The Story of Jesus - His Temptation

Bible Book: Matthew  4 : 1-11
Subject: Temptation of Jesus
Series: The Story of Jesus

This morning, we are continuing to deal with the story of Jesus, that is, the account of His life and ministry. Last week from Matthew chapter 3 we looked at the baptism of Jesus and what we called His Inauguration. Today, we are stepping into Matthew chapter 4 to consider the story of Jesus and His Temptation.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1). However, the Bible also tells us in James 1:13 that “God cannot be tempted with evil.” There is no contradiction though because James’ statement seems to indicate that God cannot be tempted successfully, because there is nothing in God or in Christ, no sinful nature that responds to temptation.

This is a very important passage, first because it magnifies the sinlessness and purity of Christ even in response to temptation. As the writer of Hebrews said, Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

On the Sermon Central website, Mike Leiter shared the tale of a woman and a man who were involved in a car accident. It was a bad one. Both of their cars were demolished but amazingly neither of them was hurt. After they crawled out of their cars, the woman said, “So, you’re a man... That’s interesting. I’m a woman. Wow, just look at our cars! There’s nothing left, but fortunately we are unhurt. This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace for the rest of our days.” The man replied, “I agree with you completely. This must be a sign from God!” The woman continued, “And look at this, here’s another miracle... My car is completely demolished, but this bottle of wine didn’t break. Surely God wants us to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune.” Then she hands the bottle to the man. The man nods his head in agreement, opens it, drinks half the bottle and then hands it back to he woman. The woman takes the bottle, immediately puts the cap back on, and hands it back to the man. The man said, “Aren’t you having any?” She replies, “Nah. I think I’ll just wait for the police...”

Now that’s how temptation is. It presents itself to our inner needs, and desires, and feelings. It draws us into its web of deceit. It captivates us and binds us, and then watches as we are destroyed by it.

Dr. Ray Pritchard, pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL had an article in the Moody monthly magazine entitled “From Temptation to Triumph.” Dr. Pritchard wrote…

Think how many temptations you and I face in an ordinary day. Staying in bed late — the temptation to laziness. Dressing carelessly — the temptation to sloppiness. Growling at the breakfast table — the temptation to unkindness. Arguing over who should change the baby this time — the temptation to selfishness. Starting work 10 minutes late — the temptation to slothfulness. Losing your temper when a co-worker crashes your computer — the temptation to impatience. Flirting with that good-looking woman, taking a second look at that good-looking man — the temptation to lust. Refusing to speak to a person who has hurt you — the temptation to malice. Repeating a juicy story of your neighbor’s misfortune — the temptation to gossip. Lying awake at night thinking sensual thoughts — the temptation to impurity. Taking your anger out on the children after a hard day — the temptation to cruelty. Going out to eat when you can’t afford it — the temptation to self-indulgence. Having a second helping and then a third — the temptation to gluttony. Firing off a hasty letter to a friend who hurt you — the temptation to revenge. That list could be expanded almost infinitely.
James tells us, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Temptation is a common problem that calls for an uncommon solution. In this passage, we see both the dilemma and the deliverance of temptation.

I. Let’s First Consider The Visitation Of Temptation (vs. 1)

(Matthew 4:1) Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

A. Notice The Tactic Of Temptation

1. The Attack Of Temptation to be tempted of the devil

tempted – Greek 3985. peirazo; from G3984; to test, endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: --assay, examine, go about, prove, try.

2. The Architect Of Temptation to be tempted of the devil

B. Notice The Timing Of Temptation

1. The Temptation Came After The Earlier Triumph

(Matthew 4:1) Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2. The Temptation Came After The Extended Trial

(Matthew 4:2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.

C. Notice The Territory Of Temptation

1. This Was A Wilderness Place

(Matthew 4:1) Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2. This Was A Wanting Place

(Matthew 4:2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.

II. Let’s Further Consider The Variations Of Temptation (vs. 1-10)

The Lord Jesus was, and we are, tempted to want what we don’t have (the kingdom), or to flaunt what we do have (the power), or to be haunted by what we used to have and don’t have anymore (the glory). There is temptation in the wanting and the flaunting and the haunting. But perhaps the variations of temptations recorded here can best be understood if we would first read…

(1 John 2:16) 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.

This approach to temptation was the devil’s first and best tactic.

(Genesis 3:6) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the pride of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

A. One Temptation Targeted The Fleshly Appetites – “The lust of the flesh” vs. 3

(Our Enemy – The Flesh) This Is The “I” Problem

Perhaps the devil wanted Jesus to abandon His mission of redemption and persuade this Son who was away from the Father’s house to go back home like the prodigal in Luke 15.

(Luke 15:17-19) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, {19} And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Shakespeare’s Richard III said, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” The devil wanted Jesus to say, “My kingdom for a piece of bread.”

1. This Was An Appeal To Doubt

(Matthew 4:3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

2. This Was An Appeal To Desire

(Matthew 4:3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

It was the “lust of the flesh, which has its seat in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation first on Christ. Youth is especially liable to fleshly lusts.” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

B. One Temptation Targeted The Fleshly Aspirations – “The lust of the eyes” vs. 8-9

(Our Enemy – The World) This Is The “I Want” Problem

This “lust of the eyes” is “the avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us. Satan tried this temptation on Christ when he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment.” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

1. Satan Tempted Jesus To Yearn For The Former Worship

(Matthew 4:8) Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

glory – Greek 1391. doxa, meaning glory (as very apparent), in a wide application: --dignity, honour, praise, worship. The Lord Jesus had been the focus of Heaven’s adoration, but now He is homeless and hungry. This was a shrewd approach on Satan’s part.

2. Satan Tempted Jesus To Yield To A False Worship

(Matthew 4:9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

C. One Temptation Targeted The Fleshly Attitudes – “The pride of life” vs. 5-6

(Our Enemy – The Devil) This Is The “I Can” Problem

(Matthew 4:5-6) Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, {6} 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.

Although the exact spot is not given, Josephus recorded that Herod’s royal portico towered 450 feet over the Kedron Valley (Antiquities XV.412).

1. This Temptation Involved The Prideful Opinion the “I can” mentality

Satan tried this temptation against Christ on the temple-pinnacle that in spiritual presumption, on the ground of His Father’s care, He should cast Himself down. (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

2. This Temptation Involved A Perilous Omission

Satan left out part of the verse.

(Psalms 91:11-12) For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. {12} They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

We may not talk about it, but we all face similar temptations.

(1 Corinthians 10:13) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

III. Let’s Finally Consider The Victory Over Temptation (vs. 17)

Certainly we have to realize that victory over temptation comes through prayer. In fact, as Don Hawks wrote, “Do you remember the Lord’s Prayer? Twenty-five percent of Christ’s fifty words have to do with deliverance from evil. What did he say? Matthew 6:13, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’.” (Sermon Central)

Paul said… (2 Timothy 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Jesus also said… (Matthew 26:41) Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

But here in the passage, we find three keys to the path of victory over temptation.

A. There Is Victory In The Life Of The Savior

He became like us in ability to fall, that he might make us like unto himself in power to resist. It behooved him to be tempted, and thus sharing our nature with its weakness and temptation he might bring us to share his nature with its strength and sinlessness. (J. W. McGarvey and Philip Pendleton from The Fourfold Gospel)

(Galatians 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Even as Christ was victorious, as we live in and through Him, we can be victorious too.

(Galatians 5:24) And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

B. There Is Victory In The Leading Of The Spirit

(Matthew 4:1) Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

(Galatians 5:16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

C. There Is Victory In The Learning Of The Scripture

The young preacher said there is safety in numbers to which the older preach said there is greater safety in exodus. Jesus actually found safety in Deuteronomy.

The Word will keep us from sin, or sin will keep us from the Word.

(Psalms 119:9) Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

(Matthew 4:4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

(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.

(Matthew 4:7) Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

(Deuteronomy 6:16) Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

(Matthew 4:10) Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

(Deuteronomy 6:13) Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

(Proverbs 6:23-24) For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: {24} To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.


Clark Tanner wrote…

There is an old story of an eagle that, on an early morning during the spring thaw, soared high above the forest looking for something to eat. As he followed the course of a river he looked down and spied a small rodent, trapped on a piece of ice that had broken free and was floating down stream. Seeing an easy meal, he swooped down, landed on the ice, killed the mouse, and began to eat.
As he continued his meal, he saw that his perch was rapidly approaching a waterfall, but determined to finish eating and thinking he would rise into the air and to safety at the last moment, continued his course. As the ice neared the falls, the eagle finished his last bite. Satisfied with his breakfast he spread his mighty wings and attempted to rise skyward as the chunk of ice tipped over the edge.
While enjoying his meal however, he had failed to notice that the warmth of his feet had caused his claws to become embedded in the ice. Try as he might, he could not dislodge them and free himself from what had now become the burden that would carry him to his death on the rocks far below.

(James 1:12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Fanny Crosby wrote…

Fasting alone in the desert,

Tell of the days that are past.

How for our sins He was tempted,

Yet was triumphant at last.

May we enter into His triumph!