s no coincidence that our biggest trials often come after our biggest successes. Maybe we get a promotion at work with more responsibility. How we use that responsibility is a test of our character. Or we get married or have children – certainly two major milestones in a person’s life. But those events immediately test our patience, selflessness, and other traits.
Up until this point, Jesus’ baptism was His biggest success. So it comes as no surprise that He was immediately put to the test. Notice that it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. God does not tempt us [James 1:13]. But He may allow us to be tempted.
Such testing is never for God’s sake. He already knows us inside and out. Rather, we are tested in order that our character be revealed to ourselves. More precisely, we are tempted in order that our character flaws be revealed to ourselves. In school the teacher gives us a test not because she wants to know what we don’t know. We take tests in school to show us what we don’t know. We can then take steps to improve. Life works the same way.
Just like it was not truly necessary for Jesus to be baptized, we have to wonder why Jesus was allowed to be tempted. Since He was God it was a foregone conclusion that He would not give in. I think the answer lies in His desire, like with baptism, to identify with us.
We are tempted every single day. We are constantly pressured to behave in sinful ways. Most of the time we yield to the temptation just to create some relief. Jesus knows exactly what it is like to face the pressure and stress of temptation.
But I think the temptation of Jesus also proves who He is. As we’ll see, Jesus does not give in to any of Satan’s temptations – temptations that far exceed anything we will face. The fact that He will be victorious proves that He is God – the only one capable of standing up to Satan’s enticing offers.
Notice that Jesus was tempted while not eating for forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. We make bad decisions when we’re hungry or tired or stressed. This is true of every human. But Jesus, while human, was also God. He was able to overcome such factors.
Adam failed when tempted. Every human being since has failed too. Only Jesus was able to live a perfect life, never giving in to sin. For this reason we can know that He is God and therefore can be trusted with our eternity.
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