Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:1-4)
Living By The Word Of The Lord
The temptation of Jesus was an essential beginning of His ministry as the devil tried to dissuade the Lord from having to die on the cross. Satan used the same scheme he used on Eve in the Garden of Eden but failed. His purpose was to offer Jesus an easy way to glory rather than going through all the suffering and death on the cross. He attacked the physical needs of the body first. Jesus had been fasting for over a month and was in a terrible place of hunger. This was not just a few days of not eating. Luke writes Jesus ate nothing during this time. When the devil came to Jesus, the Lord was feeling the far reaches of death languishing His body. He was not hungry as if He missed a meal or two. Jesus was in a crisis and unsure when relief would come. The devil knew the Lord had the power to turn stones into bread and made the temptation real to Him.
Tempting Jesus with food was not just the idea of eating something but rather the temptation of not dying. Jesus had come from the Father to fulfill the plan of salvation for all men. As He languished from severe hunger, death was not far. If Jesus died from starvation, what would happen to the plan of His Father? The devil is suggesting to Jesus that turning the stones into bread would save His life allowing Him to complete His mission. There was a half-truth and a full lie from the lips of Satan. Creating food would sustain His body but destroy His place with the Father. Jesus may have had a desire to turn the stones to bread but He trusted the word of His Father and would not go beyond what God had promised Him in caring for him.
Jesus answered the devil with a quote from the Law of Moses. The book of Deuteronomy is the recounting of the Law by Moses prior to the conquering of Canaan. Often in the New Testament and frequently in the teaching of Jesus, the Law of Moses is referenced for the context of the message. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 but in fact, He was using the whole of the Law to defeat Satan. Moses began his fifth book showing the necessity of loving the Lord God with all the heart, soul and strength. The Jews were a chosen people as holy and sanctified to the Lord God. Obedience was shown to be a blessing of trusting in the word of God above all things. Moses recounts how the Lord had tempted the children of Israel in the forty year wandering allowing them to go hungry. His purpose was to teach them complete reliance on the will of God.
The devil did not succeed in tempting the Son of God to disobey His Father. Temptation is a strong desire and the flesh tempts all men. Sin is one-third fleshly desire and giving into this need is from a lack of trusting in the word of God. The key element in Jesus overcoming temptation is the preparation He made knowing the will of God. When faced with the incredible desire of hunger, the Lord fell back on the word of God and trusted in what He knew was truth. He did not know how the fasting would turn out whether He would live or die. He only knew the Father would fulfill His purpose in His own way. This pattern of defeating Satan is the same mechanism we must use today. Defeating Satan requires knowing the word of God and trusting that what is read is truth. Jesus rebuffed the devil because He trusted in His Father to care for Him regardless of the outcome. Our faith must rest upon knowledge of His word and a trust in the plan God has for my life. Jesus began His defense with the words, “It is written.” That is where we must begin.